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Language Teaching Methodologies: which one is the best?

A research paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the TESOL Certificate Program at Universal Students Center , Montreal, Canada. Abderrahim AGNAOU 2001 Table of Contents Introduction I. Accuracy Before Fluency School I.1. The Grammar-Translation Method I.2. The Direct Method I.3. The Audiolingual Method II. Fluency Before Accuracy School III. What Is the Best Teaching Methodology? VI. Conclusion Bibliography

The ideas presented here are the culmination of research into the development of language teaching methodology. The purpose of this research paper is to ascertain the facts about the various methodologies and present the positive and negative features of some of them in an attempt to formulate my own teaching style. In learning languages, a distinction is usually made between mother tongues, second languages, and foreign languages. A mother tongue is the first language or languages one acquires as a child. When immigrants come to a new country and learn the language of that country, they are learning a second language. On the other hand, when English-speaking students in the United States learn French or Spanish in school, or when Moroccans study English in Morocco, they are learning a foreign language. The acronyms ESL and EFL stand for the learning of English as a Second and as a Foreign Language. In the field of education, it is generally assumed that language can be learned rather than taught. This has been justified by the fact that a large number of speakers of English in the world have come to use the language before they actually receive any formal language training of any kind. While this is true for native speakers of English, the majority of non-native speakers had to attend formal classes of some sort to learn English. Therefore, language specialists have made efforts to model first language acquisition (FLA) on second language acquisition (SLA) in an attempt to develop effective classroom methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). It is important then to make a distinction between learning and teaching, and acknowledge that the latter does not always lead to the former. There are at least two major fields of research that constitute the backbone of language teaching methodology, namely (applied) linguistics and psychology. Many theories about the learning and teaching of languages have been proposed. There are as many methodologies of language teaching as there are theories of language learning. Some teaching theories have evolved directly from learning theories, but others from analyses of

teacher behavior and its consequences and from experimenting with manipulation of the variables in the teaching-learning situation. Gage (1972:56) has drawn a distinction between theories of learning and theories of teaching.

While theories of learning deal with the ways in which an organism learns, theories of teaching deal with the ways in which a person influences an organism to learn. It is often assumed that it is the duty of a person socially designated as teacher to translate those learning theories into practical teaching procedures. A language teaching methodology can be considered as a marriage of sorts between a language model and a learning model. But some methodologies, like some marriages, do not deliver the goods. Language teaching has thus been influenced by developments in SLA research. Apart from the fact that individuals learn in different ways, factors such as age, aptitude, attitude, motivation, and intelligence can influence in one way or another the learning process for good or ill. Language teaching has been around for many centuries, and over the centuries, it has changed. Various influences have affected language teaching. Reasons for learning language have been different in different periods. In some eras, languages were mainly taught for the purpose of reading. In others, it was taught mainly to people who needed to use it orally. These differences influenced how language was taught in various periods. Also, theories about the nature of language and the nature of learning have changed. However, many of the current issues in language teaching have been considered off and on throughout history. It may be useful to imagine two basic schools of thought on language teaching, whose respective slogans might be (1) "Accuracy Before Fluency," and (2) "Fluency Before Accuracy." While the main focus of the former school is on getting the language forms right, that of the latter is on engaging the learners in meaningful practice of the target language.

I. Accuracy Before Fluency School I.1 The Grammar-Translation Method

The grammar-translation method is derived from traditional approaches to the teaching of Latin and Greek in the early nineteenth century. It is based on the assumptions that language is primarily graphic, that the main purpose of second language study is to build knowledge of the structure of the language either as a tool for literary research and translation (the students are to develop the ability to read prestigious literary texts) or for the development of the learner's logical powers, and that the process of second language learning must be deductive, which requires efforts, and must be carried out with constant reference to the learner's native language. The students are made to learn by reading and writing the target language accurately. Its main features can be summarised thus: a meticulous analysis of the target written language, especially its grammar grammar rules are presented and studied explicitly vocabulary is learned from bilingual word lists a paramount use of translation exercises the mother tongue is used as the medium of instruction hardly any attention is paid to speaking and listening skills. Perhaps the major positive feature of the grammar-translation method is that it succeeded in making students learn as many vocabulary items as possible even though very few of them were

