I have an insatiable curiosity about language – what we do with it, why we say things the way we do, how we learn a foreign language, and so forth. I find it all endlessly fascinating. When I sat in my first linguistics class and started reading about the theories and facts around language, I thought, Really? You mean people are thinking about the same things I’m thinking about? Cool.

My specialty is studying the cognitive processes of writing in a first or second language as a child or adult. I also write, research theory and practice, teach writing, and train teachers. Of greatest interest to me is how critical thinking and writing intersect. It was the subject of my dissertation, and I have not stopped looking for best to marry the two processes. My motto: Writing is the place where you help people think.

Since writing my dissertation, I have branched out to consider critical thinking around the world. How is it taught – in many countries it’s not taught at all – and how do they measure their success at doing so? My teaching in such far-flung lands as Kazakhstan (where I spent three years), Saudi Arabia and Russia (one year each) helped me discover that thinking and learning patterns differ mightily in cultures that do not have the same western educational traditions as my own. I fact, I’m even prepared to say that culture is so influential in thinking that it is even shaped by the government whose policies we live under. What does that mean for students who come to the U.S. for an education? And what does it mean for us educators?

This section is supposed to be about me, and yes, I’ve mostly asked a bunch of questions. But that’s what I want to do with this blog. I want to raise questions, and with any luck, answer a few, to help you think – critically, I hope – about all that’s said. Reflections and comments welcome, screeds and diatribes, not so much.

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Caitlin Johnstone

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