Designing Mediational Tools for Fostering Argumentation Skills in EFL University Students in Thailand

  • Tanyapon Phongphio

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Thai government prescribes the development of students’ critical thinking in the domain of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). This research focuses on designing mediational tools to foster argumentation skills in Thai students undertaking an EFL programme at a Thai university, and developing principles underpinned by pedagogical techniques that explicitly foster critical thinking. Working with sociocultural theory, and in particular, drawing on Vygotksy’s concepts of intermental and intramental processes, the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and scaffolding and mediation, this research considered dialogic argumentation as a potential pedagogic tool to support the development of critical thinking. Using design-based research (DBR), the debate and scaffolding tasks were developed, tested and refined through three cyclic iterations. Forty-two, third-year Thai students who were enrolled in an EFL programme at a Thai university voluntarily participated in this research. The analysis of the observational, interview and questionnaire data finds that the participants’ engagement and performance in debate was influenced by their emotional states, prior knowledge and cognitive abilities. The classroom practices the participants had experienced at schools and the university, such as their limited exposure to English oral language production and the power-relations between teachers, students and amongst peers, shaped their capacity to participate in verbal argumentation. The thesis derives seven principles to inform teaching argumentation skills in a Thai context, including (1) modifying Western-style debate format; (2) harnessing emotions invoked during debate; (3) creating a positive classroom atmosphere; (4) providing scaffolding exercises; (5) strengthening familiarity between interlocutors; (6) making argumentation entertaining; and (7) scaffolding in rhetoric argumentation. The thesis goes on to argue that teachers should consider the Western origins of debate and accommodate cultural differences to generate a better understanding about what argumentation forms will be appropriate for Thai EFL students.
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKeri Facer (Supervisor) & Matt A Kedzierski (Supervisor)


  • Argumentation
  • Debate
  • Critical Thinking
  • Design-Based Research

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