Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching / Edition 1

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"B. Kumaravadivelu presents a macro-strategic framework designed to help both beginning and experienced teachers develop a systematic, coherent, and personal theory of practice. His book provides the tools a teacher needs in order to self-observe, self-analyze, and self-evaluate his or her own teaching acts." The framework consists of ten macro-strategies based on current theoretical, empirical, and experiential knowledge of second- and foreign-language teaching. These strategies enable teachers to evaluate classroom practices and to generate techniques and activities for realizing teaching goals. With checklists, surveys, projects, and reflective tasks to encourage critical thinking, the book is both practical and accessible. Teachers and future teachers, researchers, and teacher educators will find it indispensable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300095739
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Series: Yale Language Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 595,715
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Beyond Methods

Macrostrategies for Language Teaching

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2003 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-300-09573-2

Chapter One

Conceptualizing Teaching Acts

To teach is to be full of hope. -LARRY CUBAN, 1989, p. 249

We often hear educators say that teaching is both an art and a science. I take this to mean that teaching is basically a subjective activity carried out in an organized way. In fact, there are educators who believe that teaching lacks a unified or a commonly shared set of rules, and as such cannot even be considered a discipline. As Donald Freeman points out,

when we speak of people "teaching a discipline" such as math or biology, we are separating the knowledge or content from the activity or the teaching. These traces of activity that teachers accumulate through the doing of teaching are not seen as knowledge; they are referred to as experience. Experience is the only real reference point teachers share: experiences as students that influence their views of teaching, experiences in professional preparation, experience as members of society. This motley and diverse base of experience unites people who teach, but it does not constitute a disciplinary community. (Freeman, 1998, p.10)

It is this motley and diverse base of experience that makes teaching challenging as well as engaging, fulfilling as well as frustrating.

It is no wonder that diverse experiences lead to diverse perceptions about teaching. In his inspiring book The Call to Teach David Hansen characterizes teaching as a vocation. Recalling its Latin root vocare, meaning "to call," he explains vocation as a summons or bidding to be of service. According to him, teaching as a vocation "comprises a form of public service to others that at the same time provides the individual a sense of identity and personal fulfillment" (Hansen, 1995, p. 2). He compares the language of vocation with the language that goes with other terms that are used to characterize teaching: job, work, career, occupation, and profession. For Hansen,

a job is an activity that provides sustenance or survival. It comprises highly repetitive tasks that are not defined and developed by those performing them.

vocation goes well beyond sustenance and survival; it guarantees personal autonomy and personal significance.

work may ensure personal autonomy and can therefore yield genuine personal meaning but, unlike vocation, it need not imply being of service to others.

a career describes a long-term involvement in a particular activity but differs from vocation in similar ways that job and work do, that is, it need not provide personal fulfillment, a sense of identity, nor a public service.

an occupation is an endeavor harbored within a society's economic, social, and political system, but persons can have occupations that do not entail a sense of calling in the same way vocations do.

a profession broadens the idea of an occupation by emphasizing the expertise and the social contribution that persons in an occupation render to society. However, profession differs from vocation in two important ways. First, persons can conduct themselves professionally but not regard the work as a calling, and can derive their sense of identity and personal fulfillment elsewhere. Second, perks such as public recognition and rewards normally associated with professions run counter to personal and moral dimensions of vocations.

Hansen believes that it is the language of vocation that "brings us closer to what many teachers do, and why they do it, than does the language of job, work, occupation or profession" (ibid., p. 8).

As these terms clearly show, "the doing of teaching" defies classification. The goal of teaching, however, seems to be rather obvious. Teaching is aimed at creating optimal conditions for desired learning to take place in as short a time as possible. Even such a seemingly simple statement hides a troublesome correlation: a cause-effect relationship between teaching and learning. That is, the statement is based on the assumption that teaching actually causes learning to occur. Does it, really? We know by experiential knowledge that teaching does not have to automatically lead to learning; conversely, learning can very well take place in the absence of teaching. The entire edifice of education, however, is constructed on the foundation that teaching can contribute to accelerated and accomplished learning.