used in actuality. Another related advantage is that students could translate highly stilted literary texts from or to their native language quite accurately. One of the main arguments against the grammar-translation method was that it did not use language to serve any 'utalitarian goal'. The tradition required the conjugation of verbs, declension of nouns, and memorization of grammar rules (conjugating and declining meant reciting by heart in fixed order the various forms of tenses and cases). Whether or not the student could use these forms habitually in connected discourse was of no apparent interest. This method was also criticised for its allowing first language use in class to an excessive point. In cases where the students come from various language backgrounds, the teacher's use of the first language of some students may threten the unity of the class. The method was also attacked for its overemphasis on written at the expense of spoken language. Thus little attention was paid to pronunciation. No matter how well students could be at listening, reading or writing, this never meant that they could perform as well at speaking. The grammar of the target language was learned inductively more than deductively. Moreover, teachers taught English according to prescriptive rules and not descriptive ones. This confused the foreing language learners as they could not have a clue why certain native speakers of the language breached the very rules they learned! This is due to the fact that teachers taught in a right/wrong mode rather than a may-be mode. This made it quite easy and straightforward for the teacher to deliver a test. Richards and Rodgers (1986) say of the grammar-translation method that "it has no advocates. It is a method for which there is no theory [of language learning]."

I.2. The Direct Method

The Direct Method can be traced back to a general disatisfaction with the practical achievements of the grammar-translation method. The need for American Armed Forces personnel to acquire listening and speaking fluency in a number of European and Asian languages combined with developments in structural linguistics and the growing prominence of behaviorist learning theory resulted in the rise of the Direct Method. It was the view of the advocates of this method that practical communication skills could be acquired "directly", that is by aural-oral practice that avoided any reference to prescriptive grammar and that intensive schedules of repetition, and substitution exercises or drills were the way to teach these skills. The main difference between the Grammar-Translation Method and the Direct Method lies in their attitude towards the use of the mother-tongue in the learning process. While the former considers the learner's native language crucial in providing key to meanings in the target language, the latter avoids its use in the classroom and stresses the use of the language being learned/taught. The main features of the Direct Method are: only use the target language in class the learner should be actively involved in using the language in realistic everyday situations students are encouraged to think in the target language grammar is taught inductively first speaking is taught and then only reading and writing The Direct Method was praised for its exclusive use of the target language, which enabled the students to be maximally exposed to the language being learned. But, at the same time, the learner's first language was not ignored inasmuch as it could influence the learning of the target language. Moreover, oral interaction was encouraged on a par with written exercise, thus drawing

the students' attention to the importance of correct pronunciation. A more rational learning of vocabulary was also among the strong points of this method. Students did not learn lists of words out of context, but rather they used them in authentic contexts through demonstration or association. The inductive presentation of grammar was of considerable value. Instead of formal explanations, students figured out the rules from the examples practiced. The Direct Method was called into question for its lack of theoretical foundations. The heavy use of question-and-answer practice was equated with the mechanistic drilling of the upcoming trend in language teaching methodology, namely the Audiolingual Method. In fact, the popularity of Berlitz schools, which followed the Direct Method, paved the ground for the most notorious teaching method of the twentieth century, the Audiolingual Method. Worthy of critical note is the fact that the Direct Method was dependent on teacher expertise and samll class sizes.

