Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education (Mar 2011)

Critical Thinking and Chinese International Students: An East-West Dialogue

  • Michael W. O'Sullivan,
  • Linyuan Guo

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 2


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In the West, the teaching of critical thinking, albeit differentially defined, is seen as the core of work at a graduate level. Despite the fact that developing such critical skills is increasing as an expectation of schools in the West, the literature reflects concerns that Canadian educated students arrive at university unprepared to engage at the expected level of criticality. If this is true of domestic students, what is the situation facing those international students who were educated in intellectual traditions, such as China’s, where critical thinking, at least as understood in the West, is rarely encouraged, and often actually discouraged? Do such students arrive prepared to work at a post-secondary level that involves critical thinking? Do such students embrace or resist critical thinking when these skills are taught to them? Is teaching critical thinking to these students a legitimate scholarly pursuit or is it, in effect, a neocolonial conceit? Can the Asian notion of harmony be reconciled with the Western notion of often-times sharp engagement with ideas and debate with their classmates and instructors? The authors, one a Canadian born and raised professor of comparative and international education to Chinese students studying in Canada, the other, a Chinese scholar who recently completed her doctorate in Canada where she now teaches, engage in a dialogue on Western concepts of critical thinking and the reaction of one class of Chinese international students to this pedagogy.