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Review of Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning
AUTHORS: Wai Meng Chan, Kwee Nyet Chin, Nagami Masanori, Titima Suthiwan TITLE: Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning SERIES TITLE: Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education [SSFLE] 4 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2011
Marije C. Michel, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, UK
This book presents 17 papers based on a selection of submissions to the CLaSIC 2006 (Centre for Language Studies International Conference) of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore. The book focuses on a process-orientation in language teaching and learning.
In chapter 1, the editors give an introduction to the volume and highlight a paradigm shift in language pedagogy. According to the editors, today’s EFL classes advocate:
“1) the learner as the active subject of learning and the internal processes that constitute his/her learning leading to the development of communicative competence; 2) teaching approaches, curricula and materials that reflect this view of language learning; and 3) other factors such as the sociocultural context, social interactions and discourse, and individual learner characteristics and differences” (p. 4).
The volume builds upon Rüschoff and Wolff’s (1999) process-oriented model of foreign language teaching and learning and the view that language can only be learned by using it.
The book has two sections: the first presents in nine chapters what the editors call “macro-level processes,” that is, process-orientation at the institutional, curricular and disciplinary level; the second section is a collection of “micro-level processes” and the eight chapters in this section focus on empirical studies into language learning and teaching addressing various topics like, e.g., learning strategies, motivation, and learner initiation.
Chapter 2 by William Littlewood summarizes relevant processes and products of foreign language teaching. Based on the analysis of a Singapore and Hong-Kong syllabus he provides the conceptual framework of processes and products in language pedagogy. He makes a distinction within language teaching orientation of product as outcome, process in progress, and process as outcome and explains how, even though we focus on processes, we very often assess products. Consequently, he makes us aware that the conceptual distinction is hard to make in practice. Furthermore, he stresses that the process-orientation can easily become a way of controlling rather than supporting learning.
In chapter 3, Andrew Edward Finch takes a philosophical perspective by reviewing process-oriented teaching and learning from a postmodern account. By relating language pedagogy to the work of e.g., Derrida (1976) and Deleuze (1994) he concludes that teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in the postmodern time means that we lost some of the main targets and players of traditional teaching (e.g., the ideal of the native speaker or the teacher in the center of attention) in favor of postmodern accounts like student-directed, holistic learning and the acknowledgement of multilingualism as a resource.
Chapter 4 is dedicated to the role of a pragmatic framework for language learning with a special focus on the Chinese context. The author, Weiping Wu, demonstrates how a clash of cultures may affect language learners and, consequently, encourages practitioners to adopt an approach to language teaching that allows for real-life communication, e.g., by including pragmatic differences as a topic in the classroom discourse. Wu finishes with the statement that “the literature on the importance of pragmatic competence and the role of culture has been rather extensive […]. Thus what we really need now is perhaps not why we should have pragmatics and culture in the process but how it should be done.” (p. 85).
In chapter 5, Yoshikazu Kawaguchi gives a Japanese perspective on FL teaching. The chapter first discusses the question, ‘What are functions in textbooks’ and then addresses the issue of ‘What is communication’. The author comes to the conclusion that, in order to provide learners with appropriate grammatical items, teachers need to contextualise the function of grammar, that is, analyse what functions are useful in what context. For example, students may benefit from being interviewed by their peers during the composition of a story about their hometown, as this encourages them to personalise their writing, which adds “narrative communication” to their repertoire.
In chapter 6, Benjamin Laskar presents how his home university in Japan has created, maintained, evaluated, and modified their EFL program towards process-oriented teaching and learning. The paper gives a step-by-step description of their process and builds upon Lewis’ (1993) Observation-Hypothesis-Experiment paradigm for teaching. The chapter gives a good understanding of the different steps and processes of curriculum design and discusses this process from different stakeholders’ perspectives.
Bernd Rüschoff presents in chapter 7 three practical examples of how they implemented at his German university meaningful tasks into EFL teacher training by creating authentic language use in perception and production. He adopts a constructivist approach to language pedagogy and stresses that by using authentic material, language learning and teaching goes hand in hand with raising learners’ cultural awareness. As a result, learners not only become linguistically competent, but similarly grow in intercultural communicative competence (cf. Byram 1997).
Suksan Suppasetseree presents in chapter 8 a plan to design web-based instructions for teaching remedial English to Thai students. The author first addresses the different types and uses of web-based instruction, e.g., stand-alone courses that are web-implemented as a whole in contrast to traditional in-class courses that rely on the web for supporting materials and assignments. Following an evaluation of (dis-)advantages of web-based instruction and instructions on how to perform a needs analysis for web-based classes (e.g., who, what, what type of learning, which forms of interaction), a detailed report of an empirical investigation into remedial English teaching via web-based instruction is given. This chapter highlights that web-based instruction was successful in order to teach learners English but on top of that the use of new medium increased the motivation of Thai students to spend time on English learning and was beneficial for their computers skills too.
