Monthly Archives: October 2009

General TEFL Reading List for Students in Karlsruhe

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

At present, more than 800 students study English as a Foreign Language at Karlsruhe University of Education. TEFL is a central part of their final oral and written (state) exams. Our exam candidates usually focus on one particular TEFL topic, for instance CLT, TBI, CBI, CLIL or, more specifically, on skills development in primary or secondary EFL classrooms, teaching grammar and / or vocabulary, textbook analysis and textbook use, current curricular developments and the history of English language teaching in German schools, developing intercultural communicative competence, assessment and testing, the role of the (new) media, to mention just a few.

Prior to the final exams, all students are required to hand in a reading list (consisting of about 3-5 books plus 4-6 papers published in academic journals; no introductory literature). Since our students’ choice of exam topics is often based on the TEFL classes they attended (e.g. teaching grammar in secondary schools), most of them need relatively little further support or guidance. 

However, according to current exam rules and regulations, the final oral (state) exam has to cover more aspects of TEFL than just the specific one students wish to focus on. This is why we provide all of our students (not only our exam candidates) with a general TEFL reading list. Here is the current version of the document that I would like to share with you. Please click here. This is, of course, a context- and culture-sensitive topic. Nevertheless, any comments or suggestions?

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Improvisation and Creativity in EFL Classroom Discourse

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

Today I finished reading From Corpus to Classroom. Language Use and Language Teaching (O’Keefe, McCarthy & Carter 2007). In my view, this is a well-written and in many ways thought-provoking book that provides a wide-ranging (largely introductory) overview of corpus-based research and its implications for foreign language learning and teaching. Since I am particularly interested in the role of improvisation and creativity in EFL classroom discourse (see Kurtz (2001) as well as the TEFLSPEAK-G series of posts on this blog), I found the following passage most interesting:

“There is a long way to go in understanding creativity in the spoken language and in exploring the applications to the classroom of such understandings, but the first steps have been taken in recognising that it has been generally underplayed within the language teaching classroom. It is something that we need to work on to bring the best out of us as learners, teachers and collaborators in the language classroom. It is a fundamental aspect of a more humanistic approach to language teaching. And it is the kind of evidence supplied by corpora of spoken language that enable these first steps to be taken.” (O’Keefe, McCarthy & Carter 2007: 197).

However, I did not find any references to research findings not published in English in this book. The more I read, the more I  became aware (once again) of the dominance of the English language in academic communication – which raises a number of fundamental questions (see, for instance, Gnutzmann 2006).

References

Gnutzmann, Claus (2006). Fighting or fostering the dominance of English in academic communication?” Fachsprache, 2006 (28), 195-207.

Kurtz, Jürgen (2001). Improvisierendes Sprechen im Fremdsprachenunterricht. Eine Untersuchung zur Entwicklung spontansprachlicher Handlungskompetenz in der Zielsprache. Tübingen: Narr.

O’Keefe, Anne; McCarthy, Michael & Carter, Ronald (2007). From Corpus to Classroom. Language Use and Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Cognitive-Social Debate in International SLA Research

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

As an accumulating body of scholarship shows, traditional input-interaction-output theories of foreign language instruction and learning have come under critique for being too narrow over the past ten years, in particular for portraying the foreign language learner primarily as a mental being and a largely independent self, thus failing to adequately account for the social and cultural nature of language acquisition and/or learning and, ultimately, for the learner as a social being and a fundamentally interdependent self.

As Markee & Seo (2009: 40) point out in this context, “cognitive metaphors of SLA have obviously been productive during the last 30 years. However, […], their intellectual scope is unnecessarily narrow. […] Cognition and learning are constructs that go beyond the individual. […] Individuals are members of larger ecosystems of contributing agents and technologies. This position contrasts sharply with the individualistic version of cognitive science that is still the norm in cognitive SLA. […] This individualistic perspective is excessively restrictive or, worse still, simply out of date.”

A similar argument can be found in Young (2007: 263):

“The view of learning as changing participation is radically different from theories of second language acquisition that frame language learning as a cognitive process residing in the mind-brain of an individual learner […]. The view […] I wish to argue here for is, instead, of second language acquisition as a situated, co-constructed process, distributed among participants. This is a learning theory that takes social and ecological interaction as its starting point and develops detailed analyses of patterns of interaction in context. In this perspective, language learning is manifested as participants’ progress along trajectories of changing engagement in discursive practices, changes which lead from peripheral to fuller participation and growth of self-identity.”

I couldn’t agree more, but in my view, all this is neither new nor controversial. Theoretically, it reminds me of what John Dewey wrote in My Pedagogic Creed (published in 1897):

“I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself […]. I believe that this educational process has two sides – one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following […]. I believe that the psychological and social sides are organically related and that education cannot be regarded as a compromise between the two, or a superimposition of one upon the other […]. In sum, I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals. If we eliminate the social from the child we are left only with an abstraction; if we eliminate the individual factor from society, we are left only with an inert and lifeless mass.”

In terms of classroom practice, the current cognitive-social debate is very difficult to relate to some of the fundamental questions my students (future EFL teachers in Germany) are particularly interested in, for instance:

Is PPP (presentation, practice, production) less effective or efficient than, for instance, TBI (task-based instruction)? What role do teacher-led imitation and reproduction play, especially in primary EFL classrooms? Since learning and teaching a foreign language at school is a highly complex endeavor which is influenced by a large spectrum of factors, should I, perhaps, try to find a mix that works best under the given circumstances?

Any comments / suggestions?

References

Dewey, John (1897). “My pedagogic creed.” School Journal, 54 (3), 77-80.

Markee, Numa & Seo, Mi-Suk (2009). Learning Talk Analysis. IRAL 47 (1), 37-63.

Young, Richard F. (2007). Language learning and teaching as discursive practice. In: Hua, Zhu; Seedhouse, Paul; Wei, Li & Cook, Vivian (eds.) (2007). Language Learning and Teaching as Social Inter-Action. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 251-271.

Children’s Literature in Language Education

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Karlsruhe

An international conference on “Children’s Literature in Language Education – from Picture Books to Young Adult Fiction” will be held at Hildesheim University, Germany from February 25-27, 2010.

Plenary speakers:
Stephen Krashen, Eva Burwitz-Melzer, Alan Maley & Andrew Wright

Strand 1: EFL extensive reading – reading for pleasure; teacher training with
non-canonical literature;
Strand 2: Pre-teens and teens: young adult novels, graded readers, non-fiction,
poems and graphic novels;
Strand 3: Young learners: picture books, poems and nursery rhymes; language acquisition with literary texts;
Strand 4: Storytelling and workshops

For further information, see the conference website (click here).

International CLIL Conference 2010

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

The International CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Conference 2010 “In Pursuit of Excellence: Uncovering CLIL Quality by CLIL Practitioners – Evidencing CLIL Quality by CLIL Researchers” will be held September 30 to October 2 at the University of Eichstätt in Germany. For more information, including the call for contributions, see the webpages of the CLIL Consortium.