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Critical Thinking in Context: Practice at an American Liberal Arts University in Egypt

Bali, Maha (2013) Critical Thinking in Context: Practice at an American Liberal Arts University in Egypt. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Critical Thinking in Context Maha Bali PhD thesis October 25 2013.pdf
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Abstract

The American University in Cairo (AUC) considers critical thinking (CT) essential for academic success, global employability, and effective citizenship. Nevertheless, CT remains a highly contested notion, with insufficient evidence that universities succeed in developing it. This study explores how CT develops in practice for diverse AUC students. After exploring different understandings of CT, I synthesize a working definition, then draw on interview evidence from students’ perceptions of AUC experiences that contributed to their CT, illuminated further by faculty and administrator interviews, and relevant AUC documentation and research. Students’ incoming CT levels differed according to high school experience, parental attitudes, and interaction with diverse others. Key factors fostering CT were found to be: liberal arts education, rhetoric and composition courses, opportunities for learning situated in authentic contexts, and intercultural learning. The thesis explores how student backgrounds and the institutional structure result in inequalities in students’ access to, and capacity to participate in, those beneficial AUC experiences, and shows the limited notion of criticality developed through most of these experiences - findings that are applicable to other university contexts. I conclude that AUC needs a critical contextual approach to curriculum development and implementation: an approach that encourages stakeholders to continually question the values behind learning experiences, recognize power struggles within the learning environment, address ways of supporting students with diverse capabilities and privileges in order to develop their capacity for CT, and question what it means to be critical in Egypt’s changing, uncertain context. Egypt's struggle for democracy after years of oppression and corruption needs a conception of critical citizenship that involves both a social dimension focusing on empathy, and a critical action dimension promoting a constructive social justice orientation. While the study addresses AUC stakeholders, it has relevance for all educational institutions aiming to develop CT in bi/multicultural contexts. Such institutions include Western-style universities located in Arab/Muslim countries, Western universities with large numbers of international students, and universities with local but diverse students and staff.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.581737
Depositing User: Dr Maha Bali
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2013 09:21
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 10:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4646

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