The Critical Reading Strategies Education Essay

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Traditional notion of the literacy has been focused on the adequate level of proficiency of the reading and writing ability . As Rubin(1993) states that "A literate person is one who is "able to read and write" p3-4. Since the beginning of the twentieth Century literacy concept has taken on several meanings. McKenna et al (2002)says that "Literacy is a concept that has changed considerably over the years." p15

Therefore, Bialystok argues that "Literacy is the ticket of entry into our society" (2001:29). In modern society with complicated and competitive technology, understanding and the ability to get and give information need to use the new form of literacy that Multicultural Literacy, Technological literacy, Media Literacy, Computer Literacy ,Visual Literacy and Critical Literary are just a few examples. As an instructional approach critical literacy have emerged in recent years, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Stevens & Bean (2007: 16-17) contend that "One of the key reasons why critical literacy should occupy a central position in literacy education is the overwhelming nature and amount of text in today's world."

So if the reader cannot be able to negotiate and read critically the diverse forms of text, he only access to superficially meaning of the text. Stevens& Bean (2007:12) mentions that "Critical literacy is an active questioning of the stance found within, behind, and among texts" .Wink ( 2005:3) agrees to this, stating that "critical literacy is reading and writing, but it is much, much more. Critical literacy involves knowing, lots of knowing. It also involves seeing, lots of seeing. It enables the reader to read the social practices of the world all too clearly" Critical literacy actually encourages readers to actively analyze texts and challenges to discover the meaning of the Word and the World . Analytical reading and reading between and beyond the lines are some of its highlighted roles. Richardson et al (2009:142) is of the opinion that "Critical literacy is not to encourage skepticism but to give students tools for investigating and becoming informed, rather than gullible, readers." Cooper et al ( 2009) claims that from a critical literacy perspective, it is important to pay attention not just to how reading is taught, but also to what is being read. (p8) On that account teachers should focus on critical literacy and encourage the students to have a deeper look at texts; specifically examining the relationships among texts, language, power, social groups and social practices.

Reading can be used to empower students, to help them understand their world. Hughes (1975:1) argues that "Reading is a `tool' if a child is unable to read, he suffers from serious handicaps not only in school but in later life".

What is Read,

How it is Read,

and How Children are Taught to Interact with Text

is not neutral, it reflects an ideology. Reading critically describes the attitudes or behaviors expected of a critical reader and offers strategies for uncovering underlying messages. According to Witch( 2006: 28)" The more a reader understands the meaning of a text , the bigger the chunks she can read".

Kern(2000:29) claims that "reading requires more than perceptual and sensory-motor skills; it also demands the reader's active participation at a cognitive level".

Over the five last decades variety of definitions of critical reading has highlighted that the most of the researchers, have been acknowledged that reading requires the reader's active participation at a cognitive level(Smith(1963);Russell(1963); Robinson(1964); Wolf et al.(1967); Hess et al.(1975); Heilman & Holmes(1978); Kayser(1979); Rubin (1982);James (1984);Flynn(1989);Paul(1993);;Mather&McCarthy(2005);Wall(2005);Wallace&Wray(2006); Gillet et al.(2008). Several cognitive processes those are similar in essence to the Cognitive Domain of the Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives are suggested by these authors.

According to Lapp et al (1978: 296) Reading educators' attempts to model comprehension processes in a manner similar to the way that Bloom modeled levels of cognitive functioning. Rubin(1993: 197)states that "Critical reading includes such cognitive process as the ability to differentiate between fact and opinion, the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and the ability to discern propaganda techniques".

Many of theories of reading have been translated into practices based on the idea that a reader must be able to collect, interpret, apply, analyze, and synthesize the information that are levels of cognitive activity. According to Witch ( 2006: 56)Good readers have good strategies that allow them to read effectively .Strategies provide an overall plan to gain meaning from text. So this study seek the way to empower the students through applying the critical reading strategies based on the cognitive domain of the Bloom's Taxonomy.

Background to the Study

The following is a brief summary of how the research idea for this thesis evolved.

