Different types of learner a history of efl


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Different types of learner a history of efl

  1. 1. DIFFERENT TYPES OF LEARNERAccording to: Age, Needs, Levels, Nationalities, Learning Strategies,Motivational Factors .a) Agea. infants / pre-schoolb. children / primaryc. adolescents / secondaryd. late teens / late secondary / young adultse. adultsb) Needsa. exams (language / school / university)b. business groups (general / ESP / company requirements / job prospects)c. vocational training (ESP / technical / professional)d. pre-university groups (EAP / study skills)e. general English (hobby / travel / social)f. cultural (TESL / integration into new culture)g. remedialc) Levelsa. absolute beginnersb. false beginnersc. elementaryd. pre-intermediatee. intermediate (lower / upper)f. advanced (at this level differing needs become more obvious.It is difficult to pre-judge and teaching tends to follow a series of diagnosis >response cycles, rather than a pre-set syllabus)g. illiterate / impaired (visual / aural / oral)h. mixed levelsd) Nationalitiesa. monolingualb. multilingualc. groups of nationalities whose 2nd official language is Englishd. mixed culturese) Learning strategiesa. the holistic or natural learner.This is a person who is content to expose him/herself to the language andlearn what comes.The student who is relaxed when he/she does not completely understand the
  2. 2. language being presented.b. the serialist or analytic learner.This is a person who learns bit by bit and builds it up.The student who is frustrated at being presented with language he/she does notcompletely understand.Learners are probably a combination of both, depending on the situation.Within these 2 "natural" learning strategies there are several "imposed"strategies:Graded record keeping of lessonsGood organization of notesUse of resources (both in and out of the institute)Step-by-step building of skillsVocabulary cards, etc.f) Motivational factorsa. instrumental motivation.For survival or a specific need. Most TEFL teaching is to instrumentally-motivated students.b. integrative motivation.For those who want to integrate into a culture.These first 2 terms come from bi-lingual research in Canada and it has beenargued that they are not applicable to TEFL students.c. intrinsic motivation.From within the student. His/her own personal goals.d. extrinsic motivation.External motivational factors. Exams, teachers points, peer pressure, etc.Most students are probably motivated by a combination of c. and d. A SHORT HISTORY OF EFL.1. INTRODUCTIONAlthough this short history is by definition incomplete, it is a personal attemptto look at those developments in EFL which still affect us today in ourclassrooms albeit in some cases indirectly. Each section looks at a particular
  3. 3. method or train of pedagogical thinking and, after briefly describing itstheories of language and teaching, it gives a few examples of activities whichhave been handed down to the present day classroom. Theories of learningand acquisition will be touched on only briefly, and alternative approaches arementioned by name only. As this is a personal look at EFL it is heavilyinfluenced by my own opinions and beliefs. One and all are welcome todisagree on any viewpoint put forward.2. GRAMMAR TRANSLATIONa) DevelopmentThis method came to the fore as modern languages began to be taughtalongside the classical languages of Greek and Latin. Scholars believed thatthe study of these languages was valid as an educational discipline but littleelse, and therefore other languages were taught as Latin and Greek were. It reached its height in the period between 1880 and 1920 although it stillforms the basis of much English teaching in schools throughout the world.It was only when travel possibilities meant that more people needed Englishfor conversational purposes that the method came under criticism.The first phrase books started to appear toward the end of the last century andtheir publication continued and spread throughout the early decades of thiscentury.Marcel, Prendergast and Gouin all influenced changing attitudes to GrammarTranslation and as the IPA (International Phonetic Association) gained inprestige Sweet and others found a platform from which they could attack amethod of teaching they saw as out-dated and failing to meet the needs of thetimes.b) LanguageThe English language was viewed in the same way as the classical languages.Rules, conjugations and parts of speech were the cornerstones and its primaryform was written, expressed most eloquently in the literature of the greatEnglish authors. Grammar rules could be written out in technically obtuse terminology andlong lists of vocabulary should be committed to memory. Many of theproblems we have in the classroom today with grammar try to undo age oldgrammatical myths which were caused by the imposition of a Latin stylegrammar on the Anglo-Saxon English language. This mix was clearlyincompatible, and yet we still hear people tell us that a sentence should notend in a preposition. There was little aural / oral work, as the aim of studyingthe language was to understand the literature.c) Teaching and LearningThe grammar was taught deductively - from rules to examples - and the
