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Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod



This book traces the historical development of major language teaching methods in terms of theoretical principles and classroom procedures, and provides a critical evaluation of each. Drawing from seminal, foundational texts and from critical commentaries made by various scholars, Kumaravadivelu examines the profession's current transition from method to postmethod and, in the process, elucidates the relationship between theory, research, and practice. The chief objective is to help readers see the pattern that connects language, learning, teaching methods, and postmethod perspectives. In this book, Kumaravadivelu: brings together a critical vision of L2 learning and teaching--a vision founded at once on historical development and contemporary thought;, connects findings of up-to-date research in L2 learning with issues in L2 teaching thus making the reader aware of the relationship between theory, research and practice;, presents language teaching methods within a coherent framework of language-, learner-, and learning-centered pedagogies, thus helping the reader to see how they are related to each other;, shows how the three categories of methods evolved historically leading ultimately (and inevitably) to the emergence of a postmethod condition; and provides the reader with a solid background in several interconnected areas of L2 pedagogy, such as concepts of competence, input factors, intake processes, interactional modifications, and instructional design. Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod is intended for an international audience of teacher educators, practicing teachers and graduate students, researchers, curriculum planners, and materials designers in the field of second and foreign language teaching. © 2006 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Reading Matrix
Vol. 8, No. 1, April 2008
Understanding Language Teaching:
From Method to Postmethod
B. Kumaravadivelu
Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates (2006)
Pages: xviii + 258
ISBN: 0-8058-5676-5
Cost: $ 31.95
Reviewed by Handoyo Puji Widodo and
Faishal Zakaria
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA and
Currently, ESL/EFL teachers are encouraged to explore what works and what does not work in a
certain ELT context, using what Brown (2007) calls an enlightened and eclectic
approach/method. This suggests that teachers explore all language teaching approaches and
methods since no single approach or method is best suited for all teaching contexts.
Kumaravadivelu has made a significant contribution in this regard in his book on Understanding
language teaching: From method to postmethod by presenting personal and professional
perspectives of ELT methods. This book is fundamentally intended to portray “the pattern that
connects the various elements of learning, teaching, and teacher education” in language teaching
(p. xiii).
Generally, the book is divided into three major sections: (1) Language, Learning, and Teaching,
(2) Language Teaching Methods, and (3) Postmethod Perspectives. In Chapter One, the author
fruitfully explores the underlying significance of language theoretically and pedagogically. In
this instance, he succinctly touches on theoretical concepts of language as system: how it is
phonologically, syntactically, and semantically constructed; as discourse: how language, either
spoken or written, fits coherently and cohesively within a communicative context; and as
ideology: how language is shaped by macrosocial factors, which impact language structure and
use. Thus, Chapter One synthesizes the core features of language to provide language teachers,
professionals, and applied linguists with valuable guidelines on language for pedagogical
In Chapter Two, the author provides an insightful notion of the psychological and socio-
psychological perspectives of SLA. These concepts include the available and accessible sources
of language; internal and external factors such as age, anxiety, motivation, social context, or
educational context; cognitive mechanisms that mediate between and interact with input data
such as inferencing, structuring, and restructuring; and output--the body of utterances that
learners actually produce either in spoken or written forms. All of these aspects are important
features of adult L2 development and show the complex nature of language learning.
Chapter Three touches on the concepts of input and interaction. In this instance, Kumaravadivelu
sheds useful light on form-based (language as system), meaning-based (language as discourse),
and form and meaning-based (language as system and discourse) input modifications. Further, he
provides three major interactional types such as (1) interaction as a textual activity--how learners
modify their linguistic resources to maximize the chances of mutual understanding and reduce
instances of communication breakdown; (2) interaction as an interpersonal activity--how learners
negotiate and co-construct meanings of the utterances; and (3) interaction as an ideational
activity--how learners fit their linguistic and discoursal resources with social, cultural, and
political contexts. Indeed, these three types of interaction are inextricably interwoven. Thus,
throughout this chapter, the author sees that interaction is dialogically negotiated (Johnson,
2004). From this perspective, language teachers need to take into account communicative and
interactional competences in designing language syllabi and teaching materials.
