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Saturday, September 11, 2010

My views of educating children in the modern context

For educators to provide an effective learning environment that supports and encourages the development of children’s education, it is essential to critically analyse what drives our own beliefs and practices in our classrooms. Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, & Farmer (2005) tells us that without a philosophy we have no ideal to work toward and in picturing where we are headed, we are more likely to reach our destination. By reflecting on our own personal perceptions and values, and in discussion with our peers we are able to identify our own personal philosophy of education that draws on a blend of both theoretical and experiential knowledge. Arthur (et al., 2005) asserts that by making our philosophy explicit we are able to act from a framework that guides us to make better decisions on a daily basis.

A fundamental goal of education is to foster learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, Eds., 1999). All students are capable of learning however the desire to learn is pivotal in the effective mastery of new concepts and skills (Caine, Caine & Crowell, 1996). My role as a teacher in the Primary Education context is to create an atmosphere that fosters learning, and develops in students a passion for knowledge and understanding of their world (Education Queensland, 2002). To that end it is imperative to examine how I view the learners whose learning I will be managing.

Images that perpetuate childhood innocence include those that place the child as clean, white and content (Holland, 2004). This can be problematic for how we educate children and the strategies we use to do so. Woodrow, (1999) asserts that many of the children we educate come from diverse cultures and social contexts and the sanitized image can homogenize children and positions those who do not fit the image as ‘problems’. My professional philosophy of education encompasses providing a voice for children by being open to listening to what they are really saying. It is my view that children deserve the respect to be consulted on matters that affect them, with particular emphasis on listening to how children want to learn, what they want to learn, and what they perceive they need to learn. To provide a voice for children we must engage in two-way dialogue that supports and values the rights of children as individuals. As suggested by Woodrow (1999), we need to talk with the children, rather than merely about the children.

Woodrow (1999) tells us that examining hidden assumptions we hold about children and childhood causes us to reflect on the affect that this may have on those that are unable to conform to the ideal and how this labelling can alter the life path of individual children. She counsels that this process is unsettling because it causes us to examine our own images and how they affect the way we interact with children. Children that enter our classrooms bring with them a variety of socio-cultural experiences and knowledge that they have developed through encounters outside of the classroom (Farenga & Joyce, 1997). It is pertinent then to consider children from multiple perspectives and as Woodrow & Brennan (n.d., cited in Woodrow, 1999) suggest an effective educator must take account of difference and promote equity and equality. All children are worthy of being the best they can be. All children have the right to be viewed as individuals without being tainted by biases and prejudice.

When considering the needs of the children that come to our classrooms it is valuable to examine the family and community context in which children are living. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in their report ‘A picture of Australia’s Children’ (2005), suggests that the wellbeing of children depends on wide environmental determinants including the social, emotional, physical and economic wellbeing of children’s families, and the strength of the communities in which they live. The report highlights the diversity of family types in which children are living and presents evidence that 53% of Australian children are living in families that do not reflect the standard ‘nuclear’ family of two adults caring for their biological children.

It is important to recognise the social as well as the cultural diversity that our students emanate from. Bourdieu (1983 cited in Richardson, 1986) discusses the concept of social capital where he suggests individuals are able to draw on resources which are linked to membership in groups. As educators we need to consider the different forms of capital families are able to confer upon their children, and recognise that we have a responsibility to build the capital that students are able to draw upon to be able to reach their full potential. Developing meaningful relationships with families and the wider community is an effective way of encouraging the connections that reflect high levels of social capital that students in my classroom are able to draw from. My professional practices will be directed toward developing partnerships with families as this will enable me a real connection with my students and enhance my ability to truly know my learners. This will require me to seek out information about my student’s interests, their capacities, their support structures, and their emotional intelligence. It is essential for educators to be open-minded and non-judgmental of the societal contexts that our students emanate from. My practices will demonstrate value for diversity and difference and recognise that the way to develop meaningful relationships built on trust is by recognising children’s previous experiences as valuable and worthy of recognition.

