Developing students’ critical thinking skills in writing at a Saudi Arabian writing centre

Working for more than three years with amazing colleagues to experiment the Writing Center at Yanbu Colleges and Institutes has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. What you are about to read is one of those success stories. We worked for almost a year with the immediate past Director of Yanbu English Language Institute, Dr Osman Barnawi, as our editor, and MacMillan Palgrave, as our publishers, to produce a 14-chapter book about the current state of Writing Centre practices in the Arabian Gulf.

I am personally happy and proud to be part of this journey that saw a conceptualization of a Writing Center to a full institutionalization for Yanbu academic community. And, I’m grateful to many individuals for the effort we put together in student learning support.

My chapter on critical thinking and writing tutoring examined the use of critical thinking skills in the current practices of writing centre tutors and tutees.

Below is the chapter’s abstract. You can read the full paper here, or access the full book on Palgrave website here.

The abstract

Developing students’ critical thinking skills in writing remains a challenging phenomenon across writing centres. Both within the writing centre pedagogy and the general academic writing theory, there are a few studies that investigate this aspect of language learning practice. Meanwhile, some of the studies attribute students’ inability to demonstrate critical thoughts in language learning to the lack of a high-level critical thinking skill (Alagozlu & Sarac, 2010; Borglin, 2012; Klimova, 2013), knowledge also remains little about the way(s) teachers implement critical thinking strategies in teaching writing (Atac, 2015; Golding, 2006), and how students transfer the skills into their academic writing courses. Over the two years of its establishment as a support centre for students’ academic writing, the writing centre at Royal Commission Yanbu Colleges and Institutes (RCYCI Writing Centre) has employed various measures to help students develop their academic writing skills. Using both naturalistic and participant observations as well as a follow-up interview, this study explores the manifestations of critical thinking strategies in tutors’ and tutees’ interaction as reflected in tutees’ writing in RCYCI Writing Centre. The results show that, though most tutors are aware of critical thinking as a strategy for teaching academic writing, a majority of students remain unaware about it, and only a few instances of the practices of such strategy appear in tutoring sessions. It is recommended that the RCYCI Writing Centre should develop a practical model for implementing critical thinking strategy through frequently organizing workshops for tutors and tutees to further raise awareness about the use of the strategy and providing tutors with the instructional model to implement. This process should be adequately monitored and evaluated.

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