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October 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

From Hierarchical to Lateral Knowledge Flows: Teaching-Learning Relationships

Dr. S. Joseph Arul Jayraj is the Head and Associate Professor of English, at St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Tiruchirappalli-620 002, Tamil Nadu, India. He is an ardent lover of teaching and research. He has written two books and co-written three books. His current professional interests are linguistics and applied linguistics, literary criticism, literary theories, and creative writing. Email: 6jayraj@gmail.com

 

Abstract

The paper offers conceptual clarification of certain theories of education such as Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Input Hypothesis, Constructivism, Social Constructivism and Dialogical Action.  In the light of these concepts of educational psychology, it proceeds to diagnose the difficulties faced in the process of teaching and learning English in the present system of Course design, and proposes solutions in designing, teaching and testing of language learning tasks in English as a second language through General English Course. In the background of these illuminations, the paper analyses how knowledge construction happens in the learners. It renders a brief account of the need for it in the Indian educational realm. It enlists the strategies practised in teaching and training students to listen, speak, read and write in English effectively through Trend-Setter: An Interactive General English Textbook. It enumerates how these concepts are taken into account while designing an interactive General English Course Textbook named Trend-Setter. It explains how useful changes are incorporated into designing the curriculum and the textbook, evolving teaching pedagogy, and practising teaching-learning processes and modes of evaluation in order to make language learning ‘happen’ in the learners.

 

Conceptual Clarification of Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Input Hypothesis, Constructivism, Social Constructivism and Dialogical Action

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1990) defines the term ‘learn’ as follows: “Gain knowledge of or skill in by study, experience, or being taught” (p. 367). Psychology has given new concepts of teaching-learning process, curriculum, teaching methods, and modes of evaluation. Learning is based on psychological ideas about human nature and also how a language is learned.

One of the predominant learning theories is Behaviourism. Behaviourist views of ‘stimulus and response’ are based on laboratory experiments conducted by Pavlov on a dog. At the sight of or smell of meat, the dog salivated. B. F. Skinner applied the ‘stimulus and response’ theory to language teaching and learning. The Behaviourists have concluded that learning is a process by which stimulus and response bonds are established. When successful response bonds are established, a successful response immediately and frequently follows a stimulus (Krishnaswamy, 1992, pp. 207-208; Methods of Teaching English, 1995, pp. 3-4).

Thus, learning, as a process, implies what happens in the psyche of the learner during and after learning takes place. For some Behaviourist theorists, learning brings about a change in the learner’s behaviour. Behaviourists believe that a child is born with very limited instinctive responses. Learning is a process of gradually building up of a complicated pattern of conditioned responses. In a Behaviourist language-learning ambience, human mind learns language primarily as a system of stimulus and response-habits, reinforced by constant repetition, but capable of modifying it by further conditioning (The New Caxton Encyclopedia, Vol.2, 1997, p.632).

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), V. M. Bekhterev (1857-1927), John B. Watson (1878-1958), Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) have researched on the ‘conditioned reflexes.’ These ‘conditioned reflexes’ will make the learners aware of the errors committed, and make them consciously take precaution to eradicate those errors. By constant and continuous practice, this process will result in unconscious production of correct language, just as animals salivate either at the sight of or smell of food or at the signal given to have food in automation (Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology, 1985, p.180).

Edward Lee Thorndike’s laws of learning are ‘Readiness’ (Individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to learn); ‘Exercise’ (Things most often repeated are best remembered); ‘Effect’ (Learning takes place properly when it results in satisfaction and the learner derives pleasure out of it); ‘Primacy’ (Things learned first create a strong impression. So things that are taught must be right from the beginning); ‘Intensity’ (The more intense the material is taught by involving the learners in doing the linguistic activities, the more likely it will be retained); ‘Recency’ (Things learned recently are best remembered. It can be achieved through frequent review and summarization); and ‘Freedom’ (Things freely learned are best learned. So freedom can be given to learners to indulge in linguistic activities without any sense of fear. It will ensure learning to take place very fast) (http://wikieducator.org/images/2/2a/ Important_Behaviourist_theories.pdf). Knowledge of these laws do impart to the teachers better understanding of the learning behaviours of the learners.

 

Behaviourism and the nature of learning

In the case of Pavlov’s conditioning experiments on a dog and B.F. Skinner’s ‘operant conditioning,’ behaviour becomes a response to stimulus. It says that behaviour is strengthened by immediate reinforcement and weakened by immediate punishment. John B. Watson defined learning as a sequence of stimulus and response actions in observable cause and effect relationships. Watson believed that the stimuli that humans receive may be generated internally (hunger), or externally (smell of meat). As a learning theory, Behaviourism does not take into account the importance of the internal processes that take place in the mind of the learner during the time of learning. Behaviourists believe learning is the acquisition of new behaviour through conditioning of the learner’s mind, which results in the production of language or knowledge. They intend to explain neither how the learner learns nor the process through which learning takes place in the learner. For Behaviourists, what happens between the stimulus and the response is not important (Gail M. Jones & Laura Brader-Araje http://ac-journal.org/journal/ vol5/iss3/special/jones.pdf).

