Sociocultural aspects of materials and methods - ORB

Sociocultural aspects of
materials and methods
Dr Desmond Thomas,
University of Essex
Indicated Reading 1
• Alptekin, C. 1993, ‘Target Language Culture in EFL
Materials’, ELT Journal 47/2
• Auerbach, E. 1995, 'The politics of the ESL
classroom: issues of power in pedagogical choices', in
Tollefson, J. (ed.) 1995, Power and Inequality in
Language Education, Cambridge University Press.
• Clark, J. 1987, Curriculum Renewal in School
Foreign Language Learning, Oxford University Press
• Clarke, J. & Clarke, M. 1990, ‘Stereotyping in TESOL
Materials’. In Harrison, B. (ed.) ELT Documents 132:
Culture and the Language Classroom, Modern
English Publications/The British Council
Indicated Reading 2
• Dendrinos, B. 1992, The EFL Textbook and
Ideology, Athens: N.C.Grivas
• Holliday, A. 1994, Appropriate Methodology and
Social Context, Cambridge University Press
• Pennycook, A. 1994, The Cultural Politics of
English as an International Language, London:
• Phillipson, R. 1992, Linguistic Imperialism, OUP
Culture and TESOL: some questions
1. What is the cultural and ideological content
of materials? And of methods?
2. How does this content affect learning &
teaching? Is the effect significant?
3. What are appropriate materials for specific
cultural contexts? And what are appropriate
methods and approaches?
4. How can we adapt materials, methods and
approaches to achieve appropriacy?
What is culture?
Pennycook (1994:62), identifies four interpretations
of the concept of culture
1. "culture as a set of superior values, especially
embodied in works of art and limited to a small
elite" (in other words, 'high culture')
2. "culture as a whole way of life, the informing
spirit of a people”
3. "culture as a set of values imposed on the
majority by those in power”
4. "culture as the way in which different people
make sense of their lives”
What is meant by ‘ideology’?
• According to Dendrinos (1992: 77-78):it
"refers to a system of key beliefs, held by
members of a group, that direct their actions
and processes in some areas of life.”
• These ideas help contrast the interpretation of
culture as "'the whole way of a life" of a
people or distinct social group with the idea of
ideology as a framework through which this
cultural experience can be interpreted
Cultural & ideological content of materials
• Overt vs covert cultural content
• Cultural stereotypes 1: personality
characteristics, dress, typical behaviours,
acceptable vs non-acceptable social behaviour
• CS 2: Gender roles in society
• CS 3: National/racial
• CS 4: Age-related
Hidden cultural and ideological messages
Social behaviour
• Video sequence 1: “At the post office”
• Video sequence 2: “Complaining customers”
Gender roles
• Husband and wife dialogues about work
• Guess the job listening comprehension
• Fixing a radio dialogue
Racial integration
• Interracial families and social scenes
Exploiting cultural/ideological content
TASK 1: Look at texts A, B, C, D. Consider:
1. What is the covert (or overt) cultural or
ideological content?
2. Would students be aware of it? How could
you make them aware?
3. Would it be worth exploiting such content?
How could you do this?
Culture & ideology in teaching approaches
• It can be argued that classroom practices can be seen
as cultural practices. The acceptance of this argument
also entails acceptance of the 'non-neutrality' of
teaching and learning (Pennycook 1994:178).
• It can also be argued that aspects of teaching are
inherently ideological. Auerbach reasons that:• “Pedagogical choices about curriculum development,
content, materials, classroom processes, and language
use, although appearing to be informed by apolitical
professional considerations, are, in fact, inherently
ideological in nature... (1995:9)”
Cultural & educational imperialism
• Phillipson suggests that there is such a thing
as educational imperialism, involving the
transfer of products such as textbooks,
examinations as well as teaching methods and
approaches from one educational culture to
another in such as way as to impose them or
make them indispensable.
• Message: cultural practices are part of a plan
Cultural conflict
• Pennycook (1994:159), argues that:
• The export of applied linguistic theory and of
Western-trained language teachers constantly
promotes inappropriate teaching approaches to
diverse settings. It is of fundamental importance
to acknowledge that different ways of teaching
and learning are embedded in social, political,
philosophical and cultural differences. It is not
surprising, then, that conflicts often occur.
Cultural and Educational Traditions
• Classical Humanism: highlights the importance of
knowledge transmission, linguistic standards,
authority of the teacher, preservation of cultural
• Reconstructionism: aims to create a better society
through the education of individuals
• Progressivism: highlights individual personal growth
and achievement, learner autonomy, originality, lifelong learning
(Clark 1987)
Some points to consider …
• What is the dominant educational tradition in
your country? How is threatened by imported
cultural and ideological values?
• What happens when there is a conflict of cultural,
ideological or educational traditions and values?
• What are the effects on learners and teachers?
• How can teachers and learners adapt to the ‘new

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