Balancing between uncertainty and control: Teaching reflective thinking about language in the classroom

Astrid Wijnands*, Jimmy van Rijt, Gerhard Stoel, Peter-Arno Coppen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


To stimulate their linguistic awareness, students should be encouraged to think critically and creatively. This requires a reflective thinking attitude, which can be fostered by confronting students with language problems without an indisputable solution. However, the absence of an unambiguous answer can lead to uncertainty among students. Little is known about how language teachers respond to this type of uncertainty. In this qualitative study, we examined how teachers (n = 5) responded to and evaluated lessons in which students (n = 78, ages 15–18) were confronted with an ill-structured language problem. Teachers designed and redesigned the lesson over two iterations. Afterwards the final design was tested and students’ behavior was analyzed qualitatively. Results show that teachers strongly focused on students' cognitive thinking performance, argued for a need of control, and, although realizing the necessity of epistemic doubt for epistemic development, possibly misunderstood reflective thinking as just thinking about language.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101087
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalLinguistics & Education
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • L1 grammar education
  • epistemic beliefs
  • language awareness
  • lesson study
  • reflective thinking


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