 

 

Cognitivism and the nature of learning

In reaction against Behaviourism, Cognitivism does not take into account an external exhibition of learning or knowledge, but focuses on the internal processes and changes that take place in the psyche of the learner during the time of learning. In other words, Cognitivist theory has developed as a reaction to Behaviourism. Cognitivism is a learning theory that focuses on the processes involved in learning rather than on the observed behaviour. As opposed to Behaviourists, Cognitivists do not require an outward exhibition of learning, but focus more on the internal processes and connections that take place during learning.

According to Cognitivism, the learner is an active participant in the process of learning. The learner employs various strategies to process and construct his/her personal understanding of the content to which he/she is exposed (http://ac-journal.org/journal/vol5/iss3/special/jones.pdf).

Cognitive theory is defined as “the process of formulating thoughts, perceptions, and feelings in

words, phrases, and sentences” (Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology, 1985, pp.178-179).

Cognitivists have objected to Behaviourists’ belief that learning is simply a reaction to a stimulus

and have ignored the idea that thinking plays an important role. Students are not considered

anymore as recipients that teachers fill with knowledge, but as active participants in the process

of learning (http://www.academia.edu/9332688/Comparing_Learning_Theories_Behaviorism_

Cognitivism_Constructivism_and_Humanistic_Learning_Theories_Comparison_Among_L._

Theories). A few notable Cognitivists who have contributed to the development of the cognitive

theory are Benjamin Bloom, Lorin Anderson, David Krathwohl, and Noam Chomsky.

Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, who designed Taxonomy (1956), identified three domains of learning such as Cognitive—mental skills (knowledge), Affective—growth in feelings or emotional areas (attitude), and Psychomotor—manual or physical skills (skills). This taxonomy of learning behaviours sets the purpose for the act of learning and the learning outcome. There are six major categories of cognitive processes. They are i) ‘Knowledge,’ ii) ‘Comprehension,’ iii) ‘Application,’ iv) ‘Analysis,’ v) ‘Synthesis’ and vi) ‘Evaluation.’ Lorin W. Anderson (1945-) and David Krathwohl (1921-), former students of Bloom, revisited the cognitive domain suggested by Bloom in the mid-nineties and made some changes. The revised cognitive domain expects at the end of educational training, and learning process that i) the learner must be able to ‘remember,’ recall and retrieve previously learnt information, ii) he/she must ‘understand’ the meaning of what is learnt and state it in one’s own words, iii) he/she must ‘apply’ an abstract concept learnt in a new situation, iv) ‘analyse’ the ability to distinguish the activity from concept on which it is based, v) ‘evaluate’ the value of material and ideas, and vi)‘create’ a complete structure from parts or new structures of sentences and new meaning from them rather than just remembering facts (rote learning). In other words, after a learning episode is over, the learner is expected to have acquired a new skill, knowledge, and/or attitude (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom. html).

Noam Chomsky’s research on the structure of language led him to the conclusion that “man as distinct from animal, does have innate ideas” (The New Caxton Encyclopedia, Vol.2, 1977, p. 632). Chomsky reacts against Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour on the basis that language acquisition happens because of some innate abilities the child as a learner is endowed with. That is the reason why an individual child as a learner is able to produce innumerable patterns of sentence he/she has never heard of. One of the most famous criticisms addressed to Behaviourism is Noam Chomsky’s argument that language cannot be acquired purely through conditioning, and must be at least partly explained by the existence of some inner abilities (Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, 2001, p. 65). Behaviourism, for example, falls short of explaining how children can learn an infinite number of utterances that they have never heard of. Thus, Cognitivism is a learning theory that focuses on the processes involved in learning rather than on the observed behaviour.

Stephen Krashen (1941- ), an American linguist, educational researcher, explains ‘Input Hypothesis,’ a process through which the learner acquires a second language. For example, even though the teacher explains certain things, all the learners in the same classroom do not perceive the concept uniformly, but every individual learner understands it in his own way based on his past experiences, culture and contexts. Milton’s explanations are linked with prior knowledge of the reader (‘i’) and the result is that new knowledge (‘+1’) is constructed. Thus, knowledge is constructed through an active conscious and contextualized learning process rather than unconscious acquiring of it.

