Metacognitive and critical thinking practices in developing EFL students' argumentative writing skills - Ejournal UPI

 
INDONESIAN JOURNAL OF APPLIED LINGUISTICS
                                     Vol. 10 No. 3, January 2021, pp. 656-666

                                                 Available online at:
                            https://ejournal.upi.edu/index.php/IJAL/article/view/31752
                                      https://doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v10i3.31752

       Metacognitive and critical thinking practices in
    developing EFL students’ argumentative writing skills
                                             Fathiaty Murtadho
               Faculty of Language and the Arts, State University of Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia

                                                     ABSTRACT
        This action research examined the roles of writing instruction involving metacognitive and
        critical thinking strategy to improve argumentative writing skills of college students in
        Indonesia. Argumentative writing is one of the pivotal topics among researchers investigating
        ways to improve college-level writing. This study involved 88 students of three parallel classes
        enrolled in the writing skill development course. Employing Kemmis and McTaggart's (1988,
        2014) model of action research, this study employed a three-cycle action study in one semester,
        covering four stages of learning tasks: understanding of problem, monitoring of students’
        learning activities, problem-solving, assessment, and conclusion drawing. Each cycle provided
        learning exercises of metacognitive and critical thinking to hone the students’ argumentative
        writing skills. Referring to critical skill criteria as a baseline, the analysis found that employing
        metacognitive and critical thinking process in the instructional treatments enabled the students
        to improve their argumentative writing skills. The finding indicates a pivotal role of
        incorporating metacognition in writing instruction as a strategy to improve college-level writing
        skills.

        Keywords: Action research; argumentative writing skill; critical thinking; metacognition

                First Received:                    Revised:                        Accepted:
               12 February 2020                 16 August 2020                 22 November 2020
                     Final Proof Received:                                Published:
                         3 January 2021                                 31 January 2021
        Murtadho, F. (2021). Metacognitive and critical thinking practices in developing EFL students’
             argumentative writing skills. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), 656-666.
             https://doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v10i3.31752

INTRODUCTION                                                   to play their most important role. Writing is such an
Metacognition and critical thinking are among the              essential skill employing written language patterns
skills to be developed in especially argumentative             to express ideas or messages. Setyowati, et al.
writing instruction. Considering the less productive           (2017) even consider that the students’ writing skill
Indonesian writers relative to those in more                   is among the forceful measures of their intelligence.
developed world, the Indonesian Minister of                    One can deliver his or her ideas to people in
Education and Culture (MOEC) is challenged by a                distance through writing. In the limitless national
difficult task to improve students’ writing skills             borders due to rapid changes of digital technology,
from primary to tertiary educational levels (MOEC,             practically more people around the world are
2020). Today the MOEC puts a greater attention to              bestowed with the freedom to express widely
promote language learning emphasizing on reading               differing ideas (Anggraeny & Putra, 2017;
comprehension and writing skills. Among the most               Setyowati, et al., 2017). The National Association of
crucial factors that affect the quality of university          Colleges and Employers [NACE] (2016) also
students’ writing skills is the low level of reading           indicates that critical thinking/problem-solving
literacy of the 13-year-old Indonesian school                  skills through writing were ranked most important
students (OECD, 2019). This is one of the greatest             by the 144 surveyed employers. Many scholars and
challenges for the Indonesian government to                    studies have also discussed the standing of critical
address, especially for teacher education institutions         thinking skills in the context of 21st Century

    *Corresponding Author
     Email: fathiaty.murtadho@unj.ac.id
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Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), January 2021

