How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 17:02:23 -0500 From: Nat Bartels Subject: Values of English Language Teaching
AUTHOR: Johnston, Bill TITLE: Values in English Language Teaching PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR:2003
Nat Bartels, Oklahoma State University at Tulsa
[This review was received 24 Sept 2004, but was not posted at the time because of technical problems in submitting it. We did not notice that it had not been posted until now. We apologize to the reviewer, the author and the publisher for the delay. --Eds.]
This book introduces the reader to the kinds of moral issues and dilemmas which underlie language teaching. While discussions of language teaching tend to center on general issues of language acquisition (input, negotiation of meaning, etc.), Johnston's argument is that language teaching is principally about navigating the moral issues that teachers are constantly facing, such as whether to pass students who have not done well, but face devastating consequences if they do not pass the course (such as loss of jobs, scholarships, etc.
Chapter 1:The Teacher as a Moral Agent. This chapter explores the main thesis of the book. Johnston first provides definitions of terms such as morality, values, etc. and continues on to review the literature on values in teaching in the field of education. Johnston concludes the chapter by listing reasons why the study of values in English language teaching, for example "ELT involves efforts to change people; we assume that such change is meant to be for the better, and thus it is a moral endeavor" (p. 18)
Chapter 2: Morality in Classroom Interaction. This chapter is the heart of the book. Using anecdotes and classroom transcripts, Johnston explores the complexity of classroom moral problems, from enforcement of class rules to responding to students' views to choosing and working with curriculum and textbooks. For example, Johnston presents a transcript of a teacher discussing what the students would do when they returned to their home country. One theme that emerged in the discussion is the influence of husbands on wives decisions to work. This leads to the following exchange:
Teacher: Guys? Do you want your wife to work? Student 2: If she wants a job, I'll allow her to work Teacher: You'll ALLOW her? [General laughter]
In this example, the teacher feels that it is important to respect the students and their views, so she does not directly confront student's argument. Nevertheless, this is an example of what Johnston calls "the subtle ways in which what the teacher does and says sends moral messages" (p. 31), even when they are trying to be respectful and unbiased. It is argued that teachers need to learn to be in control of such subtle messages. Chapter 3: Values and the Politics of English Language Teaching. This chapter explores the issue of power and language teaching. Johnston presents a very down to earth description and discussion of English language teaching and problems such as the effects of colonialism, the role of English in the decline of minority language, the political effect of teaching English to US immigrants and refugees, the dominance of English in world business and media, and the role of English in globalization. He then, in a refreshingly non-ideological way, discusses responses to these problems such as critical pedagogy and addresses, given the political nature of their trade, whether English language teaching needs to be politicized.
Chapter 4: The Morality of Testing and Assessment. This chapter continues on to look at moral problems in assessing classroom work, such as potential conflicts between the teacher as instructor and the teacher as evaluator. These issues have been explore more fully elsewhere, for example in Elana Shohamy's "The Power of Tests".
Chapter 5: Three Facets of Language Teacher Identity. All too often teachers are treated as people who uniformly manipulate general factors such as linguistic input and noticing, or who struggle with generic problems of teacher-student relationships. This chapter, however, shows how an important part of teaching is each teacher's individual identity and how they choose to express this and live this, or not, with their students. A range of factors are discussed from attitudes towards authority vs. solidarity to students to the issue of religion and its place in ELT. (While some, like Edge (2003) have only focused on negative aspects of this relationship, Johnston presents a much more balanced view.)
Chapter 6: Values in Teacher Development. This chapter moves away from teaching itself to look at how teachers develop over time. It not only covers typical topics such as teacher education vs. teacher development, teacher research, and expectations of advocacy and marginal status of ESL/EFL teachers. However, the chapter also looks at career paths for English teachers, an issue that is typically ignored in the academic literature as teachers' career paths are often very different from academics.
Chapter 7: Dilemmas and Foundations in English Language Teaching. In this chapter Johnston summarizes his arguments that each teacher's stance on moral issues is the foundation for their teaching and, thus, teachers need to reflect on their beliefs and values. Johnston lists typical dilemmas in ELT, such as content vs. form, process vs. product or authority vs. solidarity, which can be used by teacher to reflect on the moral foundations of their teaching.
This is a very important book which does a very good job of discussing a central issue in language teaching which has received relatively little notice in the literature. It is very well written in that it is provocative without being ideological and Johnston uses examples and classroom transcripts liberally to make his points clear to the reader.
A shortcoming of the book is that while the issue of values and ELT is explored in depth, the question of the impact of knowledge about language (i.e. knowledge of SLA, language analysis, testing, etc.) on teachers' values and how these are enacted in teaching practice is virtually ignored. Is knowledge of knowledge about language useless for teachers, or does it help them achieve their values in teaching more precisely? This question is not explored at all in the book.
Another potential shortcoming of the book is that, although it presents the issues in general well, there is little concerted effort throughout the book to help teachers thoroughly examine their own values for ELT. There really aren't any examples of teachers' using the insights Johnston presents to understand their teaching better and improve their teaching. The examples presented are mainly static, situated in a specific time, and do not show how teachers gain facility of using their values for teaching over time. The idea seems to be that if teacher understand Johnston's arguments in general, then they will be able to figure out to reflect on their own moral stance without much outside help; an assumption that I find questionable.
The book's primary audience is teachers who are interested in understanding more about their own practice. Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, I think this book would be very helpful and very interesting for this audience as it presents central issues that are rarely dealt with in the ELT literature. For the same reason, this would be an excellent additional text for a TESOL methods course. Beyond this, it would make good reading for those involved in applied linguistics (SLA, language analysis, etc.) and really everyone involved in language teacher education to help them better understand the complexity of language teaching.
Edge, Julian (2003) Imperial troopers and servants of the lord: A vision for TESOL for the 21st century. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), 701-709.
Shohamy, Elana (2001) The Power of Tests. Pearson.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Nat Bartels teaches applied linguistics and teaching methodology at Oklahoma State University at Tulsa. He has published articles on teacher education and teacher knowledge in the TESOL Quarterly and Teaching & Teacher Education, and is the editor of "Applied Linguistics and Language Teacher Education" (Kluwer, 2004).