The overall process of education certainly involves several players-educational administrators, policy makers, curriculum planners, teacher educators, textbook writers, and others-each constituting an important link in the educational chain. However, the players who have a direct bearing on shaping and reshaping the desired learning outcome are the classroom teachers. This is not very different from saying that the success or failure of a theatrical production depends largely on the histrionic talent of the actors who actually appear on the stage. It is true that several individuals have worked hard behind the scenes to make that production possible: the director, the scriptwriter, and the production manager, to name a few. But if the actors do not perform well on the stage, and if they are not able to connect with the audience, then all the behind-the-scenes activities will come to naught.

In fact, the educational role played by teachers in the classroom is much more demanding and daunting than the theatrical role played by actors on the stage for the simple reason that the failure of an educational enterprise has more far-reaching consequences for an individual or for a nation than the failure of a theatrical production. Such is the significance of the teacher. Nevertheless, there is very little consensus about the precise role the teacher is expected to play.

The Role of the Teacher

The role of the teacher has been a perennial topic of discussion in the field of general education as well as in language education. Unable to precisely pin down the role and function of the teacher, the teaching profession has grappled with a multitude of metaphors. The teacher has been variously referred to as an artist and an architect; a scientist and a psychologist; a manager and a mentor; a controller and a counselor; a sage on the stage; a guide on the side; and more. There is merit in each of these metaphors. Each of them captures the teacher's role partially but none of them fully.

Instead of delving deep into the familiar metaphors, I believe it is much more beneficial to view the historical role and function of classroom teachers to understand how the concept of teacher role has developed over the years, and how that development has shaped the nature and scope of institutionalized education. From a historical perspective, one can glean from the current literature on general education and language teaching at least three strands of thought: (a) teachers as passive technicians, (b) teachers as reflective practitioners, and (c) teachers as transformative intellectuals.

Teachers as Passive Technicians

The basic tenets of the concept of teachers as technicians can be partly traced to the behavioral school of psychology that emphasized the importance of empirical verification. In the behavioral tradition, the primary focus of teaching and teacher education is content knowledge that consisted mostly of a verified and verifiable set of facts and clearly articulated rules. Content knowledge is broken into easily manageable discrete items and presented to the teacher in what might be called teacher-proof packages. Teachers and their teaching methods are not considered very important because their effectiveness cannot be empirically proved beyond doubt. Therefore, teacher education programs concentrate more on the education part than on the teacher part. Such a view came to be known as the technicist view of teaching and teacher education.

The primacy of empirical verification and content knowledge associated with the technicist view of teaching overwhelmingly privileges one group of participants in the educational chain-professional experts! They are the ones who create and contribute to the professional knowledge base that constitutes the cornerstone of teacher education programs. Classroom teachers are assigned the role of passive technicians who learn a battery of content knowledge generally agreed upon in the field and pass it on to successive generations of students. They are viewed largely as apprentices whose success is measured in terms of how closely they adhere to the professional knowledge base, and how effectively they transmit that knowledge base to students.

In this technicist or transmission approach, the teacher's primary role in the classroom is to function like a conduit, channeling the flow of information from one end of the educational spectrum (i.e., the expert) to the other (i.e., the learner) without significantly altering the content of information. The primary goal of such an activity, of course, is to promote student comprehension of content knowledge. In attempting to achieve that goal, teachers are constrained to operate from handed-down fixed, pedagogic assumptions and to seldom seriously question their validity or relevance to specific learning and teaching contexts. If any context-specific learning and teaching problem arises, they are supposed to turn once again to the established professional knowledge base and search for a formula to fix it by themselves.

Viewing teachers as passive technicians is traditional and is still in vogue in many parts of the world. It might even be said, with some justification, that the technicist view provides a safe and secure environment for those teachers who may not have the ability, the resources, or the willingness to explore self-initiated, innovative teaching strategies. The technicist approach to teaching and teacher education is clearly characterized by a rigid role relationship between theorists and teachers: theorists conceive and construct knowledge, teachers understand and implement knowledge. Creation of new knowledge or a new theory is not the domain of teachers; their task is to execute what is prescribed for them.

