if the reasons are clear. Critical readers thus recognize not only what a text says, but also how the text portrays the subject matter. Critical readers recognize the various ways in which each and every text is the unique creation of a unique author (Kurland, 2000 as cited in Alizadeh & Khatib, 2012).
Traditionally, reading classes have been an opportunity for learners to enlarge their vocabulary repertoire. Learners in these classes mainly focus on the load of the information presented in the texts and accept the ideas prescribed there. The materials employed in the classes are mainly life stories, scientific articles and passages that lack the potency to encourage learners to think critically. The reading exercises are often multiple-choice questions to test students’ comprehension (Alizadeh & Khatib, 2012). In these classes, teachers and learners’ attention is not paid to one of the most essential potentials of reading comprehension classroom that is working on the meaning implicit in the text and moving beyond the text. In traditional reading comprehension classes, the focus mainly is on the facts raised in the texts and learners rarely go beyond the text. In addition, in these classes learners are hardly encouraged to question the idea presented in the text. The traditional teaching method of reading comprehension hardly ever hints to the learners that there can be different interpretations of a text.
Consequently, most of the students cannot understand and appreciate the writers’ thoughts and expand their knowledge with the traditional teaching methods. Thus, while looking at the problems of contemporary EFL classrooms, schools and educators should take into consideration that the purpose of English language education should not be simply aiming at development of basic skills, but also promoting independent and extensive reading, and emerging critical thinking skills from gaining a deeper understanding of the concept (Lee, 2007).
For some reasons, the learning of higher-level thinking skills appears to be more challenging for Asian learners of English than for EFL learners of other ethnicities. Some researchers characterize Asian learners of English as lacking an individual voice and critical thinking skills (Stapleton, 2002). For example, Atkinson (1997) and Fox (1994) depict Japanese learners as group-oriented, harmony-seeking, hierarchical, and non-critical thinkers. Harklau (1994) points out that the Taiwanese students in U.S. high school classrooms bring with them the belief that “being quiet is good” because the schools in Taiwan expect students to be quiet in the classroom. In particular, Southeast Asian students are commonly stereotyped as passive, non-critical rote-learning students who do not engage in deep learning (Ballard, 1995; Mills, 1997 as cited in Egege, and Kutieleh, 2004). Southeast Asian students are generally perceived to be non-critical in their approach to academic texts and are considered to lack an understanding of the requirements of analysis and critique (Egege, and Kutieleh, 2004). Moreover Hashemi et al. (2010) indicate that Iranian education system’s emphasis on knowledge transmission and learning is limited to memorizing materials, because of the formulation of plans subject maters, methods of formulation and educational assessment and etc (Hashemi et al., 2010).
Reading is a process that needs thinking and making necessary inferences because writers cannot make all information explicit in the text (Snow, 2002). Every word has logic and implication, but Elder (2005) believes that unfortunately students do not recognize that any word has logic. Furthermore, she argues that students do not recognize that words generate implications, whether the writer recognizes them or not. Walmsley (2006) points out students fail to understand the big ideas while reading. They can understand the main ideas of a paragraph or can easily work on a specific skill, but when they want to recognize the main idea or underlying theme, it is a struggle. Students should be able to connect themselves to text and see the whole picture (Walmsley, 2006). Therefore, students should be trained and encouraged to go beyond the surface meaning of the words, which are engineered masterfully into texts; that is; they should read between the lines. They should be instructed that meaning is not just the facts directly stated in the passage (Alizadeh & Khatib, 2012). In order to read between the lines, the old tools and techniques are not beneficial anymore and much more advanced equipment is required. In addition, the ability to express the idea fluently and accurately is not the peak for language learners, learners should learn how to produce and receive information through language critically. Therefore, apparently the task at this juncture is to integrate critical thinking skills to the whole teaching recipe.
However, a common complaint among educators, and the people involved in the educational field is that students show a lack of critical thinking skills despite of its instruction. Avenda?o and Fonseca (2009) believe that students perform tasks involving critical thinking skills, but they are not really equipped with strategies that would enable them to become more critical thinkers (Avenda?o & Fonseca, 2009). It seems that teaching all critical thinking skills to intermediate learners of English as a foreign language is a demanding job, and the learners may not be able to gain the mastery to make use of all of them. Therefore, the issue which is of concern to this study is to find out whether analysis and inference as two critical thinking skills have any significantly different impact on intermediate EFL learners’ reading comprehension.
1-3 Statement of the Research Question
Based on the problem mentioned above, the following research question was raised:
Q: Is there any significant difference between the effects of analysis and inference as the two critical thinking skills on intermediate EFL learners’ reading comprehension?
1-4 Statement of the Research Hypothesis
According to above-mentioned question, the following null hypothesis was stated:
H0: There is no significant difference between the effects of inference and analysis as the two critical thinking skills on intermediate EFL learners’ reading comprehension.
1-5 Definition of Key Terms
1-5-1 Reading Comprehension
“Reading comprehension is a process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with the written language” (Snow, 2002, p. 11).
In this study reading comprehension is operationally defined as the scores the intermediate EFL learners obtained on a PET reading comprehension post-test.
1-5-2 Critical Thinking
“It is the deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim and of a degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it” (More & Parker, 2000, p.