Control to Freedom in Language Teaching, Eclecticism, Language Learning and Language Acquisition in Language Teaching, English as a Second and Foreign Language.

Mkandawire S. B. (2008) Control to Freedom in Language Teaching, Eclecticism, Language Learning and Language Acquisition in Language Teaching, English as a Second and Foreign Language. Circulatory Essay for Academic Resources

This essay will be divided into two categories where the first part shall bring out the meaning of control and freedom, eclecticism, language learning and language acquisition, English language as a Second language and as a foreign one, and lesson planning as concepts in English Language Teaching (ELT) and how they relate to Zambia. The second segment will deal with factors, which include: educational learning theories and needs of a learner, cultural requirements of society and technological advances, administration elements, and economic pedagogical experiences that influence English Language Syllabus Design. We will further explore why these factors should be considered and examine how they have affected the Zambian Junior Secondary School English Syllabus.

1.0. Terminologies and Concepts in ELT

a) Control and Freedom in ELT methodology development.
The concepts of control and freedom embody the relationship between the teacher and the learner or learners during the learning process. These concepts also refer to the relationship of oneself as a teacher or learner, amongst learners themselves as well as between an individual learner and other learners. However it is the teacher that is crucial in setting the ambience for each of these relationships or interactions to effectively take place during the learning process. The term control in English Language Teaching Methodology entail that the progression of the learning process is teacher-centered. This means that the teacher takes full control of the classroom and the participation of the learners is almost neglected as the teacher is regarded to be all-knowing and the only manager who can manipulate classroom elements for the learning process.
Meanwhile the concept of freedom is depicted as learning that is pupil-centered where the teacher maneuvers in a sense to elicit those behaviours in a student that will lead to the achievement of the lesson objectives. Thus under freedom the teacher simply provides as much opportunities for the student as possible to learn and practice the target language by designing or searching for student-centred materials which promote a non-threatening learning environment. It is also important to make sure that the materials go “beyond the experience-activating exercises of the humanistic approaches” (Legutke & Thomas 1991:64), and further than the teacher resource books, and that they focus on activities which have a language-teaching orientation, in addition to developing: trust-building and relaxation; awareness and sensitivity training; information-sharing; thinking strategies and problem-solving; imagination-gap, fantasy and creative expression; role-playing and creative dynamics; interaction and interpersonality; values clarification and discussion; and process evaluation (Widdowson, H.G. 1983: 20-26).
However in relation to the Zambian setting, control and freedom come out to be two related notions and not necessarily opposites because the distinction between teacher-centredness and learner-centredness is misleading in that both labels can mean the two related sides of the same thing: the central role of the teacher in the teaching and the central role of the student in learning. What we infer here is that control and freedom are interdependent concepts based on the fact that teaching is a conscious activity hence controlled in such a way as to avoid randomness, irrationality, and prejudice because without conscious effort especially of self-control on the part of the teacher, an ideal classroom atmosphere for learning can hardly be created. Therefore control can mean the simultaneous gaining and losing of freedom, the gaining of freedom within a limit and losing freedom beyond that limit. Precisely the teacher will need direct control of the classroom activities but at the same time giving guarantee to the full play of the potentials and initiative of the students.

b) Eclecticism in Language Teaching.
Eclecticism is also called multidimensional whereby as an eclectic teacher you do not subscribe to a distinct or single language approach nor base your philosophy on a named psychological or linguistic theory (Stern, H.H. 1883:25). Therefore a single approach does no override preoccupation of language pedagogy. This is essential because different linguistic theories offer different perspectives on languages and no school of linguistic analysis has a monopoly of truth in the description of language hence eclectic application of several linguistic theories for different purposes in English language teaching (Stern, H. 1883:174).

In relation to Zambia where teachers of English are faced with the daily task of helping students to learn a new language but mostly not necessary hearing it for the first time, one cannot afford the luxury of complete dedication to each distinct approach that come into vogue, instead, one has to absorb the best techniques of all the well known language-teaching methods into their classroom procedure using them for the purposes for which they are most appropriate. For instance while audio-lingualism will help learners master the form of the language, communicative teaching method is best for communicative competence or performance. It is clear therefore as argued by Stern (1883:482) that such terms given to individual methodologies

can only be vague and inadequate because they limit themselves
to single aspect of complex subject, inferring that that aspect
alone is all that matters.