In constructing an identity of my self as a professional educator I acknowledge that I bring with me the multiple identities already constructed through my prior experiences in life, and that these identities will continually reconstruct, integrate and reform as I evolve as an educator focused on effective pedagogy (Danielewicz, 2001). As a critical pedagogue I recognise my own values and principles and I recognise the biases and prejudices that I bring to my classroom (Cornbleth, 1990). It can be argued that teachers capable of brokering change are those that “..use a critical literacy to empower themselves in the enactments of their professional practices” (Luke, Herschell & Bahr 2001 cited in Harreveld, 2002, p. 343). Harreveld (2002) further contends that teachers who know how to decode and encode meanings, identify and analyse ways in which texts position people, question and respond to such positioning and thus use this information to formulate and articulate their own views of the world, are working within a transformative curriculum that is capable of influencing the changes in values that will enhance equity amongst students. Whilst it is essential to deliver the systemic curriculum, a critical pedagogue has a responsibility to interrupt the dominant discourse to bring about understanding of the post modernist position of relative truth (Foucault, 1981), thereby empowering students to become effective agents for social change (Banks & Banks, 1995)

An integral aspect of developing a personal philosophy of teaching is meaningful knowledge and understanding of learning theories and a mastery of instructional strategies. It is imperative to ask ourselves what is good pedagogy? Dewey (1859-1952), Piaget (1896-1980), Vygotsky (1896-1934) and others, as the founders and proponents of constructivism, advocate learning as an active, constructive process where new information is linked to prior knowledge (Learning Theories Knowledgebase , 2010). Paulo Freire (1921-1997) has had a considerable impact on the development of educational practice and his emphasis on dialogue with purpose suggests the value of enhancing community and building social capital (Smith, 1997-2002). Theorists such as Montessori (1870-1952) inform my own personal philosophy of teaching through the recognition of the importance of incorporating movement, exploration and discovery in the environment of the developing child (Montessori Philosophy, 2007). Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925) based his holistic approach to education on similar principles balancing artistic, academic and practice work by advocating developing the whole child, hand and heart as well as mind (Steiner, Anthroposophy and Education, 2002). Recent research in the area of brain science confirms that complex experience is natural and the fragmentation and isolation of knowledge is arbitrary and artificial. (Caine et al, 1996).

These are the significant theorists that inform my view of good pedagogy and it is my observation that the Dimensions of Learning framework is one which equips teachers with a professional language that defines their practice, by acting as a filter to judge what good teaching and learning is (Marzano & Pickering, 1997). The Queensland Government’s Productive Pedagogies (Education Queensland, 2002) describes a common framework under which teachers can focus instruction and improve student outcomes (Smith & Lynch, 2006). Together these frameworks articulate the practice within my classroom that will demonstrate my philosophical approach to teaching and learning. The instructional strategies that I employ will make evident my beliefs about how students learn. That is, varying the structure and delivery of learning experiences, providing for a range of learning styles along the way, resulting in students identifying their own specific learning needs, and empowering them to succeed (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2006). Of three major constructs of learning theory; behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism, Mergel (1998) reminds us that each has strengths and weaknesses and rather than abandon one approach in favour of another, we must allow the circumstances surrounding the learning situation to help us decide which approach to learning is most appropriate. Researchers (Jonnassen, nd; Reigeluth, 1992 cited in Mergel, 1998) stress the importance of organising instruction in increasing order of complexity, and taking an eclectic approach to instructional design. Ertmer and Newby (1993, cited in Mergel, 2001) assent when they detail that a behavioural approach is beneficial in delivery of content knowledge; cognitive strategies are useful for teaching problem solving tactics in unfamiliar situations; and constructivist strategies are especially suitable to dealing with ill-defined problems that demand a reflective approach to situated learning.

Traditionally assessment practices have been driven by curriculum as a means of developing productive citizens capable of possessing certain knowledge and skills (Mueller, 2010) however as a result of the development of critical approaches to learning a theoretical standpoint that positions assessment as the driver of curriculum has gained momentum in recent years, demonstrated by the examples of authentic assessment offered on Government mandated online resource banks (Queensland Studies Authority, 2010). The dilemma for me to consider here is how to balance the requirements of the standardised assessment regime driving the education debate in Australia in the current context, and creating an environment that recognises the changing needs of our twenty-first century learners to become capable of performing meaningful tasks in the real world.

