My partner, Eric Yu, and I have designed the following solution to promote critical thinking among Chinese students in their English-language writing.
Showcasing critical thinking in English-language writing assignments is a key problem for Chinese students. While teachers have made various attempts to promote critical thinking in new and innovative ways, to date little has changed. This has led to many students being unable to achieve band 7 or higher on their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, leaving them unable to attend more prestigious universities.
The Chinese education system does not encourage students to challenge authority, and as such, Chinese students are reluctant to question existing or generally accepted rules. This can occur within all facets, including families, schools or workplaces – when faced with their parents, teachers or bosses, students will not challenge their ideas or ask questions. This problem can also manifest within students’ academic writing as they often lack critical thinking in written assignments. For example, if you ask Chinese students to give their opinion on the topic “With online learning on the rise, can classroom-based instruction still continue?”, they will focus on comparing the pros and cons of each model; few will provide arguments on the future of classroom-based instruction.
Additionally, Chinese students are taught English-language skills through traditional classroom methods with the use of textbooks to teach theoretical knowledge. This is becoming ineffective as students are often not motivated due to the boring content and a lack of connection to their own context.
As such, our problem statement is that Chinese students need innovative learning content that promotes critical thinking so students can achieve IELTS test scores of band 7 or higher in their English-language writing skills.
The Solution: Digital Storytelling
Our solution proposes to introduce digital storytelling to promote critical thinking within English-language writing assignments of Chinese students. According to Davidhizar and Lonser (2003), using analogies to tell stories about daily life or work is an effective way to capture the interests of students by focusing on life experience and bringing theories to life by putting them in personal scenarios.
Digital storytelling combines traditional ways of telling a story with digital multimedia, including images, audio, and video (Ahmed and Abdel-Hack 2014). As suggested by Yang and Wu (2012), digital storytelling “is becoming a promising transformative technology-supported approach for enhancing learning, including critical thinking skills”.
With inspiration from Ahmed and Abdel-Hack (2014) and Yang and Wu (2012), the following describes the three parts of a typical English-language class for Chinese students that incorporates digital storytelling.
Part 1: Digital Storytelling Video
Students will watch a short (no more than 5 minutes) video showing a familiar scenario in which students will be assessed through in-class exercises and an at-home written assignment.
Table 1 provides a sample storyboard of a couple going shopping and discussing a potential frivolous purchase with the husband delivering three different arguments against the purchase. Fallacies are also depicted throughout the video, such as the bandwagon fallacy.
Depending on the school’s resources, the video is proposed to be created through a common multimedia format (e.g., PowerPoint, Corel Video Studio) or through a digital storytelling platform (e.g., Smilebox). A transcript of the characters’ dialogue will also be provided.
Table 1: Storyboard sample
Part 2: In-class exercise (individual and group)
At the conclusion of the video, students will be asked to complete a timed in-class exercise where they will provide written answers to a series of questions. The questions are intended to assess whether students’ have achieved the three phases of critical thinking. As suggested by Ahmed and Abdel-Hack (2014), the three phases of critical thinking are: (1) understanding, (2) evaluating, and (3) establishing a position.
Table 2 provides a sample of questions and the phase of critical thinking it addresses.
|Question||Time to Complete||Critical Thinking Phase|
|Provide a summary of the story depicted in the video||5 mins||Understanding|
|Do you agree with the wife or the husband and why?||10 mins||Evaluating|
|Write a new argument that the wife could use to convince her husband to buy the digital camera||10 mins||Establishing a position|
Table 2: Sample questions for in-class exercise
At the end of the timed writing exercise, students’ will get into groups to peer review their answers. As found in Yang and Wu’s (2012) study, including a peer review can help students’ performance by providing interaction among students, leading to improvement in their argument skills.
Before the end of class, the teacher will review the fallacies found in the video as they will feature in the at-home assignment that the teacher will assign.
Part 3: At-home assignment
Students will complete an at-home written assignment requiring them to create their own story. As suggested by Ahmed and Abdel-Hack (2012), when students create their own stories, they can create a plot and characters that emulate their own life, which can help students “to reflect on life and find deep connections with subject-matter”.
The following are two sample topics that students can use for their at-home assignment.
In 250 words, write a story that depicts at least 2 characters, with one agreeing and the other disagreeing with the following statements.
Option 1: As new technology continues to be used in education, some people believe that there is no justification for lectures.
Option 2: Some people say advertising is negative and should be banned.
Evaluation of digital storytelling
The success or failure of introducing digital storytelling would be based on future IELTS test scores. For example, currently in a class of 6 students using the traditional lecture method, usually only 1 out of 6 students use critical thinking in their writing and obtain a score of band 7 or higher.
For the purposes of our solution, adopting a digital storytelling method would be considered a success if at least 4 out of 6 students use critical thinking in their writing and obtain a score of band 7 or higher.
Since digital storytelling has already proven to be successful in other studies (e.g., Yang and Wu’s 2012 study), we are confident that digital storytelling will provide an innovative solution that can be adopted by other English-language teachers and for online courses.