education and workforces also discussed critical        time significantly influences the complexity of the
thinking education in the context of students’          essays. The writers in the 20-minute planning time
abilities to enter a modern, 21stcentury workforce      group produced more complex texts compared with
(Geertsen, 2003). Therefore, it is important for a      those in the zero-minute planning time group (Ong
university to develop the capacity of students’         & Zhang, 2013).
metacognition and critical thinking for improvement           This study aimed to discover an instructional
of their argumentative writing skills.                  treatment in improving the students’ argumentative
      Argumentative writings show their distinctive     writing skills in one university in Indonesia. A
features from other genres. For instance, a different   preliminary study and test had been performed in
genre of writing, a news report, provides a space for   September 2018, prior to the actual research. As a
writers to indirectly converse with readers. This       result, some obstacles in teaching students on
typical genre usually contains messages to persuade     argumentative writing were uncovered; some of
readers to accept or to respond to the writer’s point   them were so clear-cut while others require more
of view about the message he or she wrote               fundamental and research-based measures to deal
(Meiranti, 2015). Regardless of the type or genre of    with. More specifically, this study aimed to address
a writing, one thing in common among writers is,        the following research questions: (1) were the
according to Anggraeny et al. (2017), the writer’s      strategies involving metacognition and critical
intention for a response as expected to gain from       thinking able to develop the students’ argumentative
from the readers.                                       writing, and (2) if so, to what extent do the
      With regard to argumentative writing, there       metacognition and critical thinking practices
have been some studies attempting to discover a real    improve the students’ argumentative writing skills?
or authentic measure of argumentative writing. The
study of Révész et al. (2017), for example, assigned    Argumentative writing
the research subjects to choose one of the two          Argumentative writing is a very important skill for
choices suggested and write an argumentative essay,     the 21st Century especially as the ability to think and
subject to a faithfully qualitative assessment.         argue reasonably (UNESCO, 2013). An argument
Another example is a study conducted by Ong and         essentially is an author’s attempt to deliver rational
Zhang (2010) on the impact of task complexity on        persuasion to his or her audience in either oral or
L2 writing processes. The study employed a more         written expressions or public presentation. It is
authentic measure of argumentative writing. In the      typically a discrete communicative act, with fairly
study, the participants were given a provision of the   well defined, temporal or spatial boundaries
simple condition of conceptual supporting ideas that    (Vorobej, 2009). As a building block of an
could be used in their essays. They were provided       argumentative writing, an argument comes about
with the content support assumed to decrease task       when an author of the argument attempts to
complexity by allowing the participants to save their   convince a certain targeted author’s audience to
mental resources from generating ideas at the           believe something by providing appeals to reasons
planning stage and thereby direct the surplus           or evidence (Vorobej, 2009). An argumentative
attention to linguistic aspects during writing          writing inspires students to build arguments by
processes (Ong & Zhang, 2010, p. 732).                  carrying out independent investigation into a topic
      Previous studies to improve argumentative         to come up with a collection, generation, and
writing by setting on planning time and task            evaluation of evidence to enable them to develop
condition show relatively consistent results            their own stand on the matter. Through practices of
especially in terms of the negligible effects on        argumentative writing, students are typically
argumentative writing. Ong (2014) discovered that       required to take a position on an issue and explain
manipulating both planning time and task conditions     their position with research from reliable and
variables, especially the level of complexity and       credible sources (Setyowati, et al., 2017). Ferretti
content provision, affects the measure of               and De La Paz (2011) were also concerned about
argumentative writing. Other studies in L2 writing      students’ preparedness for the modern workplace
investigated planning time (Ellis & Yuan 2004),         characterized by heightened interest in their
task conditions (Ong, 2014), and the interactions       argumentative writing. It was found that students
between both variables (Ong & Zhang, 2013) with         were expected to make and evaluate interpretative
relatively consistent results. These studies reveal     claims by using disciplinary strategies and
that it takes longer for the participants to complete   evaluative standards when reading and writing.
their given tasks without the content support. In             An argument is closely associated with critical
addition, they found that the writing task was          thinking in which the term argument refers to a set
difficult to carry out in a more complex condition.     of claims. Some of which are presented as reasons
Albeit no significant effect of planning time and       for accepting some further claims and a conclusion
task conditions, the task conditions affect the         (Indrilla & Ciptaningrum, 2018). An argumentative
general accuracy of the writers’ performance in all     writing aims to influence the audience by presenting
tasks (Ong & Zhang, 2013). Moreover, planning           facts and reasons in such a way that they are

