Original Research

Developing critical thinking in classrooms: Teacher responses to a Reading-for-Meaning workshop

Heather N. Phillips
Reading & Writing | Vol 14, No 1 | a401 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v14i1.401 | © 2023 Heather N. Phillips | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2022 | Published: 31 January 2023

About the author(s)

Heather N. Phillips, Department of Research, Faculty of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 2016 lays claim to the need for critical thinking to be developed since, in the South African context, 78% of learners could not even retrieve explicitly stated information (lower-order thinking) from texts, as opposed to 4% in the rest of the world. Critical, higher-order thinking and reading-for-meaning skills development are imperative to allow learners to become active participants in this changing world.

Objectives: The study focused on teachers’ responses to a Reading-for-Meaning workshop aimed at empowering teachers with tools or strategies to improve learners’ comprehension through developing critical, higher-order thinking skills.

Method: The research is an interpretative, qualitative study which aimed at understanding how critical thinking is integrated into reading for meaning in classrooms. The Microsoft program Teams was used as the online platform to present the workshop which facilitated synchronous e-learning. Purposive sampling was applied and 36 intermediate and senior phase teachers teaching from grades four to nine solicited. Data were collected from a Telegram chatroom and a web-page questionnaire which was inductively analysed.

Results: Teachers experienced all the strategies positively and, on implementation in their classrooms, found that these strategies encouraged learner engagement, improved interpretation, boosted confidence and led to meaningful engagement with texts and deeper thinking which allowed them to think more critically.

Conclusion: The Reading-for-Meaning workshop provided the tools which teachers used to encourage learners to express their opinion and answer more critical questions based on predictions, make inferences, make connections, clarify, summarise and paraphrase, and so develop critical thinking skills and subsequently improve comprehension skills.

Contribution: On a conceptual level, the article has established a connection between the theories of critical thinking and pedagogical strategies. This opens up new directions for research for scholars in the field of literacy and education.


critical thinking; higher-order thinking; anticipation guide; Philosophy for Children; my turn, your turn; reading for meaning; critical pedagogy


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