LINGUIST List 14.585

Fri Feb 28 2003

Review: Applied Linguistics: Reagan & Osborn (2002)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <naomilinguistlist.org>


What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at siminlinguistlist.org.

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  1. Lynn Pearson, The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

Message 1: The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 09:11:06 +0000
From: Lynn Pearson <pearsonbgnet.bgsu.edu>
Subject: The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy

Reagan, Timothy G., and Terry A. Osborn (2002) The Foreign Language
Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy. Laurence Erlbaum and
Associates, paperback ISBN 0-8058-3592-X, xiv+185pp, $24.50.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-506.html


Lynn Pearson, Department of Romance Languages, Bowling Green State University

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK

In this book, the authors connect foreign language (FL) education with
critical pedagogy with the aim of developing critical awareness on the
part of FL educators in the US about issues beyond questions of
teaching methodology. Some material was previously published in
articles (Reagan, 1997, 1999; Reagan & Osborn, 1998). The book covers
such topics as language attitudes, language practices, language
rights, language policy, and others to illustrate the social,
political, ideological, and economic facets of language education.
The book is written for use in FL education programs at basic and
advanced levels, and for other courses in critical pedagogy, critical
language awareness, sociolinguistics, social and cultural foundations
in education. It contains nine chapters of text followed by two
sections of questions, the first set for reflection and discussion and
the second set relating to classroom practice.

CHAPTER ONE When Methodology Fails: A Critical Look at Foreign Language
 Education

This chapter presents the challenge of expanding the focus in language
education beyond teaching methodology to consider other issues that
affect learners' outcomes in acquiring target languages (TLs).
Although many students take FL courses at some point during their
studies, few attain advanced levels of proficiency in the TLs. The
failures in language teaching and language learning cannot be
explained solely as matter of methodology. Instead, the authors
critically examine the 'social, political, cultural, historical, and
economic context in which language education takes place' (p. 2). For
example, structural and institutional constraints of most FL programs
preclude the needed exposure to a TL in and out of the classroom. In
addition, the ideological restrictions on FL education are considered,
such as the use of 'foreign' to reflect the 'Otherness' of a TL, the
preference for certain dialects (e.g., Parisian French vs. other
French varieties), and the treatment of native or heritage speakers,
who speak a variety different than the classroom norm, as remedial
learners. Despite these very real challenges, the authors argue for
FL education as way to 'introduce and initiate the individual into our
common, human social, and cultural heritage' (p. 12). Through the
study of the TL, learners can gain awareness of shared and different
realities that exist in the world and develop tolerance and
understanding of linguistic and other types of diversity.

CHAPTER TWO From Reflective Practice to Emancipatory Knowledge in Foreign
 Language Education

This chapter focuses on the knowledge base needed to teach a FL
effectively and the concepts of reflective practice and critical
pedagogy. Using a conceptualization by Shulman (1987), the authors
outline the categories of knowledge for a language educator. The
authors propose an alternative conceptualization to more accurately
reflect the actual work of FL educators, namely, the teacher as
'decision-maker.' The concept of 'reflective practice' has been
introduced by education scholars as a way for teachers to reflect on
their rationale for decisions in instruction. Reflective practice is
a cyclical process with 'reflection-for-practice' (reflection about
instructional planning before teaching), and 'reflection-in-practice'
(employing knowledge of content, pedagogy, and learners in the
classroom), and 'reflection-on-practice' (retrospective reflection
post-teaching). By using reflective practice, educators can improve
their teaching and empower themselves as decision makers in their
instruction. A special note is made of the growing number of
native-heritage language educators and how reflective practice can
help them to employ their own background knowledge to contextualize
the TL in their classes. The concept of 'critical pedagogy' is
introduced with reference to the role of public schooling in the US
context. Citing the work of various scholars (Freire, 1973, 1974;
Giroux, 1992, McLaren, 1989 and others), the authors define cultural
pedagogy as the 'recognition that schooling is an intrinsically
political activity' (p. 28) instead of neutral or objective. With
regard to FL education, critical pedagogy provides a framework to
critically analyze the field in order to examine its failures and its
potential to 'function as a positive and constructive force in
American education' (p. 30).