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believed or accepted. To be compelling, a writer          form anything that is spoken” (p. 22); while Ferretti
must outline the facts in a systematic, orderly, and      and De La Paz (2011) asserted that: “Anything
logical fashion to achieve a convincing conclusion        written up in an argumentative essay can be
(Fisher, 2013). It is generally assumed that              mentally represented” (p. 1346). The more
metacognition contributes to sharpening one’s             important thing in this context instead is the creation
argument (Fisher, 2013). The reasons that persuade        of written meta-representational concepts and
readers to accept their conclusion can vary in their      principles focusing on reasonable argumentation to
structure and content, but they always contain a set      result in a sapient consciousness of the relevance,
of claims presented as reasons for accepting some         validity, and evidential basis for reasons (Olson,
further claims and intended to persuade their             2016).
audience (Indrilla & CIptaningrum, 2018; Setyowati              Research on the development of metacognition
et al., 2017).                                            began in the 1970s through the works of Ann
       Argumentative writing is a vital means of          Brown, John Flavell, and their colleagues (Iftikhar,
exercising the ability of metacognitive and critical      2014). Metacognition was initially defined as
thinking. Fisher (2013) also believed that the higher     knowledge on cognitive activity using cognitive
the writers’ metacognitive and critical thinking skill,   activity as its cognitive object or that regulates
the more likely they would be able to fluently write      cognitive activity itself (Graham & Harris, 2000). It
an argumentative essay. A study conducted by Ong          is clear that the definition refers to a person's
& Zhang (2010), however, found no significant             knowledge concerning information processing skills
differences in the overall writing patterns, both in      and knowledge of the nature of cognitive tasks as
terms of fluency and pausing, between the                 well as the strategies to handle those tasks. This
descriptive and evaluative writing tasks. Their study     concept also includes executive skills related with
is a quantitative survey on writing fluency,              self-monitoring and self-regulating of their own
measured in terms of mean number of words                 cognitive activities. Metacognition that is of the
produced per-minutes in addition to linguistic            important factors to drive argument is knowledge,
complexity of the written texts, and the independent      awareness, and control of oneself, whereas
variables are the amount of planning time, provision      metacognitive development is an attempt to enhance
of supporting ideas and macro-structure, and              one's metacognitive skills towards greater
availability of draft during revision. One possible       knowledge, awareness, and control over one's
explanation is that writing fluency as measured in        learning (Cubukcu, 2008). Both are essential tools to
terms of the quantity of words-per-minute has little      practice and mature writer’s power of reasoning.
to do with the quality argumentative ideas in                   In the absence of the power of reasoning,
writing.                                                  insensitivity to alternative perspectives and
                                                          ignorance of evaluative standards manifest in the
Metacognition                                             quality of students’ written arguments (NCES,
The term metacognition has been often associated          2012). Thus, it is essential to examine the extent to
with John Flavell since 1979, and the term is often       which metacognitive arguments enable students to
simply defined as “thinking about thinking”               express them in an argumentative writing. Different
(Livingstone, 2003, p. 2). According to John Plavel       studies show that students’ metacognition skills are
(Weinert and Kluwe, 1987), the term metacognition         imperative to guide them for their self-directed
refers to higher order thinking which involves an         learning processes. Haiduc (2011) and Cubukcu
active control over the cognitive processes engaged       (2008) consistently showed that metacognition
in learning. Metacognition is part of the vocabulary      endures significant improvement of students’
of educational psychologists, and this reflects on        argumentative skills. Their studies reflect that
one’s cognitive experiences through learning              reinforcing the idea of metacognition in a
(Livingstone, 2003; van Zile-Tamsen, 1996).               pedagogical sphere has come into effect for the
Metacognition plays a critical role in successful         students’ argumentative writing to thrive. Haiduc
learning, therefore, a study on metacognitive activity    (2011) and Cubukcu, (2008) are amongst the
and development is important to determine how             examples of assessing how metacognitive strategy is
students can be taught to better apply their cognitive    vital to build a better students’ learning style
resources      through      metacognitive      control    through both teaching approaches and students’
(Livingstone, 2003).                                      practices of writing.
      Despite many theoretical and metalinguistic               The study of the third and fifth grades shows a
concepts that we now use to understand the varieties      remarkable improvement of the trained students
of traditional argumentations (van Eemeren et al.,        compared to those who did not receive such training
2014), metacognition remains essential to influence       on their improved argumentative skill reflected in
argumentative writing. In that case, Olson (2016)         their writing (Iftikhar et al., 2014). They
argued that the importance of this metacognition          accomplished their analysis and conclude that: “The
cannot be exaggerated as he suggests that “…any           practice of metacognition is vital to polish learners’
full writing system is capable of rendering in visual     perceptions, reflections and critical thinking skills”