However some critics have argued that although eclecticism as an approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm but draws upon multiple theories, styles or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject has proved helpful, as a concept it does not recognize fundamental weaknesses in the method concept as such nor does it offer any guidance on what basis and by what principles aspects of different methods can be selected and combined (Mackey, W.F. 1965).

c) Language Learning and Language Acquisition in ELT.
Brumfit, C. (1984:34) has defined language learning as the simultaneous development of language and of particular languages but where children are brought up in bilingual or multilingual environments they grow bilingual or multilingual as long as several languages are functionally necessary to them. He further says language learning may provide explicit knowledge used through mechanisms that guide puzzle or problem solving performance unlike language acquisition which provide implicit knowledge that is used through mechanisms that guide automatic performances. Therefore language acquisition is defined as the simultaneous development of the faculty of language as well as of the structure of a particular language and it is apparently a natural and automatic product of the process of socialization with other human beings.

However talking about language learning and language acquisition, we must realize that the crux of the problem lies in defining the relationship between biophysical and neural growth and the role of social experience (Stern, H.H. 1883:20). Scholars have shown that these two terms can be differentiated only if learning is considered in a narrow way where it is seen that language learning is conscious language development particularly in formal school-like settings. Nevertheless as an English language teacher in a Zambian scene, one must take heed so as not to negate the fact that some learning is stimulated by teaching while some or in fact much of it may be independent of any teaching and bearing that learning also refers to learning to learn and learning to think, learning the modification of attitudes, the acquisition of interests, social values or roles, and even changes in personality, language learning includes all kinds of language learning for which no formal provision is made through teaching ( Stern, H.H. 1883:18-19). To this regard some scholars argue that the term ‘language acquisition’ is of no theoretical importance and must be treated as a purely stylistic alternative to ‘language learning’ and of course in a non-prescriptive or narrow sense.

Finally in application of English Language Teaching in Zambia, it is imperative to firstly note the disparity between inevitable dominance in the mind of the learner of the first language and other languages previously learnt as well as the inadequate knowledge of the learner of the new language. Secondly, the choice between deliberate, conscious, or relatively cognitive ways of learning a second language and more subconscious, automatic, or more intuitive ways of learning English. Lastly the problem of the learner on how to cope with the dilemma that is presented by the fact that it is hard, if not impossible, for an individual to pay attention to linguistic forms, the language as a code, and simultaneously to communicate in that code (Stern, H.H. 1883:401-402).

d) English as a Second Language and English as Foreign Language.
English like any other language is considered a second language when it is frequently used as a means of communication between speakers of different native languages and as the language of particular national activities like education, commerce and politics yet it is not a native language of the indigenous peoples of that area (Ellis and Tomlinson, 1980:1). In countries where English has attained the status of a second language, it is often used by the mass media in the capacity of either an official language or national language. Therefore learners are often exposed to English before they learn and use it at school. This is true for Zambia and learners are not only taught English in classroom but they ‘pick it up’ when they are no at school. English is therefore taught largely as a second language in Zambia and like most countries where English is learned in this capacity, Zambia uses English as a lingua franca, medium of instruction (language used in teaching and training), and means of international communication and as the language of government, commerce, industry and mass media.

However any language is regarded as a foreign language when it is taught to people or learners who live in a country where that particular language is not normally used (Ellis and Tomlinson, 1980:1). Learners do not usually learn a foreign language from their parents or in the community in which they live. English in Zambia is exceptionally learnt or taught as a foreign language to people who come from non-English speaking countries like china, Norway, Senegal and Italy. English as a foreign language is often abbreviated as EFL while as a second language, is ESL.

e) Lesson Planning
Lesson planning is a process of devising a lesson plan of which focuses specific learning and instructional techniques on the principal aims of the course, unit or lesson. In lesson planning a teacher systematically sets things he intends to do and to be done in a specified time frame of the lesson or lessons to come. The teacher organizes teaching and learning materials not only relevant to the lesson but also appropriate for the learners in terms of complexity. The activities and material presentations are chronologically arranged with respect to the phenomena of ‘inductive’ and ‘deductive’, as well as to the notions of ‘control’ and ‘freedom.’ Inductive approach starts from specific to general items whilst deductive starts from general to specific ones and usually simple items are presented first with a degree of control while complex ones are subsequent with an atmosphere of a free environment so as to let learners exercise their potentials and initiatives fully in comprehending such complex items.

It is imperative as we relate lesson planning to English Language Teaching in Zambia to note that the nature of a lesson plan depends on the sort of a lesson and level of teaching where the teacher decides whether to make it informative (when the lesson is about the language, its grammar or evolution), affective (when it appreciates the literature), or practical when it teaches learners how to use the language or performance (Mackey,W.F. 1965:344). A lesson plan necessarily involves a number of teaching procedures and different activities and an English language lesson need not negate the following: a list of equipment for example charts or books; procedures for preparing the learner; presentation of the teaching point; guidance of the learner in his or her first attempts; habit formation; application of language items taught; and evaluation and conclusions. However a good lesson critically considers the psychological and linguistic preparation of the learner where the former prepares the mind by attracting the attention to what is being taught. For example a teacher asks himself a question: is there anything at the start of the lesson plan that is meant to attract the attention of the learner either to the new point or to something which leads to it? Linguistic preparation basically requires that the teacher of language starts the lesson by building a bridge from what learners already know to new concepts (Mackey, W.F. 1965:344-346).