 

Constructivism and the nature of learning

Constructivist theorist John Dewey (1859-1952) is the American philosophical founder of this approach. David Paul Ausubel (1918-2008), an educational psychologist, Jerome Seymour Bruner (1915-2016), an American psychologist, who made significant contribution to human cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, and Jean Piaget (1896-1980), a Swiss clinical psychologist of cognitive development and epistemological view, are the chief theorists among the Constructivists.

Constructivism also posits that learning is an active and constructive process. Learner is an active constructor of knowledge.  Learners actively construct or create their own subjective representations of objective reality. Since learning is an active as well as a reflective process, learners possess prior knowledge and experiences which they make use of while constructing knowledge in the process of learning (Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, 2001, p. 109).

Constructivism-based pedagogy has emerged as one of the greatest influences on the practice of education. Jean Piaget is of the opinion that a learner builds language and knowledge based on the prior language competence and knowledge he/she has evolved in the teaching-learning process. Learning is considered both an active and a reflective process because a learner actively constructs language and knowledge on himself/herself. It is based on the belief that “‘language users must individually construct the meaning of words, phrases, sentences and texts’” (Von Glasersfeld, 1989, p. 132). For example, “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” (Paradise Lost, Book-I, ll. 254-255). For Milton, Hell and Heaven are not places or abodes that exist anywhere in the universe, but only states of mind.

 

Social Constructivism and the nature of learning

Social Constructivism focuses on an individual’s learning that takes place because of the person’s interactions with a group. The social constructivists view knowledge as a phenomenon that is constructed and not created. They believe that society also indulges in constructing knowledge in the learners apart from the learners’ personal efforts to construct it on themselves (Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, 2001, p.194). Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) is a Soviet psychologist, who is the major theorist among the social constructivists. Learning takes place in a context where learners are introduced to knowledge slightly beyond their level of development. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) refers to the distance between the actual developmental level and the level of potential development under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. Learners learn better when they are driven by internal motivation, which gives confidence in their potential for learning. It is more powerful than any external motivation. Social Constructivism underscores the importance of language learning, and acquisition of knowledge happens from an interpersonal relationship between the child as a learner and the external environment such as family, peers, and society at large as teachers, before it becomes intrapersonal (Vygtosky, 1978, p. 27). It can be made possible by practising the theory of dialogical action. It does not emphasize the teachers’ role as the active one in the teacher-learner relationships. Thus, it emphasizes the point that the learners must be given freedom to indulge in dialogical action with the teacher or peers (http://www.perfectfit.org/CT/freire4.html).

Psychological teaching-learning theories are explained based on the answers to the following questions:

BEHAVIOURISM

COGNITIVISM

CONSTRUCTIVISM

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM

  1. Who decides what is to be taught and learnt?

The teacher decides ‘what’ and ‘how’ the students should do according to his/her instruction.

Students carry out whatever the teacher says.

Students construct their own example based on the teacher’s model.

The peers/members of the society contribute to the learning of the students.

  1. What are the teaching-learning stages to be followed?

Teacher transfers information to learners with reward and punishment.

Materials are designed with interesting features to make students learn the units taught.

Students use a range of resources to make sense of the received information on their own.

Students discuss with the peers/members of the society to make sense of the information.

For example, When the teacher teaches Present Tense, he/she explains the forms and the norms with examples and trains the students to construct sentences in the target language.

In the adopt phase (Peter Barry, 1995, pp. 192-193), students recall the forms and the norms explained by the teacher with examples and reproduce the same examples in the target language.

In the adapt phase (Peter Barry, 1995, pp. 192-193), students do not reproduce the same examples given by the teacher. They have them as models and construct similar sentences on their own initiative in the target language.

In the adept phase (Peter Barry, 1995, pp. 192-193), students learn/ acquire the skill of reconstructing the sentences on their own initiative in the target language based on some other models, which they have imbibed from different sources.

  1. What initiative must the learner take based on the inputs received from the teacher and the peers?

The teacher decides what activity the students must do and how they must do it.

Students must carry out the activity, based on teacher’s instruction.

Students must construct examples of their own.

Students must reconstruct examples based on the model given by the members of the society.

4. What is the outcome of teaching-learning process?

The teacher teaches, tests the concept/ unit taught, and ensures the reproduction of it in the target language.

Students reproduce in the target language, the concept/unit taught.

Students reconstruct new knowledge to fit their own situation based on the concept/ unit taught.

Students try to modify the reconstructed new knowledge further based on the inputs given by the peers/ members of the society.

5. How does enhancement of learning take place?

The teacher plans to impart knowledge to the students through the activity. The teacher also explains facts and figures, principles and processes involved in the activity.

Students learn facts and figures without knowing the principles and processes involved in the activity.

Students try to understand the principles and processes involved in doing the activity.

Students try to modify their understanding of facts and figures by verifying the principles and processes involved in doing the activity based on the inputs given by peers/the members of the society.