The first serious researches and discussions of critical reading emerged during the 1967s by Willavence et al. at The Ohio State University Research Foundation under the U.S Department of Health, Education ,and Welfare. The study was largely based upon empirical studies that investigate "Critical Reading Ability of Elementary School Children". The purpose of study was developing critical reading abilities among the elementary school children. Critical Reading was identified as a part of reading comprehension and was defined as an analytical evaluative type of reading in which the reader analyzes and judges both the content of what was stated and the effectiveness of the way it was written.

In the past two decades a number of researchers have sought to determine various dimensions of critical reading activities, skills and strategies. Birjandi the famous Iranian policy maker and the author of English textbooks for high school and pre-university levels, used nationwide, 5 university textbooks and 4 practice textbooks in his study tried to investigate the effect of critical reading on the improvement of the reading comprehension of Iranian students; and Ibrahim Hassan who investigated the effect of selected critical reading strategies on the critical reading performance of Malaysian students ;In both study critical reading received considerable critical attention. The authors of maintained that students were confronted by difficulty in reading because they were not receiving the right reading experiences in school.

Around two decades working as an English language teacher in Iranian high schools and pre university center; touching and feeling directly the reading problems among the Iranian students particularly in the late 1992s and early 2008s; on the other side the participating and cooperating of the researcher with The English Skills Department of Santa Barbara City College in a project that called "CAHSEE "which takes students through the subject matter of the Exit Exam in a way that challenges them to think actively about reading, writing, and word meaning ,prompted the researcher of this study to consider the question of How does one read critically and actively ?.It was not a simple question and the answer needed more than a superficially investigation in reading area.

In view of the lack of thorough critical reading processing, the current research study focused on how to maximize critical reading and its strategies in the combined face-to-face and online interactive environments by exploring culturally and pedagogically suitable models for EFL students in Iran.

Statement of problem

The voices from a sample reading class in Iranian high school that the researcher of this study have taught there for near two decades , can show the hidden problems that induced this survey.

Students sat attentively and waited for the teacher to tell them how to proceed in reading from the textbook. The teacher sat at his desk with pencil and grade book and called on each student in the class to orally read a paragraph of the passage. He put a grade in his book each time a student read. When the first student finished reading his paragraph, he put his head down and went to sleep-he knew his time to perform in the class had come and gone. The next few students were counting the paragraphs to see which was theirs; when they found their paragraphs, they began to whisper audibly as they practiced reading their own paragraphs. The teacher went around the room in this manner and called on students to read; but he skipped over some students. They were the ones that everyone knew couldn't read.

The Reading topic was "The Other Side Of The Moon" .Students had no understanding of what was happening in the class. They had no prior knowledge about the topic, and orally decoding the print wasn't helping them much that day. In addition, there was no discussion of the topic, and students didn't seem to be really listening to other students as they read. What could the teacher have done to improve the situation?

Teachers' actions make a difference in how well a young reader can evaluate what he or she reads.Jo et al (1979: 49) "The teacher who includes Critical Reading skills as part of the reading curriculum; who asks students questions that promote thinking about the effectiveness and accuracy of what they are reading; who models behavior indicating to children that everything they see in print is not necessarily so; and who remembers that the purpose of teaching any reading skill is to encourage reading will be more successful in tempering his or her students' blind acceptance of the written word." Varaprasad(1997) Critical Reading implies that students do not blindly accept the "obvious" statements in a text. They need to move beyond challenging overt statements to taking an assertive stand against the text's assumptions.p24

Reading and translation have central position in Iranian current EFL text books Eslami-Rasekh & Fatahi( 2008). Therefore the highlighted methods in most schools are combination of grammar-translation and audio-lingual methods Eslami-Rasekh(2004). Goals of school curricula in Iran often include a statement of the desirability of critical reading skills; however there is seldom a sequential plan for the development of these skills below Pre- university level. As for English language teaching in Iran, although many Iranian EFL learners have a good knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary; they still seem to have serious problems with acquiring the ability to read critically. According to Koosha and Jafarpour (.2006 )"This inefficiency seems to be, to some extent, due to the lack of definite reading strategies among Iranian EFL students, and to a large extent, the inadequate emphasis given to grammatical patterns and text translation in their textbooks, and the type of instructions they receive"

