Monthly Archives: June, 2017

Welcome to the NELTA ELT Forum, June 2017 Issue

Editorial…

“Writers live twice.”
—Natalie Goldberg

We would like to begin June issue editorial from a powerful three-word quote by American writer, Natalie Goldberg (mentioned above). Of course, writers live twice and this is the amazing sole power of writing. Writing contributes to the author’s own community at the minor scale and to the world at micro scale. Having realized the potential of writing, NELTA ELT Forum is working with a wider ELT writing community to spread out their valued voices to a larger ELT audience. It is our pleasure to say that as of now, we have been receiving a number of write-ups, the very special contribution from the established ELT academia, researchers, trainers and classroom teachers who are the ‘soul’ of this forum. These very diverse authors have made our forum so lively and engaging as a result we are living or our existence has been possible. Similarly, another important part of our Forum is our readers who are encouraging us by reading the posts regularly and providing their valued comments.

At this point, we would like to say that we are much sorry that due to some technical difficulties, we could not bring our regular issues for some months. However, it is equally our pleasure that NELTA ELT Forum is coming up with the new issues along with a new team members. We would like to thank the former team for their warm support and especial contribution. It is always the former team who is guiding the new team. We will try to march ahead following the way they paved and of course at times, we may walk little farther in course of exploration or we may try to create a new trail as well which we think would help our readers to give a new taste.

As far as this issue is concerned, we are bringing some gripping ELT issues from our especial contributors in this issue. On the first post, Dr. Binod Luitel accentuates a need of research on vocabulary instruction and reading comprehension with some strong theoretical underpinnings. His context-appropriate advocacy will be a major takeaway for our readers. We completely agree with Dr. Luitel that classroom-based experimental research and vocabulary survey can be essentially a good means to modify curriculum and textbook which could offer some space to translanguaging and creative writing practice. They can further build a way to depth of processing theory and reading plus approach. Similarly, in the second post, Ammar Bahadur Singh presents his critical view on MOOCs and shows some importance of MOOC in Nepalese contexts. He explicates that MOOC has the affordances to bring economic transformation in a country as it helps to build and enhance the society of knowledge. He also posits that MOOCs provide teachers the unique opportunity to enrich their professionalism as they get into the network of communities of practice. Amar foresees that the extended values of MOOCS, such as it can help sustain ethnic values if the contents in MOOC are developed in local languages and on the basis of local needs and demands. Thirdly, Bhanu Chandra Joshi in his article suggests for the use of eclectic approach in English language teaching. He claims that no methodology fits to all contexts as there several influencing factors such as available resources in the classrooms, the learners’ background, and teachers’ pedagogical and content knowledge and so on. Last but not least, the article by Dharmananda Joshi talks about the ongoing discussion on the use of mother tongue in a language classroom. As there’s a practice of either no use or over-use of mother tongue in private and public schools of Nepal respectively, the understanding of judicious use of mother tongue as he claims for in his writing is necessary for language teachers and other concerned stakeholders. In this sense, this article has also some relation to the advocacy of translanguaging by Binod Luitel in this same issue.

For your ease, we have hyperlinked each post of this issue below:

  1. Envisioning Vocabulary Enhancement vis-à-vis Reading Pedagogy in ESL Context by Dr. Binod Luitel
  2. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Opportunities and challenges for learning by Ammar Bahadur Singh
  3. Use of Eclectic Approach in English Language Teaching by Bhanu Chandra Joshi
  4. Judicious Use of Mother Tongue in EFL Classroom: Some Considerations by Dharmanand Joshi

We hope you will enjoy reading this issue. Please drop your comments to the posts that you will read.

Happy reading!

 

Issue Editors,

Sagun Shrestha

Laxmi Prasad Ojha

 

Envisioning Vocabulary Enhancement vis-à-vis Reading Pedagogy in ESL Context

*Dr. Binod Luitel

Abstract

This paper attempts to depict my engagement in the areas of vocabulary and reading comprehension in the context of teaching English as a second language – discussing the major theoretical insights that led me towards innovation, the tangible works done so far after those influences, and the future course of action intended for continuation of the mission. This ‘manifesto’ particularly stresses the need for conducting vocabulary survey of the course materials used in language teaching-learning, analysing the depth level of the reading exercises incorporated therein, and undertaking some interventions as well as experimental studies on effectiveness of the newly developed innovative modalities of teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Introduction

Vocabulary instruction being an essential part of second/foreign language pedagogy, I had initiated empirical research-study on the teaching and learning of word-meaning in English from 2001 – with the conviction that exploration in this area would be of immense significance in second language (L2) education. Consequently, I also began similar endeavour in reading comprehension – seeing the close relationship between the two. Now, after one and half decades of my engagement in this field, I feel the need for conceptualizing some sort of roadmap for future course in the context of English as a second language (ESL). Hence a glance of the same is presented towards the end of this article – in the light of some major theoretical influences that directed me during my journey in the past as well as the ideas and insights I developed in the course of empirical works till now.

