It begins at Stage 0, aimed at students who are focused on finding the ‘right’ answer and have trouble with grey areas, questioning experts, evaluating evidence, and examining conclusions.
Stage 0 tasks include activities that place a low cognitive burden on students’ existing schema.
One possible explanation for this issue centers on differences in educational schema – many ESL students come from educational backgrounds that do not emphasize critical thinking in the same ways that American universities do (Mc Cargar, 1993).
For ESL instructors tasked with preparing their students for future argumentative writing assignments, it can be difficult to create a scaffold that effectively bridges existing student schema and the critical thinking underpinnings of the argumentative genre.
All students encountering new information need time to incorporate it into their worldview, but this is especially true for ESL students who are balancing new language, new methodologies, and new subject matter.
When it comes to a gradual introduction to the liberal arts and critical thinking underpinnings of thesis-driven writing, Wolcott Lynch Associates Idea Paper #37 (Lynch & Wolcott, 2001) provides a five-stage treasure trove of scaffolded technique.The IIE (2017) further notes that these international students are heavily favoring business and STEM majors.These factors – educational background and area of concentration – suggest a general trend away from the humanities and the liberal arts, and therefore a lower level of familiarity with the critical thinking techniques practiced there.Although Barack Obama placed emphasis on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields in a 2014 speech (Jaschik, 2014), and Donald Trump has questioned funding for the arts and humanities (Nossel, 2017), the idea of the liberal arts mindset as a necessary companion to STEM and business majors is still very much in play (Dekat, 2017; Gaposchkin, 2015; Klebnikov, 2015).At some point in their university careers, ESL students are very likely to encounter this thesis-oriented, liberal arts element of the American educational landscape, whether it be in their major, a general requirement, an elective, or an honors capstone project.Repeating, paraphrasing, summarizing, describing, and listing all work with the desire to find the answer while still getting the student to process arguments (Lynch & Wolcott, 2001).The open nature of the staged framework also allows ESL instructors to flavor the process however they see fit.Currently, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors Report (2017), 50 percent of international students coming into the United States are from China (33%) and India (17%).Many of these students, and others from nations with a non-Western educational schema, may be trained in a classroom atmosphere that can be more authority-focused and place less emphasis on critical thinking as practiced in a liberal arts setting (Aaron, 2016; Mc Cargar, 1993).American leaders like Thomas Jefferson (1816; as cited in Kaminski, 2005), Woodrow Wilson (1909), and Dwight D.Eisenhower (1953) have extolled the virtues of a citizenry trained in discerning thought and have also pointed to education as a means of achieving that end (Kaminski, 2005).