The following words cited from Ephesians 5: 30-31, explain the following equations: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

e. g. 1+1=2

1+1=2

1+1=3

1+1=1

When the teacher says that a man and a woman are united in marriage, they are two persons.

 

The students approve of the fact that when a man and a woman are united in marriage, they are two persons.

 

The students think about the concept and find out the fact that when a man and a woman are united in marriage, they become parents, and therefore, there will be three members in the family.

The peers/members of the society make the students perceive the metaphysical truth in the statement that when a man and a woman are united in marriage, they become one in soul through the union of their two bodies.

Similarly, in the context of English language-teaching, the teacher tries to elicit the desired response from the students who are presented with a target stimulus.

 

Stephen Krashan’s input is equal to “i”. Comprehending the input message is marked as “+1”. Therefore, “i+1” results in successful communication.

  • It is similar to that of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which refers to the distance between the actual developmental level (Cognitive) and the level of potential development under individual adult guidance (Constructivist) or (Social Constructivist) theories in collaboration with more capable peers of learning.
  • The theory of dialogical action emphasizes the point that the learners must be given freedom to indulge in dialogical action with the teacher or peers.

 

Teacher as an Instructor, Lecturer and Trainer versus Teacher as a Facilitator, Supporter, and Assistant

Instead of directly instructing the learners, the teacher of English plays the role of a facilitator, who helps the learners to have proper understanding of the linguistic components taught on their own.

Teacher as an Instructor, Lecturer and Trainer

Teacher as a Facilitator, Supporter, and Assistant

a. Delivers lectures, gives instructions, dictates notes, and expects the learners to remember and reproduce it in the examination.

a. Facilitates and supports the learners to learn by creating ample opportunities for them to learn.

b. Trains and prepares the learners to write or gives answers based on a set curriculum.

b. Assists and creates ambience for the learners to arrive at their own understanding of what they have learnt.

c. Does not encourage the learners to indulge in dialogue with the teacher or peers and thereby converts the class into a dramatic monologue by always dominating and not allowing the learners to do the activities on their own efforts and initiatives. 

c. Encourages the learners to indulge in dialogue with the teacher or peers and thereby converts the class into a vibrant one by always allowing the learners to do the activities on their own efforts and initiatives. 

 

Thus, in Behaviourist learning environments, the learners are made to remain passive recipients to be filled with knowledge by the instructor whereas in Constructivist pedagogy, the learners play active role in the process of learning.

 

Principles of language teaching and learning

The child learns its mother tongue from the family environment. As far as learning English as a Second language is concerned, an environment conducive to learning of it has to be created in the classroom. This can be achieved by creating language-learning situations and involving the learners in language-learning activities. To do so, the Structural Approach of teaching English is considered a useful method. But it is realized that involving the students in only one approach is not enough. Certain aids from other methods are also taken. If the motivating factor is missing, the children will not show interest in learning the language. So, it is obvious that teaching and learning English language is based on certain concepts and principles.

The indispensable function of language is communication. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing are the four skills of any language. Therefore, a good language-teaching programme must include all the four skills and contain a unified approach to language learning. These four language skills are closely related to each other. So, improvement in one skill depends on improvement in the other (Carroll, 1969, p.15).

 

Selectivity, gradation and proportion

The language material is designed and graded on the basis of the principles of proceeding from the simple to the complex, from the known to the unknown, and from the concrete to the abstract in order to make language learning ‘happen’ in a systematic manner. Teaching of language means training the students to listen, speak, read and write a language correctly. These different aspects of language teaching demand different units of time and significance in working out the language activities. So, each activity is given proportionate time, attention and practice in the General English Course syllabus as follows:

Tasks Designed under Each Unit

Skills Focused to Be Developed under Each Unit

Hours Allotted

1. Pre-reading Task

Listening and Reading Skills through teacher-led reading practice

2 Hours

2. Objectives

3. Text

4. Glossary

Referring to the dictionary and finding out the forms, meanings for the content words and phrases, and using them in sentences

2 Hours

5. Reading Comprehension

Reading, Speaking and Writing Skills

1 Hour

6. Critical Analysis

Critical Thinking and Speaking Skills

2 Hours

7. Creative Task

Creative Thinking and Speaking Skills

2 Hours

8. General Writing Skills

Writing Skill

1 Hour

9. Activities on Grammar

Grammar Using Skill: Twelve Tenses in Active Voice

2 Hours

In any language-teaching programme, the core of the issue is what to teach and in what order and proportion. So, before the students are made to practise language activities, they are encouraged and motivated in order to get interested in what they do (Carroll, 1969, p.24; Byrne, 1978, p.289-290). Therefore, the writers of Trend-Setter set the target of learning for the students by taking into consideration their age, ability, needs, standard and the stipulated time to complete the language-learning activities. It is ensured that the language activities that are taught are within the capacity of the learners to learn, and the standard of the activities are increased gradually.

