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Review of  Innovation in English Language Teaching

Reviewer: Richard Watson Todd
Book Title: Innovation in English Language Teaching
Book Author: David Hall Ann Hewings
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 12.1935

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Hall, David R., and Ann Hewings, eds. (2001) Innovation in English
Language Teaching: A Reader. Routledge, paperback ISBN: 0-415-24124-3,

Richard Watson Todd, Department of Applied Linguistics, King Mongkut's
University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand.

For the publisher's announcement of this book, see

Innovation in English Language Teaching' is an edited collection of key
articles and book excerpts relating to changes in English language
curricula in contexts where English is not the first language. It is
one of three readers compiled to support Masters level learning at
Macquarie University, Australia and Open University, UK. The book is
divided into 4 main parts with 22 chapters in total.

The book claims to provide 'both theoretical perspectives and practical
tools for analysing, developing and evaluating English language
teaching curricula'. To serve this purpose, the 4 main parts of the
book are:

Part 1 Directions in Curriculum Change; Part 2 Political and
Institutional Constraints in Curriculum Development; Part 3 Planning
and Implementing Curriculum Change; and Part 4 Evaluating Curriculum

In each of these parts, there are three to seven chapters. As a reader,
rather than original work, each of these chapters is a reprint of an
article or book excerpt. These range from those which have been very
influential to lesser-known but interesting articles. A brief summary
of each of these, together with the introduction, should show how the
book fits together.

Introduction A five-page introduction briefly explains the purposes of
the parts and how the individual chapters fit together.

Part 1 Directions in Curriculum Change The chapters in this section
focus on the 'what' of curriculum innovation. In other words, they give
a range of bases which can be used to underpin new curricula, from the
now- mainstream Communicative Approach to the more controversial
discourse and lexical approaches.

Chapter 1 Breen, M. P. and Candlin, C. N. The essentials of a
communicative curriculum in language teaching (originally published in
Applied Linguistics, 1980). This article presents the theoretical
foundations of Communicative Language Teaching from a sociocultural

Chapter 2 Nunan, D. and Lamb, C. Managing the learning process
(originally published as a chapter in The Self-directed Teacher:
Managing the Learning Process, Cambridge University Press, 1996). This
chapter focuses on the rationale and practice of a learner-centred
curriculum, paying special attention to how such a curriculum contrasts
with a more traditional approach to English language teaching. It also
includes some sample techniques and activities that teachers can use in
a learner-centred curriculum.

Chapter 3 Lewis, M. Lexis in the syllabus (originally published as part
of a chapter in The Lexical Approach: The State of ELT and a Way
Forward, Language Teaching Publications, 1993). This chapter challenges
the foundations and practice of both traditional and communicative
curricula, and suggests an alternative approach based primarily around
lexis, including collocations, lexical phrases and supra-sentential

Chapter 4 McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. Designing the discourse syllabus
(originally published as a chapter in Language as Discourse:
Perspectives for Language Teaching, Longman, 1990). This paper argues
in favour of syllabuses based on the need to address discourse
competence, looking at both what such a syllabus might include and how
such a syllabus can be set up.

Chapter 5 Cook, G. The uses of computerized language corpora: a reply
to Ronald Carter (originally published as The uses of reality: a reply
to Ronald Carter, in ELT Journal, 1998). This article is a passionate
argument against a perceived dominance of corpus linguistics in
identifying goals in language teaching. Cook argues that, although a
corpus approach has proved productive in linguistics, its applicability
to language teaching is limited.

Chapter 6 Hewings, A. and Hewings, M. Approaches to the study of
disciplinary variation in academic writing: implications for syllabus
design (this chapter appears to be written specifically for the book).
This paper focuses exclusively on the teaching of academic writing, and
examines the implications genre analyses and studies of metadiscourse
and sentence themes have for the design of syllabuses designed for
academic writing courses.

Part 2 Political and Institutional Constraints in Curriculum

The second part of the book largely comprises case studies of
curriculum innovation and highlights the political and institutional
constraints that hinder the implementation of innovations.

Chapter 7 Carter, R. Politics and knowledge about language: the LINC
project (originally published as a chapter in Investigating English
Discourse, Taylor and Francis, 1997). Looking at the context of English
as a first language in the UK, this case study examines the failure to
implement language materials designed for the National Curriculum
because of political issues.

Chapter 8 Jones, G. M. Bilingual education and syllabus design: Towards
a workable blueprint (originally published in Journal of Multilingual
and Multicultural Development, 1996). This article presents a case
study of bilingual education in Brunei Darussalam proposing that the
proportion of subjects taught in English should be gradually increased
through the school curriculum based on findings from psycholinguistics.