In chapter 9, Johanna Instanto presents a language immersion programme to promote language awareness and language proficiency for learners of Bahasa Indonesia at the National University of Singapore. The author asked students who took part in a study-abroad phase in the country where the target language is spoken, whether they were aware of the importance of culture for their language learning, what language skills improved most during their stay and what part of the programme supported best their language learning goals. Based on a survey among ten participants, the author concludes that their study-abroad experience improved both the students’ understanding of the role of culture as well as their language proficiency and knowledge about the host country.
Paul Sze explains in chapter 10 a newly developed online peer-observation platform for in-service EFL teachers in Hong Kong. The tool is based on authentic video material that presents short sequences focusing on a specific aspect of language teaching, e.g., teaching listening, interaction with students, teacher talk. Teachers are asked to reflect in an online forum on the presented practices and to discuss the topics with each other. According to the author, one of the benefits of the tool is, that it creates the opportunity to use peer-feedback without interference of e.g., in-house power relationships and workplace politics.
Section two of the book collects a micro-perspective, that is, studies that evaluate a specific aspect of implemented process-orientation in language learning and teaching.
Chapter 11 presents, as the author, Swathi Vanniarajan, states a “cognitive-neurobiological model of language acquisition.” It first and foremost is a review of literature into cognitive and neurobiological aspects of language processing. It addresses topics like encoding, attention, storage and retrieval as well as affect and lateralisation of language. In the second part it explains how different types of errors may be based on problems at the level of e.g. encoding, storage, and retrieval. The chapter concludes by acknowledging that in its current form, it is “more of a laboratory research model,” such that more research is needed in order to evaluate its predictions.
In chapter 12, Hsiao-Fang Cheng presents research into factors affecting listening performance in different test formats. By using two different types of testing (multiple choice and dictation-paraphrase tests) and follow-up interviews the author collected quantitative and qualitative data. Results reveal that participants scored significantly higher at the multiple-choice test. Similarly, the interview data supported the finding that when listening to speech in a foreign language, learners find it substantially easier to tick one out of four given answers rather than producing own words and phrases in the other test format. Scores on the latter format furthermore seemed to be strongly related to vocabulary knowledge of participants as well as their individual factors, like language anxiety. The author concludes that the data support the claim that “listening performance is an interaction between text-based and extra-text- or listener based components” (p. 250).
Shenghui Cindy Huang and Shanmao Frank Chang explain in chapter 13 their exploration into the implementation of a language learning strategy training on students' FL performance. They followed Taiwanese EFL learners at a senior high school for two months. Participants either received (experimental group) or did not receive (control group) a training in language learning strategies, e.g., “guessing intelligently,” “activate background knowledge by titles/pictures” as part of their English lessons. Results only tentatively support the hypothesis, that strategy training positively affects learning success. The authors suggest that a longer training may yield stronger support.
In chapter 14, Chen-Ying Li presents a well-designed multiple case-study into learner initiation in the EFL classroom in Taiwan. In a quantitative and qualitative evaluation the author compares a story-based to a standard approach to EFL teaching in the primary classroom. The study shows that a story-based approach can create an environment where young learners have more chances to give self-initiated contributions to the lesson. In addition, the author finds that these contributions very often are given in the native language. Furthermore, the work shows that the individual teacher plays an important role in how often and in what phases of a class, pupils do contribute to the class discourse.
Using a conversation analytical approach for a case study, Masanori Nagai explains in chapter 15 how a learner and a native speaker of Japanese manage over time to establish ways of understanding each other. The author shows how the interactants move from initially macro-level triggers of understanding (e.g., trying to find a common conceptual ground) towards more micro-level triggers of understanding (e.g., to use a dictionary to find the meaning of a unknown noun or verb).
In chapter 16, Miwako Yanagisawa explores the process of second language socialization. The chapter follows the process of noticing and utilizing culturally specific ways of interaction of two cases: an Indonesian and an Indian L2 learner of Japanese. The two learners were asked to record their interactions with Japanese L1 speakers. Recordings were screened for instances of learning both language and culture. Based on the timely co-incidence of these instances, supported by excerpts from the interactions, the author concludes that there is a strong interdependence of language learning and socialization.
Chapter 17 investigates what students learn in a process-oriented Japanese pedagogy course. The authors, Akiko Sugiyama and Yuko Abe, focus on how the own learning experiences of teachers influence their teaching practice. Therefore, they follow four teacher trainees that tutored international students learning Japanese by means of a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews and students' reflection reports on lesson observations. The results show that the Japanese trainees not only learned something about their own language, e.g., that Japanese 'has grammar rules' but also grew more confident in speaking English even if they did not know it perfectly. The increased contact with FL learners of Japanese seemed to serve as an excellent preparation to study abroad. In general, the authors conclude that self-reflection and peer-feedback were very helpful tools to train future teachers.
