Implementing a Culture of Thinking in Lao EFL Pre-Service Teacher Education: A Case of Reading
This study has two phases. Phase 1 aimed at: (1) investigating pre-service teachers’ prior experiences of reading and learning to read in English, (2a) exploring the current state of reading instruction, and (2b) finding out the extent to which a culture of thinking (CoT) was practiced when teaching reading in the Lao EFL pre-service teacher education context. A CoT is defined as “a place where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members” (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011, p. 219). In other words, a CoT is a place where a group of teachers, students, or people come together to conduct learning that benefits all group members and every member of the group is encouraged to interact, share ideas, and think about what is learned. To achieve Phase 1’s aims, an exploratory study was employed and a qualitative method was utilized to collect and analyze the data. Phase 1’s findings revealed that the Lao EFL pre-service teachers’ prior experiences of reading and learning to read were mostly a matter of learning discrete language features as opposed to meaning construction. The results also found that teachers paid considerable attention to discrete language items in the course of reading instruction rather than language proficiency and critical reading development. The findings also revealed that the CoT practice was not in place for teaching reading in Lao EFL pre-service education although it was acknowledged and recognized in the education and curriculum policy. The results of Phase 1 were used as baseline data for Phase 2, a classroom-based intervention. Phase 2 aimed at determining the extent to which the CoT implementation improved reading comprehension development, fostered learning engagement, and shaped perceptions of learning reading in Lao EFL pre-service teacher education. In order to accomplish the objectives of this phase, a quasi-experimental design was adopted, meaning that two intact classes of intermediate EFL pre-service teachers were recruited to participate in this phase. One of the classes was assigned to an experimental group while the other class was a comparison group. In terms of the intervention, thinking routines (e.g., Chalk Talk, Claim-Support-Question, and Connect-Extend-Challenge) were integrated into the three stages of reading instruction (pre-reading, while-reading, and post-reading). The data were collected through a pre-test, immediate post-test, delayed-test, direct classroom observations, a pre-post perception survey, and focus group interviews. They were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. An effect size analysis was also performed to supplement the t tests used in this phase. The findings revealed that the CoT implementation had a strong effect (d = 1.01) on reading comprehension development and there was a statistical significance between the two groups, t(59) = 3.894, p = .00 < .05. It also fostered interactive and meaningful learning engagement, and changed students’ perceptions towards learning reading. Drawing from the findings, it has been suggested that a CoT can be an option for EFL teachers to consider integrating into their classroom practices in order to foster deep and meaningful learning and shape students and teachers’ experiences of and attitudes toward learning and teaching English.