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Starting a schema-centered conversation, one that explores both the thinking assumed by thesis-driven argumentative essays and the possible interpretive frameworks that ESL students bring to the classroom, can help to prepare these students not just for argumentative writing assignments, but also for the many academic discussions, debates, presentations, and research projects they are likely to encounter in their university careers.
The thesis-driven essay is steeped in the liberal arts tradition, an educational schema that emphasizes both critical thinking and participation in democratic government (Brint, Riddle, Turk-Bicakci, and Levy, 2005).
Students may have found information but may not know how to think about what they have found.
This is where an attempt at introducing a liberal arts / critical thinking perspective can prove useful.
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The IIE (2017) further notes that these international students are heavily favoring business and STEM majors.
These factors – educational background and area of concentration – suggest a general trend away from the humanities and the liberal arts, and therefore a lower level of familiarity with the critical thinking techniques practiced there.
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.