 

The difficulties faced in the process of teaching and learning the general English course

In today’s Indian society, it is one of the biggest challenges for English language teachers to impart communication skills to students, particularly the first-generation students, who are mostly from villages and who lack English language using atmosphere. Most of the learners in the Indian educational set up study in schools which practise vernacular medium of instruction. Furthermore, majority of them are first generation learners who have English language speaking ambience neither at school nor at home. When these learners come to pursue higher education at Colleges or Universities, they are unable to cope with the new educational ambience and to understand the lessons taught in the classroom. Therefore, in order to train and empower these learners to cope with the English medium of instruction and to bridge the gap prevalent between school and higher education, Course Books on imparting Basic Grammatical Skills in English namely Let’s Communicate-I & II,  are designed and prescribed for First Year Undergraduate students, and an Interactive General English Course Book entitled Trend-Setter is designed and prescribed for Second Year Undergraduate students in St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India. These Course Books enable the students to enhance their English language proficiency further through Part-II English, known as General English, which forms a part of the Indian educational curriculum. Trend-Setter is written based on the Minor Research Project done by the Principal Author ̶ Reference No: F. MRP-4037/11(UGC-SERO). It is approved and sanctioned by the University Grants Commission which functions under the purview of the Human Resource Ministry of the Government of India, New Delhi.

The teaching of English as a second language has always been presumed that the language can be taught by exposing the students and in getting them acquainted with the great works of literature. Thus, English Language Teaching is based on the premise of language learning through the conscious study of its literature. This methodology might have worked to a considerable extent with the learners picking up the rudiments of the language intuitively by imitating the rhetorical use of the language recorded in the great works of literature. However, from a scientific perspective, language is a skill that needs to be learnt through conscious strategies that would enable the learners to acquire the skill gradually in a scientifically proven manner.

Ideally, any textbook on English language learning at the tertiary level should prove to be a further step in gaining mastery over those language skills acquired at the secondary school level. But unfortunately, English Reader I & II, the textbooks published by Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation prescribed at the higher secondary level have literary pieces to be learnt. While perusing these units very closely, the following serious apprehensions arise whether these texts prescribed are suitable to the standard of the learners and whether the students are able to comprehend the literary pieces such as Mark Antony’s speech on the death of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s monumental Roman historical play Julius Caesar, D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Snake” and Rupert Brooke’s poem “Soldier.” In order to understand these texts and knowing their contextual background, serious efforts have to be taken even in comprehending and assimilating the aesthetic aspects of these texts. By any stretch of imagination, it would prove to be a very challenging task for a student of the higher secondary level to remember even a few lines from these texts. The literary pieces that are prescribed are of least help to students to acquire communicative skills because students who enter the portals of collegiate education lack pathetically the skill of even writing a few sentences in English correctly, which only implies that students had somehow written certain answers from memory and successfully completed their higher secondary education without ever acquiring the basic skills of expressing their own views or ideas flawlessly. Hence, it is high time to do away with the conventional General English syllabus that is highly content-oriented and memory-based. There is a dire need to design a new syllabus that is need-based and task-based.

 

The need to have an interactive general English textbook

The Courses popularly known as General English (GE) in ESL context and English Literature do have specific purpose of their own, namely to teach English Language through LSRW skills and Literature. The goal of teaching and learning English varies according to the purpose of its use. The general aims and specific objectives of the syllabus designed to teach General English and English Literature are dissimilar and the tasks the learners are expected to do after studying these two categories of syllabus are also dissimilar. In other words, the rationale behind learning General English (GE) is to acquire English for General Communicative Purposes (EGCP), and the reason for studying English Literature is to learn English for Literary Purposes (ELP). If this is true, then why does the content under these two categories of syllabus namely Prose, Poetry, Short Stories, Novels, One-Act Plays, Drama, and a few Units of Grammar always remain the same? Why do the learners fail to learn English well even after twelve years of learning it? The answer to these questions is that the designed syllabus and textbooks do not take into account the real language learning difficulties and needs of the learners.

The pivotal reason for the difficulties of English language teaching in the Indian educational scenario is prescribing the textbooks for General English Course which are content-oriented and not skill-oriented. This trend of prescribing content-oriented textbooks is blindly followed even in various reputed Schools and Colleges throughout the country. Even the University Grants Commission (UGC)-approved syllabus is not an exception to it. The pattern of the question-paper designed and used in the educational institutions is subservient to test the knowledge of the learners on the lessons prescribed and not the skills of the learners. Under the pedagogy of language through literature, the learners are trained in memorizing the material taught and are tested how efficiently they are able to reproduce the memorized material in the examination. The learners are unable to listen and understand any write-up in English. They are also unable to read and understand a paragraph, speak and write a few sentences on their own which are grammatically correct. The learners are not trained and tested in language-using tasks.