2.0. Factors in Syllabus Design.
Syllabus design is a systematic arrangement of the syllabus. Syllabus is a term that covers the teaching-learning items, materials, equipments and the evaluation tools, and it is a critical element as subsumed within the broader context of the curriculum. However, there are a number of factors that influence syllabus design and it is imperative that we now explore four of such factors that have influenced the Junior Secondary School English Syllabus in Zambia and try to examine why they should be considered.

According to Mackey (1965:323-333), educational learning theories, and needs of the learner, the cultural requirements in the society and technological advances, organizational or administrative elements (usually affected by political structures), economical pedagogical experience (availability of facilities and equipments) are four categorical factors that are critical influences when designing a syllabus. Regardless of how sound a syllabus may be developed, it would be ineffective if it neglects these factors and cannot accomplish ably enough what it is meant for if its successful execution is not well contemplated upon.

The educational learning theories and learner needs are significant factors that are more interrelated and must not be neglected. These determine the composition or type of the syllabus that is to be adopted. For example it can be a structural, grammatical, situational, functional or semantic syllabus; and each of the theories adopted in the distinct genres is meant to address different needs of the learner by equipping him or her with various language skills. Judging from the structure of the Junior Secondary School English Syllabus in Zambia, it is clear that the syllabus preferred is a multidimensional one. Its content is divided into five parts namely: listening and speaking, reading, composition, structure, summary and note taking and the objectives of each segment are specified in many various ways that is, grammar, situations, functions, notions and meanings. However although the general format of the syllabus is ‘structural’, it has been emphasized that the methodological interpretation must be ‘functional’ and ‘communicative’. This is because
…our grade 9 graduates should develop a high level of confidence in
English, and be able to use the language effectively in everyday life,
in the world of work and in their further education (JSSS, p. V).
Therefore because of different individual eventualities and exigencies of real life in Zambia as well as different varieties of the language ranging from technical to professional and social that the classroom is suppose to expose the learner to, a multidimensional syllabus was considered appropriate. Here the social, psychological and pedagogical factors are confidently advocated as preconsiderations for syllabus construction. That is, the selections of the teaching items, and then their sequencing are obviously affected and even controlled by the social and psychological factors of the learner as a social being and as an individual. And the factors ultimate relate to the pedagogical factors and the overall concept of the syllabus designing. Therefore the content of syllabus for instance must promote negotiation between teachers and learners and learner reinterpretation and accommodation of new knowledge and capabilities through the sharing of ideas in group-work and field projects.
Cultural requirements and technological advancements tend to create some tension which planners of the syllabus have to handle with caution in that it depends on whether a society is outward-looking and welcomes innovation, or inward-looking, seeking inspiration from deeply-rooted traditional values (Yalden, J. 1987). The attitudes of a given society towards the learning process, towards books and teachers are also critical. In the past, the availability of tape recorders, for example, and the language laboratories, certainly helped to popularise and establish syllabi based on Behaviourist principles. Now, computers facilitate enormous corpora of language to be collected and analysed; data bases can be stored and updated with ease. This has enormous implications for syllabus design. Therefore while a syllabus endeavours to keep up such technological changes and other advancements, there is a question of preservation and integration of cultural values of the society because language carries with it the culture of its speaker community. The cultural influence on the syllabus in question can be seen in specific objectives of part one of this syllabus which for instance considers the expressing and finding out of Emotional attitudes, expressing and finding out Moral attitudes, and socializing (JSSS, p. 3-4). Nevertheless some cultural values that come with the English language are somewhat alien with respect to Zambian traditional homes and little or nothing is said to consider how indigenous cultural values can be integrated with English ones which are transmitted through language. Furthermore the use of new technologies like computers in English Language Teaching in Zambian Junior secondary schools is not highlighted in the syllabus although on the ground certain Junior Secondary Schools are using such devices for example the International School of Lusaka and ZIPAS, a school found in Lusaka and Copperbelt.
It is imperative to note that Zambia is a multilingual and multicultural society and the commitment of the government to enhance national integration through the use of a common and neutral lingua franca compels the Junior Secondary school English Syllabus to be designed in such a multidimensional way that equips learners with enough language skills so that they competently manipulate the English language as grade nine school leavers for different functions in society.