  4. 4. vocabulary introduced in long word lists which were memorized by rotelearning. These lists of structure and vocabulary formed the basis of anysyllabus. The methodology was restricted to grammar exercises, translationand dictation. The written essay was the most communicative activity and itmust be admitted that it is indeed a lot more communicative than many of theL2 activities that were to follow in the next hundred years. The theory oflearning could be best summarized as what is taught is learnt.d) ExamplesDespite the fact that Grammar Translation has received a centurys worth ofbad press it is notable how many of its techniques are still applicable to ourclassrooms today. This is especially true when we consider our students herein the UAE and their educational background. We need to tap into theirphenomenal powers of memory which have been honed by years of rotelearning both the Quran and numerous other school subjects. The Englishlanguages irregular past tenses springs to mind. It is the way we test what hasbeen rote learned that needs to be communicative, not necessarily thelearning.Dictation is another example of an activity which has been handed down,although hopefully our dictations bear little resemblance to those of theGrammar Translation Method. However, it is interesting to note that thepurpose and aims of a dictation have not changed significantly. Boarddictations, picture dictations and article grouping are just three communicativeforms of this activity which come to hand quickly.3. AUDIO LINGUAL & STRUCTURAL SITUATIONALa) DevelopmentThese two methods were respectively the American and British continuationsof the Direct Method which had taken over from Grammar Translationfollowing the Coleman Report in 1929. The Direct Method was a reactionagainst Grammar Translation and totally avoided the use of L1. It wasstrongly linked to the IPA and dealt with phonetics as it emphasized oralcommunication. It looked at everyday language rather than literature andfocused on narratives and question / answer techniques.Its most famous followers were Sauveur and Berlitz whose schools todayfollow an almost identical methodology using lots of realia and stressingaccurate pronunciation.These basic methodological concepts were taken on board by both the AudioLingual Method (AL) and Structural Situational (SS) schools.The AL started to be used in 1943 as part of the US army training programand remained at the forefront of language teaching until the sixties whenChomsky, Hymes and Austen attacked its language and learning precepts in a
  5. 5. way that can only be described as violent. Nevertheless, both methods are stillwidely used today and many of their beliefs are widely held in the teachingprofession.b) LanguageALs theory of language was based on the school of American Structuralismwhich placed form above meaning and showed that the language could bebroken down into lists of structural patterns. Within each structural patternthere could be only one paradigmatic element of change which would comefrom one word class. Interestingly fillers were considered a word class inthemselves, and this is probably the only grammatical point I am in agreementwith. The European equivalent took their language theory from the works ofFirth and Halliday who linked structure to situation and argued that meaningcame from context. These beliefs were shared by some of the biggest names inEFL including West, Palmer and Hornby.c) Teaching and LearningIn reaction to Grammar Translation these two methods were totally inductivein their approach to teaching grammar. In other words, they let students figureout the rules for themselves from the myriad of examples they were presentedwith. In fact, it was preferred if the students did not think about grammar at alland the theories clearly stated that no grammar rule should be explicitly statedby the teacher. When we look at some of the EFL rules of today (e.g. some = positive, any =negative and questions), we have to wonder if this was not a very wiseapproach after all.For methods which refused to teach any explicit grammar rules, it isextraordinary that their syllabuses were grammar based, with the leastcomplex structural patterns coming first and then the order of structuredependent on complexity. These structural patterns were drilled usingsubstitution tables in AL, whereas teachers presented the language insituational contexts before drilling it and giving further related practice - thetime worn PPP method.Both methods treated the learners as empty vessels whose heads should befilled with language as a jug would be filled with water and drew heavily onthe behaviorists’ learning theories a la Pavlovs dog which Skinner andothers had applied to human learning.Personally I am not sure I like the idea of being a jug, although it has beenproven that repeated drilling is necessary in the formation of some soundswhich require unaccustomed muscle movement (e.g. /r/ and /l/ for Chinesespeakers).Repeated mistakes were viewed as worse than sin and teachers wereencouraged to correct every false utterance immediately. Errors had to be
