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Review of  Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning

Reviewer: Marije Michel
Book Title: Processes and Process-Orientation in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning
Book Author: Wai Meng Chan Kwee Nyet Chin Nagami Masanori Titima Suthiwan
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 23.4532

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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.

Section 1

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 2

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

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.

Section 2

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 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 interactions.