Teaching is a profession that is fraught with dilemmas, that is there is a multiplicity of correct actions to take. As Groundwater-Smith, (1998) articulates, “...to discuss rights is to discuss dilemmas”. In recognising the problematic situations that will inevitably arise it is imperative to ensure a considered reasoning process is applied to achieve a wise solution that is in the best interests of the child. Newman & Pollnitz’s (2002) Ethical Response Cycle is a framework that details such a process. Connelly and Clandinin (1995) propose that by developing complex and connected relationships amongst people who pursue the same futures perspective opportunities exist to establish networks that can broker changes in our work.

Groundwater-Smith, (1998) maintains that schools operating in the post-modern world take part in both global functions as well as operating in highly localised ways. Post-modernity (Bagshaw, 2007) refers to a condition in which contradictions and juxtapositions exist, and as such a global discourse is required to respond to the differing needs and expectations of all stakeholders in education. Burbules and Torres (2000) suggest that the process of globalisation has serious consequences for transforming teaching and learning, for example we are reminded that our society now engages with a growing number of highly sophisticated information communication technologies (Smith & Lynch, 2006) and developing student’s capacity to engage with a variety of technologies is essential if they are to have success in the digitally enhanced world of the future (Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 2009). Schostak (2005, 2008) maintains that schooling is a process of moulding and fashioning minds and behaviour according to the interests and beliefs of some particular group, whilst education may be defined in terms of its potential to challenge and suspend all such vested interests. He further asserts that whilst schooling may be necessary for developing norms of behaviour and providing information as a basis for reflection, what is very necessary in a complex and uncertain world is the process of exploring alternative ways of thinking, doing and believing, that is the freedom of thought, judgement and action.

In building positive relationships with my students I will know and value each student by acknowledging individual needs and interests; encouraging all students to contribute and respond to those contributions positively; using humour and encouraging students to find humour in themselves; development of learning activities that are connected to students lives and their communities and development of relationships around multiple aspects of students lives by being involved in extra activities that provide support to my students. Students will be valued and their opinions accepted demonstrating a climate where difference is welcomed and encouraged. I will encourage students to take risks with their learning by these actions. It will also be an expectation that students take responsibility for their learning and this will be encouraged and nurtured by providing students with opportunities to collaboratively make decisions about how learning tasks are undertaken. My classroom practices will encompass mixed ability groupings and I will encourage students to work together to solve problems. As an educator who hopes to engage the students in learning experiences I need to build upon their prior knowledge by connecting new data with pre-existing knowledge (Tobin, 1990 ; Caine, Caine & Crowell, 1996). Swadener (2000) asserts that current education systems position the child as a threat that must be controlled and contained to meet a set of hegemonic standards, and failure to do so labels the child as ‘the problem’. I propose that the greater threat is in fact a system that denies diversity and difference, that is, one that views these constructs as problematic. Schwab (1954 cited in Ben-Peretz, 2003) understood that in supporting children to construct knowledge and take responsibility for their learning it is counterproductive to exert overt control and critical judgement. It is my desire to view children as ‘at promise’ rather than at risk (Swadener, 2000), and I truly believe that I can learn from all of my students in some way or another. I am not the holder of all the knowledge, nevertheless I aspire to assist my students to be inspired to unlock the knowledge that is available to them, and to help them develop the tools to critically view that knowledge and develop a deep, wide and diverse perspective of their world of the future.