  6. 6. avoided at all costs. Both methods separated the four skills and determinedthat they should be learnt in the following order with no exceptions; listening,speaking, reading, writing. Finally, no L1 would be permitted and it wassomewhat facetiously assumed that once the learner knew all the patterns theywould know the language.d) ExamplesIt is extraordinary that we still use so many activities from these two methodsconsidering their totally uncommunicative nature. The PPP method is stilltaught in most certificate courses as the ideal to aim for although this tells usmore about the courses than the usefulness of PPP. Substitution tables anddrilling are both common in classes world-wide and have been well adapted tocommunicative methodology. Hidden drills are one of the activities I use mostfrequently and reducing dialogues are another. We have our use of realia and alot of good pronunciation work for language labs from these methods. All inall a pretty impressive selection.4. COGNITIVE CODEa) DevelopmentThis was a train of psychological and linguistic thought and did not actuallylead to any one operational method, but it provided significant influences, notleast the re-emergence of grammar in the classroom and more emphasis on theguided discovery of rules.The Cognitive Code rejected Behaviorism and put an emphasis on thelearning of rules through meaningful practice and creativity. It came to thefore in the 1960s as Chomsky released his early works on first languages anduniversal grammars. Although it did not have an immediate effect in theclassroom, it resulted in a liberation for teachers from the strait jackets of theAudio Lingualism and Structural Situational methods. More than anythingelse it changed the orientation of teachers and above all their attitude to errors.b) LanguageBasically following Chomsky, it stated that there are universals whichunderlie all languages. These are rules which can generate any sentence froma universally common deep structure and each language may use differenttransformations to get to the surface structure. From a finite set of rules aninfinite number of sentences can be created was Chomskys claim, and it isdifficult to find a more convincing grammar today. The effect on theclassroom was to take language study into the realms of sentence structure andview it as a system comprised of phonology, grammar and lexis.c) Teaching and LearningWe should remember that Chomsky himself said that his work had nothing tooffer to language teachers and we were fools if we took it on. Nevertheless,this did not discourage many and teachers jumped at his work on language
  7. 7. and theories of learning even though it was not until Krashen that hisprinciples of natural acquisition were applied to L2 learning. Chomskystheories of learning were in line with the cognitive and mentalist approachesof the time and stressed the importance of learners making sense of things forthemselves but with the guidance of a teacher. This reaction to Behaviourismstated that learning was not a habit but required cognitive processing andmental effort. It meant that teachers became more comfortable about showingrules, presenting grammar and allowing students to work out rules in class.Most importantly of all it allowed teachers to treat errors as not only naturalbut as a positive indication that learning was taking place.d) ExamplesThere are no set examples as such from this period, as the methods whichevolved over the next decade or so all drew on the Cognitive Code and I havedecided to list the examples under the sections that follow. Enough to say thatwe still hopefully guide students to discover rules for themselves and continueto use what was then called the guided inductive approach to teaching.5. COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING (PHASE I)a) DevelopmentThis was less a method than a collective change in classroom practice world-wide during the seventies and came as a direct result of the Cognitive Code,especially its linguistic theories. In reality it was to take another decade untilthe learning and teaching theories of the Cognitive Code made themselves feltin the classroom.The seventies were a decade which saw the emergence of functional andnotional syllabuses through the work of the Council of Europe in response tothe language needs of the EEC. It was also a decade which saw schools ofpractice breaking away from mainstream EFL and concentrating on narrowerareas of focus. ESP and EAP made their first steps in this period and we sawSilent Way, Suggestopedia and Community Language Learning all rise inthe publics attention as they looked for a quick and easy way to learn alanguage fast.At the academic level it was the decade of research starting in discourseanalysis, error analysis, learning vs. acquisition and interlanguage.b) LanguageWilkins, van Ek and other European linguists with the Council of Europewere working on theories of meaning which reflected communicative events.Language was now viewed as a communicative force with functionalexponents used to express a particular communicative need like offering.Style and register also began to take on importance as more ESP schoolsopened their doors. Interestingly research at Bristol University, which tracked