Theoretical influences

Some of the theoretical and conceptual influences that guided my inquiry into L2 vocabulary and reading till now are briefly introduced below.

1) Depth of processing theory: With the assumption that mere occurrence of vocabulary items in learning materials does not necessarily result in effective learning, ‘depth of processing’ theory introduced by Craik and Lockhart in the early 1970s (as referred to by Cornu, 1979) has recognized the importance of the quality of learner’s mental involvement instigated by learning task/exercise in mastering word-meaning. As this theory stresses, ‘the deeper the mental processing involved in learning a word, the more likely that learners can remember it.’ From this perspective, learning tasks are assessed considering the extent to which they have the potential for arousing ‘deep level’ mental engagement in the word-meanings being learned. Accordingly, it would be desirable that exercises having deeper level of processing are designed for more effective learning of vocabulary in L2.

2) ‘Reading plus’ approach: Following this approach, there is a strong theoretical conviction that mere reading does not succeed in learning unless it is supplemented by a series of tasks. Somehow in consonance with ‘depth of processing theory’; this approach provides a bit more concrete modality for categorization of the tasks used for ‘intentional’ (explicitly planned and focused) vocabulary instruction – whereby exercises are categorized hierarchically along the receptive-productive continuum. The tasks in the continuum are distinguished from one another in terms of complexity. Presented and piloted by Paribakht and Wesche (1996), the task categories include: (a) Selective attention – which draws the learner’s attention to the target word, aiming to enable the learner “notice” the existence of the word; (b) Recognition – in which learners are required to recognize the association between the target word and its meaning; (c) Manipulation – in which the learner has to rearrange or organize the given linguistic elements and build up new words or phrases; (d) Interpretation – in which the learner works to identify the relationship between the target word and other words/phrases in the given context; and (e) Production – whereby the learner is required to “retrieve and produce the target words” in context (ibid., p. 165). After studying this framework and piloting it in Nepalese context (Luitel, 2005a), I concluded that vocabulary learning can be progressively tracked towards productive competence if learners are guided through such tasks. Continue reading →

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Opportunities and challenges for learning

*Ammar Bahadur Singh

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to review papers on the promises and perils of MOOCs which are exponentially growing in Higher Education (HE) sector. Proponents of MOOCs see them as unprecedented learning opportunities enabled by technologies which could bring disruptive revolution in HE, while critics take them just an upgraded version of distance learning which could reproduce banking model of HE through instructor manipulation of technology in delivering learning contents. Research indicate that pedagogical practices in MOOCs are neither entirely new nor radically innovative. Learners’ experiences are also neither overwhelmingly positive nor negative. However, interests of higher education institutions and governments are growing concerning how to make use of educational potentials offered by MOOCs.

Key words: MOOCs, higher education, banking model of education

Introduction

The acronym MOOC includes four aspects: the massiveness, the openness, the online nature and the course features. The massiveness simply refers to the massive number of learner participation in the course. The openness refers to free access to educational resources, open registration, open curriculum, open learning environments and open assessment process. However, some MOOCs (e.g. some MOOCs from Coursera) are not free and they charge registration fees. The online aspect indicates that MOOCs are delivered online. No attendance is required. The courses are usually a combination of video lectures, discussion/reflection forums, written and interactive online materials. Finally, the course aspect points out that MOOCs run for a specific time duration with emphasis on networking with peer learners. Thus, in short, MOOCs are free or minimal fee charging courses delivered online to a massive number of participants.

As mentioned by Bates (2014), there are two types of MOOCs: cMOOCs or connectivist MOOCs and xMOOCs or eXtended MOOCs (extension of traditional university courses). This (binary), classification of the MOOCs, in fact, holds the perennially unresolved debates of how teaching and learning ought to take place. The cMOOCs tend to have a decentralized, network based, non-linear structure that focus on exploration and conversation rather than instructor-provided contents (Margaryan, Bianco & Litteljohn, 2015). The xMOOCs focus on pre-programmed instruction (Schulmeister, 2014), content consumption (Ahn et al., 2013) and are overtly reliant on video-lectures contents and automated assessment (Bayne & Ross, 2014). While the cMOOCs emphasize creation, creativity, autonomy and social networking learning, xMOOCs focuses on a more traditional learning approach through video presentations and short quizzes (Siemens, 2012). The xMOOCs have now become a dominant model (Yuan & Powell, 2013) as they are easier for teachers to develop and deliver. Continue reading →

