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Date of Award

Spring 2017


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Document Type

Thesis: EWU Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in English: Teaching English as a Second Language




The present study was action research conducted in the fall of 2016 in English 112, an academic writing course for English as a Second Language (ESL) students at Eastern Washington University. The purpose of the study was 1) to challenge the deficit views that critical thinking is too difficult for ESL students to learn and 2) to investigate the effectiveness of philosophical dialogue as an approach to increase critical thinking and to enhance language learning.

With an application of McKernan’s (2008) theory of curriculum design, four-week lesson plans of an outcomes-based model (Model 1) and a process-inquiry model (Model 2) were created and instructed. Model 1 emphasizes the students’ accurate comprehension of the textbook and supplementary sources. Whereas, Model 2 encourages students with critical inquiry and deeper understanding of the topic introduced in the texts. With each model, the students produced a timed essay in class every Friday. Nine students voluntarily participated in the study, and their Week 5, Week 9, and reflection essays were collected and analyzed.

When holistic and analytic scoring were done, Week 9 essays showed a slight gain in reasoning skills over Week 5. The students demonstrated improved construction of knowledge about the topic and were able to perform at the highest level of cognitive skills by giving a definition and evaluation of the topic. In addition, more students performed inquiry skills of developing a hypothesis and analyzing situational differences in Week 9 essays compared to that in Week 5. Interestingly, the students’ comprehension of the supplementary text that they were asked to summarize in their essay resulted almost the same under both models.