In the second part of the book, Kumaravadivelu provides a brief description of language-
centered, learner-centered, and learning-centered language teaching methods in Chapter Four,
and then elaborates on each in Chapters Five, Six, and Seven by discussing relevant theoretical
principles, classroom procedures, and critical assessments. Chapter Five highlights indispensable
historical, psychological, and linguistic factors which shape the language-centered instruction. In
Chapter Six, the author outlines the theoretical principles and classroom procedures of learner-
centered pedagogies such as Communicative Language Teaching in which the main foci are on
learners and communication. In Chapter Seven, the author takes prominent examples of the
Natural Approach and the Communicative Teaching Project that fall into the category of
learning-centered pedagogy. Thus, the author provides a succinct survey and careful examination
of language teaching methodologies derived from linguistic, psychological, and social
perspectives of SLA.
In the last part of the book, Kumaravadivelu discusses three features of postmethod pedagogy,
including postmethod condition, postmethod pedagogy, and postmethod predicament. In Chapter
Eight, the author explores five myths of method:
(1) There is a best method out there ready and waiting to be discovered; (2) Methods
constitutes the organizing principle for language teaching; (3) Method has a universal
and historical value; (4) Theorists conceive knowledge, and teachers consume
knowledge; and (5) Method is neutral, and has no ideological motivation. (pp. 163-168)
These myths may discourage practicing language teachers to wait for recipes from established
authorities on the approaches and methods instead of exploring their own language teaching
approaches and methods to better understand “the potential strengths and limitations of particular
learners and contexts for learning, and make use of them in adapting learning/teaching
procedures” (Saville-Troike, 2006, p. 180).
Next, in Chapter Nine, the author proposes a three-part framework of postmethod language
pedagogy: particularity, practicality, and possibility. The first deals with teaching context
sensitivity such as people, local knowledge, physical settings, course and institution nature, time,
and teaching resources. The second encourages language teachers to “theorize what they practice
and practice what they theorize” (p. 173). The last criterion pertains to macro-social factors such
as institutional, social, economic, cultural, and political environments which shape identity
formation and social transformation. Together, these ideas encourage the teachers to go beyond
methods and promote a self-awareness of no best methods for learning and teaching.
Lastly, in Chapter Ten, Kumaravadivelu discusses possible challenges to the construction and
implementation of postmethod language pedagogy, including pedagogical and ideological
barriers in which learners, teachers, teacher educators, and policy makers are crucial actors. To
overcome these, the author proposes building solid and conducive ELT professional
communities and tapping local resources to overcome local problems using local expertise and
experience. In other words, the author points out that local culture and knowledge need to be
acknowledged as resources, not as limitations (Canagarajah, 2002).
One weakness of the book is that Kumaravadivelu provides purely theoretical and philosophical
notions of postmethod language pedagogy. In this respect, readers, particularly practicing
language teachers, should make a great effort to put such ideas into practice. Despite this minor
drawback, the author provides well-organized illustrations of the fundamental concepts of
language, language acquisition and learning, and language teaching along with a comprehensive
discussion of language teaching methodology. Understanding Language Teaching: From
Method to Postmethod also provides significant contributions to the historical development of
major language teaching methods pertaining to theoretical principles and classroom procedures,
with a critical evaluation of each. In short, the author has eloquently articulated his personalized
vision of language teaching, and successfully examined the profession’s current transition from
method to postmethod language pedagogy by elucidating the relationships among theory,
research, and practice. Therefore, this book is a great help for language teacher educators,
practicing teachers, and graduate students in gaining a solid theoretical understanding of
postmethod language pedagogy and recognizing the idea that the nature of language pedagogy is
socially-realistic and contextually-sensitive.
Works Cited
Brown, H.D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy.
White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
Canagarajah S. (2002). Reconstructing local knowledge. Journal of Language, Identity, and
Education, 1, 243-259.
Johnson, M. (2004). A philosophy of second language acquisition. New Haven: Yale University
Saville-Troike, M. (2006). Introducing second language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Handoyo Puji Widodo, a tenured lecturer at Politeknik Negeri Jember, has taught EFL courses in
Indonesia, and is currently a Fulbright scholar working on an MA in TESOL at Indiana
University of Pennsylvania. He has published articles in refereed professional journals in
Indonesia, Singapore, India, USA, and New Zealand.
Faishal Zakaria has served as a free-lance EFL practitioner in schools and universities, and is
currently a Fulbright student working on an MA in TESOL at Indiana University of
Pennsylvania. His professional and academic interests include teacher professional development,
identity and language learning and teaching, postmethod language pedagogy, and second
language writing pedagogy.
... As a means to teach all these contents, it is advisable to activate intuitive heuristics and foster language awareness (Kumaravadivelu, 2006): these will bring the learners to the discovery of rules and form-function mappings in an intuitive manner, by themselves and 238_ based on many examples, and will help them to recognize the properties of the language in a more explicit manner. ...
