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CONCEPTIONS OF Foreign Language Teaching


As with teaching in general, language teaching can be conceived in many different

ways, for example as a science, a technology, a craft, or an art. Different views of language teaching

lead to different views as to what the essential skills of teaching are, and different approaches to the

preparation of teachers. Zahorik (1986) classifies conceptions of teaching into three main categories:

· Science-Research conceptions,

· Theory-Philosophy conceptions, and

· Art-Craft conceptions.

Science-Research Conceptions

They are derived from research and are supported by experimentation and empirical investigation. Zahorik includes the following as examples of Science-Research conceptions.

· operationalizing learning principles,

· following a tested model,

· doing what effective teachers do,

Operationalizing learning principles

Research on memory, transfer, motivation, and other factors believed to be important in learning.

· Mastery learning and Programmed Learning

· Audiolingualism,

· Task-Based Language Teaching, and

· Learner Strategy Training

Following a tested model of teaching

“A view of good teaching is developed through logical reasoning and previous research;

good teaching is defined in terms of speeific acts” (Zahorik, 1986, 21);

· theories of good teaching across both regular and ESL classrooms is research on teachers’ question patterns and wait time-Teachers’ question use and wait-time before and after training were measured, and “it was found that the training modules affected teaching behaviors, and that the new behaviors affected student participation patterns in ways believed to be significant for these students’ language acquisition” (Long 1984:vi).

Doing what effective teachers do

Effective teachers are typically defined as those whose students perform better on standardized achievement tests.

· In a summary of research of this kind (Blum, 1984: 3-6) 12 characteristics of effective teaching were identified:

1. Instruction is guided by a preplanned curriculum.

2. There are high expectations for student learning.

3. Students are carefully oriented to lessons.

4. Instruction is clear and focused.

5. Learning progress is monitored closely.

6. When students don’t understand, they are retaught.

7. Class time is used for learning.

8. There are smooth and efficient classroom routines.

9. Instructional groups formed in the classroom fit instructional needs.

10. Standards for classroom behavior are high.

11. Personal interactions between teachers and students are positive.

12. Incentives and rewards for students are used to promote excellence.

Theory-Philosophy Conceptions

‘Their truth is not based on a posteriori conditions or on what works. Rather, their truth is based on what ought to work or what is morally right” (Zahorik, 1986,22).

Teaching conceptions which are derived from what ought to work are essentially rationalist in approach, while those which are derived from beliefs about what is viewed as morally right are values-based approaches.

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