Thursday, January 29, 2009

Scattered by Mesén, Robertho for study purpose 2009

There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things (Nicccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513; cited in Rodgers 1983.1)

Language teaching professionals have built up a body of theoretical and practical knowledge since 1980s that has resulted in the formulation of various “innovative approaches to language teaching”. What exactly does the phrase “innovative approaches to language teaching” mean? This is not about the silent way, communicative approach or so. This is not concern here. The concern of this document focuses on why some new ideas or practices spread while others do not. More concretely, why does a new textbook succeed in the public education system of one country while identical materials fail in another? What must program directors at universities, public schools, and private sector institutions do to persuade teachers to use new ways of teaching?

All language teaching professionals doubtless ask themselves such questions often. Yet, until recently, applied linguistics, the discipline that should provide language educators with the knowledge to answer such questions, has been noticeably silent on these issues. This silence is surprising, since understanding what determines the success or failure of new pedagogical ideas and practices is surely a crucial issue, especially for teacher educators.

This document aims to provide language teaching professionals with the theoretical
Knowledge needed to answer precisely these questions. More specifically, asking such questions –which focus primarily on issues of syllabus implementation rather than design – involves adopting a “diffusion –of-innovations” perspective on understanding educational change. This perspective leads to other questions about what change is, what attributes innovations should poses in order to be adopted, how different kinds of individuals react to innovations and how various systematic factors –all sociocultural in nature –interact to affect the implementation of innovations.

Two important goals must be clarified in this document. First, educational change should be part of the basic intellectual preparation of all language teaching professionals- particularly of those individuals who posses or seek to obtain advanced graduate degrees in the field. Second, curriculum development and teacher development are often treated as separate issues, they are in fact indivisible. The adoption and diffusionist perspective on educational change involves addressing the short –and long term professionalism of teachers, on whom real, long lasting change in the classroom always depends.

The implementation of change in language education occurs within a systemic ecology that either promotes or inhibits innovation. In other words, cultural, economic, political, and other factors always mediate the possibility of change. Thus, whatever the language being taught, the problems of effecting change can be analyzed in terms of common sociocultural perspective on change.

A diffusion of innovations perspective on curriculum work is a growth area in language teaching. However, language teaching professional are only beginning to discover innovation as n area of professional practice and academic study. If we are to avoid reinventing the wheel, we must realize that the heyday of the innovation movement in education occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when there was widespread optimism and belief in the ability to effect important changes in educational practice. Nowadays, educators are less optimistic.

Language teaching professionals should also know what limitations of innovation research are. For example, Everett Rogers, one of the leading scholars in this field, notes that diffusion research has been criticized for displaying (1) a pro-innovation bias, in that is has been assumed that such research was conducted only to help promote the adoption of innovations; (2) an inequity bias, in which the socioeconomic and other consequences associated with developing in innovations have been ignored or downplayed; (3) an individual-blame bias, in which individuals (rather than the larger social system) tend to be blame for failure; and (4) a lack of methodological rigor, as when researchers rely on the subjective recollections of informants instead of using objective observational procedures to describe adoption behaviors.

Furthermore, we must remember that all innovation is risky and fraught with difficulty. For instance, Adams and Chen (1981) estimate that approximately 75% of all innovations fail to survive in the long term. Thus, it is not surprising that individuals and organizations involved in managing change have engaged in a continuing search for more effective ways of implementing and maintaining innovations. However, even relatively recent attempts to improve the effectiveness of innovation efforts have met with criticism. For example, Fullan (1989, cited by MacDonald 1991) argues that, within education at least, all the conscious strategies of innovation developed to date have failed to fully achieve desired goals. Though, these issues are not raised to make language teaching professionals shy away from a diffusionist perspective. Otherwise, the importance of continuous innovation as part of professional and organizational development, particularly as circumstances in the wider environment are constantly changing. Language teaching will benefit greatly if language teaching professionals develop their own critically informed tradition of innovation research and practice. This entails being aware of potential problems in diffusion research, borrowing ideas from disciplines that already possess such research traditions (education, management, medicine, anthropology, sociology, development planning, language planning, and urban planning) and gaining practical experience in solving innovation –related problems. Along these lines teachers must experience innovations firsthand if they are to adopt and incorporate these changes into their pedagogical practice. This advice is relevant for all language teaching professionals, particularly program directors, who must reinvent themselves as change agents who know how to promote change. It is only by becoming familiar with both the practice and theory of innovation that participants develop a critical understanding of the relevant issues.

