Teaching literature for critical thinking in secondary school.
Madondo, Nkosinathi Emmanuel.
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This dissertation describes critical participatory action research study aimed at developing the capacity of learners to think critically in the context of a classroom in a South African Secondary school (and beyond). The data were qualitative in nature, and were generated through Govender’s (2008) 1949 short story prescribed for grade 11 in 2010. Informal discussions, classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, critical thinking tasks as well as learners’ assignments were the instruments inductively used for data production, interpretation and analysis. This process was guided by critical questions regarding the tasks’ characteristics, their position in the teaching sequence, the role of the learning environment, and the need to design activities which would effectively promote critical thinking. A reflexive critical paradigm to claims to knowledge particularly in terms of how knowledge emerges through the relationship between the knower and the known, how reality was explained in this study as well as in terms of the ways and means of producing evidence, was adopted. Orthodox Marxism, not approached from an economic deterministic and functionalist perspective was chosen as a theoretical frame for the study. This study was conceptualised in terms of literary works, ideology, historical materialism, dialectical materialism, critical thinking as well as practice. Constructivism as well as Reader Response theories emerged as being most likely to promote success in developing critical thinking skills. These theories were found to be relevant when evaluated against criteria of active engagement and interest by learners, attainability with effort, display of critical thinking traits, and compatibility with the South African curriculum. In these theories an interesting problem is posed at the start of a section, after which direct instruction and learner engagement with the problem run parallel to one another, linked by scaffolding tools which are engaged with both, individually and collaboratively. Data analysis demonstrated that it is possible, employing particular strategies and tasks, to promote the capacity of learners to think critically, even beyond the classroom context, while meeting the curriculum outcomes, although the intense pressure of the curriculum made this a challenging task, it must be acknowledged. Nevertheless, there is still a need of research that would enable learners to realise that literature has no direct relation with reality and that literature cannot produce a utilitarian totalising perspective of reality. In order to write about other things implies that a writer has to stop writing about others. Tasks design characteristics and positioning in the teaching sequence, and the conditions of the learning environment, were found to affect a tasks’ effectiveness at promoting critical thinking. Various teaching strategies in line with tasks that have a potential to promote critical thinking and theories can improve attainability by wider range of learners.