Use of Eclectic Approach in English Language Teaching

*Bhanu Chandra Joshi

Abstract

Scholars around the world are advocating that use of a single and prescribed methodology for teaching language cannot be successful in all contexts. They rather argue that using multiple methods as per the need of the context is the best way to overcome the problems encountered. This approach, called eclecticism, advocates to be alternative to the existing methods in practice arguing that a single method and technique can never be absolutely suitable in all the situations. In fact, method based pedagogy leaves no room for teacher autonomy. If teacher does not enjoy autonomy in conducting class room activities, effective teaching learning may not take place. Through this article, I argue that teachers should make use of multiple methods and techniques depending on the contexts rather than following a standard prescribed method and technique for successful teaching learning process.

Introduction

There is a growing tendency to support and use eclectic approach in language teaching programmes in recent times. In general, eclectic approach signifies not to subscribe to any particular approach or method. To be precise, eclecticism is the pedagogy that not only adopts imported mainstream instructional approaches and methods to local needs but also highlights the creation of local practices. The thing that is considered best and highly valued in one context may not be suitable in another. Supporting this view, MacMorrow (2007) opines that “methods are drawn from one set of circumstances and thus, cannot fit perfectly in different situations.” He argues that established methods are developed being based on the particular circumstances; and of course, they work absolutely fine in that situation but may not work in the another one because no two different situations are alike in every aspect. Moreover, the socio-cultural and socio-political context of classroom setting and socio-cultural and socio-political background of the students varies from place to place. Thus, the cry of the day is to be alternative to method, autonomous, innovator, critical thinker and strongly oppose the beaten path of the established methods by introducing the locally suitable pedagogy.

The single method and technique can never be perfect in every context. Mitchell and Myles (2004) state that “There can be no one best method … which applies at all times and in all situations, with every type of learners (p. 281)”. Their argument supports the view that there is no single best method which can work best in diversified situations and all the times. The method which worked best in the USA may not be appropriate in Nepal as the context of teaching and learning English in USA is different from that of Nepal in terms of learners’ background, expectations and motivation, and classroom contexts. Continue reading →

Judicious Use of Mother Tongue in EFL Classroom: Some Considerations

*Dharmanand Joshi

Abstract

Use of mother tongue in English language classroom has long been a contested issue. There are multiple opinions of the scholars and practitioners regarding this issue. In this article, I discuss how mother tongue can be used in EFL (English as a foreign language) classroom in balanced way. To bring it into balance, the paper focuses on terminologies like ESL (English as a second language)/EFL distinction, use of mother tongue and its pejorative sense along with the ways to overcome it. Further the article analyzes the perspectives of different scholars regarding the use of mother tongue along with criticality of using it judiciously focusing on two opposite sides; no use of mother tongue via judicious use of mother tongue.

My Story

It was in 2001 when I joined Intermediate level majoring English. As a student migrated from remote area to urban, I started cramming major English in search of academic development. I entered the class where the teacher teaching major English Englishized the class. It made me think several times whether I will be able to comprehend content in English. Although I adjusted to the environment and bring improvement in me, it triggered me to think what if Nepali equivalents are used for incomprehensible words. I personally requested my teacher for the equivalent words that is meant for our understanding while I encountered difficult words. He provided some Nepali equivalent terms and made me really convenient to understand the content. After, intermediate level, I joined Bachelors in English Education(B.Ed.) majoring in English, where I had to study with the students of other subjects such as Nepali, Health and Mathematics during the General English classes. It was tough for the teacher to deal such academically heterogeneous class since it was the class beyond teaching English in English all the time. After a few days, he was rejected, as the students opposed his use of English only while teaching English.  The new teacher was accepted since he simplified the understanding of content using Nepali language when needed. This incidence made me think that use of mother tongue in need which has some potential for making learning meaningful.

The issue of mother tongue

There is always a debate on use of mother tongue in English language classroom. It is an important issue in English as a foreign language classes. The scholars are divided on this issue; one group is in favor of judicious use of mother tongue and another one favors complete rejection of mother tongue in foreign language classes.  Advocates of monolingual approach assert that target language should be the only medium of communication in the classroom since they believe that the prohibition of the native language would maximize the effectiveness of learning target language. In this regard, Krashen (1981) argues that learners acquire foreign languages following basically the same path they followed to acquire their mother tongue. He further claims that mother tongue use in English language teaching should be minimized since it may sometimes mislead in the process of learning target language. Despite the fact that there is universal system of language governance, languages differences result errors in the process of target language learning (Krashen, 1981). Continue reading →