CLT & ELT in East Asia (part 2)
This is a follow-up on my previous post on the role of CLT (communicative language teaching) in East Asia.cclt.logo
The CLT/TBLT paradigm has encountered resistance here – perhaps not so much direct opposition, as far as I know, from the government, educators, or the public, but probably more of simply ignorance and apathy about it, and a resistance to change. Parents, private academies, and others just assume that the traditional methods (ALM and GTM) are okay, since they are mainly concerned with test scores and grades, rather than meaningful learning. If a teacher gets a TESOL certificate and learns about CLT, but then gets a job at a private academy or cram school (hagwon), their supervisors will insist that they teach using ALM/PPP and/or GTM. The parents seem to expect that, too, since the parents want their kids to get good scores, so they can enter the better universities and get good jobs. A very sad situation.
However, increasingly the realities of life crash against this mechanical process. More college courses are taught in English, and the kids are not ready for that, despite all the years of cramming English and behavioristic learning. Increasingly, they will have to speak and write English on the job, at least in some fields. But this is not true for all fields. Some may realistically not have to write or communicate much in English, but will need passive skills — reading and maybe listening to English at times in their fields.
So the first challenge is how to sell the benefits of CLT to the public, to the Education Ministry, to educators, and to students. (I’m using CLT as an umbrella term for CLT in its various forms, and for TBLT). The second challenge is meeting the needs of students who really are not going to need higher communicative skills in English. Their motivations and needs are different. Teachers trained in CLT naturally aim for communicative competence, but honestly, some students will not be interested in it, or may not have such a strong need for it. Those who are interested may have other valid reasons for learning English, like needing to comprehend English materials, learning content area knowledge in English (e.g., in college courses), and such. Others are not interested, simply because the system has killed their motivation — this poses a third challenge for CLT here.
That is why I think it will help to situate CLT within a larger cognitive framework. A cognitive framework can provide important rationales and methods for communicative learning, even for those who sense no need for communicative competence. It can provide learning rationales and goals for teaching and learning English in addition to communicative competence. And it might help reach those who have been burned by the system, by addressing their motivational problems within the framework of social-personality psychology.
Let me just outline some of these cognitive rationales here, and talk more about them in future blog posts. In brief, some reasons for CLT in an EFL context like this are:
- Even for just reading, listening and speaking ability are important for effective L2 reading skills. Reading depends on phonological and processing skills, and so learning in the speaking and listening modalities is important.
- For learning grammar meaningfully, using English in these different modalities is necessary.
- Test scores are not effective measures of English ability.
- To do better on tests, interactive learning in the long run will be more effective and efficient — as well as for classroom college English, and English in the student’s future jobs.
In brief, some additional cognitive goals for learning as follows:
- Awareness and understanding of foreign cultures – not just Anglophone cultures, but world culture.
- A better understanding of oneself and one’s culture through the lens of L2 and global culture
- Awareness of important social issues
- The cognitive advantages of simply knowing a second language
- Greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence
- Overcoming demotivation toward learning (especially toward the L2), and related self-esteem issues
A cognitively oriented approach to CLT could help us to realize these kinds of goals and rationales. I will expand on these ideas and talk about the above points more specifically in some future blog posts.