Reference List:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2005). A picture of Australia’s children. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10127
Arthur, L., Beecher, B., Death, E., Dockett, S., Farmer, S. (2005). Programming and Planning in Early Childhood Settings. Melbourne, Australia: Nelson Australia Pty Ltd.
Banks, C. A. M. & Banks, J. A. (1995). Equity pedagogy: An essential component of multicultural education. Theory Into Practice, 34(3). 152-158.
Ben-Peretz, M. (2003). How teachers in different educational contexts view their roles. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.cqu.edu.au/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VD8-47XSSC7-7&_user=409397&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2003&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000019483&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=409397&md5=ded2c32489d61199305bb9bcddcca4cd
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (1999). How People Learn Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6160&page=1
Burbules, N.C. & Torres, C.A. (2000). Globalization and Education: An Introduction. [electronic resource]. Retrieved March 10, 2010 from http://faculty.ed.uiuc.edu/burbules/papers/global.html
Caine, G., Caine, R., & Crowell, S. (1996). Mindshifts. [electronic resource]. Retrieved April 3, 2009 from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11356/eded11356_cro4114.pdf
Connelly, F.M. & Clandinin, D.J. (1995). Teachers’ professional knowledge landscapes : secret, sacred, and cover stories. [electronic resource]. Retrieved March 20, 2010 from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11404/eded11404_cro925.pdf
Cornbleth, C. (1990) Curriculum in Context, Basingstoke: Falmer Press.
Danielewicz, J. (2001). Teaching selves: Identity, Pedagogy, and Teacher Education. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11404/eded11404_cro927.pdf
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. (2009).Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.dbcde.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/117682/DIGITAL_ECONOMY_SNAPSHOT_FINAL.pdf
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2006). Principles of Learning and Teaching P- 12 Unpacked. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/teachingprinciples/principles/unpacked.htm

Department of Queensland Education (2002). Productive pedagogies [electronic resource]: Retrieved August 6, 2008 from http://education.qld.gov.au/public_media/reports/curriculum-framework/productive-pedagogies/html/manual.html

Farenga, S.J., & Joyce, B.A. (1997). What children bring to the classroom: Learning science from experience. [electronic resource]. Retrieved May 6, 2010 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3667/is_199705/ai_n8764823/
Foucault, M. (1981). Untying the text: a post-structuralist reader. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/humt20012/humt20012_cro899.pdf
Groundwater-Smith, S. (1998). So you want to be a teacher! [electronic resource]. Retrieved February 25, 2010 from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11404/eded11404_cro920.pdf
Harreveld, R.E. (2002). Using critical literacy to broker change. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11404/eded11404_cro3234.pdf
Holland, P. (2004). Picturing childhood: the myth of the child in popular imagery. London. I.B. Tauris
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2010). Paradigms at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved May 9th, 2010 from http://www.learning-theories.com/paradigms
Marzano & Pickering, (1997). Dimensions of learning: Teachers Manual (2nd Ed.) Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory, Aurora, Colorado.
Mergel, B. (1998). Instructional design and learning theory. Retrieved March 29, 2009 from http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/Brenda.htm
Montessori Philosophy (2007). Council Oak Montessori .org. Retrieved May 10, 2010 from http://www.counciloakmontessori.org/philosophy.html

Mueller, J. (2010). What is authentic assessment. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm

Newman, L. & Pollnitz, L. (2002). Ethics in action : introducing the ethical response cycle. [electronic resource]. Retrieved March 20, 2010 from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/eded11404/eded11404_cro4679.pdf
Queensland College of Teachers. (2009). Professional Standards for Queensland Teachers (graduate level): A guide for use with preservice teachers. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://moodle.cqu.edu.au/file.php/12182/General%20Resources%20%26%20Links/Queensland%20College%20of%20Teacher%20Standards.pdf
Queensland Studies Authority. (2010). Assessment Bank. Retrieved from https://qcar.qsa.qld.edu.au/assessmentbank/html/home.html
Richardson, J.G. Ed. (1986). Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood Press.
Schostak (2005,2008). Education in dialogue. [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/content%20resources/Dialogue.html
Smith, M. K. (1997, 2002) 'Paulo Freire and informal education', the encyclopaedia of informal education. [electronic resource]. Retrieved May 10, 2010 from www.infed.org/thinkers/et-freir.htm.
Smith, R. & Lynch, D. (2006). The Rise of the Learning Manager: Changing Teacher Education. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia.
Steiner, Anthroposophy and Education (2002). Steiner-Australia.org. Retrieved May 10, 2010 from http://www.steiner-australia.org/other/anthrop.html
Swadener, B.B. (2000). At risk or at promise? [electronic resource]. Retrieved from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/edec11024/edec11024_cro542.pdf