I.3. The Audiolingual Method

The Audiolingual Method, also known as the aural-oral method, was very popular from the 1940s through the 1960s and it is based on structural linguistics (structuralism) and behavioristic psychology (Skinner's behaviorism), and places heavy emphasis on spoken rather than written language, and on the grammar of particular languages, stressing habit formation as a mode of learning. Rote memorization, role playing and structure drilling are the predominant activities. Audiolingual approaches do not depend so much on the instructor's creative ability and do not require excellent proficiency in the language, being always railed to sets of lessons and books. Therefore, they are easy to be implemented, cheap to be maintained and are still in use by some packaged language courses in some countries. It is based on the following main principles: competence in speaking and listening precedes competence in reading and writing use of the mother tongue is discouraged in the classroom language skills are a matter of habit formulation, so students should practice particular patterns of language through structured dialogues and drills until the language is sufficiently rehearsed for responses to be automatic. The Audiolingual Method resembles in many ways the Direct Method. However, it is based on the behaviouristic approach to language teaching. Behavioural theories of teaching assume that humans are conditioned to behave as they do. In other words, people respond to stimuli in their environment. Skinner (1968) stipulated that responses that have rewarding consequences are strenghtened or learned and responses that have negative or aversive consequences are weakened or extinguished. Therefore, a person's behaviour can be controlled through reward and punishment. In the classroom, this translates to: instruction can be designed so that learning can be controlled and measured. For the behaviorists, a language was a set of habits internalized in the nervous system of its speakers. Concequently, to learn a second language the student had to internalize through overlearning the set of habits of the second language. Students master the information, and then teachers use objective tests to measure how successfully the information was learned by the students and whether they are ready to advance to the next set of skills. This approach was, and perhaps in some countries still is, widely practiced. The basic pedagogical advantage of this method was that it broke down complex skills such as reading and writing to simple skills. Although these skills are presented, taught and learned through repetition, students managed to produce error-free utterances. Be that as it may, the method fell short because its behavioristic foundations were called into question. It was found that error-making was an integral part of second/foreign language learning and that overlearning or habit formation was not an effective technique of acquiring language.

Among the negative features of this method, there is the mechanistic way of internalizing language items, the purpose being to get the students to interact in the target language in gambits, which they have to learn by heart. Countrary to what is attested in reality (ie. the human mind is capable of producing atterances never heard before), the method stresses rote learning as if the learner will not be able to make up new sentences based on the internalised language rules. Therefore, the learner gets the impression that there is only one correct way to speak the target language. The method has also been criticized for being teacher-centered, considering the teacher as the sole source of information/knowledge and the learners as passive recipients of that information/knowledge. The resulting typical attitudes of the students include "I'm doing this assignment for the teacher", "No one cares about my work as long as I get good marks", and "My work has no meaning outside of this classroom and will never be heard from again after this term is over." The Audiolingual Method was also held responsible for producing students who cannot react with the learned language and who have no adaptive or transferable skills.

II. Fluency Before Accuracy School

With the growing dissatisfaction with the outcomes of the traditional teacher-centered methods, there have been developments such as a great emphasis on individualized instruction, more humanistic approaches to language learning, a greater focus on the learner, and greater emphasis on development of communicative, as opposed to merely linguistic, competence. In addition to Chomsky's generativism, the advances in cognitive science and educational psychology made by Jean Piaget and Lev Semenovich Vygotsky in the first half of the last century (20th) strongly influenced language teaching theory in the 1960s and 70s. New trends favoring more humanistic views and putting a greater focus on the learner and on social interaction, gave way to Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). CLT is developed as a reaction against the prevoius traditional methods. It is not actually one method, but several, subsumed under the heading of one lable. The main goal of CLT is to make students achieve "communicative competence." As reported in Blair (1982:61), Terrell (1977) defines it thus:

I use the term to mean that a student can understand the essential points of what a native speaker says to [her or] him in a real communicative situation and can respond in such a way that the native speaker interprets the response with little or no effort and without errors that are so distracting that they interfere with communication. This approach to foreign language teaching emphasizes the learner's ability to use the language appropriately in specific situations. It tries to make the learners "communicatively competent". The communicative approach was a reaction against the grammar-translation method and the audiolingual method which did not stress the communicative uses of language. Beginning in the 1950s, Noam Chomsky and his followers challenged previous assumptions about language structure and language learning, taking the position that language is creative (not memorized), and rule governed (not based on habit), and that universal phenomena of the human mind underlie all language. Most recently, there has been also a significant shift toward greater attention to reading and writing as a complement of listening and speaking, based on a new awareness of significant differences between spoken and written languages, and on the notion that dealing with language involves an interaction between the text on the one hand, and the culturally-based world knowledge and experientially-based learning of the receiver on the other.

