September 2006
Volume 10, Number 2

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The English Lesson as a Site for the Development of Critical Thinking

Denise Santos
University of Reading, United Kingdom

Branca Falabella Fabrício
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


This article discusses an investigation carried out with a group of young learners of English in a Brazilian language school aiming at these individuals' development of critical thinking and their involvement in a de-naturalization process of gender dualism. The study, which took place in an educational context witnessing important changes at both macro and micro levels, has its theoretical foundation in multicultural and identity studies as well as in Goffman's (1974, 1981) notions of footing and participant status and in Wood, Bruner, and Ross's (1976) concept of scaffolding. By re-defining the EFL classroom as a multicultural site in which essentialist and stereotypical social identities are constantly challenged, participants in this three-semester long research project engaged in pedagogical practices moving away from a teacher-student pattern towards a pattern in which participants, reconfiguring relations of power in the classroom, could take on different alignments while engaging in the development of critical thinking concerning gender issues. These debates, together with this dynamic participation structure, enabled students to revisit some taken-for-granted assumptions concerning gender. They also stimulated changes in the roles traditionally played by the teacher and by students: the former performed varied footings other than those of controller, transmitter, or facilitator, and provided scaffolding characterized by both support and challenge; the latter could perform the role of the more knowledgeable participant.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, critical thinking, scafolding, gender,national language education curriculum, classroom practices, qualitative research, classroom research, multiculturalism, learner centered practices

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