CHAPTER THREE Whose language is Real? Language Variation and Language
 Legitimacy

In this chapter, language varieties and their legitimacy are examined
with regard to social, political and educational contexts. The
chapter begins with a discussion of the terms language and dialect and
the construct of linguistic legitimacy, defined as 'which varieties
are deemed by society (or some subset of the society) to be
legitimate, and which are not' (p. 34). To illustrate how the
linguistic legitimacy of various languages has been challenged, three
examples are presented: African American Vernacular English, American
Sign Language (ASL), and Esperanto. Each case is detailed to
demonstrate that classification of a language as 'illegitimate' stems
from nonlinguistic, social, and political biases rather than actual
linguistic factors. For example, the legitimacy of ASL has been
questioned because it does not have written literary tradition and the
learning of ASL as a FL to fulfill requirements at US universities has
been rejected because ASL is not 'foreign' or does not possess a
'culture'. The issue of linguistic legitimacy is extremely important
for FL educators because they are a primary source for their students
regarding language and language variation. Learners need to be aware
of other varieties of the TL and even learn alternate vocabulary and
structures, along with those of the mainstream variety. In addition
to this sociolinguistic knowledge, FL education can develop learners'
'critical language awareness' about the political and ideological
power of language. Instead of reaffirming prejudicial attitudes
towards a language and its speakers, FL study can 'empower students to
better understand the social roles of language in society' (p. 51).

CHAPTER FOUR Constructivist Epistemology and Foreign Language Teaching and
 Learning

In this chapter, the authors detail the central assumptions and
concepts of 'constructivism' and how this theory can contribute to
pedagogical practice in FL education and other instructional contexts.
A brief discussion of the use of metaphors in educational discourse is
presented to illustrate how metaphorical expressions allow
comprehension of complicated issues and concepts. For example, use of
war metaphors, such as 'being in the trenches' illuminate a teacher's
preoccupations with classroom management and his or her responses.
Constructivism is an important metaphor in educational literature for
understanding knowledge and learning. It rejects both behaviorist and
transmission-oriented approaches to learning. In the constructivist
model, learners construct their knowledge, making learning an
individual and personal process. Learning also an active and
collaborative process. Constructivism as a theory has many competing
approaches, but two main types that have emerged are 'radical
constructivism' (knowledge is the result from the learner's active
mental effort) and 'social constructivism' (the learner's individual
active and mental processes take place in a sociocultural context).
While constructivism is not a theory of teaching, constructivist
classrooms exhibit certain features, such as instructional strategies
based on students' responses. For FL instruction, constructivist
concepts reflect the process of TL acquisition, which is a
'reconstruction' both of linguistic structures and patterns of
behavior. The authors provide several examples of constructivist
approaches in FL teaching: a communicative lesson on the Spanish verb
'gustar' ''to like'', the role of grammar explanations, and use of
technology for native speaker interaction.

CHAPTER FIVE Critical Curriculum Development in the Foreign Language 
 Classroom

This chapter addresses critical curriculum development for the
teaching of FLs. Traditional models of curriculum development are
hierarchical moving from a starting point of defining philosophical
issues, to setting goals, and finally, to the formulation of units and
lessons. While such models make connections between curriculum
components, their top-down organization is not conducive to the core
principles of critical pedagogy with its democratic and holistic
approach to curriculum. The authors propose three characteristics for
the critical language curriculum to guide development and practice.
The first is that the critical language curriculum is based on
'problem posing' with regard to language. The questions and issues
presented to learners may concern specific communicative goals in the
curriculum, but also incorporate awareness of language, language use,
and language attitudes (e.g., language in advertising from the US and
other countries). The second aspect of critical language curriculum
is its holistic construction and extension beyond disciplinary
boundaries. An interdisciplinary curriculum links FL study with other
areas. Units or themes for critical interdisciplinary study of
culture need to have connective validity by integrating language
skills, contextualizing or subjectivizing the domestic or home
culture, and giving primary focus to pluralism at the global or local
level and language diversity. The third characteristic of critical
language curriculum concerns evaluation of learners' emancipatory
knowledge. Assessment in this curriculum model would test the ways
that learners ''construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct the world as
related to language diversity'' (p. 79). Evaluations can be done in
either target or native language and assess students' understanding of
language diversity and/or TL skills.

CHAPTER SIX Foreign Language Teaching as Social Activism

The role of FL educators as social activists is presented. The
authors argue that studying languages in our education systems serves
to identify the 'foreign' or the 'Others'. Learners may acquire
language skills, but retain ideologies of 'Otherness' with regard to
the TL and its speakers. Instead, FL educators can embrace teaching
as a 'political act' and counter the foreignness within the FL
curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment in favor of an approach that
values language diversity. Strategies to incorporate the ideals of
critical pedagogy within the traditional structure of FL teaching
include various types of curricular nullification to formulate
socially transformative pedagogy. Along with critical reflection (see
Ch. 2) and critical pedagogy, curricular nullification and other
activist practices can change the role of FL classroom from the
'definer of deviance to an educational agency for social change'
(p. 89).

CHAPTER SEVEN Language Rights as Human Rights: Social and Educational
 Implications

The chapter outlines the concept of language rights. It provides an
overview of language rights within the construct of human rights as
detailed in various international agreements. Language rights have
been defined as the right to express and develop a language and to
have education in a mother tongue. Despite the provisions in United
Nations Declarations and the constitutions of various countries,
violations of language rights continue to occur throughout the world.
Some cases of language right violations in educational contexts are
presented with regard to specific languages: Kurdish in Turkey,
Russian in Post-Soviet Estonia, immigrant and indigenous language in
the United States, and the Deaf communities' languages in various
countries.