Among other things this will mean shifting the normal emphasis from teacher-dominated instruction to self-directed and distributed learning. This move away from a transmission model of teaching towards one that focuses on the learner in a more responsive way is intrinsically desirable for educational reasons. One of the main challenges of the communicative approach is to integrate the functions of a language (information retrieval, problem solving, social exchanges) with the correct use of structures. The question is how to combine communicative fluency with formal accuracy. To answer that question, communicative teachers built on the notional-functional syllabus which organizes teaching units according to the communicative "notions" a learner requires in order to communicate successfully. Other fields that can relate to the principles of CLT are the cooperative learning approach and the learner-centred approach. In fact, many teaching methods are said to go along the lines of CLT. Such methods include Asher's Total Physical Response, Gattegno's Silent Way, Curran's Community Language Learning, Lozanov's Suggestopedia, and Krashen's and Terrell's Natural Approach, whose common denominator is the achievement of communicative competence. Despite some differences, there are certain features that most of these methods have in common:

meaningful rather than mechanical practice priority of listening over speaking exclusive use of the target language implicit rather than explicit learning of grammar modeling instead of correction special efforts to create a low-anxiety atmosphere in the classroom. Krashen, one of the proponents of CLT, argues that the main way second language learners acquire language is through exposure to a large amount of "comprehensible input" of the language, input which is at the "i+1" level, whereby "i" represents current competence. In other words, the language materials to which the learners are exposed should be slightly beyond their active competence level. How does the teacher go about providing such input? At the beginning level, this may involve, the use of "caretaker speech" or "teacher-talk", whereby the teacher simplifies syntax, articulates very clearly, speaks more slowly and/or uses simpler vocabulary. While such an approach clearly has its necessity at the beginning level, it also runs counter to lessons learned from the proficiency movement that input be culturally and linguistically authentic, since teacher-talk almost inevitably leads to linguistically inauthentic models. No remedy without side effects.

III. What is the best teaching method?

If it were a matter of the teacher's choice, I would choose the teaching methodology that responds to most of my questions as both an English language learner and an English language teacher. However, any teaching method that does not take into account the students' multiple and different learning needs is definitely off the track. Personally, I had a hard time making up my mind which teaching method I would adopt in teaching ESL or EFL. I do not think there is ONE correct way of doing so. Surely, the general orientaion should go along the lines of the communicative language teaching as it is soundly founded in theoretical linguistics. Faced with a somewhat motely and confusing assortment of methods and the still inconclusive evidence of comparative studies, many teachers of English and ELT specialists tend to declare themselves "eclectics," or "to choose parts of each system in the belief that the answer must be somewhere in the middle" (cf. Krashen 1982:154). Although I would prefer a communicative approach to teaching, this does not mean that I would not borrow some teaching techniques from the Audiolingual Method or encourage my students to use learning strategies pertaining to the grammar-translation method. It sould be made

