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Where do we go from here? Penny Ur ACEIA, 2012.

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1 Where do we go from here? Penny Ur ACEIA, 2012

2 Language-teaching Method
A coherent set of teaching procedures and behaviours based on a theory of what language is and how it is learnt a non-pc term: nowadays people prefer to use the broader term ‘approach’ or vaguer ‘model’. I have chosen to use ‘methodology’, as defined here.

3 1. The past

4 Grammar-translation method
Procedures: Grammatical rules and exercises Vocabulary lists Reading passages, studied and translated Very little speaking Lessons normally conducted in L1 Grammatical syllabus Emphasis on accuracy Underlying approach: Language is grammar and vocabulary; learning it implies learning and memorizing information about these aspects.

5 Direct Method Procedures Only English used A lot of teacher-student dialogues Later, systematic teaching of grammar and vocabulary Mainly speaking Both communication and accuracy stressed A grammatical syllabus. Underlying rationale English is a system of communication, best learnt through English-only interaction. It is important to learn to speak it correctly.

6 Audio-lingual method Procedures: Mimicry, memorization, repetition Mainly speaking No grammar explanations Very little vocabulary teaching A grammatical syllabus Emphasis on accuracy Underlying rationale: Language is speech, not writing Language is a set of habits Teach the language, not about the language

7 Task-based language teaching (TBLT)
Procedures Mainly communicative tasks No pre-set grammatical or lexical syllabus Communicative fluency rather than accuracy Student-centred, teacher as facilitator Occasional reactive ‘focus on form’ Underlying rationale Language is primarily a system of communication. A second language is learnt similarly to a first: through using it to interact with others.

8 To summarize Grammar- translation Direct Audio- lingual TBLT
Emphasis on accuracy Emphasis on fluency Grammatical syllabus Communicative activities Use of L1 Oral skills Written skills  ?   ()

9 But in fact…  Baby and bathwater syndrome
These represent theoretical models: rarely if ever in fact taught in their ‘pure’ forms But useful in providing a picture of different trends and orientations in the history of ELT Very often developed as ‘reactions against’  Baby and bathwater syndrome

10 A post-method era? 1. Opposition in principle to the concept of ‘method’ as a basis for English teaching: Pennycook: The concept of method, interested knowledge, and the politics of language teaching (1989) Prabhu: There is no best method (I990) Kumaravadivelu: The post-method condition (1994); Towards a postmethod pedagogy (2001); Understanding Language Teaching: from Method to Postmethod (2006). Pishghadam & Mirzaee: English language teaching in postmodern era (2008)

11 A post-method era? (cont.)
2. Some evidence that method is not the critical variable in successful teaching Clarke et al: Creating coherence: High achieving classrooms for minority students (1996)

12 And yet… Methods are alive and kicking!
Bell: Method and post-method: Are they really so incompatible? (2003) Task-based learning – clearly a ‘method’ – continues to be promoted. Why?

13 Some possible reasons:
Assumption that teachers need to be told how to teach Political / power issues: maintaining the dominance of universities and ministries Assumption that practice must grow out of theory Current ideology and political correctness A clear basis for teacher-training programs acceptability of the task-based model: empowerment of the learner, pluralism, postmodernist rejection of pre-set standards and syllabuses?

14 2. The present

15 Dominant method: TBLT ‘An emerging orthodoxy’ (Carless, 2009: 66)
Promoted in teacher-preparation courses, conferences, the literature Ellis: Task-based Language Learning and Teaching (2003) Leaver & Willis: Task-Based Instruction In Foreign Language Education: Practices and Programs (2004) Nunan: Task-based Language Teaching (2004) Robinson: Task-based language learning: A review of issues (2011) Skehan: Task-based instruction (2003) 40,000 hits

16 Some characteristics:
Encouraged Communicative tasks Group and pair work Extensive reading Reactive focus on form Student autonomy Discouraged: Grammatical syllabus Grammar and vocabulary exercises Use of L1 Learning by heart Teacher-dominated classroom process

17 Discussion How far does this overview of task-based instruction correspond with: a) The general direction of methodology courses in teacher training programs in this country? b) Actual practice, as demonstrated by teachers observed in classrooms in this country?

18 Objections to task-based instruction
It doesn’t work so well in the Asian context (Carless, 2007; Littlewood, 2007). Interactive communicative tasks produce minimal language (Seedhouse, 1999) Opposition on practical and theoretical grounds (Swan, 2005) Most teachers, if asked, say they teach an ‘eclectic’ method (Bell, 2007) My own experience

19 Response of the theorists: a ‘weak’ task-based teaching model
Ellis (2009): ‘…it is argued that task-based teaching need not be seen as an alternative to more traditional, form-focused approaches but can be used alongside them’ (p.221) But then task-based procedures become only one component Is it still a ‘task-based approach’? If not, what is it?