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(p 193). Haiduc (2008) and Iftikhar (2014) found no          readiness.
difficulty and hesitation encountered by the teachers              To develop students’ critical thinking and
or instructors to apply metacognitive strategies, yet        metacognitive arguments, critical pedagogy is one
it depends very much on the demand of the existing           the most vital instructional approaches. (Reyes &
situation in which the strategy is useful and                Vallone, 2008; Qian, 2015). Critical thinking should
effective to acquire desired results. This is such a         enable students more than just to read the words in a
powerful strategy by which students are encouraged           textbook but also to read the world such as to
to practice metacognitive reasoning on interpretative        closely examine the existing power structures and
claims by using disciplinary as well as                      their roles within them (Reyes & Vallone, 2008;
interdisciplinary strategies for their reading               Wink, 2000). To read the world, students should be
comprehension and argumentative writing (Ferretti            familiar with the practice of critical thinking and
& De La Paz, 2011).                                          share their thoughts to others through argumentative
      The results of studies analyzing different types       writing. In view of Pei et al. (2017), argumentative
and uses of metacognition strategies and their               writing is not such a simple task; it is not only a
impact on the students’ argumentative skills are             structural process of words, phrases and sentences
consistently encouraging. Studies of Baker (2008)            but also a complex process that involves grasping
and Ryan and Deci (2000) indicated that the                  the topic, developing the statement, organizing a
emphasis of teaching on metacognition and                    coherent discourse and putting ideas into writing.
motivation strategies as well as the combination of          Pei et al. (2017) further suggested that: “...it calls for
the two achieve the maximum advantages of                    intellectual capacity for thinking critically” (p. 31).
metacognition to affect the desired level of writing         Therefore, a good part of writing should be able to
skills. Yet, Iftikhar (2014) further argued that to          demonstrate certain aspects of the writer’s critical
teach metacognition, teachers need improvement of            thinking.
their relevant skills to employ affective                          Some studies on critical thinking have found
metacognition strategies; to be most helpful and             remarkable leads to literacy research on writing. For
useful they too need improvement of their ability to         example, Yang and Wu (2016) found a significant
make some adjustments in teaching students of                relationship between critical thinking and writing
different grade levels (elementary, middle and               performance of non-English-major postgraduate
high).                                                       students in China against the different degrees of
      Metacognition exposes a higher thinking                language, content and materials. Although Pei et al.
process; it is reflective in nature and keeps moving         (2017) identified no significant correlation between
beyond normal thinking in gesturing the thinking             critical thinking and argumentative writing
activity itself (Larkin, 2009). The existing literature      performance, another part of their finding remains
shows that strategies of teaching and practice of            encouraging. Using textual analysis of typical
critical thinking in the high school classroom enable        essays, they indicated that the strong learners in
students to improve their academic performance               critical thinking could overtake their weak
(Hove, 2011). The capacity of students to exercise           counterparts, especially in relation to the relevance,
critical thinking is such an essential 21st Century          comprehension, clarity and flexibility of
life skill (Galinsky, 2010). In the case of Thailand,        argumentative writing (p. 32). It can be highlighted
Changwong et al. (2018) highlight that: “Under the           in both studies that to obtain good results in good
vision outlined in Thailand 4.0, critical thinking           argumentative writing, the approach needs to
skills have become one of the key pillars of a new,          integrate critical thinking into writing instruction.
knowledge-based economy (p 37). Therefore, it is                   Employing the Watson-Glaser Critical
such vital for school’s classrooms to apply critical         Thinking Appraisal model, Qian (2015) discovered
pedagogy to develop students’ metacognitive and              a significant relationship between the argumentative
critical thinking skills to practice in argumentative        writing capacity of junior English students majoring
writing.                                                     EFL and their critical thinking skills. Although Mu
                                                             (2016) unveiled the problems of critical thinking,
Critical thinking                                            notably in precision, depth and rhetorical
Critical thinking is the most important type of              appropriateness of English argumentative writing (p
higher thinking skills that education from                   32), the result remains inspiring. Mu (2016)
elementary to higher education levels, plays a               successfully assessed a significant effect of critical
crucial role to enhance students’ reasoning.                 thinking practices on their essays against the criteria
Bassham et al. (2013) argued that “...college                on the quality of critical thinking. Mu’s (2016)
education has to be accountable for the development          results indicated a significant correlation between
of critical thinking skills that, in turn, lead to higher-   the study participants’ critical thinking and writing
order thinking” (p. 46). Costa and Kallick (2014) as         ability. Among the subskills of writing ability,
well as Kraisuth and Panjakajornsak (2017) equally           only organization was correlated with certain sub
contended that critical thinking skills have to be one       skills of critical thinking. The results of multiple
of all essential lists behind college and career             regression analysis revealed that among the five

