TESOL at Twenty-Five: What are the Issues? by H. Douglas Brown

Posted: April 30, 2014 by ozgurefl in Uncategorized

Brown identifies four themes in his article published in TESOL Quarterly in 1991 examining the current trends or state of art and providing an insightful map of the developments in teaching English to speakers of other languages. These could be outlined as;

a)      Learners

In this first theme, Brown tries to analyze some learner-related issues and answer questions such as “Why are our students learning English? What are their ultimate goals? What can knowledge of the English language do for them?” Therefore, learner motivation and empowerment get their share in Brown’s analysis. In the case of motivation, Brown prefers intrinsic vs. extrinsic dichotomy for pedagogical reasons instead of adopting Gardner’s integrative vs. instrumental dichotomy, and pays attention to the superiority of intrinsic motivation in the success of a language learner.

Empowerment, which refers to increasing the economic, political, social, educational, gender, or spiritual strength of individuals and communities according to Wikipedia, is the another case Brown looks at in this theme. Brown suggests that language teachers should work against the powerlessness of students and get them involved in the process of learning so that they could gain control over their lives.

b)     Sociopolitical and geographical issues

In this part, Brown illustrates the importance of English as an international language or which might be now called as Lingua Franca. As English becomes more dominant in every aspect of our lives especially in nonnative-English-speaking countries, the recognition of varieties of English gets much more important. Thus, including these varieties in the curriculum might cater to the immediate needs of learners. Brown also takes the expanding international range of language policy issues into account.

c)      Subject matter

Brown states that content-centered education presents both opportunities and challenges. In terms of opportunities, an increase in intrinsic motivation and empowerment could be observed in students. As for the challenges, they range from appropriate course books to other curricular activities. In addition, Brown suggests that task-based curricula could be helpful to organize content. Furthermore, he believes peace and environmental education might focus students on some human survival issues and empower them with consciousness. Hence, teachers should also play a different role as “transformative intellectuals”, helping learners to become aware about many earthly issues.

d)     Method

In this last but not least theme, Brown describes the change in the pedagogy, reminding the past, and highlights cooperative, learner-centered teaching. He sees learner strategy as an important factor in the ultimate attainment of language learning and urges teachers to help learners “to learn how to learn” so that they could easily adopt their own strategies.

Though Brown talked about these issues twenty three years ago, sounding like a really long time, these issues still hold their positions in TESOL at present time.

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