Innovations in second and foreign language teaching

Nothing endures but change. (Heraclitus, fifth century B.C.E)
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well. (William Shakespeare, King Lear; both citations from Henrichsen 1989:63)

(CLT) communicative language teaching

Innovation examples

The British Council’s international development work

The British Council is an important cultural organization and aid agency the runs a variety of language teaching programs worldwide, one of which is the English Language Teaching Officers (ELTO) program. ELTO is funded by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA), the Foreign Office agency responsible for all British aid work, and is administered by the British Council, which is responsible for staffing and managing ELTO projects. ELTO personnel - typically, specialist in curriculum design, materials development, teacher training, or evaluation – operate in underdeveloped countries. They are usually based for up to five years in education ministries, universities, or teacher training institutes. Lately, ELTO projects have also been sited in secondary schools.
From a language teaching perspective, the aims of ELTO projects are quite innovative. Most “regular” language teaching professionals probably view themselves fairly narrowly as language specialists. The job descriptions of ELTO personnel, however, are broader: they have to train counterparts – local teachers and administrators who will take over from the ELTOs once these individuals have – to transform imported pedagogical ideas into appropriate solutions to local problems. The hope is that counterparts will, in the course of time, influence their local colleagues to change their educational practices and values. Ensuring that this “multiplier effect” occurs is crucial if the innovations promoted by ELTO personnel are to survive the end of a project. The challenge ELTO personnel face, therefore, is to change how local teachers think and behave in the classroom; in addition, they must create managerial infrastructures for the development and implementation of innovations that are self-sustaining in the long term.

Something that looks odd is that while most methodology textbooks focus on learner centered ELTO projects do on teachers. In doing this, ELTO come up with teachers better prepared to work and make their classes student-centered. An emphasis on teacher development in no way contradicts the importance of learner centered instruction in language teaching; it recognizes that innovations like learner –centered instruction can not occur without teachers’ understanding and support.

Language teaching professionals must also become more sensitive to the potential impact that sociocultural factors can have on a project’s success are likely to vary from place to place.

The notional –functional syllabus

In the 1970s Europe began to experience significant economic, political, and infrastructural integration. These social changes made the Council of Europe recognized that monolingualism was fast becoming a problem for Europeans. Consequently, the Council of Europesought to develop new syllabuses to meet these learner’s language needs. The result was the notional –functional syllabus which saw the needs of adult learners as being quite different from those of secondary school students, ho study foreign languages as part of their general education. In contrast, adults typically require foreign language instruction that is geared to specific professional and personal needs.

The notional –functional syllabus was innovative in two respects. First, it was one the first syllabus to be theoretically based on learner –centered, communication oriented approach to language instruction. Second, the notional –functional syllabus was claimed to be analytic rather tan synthetic syllabus. In analytic syllabus, learning is organized in terms of the social purposes that learners have for learning the target language. This suggests that learners must interact with and analyze samples of language that are relevant to their needs. Learners are invited, directly or indirectly, to recognize the linguistis components of the language behavior he is acquiring, we are in effect basing our approach on the learner’s analytic capabilities.

This notional –functional syllabus was very popular by the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, it had spread all over the world. However, the question is how this innovative model became widespread. First, it was developed by applied linguists who had the expertise to develop a new syllabus. Once these experts had finished laying out the theoretical parameters of this new syllabus, materials writers translated these parameters into pedagogically useful categories that were used to organize teaching materials. Finally, the task of implementing these new materials was handed over to teachers.