... L2 instruction should likewise try to minimize perceptual mismatches and raise cultural consciousness (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). This helps to overcome the differences or ambiguities (in terms of language, culture, and communicative strategies) that might hinder language acquisition, and deal with cultural diversity, in a multicultural approach. ...
... The exposure to extensive input in the target language promotes a larger and faster learning, which means that the use of L2 should be maximized both inside and outside the classroom; the opportunities for output allow the learners to receive better input, test hypotheses, automatize existing knowledge, etc.; the interaction is associated with an increase in comprehensible input, corrective feedback, attention to language, as well as better output. Kumaravadivelu (2006) also highlights the importance of contextualizing the linguistic input (because showing the pragmatic, communicative context of the utterances contributes much to understanding its meaning) and facilitating negotiated interaction (because learners go beyond their previous receptive and expressive capacities, when they must reach the desired mutual comprehension in interaction with the teacher and other learners). While giving the learners many opportunities for receiving input, producing output, and interacting, the teacher can implement Kumaravadivelu (2006)'s recommendation of integrating the four language skills instead of approaching them separately. ...
Digital tools offer an effective solution when organizing teaching units allowing us to introduce, develop, conclude, and evaluate the student’s learning. On the other hand, a good selection of digital tools helps us to maintain the motivation of current students and to create a community both in face-to-face lectures and in virtual classes. These programs allow the development of highly versatile individual and/or collaborative activities. Each one of them allows the development of one or more of the communicative skills: reading and listening comprehension, oral-written and integrated expression. This new panorama also affects the teaching of languages for specific purposes. In addition, students for specific purposes are usually professionals from a certain field of work, with a working schedule that sometimes does not meet the established class hours, which is why many employees prefer to attend an online language course, in which they study at their pace. An example of students whose schedules can be easily altered are those from Diplomacy and International Relations fields. For this reason, this article will present effective and meaningful activities designed for a Spanish course on diplomacy and International Relations, using several interactive digital tools . Keywords: E-learning, digital tools, game-based tools, Spanish
... Over the last few decades, a large body of research on Post-method pedagogy has been devoted to language in general (Richards, 1986;Freeman, 1991;Kumaravadivelu, 1994;Kumaravadivelu, 2003;Kumaravadivelu, 2006;Akbari, 2008;Baroudy & Mohseni Far, 2008;Can, 2008;Saengboon, 2010;Hayatdavoudi & Nejad Ansari, 2011) and teaching principles and Post-method pedagogy in language teaching in particular (Brown, 1994;Arikan, 2006;Phakiti, 2006;Gil & Najar, 2008;Cattell, 2009;Hazratzad & Gheitanchian, 2009). Post-method pedagogy as presented by Kumaravadivelu (1994Kumaravadivelu ( , 2001Kumaravadivelu ( , 2003Kumaravadivelu ( , and 2006) emerged as a response to a call for the most optimal way of teaching English that will release itself from the method-based stronghold. ...
... Over the last few decades, a large body of research on Post-method pedagogy has been devoted to language in general (Richards, 1986;Freeman, 1991;Kumaravadivelu, 1994;Kumaravadivelu, 2003;Kumaravadivelu, 2006;Akbari, 2008;Baroudy & Mohseni Far, 2008;Can, 2008;Saengboon, 2010;Hayatdavoudi & Nejad Ansari, 2011) and teaching principles and Post-method pedagogy in language teaching in particular (Brown, 1994;Arikan, 2006;Phakiti, 2006;Gil & Najar, 2008;Cattell, 2009;Hazratzad & Gheitanchian, 2009). Post-method pedagogy as presented by Kumaravadivelu (1994Kumaravadivelu ( , 2001Kumaravadivelu ( , 2003Kumaravadivelu ( , and 2006) emerged as a response to a call for the most optimal way of teaching English that will release itself from the method-based stronghold. Some studies have focused on language teaching in a post method era. ...
... One of the ten macro-strategies (Kumaravadivelu, 2003(Kumaravadivelu, , 2006) mentioned is to cultivate learner's learning autonomy. On how to cultivate students' learning autonomy, he claimed that students learning strategies such as memorizing strategy, cognitive strategy and communicative strategy should be cultivated (Kumaravadivelu, 2003(Kumaravadivelu, , 2006. ...
