an expunged section on methodology

This is a section I have expunged from a literature review, but enjoyed the discussion so have finished it (sort of) and presented for all to enjoy.

ESOL is an interesting case in the UK FE context. The subject draws its methodology not from the very  generic teacher training model, based on studies from psychology, neurology and sociology, with its focus on assorted taxonomies of stuff, memory, and so on, but draws its modelling from studies in linguistics generally and more specifically applied linguistics. There are, of course, parallels between the fields of general education and ELT – certain practices and concepts, for example, behaviourism, social constructivism, have applications in ELT and in general education. (Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development has a very striking parallel in Stephen Krashen’s i + 1 hypothesis where in both cases effective learning occurs at a point just beyond the current level of ability, but if this goes too far beyond this then the learning will cease to occur.) However, there are also cases where the diktats of the generic teacher trainer (and the generic quality unit) do not apply – for example, the method and application of questioning to check, develop and eliciting knowledge of the language in an ESOL class is very different from that used in a first language teaching environment. Extensive research has been carried out into both first and second language acquisition, and it has been convincingly argued (e.g. Pinker, Chomsky) that language learning, unlike most other learning, an innate ability in children, as much a part of our species as the instinct to migrate is part of the genetic make-up of a swallow. You would be hard pushed to argue that hairdressing is as instinctively learned.

The impact of this is that there are times when the generic elements of teaching clash uncomfortably with those of the ESOL tutor, and this is never highlighted as glaringly as when ESOL tutors are exposed to very generic, very open training activities, focussed, as cross college activities are wont, on whatever is in vogue or whatever particular agenda is being pursued by OFSTED in response to some tabloid scare story. Therefore an ESOL tutor receiving the same training as say, a construction or hairdressing tutor will have a very different set of questions for the trainer, who will often be incapable of giving a satisfactory answer. Unlike vocational subjects, for many ESOL tutors it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate out the subject specialism from the teaching and learning. Under which category, for example, would you put second language acquisition theory. A reasonable understanding of this is immensely valuable to the teacher, but which knowledge set does it fall under?

This has sort of run its course, but I enjoyed thinking about this, especially that last point as I have been supporting people doing their QTLS this year, and they have been wrestling with the very same problem.


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