The process syllabus

This syllabus evolved at the University of Lancaster. The process syllabus was, and continues quite innovative. First, it is a radically analytic syllabus, in that it does not preselect the linguistic content of instruction. Instead, it uses problem solving tasks. Second, the process syllabus is situated within a curricular approach to organizing language instruction. In order to understand how this is so, we must distinguish between curriculum and a syllabus. These widely used terms have different meanings to British and American writers. Syllabus refers to the content or subject matter of an individual subject whereas curriculum refers to the totality of content to be taught and aims to be realized within one school or educational system. Third, in its strong from at least, not only the content but the materials, methodology, and types of assessment used in a course are not predetermined.

The process syllabus promotes innovation through a problem –solving model change. In traditional syllabus writers specify content before a course begins. Traditional syllabuses are predictive documents because they set out what is to be taught. In the process syllabus, however, content, materials, methodology, and assessment are negotiated between the instructor and the learners through the course. Learners help to select course content and material and provide input on how they want to be taught and assed.

The natural approach

The natural approach was first developed as a method of EFL teaching in USA to meet the language learning needs of beginning and early –intermediate adult learners. Many of its proposals dovetail so neatly with the theory of second language acquisition proposed by krashen. As an approach exemplifies the pedagogical application of this particular theory of SLA-namely, monitor theory. Monitor theory consist of five hypotheses.
1. The acquisition -learning hypothesis posits that adults can get a second language or foreign language through the activation of two different systems (1) acquisition involving subconscious learning process that allow them to pick up the language naturally, as in first language acquisition; and (2) learning, consisting of the development of formal conscious knowledge about the grammatical rules of the language. According to this hypothesis, formal instruction does not aid acquisition but is necessary for learning.

2. The monitor theory states that conscious learning can be used only to monitor or edit output that has been generated by the acquired system. Even then, monitor use can be effective only if three conditions are met. Performers must (19 have enough time to monitor their output, (2) be focused on form, and (3) know the grammatical rule for the form in question.

3. The input hypothesis states that learners acquire syntax and vocabulary by receiving and understanding input that is slightly beyond their current level of competence. By guessing and inferring the meaning of linguistic information embedded in the communicative context, learners are able to comprehend syntax and vocabulary that would otherwise be too difficult for them to understand. This input is known as comprehensible input or “i+1.” Thus, learners gradually acquire (not learn) fluency by being exposed to i +1 in the target language.

4. the natural order hypothesis proposes that there is a natural and predictable order of development in which adults and children acquire the grammatical structures of the target language. That order of acquisition can occur in adults only when they are “acquiring” rather than “learning” a language. During acquisition, similar errors will occur in learners’ interlanguage regardless of their native language.

5. The affective hypothesis states that affective factors, such as self-esteem, anxiety, and social and psychological distance, can impede learners’ progress in the target language. Learners who have low affective filters are more likely to seek and obtain more input, to be self-confident in their interactions with native speakers, and to make good acquisitional use of the input they receive.

The natural approach proposes that (1) language classrooms should promote communication in the target language rather than focus on its structure; (2) teachers should allow linguistic competence to emerge over time, rather than try to dictate when and in what order particular linguistic items should be learned; and (3) error correction should focus on meaning, not grammatical form.

The procedural syllabus

The procedural, or communicational, syllabus emerged out of the Bangalore Project, an experimental English language teaching project that lasted from 1979 to 1984. the locus of the project was eight classes in primary and secondary schools in southern India, where English is a school subject. This project was initiated because of dissatisfaction with the status quo- in this case, a structural syllabus coupled with an Audiolingual methodology(Prabhu, 1987) or, according to Tickoo (1996), a form of grammar translation.