  8. 8. 120 kids for two years with radio miles found that language development hadnothing to do with function but that syntactic structure showed patterns in thelearning process. Whether this is as true in L2 as it is in L1 still has to beshown.This did not mean that all the language work of the time was on functions andnotions. In fact language theory was rich and eclectic with seminal worksfrom the likes of Widdowson, Hymes, Candlin and others coming out.However, unfortunately this had little to no effect on the EFL classroom untilthe eighties.c) Teaching and LearningThis decade had immense influence on syllabus design but in fact resulted in astep back to the Behaviorist teaching patterns as old structural lists werereplaced by functional ones sequenced according to their usefulness andcomplexity.Now it was these which were drilled and PPPd to death. There was no realtheory of learning involved except that it was assumed that this type oflanguage structuring would be more motivating to all students. A highlydubious claim, but at least they were thinking of the students. The focus of thedecade was on language and syllabus not on learning and teaching.d) ExamplesThis decade provided us with a wealth of activities often taken from thoseapproaches away from the mainstream. We have the cuisinnaire rods fromSilent Way, the use of background music from Suggestopedia and therecording of students and negotiated syllabus from CLL. These methods diedout but their values and attitudes continued. The humanistic element hadentered the classroom.6. COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING (PHASE II)a) DevelopmentThe 1980s heralded a real advance in the quality of learning as the methods ofthe last hundred years gelled together and signalled a decade of innovation,imagination and improved practice. The Natural Approach of Krashen andTyrell caused huge interest not least because Krashen was probably the bestsalesman EFL has ever seen. Stevick built on the humanist work of CarlRogers in the sixties and Skehan started the individual learning strategies ballrolling. It was an exciting decade and one I was grateful to be trained in.b) LanguageWiddowsons influence started debates on interaction, discourse rules, use (thecommunicative use of language in natural settings) versus usage (the displaylanguage so often used in the classroom), and value versus signification.However, this was a time which focused on teaching and learning far morethan on the language itself.c) Teaching and LearningGrammatical syllabuses re-emerged and the task based syllabus was born as
  9. 9. well. However, most textbooks were now moving towards a multi-syllabusapproach with methodologies concentrating on student interaction, humanisticvalues, authentic materials - starting the great accuracy versus fluency debatewhich still rages - and individualisation. Learners began to be viewed asindividuals for possibly the first time in the history of EFL and learningtheories reflected this with social and emotional factors coming to the fore.Individual learning strategies were looked at in depth and teachers began toquestion academics on the differences between conscious and unconsciouslearning as well as learning versus acquisition.Krashen was at the centre of this new found dialogue between those at thechalkface and the academics. He had strong support from teachers but wasdismissed by many, especially British, academics for being an unscientificshowman. It may well be that the largest contribution Krashen has made toour profession is the advent of the researching professional teacher who setout to disprove those ivory tower professors.The total review of correction in the classroom and how it should be carriedout is, in my mind, the most significant contribution that came from the firstyears of the 1980s. It allowed us as teachers to become aware of the effect ouruse of a variety of correctional techniques would have on learners and wecould, accordingly, adapt and improve those techniques.The final influence that must be mentioned was Munby and his needs analysisapproach to syllabus design. Although his book Communicative SyllabusDesign was published in 1978, it was during the eighties that it began to berefined into a workable approach especially in ESP.d) ExamplesThere are so many different activities which could be listed here but I willrestrict myself to the following handful: the use of correction cards and sheetsboth individual and class, the use of TPR, authentic reading at low levels andmost importantly the idea of the information gap which is now a given inalmost every class taught.7. LEXICAL RE-EMERGENCE & LEARNER INDEPENDENCEa) DevelopmentVocabulary had been almost completely ignored since the 1930s andGrammar Translation. A very slow re-emergence could have been seen sinceas early as 1964 when Halliday said that the most crucial criteria of anyregister was to be found in its lexis, but then vocabulary was swallowed underthe blanket of functional exponents. From 1985 onwards we saw vocabularyre-emerge to its rightful place alongside grammar and phonology and thisculminated in the publication of the Lexical Syllabus and COBUILD. In theclassroom the focus has been on making students better learners and LRCs(Learning Resource Centres) and ILCs (Independent Learning Centres) havebecome part of our educational language.b) LanguageVocabulary is viewed as central to communicative effectiveness - something
