Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Islamic Teachers' Perceptions of Improving Critical Thinking Skills in Saudi Arabian Elementary Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Islamic Teachers' Perceptions of Improving Critical Thinking Skills in Saudi Arabian Elementary Schools

Article excerpt

Abstract

The intent of this explanatory sequential mixed-method study is to examine Islamic teachers' thoughts on improving critical thinking skills in elementary schools in the Southwestern province of Saudi Arabia. This study involves the collection of quantitative data and an explanation of the quantitative results with qualitative data. In the first phase, a survey was administered to Islamic teachers in Saudi elementary schools to assess their opinions on improving students' critical thinking skills and to identify the factors that influence or hinder their implementation of critical thinking instmction. In the second phase, qualitative data was collected using semi-structured interviews with a number of Islamic teachers in order to explore more fully their perceptions toward improving students' critical thinking skills in Saudi elementary schools. In regard to the barriers for improving the critical thinking ability of elementary education students, the participants reported seven major obstacles, which are student ability, teaching methods, classroom structure, Saudi society and the school community, pre-service teachers preparation programs and in-service teacher professional developmental programs, and the Islamic studies curriculum.

The highest ranked obstacle to improving critical thinking for elementary education students was student ability, with an overall mean of 4.3 Ion a 5-point scale while the Islamic studies curriculum was the lowest ranked obstacle with a total mean of 2.57. This study highlighted there is a need to examine female Islamic teachers' perceptions toward critical thinking in the Southwestern region of Saudi Arabia in order to identify the similarities and differences between the perceptions of male and female teachers.

Keywords: critical thinking ability, critical thinking skill, elementary school, elementary education, Islamic teacher, Saudi Arabian, teacher perception

1. Introduction

Critical thinking is considered the highest intellectual activity in human interaction and enables people to engage in the process of making meaningful decisions (Howie, 2011). Additionally, it is considered a central component of human cognitive abilities. Teaching students' thinking skills in general, and critical thinking specifically, has a long history throughout the plethora of educational philosophy movements from Socrates to modem-day theorists. However, "it was not until the 1950's that critical thinking began being officially taught in the schools as an essential life skill by encompassing these skills within the school curriculum" (Bataineh & Alazzi, 2009, p. 57). "The need for an educated citizenry and quality workforce and citizens' ability to think critically and reason well has been regarded as important and necessary outcomes of education" (Alazzi, 2008, p. 243) and was viewed as the main reason for emphasizing the teaching of critical thinking skills.

During the last decades of the 20th century, the importance of developing children's thinking skills has increased because the increasing complexity and shifting realities of modem life increased the need for generating new knowledge, comprehension, judgment, and evaluation skills in order to deal with job market requirements. Furthermore, critical thinking has recently become an essential qualification demanded by employers seeking solutions to unexpected problems and strategies for successfully competing on the global business market (Alazzi, 2008; Bataineh & Alazzi, 2009). Therefore, improving critical thinking has become a significant school task in the 21st century. G. F. Smith (2002) contended that the importance of developing learner critical thinking skills has been increased in the past decade because they are essential core life skills.

2. Background and Purpose

There is an ongoing theoretical debate among researchers as to the definition of critical thinking. Influencing this debate are issues related to individual understandings of terms, research needs and interests, researchers' cultural backgrounds, and educational philosophies of the researchers (Alazzi, 2008, Ozkan-Akan, 2003; Sa-U & Abdurrahman, 2008). …

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