or he approaches life and living in general.
New trends in education nowadays are focusing on developing critical thinking skills. Fisher (2007, p. 1) asserts that, “in recent years critical thinking has become something of a buzz word in educational circles. For many reasons, educators have become very interested in teaching thinking skills of various kinds in contrast with teaching information and context” (as cited in Avenda?o and Fonseca, 2009). Facione (1990) introduces critical thinking skills as interpretation, analysis evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. Research indicates that adult learners do not use critical thinking skills naturally, but these complex abilities develop in learners over time (Kurfiss, 1983; Paul, 1993). Scholars and educators believed that this kind of complex reasoning process can be improved with practice (Paul & Elder, 2004; Van Gelder, Bissett & Cumming, 2004) and advocated that developing critical thinking skills are crucial to help students “know how to learn and how to think clearly” (Halpern, 1998, p. 450).
An important question raised considering the critical thinking issue is its teachability. From numerous studies, there is empirical evidence that thinking skills courses have positive effects that are transferable to a wide variety of situations (Halpern, 1996; Weddle, De Capite, & costa, 1990 as cited in Wal, 1999). Therefore, it is possible to use education to improve the ability to think critically, especially when instruction is specifically designed to encourage the transfer of these skills to different situations and different domains of knowledge (Wal, 1999). Furthermore, Halpern (1996) provides findings that show critical thinking skills can be learned in educational setting (as cited in Wal, 1999).
Critical thinking is one of the central competences for L2 learners to achieve language-learning success (Connolly, 2000; Davidson, 1998; Davidson & Dunham, 1997). It seems that critical thinking skills enhance higher order learning skills leading to higher levels of language proficiency (Renner, 1996 as cited in Alizade & Khatib, 2012). Critical thinking is an ongoing process in which all language learners must engage, regardless of their language proficiency levels. Critical thinking involves the use of information, experience, and world knowledge in ways which allow L2 learners to seek alternatives, make inferences, pose questions, and solve problems, thereby signaling understanding in a variety of complex ways (Liaw, 2007).
Among the four language skills, reading has been considered as one of the most important skills in EFL/ESL context (Farhadi & Mirhassani, 2001). Moreover, Richards and Renanadya (2002) and others (Carrell, Devine, and Eskey, 1988; Grabe & Stoller, 2001) consider reading comprehension as the most important language skill and state two important reasons for this importance. First, many foreign language students often have reading as one of their most important goals. Second, various pedagogical purposes help reading to be the most important language skill. Besides, Amoli and Karbalaei (2001) state that there is good evidence indicating that reading comprehension is a challenging concept for most students, especially at college levels. In addition, as students step into higher level in education, reading comprehension plays a more important role as a primary source of knowledge. Furthermore, reading is assumed as a passive skill and learners are mostly passive when they are reading. In other words, they just receive the information without being consciously involved in it. Therefore, it is important to train critical learners and foster critical thinking (Alizade & khatib, 2012).
Levine, Ferenz, and Reves (2000, p. 1) hold that ”the ability to read academic texts is considered one of the most essential skills that university students of English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) need to acquire”. Dreyer and Nel (2003) beieve that the essence of reading is reading comprehension, which not only refers to academic learning in all subject areas but also to professional success and, indeed to lifelong learning. The written words surrounding us are not only as a source of information, but also as a means of improving and consolidating our knowledge of the language. Neilsen (1989) defines comprehension for readers as finding “parallels between what they know and what the author knows” (p. 8). Accordingly, the process of reading contains building connections between what is read and life experience, and creating new connections that go beyond and extend what was comprehended. Given Neilsen’s definition, basic process of reading comprehension indicates that readers understand author’s content, generate the concept and use it to gain a new perspective on their own life experiences. In a sense, to foster higher-level reading skills is not to place an emphasis on the reading instruction that is isolated from student’s daily life; instead, they must learn to value their own ideas that are drawn from the materials they already read in a thoughtful, critical way (Applebee, Langer & Mullis, 1985). As a result, students learn to “develop their own interpretations of what they read, to question, rethink, and elaborate upon the ideas and information drawn from their reading experiences” (Applebee, Langer & Mullis, 1985, p. 8).
Reading is not just obtaining information or knowledge from the text and accepting the ideas or viewpoints presented in the textbook (Wen & Lui, 2006) but reading is an active process and a dynamic, meaning-making interaction between the page and the reader’s brain (Barnet & Bedau, 2007). Barnet and Bedau, (2007) believe that reading process involves thinking on three levels: reading for literal meaning, reading to draw inferences, and reading to evaluate. The first level means read “on the lines” to see what is stated, the second level means read “between the lines” to see what is not stated but implied, and the third level means read “beyond the lines” to form your own opinion about the material. In other words, the main meaning of a text is not mentioned by the author. Therefore, the reader should think to understand the underlying meaning.
The relationship between critical thinking and reading is well established in the literature. Norris and Phillips (1987) as cited in Aloqaili (2011) point out that reading is more than just saying what is on the page; it is thinking. Moreover, Beck (1989) asserts, “there is no reading without reasoning” (p. 677). Also, among those researchers who recognize that reading involves thinking is Ruggiero (1984). He indicates that reading is reasoning. Yu-hui, Lirong, and Yue (2010) states clearly that reading is thinking process to construct meaning. Furthermore, Paul and Elder (2004) state that critical thinking is essential in the reading. They believe that understanding the