Reflection 9: John Hughes Continued

Since reflection 7, I’ve dived a bit more into the work of John Hughes to get an idea of what he has to offer in regards to TEFL.

In the following recorded video of a webinar, Hughes is presenting very concrete examples of how to teach critical thinking. He also talks about critical media literacy, with very easily-understood examples, that could be included in the classroom at any level just to prove a point – being aware of what you read, hear and see; who wrote/published it and why along with vague vs. accurate language.

Hughes offers material and videos on teaching critical thinking for all types of learner-levels. For this reflection, I’d like to focus on one example that he introduces in this video. We have now moved on from teaching the students how to think critically and should now teach them how to think creatively. He empathises the value of bringing photos into the classroom and presents the following image titled Stages of Life. His suggestion is to first talk to the students about the photo itself, what can be seen, what’s happening… Then, he suggests giving the students homework, for which they have to take their own photo symbolising stages of life. The students will have to present their ideas, reflections, and thoughts for the rest of the class or to a partner.

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Not surprisingly, Hughes also has videos online describing the value of introducing videos in the classroom.

I will remember this going forward, as I often find myself thinking about texts as written material, and I forget the importance of visual and auditive texts (which, I think, often will be more appealing to students growing up in highly stimulating and visual world).

Reflection 7: Critical Thinking

Reflection based on lesson 11: Foreign Language Pedagogies & Intercultural Language Learning on the 20th of April 2018. During this lesson, we were introduced to John Hughes, an English teacher, teacher trainer, and freelance author at National Geographic Learning, whom Lone experienced at the IATEFL Conference 2018 in Brighton. Hughes presents a stairway of critical thinking, built upon psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), presenting a series of skills that teachers should aim for developing in their students in order to make their students learn more effectively. Over the years, many other educators have built on Bloom’s taxonomy, Hughes is using Anderson & Krathwohl’s (2000) version, also known as the 21st Century Taxonomy or simply Bloom’s New Taxonomy as seen beneath:

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Left model showing Bloom’s original version and right model showing Anderson’s & Krathwohl’s more contemporary version.

But what is even critical thinking? Here’s a short video on a discussion on exactly that, by John Hughes and Paul Dummett:

What Hughes says about this, is that schools, teachers, in general, are really good at, are teaching the lower order skills and top higher order skills i.e., they forget teaching the students how to thinking critically. At the same time, critical thinking has become a buzzword within contemporary education discussions and especially within language learning.

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The stairway of critical thinking consists of the five sub-skills; understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, they can be represented as a set of linear steps or stairway progressing steadily upwards in order of difficulty and sophistication. Hughes says:

“Such a model is helpful if we plan to design courses that will take students from one step to the next and so develop their critical thinking skills. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that, in reality, learning – especially when it involves learning a foreign language – never runs quite so smoothly. A student might read and understand a text, then start to apply or analyse, only to find that they have misunderstood something and have to return to the beginning. Equally, when students start to create a presentation or complete a project, they might find they need more information in support of their own main idea and so they have to return to their sources and re-evaluate them. However, the idea that these sub-skills are like five steps going upwards does provide us with a scaffold on which to create a clearer practical image of what goes towards making a Critical Thinker.” (Hughes, 2014).

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John Hughes has many interesting and concrete examples/suggestions on how to teach critical thinking on each step of the stairway, if:

1.    Students are led and guided towards their critical thinking mindset
2.    Teachers clearly define what their expectations of critical thinking are, and
3.    Teachers teaching the language of critical thinking


Finally, for this reflection, Hughes’ purpose is to help English language teachers all over the world to access free professional development resources. I’ve found he’s also interested in games. I’ve got to find out more.


Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. (2000): A taxonomy for learning, teaching and   assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman
Bloom B. S (1956): A Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman
Hughes, J. (2014): Critical Thinking in the Language Classroom. ELI Publishing