THEORY and PRACTICE in L2 Classrooms and L2 Teacher Education
toward a philosopher's path
A Round Table
August 5, 2022 (Friday)
16PM (Germany) = 10AM (EST time, USA)
↗︎ Link to Zoom session
Password (if required): 62032
Slavisches Institut, Heidelberg Universität (Germany
Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg
Are you a current or future L2 teacher, an L2 teaching methodologist, a faculty member involved in L2 teachers’ education, a researcher in the L2 education field, or a representative of the administration? Are you preoccupied with or intrigued by the paradoxical relationship between the theory/research and practice in L2 education? You are welcome to join the informal event that aims at launching a REFLECTION on this controversial topic.
Since the middle of the last century, the L2 Pedagogy as a part of the interdisciplinary field of Applied Linguistics has been established as an independent and fast-growing academic discipline and research field. The rise of the field has been closely connected to and driven by increasing research in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), bilingualism studies, cognitive psychology, neurolinguistics, computer-mediated communication studies, computer-assisted language learning, emerging socio-constructivist and transformative pedagogy, and poststructuralist applied linguistics reviewing the relationship between L2 language and identity. The field has produced a whole galaxy of outstanding researchers. The impressive (sometimes frightening) number of books and publications in a growing number of professional journals has been sharing and promoting theories, hypotheses, research findings, new approaches, and suggestions for improving L2 teaching techniques.
However, it seems that the values, principles, and ideas that have been promoted for years by the theory do not necessarily reach the L2 teaching practice and become values and guiding principles for many practitioners and administrators of educational institutions. We can quite often observe a paradoxical indifference or sometimes even disparaging attitude towards the theory/research field among the L2 teachers and administration. An L2 educator versed in current trends and issues of L2 pedagogy is rather an exception than a rule. This indifference seems to be mutual: not all renowned researchers in L2 teaching methodology are interested in testing their hypotheses through being personally involved in teaching L2 classes.
The gap between the theory/research field and practice also affects the L2 teachers’ education. Many among the students graduating today from an L2 teaching program would be still surprised by the idea that the teacher’s role in L2 classrooms may not be expressed in terms of the transfer of her knowledge and skills of the target language and the ultimate learning outcomes may not be knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. And we can hardly blame them for that.
The described situation raised a wide range of interrelated questions, from teachers’ competence definition and staff recruitment policy to epistemological inquiry on the nature of theory and practice. Here are just a few of them:
- What factors could explain and which actors are responsible for the gap and/or tensions between theory/research and practice in L2 pedagogy?
- Is L2 teaching an art or an applied science? May the epistemological nature of teaching practice as a design discipline (the science of the artificial in the words of Simon, 1969) define its natural resistance to the theory?
- Can the knowledge of theory/research really impact L2 teaching practice, and how?
- What is the role of theory and research in L2 teachers’ education? What are the priorities and guiding principles of L2 teachers’ education programs and courses?
- Are the L2 methodology and theory universal cross-cultural and cross-lingual phenomena, or are they rather depend on national educational traditions and values. Should we expect from Arabic, German, Russian, Mandarin or Japanese L2 teachers and from the L2 teacher trainers the knowledge of the methods, principles and concepts suggested mostly by North American or British scholars and mostly in the context of English & French L2 instruction, such as Task-based Language Teaching (Ellis, 2003), Neurolinguistic Approach (Germain, 2017), Comprehensive Input Theory (Krashen, 1985), Output hypothesis (Swain, 2005), Communicative Competence (Canale, 1983), Processing Instruction (DeKeyser & Botana, 2015), Ecological Approach (Van Lier, 2010)?
- What are the competences of a L2 teacher in the 21st century? Do the knowledge of theory, current trends and principles of L2 pedagogy and SLA and is a necessary part of the L2 teachers’ competencies?
- By which criteria do educational institutions recruit L2 teachers (in higher education and in high/middle school) and how do these criteria match the expectations in regard to teaching methodology?
- Does the gap between the research/theory and practice affect the interpersonal relationship and communication between fellow teachers and between the teachers and the administration?
- Post-method conditions and eclectic method applied to L2 classrooms (Kumaravedivelu, 2006; Kumar, 2013).
- To what extent are the theories and methods in L2 pedagogy based on empirical experiments in L2 classrooms? Should they be?
- What is a pedagogical decision-making process in L2 teachers? Should we study it and how? Cf. the design thinking and core judgement studies in the instructional design and technology.
- Experience in implementing theoretical methodological recommendations and techniques in a real L2 classroom.
- Can the relationship between Theory and Practice in L2 classroom and L2 teacher education be an object of research? And how such research may be conducted?
Maria Bondarenko, PhD
Visiting lecturer and researcher in L2 pedagogy