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components of critical thinking, analysis and             cycles, beginning with cycle I (baseline) in which
evaluation turned out to be the strongest predictors      each of the teachers delivered learning tasks to
of argumentative writing performance.                     students to write up an argumentative essay that
      Most of the studies revealed that metacognitive     consisted of introduction, developed rules of
and critical thinking are of the proven strategies that   spelling, content of argument, and conclusion. There
significantly effect students’ argumentative writing.     was no treatment in cycle I, as it was the period of
Referring to the vision outlined in Thailand 4.0, for     assigning students to choose a topic to write up and
example, critical thinking skills have become one of      come up with their completed essays. The
the key pillars of a new, knowledge-based economy         assessment results of the students’ work at the end
(Changwong, et al., 2018, p. 37). Some problems           of this cycle served as the baseline that the teachers
exist, however, in terms of assessment of precision,      needed to follow up with treatment in the first and
profoundness, and metaphorical appropriateness of         second cycles. The second cycle was the actual
the writing especially through a quantitative survey      students’ practices of writing under the guidance of
and objective measurement methods (Mu, 2016).             the teachers through the weekly discussions and
This study attempted to contribute to the validity of     feedback. The discussions took place for 100
assessment techniques by way of subjective and            minutes each, and the last week of each month was
expertise-based       evaluation      of      students’   for final evaluation and reflection. The third cycle
argumentative writing employing the action research       was the more intensive student practices of writing
procedures.                                               to come up with an essay subject to review in the
METHOD                                                    weekly discussions guided by a teacher to feed them
This study was performed in the Department of             back for improvement.
Indonesian Language and Literature, Faculty of                   The assessment results in each of the cycles
Language and Art, in a university in Jakarta,             against the baseline performance measured in cycle
Indonesia. This study was to promote the                  I reflect that the writing lesson was successful to
University’s mission to enable its students,              impart students’ writing skills. To be successful in
prospective teachers, to promote their argumentative      writing, the students should be able to achieve the
writing ability. The research subjects were the third     “acceptable” level of performance with reference to
semester students enrolled in the Writing Skills          the assessment guideline developed by the
Development course. This study followed an action         university in 2016. In that, the students’ writing
research method, using Kemmis and McTaggart's             skills is “acceptable” if they achieve the “Good”
(1988) model as a spiral of steps consisting of the       (70-79) or “very good” (80 or higher) categories.
four stages: planning, acting, observing, and             Despite only one point below the “good” level, the
reflecting. Kemmis et al. (2014) developed this           student’s writing skill with 60-69 category or
model further into the spiral of a self-reflective        “sufficient” remains unacceptable. The lowest
thinking in which the students can apply the              categories, such as “bad” (50-59), and “very bad”
metacognition and critical thinking practices and         (under 50) levels are considered poor. It was the
their ideas into argumentative writing. This model        different levels of students’ writing performance that
began with planning, acting, observing, reflecting to     had determined different kinds of intervention
re-planning. The third semester students were             applied to each of the students. As outlined above,
selected as participants since they were in the           this action research employed a Kemmis et al.’s
middle of preparing for their final research              (2014) model of action research that consists of
assignment.                                               planning, acting, observing, reflecting, and re-
     This classroom action research took place for        planning. More specifically, the study followed the
one semester period of August 2018 to January             following phases.
2019, following the preliminary study in July 2018.             Preliminary Study, prior to its implementation,
The design of action research had been planned for        this study was to prepare groundworks and to set up
a month before it was implemented. The design of          some initial stages of investigation. These included
the action research plan for this consisted of field      examining field conditions that included the
observation and preparation of lesson plans using         condition of the classroom, supporting facilities, and
metacognition and critical thinking strategies,           the school's already available physical resources;
syllabus and learning model, observation sheet, field     employing documentary analysis as the basis to
note and interview guideline, action research             establish the curriculum and syllabus of the Winning
schedule, and achievement criteria and target.            Skills Development course; setting up an overview
Focusing on improving the students’ metacognition         of interaction processes of writing skills
and critical thinking strategies in their                 development learning dealing with the topic of
argumentative essays, this study was carried out in       argumentative writing. These steps comprised some
four stages of writing: problem understanding,            preliminary observations as the baseline of the
monitoring and assessment, problem solving                study.
practices, evaluation and conclusion drawing.                   Action Plan Formulation, in devising the plan
       This action research took place in three           for classroom action research using metacognition

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Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), January 2021

and critical thinking strategies, several steps were       measured outcomes. Included in the learning
taken such as developing syllabus and learning             processes were learning methodology, learning
model; creating observation sheet, field note              media, causes of difficulties in learning and its
guidelines,     interview     guideline,      learning     solution, and how these affected the students’
achievement criteria and target; and making an             argumentative writing.
action research schedule adjusted to the learning                The criteria of success used this study were the
time prepared by the school.                               results of comparison of scores before and after the
     Action research, to improve writing skills            treatments. The improvement of learning was
using metacognition and critical thinking strategies,      considerably successful if the students could
four stages of investigation as mentioned above            achieve the average score of 70 and above. For this
were carried out. The stages were: planning and            study, the achievement measured in the students’
problem understanding, monitoring and assessment,          writing skill development was the students’ level of
problem solving and evaluation based on                    mastery in using metacognition and critical thinking
information from various sources, and evaluation           strategies as informed by the assessment guideline
and conclusion drawing. Along the treatment was a          developed by the university.
number of observations using an already developed
observation guideline that consisted of indicators
based on the focus of the study. The use of the            RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
guideline was aimed at soliciting any of the facts         Each of the above action research cycles had its own
that occurred throughout the process of                    purposes that ultimately come up with improvement
investigation to ensure that the lecturer’s actual         of students' argumentative writing skills using the
activities, students, and the condition of learning        designed instructional strategies of metacognition
remained consistent with the design. The results of        and critical thinking as the treatments. The
this observation were field notes illustrating the         assessment took place in each of the cycles
actual learning processes, such as teacher's               including the introduction, the content, and the
activities, students' activities, and learning             conclusion of the writing. The steps of action
environment.                                               research in each cycle involved planning,
     Reflection and Follow Up, this stage was to           monitoring and assessment, and problem solving
ensure that the students and the facilitators engaged      and evaluation based on information from various
in this study had learned throughout the designed          sources, evaluation, and conclusion drawing. Table
processes. This consisted of a series of discussions       1 indicates the number of students promoting their
among the students and the facilitators and the            argumentative skills from the baseline to the end of
feedback that the facilitators provided through the        the study as a result of the treatments applied
learning processes and their impacts on the                throughout this action research.