The analytic syllabus type was innovative in at least three aspects. First, it was tried to develop a syllabus with a content that was not linguistically based. Instead of organizing instruction in terms of preselected language items, they eventually hit upon the idea of using tasks as the principal carrier of language content. Second, it developed a meaning-focused methodology in which students learn language by communicating. Third, Prabhu tried (at least in principle) to avoid using form –focused activities in the classroom (i.e, explicit grammar teaching or error correction). Arguably, the idea of using games to promote communicative language use predates the beginning of the project.

This problem solving model of change probably helped teachers who participated in the project’s early stages to develop favorable attitudes toward task-based teaching.

Task –based language teaching

Task-based language teaching focuses on analytic activities as well as material. It contributes to work with different groups based on top -down activities.

The context based approach

This context is well – established among language learners. The former is because any innovation under this perception must strengthen the content based method. The latter means that language learning is contextualized and purposeful. The more language is used in the pursuit of a specific goal, the sooner the language is acquired.

Language proficiency sneaks into the students’ tool kit almost without noticing as the students’ interest in the content lead to language solutions. The essential difference between a content –based approach to language learning and traditional approaches is that the focus is not exclusively, or even primarily, on language learning. The rationale for the content –based approach has two different kinds of knowledge: declarative knowledge is what a person knows about; procedural knowledge is what a person can do.

The content –based approach produces both declarative and procedural. Consequently, the students gains mastery of the language (procedural knowledge) and mastery of the subject (declarative knowledge) simultaneously. Innovations which focus in the content –based approach is very important because through activities such as games and songs teachers can transform classes into attractive and effective ones.

Implications for educational change

Curricular innovation is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon. It is a socially situated activity that is affected by ethical and systemic constraints, the personal characteristics of potential adopters, the attributes of innovations, and the strategies that are used to manage change in a particular context. The newness of any idea or practice is more a matter of adopters’ perceptions than an objectively definable fact.

In a society like ours, academic patterns change more slowly than any others. In my lifetime, in England, they have crystallized rather than loosened. I used to think that it would be about as hard to change, say, the Oxford and Cambridge scholarship examination as to conduct a revolution. I now believe that I was over –optimistic. (C. P. Snow; cited in miles 1964; 1)

One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it – you have no certainly, until you try. (Sophocles, 400 B. C. E., cited in Rodgers 1983: 163)

A theoretical framework for understanding innovation: who adopts what, where, when, why, and how?

A diffusionist perspective on curricular innovation involves (1) explaining differences in the rates of adoption by users in terms of potential adopters’ and social characteristics, social system variables, and the attributes of innovation; (2) analyzing how different channels of communication (broadcast and print media, electronic mail, face –to – face communication, etc) may be used to inform potential adopters about an innovation; (3) identifying the stages potential adopters go through in deciding whether to adopt, maintain, reject, or discontinue an innovation; (4) understanding the personal and social consequences of innovations; and (5) analyzing how change may be designed, implemented, and maintained.

“Who” outlines the social roles played by different participants. “Adopts” refers to the decision –making processes potential adopters go through as they decide whether to adopt or reject an innovation. “What” defines curricular innovation. “Where” situates innovation in its sociocultural context. “When” defines diffusion as an interaction between time and the number of users in a social system who adopt an innovation. “Why” lays out the psychological profiles of different adopter types and discusses the attributes that successful innovations possess. “How” classifies different approaches to affecting change.

Characteristics of a renewed and innovative pedagogical practice

It should not be routinized.
It should be a conscious act.
One that enables a good atmosphere in the classroom, excellent participation of students, permanent interactions between teacher and students, and among students.
It should enable students to construct knowledge by means of different strategies.
Where individual differences are taken into account and prior knowledge is recognized.
Where a holistic view of knowledge is stimulated.
Where the context in which the school is located is considered along the type of students.
The teacher varies strategies, methods and techniques according to subject, objectives and curricular content.
Where students’ interest in learning is awakened.
Where the teacher recovers the social and cultural knowledge of the community and adapts the curriculum to the real world and the student’s needs.
Where the teacher centers his teaching on real problems and solutions of students confronting knowledge and their development and before a local, national and worldwide context.
Where the teacher uses not only the classroom but the whole school and community.
One that allows students to develop autonomy from self learning, because this fosters confidence and gives greater value to what they do.
One that stimulates creativity as one of the best abilities an individual can develop to solve concrete situations in the learning process.