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The present circumstances of English Language Teaching (ELT) in Bangladesh assert that we need to restructure the existing teaching-learning practices for ELT. There is no alternative but to revise the present practices effectively to make them compatible with the contextual realities of the country. Since its inception, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) was not quite satisfactory in Bangladesh. Hence emerges the post-method pedagogy which is assumed to address all the challenges encountered by the teachers. The present study has been designed and conducted among secondary level students and teachers to examine and explore their perception regarding the post-method approach to English teaching in Bangladesh. The investigation was based on a mixed method research design. The paper's findings have uncovered that the students' requirements are partially compatible with the ten macro-strategies of post-method. The inference of the investigation leads to the recommendation that we should change the existing teaching method and take necessary steps to improve and modernize it.
... Students will interpret the learning process and as a result of this interpretation will determine whether they will allow themselves to be "influenced" or not. According to Kumaravadivelu (2006), learning must always be evaluated by paying attention to student perceptions, so that optimal learning outcomes can be achieved. ...
... This finding supports Despagne (2010) in the sense that the students' attitude towards the learning which integrates 4C skills has been viewed very important which could have a better impact for the learning outcome. This is also in accordance with Entwistle (in Waes, et al., 2010) and Kumaravadivelu (2006) that their good perception in this case the integration of 4C skills in their own learning will bring them more maximum success. ...
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Something surprising is that the very famous Dragon Ball animation actually adapted some Balinese culture. Adaptations of Balinese culture can be found in episodes of the Tenkaichi Budokai Tournament or the Global Martial Arts Championship series. Animation which is a cultural product, often adopts the culture of a place in the process of its creation. Moreover, Bali is very rich in culture. That fact can inspire many people including the legendary comic creator Akira Toriyama. This study aims to analyze the extent to which Balinese culture is adapted and applied in Dragon Ball animation? In what context was Balinese culture adapted? The analysis process uses a textual analysis method with a semiotic approach. The results of the study show that there are adaptations of several forms of Balinese architecture, the environment, and other Balinese identities that are used as the animated background for Dragon Ball. This adaptation of Balinese culture is inseparable from the special attraction factor for comic creator Akira Toriyama who has visited Bali, so Balinese culture has become a source of creative inspiration.
... Trilling and Fadel (2009) suggest 7Cs as 21 st -century skills: creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problemsolving, teamwork and leadership, collaboration, cross-cultural understanding, communication and media literacy, computing and ICT literacy, and career and learning self-reliance. According to Kumaravadivelu (2001Kumaravadivelu ( , 2006 and Brown (2007), the teaching focus is on eclecticism in ELT. In other words, language teaching and learning involve integrating digital literacy with project-based learning. ...
Technological and globalisation advancements have made teaching 21st-century skills a part of any curriculum. However, EAP classrooms provide a perfect platform for teaching 21st-century skills. This article first outlines the importance of teaching these skills and briefly reviews how the literature defines these skills. It also looks at various frameworks of 21st-century skills, provides a brief rationale and outlines the challenges of teaching these skills. The latter part of the article shows how EAP classes are the perfect platform for teaching 21st-century skills. Finally, the piece ends with a working model for teaching 21st-century skills in an EAP context.
... Guru menganggap bahwa hal itu sebagai inisiatif dalam memecahkan masalah yang dihadapi di kelas masing-masing. Hal inilah yang menjadi kekhasan dari masing-masing guru di paradigm post-method yang diangkat oleh Kumaravadivelu (2006). Guru memiliki kompetensi untuk mensintesis praktik mengajar sebagai pendekatan khas dirinya masing-masing dan sesuai dengan konteks masing-masing, dengan tetap mempertimbangkan aspek: kekhasan, pelaksanaannya, dan kemungkinan untuk berhasil dan efektif. ...
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This article describes the teaching practices of two K–12 English language teachers in the Philippines at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data used in the study came from the interview of the two teachers, and a content analysis of some modules that they used. The study utilised Canagarajah’s critical pedagogy framework to describe the extent to which the teachers’ reported teaching practices, and the modules they used localised the teaching of English. Results revealed that teachers localised mostly in the level of content and strategies, but considered the language of the texts they used in the classroom to make sure that the meaning and form of the texts were accessible to their students. Moreover, localising was done only as ‘praxis’, and not as a ‘mode of inquiry’, so students were not made aware of their social positioning. Implications for curriculum design and teacher development programmes are discussed.
