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论“反三中心”的英语教学法

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论“反三中心”的英语教学法 James D.Allen

The Contra-tricentric Method of Teaching English as a Foreign Language :

The Pedagogy of Han Zhongliang

               James D.Allen,The College of Saint Rose,NY

作者简介

吉姆,教育心理学教授,教育心理学博士(美国)。他对圣罗斯学院给予他在此项目(“韩忠亮教学法”)研究、报道和推广过程中提供的帮助和支持深表谢意。该研究项目——“韩忠亮教学法研究”,已获中华人民共和国教育部批准和世界银行资金支持。

James is a Professor of the Educational and School Psychology Department: Ph.D.Educational Psychology (USA).The author acknowledges the support provided by the College of Saint Rose. Sun is a Professor of the Foreign Language and assistant secretary-general of the Northeast Institute of Pedagogy on Foreign Languages, M.A.-English Language Teaching (PRC) and M.S. Committee of the Peoples Republic of China and the World Bank.

Abstract

This paper describes an instructional strategy developed by Mr. Han Zhongliang for teaching English as a foreign language in The Peoples Republic of China. His techniques break away from the “tricentric” method of teaching that dominates the teaching of English throughout the P.R. of China. Whereas the “tricentric” approach focuses on in-class learning, the textbook, and is teacher-directed, the “contra-tricentric” approach of Mr. Han focuses on the out-of –class experience, non-text materials, and is student-centered. Several cognitive constructivist theories of learning are used to explain the underlying reasons for the success of Mr. Han’s pedagogy.These include social-constructivism, situational cognition, reciprocal determinism, and a sociocultural perspective.

Introduction

The teaching of English as a foreign language is a major focus of education reform in the People’s Republic of China due to the country’s “modernization” efforts. As the economy of China expands beyond its borders, English, as a communication tool, is seen as necessary for social and economic mobility to conduct practical, social. Economic, and technical interactions with other peoples of the world (Schnell,1990;Zhao&Campbell, 1995). This has forced Chinese educators to address the manner in which English has traditionally been taught throughout the country (Penner,1995).

Foreign language teaching has entered the ”age of communication” in which language is learned as a tool for communication, rather than strictly as an academic subject focused on grammar and reading (Adamson and Morris, 1997). Foreign language instruction in China has made advances, but there is a need for teachers who are trainec in modern language methods (Xiuqing,1993). The grammar-translation method is still emphasized in English language programs in China under-emphasizing methods based on interpersonal communication (Anderson, 1993’Campbell & Zhao, 1993;Liao,1996’ Schnell,1992). Whereas the traditional approach to teaching Wnglish has focused on teacher-centered, book-centered, and grammar-translation-centered methods, the communicative approach is characterized by a focus on:(1)language use rather than form, (2)fluency rather than accuracy,(3)communication tasks rather than exercises,(4)student interaction and initiative rather than teacher-centered direction,(5)learners’s differences rather than a group lockstep approach, and (6)an awareness of variations in language rather that simply attention to the language(Anderson,1993).

Chinese educators have begun to investigate approaches to teaching English that focus more on the communicative function of language(Li,1984;Sun,1999). This has lead educators to investigate approaches that put student-generated learning activities at the center of instruction (Su-ying, 1987). According to Liao (1996),the “kernel”to teaching English as a foreign language should be communicative competence reflecting the basic purpose of language and the cognitive process of language learning. Liao suggests: a student-centered orientation; use or communicative activities; developing awareness of cross-cultural differences; extensive use of English; and an integrative development of language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing).

For a communicative approach to succeed in China,the issue of student autonomy must be addressed as it relates to student-generated learning activities .Due to Chinese cultural traditions, language classes are teacher dominant. Because of the cultural norms of “social relations in the classroom,” the teacher is viewed as the authority and source of knowledge, and “Chinese students would not find autonomy very comfortable , emotionally, or indeed intellectually”(Ho&Crockall,1995,p.237).However, autonomy can be encouraged if the students use language in “personally-meaningful, real-world context(s)”(p.242).

Cognitive Perspectives on Learning

The communicative approach to teaching English as a foreign language is supported by several cognitive perspectives on learning. These include constructivism, situational cognition, reciprocal determinism, and sociocultural perspectives, all of which are mutually complementary (Marshall, 1996). Constructivism is based on the principle that one learns best, and remembers what one learns, when information is actively constructed by the learner based on their personal experiences (Ormrod,2000).