Table 1
Improvement of Argumentative Writing Skill in Each Part of Writing
                                                   Percentage of Students                     Dist. to
No.   Level of Writing Skill
                                      Baseline    Cycle I Treatment Cycle II Treatment      Baseline (%)
1     Introduction
      a. Acceptable                     51.1             73.9                 85.2                34.1
      b. Sufficient                     35.2             21.6                 13.6               -21.6
      c. Poor                           13.6              4.5                  1.1               -12.5
      N of Student                      88.0             88.0                 88.0
2     Content of Argument
      a. Acceptable                     59.1             79.5                 89.8                30.7
      b. Sufficient                     33.0             15.9                  9.1               -23.9
      c. Poor                            8.0              4.5                  1.1                -6.8
      N of Student                      88.0             88.0                 88.0
3     Conclusion
      a. Acceptable                     70.5             79.5                 87.6                17.1
      b. Sufficient                     19.3             17.0                  9.0               -10.3
      c. Poor                           10.2              3.4                  3.4                -6.9
      N of Student                      88.0             88.0                 88.0
4     Rules of Spelling &
      Grammar
      a. Acceptable                     65.9             79.5                 89.8                23.9
      b. Sufficient                     21.6             15.9                  8.0               -13.6
      c. Poor                           12.5              4.5                  2.3               -10.2
      N of Student                      88.0             88.0                 88.0

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Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), January 2021

      As seen in Table 1, the criteria were based on        which some feedback was given to each of the
three different categories: stages of writing               students in weekly meetings. This enabled the
(introduction, content of argument, conclusion, and         students to come up with some reflective ideas and
rules of spelling and grammar); levels of                   arguments and to finally express their reflective
competence (acceptable, sufficient, and poor); and          arguments in writing. The number of students who
the cycles (baseline, cycle I, and cycle II). This is       achieved the “Acceptable” level notably increased
such a strategy in an attempt to answer the first           from 59.1% in baseline, 78.5% in cycle II, and to
research question, and to compare the students’             89.7% at the end of the cycles, or 30.7% moving up
capacity of writing throughout the stages of writing        from the baseline. In contrast, the number of
and the study cycles. The following discussions             students performing “Sufficient” level continued
attempt to answer the two research questions of this        decreasing from 33% in baseline down to 9.1%
study.                                                      while the poorly performing students decreased
                                                            from 7% in baseline down to 1.1% by the end of the
Strategy to develop argumentative writing skill             cycles. This shows that almost one-third of the
Assessment of students' writing skill aimed to judge        students promoted to the acceptable level of writing
the results of students' works at the end of the            of the “Content of Argument” was very substantial.
second and third cycle relative to the baseline. The              Writing a conclusion reflects the students’
measured skill shows some improvements of                   exercises to express critical thinking and to express
students’ ability to compose an argumentative               reflective ideas throughout this part of writing. The
writing on introduction, content of argument, and           number of students whose writing improved in the
conclusion. The students' argumentative writing             acceptable conclusion was not quite sizable yet
skills increased gradually through each of the cycles       remained significant; they were already substantial
against the measured baseline in the previous cycle.        (70.5%) in the baseline, and only increased to 87.6%
In the baseline, more than a half (51.2%) already           in cycle III. This shows that the number of students
performed acceptable writing on each of the areas of        promoted to this acceptable level was 17.1% or
writing. This indicates that a half of the students         equal to those leaving both sufficient and poor
were both at the Sufficient and Poor levels on              groups of students. Writing a conclusion is such a
introduction (35.2% and 13.6%), content of                  single most crucial step in argumentative writing as
argument (33% and 8%), conclusion (19.3% and                to bridge between the ideas systematically laid down
10.2%), and developed rules of spelling (22.7% and          in writing and the readers in highlighting the
5.7%) areas. The number of students promoted to             important messages to help the readers comprehend.
the acceptable level of writing skill compared to           This study found the least improvement of students’
those in previous cycles reflect the effectiveness of       skills in writing conclusion, since only less than
the treatments employed throughout this study.              one-fifth of the students was promoted toward the
      Writing an introduction of an essay is such an        level of “Acceptable”, yet this improvement was not
important basic skill of argumentative writing the          negligible.
students need to follow. The writing skills of                    The last part of argumentative writing was the
students evolved as they began to recognize how to          practices in using the developed rules of spelling
write up a better introductory part under the close         and grammar. The ability to employ the rules of
guidance and feedback of the facilitators. As a             writing is an important tool for the students to
result, the increasing students’ skills to write a better   develop an essay toward the acceptable level in the
introduction toward an “acceptable” level was               eyes of the facilitators. The number of students at
substantial in number, such as from 45% of students         the acceptable level in employing the rules of
in cycle I, 73.9% in cycle II, up to 85% in cycle III.      spelling and grammar in baseline was large enough,
In contrast, the students’ skill at sufficient level        65.9%, and increased to 89.8% in third Cycle. This
decreased through the cycles from 35.2% to 13,6%            indicates that the quantity of students upgraded to
in cycle III; in the same way, the students at poor         the acceptable level was 23.9% or equal to those
level from 13.6% in baseline to 1.1% in the last            leaving both Sufficient at 13.6% of and Poor at
cycle. Yet, not all students at the “Acceptable” level      10.2% of writing levels. Employing the rules of
(85%) were due to their promotion since 51.1% of            spelling and grammar is an elementary stage of
them had already achieved this level at the baseline.       writing ability in support for students to write a
The substantial promotion instead was the rest              better argumentative essay. Almost one out four
(34.1%) of students who achieved an acceptable              students successfully promoted their argumentative
level in the third cycle or promoted from their             writing skill due to improvement of their capacity of
“Sufficient” and “Poor” levels in the baseline.             using the developed rule of spelling and grammar in
      The “Content of Argument” is an essential area        writing.
of an essay writing that requires students’
involvement in critical thinking and metacognition          Effect of intervention on improvement of
exercises. The practices of writing employed the            students’ argumentative writing skills
metacognitive and critical thinking framework in            In general, the treatments applied through this study

