How is critical thinking incorporated in pre-service English teacher education in China?




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The British Council



Peer reviewed



This project investigates how critical thinking is incorporated in English reading instruction in pre-service English teacher education in China, and how such pedagogical practice is entwined with contextual factors. All participants – both teacher educators and pre-service teachers – were recruited from two teacher training universities, except questionnaire respondents who were from various parts of China. A mixed-methods approach is adopted, including questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations. Findings of quantitative and qualitative analyses indicate that teaching critical reading is highly dynamic and complex. Some universities have embedded critical reading in curriculum design, while others largely rely on teachers’ own initiatives. In addition, variations exist regarding what and how critical reading is taught, owing to factors such as cultural influence, teacher educators’ expertise and perspectives, and support available for grassroots teaching. Furthermore, it is found that the test-oriented education system constitutes a key factor, not only resulting in underdeveloped thinking abilities among pre-service teachers, but also leading to divided views among them regarding teaching critical reading in future. Lastly, this study shows that gender is not considered as an affecting factor of engaging in critical thinking among pre-service teachers. Recommendations are proposed for pre-service teacher education in China and language support for Chinese international students in western universities


*This project was conducted in cooperation with research partners in China: Dr Xiaohui Sun, School of Foreign Languages and Literature, Beijing Normal University Dr Hongying Zheng, School of Foreign Languages, Sichuan Normal University *Copyright remains with the authors.


critical thinking, L2 reading instruction, pedagogy, pre-service teacher education


Liu, J., Sun, X., and Zheng, H. (2023). How is critical thinking incorporated in pre-service English teacher education in China? British Council.


Research Institute

Institute of English