Constructivism is

       The notion that thinking tades place in contexts and [that]cognition is largely constructec by individuals as a function of their experiences in situations…[it]highlights the interaction of persons with situations in the acquisition and refinement of skills and knowledge. … People are active learners and most construct knowledge for themselves.(Schunk,2000,p.229).

Students should study language in multiple ways with materials and experiences provided by the teacher that                                         encourage activemental manipulation ang social interaction(Schunk,2000).Classroom practices that facilitate and support students in their mental construction and generative understanding of a language leads to greater student progress(Wittrock,1990).

From a situational cognition viewpoint, learning and understanding of language “will be situated in the contest of a person’s belief system and will include beliefs about the usefulness and importance of knowledge ,how it relates to what else one knows, and in what situations it may be appropriate” (Schunk,1996.p.213).Learnhing a foreign language will be facilitated if used in authentic situations and meaningful contexts and shoule progress more rapidly when practiced and meaningful contexts and should progress more rapidly when practiced and used beyond the classroom.

From a sociocultural perspective “all hi8gher mental functions originate in the social environment”and the most influential process involved is language (Vygotsky, 1962). Learning is a “process of enculturation into a community” where individuals learn through practical experiences and social interactions with more knowledgeable others based on “co-participation in cultural practices”(Cobb,1994,pp.13-14). Instruction based on the principle of the zone of proximal development(ZPD),acknowledges that a primary role of the teacher is to act as a facilitator to structure learning experiences, thus guiding  the student to become a more independent learner. The ZPD describes the difference between one’s level of understanding and independent ability to use language and the level of understanding and independent ability to use language and the level of understanding obtained only with the guidance or in collaboration with someone more capable. “In the ZPD, a teacher and learner … work together on tasks that the learner could not perform independently…The ZPD captures the Marxist idea of  collective activity, in which those who know more or are more skilled share that knowledge and skill with those who know less…”(Bruner,1984,as cited in Schunk, 1996,p.215).

The principle of reciprocal determinism provides a foundation for synthesizing the above individual and sociocultural cognitive perspectives on learning (Cobb, 1994). It views learning “as  involving reciprocal interactions among persons (cognitions,affects),behaviors, and environments”(Schunk,1996,p.211).One’s understanding of language and the competence to use it is based on the active mental constructions that one makes as a result of resolving discrepancies and contradictions that results as one interacts in his or her environment (Bandura,1996). “Students are taught to be more self-regulated and take a more active role in their own learning by setting goals, monitoring and evaluating progress, and going beyond basic requirements by exploring interests”(Schunk,1996,.209).This matches well with the tenets of constructivism that learning shoule be more student-centered and self-generating.

This paper looks at one communicative approach of teaching English as a foreign language and the constructivist principles of learning that explain its success in improving Chinese students’ communicative proficiency with English. It is our attempt to share research across cultures. Using the respected Chinese method of research on teaching through the investigation of a case study (Wu & Chang,1988),we present the case of an exemplary Chinese teacher of English that illustrates current thinking on learning by American cognitive psyxhologists.

The Han Zhongliang Phenomenon

Han Zhaongliang was an English teacher in a small village in Northeast China(PRC).At the beginning of his teaching career, the local education system desperately needed English teachers and after being trained f he was asked to introduce his or a short period, he began teaching. After years of successful teaching,Han attractec the attention of experts I the field of teaching English as a foreign language. This was due to Han’s unusual professional qualifications, his innovative teaching methods, and his exceptional results in helping students learn English.

Han only finished middle school study and independently learned English. Compared with many Chinese teachers of English, his personal ability with English is undistinguished. For a person at his level of English proficiency, It is quite unusual to teach English. However, it was even more unusual because his classes were winning first places in English competitions(Sun,1999). Because of the success of his students, he was asked to introduce his teaching methods at education meetings throughout the northeast region of China. Later, due to the attention his method was receiving, he entered the key middle school (Yuwen)directly from the village school. The classes he teaches at Yuwen generally perform better than other English classes and win the top places in English competitions of the province (Sun, 1999). Some students of his chass speal English so fluently that they are brave enough to “show off” their spoken English in the presence of college professors of English and foreign native-English speaking teachers,who are impressed by the students’proficiency and fluency (Allen,1997).His methods have begun to influence middle school foreign language teaching both within and beyond Jilin Province(Sun,1998).