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Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), January 2021

made differences in students’ writing skills in one of          the study period to practice on expressing some new
the four parts of an essay. As indicated in Table 1,            and reflective ideas derived from their exercises of
the treatments impacted differences on students’                metacognitive and critical thinking. The initial
performance due to differences in the areas of                  students’ writing skills were negatively skewed, as
writing. This study found different impacts of the              more than a half of them (63.6%) already performed
treatments on each one of the essay parts to write              an acceptable writing. The rest of them was
up. The treatments in the first two areas had                   unacceptable at both sufficient (27.3%) and poor
impacted more students to lift up toward acceptable             (9.1%) levels of performance. The observed
levels (34.1% and 30.7%) than those in the last two             improvement of students’ writing skills toward the
areas (17.2% and 17.1%). This indicates that the                acceptable levels of writing resulted from the
treatments enabled more students to write an                    treatment applied to students in cycle II and III. As
acceptable conclusion and content of argument than              seen from Table 2, the successful treatment was
those to write a conclusion and to employ the rules             applied in this study as reflected in the percentage
of spelling and grammar.                                        distance of students achieving the acceptable level
     The students had much opportunity throughout               from the baseline.

Table 2
Summary of Student’s Argumentative Writing Skill Improvement
                                                   Cycle II               Cycle III          Distance from
Writing Skill Level   Cycle I (Baseline)
                                              (1st Treatment)         (2nd Treatment)           Baseline
                       Freq.        %         Freq.         %         Freq.       %        Freq.       %
Acceptable               56       63.6%         68        77.3%         78       88.6%      22         25.0%
Sufficient               24       27.3%         16        18.2%          8        9.1%     -16        -18.2%
Poor                      8        9.1%          4         4.5%          2        2.3%      -6         -6.8%
TOTAL                    88         100         88          100         88         100       0

