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Expert views on: future language learning pedagogy

on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 19:33

Regarding changes in the educational field Müller-Hartmann [8] observes that the communicative, task-oriented approach is gaining ground, at least at the level of the (international) research community. In his own practice he notes that the related principles and associated teaching methods appeal to and provide practical guidance for practitioners and student teachers. In his view the task-oriented approach offers more opportunities to address heterogeneity in classrooms and he is pleased to see a growing number of studies focused on the realities of the classroom in the field of language education studies. With respect to this approach he prefers the term task-supported to task-based language teaching. education are not based on task-based related design principles, initial and in-service teacher training should be in alignment with the actual working conditions that teachers currently find themselves in [Müller-Hartmann, 9]. The more since he expects that the commercially produced textbook will be in use for some time to come  [Müller-Hartmann, 10]. 
An important consideration here is that the use of alternative methods involving technology (however interesting for language education) results in working conditions that are not safe enough for the current generation of teachers [Müller-Hartmann, 11]. This is partly due to the fact that working with a more learner-and task-oriented approach is inherently less secure than delivering a more forms-oriented curriculum. But is also related to the limited content and experiences offered to this issue in initial training.  He therefore advocates [Müller-Hartmann, 12] professional development formats that provide the time and support needed for a gradual development of the required competencies.
Lund [8] too observes a growing influence of the task-oriented approach, also in classroom practice and on the materials recently produced by the publishers. He can see a future for a task-oriented approach,  on condition that the tasks are designed so that they cannot be completed by simply copying and pasting (Lund, 2013). Future methodology development –in his view- will also need to be based on theoretical models such as Activity Theory, which includes the study of use of cultural instruments.

Regarding language teaching in the UK Davies remarks that the restrictive and prescriptive National Curriculum, especially in England, offers teachers little room for choice of content and methodological experimentation. [Davies, 2].
Many teachers are not too happy with the content of the prescribed curriculum: it is too rigid and too focused on memorisation, with inadequate provision for developing understanding of grammar and syntax. [Davies, 3].
The current methodology can be characterised as topic-based rather than task-based [Davies, 4]. The provision of early language learning in primary schools from the age of 7 years is increasing, but the situation is confused and quality varies greatly from school to school, with the result that secondary school teachers do not know what to expect from incoming students.

Regarding the possible impact of innovations in the methodological domain Guichon observes a growing interest in bilingual education or Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in a number of educational sectors and heexpects the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the task-oriented approach will influence the approach of teachers and how publishers will design materials. [Guichon, 7].

Although Davies [13] would welcome this development he does not expect rapid growth of bilingual education in the UK. One reason for this, in his opinion, is the fact that language teaching is considered to be different from other school subjects. He compares it to learning to play a musical instrument as this also requires a lot of practice [Davies, 14].
Lund [9] characterizes bilingual education (CLIL) as an approach that will probably be important for future educational models where learning objectives are central and (foreign) language learning can be part of the means to realise them.

Müller-Hartmann  expects [3] that languages will continue to be taught as school subjects but that there will be changes in the range of languages that will be offered. On the other hand he reports that also in Germany there is a growing interest in CLIL [Müller-Hartmann, 4]. Recently also in combination with subjects such as sports and music because of the reduced cognitive load. And he considers the evidently motivating effect that a focus on content - one of the characteristic feature of a CLIL approach has - also to be of great relevance for regular language teaching.

According to Guichon language teachers should not attempt to integrate informal learning that could take place with the help of web 2.0 applications in education [Guichon, 6].
Lund,  when asked about the significance of informal learning, recognises that the environment where knowledge is gained has indeed changed - school is just one part of that all- but he, too, thinks that education should not try to imitate those activities nor try to integrate the private world into school life. On the other hand, the professional community should study how images are used and what role language plays for communication in the applications that young people make use of such as games and 3D virtual worlds [Lund, 4]. Another implication, according to Lund, is that learning and communication strategies will need to have a much more central place in the curriculum because they are so important to the developing new genres where content is jointly created such as multilogues (as in dialogues but with multiple participants) and wikis (Lund, 2008) as here aspects such as turn taking are certainly as critical to the process as in face-to-face communication [Lund, 5].

In the same vein Reinders elaborates on the related concept of ‘autonomous learning’. […] ‘A common misconception is that autonomous learning is restricted to learning. However recent research shows that it includes the relationships that an individual develops, the skill to learn with and from other others and the interactions that are involved’. And therefore autonomous learning, in his opinion,  is about interdependence rather than just independence. And, like Lund, he advocates for more attention to the development of autonomy in the curriculum.
Although currently not widely in use Guichon would like to see a (further) increase of the use of WEB 2.0 applications (Guichon, 2012a) and telecollaboration in schools, because this activity and related applications offer both interesting language practice opportunities and also a chance to address intercultural aspects [Guichon, 4].

Colpaert [7]  does not expect that there will be significant changes in language teaching methodologies in the short term. The socio-constructivistic approach (e.g. in Belgium / Flanders) has not yet been fully implemented. Moreover, the choice for a specific methodology depends on contextual features and the characteristics of the target group. He illustrates this with a case from his own consultancy practice.
Like Lund, Colpaert notes [8] that the insights from other scientific disciplines e.g. second language acquisition and psycholinguistics research - although they could contribute significantly - are not yet sufficiently integrated in modern foreign languages (MFL) pedagogy. Also other research themes such as (cultural) identity psychology and the influence of mother tongue (education) could in his opinion [Colpaert, 9] contribute to our understanding of how contextual factors are related to the effectiveness of the learning environment.