In Iran, English is taught as a foreign language and is practiced within a context-restricted environment, in which the textbook and classroom teacher play the main role. (Wallace 2005 cited in Jun Zhang2009) has observed that in EFL reading classes students usually do not have the opportunity to perform higher order thinking tasks (e.g., applying, hypothesizing, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing, and evaluating what they read). Consequently, they do not learn to read critically, nor do they reach evaluative understanding of the text and develop their thinking ability. Oftentimes, students get frustrated and lose motivation for independent reading because they are used to listening to teachers' explanations. Again, as Wallace has stated, students have developed only one strong "reading strategy" over the years: that of listening to the teacher explaining the text word by word, sentence by sentence. Because reading classrooms lack class interaction, students are not actively engaged in the meaning-making process or, at best, the process involves readers' decoding of text. Therefore, the existing knowledge of students is not effectively drawn out for the benefit of the whole class. There is a lack of richness and diversity in classroom activity.

Research among Iranian High school and Pre-university EFL textbooks showed the researcher that the most frequent types of reading comprehension exercises involve multiple choice items, true-false statements, and vocabulary work of the type that requires students to supply a synonym or antonym for the words given. These tasks have their merits: they make it easy for teachers to check whether their students understand the text at some superficial level, and because they have only one correct answer, they are also easy to mark. However, there are reasons why they should not be used as the only kind of reading activity in the classroom.

First, as Davies (1995) points out, they encourage passive reading behavior: to find the answer to a question, students have to locate the information in the text.

Second, as Tomitch (2000) argues, such tasks do not encourage students to read between the lines or question the veracity and source of the information contained in the text.

Third, these tasks generally refer only to parts of the text, not to the text as a whole.

Finally, such tasks are neither challenging nor fun, especially for young learners.

What motivated this research were the observed problems in EFL reading classes in Iranian High school and pre-university centers. Moreover, Critical Reading has not usually been a major focus of teaching and research in Iran and empirical research in critical reading has been limited mainly to university level. The researcher has considered the value of critical reading strategies and try to present, through sample reading lesson, alternative possibilities for reading activities which, besides being more interesting for students, can help them become more active, and more critical readers. The major benefit of the lesson on critical reading is the high level of enthusiastic student participation. This is attributable to some extent to the novelty of the task they will perform: coming up with questions they thought would be answered in the text, rather than trying to answer superficial comprehension questions or true-false statements prepared by the textbook writer.

Purpose of the study

The objectives of this research are as follow:

1. To determine whether or not critical reading strategies can be taught to high school

students while normal progression in other basic reading skills is maintained.

2. To identify the critical reading strategies are employed by Iranian EFL students.

3. To Find out the reactions of students to the process of teaching critical reading.

4. To determine what types of critical reading strategies elicit critical responses from


5. To Find out what extended are critical reading strategies related to Bloom's

cognitive Taxonomy.

In order to achieve the major goals, several instrumental goals were recognized. These goals were:

1. To refine and verify a list of critical reading strategies and skills.

2. To develop materials for practicing critical reading strategies and skills.

3. To construct a valid and reliable instrument for measuring critical reading ability.

The research questions of the study formulated as:

1. How do critical reading strategies apply to high school students while normal progression in other basic reading skills is maintained?

2. What are critical reading strategies employed by Iranian EFL students?

3. What are the students' reactions to their attempt to read critically?

4. What types of critical reading strategies elicit critical responses from students?

5. To what extend are critical reading strategies related to Bloom's cognitive Taxonomy?

Significant of the study

The significant of this study is to bridge the gap between the concept of critical reading and actual reading practice available to teachers and students. In particular the study focused on the highlighted critical reading strategies as a medium to prepare Iranian EFL students for critical reading-the ability to read with analysis and judgment and to encourage them to participate actively in reading process .The critical reading development will motivate the students to find purpose in reading and evaluate the purpose of the authors and even a touch of excitement or challenge to reading . Reading without purpose can be frustrating and may reduce motivation, comprehension, and efficiency

This study maintains that students are having difficulty in reading because they are not receiving the right reading experiences in school. Most of the time students are asked to answer end-of chapter comprehension questions or fill in endless worksheet spaces. In addition, most reading that is done in class is oral reading with one student reading the text aloud and all other students listening.. Motivation doesn't happen for students as they are reading or doing dull exercises. The student has to be motivated prior to reading. Students have to be taught to think about a topic in various ways before they start to before they start to read.