  1. Wow!!! This is all too real. You should be Minister of Education, probably you will be...

  2. It is an interesting article. There are many things that teachers have to take into account at the time to innovate their teaching methods trying to make a success work, because although we really want to innovate is possible that it could fail. This reading can help us to understand more about this topic and to get a help to this teaching process.

  3. Its sounds very intresting for our ststem educational, the new ways have of teaching have to be releated with the approach, specially in our society. Its involve the cultural part of the stllabus. Moreover the curriculum needs a change must nowdays.Because, the culture had been changib a lot the teachers have the missions to innovate evertthing in the classroon. Also, in the skills had modified. The different approach had sufered the new wat yo look the teach. This article was showed the imporyance to innovate our job.

  4. Defining Educational Innovation

    First of all it is an excellent article, because the innovation is an important topic that we as teacher have to be involved to improve our classes in a better way for our students.
    Unfortunately innovations are not represented in many of the classes nowadays because of the lack of technology, in many poor or rural high schools around the country. Also many of the teachers continue thinking that the better way to teach is in the way that they learned years ago, so innovate a class is very difficult for them and for many students that want to continue with the way that the rest of their teachers taught them.
    Continue with the way that the teacher is the unique person that can explain the topic and the students only have to complete a book is boring and unuseful for students.
    For this reason I think that innovations are an amazing tool for improve the classes in a successful way, educational innovation is offering new ideas, that we have to take into account diary to develop our class, and to get a better result in our students development.
    The innovation is very important and exciting for teenagers because is a dynamic way in that they can learn, also students love technology so, they could be more interested and creative in our classes and this can be an easy way to learn for them, because is very important that students could have the chance to participate in classes because in this way they can obtain more interaction with the topic and can learn faster.
    So we have in our hands the opportunity of innovate our classes because technology is attainable resource, so we have to choose carefully which activity is the best for each level an start to innovate all our classes to teach in a better and useful way.

    I love dynamic classes and I know that students too, so I will innovate my classes without a doubt...

  5. Your exposition was very interesting, it give us as teachers a clear idea of innovation and how to applied it easily in the classroom for make the classroom active and funny not only for students but also for the teacher.

  6. Well, where to begin? From the very beginning the educational matter has been studied, researched, analyzed, etc. There have been lots of new concepts, approaches, methods, strategies, and principles that have changed over the years, in order to keep education up to date. It is indeed fascinating how as the times changed, people get used to new technologies that make them learn by the way it is more interesting at the time. First, with the usage of books, the students’ best friend, which many centuries ago was not as common as it was from 1 or 2 centuries to date. Then the usage of television was indeed very attracting for some teachers few years ago. And now computers, iPods, pads, and cell phones, etc. everything is at hand to learn faster, better and with more enthusiasm than before.
    As it is the case, teachers too have got involved in the changes held at each time; attitude as well has changed with them. The typical church-sermon-pray class is not suitable and recognized any more as “the way to teach”. Not even free-aimed methods or strategies based on the communicative approach, task based approach, silent method, etc. those concepts can easily be overshadowed because of the real, attracting, almost as a show presented by those little devices that really make students interact.
    Some argue that restructuring schools is the only answer, while others decry that this too is just a pipe dream diverting our attention from the core curriculum changes that are desperately needed. As mentioned by some university professor the schools are the reflection of the society, and if the case the methods used in class are too a reflex from the technological changes in the world.