Administrative or organizational factors are of key importance to syllabus design because educational philosophy of Education management that determines the overall system. Therefore you consider such factors as whether the system is authoritarian or participatory, whether it views learning as acquiring knowledge or acquiring skills, whether learning is considered a product-oriented business or as a life-long process, and whether the system encourages dependence or learner initiative. It is also important that top-level administrators are well-informed about the syllabi. It is also important to take account of the role of exams in a given educational system.

Organizational and administrative factors will affect the implementation of a programme especially if the national educational system is highly centralised or highly decentralised. This will be reflected in the way decisions are arrived at and communicated to others, that is, whether they are by open consensus or by closed decree. It is equally important that there is a clearly defined structure of communication between the administration and those executing a programme. There should be sufficient channels of communication between syllabus designers and classroom teachers. There should also be a clear structure of communication between technical and secretarial staff on the one hand and the teaching staff on the other. The endeavour to achieve this is evident in the Junior Secondary School English syllabus whereof the English Curriculum Committee is made up of teachers, teacher trainers, university lecturers, inspectors, educational psychologists, experts in continuing education and educational broadcasting, and of course curriculum specialists (JSSS, p. V). This is to ensure that every stakeholder in the formulation and implementation of the document participates and has the sense of belonging as noted in the Education Reform Document that: “teachers in the field should…participate…in the identification of objectives, design of curricula and syllabuses” (Ch 6, para 11).
The economic pedagogical experience which includes availability of facilities and equipments is another important factor, mainly because new materials and retraining of teachers is expensive; therefore it is of the essence that this factor be kept in mind for all aspects of the implementation process because the whole process actually depends on it. Availability of resources means that there should be an adequate budgetary provision for all aspects of the programme. The Aids and equipment which may include chalk board, market board, Video Cassette Recorder, Television Set, computer, cassette player and the like that are ordered for the programme, must be appropriate and not just ordered for prestigious reasons. Kashoki, M.E. (1975:11) commenting on this states that
There is also an economic angle to this debate. Near-perfection in Foreign
Language Learning is a costly business as it means spending vast sums
of money on training teachers, writing materials and acquiring expensive
equipment including the prestigious language lab.
Nevertheless the successful implementation of a syllabus also depends largely on the extent to which materials, methodology and examinations are compatible with the syllabus. It is therefore apparently clear that the Juniors Secondary School Syllabus in Zambia realizing the inadequate resources the government has does not involve much of such lessons which demand the use of expensive language laboratories and computers. In relation to materials some sources have indicated that a given class size is a variable to be considered. For example, the sorts of drills associated with structural syllabuses would be difficult to conduct where there are classes of fifty learners or more (Candlin, C. 1984:30). These very same factors would also have to be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate syllabus type to achieve the desired purpose.
White (1988) has argued that some learning materials used in the English foreign or second language classroom can be a source of stress for the learners, in that
they frequently subscribe to theories of education long since
discredited, they rarely address current educational issues (e.g.
autonomy, learner-training, self-assessment, holistic process
learning), they can be culturally insensitive (focusing on
Caucasian [usually Christian] families in America or England,
and presuming a multi-ethnic mix of students typical of ESL
classrooms), and they tend to be teacher-centred (hence amenable
to unskilled educators).
Such texts, in emphasising cognitive rather than affective development, and the transmission of a fixed body of knowledge rather than the transformation of knowledge, tend to ignore the capacity to learn independently, to develop effective thinking techniques, and to learn how to learn (Kashoki, M. E., 1975: 11). However although Zambia administrates a racially mixed education system and that English is mainly taught as second language, as noted somewhere in this paper the Junior Secondary English syllabus endeavoured to address some of these inconsistencies noted by White (1988) and Kashoki (1975) with respect to materials, learning-teaching theories and methodologies.
In conclusion therefore we can point out that the modern trend in language teaching is towards being learner-centred. This brings with it a large number of variables, which have been pointed out in the second segment of this essay, which dictate the choice of a syllabus type. Whether a syllabus is flexible or whether it is binding will depend mainly on the objective which it is to achieve. The complex teaching situation today requires that time be set aside and concerted effort be put into designing a syllabus which would be appropriate for the variables involved in the teaching-learning process. The priority in language teaching nowadays as also emphasized in the Zambian Junior Secondary School English Syllabus is communicative performance. Therefore the emphasis on syllabus design is justified so as to produce appropriate syllabi for the specific needs of the learners and society at large by taking into consideration that different learners come bring to the classroom different learning beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. Hence the need for planners of Syllabus Design and teachers to have a sound understanding of English Language concepts and different factors that influence English Syllabus design so that whatever syllabus that is devised can ably enough address these factors by engendering a positive learning environment in which personal values are respected, and in which the student is allowed to interact freely with other learners, with the teacher, and with relevant learning materials.


About Sitwe

Sitwe Benson is a citizen of the world based in Zambia. He is never alone.
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