The purpose of this thesis is to gain insight into mainland Chinese students’metacognitive understandings and practice of critical reading (CR) in a pre-university second language (L2) reading course in Singapore. CR is interpreted as social practice that can involve a range of processes from analytical evaluations of texts to critiques of power relations and pursuit of social change. The assumption is made that CR engages students' critical stance which can be nurtured by teaching various tools that facilitate CR processes. As such, the impact of teacher intervention and other influencing factors were important considerations in this study. \ud Data collected from various sources revealed that the students’understandings of CR changed throughout the course to include a broader range of processes. This provided some insight which was enhanced when data from peer group discussions of texts showed what CR in this context looked like in practice. \ud The view is taken that interacting with texts and other people in a way that draws on various CR processes constitutes CR discourse (CRD). Transcripts were analysed to determine the nature and extent of CRD that students displayed in peer group discussions. Transcripts were also interrogated to explore factors that influenced those displays of CRD. Results indicate that, from the beginning of the course, these students displayed CRD, albeit often in small amounts and to variable degrees. This challenges notions of uncritical ‘Chinese learners’ (Atkinson, 1997; Wu, 2004). \ud Conditions for displaying more CRD were, however, never fully achieved. Various forms of scaffolding, text topic, and certain aspects of identity that emerged in interactions influenced displays of CRD, but inconsistencies indicate that these influencing factors interact in complex ways, at times enhancing, and other times restricting critical engagement. Awareness of these factors has implications for facilitating CR in L2 reading courses
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