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Currently, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors Report (2017), 50 percent of international students coming into the United States are from China (33%) and India (17%).
Many of these students, and others from nations with a non-Western educational schema, may be trained in a classroom atmosphere that can be more authority-focused and place less emphasis on critical thinking as practiced in a liberal arts setting (Aaron, 2016; Mc Cargar, 1993).
One possible explanation for this issue centers on differences in educational schema – many ESL students come from educational backgrounds that do not emphasize critical thinking in the same ways that American universities do (Mc Cargar, 1993).
For ESL instructors tasked with preparing their students for future argumentative writing assignments, it can be difficult to create a scaffold that effectively bridges existing student schema and the critical thinking underpinnings of the argumentative genre.
This is not to say that critical thinking is absent from these educational environments or from business and STEM majors; a false demarcation between a liberally focused American classroom and an authoritarian Eastern one, or even a humanities classroom versus a business or STEM classroom, obscures complexity on both sides and hinders understanding more than it helps it (Kumaravadivelu, 2003).
It is to say, however, that these students may require extra attention in developing critical thinking vis-à-vis the argumentative essay and other thesis-driven liberal arts practices such as presentations, discussions, debates, and other tasks of a similar nature.
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