The Precious Kernel of the Han Pedagogy

Han has been able to reduce the complex nature of teaching English as a foreign language to the simplest of ways (Sun,1999). The Han Pedagogy is a real and practical example of ways (Sun,1999).TheHan Pedagogy is a real and practical example of positive foreign language teaching reform. The particular and universal principles contained in Han’s communicative pedagogy are based on constructs of cognitive learning theory and contribute valuable ideas to the development of China’s foreign language teaching.

Han makes students learn and use English in practical ways from the very beginning of their studies .He unites students’ interests and their social desire to study together keeping them enthusiastic. He improves their test performance but does so within the context of improving their ability to use English . Students act out unrehearsed dialogues about everyday experiences which are followed by question and answer periods with classmates (Sun,1999).Students spontaneously respond to each other in the dialogues and answer any question posed to them by their chassmates. Han’s teaching methods help students to make progress by themselves without teacher intervention. Han’s teaching nears the state in which “to teach is not to teach.” Students decide, based on their personal lives, the direction in which the oral communication exercises proceed. Han’s alternative perspective of teaching shows that a communication approach to teaching English as a foreign language can solve the “deaf and dumb” problem in which students learn to read and write English ,but have difficulty developing listening comprehension and speaking skill(Sun, 1999; 1998).

A major element of Han’s pedagogy is its alternative “contra-tricentric”focus. Conventional foreign language teaching constricts instruction with a “tricentric” approach –the class,the textbook,the teacher. To break away from this confinement teachers need courage and creative pedagogy. Han’s pedagofy, by following a communication approach, breaks away from the teacher-center convention and offers an alternative “contra-tricentric ” student-centered approach.

Han trains students “to be interested in study, to be willing to study,and to be able to study,” and motivates them to be self-regulatory in their learning of English. He teaches them how to use English and the beauty of the language by having them listen to native English speakers via videos, television and radio broadcasts.He provides opportunities for students to develop beautiful standard pronunciation and handwriting , to use language in interesting situations, and to develop an awareness of the subtle cultural implications of a language,all of which strengthen students’ confidence and interest in English. He integrates dialogues with corresponding written activities that relate to the visual audio programs he uses.By employing audio-visual aids,Han makes students practice and use English in real-life contexts,while he provides the direction and help needed to support the students’efforts.He doesn’t say, “follow me” but instead, “follow yourelf,” “follow the native speaker,” and the teacher-centered orientation is successfully replaced with the student-center orientation. Students understand English and improve their “language sense” without relying on structured lauguage materials. This improves their methods of study and develops their independent personslities. Han teaches English ,but also the way to study and live one’s life. In a philosophical summary of his student-centered, or contra-teacher-centered, teaching method, Han has said, “I will use my ladle of water to fraw forth from the students a barrel of water and even inexhaustible water!”This is meaningfully different from,and opposite to, the traditional Chinese idea that “To give the student a drop of water, the teacher had to have a barrel of water!”

Han pedagogy also breaks away from the textbook-centered orientation. In most Chinese classrooms the textbook is  the foundation of a course, which in the extreme creates many drawbacks. Foreign language teaching shoule not be bound by textbooks; otherwise teaching activities will be restricted and contradictory to the communication purpose. How to make good use of textbooks and not be bound by them has always been a difficulty in the reform of foreign language teaching.

Han follows the progressive idea of integrating more audio-visual language aids of similar level to the textbooks, such as audio and videotape recordings of New Concept English, English 900, Follow me,Walter and Cony ,as well as BBC radio broadcasts.Students learn from textbooks but also repeatedly meet the words,grammar, and pronunciation in real-life situations.They actively participate in exercises accompanying the material and think for themselves how to master it. Their interest in English is kept high and enduring and they appreciate in a deeper manner htat the English words in their textbooks are only the written symbols of an interesting communication tool. They realize that what is important is being able to express and understand ideas so they can use language as a tool to study , undersatand ,and enjoy life. Han’s students learn the subtle relationship between written and spoken language. This achievement can be attributed to Han’s cotra-textbool-centered teaching approach in which the object of studying is to learn how to use language as a practical, everyday tool.

Han’s pedagogy also breaks away from traditional class-centered teaching .To enable students to master a language as a communication tool, it is unrealistic to expect it to be accomplished in the limited 40-50 classroom minutes allotted, no matter how hard students study or how well teachers plan. Class-centered instruction is limited in its ability to foster language communication skills without out-of-class work. Language is a part of daily life and cannot be purely grasped in class .If language use is restricted to the classroom , it weill be considered only as part of a course and moved further away from its practical purpose. The communication focus of language teaching means to free language teaching from this chall-centered restriction.