Research Proposal
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We are interested in contributions that are specifically contextualized in various English language teaching and learning environments in Chile, namely early childhood, primary, secondary or tertiary contexts. Proposals should be informed by a critical perspective on English language teacher education and closely aligned with the principles of a postmethod pedagogy. Authors are encouraged to critically consider ways in which theoretical, classroom-based, participatory, action research, policy analysis, ethnographic or autoethnographic research demonstrates ways in which English language pedagogy is reimagined and reconceptualized in Chile that demonstrate action, change and transformation. This volume intends to explore alternative and new conceptualizations of practices of teaching and learning English that problematise the existing ways of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ English language teaching and learning in Chile. In this volume, some of the questions (and recommended topics) that we wish to confront are: • What are the (im)possibilities of the English language curriculum in Chile for the promotion of equitable English language teaching practices in schools? • Is the Chilean English language curriculum context-sensitive and inclusive of the local socio-cultural milieu? • As the country is reformed through greater migration, how does English work as a force of greater inclusion rather than exclusion? • How can English in Chilean schools be a democratising force, rather than one that simply acts to further ingrained inequality? • How can learning English be made genuinely relevant for students who are offered learning materials primarily sourced from the imaginaries and epistemologies of the Global North? • How do English language teachers navigate a convoluted environment that nurtures the ideals of a bilingual society and fights off the realities of inequalities entrenched in the Chilean education model? ● What are some of the challenges encountered by English language teachers when constructing and enacting pedagogies aimed to be responsive to local linguistic, sociocultural and socio-political particularities? ● In what ways do English language teachers (re)act against the legitimization of dominant ideologies and epistemologies that exclude the integration of local knowledges, beliefs, values and practices? ● What hinders or contributes to English language teachers’ development of a critical and reflective attitude toward English language teaching in Chile? ● What are English language teachers’ opportunities and challenges for a continual quest for subjectivity, identity formation and social transformation? ● What are the barriers and benefits to developing and exercising a sense of empowerment and agency to enact pedagogical change and transformation? ● What does the future of the teaching of English in Chile look like, particularly in the concrete classroom realities that most teachers confront? ● And what does this then mean for the teacher educators in universities who prepare them for professional practice?
Several papers have appeared on the strategies of communication used by L2 learners. However, very little work has been done to determine the underlying psychological processes that generate communication strategies (CS). This paper assumes that any description of CS should be based on a description of the processes governing CS. The paper attempts to correlate CS with psychological processes by analyzing interlanguage (IL) written discourse produced by advanced Tamil learners of English as a Second Language. The analysis aims at isolating instances of lexical simplification, identifying co-relative CS and inferring probable psychological processes. The data chosen for study show that the learners employed eight communication strategies (extended use of lexical item, lexical paraphrase, word coinage, LI equivalence, literal translation of LI idiom, Cl mode of emphasis, Cl mode of linking constructions and Cl cohesive devices) corresponding to three psychological processes, namely, (a) overgeneralization, a process in which second language learners violate certain semantic/stylistic/collocational restrictions, (b) creative transfer, a process in which learners seem to effect required morphological and syntactic transformations to the items they transfer to L2 discourse, and (c) cultural relativity, a process in which learners appear to operate in the mode and sequence of thought patterns characteristic of their native culture. In the light of these findings, probable implications for second language learning and teaching are discussed.
Intuitions, particularly judgments of grammaticality, have played an important role in theoretical linguistics, but the nature of grammaticality judgments by second language learners has not received adequate attention. The present study is an investigation of the function of grammaticality judgments in second language acquisition. Two groups of learners of different proficiency levels were asked to give grammaticality judgments of sentences they had written and of sentences other students had written. The results were analyzed in terms of the subjects' ability to make the appropriate grammaticality judgments and to correct those sentences they had judged to be ungrammatical. The results indicate that with increased proficiency in English, learners move from an overall ability to make general assessments of grammaticality to an ability to identify and/or correct particular details. The results of this study are also discussed in terms of Bialystok's (1979, 1981) notion of implicit/explicit knowledge and the general function of metalinguistics awareness in second language acquisition.
An experiment was designed to investigate how different types of topic reinstatements affected second language learners' recognition and recall of sentence topics in lectures. The variant reinstatement structures tested were repetition of the noun topic, rhetorical questions, synonyms, conditional clauses, and simple noun reiteration. The research question was whether syntactic simplicity or elaboration and redundancy would be more effective in promoting retention of the topic. Findings indicated that the redundant repeated noun was significantly better recognized than the simple noun, and was better recalled than the conditional or synonym. Learners with relatively low English proficiency tended to have poorer recall ability on the syntactically more complex structures.