Chapter 9 Brown, K. World Englishes in TESOL programs: an infusion
model of curricular innovation (originally published in World
Englishes, 1993). This paper covers the reasons why World Englishes
(e.g. the English of India) have not been incorporated into English
language curricula. Suggested reasons include problems of availability
and difficulty of the key texts on World Englishes.

Chapter 10 Markee, N. The diffusion of innovation in language teaching
(originally published in Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 1993).
This article provides a theoretical framework of how to conduct
curriculum innovation by examining the elements in the question 'Who
adopts what, where, when, why and how?'

Chapter 11 Sarwar, Z. Adapting individualization techniques for large
classes (originally published in English Teaching Forum, 1991). Looking
at the problems of large classes in Pakistan, Sarwar's article gives
concrete suggestions for teachers on how to integrate individualisation
into the teaching of classes of 100+ learners.

Chapter 12 Savage, W. and Storer, G. An emergent language program
framework: actively involving learners in needs analysis (originally
published in System, 1992). This paper is a case study of a negotiated
syllabus where the syllabus is designed during the course in
consultation with the learners.

Chapter 13 Li, D. Teachers' perceived difficulties in introducing the
communicative approach in South Korea (originally published as It's
always more difficult than you plan and imagine: teachers' perceived
difficulties in introducing the communicative approach in South Korea,
in TESOL Quarterly, 1998). Following on from the opening article by
Breen and Candlin, this paper reports the findings of a survey into
South Korean teachers' attitudes to Communicative Language Teaching.
The findings highlight the difficulties of implementing a Western
innovation in a non-Western context.

Part 3 Planning and Implementing Curriculum Change This part contains a
mix of articles looking at how innovations can be put into practice.

Chapter 14 Holliday, A. Achieving cultural continuity in curriculum
innovation (originally published in Kennedy, C. ed. Innovation and Best
Practice, Pearson, 1999). This paper examines how to bridge the gap
between the culture of the originators of an innovation and that of the

Chapter 15 Graves, K. A framework of course development processes
(originally published as a chapter in Teachers as Course Developers,
Cambridge University Press, 1996). This chapter provides a succinct
'how to' guide to course design, including needs analysis, determining
objectives, identifying content, selecting materials, organising
content, evaluation, and consideration of constraints.

Chapter 16 Nunan, D. Action research in language education (originally
published in Edge, J. and Richards, K. eds. Teachers Develop Teachers
Research: Papers on Classroom Research and Teacher Development,
Heinemann, 1993). Action research is informal research conducted by
teachers for personal development or to address specific situational
needs. Nunan's article provides an overview of why and how teachers
should conduct action research.

Chapter 17 Feez, S. Curriculum evolution in the Australian Adult
Migrant English Program (this chapter appears to be written
specifically for the book). This chapter describes the genre-based
curriculum used in the Australian Adult Migrant English Program.

Chapter 18 Hall, D. R. Materials production: theory and practice
(originally published in Hidalgo, A. C., Hall, D. and Jacobs, G. M.
eds. Getting Started: Materials Writers on Materials Writing, SEAMEO
RELC, 1995). This chapter provides some short case studies describing
teaching materials.

Chapter 19 Sergeant, S. CALL innovation in the ELT curriculum
(originally published in Kennedy, K., Doyle, P. and Goh, C. eds.
Exploring Change in English Language Teaching, Macmillan Heinemann,
1999). Presenting a case study of the use of computer-assisted language
learning, this paper draws implications concerning how computers can
best be introduced into and used in English language teaching.

Part 4 Evaluating Curriculum Change This part examines how innovations
can be evaluated.

Chapter 20 Rea-Dickens, P. and Germaine, K. Purposes for evaluation
(originally published as a chapter in Evaluation, Oxford University
Press, 1992). This chapter is a clear introduction to the purposes of
conducting evaluations of innovations, focusing particularly on
evaluating materials and teachers.

Chapter 21 Carless, D. R. A case study of curriculum implementation in
Hong Kong (originally published in System, 1998). This chapter presents
a case study of the evaluation of innovation. Examining a learner-
centred curriculum innovation in Hong Kong, data from lesson
transcripts and interviews with teachers are analysed to evaluate
teachers' reactions to the innovation.

Chapter 22 Lesikin, J. Determining social prominence: a methodology for
uncovering gender bias in ESL textbooks (originally published in
College ESL, 1998). This paper investigates gender bias in textbooks
written for English as a Second Language teaching in the US.

As with any reader which attempts to collect together the most valuable
articles in a given field, taking the articles individually 'Innovation
in English Language Teaching' is unlikely to provide much new
information to a well-stocked library. The key question with a reader
like this is whether bringing the articles together into a single
volume and presenting them in close juxtaposition adds a new
perspective on the articles and the area of focus. The answer to this
question usually comes down to the choice of articles included in the
reader and the way in which they are linked, presented and introduced.

