Friday, November 9, 2007

Approach 2

30 July 2007 7:40 PM
I think that the approach we take will have a profound impact on the way we go about choosing objectives and in determining activities that will help in achieving them. If one were to have an approach based on behaviorist principles, then the objectives will probably be ones that encourage responses to a stimulus, thus requiring a selection of various drills, for instance. A large language school in Japan (NOVA), works on similar principles, with their use of American Streamline, a text (and some may say an approach) so outdated, it seems laughable that it is still being marketed today. If one were to follow in the steps of the audio-lingual approach, then the objectives will allow for the soaking up time that is required, and be less intrusive, and more teacher centered teaching may take place, until the students are at the point of producing language. Then there is the opposite end of the continuum, with the silent way approach, which has at its heart the idea that a student needs to start producing from the very beginning. So, as you can see, changing the approach will undoubtedly change the way the lesson is taught. In fact, it will shape the way that learners deal with their own learning, while at our institutions. The activities that they will be undertaking have vastly different outcomes, and require different things from students.
My question is:
“If an approach is decided upon within a school, do all teachers, in all classes need to take on that approach?”
I know of a situation in which a coordinator is forcing all teachers to take on communicative language teaching principles within a program, regardless of teacher gripes, or student difficulties with that particular approach. An approach may not necessarily work for all people, all of the time. After all, we need to also take in cultural aspects, or individual differences, for instance that may make one approach ineffective, in some cases, some of the time.
Then there’s what is happening in our college, a kind of free for all with, as many approaches as there are teachers. This too, is not an ideal situation, as there is no consistency (something in fact, that I need in my own learning).

In the end, we have to balance the needs and abilities of the students we teach. We also have to keep in mind that only one approach to teaching may severely disadvantage our students, if it so happens that other approaches are found to be more beneficial. I guess it’s an argument over consistency vs. flexibility. There are merits and demerits in both. I tend to be on the flexibility side, as long as it is based in firm and logical principles. There has to be a reason to change. I remember a lecturer introducing us to the, ‘if a bird were to fly into the room theory…what would you do?’ Carry on with your lesson plan or start talking about the bird (I think he was talking about Herbert Kohl, but I could be wrong…). That idea, although a little outdated (alternative education movement), has had a deep impact on me personally.
We need to establish curriculum's and syllabi that are based on consistent principles, yet they must also have within them some flexibility to allow for the ‘bird flying in the room’ factor.
What do you say?????
Steven Mondy

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