20 So what’s going on? 1. Recent writing on methodology, conferences: a strong task-based approach? A compromise? 2. Teacher courses, national syllabuses – largely TBLT-oriented 3. Teachers in the field – largely ‘eclectic’ (tending towards the traditional) 4. Coursebook writers and publishers – tending towards TBLT, but with ‘traditional’ components traditional: explanation + practice

21 So where do we go from here?
A personal view

22 What is the alternative?
A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources (What is in fact happening in most places: but I suggest rationalizing and legitimizing it)

23 A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources A pedagogy, not a method because: 1. An unlimited number of possible classroom procedures 2. Not limited to one ‘correct’ view of what language is and how language is learnt. 3. Takes into account pedagogical aspects that ‘methods’ tend to ignore: student motivation, classroom management, large and/or heterogeneous classes, classroom climate, lesson planning, homework

24 A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources The main principle is the optimalization of learning: the teacher will choose those procedures that in his/her view lead to the best learning by students. Other principles: educational values; the creation of a positive classroom climate and student motivation; the maintenance of caring relationships … But not because it’s ‘correct’. Swan’s article ‘legislation by hypothesis’

25 A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources Many decisions on principles and procedures will be based on local considerations: the local student population; the teacher’s own personality and preferences; the goals of the course; the local culture; upcoming exams …

26 A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources The teacher, or group of teachers in a school, decide on their pedagogy and choose material The teacher’s sense of plausibility (Prabhu, 1990) Not the State or the academics

27 A language pedagogy that is principled and localized, determined by the teacher(s), informed by reflection on experience and other professional knowledge sources The primary source of the teacher’s ‘sense of plausibility’ is reflection on experience. Other professional knowledge sources include: Sharing with colleagues Feedback from students The professional literature (research, theory, teachers’ websites and blogs, books on language pedagogy, practical handbooks) Courses, conferences i.e. don’t tell me how to teach: I want to look at the research, read, attend conferences, talk to colleagues and students and decide for myself.

28 Anything goes? Potentially any teaching procedure may be part of an individual teacher’s pedagogy… …Provided he/she can justify it, based on the principles and considerations listed previously.

29 The functions of the teacher trainer
Not to tell the teacher to use a specific method, But to provide: 1. Evidence-based information about how learning and teaching languages 2. A range of practical teaching ideas 3. Opportunities to reflect and discuss 4. Personal recommendations

30 Examples from my own pedagogy

31 My own teaching includes
Communicative discussion tasks Grammar exercises Use of L1 to teach new vocabulary Game-like activities

32 Communicative discussion tasks
How many (non-obvious) things can you find in common with your partner, that you didn’t know before? Design a profile of the kind of teacher you would like to teach your child English. Divide the characteristics into necessary, desirable, unnecessary.

33 Because… They help students learn to be fluent speakers Give them opportunities to practise language they know Are interesting and fun Help to strengthen group relationships

34 Grammar exercises Practise the modals: insert the appropriate forms.
I’m sorry, but I must leave early (have to). When I was young, I played with dolls (used to). We should try to stay calm (ought to). Teachers must prepare lessons. (have to). Teenagers should be in bed by 11 o’clock (be supposed to). After he left, we could speak more easily (be able to).

35 Grammar exercises Practise the modals: insert the appropriate forms.
I’m sorry, but I must … (have to). When I was young, I … (used to). We should … (ought to). Teachers must … (have to). Teenagers should … (be supposed to). After he left, we could … (be able to).

36 Because… They improve grammatical accuracy Give students opportunities to use the grammar in different mini-contexts (the more meaningful and interesting the better)

37 L1 for presenting new items to a class
only think very young big a man go a thing an apple a computer

38 Because… The easiest, quickest and often most accurate as a ‘way in’ to vocabulary meanings. Reflects students’ intuitive strategies Saves time for use of the item in English contexts Acknowledges and respects the students’ L1 Research support for use of L1 in vocabulary teaching (Laufer, 2008)

39 Game-like procedures Procedures that are games, but lead to learning
Guessing games (question forms) Brainstorms with a time-limit (oral fluency) How many things can you think of to say about this picture in one minute?

40 First time: say some sentences with ‘there is’ or ‘there are’
Second picture: get up to 10 sentences Back to this picture – you have one minute to say as many as you can.


42 Because … Game-like activities are fun and motivating Increase attention and participation Contribute to a positive classroom climate Prevent discipline problems Encourage playful use of language (Bell, 2012)

43 To summarize We can – and should – learn from the various methods, from professional and research literature, from colleagues and students, from conferences… But the bottom line: It is the teacher’s own decision how to teach, based primarily on the answer to the question: What will get my students to learn English well? and not: what methodology am I expected to use?

44 P.S. Isn’t this what is happening anyway?
To some extent. But an underlying uneasiness due to: Dissonance between the ‘official’ method and the reality of the classroom. sometimes swept under the carpet. feelings of guilt, discomfort, even conflicts: e.g. an trainer ‘failing’ a candidate because she used L1

45 This dissonance should be faced and resolved by
releasing teachers from the pressure to use TBLT; increasing their awareness of the research and current issues through pre- and in-service teacher development courses; and sanctioning their right to teach the way they believe is best for their students’ learning.

46 Thank you for your attention!

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