Currently I'm working on an extended paper on language teaching methodology, which will form part of an edited collection on applied linguistics topics, pitched at MA students. The exercise is fascinating, if time-consuming. For a start, how do you package the the whole of methodology into 8000 words? The temptation is to tell the story as a kind of modernist narrative, where darkness gives way to light, although often according to the two-steps-forward-one-step-back principle: "Once upon a time there was grammar-translation (audience boos). Then along came the Reform Movement (mild cheers). The Direct Method transmogrified into Audiolingualism (boo) thanks to nasty Mr Skinner (more booing). Then along came Chomsky, who smote Skinner (cheers)...etc etc". However, the more you read on the subject, the more you realise that "what comes around, goes around", and that the history of methodology is more cyclical than linear. It's interesting to compare the writings of the leaders of the Reform Movement, such as Jespersen (1904), with those of the architects of the Communicative Approach in the mid-70s. Both movements arose as a reaction away from an orthodoxy perceived as being out of touch with learners’ needs, and out of synch with educational reality. Both invoked the notion of communication as not only the goal of language learning but also the means to achieving that goal: Jespersen (1904) wrote “Language is not an end in itself… it is a means of communication” (p. 4) and added, “we ought to learn a language through sensible communication” (op cit., p. 11). Seventy-five years later, Allwright (1979) was making the same point: “If communication is THE aim, then it should be THE major element in the process” (p. 167, emphasis in original). So, I'm trying to boil methodology down to a finite number of key options, or parameters, the different configurations of which differentiate the different historical methods, and which also might serve to identify the methodological bias of a coursebook or teacher's guide. It's not easy. It's taken me two months of fairly concentrated work so far. And what am I getting out of this? Two complimentary copies of the book when it is published!
Submitted 8 years 7 months ago by Scott Thornbury.