Ahmed Helwa, Dr.Hasnaa & Abdel-Hack, Dreman. (2014). Using Digital Storytelling and Weblogs Instruction to enhance EFL Narrative Writing and Critical Thinking Skills among EFL Majors at Faculty of Education. Educational Research.
Davidhizar, R., & Lonser, G. (2003). Storytelling as a teaching technique. Nurse Educator, 28(5), 217–21.
Pappas, C. (2013, February 28). 18 Free Digital Storytelling Tools For Teachers And Students. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/18-free-digital-storytelling-tools-for-teachers-and-students
Yang, Y.-T. C., & Wu, W.-C. I. (2012). Digital storytelling for enhancing student academic achievement, critical thinking.; learning motivation: a year-long experimental study. Computers and Education, 59(2), 339–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.012
My role for the past ten years has been as a technical writer; however, I am looking to transition to an instructional designer or similar-type role. I have some experience as I previously worked in a learning and development environment for almost two years. I primarily created training materials, although I was given the opportunity to create a training plan and deliver classroom and one-on-one training.
The instructional design tools in my design toolkit are based on the categories proposed by Lachheb and Boiling (2018): computer based, methodological/theoretical, and analog.
I’ve primarily used Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker to create documentation. When I was in school for technical writing, I remember my teacher saying if you have a 2-page letter to write, use Word, anything else, use FrameMaker. The downside with FrameMaker is that it has a steep learning curve. I use SnagIt for screenshots and have dabbled in Visme for infographics, although I wish I were better with graphic software. I’ve also used PowToon and Adobe Captivate to create videos for school assignments, although since I’m typically chasing a due date when I use them, I’ve never learned more than the basics, so this is another area I hope to improve on since I’m interested in designing e-Learning.
The learning and development team I worked on used a model called the 6Ds: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning. I was told this model was selected over ADDIE because it included documenting the results which the team found helpful. I researched the model when I worked there, but never had the opportunity to apply it. I’ve also researched micro-tutoring and flipped learning for school assignments, two areas that I see growing in response to COVID-19.
I’m a bit old school and still like to take notes in meetings with a pen and paper. I also like to use post-it notes to jot down random things I need to review or to make to-do lists.
Writing is one my superpowers – I like to joke that I write better than I talk. I’m also skilled at editing. I have great listening and interview skills – in my work, I deal with subject matter experts on a regular basis, so I have to make sure I maintain a strong rapport with them. I try to stay as organized as I can. I’ve also included being an introvert because I think being one allows me to be more thorough and analytical which comes in handy with making decisions because I can focus on the bigger picture.
Instructional design has come a long way since its days of creating training programs during World War II (Dousay, 2017). Today, with the onset of COVID-19, instructional design continues to evolve and expand as education changes to suit new learning models (Alati, 2020). According to Thomas (2010), “an instructional design (ID) model provides procedural framework for the systematic production of instruction. It incorporates basic elements of the instructional design process, including analysis of the intended audience and determination of goals and objectives, and may be used in different contexts” (p.187).
My experience with instructional design has mostly been academic as I previously completed several instructional design courses through Mount Royal University, and most recently, I finished the Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design program here at Royal Roads. In my professional experience, I once had the opportunity to develop a course training plan and deliver classroom training when the regular designer/instructor was unavailable.
In retrospect, my approach to developing the training could have been approved by applying an instructional design model. I can’t plead ignorance as my team generally used a model called The 6Ds: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning. According to Samir (2016), “the 6Ds extend and complement traditional instructional design models like ADDIE” and was “specifically developed for corporate training [as] they place much greater emphasis on clarifying the business (not just the learning) objectives at the outset and measuring the business (not just the learning) outcomes at the end”.
While I likely didn’t use an instructional model due to a tight deadline at the time, I won’t discount that it could have been due to Thomas’ (2010) proposal that “instructional designers are faced with the challenge of facing learning situations to fit an instructional design/development model rather than selecting an appropriate model to fit the needs of varying learning situations” (p.184). With this in mind, as I prepare to enter a career in instructional design, I will need to learn how to develop a course based on the chosen model, while keeping in mind Thomas’ (2010) other suggestion that “the effectiveness of a model is heavily dependent on the context in which it is applied; instructional design methods are situational and not universal” (p.187).
When selecting future models, I will have to consider the factors proposed by Dousay (2017), including the delivery format and whether the training is synchronous online or face-to-face, asynchronous online, or a combination of both. Looking back, the training I previously developed was classroom based, and based on Dousay’s (2017) suggestions, could have benefited from one of these models: Gerlach and Ely, ASSURE, PIE, UbD, 4C/ID, or 3PD.
Alati, D. (2020, October 2). How Higher Learning Spaces Are Changing in the COVID-19 Era. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/how-higher-learning-spaces-are-changing-in-the-covid-19-era
Dousay. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.). EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/lidtfoundations.
Samir, R. (2016, February 2). The 6Ds® model. Retrieved November 22, 2020 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6ds-model-ramy-samir
Thomas, P. Y. (2010). Learning and instructional systems design. Towards developing a web-based blended learning environment at the University of Botswana. University of South Africa, Pretoria. http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/4245/04Chap%203_Learning%20and%20instructional%20systems%20design.pdf?sequence=5