Han is determined to move away from a class-centered approach to a way that unites out-of-class activities with in-class instruction. He makes review of old material, homework, class explanations and exercises all merge into student-centered acrivitees. Playing records, showing videos,telling stories,learning to sing, and role-playing of dialogues are all carried out on the basis of what students have learned with the intent to continue these activities outside of class. There is no clear distinction between what occurs outside verses inside the class .When participating in this activities, the students feel they are doing something real and practical with a new language instead of “studying”. They become so absorbed and conscientious because they are enjoying English in authentic ways. The students skip naturally over the usual self-conscious stage of  language use to the uninhibited way in which children learn their native language. The entertaining and communicating character of this language method is hard to achieve within a traditional classroom with only class-centered instruction. Han and his students have discussions, read real dialogues,and perform language activities in which in-class activities extend to out-of-class language experiences and out-of class experiences enter into class activities.

This teaching method requires more time and work from both the teacher and the students. However,Han and his students are never bored. Han’s pedagogy breaks away from the tradition practice of focusing on the there centers of the teacher ,the texrbook,and the class. It makes the role of the teacher less dominating, the function of textbooks less central, and offers students a broad range of real-life, out-of-class activities. Visitors to his classes often feel the classes are most extraordinary(Sun,1999).

A Pedagogy Both Special and Ordinary

The contra-tricentric teaching model summarizes the major features of Han’s teaching and illustrates many principles of cognitive learning theory.Han’s philosophy of the teacher’s role as facilitator to act as a “ladle…to draw forth from students a barrel of water”so that teaching nears the state which “to teach is not to teach,”places students’ active role of generating and learning English at the center of the constructivist view of learning. The ways his students use English have a strong element of social interaction within authentic situations where less proficient students learn from more proficient peers. By moving away from teacher-,book-, and class-centered methods toward teaching language centered on students’ activities and intersets, with authentic material, in real-lifepractical situations both in and out of the classroom, Han Pedagogy has proven successful as one would predict from the principles of situational cognition and sociocultural perspectives on learning. Language use in Han Pedagogy is situated in meaningful contexts and extends beyond the classroom walls.The teacher, audio/visual materials, and more competent peers allow students to expand their level of language and become independent learners. They become more self-regulatory in learniongt English by taking control over the interactive relationships between their environment,their cognitions and beliefs, and their behaviors in the use of English as a personal communication tool.

Han pedagogy is special in many respects, but also quite ordinary and natural. Han possesses a keen and modern perspective on how one best learns English. He is interested in and good at teaching English and with his diligence and meticulous teaching method has been able to achieve remarkable success. Moreover, the qualities possessed by Han are not lacking in most teachers and what he achieves can be achieved by others. Thus, the signaficance of Han pedagogy is universal. As long as the central elements of the Han pedagogy are grasped, others will be able to achieve success with their students learning English. As more English teachers engage in the contra-tricentric approach of teaching based on Han’pedagogy, a higher level of English learning will be achieved in China.

A major implication of this change to a communicative approach to teaching English as a foreign language, will be its impact on the training of English teachers in China. If these reforms in instructional methods are going to have much impact, English departments throughout China will also need to change the manner in which they prepare English teachers for China’s schools (Anderson, 1993; Wu &Chang, 1998; Gatbonton, 1991; Paine, 1990a; Penner, 1995; Campbell & Zhao, 1993). The education of English teachers will need to go beyond the “Teacher as Virtuoso”model which emphasizes “the transmission of knowledge, the supermacy of textbooks, and the dominance of the teacher’s direction”in a skillful, artistic, performance (Paine, 1990b, p72). It will require teacher training institutions to infuse the contra-tricentric methods of the Han pedagogy into their curricula.

The communicative approach to teaching English has made slow progress in China for many reasons, partially due to the method being “imported” from Western countries rather than being initiated by Chinese teachers of English (Gabuton & Gu, 1994). However, the contra-tricentric pedagogy of Mr. Han is not an “imported” model, but one developed by a “common” Chinese teacher of English from a small village who has shown remarkable success with his students learning English and attracting national attention in China(Sun, 1999). It is truly a “grass-roots” henomenon and given the theoretically sound support of the pedagogy from cognitive principles of learning more likely to have a transforming effect on the manner in which English has been traditionally taught throughout China leading foreign language teaching back to a more natural approach.

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