This trend of language teaching and testing has relegated the learners to a position in which they have to indulge in frequent language hangover and exhaustion, and created a situation in which the learners are expected to reproduce the material memorized which results in unintelligible linguistic communication. With the content-oriented syllabus, textbooks and testing system in vogue, the learners cannot be trained to learn language skills in English. Having in mind this impoverished condition of the learners in learning English, Trend-Setter, is conceived and designed with an interactive cum remedial material. While designing the text and the linguistic activities, the authors of Trend-Setter clarified themselves with the concepts, which are related to language-learning theories such as Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Input Hypothesis, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, and Dialogical Action, in order to make language learning ‘happen’ in the learners.

The textbook guarantees the participation of every learner in the language learning process under the direct supervision and assistance of the teacher of English. The general aims and the specific objectives, which are clearly written in the beginning of each activity, state very clearly the rationale behind designing these language activities because the clearly stated aims and objectives are intended to contribute a lot to the teachers from language-teaching point of view and to the learners from the language-learning point of view. All the activities are well-graded because only then, at the end of the Course, the learners can certainly feel that they are empowered to accomplish the task of language learning with confidence in communicating in English without any sense of fear.

The general aim of Trend-Setter is to make the students overcome their fear of English language and enable them to get acquainted with the basics of the language through practice. The difficulties faced by the learners and the teachers are gathered through oral and written feed-back, and are discussed thoroughly, and the teachers are oriented to teach the book accordingly. Having grasped these facts, Trend-Setter is published with its focus on imparting functional English language skills.

In this context, Trend-Setter has taken into consideration the reality of the knowledge and skills possessed by the students, and using this fact as the basic premise, the textbook has been so designed and graded that students are trained to learn the essential skills of the language with the specific objectives of developing these skills consciously. With the appropriate contextual knowledge and with the view to sustaining the learners’ cognitive interest, the units of the texts are carefully chosen. It certainly incites an interest among them, and therefore ideally suits the present language needs of the undergraduates. It also enables them to acquire the basic language skills effectively and express themselves with clarity. The objectives and skills are so graded that on the completion of the given exercises, the students use the language confidently.

Trend-Setter, which is designed to promote communicative competence of the learners, aims at promoting interactive skills through the tasks that are designed on the texts prescribed in the textbook. The textbook writers have taken into account both aims and objectives in order to specifically accomplish the established goals. The materials and the tasks designed guarantee the learners’ success in acquiring language skills. It is the task of the language teacher to make use of the course materials, teach, monitor, assist and facilitate the learners in learning English. The emphasis is laid on doing the language tasks, which result in producing language content that is grammatically accurate. In other words, the listened, spoken, read and written content of the learners’ language becomes the bye-product of the intensive training given in language-using tasks in the classroom.

That is why, Trend-Setter is written with a difference. The authors have designed materials on popular topics of interest of the students to sustain students’ interest in acquiring language skills, and have graded them. The book is written with this paradigm shift in mind in designing material for General English Course for students at the Undergraduate level. It is specifically designed by taking into consideration the difficulties of the learners in understanding one’s communication in English and in communicating their thoughts in English to others, and it aims at enabling the learners to become efficient users of English. It aims to enhance and strengthen the communicative skills of the learners. While introducing the learners to a wide spectrum of language skills, contexts and concepts, the book aims at cultivating right values in the students. The book ensures an infinite variety of material which would entice students’ interest and ensure their autonomy and participation in doing the language activities that are specially designed to accelerate their speed of learning English language skills.

Trend-Setter contains materials on the topics such as “Suggestions to Develop One’s Reading Habit,” “The Secret of Success: An Anecdote,” The Impact of Liquor Consumption on the Society,” “Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: A Short Biography,” “Golden Rule: A Poem,” “Hygiene,” “Women through the Eyes of Media,” “Effects of Tobacco Smoking,” “Traffic Rules,” “Short Message Service (SMS),” “An Engineer Kills Self as Crow Sat on His Head: A News Paper Report,” and “A Handful of Answers: A Zen Tale.” The passages presented under pre-reading tasks and the texts are marked specifically for teacher-led reading practice.

