May 22, 2012 by Willy Cardoso
Here’s a snippet of what I may or may not say in my talk at
IATEFL Teacher Development & Learning Technologies SIGs Joint Conference, in Istanbul this weekend.
If you take a thorough look at research in SLA (Second Language Acquisition), especially across (if you’re able to spot) their covert epistemological stances which have been kind of taken for granted lately and work across them, you’ll see that there are very few ‘truths’.
For example, some researchers have found that the more active a student is the more they will learn, but then years later another researcher found that less active students benefit from their more active colleagues and perform equally or better. So reading the data and findings backwards, we could say that proficiency leads to more participation, and not necessarily that participation leads to proficiency. The inherent problem I see here is the constant search for a cause-effect relationships; something to overcome perhaps. Did the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?? We’ll never know because, ultimately, causes can’t be fully tracked; therefore, explanations of consequences are inevitably incomplete. That’s at least the view of complexity thinking, which tries to see the network more holistically, instead of isolated variables. But more on that later…
Back to research in SLA, another example is error correction. After decades of research, generating various dichotomies and widely accepted ‘best practice’, someone no other than Stephen Krashen comes in a webinar and says rather convinced and convincingly hey, research now shows that error correction leads to nothing, just make your students read and read, for pleasure of course, and they’ll have better results in tests [he didn't use these words, of course, but that's the gist]
And then I think, wait a minute, are you freakin’ kidding me?
But in the end, I realize one of the problems is as much mine as it is theirs. In a way, we’re all trying to find a grand narrative that will solve all our problems of difference by finding a way to teach more effectively and efficiently. A way that works across cultures (so you can teach the whole world by having one TEFL certificate), that is fool-proof (so you can have low-qualified teachers following proved techniques), or simply like me sometimes, to spend less time thinking about lessons and just use the same material with everyone. What traditional research tries to give us is what we’re trying to find: a universal way of teaching that flattens out difference.
But isn’t it through difference that we learn?
- title of my talk:
Tech-knowledge: complexity, philosophy, web2.0, postmodernism, interdisciplinarity, unpredictability, and the work of teachers.
abstract and more at: http://iatefleventsturkey.com/