      The number of students promoting to a certain             the students’ learning tasks in a more intensive
level of argumentative writing skills compared to               guidance through face-to-face meeting and
those in previous cycles reflect the effectiveness of           interactions via Facebook or Skype. As a result, the
the first treatments employed in this Study. In cycle           argumentative writing performance improved
II, the students’ writing skills were increasing after          significantly in cycle III. By the end of the study
the treatments that prompted the students to analyze,           period, only two students were left at the level of
identify and compare the content of books using a               “Sufficient” and “Poor” in writing skills. In addition
jigsaw method. The treatment probed each of the                 to the improvement of writing skills, the students
students to read and analyze a book and explained               were generally able to develop an essay with more
what he or she had read to others. The treatments               varied contents, supported by complete references.
also assigned them to practice composing an                     In addition to citing the works of experts as sources
argumentative writing in the form of book or chapter            of references, the students were also capable of
summary. The first treatments in cycle II reduced               describing examples to support and clarify their
the students to write an unacceptable writing at                arguments.
22.7% (Sufficient, 18.2%; Poor, 4.5%) as they were                   The last assessment results at the end of the
able to promote to the acceptable level of writing.             cycles informs that the lesson strategies applied in
      The students' score of argumentative writing in           this study enabled the students to find that the
cycle III continued improving after the second                  learning processes were fun alongside the practices
treatments, i.e., allocating times to assign the                of developing an argumentative writing. The
students to analyze, identify, and compare the two              students, who used to be unfamiliar with critical
articles given. The learning tasks made the students            reading and analysis as important steps to prepare a
practice writing based on metacognitive and critical            writing, started to enjoy working with and being
thinking under the rigorous assistance of the                   able recognize the steps as a systematic attempt to
facilitators, through face-to-face meetings, forum              understand an issue to write up. It will be easier for
discussions on Facebook and skype. After the                    the students to develop argumentative writing if they
second treatment in cycle III, the number of students           understand the problems and express them through
with “Sufficient” and “Poor” level of writing                   writing. However, most of the students at the outset
lessened even farther. The second treatments in                 faced some trouble in analyzing the content of
cycle III reduced the number of students writing                argumentative writing especially those who needed
categorized as “Unacceptable” at 11.4% (Sufficient,             more adequate references to compose such a
9.1%; Poor, 2.3%) as they promoted successfully to              writing.
the acceptable level of writing.                                     This study uncovered three essential findings
      Considering the improvement of results                    on the improvement of argumentative writing by
through cycle II, the facilitators assigned intensified         way of metacognition and critical thinking

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Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(3), January 2021

strategies. The successful strategies of learning        and conclusion drawing. The stages required a series
argumentative writing began with engaging students       of analysis of information gathered from various
with funny stories involving the concept of              sources. Initially, the students had difficulties in
deviation of logic. To create fun learning strategies    practicing some critical analyses and understanding
and to avoid misunderstanding of problems, a             a problem. Although the students had practiced in
strategy needs to have students replace the logic of     their previous courses, they generally were
one statement with the logic of another, and analyze     challenged to improve their ability to prepare such a
the causes of misunderstanding due to several            broad planning to develop an essay. Due to
possible interpretations of a word or situation.         possessing only preliminary knowledge, they are
      Improvements of the students’ argumentative        quite limited to add some more arguments to their
writing performance result from the implementation       work, in greater detail. This did not very much
of critical reading and critical thinking strategies,    enable them to compose a carefully designed
critical analyses in reference to the revised version    argumentative writing.
of Bloom's taxonomy of metacognitive stages                    Through cycle II, the students began to focus
(Anderson, 2002). The treatments directed the            on their planning due to the frequent control of the
critical thinking exercises by which the students        facilitators on how to allocate their lime, formulate
were accustomed to searching, memorizing and             objectives, and focus much attention on tasks at
comprehending all the information needed; these are      hand. They started to connect their preliminary
a vital means for the students to analyze, evaluate      knowledge in writing, made predictions before
and create reflective ideas and put them into            performing tasks, and regulated themselves to finish
argumentative writing. On the one hand, Pei et al.       the tasks on time. The students began to realize that
(2017) found no significant correlation between          planning was such a vital means of writing
critical thinking strategy and EFL argumentative         processes. They began to appreciate that planning
writing performance. On the other hand, this study       was such an important tool to facilitate accurate
has pointed out the reason that this is due to lack of   completion of tasks. Students were able to focus on
contextual analysis provided to students.                learning and to formulate a lesson plan by finding
      This study found the encouraging results that      textbook resources, internet sources, and some
the students’ argumentative writing improved             related examples of writing tasks. In the last cycle,
through providing the students with some contextual      the students were generally capable of formulating
analyses and discussions of the content being            their goals, identifying the tasks they were going to
written up. This study aimed to provide the students     perform. All the treatments applied enabled them to
with some exercises to apply the concept of              establish a relevant topic to write up, and then to
relevance, clarity, understanding and flexibility of     monitor their progress by regulating their time
issues and discuss the concepts with the facilitators    available. It is important to notice that the applied
during the intervention periods. Integrating critical    treatments enabled the students to predict the results
thinking into EFL writing instruction is one form of     they would achieve by managing their time to
exercises provided in the study (see Reyes &             complete the tasks. Finally, it is important to note
Vallone, 2008). Reyes’ finding turned out to be so       that the employed method did not at all determine
inspiring that metacognitive and critical thinking       the level of robustness of a study. At least this study
strategy of instruction affected on students’            attempted to ensure that every single step was
argumentative writing performance. Similarly,            monitored and given appropriate feedback for
Nosratinia, et al. (2015) suggested that this type of    improvement before going further to other steps.
writing requires the students to carefully build
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