CHAPTER EIGHT When in Rome (or Pretoria): Language Policy in International
 Perspective

In this chapter, language planning is discussed as an applied
sociolinguistic activity using examples from various countries.
Language planning and language policy are detailed to show the ways of
reforming linguistic codes and language use and the issues that
motivate such changes. Some language planning activities include
language status planning, to designate an official language, and
language revitalization. The ideological bases of language planning
are also addressed. As the authors note, language planning activities
can empower and liberate, in the case of linguistic pluralism, or
serve as a tool to oppress and dominate, as in the case of linguistic
assimilation. Next the process of language planning is outlined: 1)
Initial fact-finding phase; 2) Formulation of goals and strategies to
achieve them; 3) Implementation process; 4) Evaluation of all aspects
of the language planning process. The authors propose the application
of Kerr's (1976) tests for good public policy to evaluate and language
policies and the planning processes. Two extensive analyses of
language policy development and implementation are presented:
Post-Apartheid South Africa and the case of Irish in Ireland. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of language policy at the school
level and its relevance for FL educators.

CHAPTER NINE Toward a Critical Foreign Language Pedagogy

The final chapter discusses the implications of issues raised
throughout the book for FL teaching and learning. FL education is
more than teaching a linguistic code and includes developing learners'
knowledge about language and attitudes towards language. The authors
advocate teaching for the development of metalinguistic awareness as
part of the critical pedagogy of FL education. The knowledge about
language can include many of the issues covered in the book and others
and an outline of metalinguistic knowledge base is presented.
Teachers can use various strategies to examine their roles in creating
an 'emancipatory FL pedagogy', such as critical reflection, curricular
nullification, and employing metalinguistic content in their classes.
Two strategies recommended by the authors to begin reflection on
teaching and attitudes are teaching portfolios and teacher narratives.
The authors also detail their own identities and contexts ('two white
guys' in the US who teach and study languages and cultures) as an
example of the critical reflection needed for emancipatory pedagogy.
The book concludes with appeal for FL educators to expand the scope of
FL teaching to not only teach a TL, but also to develop learners'
awareness about language.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

Reagan and Osborn's book makes a valuable contribution to the field of
FL teacher education. The wide range of topics addressed in this
volume rightfully expands the scope of concerns for language
educators. Readers of the book are asked to consider language
teaching within social and political contexts and to examine the role
of the language educator as the conveyor of knowledge about the TL,
its speakers and cultures. The authors outline several useful
concepts and strategies, such as reflective practice, language
awareness, and constructivism, among others, to aid present and future
FL teachers to develop their critical pedagogy. The various
theoretical concepts are related to very real methodological dilemmas
that face FL teachers; namely, teaching grammar, assessment, and
formulation of FL curriculum. In addition, the book presents current
examples from different countries to demonstrate how the phenomenon of
language education is shaped by questions of language legitimacy and
language planning.

This book is highly recommended to its intended readers: present and
future FL teachers. The text is concise and clearly written, making
it both accessible for introductory classes and sufficiently complex
for more advanced readers. The question sets that follow each chapter
provide thought-provoking queries to stimulate discussion and aid
readers to examine the various issues in terms of their work as
language educators. For classes that do not specifically pertain to
language education, the book, as a whole or in parts, will still be a
excellent resource for introducing students to the topics covered by
the authors.

REFERENCES

Freire, P. (1973). Education for critical consciousness. New York:
Seabury Press.

Freire, P. (1974). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

Giroux, H. (1992). Border crossings: Cultural workers and the politics
of education. New York: Routledge.

Kerr, D. (1976). Educational policy: Analysis, structure, and
justification. New York: McKay.

McLaren, P. (1989). Life in schools. New York: Longman.

Osborn, T. (2000). Critical reflection and the foreign language
classroom. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Reagan, T. (1997). When is a language not a language? Challenges to
linguistic legitimacy in educational discourse. Educational
Foundations, 11, 5-28.

Reagan, T. (1999). Constructivist epistemology and second/foreign
language pedagogy. Foreign Language Annals, 32, 413-425.

Reagan, T., & Osborn, T. (1998). Power, authority, and domination in
foreign language education: Toward and analysis of educational faiure.
Educational Foundations, 12, 45-62.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new
reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Lynn Pearson is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Undergraduate
Advisor for Spanish Education majors at Bowling Green State University
in Ohio. She teaches courses in second language acquisition, history
of Spanish, and dialectology. Her research interests include
interlanguage pragmatics, teacher education, dialectology, and using
technology in language and linguistics courses. She recently
completed a project, which employed digital audio technology to teach
Spanish dialectology.
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