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Methodological Eclecticism In Teaching English As A Foreign Language

4148 words - 17 pages

Methodological Eclecticism in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

"Eclectic", remarks Atkinson (1988, p. 42), "is one of the buzz words in TEFL at present, in part due to the realization that for the foreseeable future good language teaching is likely to continue to be based more on common sense, insights drawn from classroom experience, informed discussion among teachers, etc., than on any monolithic model of second language acquisition or all-embracing theory of learning . . . ". One problem with this position is that your "common sense" and your "insights" are apt to be different from mine. Another is that "discussion among teachers", though valuable, is often a futile exercise in the blind leading the blind. No one with some knowledge of pedagogy and psychology would advocate a "monolithic model" of anything in teaching today. However, unless one has some theoretical foundation to one's knowledge, one cannot construct a methodology of anything--including of foreign language teaching. The aim of this paper is to examine rudimentarily such foundation, and to propose an eclectic approach to teaching English to speakers of other languages.
Learning theories and TEFL
     "It appears counterproductive to dissect language in the same way that biology students might dissect a frog" (Maurice 1987, p. 9). Learners do not expect curriculum designers and teachers to dissect language on the basis of pure linguistic science, but they do expect them to dissect language on the basis of applied linguistics and psycholinguistics to the extent that such analyses throw light on how language is applied and on who will do the applying. The foci, then, are on teaching methodology and learning capacity, rather than on the intricate works of linguisticians. Notes that teachers, moreover, need a functional dose of anthropology, sociology, and cybernetics if they are to grow as professionals. It does not hurt, of course, if they know more than one language and have been in close contact with other cultures.
     Now "discussions on teaching methods tend to be plagued by overgeneralizations both with respect to the way they are classified and with respect to the way they are evaluated" (MacKenzie, Eraut, & Jones 1972, p. 124). When one compares pedagogical methods, some startling facts come to light. One, for example, is that methods vacillate between a behavioral approach which considers the learner as a programmable mechanical device, and a humanistic (or pseudo-humanistic) approach which is undisciplined and considers the learner as a malleable self-directed positively motivated and intelligent social and cultural unit. Talk about monolithism!
     Two curricula and methodologies are essentially teacher-centered or pre-determined curriculum-centered, as opposed to being learner-centered. They are developed on the basis of a linear and group-addressed program, rather than on a semi-linear or even random program derived from individual learners' feedback....

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