Tobin, K. G. (1990). Social constructivist perspectives on the reform of science education. [electronic resource] Retrieved March 27, 2009 from http://library-resources.cqu.edu.au/cro/protected/edcu11020/edcu11020_cro1172.pdf

Woodrow, C. (1999). Revisiting images of the child in early childhood education: Reflections and considerations. [electronic resource]. Retrieved April 20, 2010 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6418/is_4_24/ai_n31675482/?tag=content;col1

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Second Language Teaching Methodologies

Research in second language acquisition reveals there is much debate about the learning of second languages and indeed, the question of whether second languages are learnt or acquired has perplexed academics for many years. Harold Palmer (1921) was first credited with questioning the difference between what he terms as ‘spontaneous’ and ‘studial’ capabilities of language learners (Harmer 2007). Palmer suggested that spoken language calls for spontaneous capabilities developed naturally and subconsciously as opposed to studial capabilities that are required for the development of literacy. Stephen Krashen (1984) the American linguist, proposes what he refers to as the Acquisition and Learning Hypothesis. Krashen suggests that acquisition refers to language that has been acquired subconsciously in an anxiety free state. He indicates that acquired language provides for the ability to use language in spontaneous conversation because it is instantly available on demand. Krashen goes on to propose that learnt language has been taught and studied as grammar or vocabulary, and that this knowledge of the language is only useful in helping us to monitor spontaneous communication. His view contends that acquired language and learnt language are different both in character and effect (Harmer, 2007).

When examining the distinction between subconscious acquisition and conscious learning of a second language Krashen draws our attention to what he calls comprehensible input. He explains that this refers to input that is roughly tuned (subconsciously moderated) that the student already has plus the next level up, much like the area that Vygotsky (1978) refers to as the Zone of Proximal Development, where students are asked to study information just slightly beyond their knowledge range, through which they are supported by the teacher to reach that new level of knowledge. Krashen argues that roughly-tuned input aids acquisition whereas finely-tuned input (such as that which makes up much traditional language instruction) does not. (Harmer, 2007)

De Ridder (et al 2007) cites Segalowitz (2003) who suggests that automaticity, that is the more efficient, more accurate and more stable performance of language, is achieved through the repeated creative use of the language rules taught in a context of authentic communication. They go on to assert that this automaticity may be enhanced by ensuring that communicative processes develop both structured repetition and the creative transfer of knowledge items (De Ridder et al, 2007). If this view is accepted then the second language learner may possibly acquire what is considered automaticity in the second language when the focus is neither on language form or language forms, but in fact a blend of both and that continuing development of the language rules and the authentic use of them when communicating will eventually result in the successful ‘acquisition’ of the second language.

In attempting to understand how learners acquire/learn a second language it is important to examine learning theory in greater detail. For many years the theory of behaviourism, based on the early work of the physiologist Pavlov (1849-1936) underpinned teaching practice (Mergel, 1998). Behaviourism focuses on repeating a new behaviour until it becomes automatic. In language learning, students demonstrate the three stage process of behaviourist theory; stimulus, response and reinforcement when they are asked to repeat sentences correctly, and are rewarded for their correctness (Harmer, 2007). When this occurs frequently the learner is conditioned to produce the language effectively. It can be asserted that the traditional Grammar Translation Method (GTM) and the Audio Lingual Method (ALM) demonstrate a behaviourist approach as they require learners to memorise correct forms/rules by repetition, and because they both attempt to eliminate errors that learners make. (Yokoyama, 2009)

