University of Oulu

A phenomenograpihacal study of the role of critical thinking in Japanese primary education

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Author: Nakagawa, Yu1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Pages: 69
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : Y. Nakagawa, 2016
Publish Date: 2016-06-06
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Reviewer: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Räsänen, Rauni
Nowadays, critical thinking is globally conceived as one of the most important skills. A good example of this is that critical thinking is included as one of the twenty firs century skills and the foundation for key competencies which is determined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a critical stance. In spite of this fact, the conception of critical thinking is not common in Japan and its study is work in progress. In this thesis, thus, I have attempted to find out the role of critical thinking in primary education in Japan. The main focus of this research is on Japanese primary school teachers since they are the most significant elements for children’s learning in schools. It is assumed that the role of critical thinking can be studied through analysing the teachers’ experiences. The theoretical framework consists of several theorists starting with John Dewey. In this thesis firstly, the current situation of the Japanese education system is discussed in terms of critical thinking. This consists of the basic Japanese education system and working culture of Japanese teachers in primary school. Secondly, the definitions of critical thinking by several prominent scholars were explored so as to understand the conceptions of critical thinking. Yet, the single definition of critical thinking cannot be determined, however, the common characteristics of critical thinking can be found in these definitions. After that, the methodology of research was discussed. Phenomenography was the main approach of this research and the means of data analysis was conducted by thematic content analysis. The participants of this research were five Japanese primary school teachers, three women and two men, ranging from a novice teacher to those who have more than thirty years’ experience. The data was collected through semi-structured individual interviews which lasted approximately thirty minutes each. Although almost all teachers did not know the concept of critical thinking, they attempted to conceptualise it by their experiences through the interviews. Their conceptualisations are quite similar to Dewey’s concept of reflective thinking and they discussed the concept of critical thinking in terms of nurturing children as future citizens who will make decisions, develop the society, and live in social and cultural diversity. Simultaneously, the teachers feel difficult to apply critical thinking and express differences in Japanese society which is quite collective and homogenous. Furthermore, there are only few opportunities to learn critical thinking during teacher training even though this concept is gradually emerging in formal training, as one of the teachers indicated in the interview. Despite the low number of participants (5), this research came up with certain findings which can be considered highly relevant. Another challenge of this research was the language; the interviews were conducted in Japanese after which the transcripts were translated into English. Hence it is possible that some nuance in detail was lost which is why the translation process was revised several times comparing carefully the Japanese and English transcripts.
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