clear, however, that students should learn to take on the responsibility of their own learning. My basic role as a teacher is not to teach per se , but rather to create learning in students and help them learn on their own. Actually, teacher success can be measured most obviously by how much their students learn. So, it is the teacher's duty to work out an effective, homogeneious and coherent mode of course delivery -not to say an independent teaching methodology. As a would-be teacher of English, I would do this by "going eclectic" in order to meet the different learning styles of my students. This is so because learners are different, which means learning is achieved differently. One maxim to follow is :"If students are not learning the way you teach, then teach them the way they learn." When many educationists discuss teaching methodology as an element of a teaching portfolio, they often refer to the way(s) in which a given teacher approaches teaching and learning. It is important to underscore the distinction between the "whys" of teaching and the "hows" of teaching. I would reserve the label "philosophy" exclusively for the first category. Accordingly, I would call the set of techniques a teacher chooses to use in class and the set of principles she or he has about the way language is learned a "teaching philosophy." The term "teaching philosophy" has a wide variety of meanings. Many use it to refer to one's notions about how teaching occurs. The preferred name to call such concepts is "theories of learning." Presumably, such theories can be tested and supported by (or found contradictory to) evidence. Although they may be part of someone's personal beliefs, they are ultimately a matter for public consensus based on empirical study. The concept of "teaching philosophy," by contrast, is an expression of individual values. It is like a personal mission statement. Is there a distinctive teaching style? What makes a teaching style unique and especially notable or valuable to students? This may be a complex synthesis of teaching goals and teaching methods. This can be described as part of one's professional reflection, or more particularly in one's statement of teaching philosophy. It might be useful to compare oneself as a teacher with one's peers, amplify one's special features, give examples, and, perhaps focus on one episode in teaching that epitomizes one's goals and, equally, reflects one's teaching overall. What does it mean to talk of a distinctive teaching style? Each teacher assembles teaching techniques in a unique constellation that reflects her/his teaching goals. How do these personal elements shape teaching? A teacher succeeds in her/his teaching if she/he can, with relative ease, structure a learning environment which is eclectic enough in the variety of its learning materials and opportunities to cater for the heterogeneous needs of her/his students. Those materials and opportunities will at the same time reflect the teacher's beliefs about the nature of the language learning process. These activities actually open the mind and body to sensory awareness by activating the sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste inputs. We all know that people's preferred learning styles fall into several categories: visual, auditory, and tactile (touchy/feely). An effective teacher caters to all of these styles whenever content is delivered, so that all learners have a chance to absorb the message. Flexible delivery programs need to be cognisant of the different circumstances and learning styles of students. This includes such things as how students approach learning and what strategies do they use in processing information. In other words, how meaning is made by students (cf. Biggs, 1999:60). Inductive or deductive learners, visual or aural orienters, quick studies or plodders, big-picture lovers or detail freaks -- all can be accommodated. But students must become active partners in seeking out the approach which works best for them individually. To accomplish this goal, it is important to provide students up front with some examples of how to use the materials. Language teachers are well aware that many students have no clue as to possible language learning strategies and tools.

Research and experience indicate that students' various learning styles are best served by different modes of course delivery (eclecticism). In this sense, providing a variety of learning opportunities can assist, because different students will find different types of learning activities that best suit their preferred style of learning. It is important and a big benefit to the students' being able to recognise, handle, and cope with their own learning styles if the teacher would explain the reasons behind the various methods she/he has chosen to use: 1) delivery styles: face-to-face, online, reading printed material; 2) seating arrangements; 3) assessment techniques; 4) structured activities, etc. Students must certainly wonder why, suddenly, a new approach or activity has been introduced into their classroom or curriculum. They should be made aware of how any particular teaching approach affects the way they learn -- hopefully it will enable them to learn more efficiently and perform better in the short term, but far more critical is whether the students will be able to apply this "learning method" to their future life-long learning. We can think of it this way, as they progress through the curriculum of an institution, each student picks up certain learning skills, or tools, that they deem useful; and they put these tools into their "bag of tricks". When confronted with the choice of how to acquire knowledge or perform some task, they will reach into their bag of tricks and pull out the correct tool to solve the problem. According to Joyce, Weil and Showers (1992:1-2)

How teaching is conducted has a large impact on students' abilities to educate themselves. Successful teachers are not simply charismatic, persuasive and expert presenters. Rather, they present powerful cognitive and social tasks to their students and teach the students how to make productive use of them. ... although learning to lecture clearly and knowledgeably is highly desirable it is the learner who actually does the learning. Understanding how a teacher teaches is important in understanding her/his standards and the products of her/his teaching. In this case, assembling a portfolio is an opportunity for the individual to reflect on these methods and how they complement one's teaching goals, or philosophy. For example, lecture is a common default method of teaching. Sometimes it can be effective, but is it the most appropriate method for one's goals in all cases? Theories of learning are important guides to teaching. What an individual has learned about how students learn and how they grow cognitively, emotionally etc. is certainly an important asset. At the same time, one ought not to confuse descriptions of theories of learning (the object of research, discussion and consensus among scholars) as substitutes for clear thinking about one's own methods of teaching. On occasions, it may be apropriate to consider the complete repertoire of teaching skills and intellectual resources that one has at one's disposal (whether the teacher uses them in every situation or not). It might be appropriate, therefore, to document one's teaching capital. This may apply to reaching one's goals outside the classroom as much as in the course of formalized instruction. Where do these methods lead? A long-term objective should be to analyze teaching practice to show that actual teaching reflects teaching goals through the methods and strategies one adopts. Ultimately, a full discussion of one's teaching methods and strategies may help someone to understand a teacher's style, as a complete expression of her or his way of teaching. What makes you distinctive among other teachers? How does this reflect your teaching philosophy? Teaching is a value-laden activity. What one teaches--and who one teaches, and perhaps even how-