On the other hand an alternate learning theory is posited, that of cognitivism where the act of learning language is seen as a mental process. Cognitive theorists view learning as “..involving the acquisition or reorganization of the cognitive structures through which humans process and store information." (Good and Brophy, 1990, pp. 187 cited in Mergel, 2001). The more contemporary second language learning methodology referred to as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is an example of cognitivist learning theory, as learners are involved in meaning-focused communicative tasks where they construct the language required to complete the task. This methodology asserts the essential belief that plentiful exposure to language in use and multiple opportunities to use it are vitally important in developing not just knowledge of the target language, but also the skill of using the target language (Harmer, 2007). What is apparent is that language learning may be facilitated by either utilising a behaviourist or a cognitive approach, based on different learner styles and different teaching styles. (Yokoyama, 2009)

Much discussion surrounds the differences and similarities of learner attributes and reference to the analogy ‘older is faster, but younger is better’ (Krashen, 1984 cited in Harmer, 2007) represents a paradigm of how different learners learn. There is some evidence that younger children may have greater control of pronunciation than older learners (Patkowski, 1982 cited in Bista, 2008), however more recent research has begun to show that there is no linear pattern of learning among the same age group of learners, and they learn differently and individually depending on variables like learning opportunities, the motivation to learn, individual differences and learning styles in second language acquisition (Bista, 2008).

In addressing the question of how best to assist learners in developing second language acquisition the target context of this paper is early education and specifically a learner aged 5.2 years. Genesee (1994) recognises that students in an early childhood setting find it difficult to learn new language skills which refer to abstract concepts, cognitive operations or experiences which are not yet part of their intellectual repertoire, and that they should first be given opportunities to learn language through experiences that are compatible with their current abilities and knowledge.

Marzano & Pickering (1997) in their teaching and learning framework Dimensions of Learning (DoL) claim that many cognitive psychologists believe that knowledge can be organised into two basic categories: knowledge referred to as declarative knowledge, demonstrated in language learning by the study of the language forms, such as meaning of vocabulary, grammatical rules, pronunciation; and procedural knowledge, that is knowledge that demonstrates performance, demonstrated in language learning by the ability to use language to communicate meaning. They contend that students need to not only be able to perform the steps of a specific process, but that they need to have knowledge or understanding about the topic to obtain useful results. If you accept Marzano & Pickering’s view then the successful second language learner will have both knowledge of the target language grammatical rules, vocabulary, pronunciation and the ability to successfully use the language to actively construct meaning.

So, how then can the Learning Manager best achieve both categories of knowledge described? Various methodologies have been applied to the learning of second languages. Traditionally second language learning methodologies have focused on teaching individual points of grammar by providing sentences that typify the specific grammar point, requiring the learner to translate from the target language to the student’s first language and back again. GTM is still widely used and in fact represents a cultural preference for some, as has been shown in Japan with the reluctance of educators and learners alike to abandon this traditional method, despite its apparent failure to produce the level of English communication skills considered desirable (Reesor, 2003).

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the pure translation method largely gave way to the Direct method, which favoured the teacher and the student speaking together but with the move away from translation, to the point of avoiding first language use at all (Harmer, 2007). Liu and Shi (2007) suggest that the failings of the direct method centre on two questions, that of how to safeguard against misunderstanding without translating, and secondly the suggestion that this method limits teaching to those who are native speakers or have native-like fluency in the foreign language being taught.

These traditional methods and those that evolved from them have focused on the development of declarative knowledge, that is knowledge of the language forms. However it has been recognised by some academics that the general limitation of these methods is the lack of focus on the ability to construct spoken language, or to the processes of using it (Howatt, 1984 cited in Bygate, 2000)

More recently contemporary methods of second language learning have focused on language teaching as a communicative function rather than on pure mastery of structures and grammar. This movement is demonstration of a shift in focus from declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge; that is the process to construct meaningful communication using the target language. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is considered at the opposite end of a communication continuum (Harmer, 2007) as it targets language learning by focusing on developing a purpose for communicating, the content of what is being conveyed, and the use of a variety of language structures. CLT theorists consider that for learning to be enhanced there needs to be an information gap between the knowledge of the communicating participants, and it is in the process of closing this gap that true communication takes place. Liu and Shi (2007) suggest that CLT makes language learning more interesting, helps develop linguistic competence as well as communicative competence, that is knowledge of what to say, to whom in what circumstances, and how to say it (Hymes, 1967). Canale & Swain (1980) suggest that a communicative approach to second language acquisition must be based on the learners communication needs. They contend that communicative competence; that is linguistic competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence is the goal of language acquisition and this goal can be met by creating appropriate activities that truly promote communication within the classroom. Some activities that might be suitable in this target context include but are not limited to turn-taking games, categorizing games and picture sequencing games.