The articles in this collection are wide-ranging, running the full
gamut from heavily theoretical (e.g. Breen and Candlin) to classroom
practicality (e.g. Sarwar). Some are key articles in the field of
English language teaching (ELT) innovation (e.g. Lewis, Carter, and
Markee) which would warrant inclusion in any editor's selection. Others
are less well- known but their inclusion can be justified (e.g. Sarwar,
and Savage and Storer). The inclusion of some of the articles, however,
is more open to debate for two reasons. Firstly, the relevance of a few
of the articles to ELT innovation is unclear. This is especially the
case with Nunan's article on action research and Lesikin's article
evaluating textbooks irrespective of whether they are innovative or
not. Secondly, a couple of the articles can only be described as weak,
most notably the article by Hall (one of the editors) on materials
production. This paper simply describes a few sets of teaching
materials designed by the author without trying to describe the
materials design process at all. If the editors believed it necessary
to include an article on materials design in the collection, any of the
articles in the collection edited by Tomlinson (1998) would probably
have been more useful.

Another consideration concerning choice of articles for the collection
is whether they are representative of the whole field. As might be
expected from a collection designed to support learning in British and
Australian universities, the collection places a heavy emphasis on the
teaching of English as a foreign language where British/Australian
approaches have been most influential and gives less space to the
teaching of English as a second language which is predominant in the US
and Canada. Indeed, the final article by Lesikin is the only paper
which is overtly 'American' in its approach. This restriction in the
range of the papers included is worrying as there is little dialogue
and crossover between American and British/Australian approaches to ELT
(although the articles by Markee and Brown provide a potential bridge).
Despite these drawbacks in choice of articles, at least half of the
papers are clearly worthy of inclusion in the collection - a reasonable
proportion for any reader.

If the overall choice of articles is reasonable, then the second
consideration of how the articles are linked and presented becomes
important. The main ways in which these are done is by providing an
editors' commentary to the collection and by dividing the collection
into parts.

The editors' commentary in this reader consists solely of the five-page
introduction. The brevity of the commentary appears to assume that the
relevance and value of each of the chapters is fairly self-explanatory.
In fact, this is not the case for some parts of the book.

Part 1 holds together well with each chapter focusing on one variation
of innovation as product. The juxtaposition of contrasting approaches,
especially where one approach criticises another (e.g. Cook's
lambasting of Lewis), makes for thought-provoking reading. The lack of
articles concerning the presently influential task-based learning (e.g.
Willis, 1996), project-based learning (e.g. Legutke and Thomas, 1991)
and content- based learning (e.g. Snow and Brinton, 1997) approaches
is, however, a surprising oversight.

Part 2 is somewhat more problematic. All of the articles in this
section highlight political and situational constraints on curriculum
innovation. For some of the papers, however, this is incidental to the
original purpose of the paper, and thus it is quite a jump for the
reader to draw broad conclusions concerning constraints on innovation.
This is a point where a more detailed editors' commentary would have
been helpful.

Part 3 exhibits the same problems, but in an even more acute form. Some
of the chapters in this part were originally written without any
reference to curriculum renewal. For example, Nunan's paper on action
research says nothing about how such research can provide valuable
input into curriculum innovation, yet the editors in the Introduction
simply introduce the chapter with one sentence saying that it shows
"ways in which innovation can be instigated by the teacher" (p. 4).
Without a commentary showing how action research fits into the
curriculum renewal process, this is not the case.

The first two papers in the final part of the book are perhaps the two
most self- explanatory papers, and yet are the two which are perhaps
best introduced by the editors. The lack of any link between the final
paper by Lesikin and curriculum innovation, however, weakens this part
of the book.

Overall, 'Innovations in English Language Teaching' is a reasonable
collection of papers. Although any teacher new to curriculum innovation
would probably find the monograph by Markee (1997) more useful, this
book does cover a wider range of topics by examining potential products
of curriculum innovation as well as the process. For anyone teaching
curriculum innovation at Master degree level, this is a useful
supplementary text, particularly as the lack of sufficient commentary
by the editors can be overcome in teaching.

Legutke, M. and Thomas, H. (1991) Process and Experience in the
Language Classroom. London: Longman.

Markee, N. (1997) Managing Curriculum Innovation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Snow, M. A. and Brinton, D. M. (eds.) (1997) The Content-Based
Classroom: Perspectives on Integrating Language and Content. New York:

Tomlinson, B. (ed.) (1998) Materials Development in Language Teaching.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Willis, J. (1996) A Framework for Task-Based Learning. London: Longman.

Richard Watson Todd is Associate Professor at King Mongkut's University
of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok. He is the author of 'Classroom
Teaching Strategies' and 'Ways of Learning English', and editor of
'Task-Based Learning and Curriculum Innovation'. He is interested in a
wide range of areas in applied linguistics.


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