Trend-Setter visualizes learner-centered classrooms by providing ample opportunities for students’ participation by implementing participatory methods and activity-based techniques of teaching and learning language skills. The task-based language activities would ensure students’ interaction in pairs, groups and in isolation. They make each individual learner’s participation in doing language activities mandatory. All the units of the texts aim at promoting the following skills through the following activities: Introduction (Listening and Reading Skills), Text (Listening and Reading Skills), Glossary: Referring to the dictionary and finding out the forms, meanings for the content words and phrases and using them in sentences (Referring and Language Using Skills), Comprehension (Reading, Speaking and Writing Skills), Critical Analysis (Critical Thinking, Speaking and Writing Skills), Creative Task (Creative Thinking, Speaking and Writing Skills), General Writing Skills (Letter Writing, Circular Writing, Writing an Agenda for a Meeting, Writing Minutes of a Meeting, Note-Taking, Note-Making, Précis Writing, Paragraph Writing, Essay Writing),  and Activities on Grammar (Skills of using Twelve Tenses).

As proposed by Robert Lado, the authors of Trend-Setter have carefully chosen relevant lessons, which are well-graded, and have meticulously prepared the tasks, which suit the language needs of the students. The passages given in the textbook are pithy, simple, understandable and relevant to an expectation that even a weak and first generation student can become a good learner (Robert Lado, 1964, p. 248). The pattern drills employed in using twelve tenses in Active Voice are designed with the objective of moving from language manipulation to communication. In other words, the tenses learnt through pattern drills are used in language production activities practised in the classroom and in the formative compositions and summative examination in a continuum of speech and writing. This book certainly serves the purpose of making the students acquire fluency and proficiency in communication skills in English. It undoubtedly sets a new and constructive trend in honing the English language skills of the student-community. Ms. Caitlyn Hofer of USA and Mr. Graham Meinen of Ireland have corrected and validated the passages for reading.

The writers of Trend-Setter have prepared materials which can assist the learners a lot towards self-learning and provide the learners with a lot of opportunity to equip themselves with the competencies laid down in the syllabus. These competencies can serve as a model for teachers to imbibe these competencies first and then ultimately enable the learners to acquire these competencies by involving them in activity-based language-learning process. These exercises have “…a balanced compromise between structures and functions rather than grammatical structures; and allowing for plenty of practice and revision” (Holden, 1980, p. 70). It also insists on the use of activity-based materials, wherein doing coincides with saying.

As Andrew Wright rightly points out, there is no “single ideal way” (Holden, 1980, p.  64), of teaching English. Faye L. Bumpass also shares the same point of view: “There is no magic formula to help the teacher in accomplishing his task. But if he can learn to crystallize his thinking in the light of recent linguistic findings, he may be able to form a new ‘attitude’ towards what language learning and language teaching should comprise” (Holden, 1980, p. 13). Andrew Wright suggests that, according to linguists, if the teacher is interested he can create a new and fruitful approach to English language learning by involving the learners’ observation and participation in the language-learning activities (Holden, 1980, p. 64). It is desirable to follow the ensuing check list proposed by Andrew Wright:

  1. The topic of interest chosen must be at the conceptual level of the learners.
  2. The teacher must organize interesting types of participation for all learners.
  3. The language the learners have to produce must be known to them already or if new, they must be able to learn it easily.
  4. The language must be useable to the learners.
  5. There must be plenty of opportunities to use the language at least in the classroom (Holden, Teaching Children, 1980, p. 66).

Margy Whalley in her ‘Foreword’ suggests:

What we need are: confident and competent practitioners with a good understanding of the needs of young children,… who are able… to promote the highest quality education and care for all children. We need to be rigorous and reflective practitioners. … Pay close attention to children, offer appropriate help, and create an encouraging and affectionate atmosphere. (Jennie, 1997, p. 22)

Apart from being flexible, open-minded, friendly, inventive, enthusiastic and dedicated, the teachers need to brush up the language competence of the learners presumably acquired at the early stage of their learning which possibly is a little rusty.  Therefore, a thrust is given to design suitable remedial language-learning activities. The remedial work has to be carried out in the form of an intensive course in which the language components are integrated with methodology. The learners find it useful, while learning English language at the early stage of their education.

The activity-based language teaching and learning is a powerful way of training the young minds of the learners in learning words, phrases and sentence structures. Since the young minds of the learners are engaged predominantly in performing the language activities, the focal point is not on the language but on the tasks. In short, through this process, language habits are formed in the minds of the learners indirectly. In other words, they do not take efforts consciously and directly to acquire the language skills but “… through continuous exposure and use” (Holden 5). Thus, the “… conscious direct and subconscious indirect” learning of English language really helps the learners imbibe and ‘internalize’ English language correctly and use it effectively (Holden, 1980, p. 5).

‘Drill,’ in army training, means planned and formal physical movements to reach a destination within a stipulated period. In the field of education, the term ‘drill’ means the mode or method of teaching and learning with much practice through repetition. William Guariento and John Morley opine that “control over linguistic knowledge is achieved by means of performing under real operating conditions in meaning-focused language activities” (2001, p. 349).