Criticism of the CLT method suggests that this method is prejudiced in favour of native-speaker teachers as it requires a controlled range of language use by the teacher to respond to the variety of language problems which may occur (Harmer, 2007). There is also confusion over what truly defines a communicative approach and there are questions around the suitability of applying this method at all levels in teaching; the evaluation process of this method; and how suitably it can be delivered by non-native teachers (Liu and Shi, 2007).

Other methods worthy of discussion include the Task-Based Learning (TBL) method. This methodology manifests the ideology of CLT however it places the performance of meaningful tasks as central to the learning process (Harmer, 2007). In proposing to teach English as a second language to a very young learner (four to five years of age) this methodology fails to provide an adequate framework because as Michael Swan (1985) considers, that while TBL may develop learners command of what is known, it is considerably less effective for the systematic teaching of new language (Swan 1985 cited in Harmer, 2007), and to that end is not suitable as an effective method in this instance. Total Physical Response (TPR) is one of four methods developed in the 1970’s and 80’s. TPR involves having students respond to commands and when ready, giving instructions to other classmates. Asher (1977 cited in Harmer, 2007) believes that as children learn a lot of their language in response to instructions directed at them, then second language learners might benefit from this technique also. For very young learners this method may well be productive when delivered playfully. Alcock and Cullen (2008) contend that children are empowered when communication is humorous and playful.

In proposing how to teach a second language in the target context described, it is the personal belief of the author that the CLT method provides the most appropriate methodology to guide the learner in developing communicative competence. The age of the learner limits the effectiveness of pursuing the Grammar Translation Method due to the developmental limitations of the target student however the Audio Linguistic Method provides a framework for facilitating repetitive type drills as an introduction to the lexical structure of the English language. Critics of the ALM claim that there is little placing of language in any kind of real-life context, but the author is of the opinion that this failing can be addressed by using a blend of meaningful communicative tasks and repetitious drills delivered in a play context. Task based learning is considered unsuitable due to the lack of life experiences of the learner and the need to learn new language, not just improve the use of known language. The alternate theory of Total Physical Response is considered appropriate due to the age and developmental level of the learner. TPR also facilitates the ability to design activities that the learner may consider play. Guy Cook observes “..people are playing when they say and believe they are playing” (Cook, 2000 cited in Pomerantz & Bell, 2007, p 558). He asserts that being able to understand and produce playful language is a necessary art of advanced language proficiency (Cook, 2000 cited in Pomerantz & Bell, 2007).

The Dimensions of Learning (DoL) teaching and learning framework develops a model utilising what researchers and theorists know about teaching and learning. It is vital for the student to be comfortable and free of anxiety during the language learning experiences, as observed by Krashen (1984 cited in Harmer, 2007). Opportunities to acquire, integrate, extend and refine the new knowledge can be created by developing a blend of communicative tasks by using game play, and the opportunity for repetition and practice through ‘playing’ with TPR and ALM. Problem solving activities developed using picture cards as memory games offer the opportunity for the student to use the knowledge meaningfully as they articulate what items have been matched. Encouraging students to think critically, creatively and to self regulate their thinking is an overarching desire of the Learning Manager in all encounters with learners. There is a clear and detailed link between this framework and the preferred methodologies discussed for use within this target context.






Reference List:
Alcock, S., Cullen, J., & St George, A. (2008). Word-play and "Musike": Young children learning literacies while communicating playfully. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(2), 1-9. Retrieved from EBSCOHost database.


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