Finally, in chapter 18 Teow Ghee Tan and Ae Kee Ooi study the motivation of Malay students towards learning Mandarin as a third language. In contrast to the growing popularity in Malaysia to learn Mandarin, success rates of language learning show a decrease when passing beginner level towards intermediate levels of FL proficiency. The chapter investigates the intrinsic-extrinsic as well as the integrative-instrumental dimensions of motivation among 124 students of business management. Results reveal that instrumental motivational factors (e.g., the faculty requirement to study a third language) are the dominant reasons to learn Mandarin even though also intrinsic factors ('I enjoy learning the language') received substantial support. Both aspects of motivation decrease when reaching higher (and more demanding) levels of Mandarin.
Taking a processing-oriented perspective, this volume presents a wide array of topics that will be interesting for both researchers and practitioners of teaching, learning and researching second language acquisition. As a reviewer I must admit, however, that also the quality of the presented work stretches over a wide array, such that I would recommend only selected chapters.
The first section includes some interesting chapters taking a more global or philosophical perspective. They explain how the above-mentioned paradigm shift affected concepts of language learning and teaching. These chapters may serve as overview articles for students of applied linguistics or will be of interest to those working in curriculum design. As mentioned before, however, it is especially in this first section that the contributions vary in quality. In general, the second part, where many good pieces of qualitative and/or quantitative research into language teaching and learning are gathered, may be of more interest to a scientific audience. In addition, this second section may be of particular interest to practitioners working in the Asian context.
The following paragraphs will highlight those papers, which are believed to be of special interest to the LINGUIST list audience.
Chapter 2 gives a good overview of the underlying concept of process-oriented foreign language teaching and learning. The manifold supportive tables, models and figures make it, especially, suitable as an introduction to this topic. Similarly, the philosophical account of chapter 3 is an excellent overview of postmodernism in language learning and teaching.
Chapter 6 may be of particular interest to researchers and practitioners who are in duty of designing a new curriculum for EFL teaching as the paper gives a detailed description of the author’s efforts at his home university. As such it may serve as a guideline for those who have a similar duty. The reader may be warned, however, that the chapter reports on the theoretical ideal but does not give data on how successful the curriculum was. Therefore, future work that reports on the evaluation of the program, will be of additional interest.
As explained, chapter 10 introduces a very interesting online peer-feedback tool used in teacher training. Again, no data are given on the performance of teachers who use the program and how participants evaluated the tool. Consequently, no conclusions can be drawn on its success. Still, as it may be a way of neutralizing power-relations, it presents a promising tool for many different contexts aiming to work with peer-review.
As mentioned before, many chapters in section two present well-designed empirical studies and report their findings based on theoretically motivated analyses and interpretations taking a micro-level perspective on process-orientation in foreign language pedagogy. Even though most of the chapters present data that are based on small-scale studies, the section as a whole is well-worth reading. As a lecturer, I consider them to be good training material for students of SLA: The chapters are relatively short and report on studies, that are well-designed but do leave students the possibility to critique at the theoretical and empirical level. The different chapters address various linguistic settings from EFL learning in Indonesia, via learning Mandarin in Malaysia to learning Japanese as a second language in Japan. It includes case studies, larger-scale surveys and both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Accordingly, it gives a broad perspective on foreign language pedagogy and will be of special interest for those who would like to know more about language teaching and learning in different Asian contexts.
From these chapters, especially, chapter 14 and 15 convinced the reviewer by their innovative approach, well-designed and well-conducted empirical investigation, and not least, as they are presented in a clear style such that as a whole the chapters are highly enjoyable and informative to read. In addition, their conclusions are interesting for practitioners and researchers alike. Chapter 14 as it succeeds in providing a micro-perspective on classroom processes of language learning and teaching in primary education, and chapter 15 as it presents a micro-analysis of how a second language learner and a non-trained native speaker gradually manage to align their ways of learning and teaching in an informal setting.
To give a final evaluation, this volume presents work on process-orientation in language pedagogy that is valuable to the field and gives an interesting overview of language learning and teaching, especially, in the Asian context. The mixed quality of the chapters, however, can be a reason not to read the whole book but to focus on section two and selected chapters of section one, for example the ones reviewed in this text.
Byram, M. 1997. Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevendon: Multilingual Matters.
Deleuze, D. 1994. Difference and repetition. New York: Columbia University Press.
Derrida, J. 1976. Of grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lewis, M. 1993. The lexical approach: the state of ELT and a way forward. Hove, UK: Language Teaching Publications.
Rüschoff, B. & Wolff, D. 1999. Fremdsprachenlernen in der Wissensgesellschaft. Zum Einsatz der neuen Technologien in Schule und Unterricht. Ismaning: Hueber.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Marije Michel holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of
Amsterdam in the Netherlands and did a post-doc at the Department of
English Linguistics, University of Mannheim, Germany, researching preschool
teachers' language competence. She now is a lecturer of language learning
and teaching at Lancaster University. Her research focuses on
psycholinguistic aspects of task-based adult second language learning as
she investigates effects of task complexity and priming during task-based