Interpersonal Aspects of Thinking Skills in an Intercultural Language Learning Context

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Asking and answering certain types of questions are thought to develop thinking skills in all types of classrooms. Previous research has demonstrated that asking higher order questions and answering with elaborated responses are associated with high achievement in first, second, and foreign language contexts. Typically more attention is paid to question frequency or achievements inferred from individual performances than to the dialogues in which asking and answering occurs. This paper argues for a focus on the construction of responses in interaction as an alternative to the investigation of questions, effects of training or individual measurements of performance. Drawing on interactional data from an adult English as a Second Language classroom, it is argued that constructing an answer to a critical question appears to be a highly collaborative and evaluative affair. The thinking skills literature suggests that responding to higher order questions is an individual higher cognitive function, however it is argued in this paper that in attempting to construct evaluative answers language learners are involved not only in a cognitive task, which may or may not be helpful to language learning, but also in a complex social task in which perspectives need to be negotiated, stances taken and identities navigated. It is suggested that higher order thinking cannot be separated from the social and cultural knowledge through which it is brought into being. It is argued that any implementation of thinking skills in an English language teaching context ought to consider interpersonal and social aspects, particularly in intercultural settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)62-71
    Number of pages10
    JournalLanguage, Culture and Society
    Issue number31
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • TESOL
    • ELT
    • English Language Education
    • thinking skills
    • EFL
    • teaching english to speakers of other languages

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