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Research Talk by Enjo Xuying Fan (University of Exeter) How do language teachers define thinking skills, and can thinking skills be promoted in language classrooms? Insights from Chinese primary teachers’ practices.

A Language and Education Network research event

The ability to think – to see connections, to reason, to be active in one’s learning – is an essential feature of education that enables learning at all stages of life and within and across different contexts in the 21st century. The teaching of thinking skills has received extensive attention in mainstream education, yet little research has explored language teacher cognition of thinking skills, although this directly influences students’ thinking and language learning.

Event details

In this research talk, I will report part of my research findings from the PhD project conducted in Chinese EFL (English as a foreign language) classrooms to inform the gap in the literature. A new concept, named as “English thinking”, has been discovered which can be perceived as subject-specific. Alternative understandings of the role of memorisation, and summarising as a part of higher-order thinking, challenge the traditional views of teaching thinking skills. In this talk, I will show how teachers’ knowledge and beliefs influenced their teaching practices by demonstrating the key findings, and will explore teaching instances as a way to inform pre-service teachers and in-service teachers of the pedagogical techniques, such as the use of silence, to promote thinking skills so as to facilitate students’ foreign language learning. The investigation of teacher cognition of thinking skills, using a case study and discourse analysis, shed light on the development of a thinking-based curriculum framework for EFL curricula. Pedagogical suggestions and considerations are put forward for researchers and EFL teachers concerning the understanding of thinking skills in a successful language teaching and learning context in China and beyond.

This talk is of interest to anyone interested in language education, thinking skills, and teacher education. All are welcome. 


Enjo Xuying Fan is a PhD student in the Graduate School of Education. She has recently submitted her PhD thesis entitled ‘Teacher Cognition of Thinking Skills in Chinese Primary EFL Classrooms.  See Enjo's profile at




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