Teaching reading based on critical reading strategies provides many opportunities for EFL students to engage in the upper levels of Bloom's taxonomy, therefore the major categories : recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy encourage EFL students to play active roles in learning critical reading in EFL classes.

Operational Definition

The following are the definition of terms used in this study:

Critical reading An active, intellectually engaged process in which the

Reader participates in an inner dialogue with the writer"

Critical Reading Strategies The range of procedures utilized to discern textual

content and to analyze and evaluate reading material

Bloom's Taxonomy Classifies the way people think and shows the level of

thinking. It progresses from basic to advanced kinds of

thinking. The most basic level (recall) is at the top. The

highest level of thinking (evaluation) is at the bottom.


Review of the Related Literature

This chapter will begin with a discussion of theoretical framework, of the Cognitive Domain of the Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and research that views critical reading as a dynamic, interactive and cognitive process, which underpinned this research study. In developing the framework of critical reading, researchers, have identified behaviors of critical readers who are active, strategic, knowledgeable, and motivated to read.

2.1. The Proposed Theoretical Framework

According to McKeown & Kucan (2010: 120) "Bloom's (1956) taxonomy is one of the early analyses of cognitive processes in the field of education. The major categories in the original system are, recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This order of categories is meant to represent progressively greater difficulty. Recognition and recall are the easiest, comprehension is intermediate, and application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are the most difficult"

The most of the researchers over the five last decades have been acknowledged that reading requires the reader's active participation at a cognitive level. Although a variety of cognitive processes are suggested by the various authors, most of the processes are similar in essence to the various levels of cognitive domain suggested by Bloom et al. (1956) in the Cognitive Domain of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

We need to understand more than our individual experiences, in modern society we must be able to get and give information and most information is passed through the written word, and anyone who finds reading difficult is seriously handicapped in the civilized struggle for a place in the world. In some sense, children are sent to school so that they will learn to read. Future academic success depends on how well they master the reading skills.

Bialystok (2001) says that literacy is the central purpose of early schooling. Research shows that Literacy is a key concept that enables one's to access and negotiate the world around. Literacy help to communicate effectively, gain respect from peers and authority, participate in communities in a meaningful way, and fully contribute to society. Alliance for Excellent Education. (2004)Additionally , Tankersley, K. (2005) states that "The ultimate goal of literacy instruction is for students to be able to process text at the level of evaluation, synthesis, analysis, and interpretation".P48.

Critical literacy can push the learner into the zone of "All this learning really isn't so great". According to Wink (2005) Critical literacy means that we understand how and why knowledge and power are constructed by whom and for whom. In supporting this view Christie (2005) states that "Critical literacy intended to capture a pedagogical concern to develop users of literacy who are critical and questioning about what they read, as well as discriminating about how they use writing themselves. Stevens & Bean (2007) are justified in saying that active questioning of the stance found within, behind, and among texts is the highlighted role of Critical literacy. Thus, Critical literacy supports students to ask regular questions about representation, benefit, marginalization, and interests. Further that how children are helped to make sense of what they read is more concerned in Critical literacy than the mechanics of how learners taught to read .Meier (2009). Uygulama (2009:129)add that "in classroom practices ,students are expected to contribute with their own experiences, opinions, criticisms". Clearly, Critical literacy provides an environment for genuine two-way communication in the classroom. Gregory & Cahill (2009) they further claim that in the classroom, a focus on critical literacy encourages a deeper look at texts; specifically examining the relationships among texts, language, power, social groups and social practices.p:11