CLT & EFL in East Asian: Goals and benefits…
The dilemma of teachers wanting to promote communicative competence in the L2 is that students’ and parents’ goals may not agree with this. In fact, the whole system may be resisting this. So how can teachers press on with their desired goal? We don’t have to sacrifice this goal, but we can cast this into a larger cognitive framework, which includes:  cognitive rationales for language learning, and  cognitively oriented goals in language learning that can supplement the goal of communicative competence. I will come back to rationales later as a selling point for CLT, especially a cognitively oriented CLT. In this post, I will say more about other valid goals that teachers can invoke, that will complement and enhance the competence goal. Even if students are not interested in competence, these other goals can help promote competence, motivation, or other important life skills.
College and career preparation. If students understand that they need English for college courses and for on-the-job purposes in their future careers, this might help them to engage in English learning. This has to be presented not in a condescending or preachy manner, but through activities that pertain to college contexts, their major fields of study, or future job and workplace situations.
Developing learning strategies. Students have often been taught English poorly here, and need to learn better learning strategies, not only for English but for other skill areas as well. They need to understand that a heavy emphasis on brute-force rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules will not work. The Oxford inventory (by Rebecca Oxford) of L2 learning styles can be a good start for discussion. Teachers need not administer it, but use this as the basis for discussion of better learning strategies. This leads to the next point.
Empowering learners to learn independently. Many learners are still dependent on college or hagwon classes (private cram schools or language schools in Korea) for learning, when they can learn more on their own; and they still depend on commercially produced textbooks, grammar books, or vocab books that are boring and that rely on ALM, PPP, or GTM approaches. From intermediate levels, they should start learning on their own, outside of the classroom. At intermediate and especially at advanced levels, they can learn more outside of class than in class. This involves teaching them to learn on their own by exposing themselves and engaging with authentic materials, such as books, online videos, popular music, and TV shows. This can be far more motivating than classroom learning. Some of the strategies in Oxford’s inventory pertain to independent learning. This is especially helpful in places like Korea where English is entirely a foreign language.
Critical thinking skills. Students can be taught about critical thinking skills in the L2, and the fact that they gain important academic and life skills like this, I would surmise, will in the long run help their motivation or appreciation for English. This can include understanding logical fallacies, constructing persuasive and logical arguments in writing and in presentations, reading between the lines and inferencing skills, constructing counter-arguments, and being responsible citizens who possess (I think Carl Sagan coined this term) “baloney detectors” to detect bogus arguments in politics or elsewhere. Likewise, students can be taught to question assumptions, e.g., learning to recognize and question sexist influences and messages in advertising that objectify men and women (I once did this in an ESL writing class in the US).
The above points lead to matters of social and cultural awareness, which I will discuss next time. These are selling points to students, which can help them appreciate their English classes, and these types of lessons can get them more into communicating in English, when the lessons deal with interesting issues and skills that generalize to their lives outside of the classroom.