Such an outlook inevitably leads to the disempowerment of teachers whose classroom behavior is mostly confined to received knowledge rather than lived experience. That is why the technicist approach is considered "so passive, so unchallenging, so boring that teachers often lose their sense of wonder and excitement about learning to teach" (Kincheloe, 1993, p. 204). The concept of reflective teaching evolved partly as a reaction to the fixed assumptions and frozen beliefs of the technicist view of teaching.

Teachers as Reflective Practitioners

While there has recently been a renewed interest in the theory and practice of reflective teaching, the idea of teachers as reflective practitioners is nothing new. It was originally proposed by educational philosopher John Dewey in the early twentieth century. He has articulated his seminal thoughts on reflective teaching in several of his books, particularly in How We Think (1933). In a nutshell, Dewey makes a distinction between action that is routine and action that is reflective. Routine action is guided primarily by an uncritical belief in tradition, and an unfailing obedience to authority, whereas reflective action is prompted by a conscious and cautious "consideration of any belief or practice in light of the grounds that support it and the further consequences to which it leads" (Dewey, 1933, p. 4).

In the Deweyan view, teaching is seen not just as a series of predetermined and presequenced procedures but as a context-sensitive action grounded in intellectual thought. Teachers are seen not as passive transmitters of received knowledge but as problem-solvers possessing "the ability to look back critically and imaginatively, to do cause-effect thinking, to derive explanatory principles, to do task analysis, also to look forward, and to do anticipatory planning" (ibid., p. 13). Reflective teaching, then, is a holistic approach that emphasizes creativity, artistry, and context sensitivity.

Exactly half a century after the publication of Dewey's book came further thoughts on reflective teaching. In 1983, Don Schon published a book titled The Reflective Practitioner in which he expands Dewey's concept of reflection. He shows how teachers, through their informed involvement in the principles, practices, and processes of classroom instruction, can bring about fresh and fruitful perspectives to the complexities of teaching that cannot be matched by experts who are far removed from classroom realities. He distinguishes between two interlocking frames of reflection: reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action.

Reflection-on-action can occur before and after a lesson, as teachers plan for a lesson and then evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching acts afterward. Reflection-in-action, on the other hand, occurs during the teaching act when teachers monitor their ongoing performance, attempting to locate unexpected problems on the spot and then adjusting their teaching instantaneously. Schon rightly argues that it is the teachers' own reflection-in/on-action, and not an undue reliance on professional experts, that will help them identify and meet the challenges they face in their everyday practice of teaching.

Because the term reflective teaching has been used so widely, its meaning has become rather diffused. Concerned that the essence of the concept might get diluted even further, Kenneth Zeichner and Daniel Liston thought it fit to talk about what it is that will not make a teacher a reflective practitioner. In their 1996 book Reflective Teaching: An Introduction, they caution that "not all thinking about teaching constitutes reflective teaching. If a teacher never questions the goals and the values that guide his or her work, the context in which he or she teaches, or never examines his or her assumptions, then it is our belief that this individual is not engaged in reflective teaching" (Zeichner and Liston, 1996, p. 1).

They then go on to summarize what they consider to be the role of a reflective practitioner.


Excerpted from Beyond Methods by B. KUMARAVADIVELU Copyright © 2003 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Conceptualizing teaching acts 5
Ch. 2 Understanding postmethod pedagogy 23
Ch. 3 Maximizing learning opportunities 44
Ch. 4 Minimizing perceptual mismatches 77
Ch. 5 Facilitating negotiated interaction 101
Ch. 6 Promoting learner autonomy 131
Ch. 7 Fostering language awareness 156
Ch. 8 Activating intuitive heuristics 176
Ch. 9 Contextualizing linguistic input 204
Ch. 10 Integrating language skills 225
Ch. 11 Ensuring social relevance 239
Ch. 12 Raising cultural consciousness 267
Ch. 13 Monitoring teaching acts 286
Afterword 316
References 319
Index 331
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