-is a personal expression of professional goals and values. Why does one teach? The question often evokes basic moral values--about an informed citizenry, about self-fulfillment and understanding or about developing the means to achieve one's life-goals. The professional teacher reflects on these values, articulates them, makes them explicit and public, possibly justifies them, and uses them as a guide to clarify and develop practice. By noting that values are expressed individually, one is not committed to mere relativism or a posture of "anything goes". In a public or social sphere, values need to be justified. The condition of justification, however, leaves a wide latitude of possible values. In an academic community, the individual scholar has the freedom to teach as she or he deems appropriate. Hence, values about teaching may vary widely within one institution -- with no single definable standard. For example, some may value volume of content knowledge as an end, while others may value process or critical thinking skills. Some may value group skills and cooperation, others individual skills and independence. In the best teaching communities, this diversity can be viewed as a strength. Scholars need to remind themselves sometimes that diversity, even disagreement, is a strength and a healthy foundation for scholarly dialogue and intellectual growth. Still, it can pose a potential problem for assessing teaching: how does one proceed where there are no uniform established standards? It is precisely in this regard that a well articulated teaching philosophy is important. It defines the standards for the individual. It sets the benchmark for measuring the appropriateness of one's methods, the scope of one's activities, the effectiveness of one's teaching, and the achievements of student learning. At the same time, one might acknowledge that individual teachers work in the context of specific institutions. An individual's teaching philosophy, therefore, might well address the institutional context. A teacher might also be able to articulate how her or his goals are consonant with student goals. A teaching philosophy, unchecked, might potentially drift into utopian visions. Or the statement of philosophy, well articulated and noble enough, may be quite disconnected from the teacher's daily practice. Ultimately, as professional reflection deepens and experience accumulates, the link between teaching philosophy and classroom activities should become clearer and the goals should become more fully realized in observed practice. Analysis of and commentary on practice may reflect a more mature teaching portfolio.

IV. Conclusion:
As one matures as a reflective teacher, one's intuitions about good practice become more clearly articulated. Ideally, one's teaching philosophy deepens and becomes defined in greater detail. At the same time, one develops stronger knowledge of theories of learning and a fuller repertoire of skills and strategies to match these. One might well expect, then, that the veteran teacher will be able to describe more cogently how her or his teaching philosophy is expressed in practice --that is, in the organization of a syllabus, methods of evaluation, daily class activities, etc. These might well be developed more fully in course portfolios. Eclecticism can then be the inevitable solution to the question of teaching students with various cultural backgrounds, various learning styles, various needs, various emotions etc... In the meantime a novice teacher, like myself, is developing her or his teaching philosophy, it is important to draw maximum benefit from any given classroom situation.

Biggs, J.B. 1999. "What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning." Higher Education Research and Development, 18(1), pp57-75. Blair, Robert W. 1982. Innovative Approaches to Language Teaching. Rowley, MA: Newbury

House. Gage, N.L. 1972. Teacher Effectiveness and Teacher Education. Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books. Joyce, B, Weil,M and Showers, B. 1992. Models of Teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Krashen, S.D. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. 1986. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP. Skinner, B.F. 1968. The Technology of Teaching. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Terrell, T. D. 1977. "A natural approach to the acquisition and learning of a language." Modern Language Journal 61(7), pp. 325-36.