 

The use of the theories of educational psychology

Teaching-learning theories have evolved either based on one’s experience or out of the result of experiments on educational psychology, linguistics and sociology. Understanding these theories guides the teachers and the learners to practise, reflect on and alter the teaching-learning processes. These theories neither prescribe the teachers ready-made solutions to the problems they face in their teaching endeavours nor suggest the effective panacea for the difficulties of the learners in learning English. However, these theories can be considered guiding principles in finding solutions to the problems faced by the textbook writers, the teachers and the students.

The theoretical underpinnings of Trend-Setter fall under the four broad areas such as Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Social Constructivism

1. Behaviourism

  1. The passages presented under introduction and the texts are marked specifically for teacher-led reading practice. The students are asked to repeat after the teacher reading the text, and to first imitate the way the teacher reads the text. Subsequently, each student reads the text in a meaningful way, having the teacher’s reading of the text as a model. The students imitate the controlled practice given to them.
  2. 12 hours are spent for the study of each lesson so that all students will get the chance of doing all the activities on the passages, which are graded linguistically and thematically. The students are involved in the process of learning English by doing the language activities presented for them.
  3. The teacher controls the teaching and learning process in some portions of the process.
  4. Oral and written correction of the sentences is carried out by all the students under the direct supervision of the teacher, after each student completes his/her activity.
  5. Each learner is instructed to read out what he has written, and the teacher asks the students to correct it. He intervenes, if it is needed.

2. Cognitivism

  1. The students are trained to refer to the dictionary to find out the form, meaning and usage of content words and phrases from the passages given in the textbook. The students learn the form, meaning and usage of content words and phrases in their own contexts and master the structures of sentences.
  2. The students are asked to concentrate on doing the problem-solving activities without any haste.

3. Constructivism

  1. Students read the text first in the class or at home silently to understand the concepts discussed in the passages.
  2. The students are asked to do the activities without worrying about the rightness or wrongness of what they do. Importance is given to students’ participation in the process of learning sincerely.
  3. Sentences having strange and new concepts are appreciated.

4. Social Constructivism

  1. The students are encouraged to offer and accept suggestions given by the peers.
  2. They are also advised to involve themselves in peer teaching/learning.
  3. The teacher is expected to give personal attention to the learning needs of each student.

The Strategies proposed to be practised in Trend-Setter to develop the language skills of the learners

  1. While teaching grammar, the teacher uses either inductive or deductive method according to the needs of the students.
  2. The lessons in the textbook are designed to empower the students to communicate in English.
  3. The linguistic patterns are introduced and the students are expected to follow the teacher during the initial stages to gain confidence, and student-initiated practice is encouraged. Practice is oriented towards critical thinking.

Thus, the conceptual frameworks and the strategies practised in training students to listen, speak, read and write with Trend-Setter behind these teaching-learning theories explain how and under what circumstances the teachers teach and the learners learn English in ESL contexts.

The development of the learners is continually assessed by conducting periodical formative tests such as a reading test, a speaking test, two written compositions, two revision tests in the written mode namely Mid-Semester and End-Semester, and a summative Semester Examination in the written mode. The learners are allowed to write the Semester Examination based on the marks scored in the internal tests. It is mandatory for the learners to score a minimum of 40% of marks in the internal assessment and 40% in the external assessment. Those who fail to score the passing minimum of 40% of marks in the internal tests and a minimum of 80% of attendance are not allowed to appear for the Semester Examination. They are asked to repeat the Course and then appear for the Semester Examination in the following academic year. The learners are given credits in their mark sheet for having completed the programme.

In order to make any ELT programme successful, it should be based on Men (the teachers and the taught), Materials, Methodology and Monitoring. Of these four factors, the first constitutes the most important category because it is the target group that influences and determines all other factors. Therefore, the course pattern, the syllabus, the tasks and the weekly teaching-learning schedule are designed, having in mind the age, standard, interests and needs of the learners with the specific view to enable the learners to become better communicators in English.

St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Tiruchirappalli-620002, admits learners, who are socially, economically and educationally “disadvantaged” as well as “advantaged”. In this context, it needs to be underscored that the Trend-Setter is designed to Teach English to the Disadvantaged (TED) and also to Teach English to the Advantaged (TEA).

 

Conclusion

Proper conceptual clarification of the learning approaches and theories of Educational Psychology such as Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Input Hypothesis, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, and Dialogical Action will enable the teachers and the learners to turn to proper teaching and learning process, which will result in proper cognitive process in the minds of the learners. This is the reason for the incorporation of all these theoretical principles and processes in designing, teaching, and learning materials and methods that are used in Trend-Setter: An Interactive General English Textbook.

 

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