  10. 10. that is definitely difficult to argue with. As a whole language is seen as a mixof generative rules and fixed patterns. The language of structure (pre-packedchunks) is learnt one way as vocabulary whereas the language of rules (e.g.sentence formation) is learnt cognitively. This is borne out by a number ofstudies including one which saw a class taught the present perfect as a seriesof set phrases. It was not until upper intermediate level that this tense waslooked at as a tense. The production of the students from the control groupwas both more accurate and fluent than that of students from other groups.c) Teaching and LearningGrammar teaching was seen more as a consciousness-raising exercise and wemoved thankfully away from phrases such as; Theyve learnt the pastcontinuous. Variety was the buzz word, and choice and appropriacy of themethodology to the learning context were foremost in teachers minds.Teachers became researchers in their own right and principled eclecticism inteaching methods allowed learning to be viewed in the same eclectic manner.Students were given space to organise their own learning and the classroomcame to be seen as a primer to language acquisition. The work started bySkehan moved on and teachers were seen more as learning facilitators thanlanguage judges, and students were required to take responsibility for theirown learning as well as being seen as active portrayers of information.d) ExamplesThe best examples from this period are all still available around us inpublished form, the most noteworthy being Ruth Gairns Working withWords. Vocabulary grids for nuances of meaning is one activity I usefrequently, the classroom management strategy of moving pairs andsimulation also come from the late eighties. Exercises on learning strategiesand study skills abound and most of them are workable.8. THE NINETIES & INTO THE 21ST CENTURYa) DevelopmentWe are now in the enviable position of putting everything that has gone beforeinto our own workable unit and combining it with the remarkabledevelopment in educational learning tools we have seen in the last few years.We can take from anywhere, use anything and give our students choices thatwere not possible in earlier teaching climates. Combine this with the latesttechnology and, if we remain open-minded, we can move positively into anew century which could well see teachers becoming free agents andeducational institutions becoming monoliths of the past.b) LanguageWe now recognise that there are probably hundreds of grammars in the world.There is no right or wrong grammar, just different ones. Our job is to breakthe language down for our students in the way which we understand it and insuch a way that they can grasp it. We can now accept that each student willconstruct their own grammar and it is for us to check this through theirinterlanguage and help them to adjust it accordingly.
  11. 11. The study of language has moved far beyond the sentence, or even paragraph,stage and we need to access the viability of much of the work being done at adiscourse level and decide how it can benefit our students. We need no longerback away from dealing with language at a textual level even with low levelstudents.c) Teaching and LearningIt is now widely accepted that each context and / or learner needs its ownmethodology. We have to be flexible and able to change to suit the needs ofour students in whatever way necessary. This can be problematic as our roleboth in and out of the classroom is constantly being redefined. The modern EFL teacher has become a researcher, publisher and innovator.Some students feel frustrated when presented with something they do notcompletely understand while others are very relaxed about it. We have to keepboth types of student motivated and learning in a conducive environment.How? I believe that questions like this and the answers are available in thehistory of EFL. Rutherford captures the essence nicely as he suggests thatteachers should never assume they have taught anything. All teachers do ismake students aware of something which the student will later learn if theywant to. To this end it is the enjoyment of the process of learning andacquisition, and motivation which are paramount.d) ExamplesFrom a teachers viewpoint I think the approach which has most influencedme in the last five years is Test - Teach - Test, as well as negotiatingsyllabus and materials with students and using long and high level texts inclass.Much of my own recent work has been on the importance of the classroomenvironment and creating a learning atmosphere which does not threatenstudents.I drew heavily on the work of people like Rinvolucri, Richards and van Lier to name just three. This is one example where I became innovator,researcher and then author. All of you reading these have the samepossibilities, and I would encourage you to find an area you enjoy working