Access Teacher Training 2014

Critical Approach to Teaching English: Ensuring Social Relevance

The PowerPoint and the reading texts used in the workshop are downloadable below.

This presentation and workshop is a result of being invited as a guest lecturer for a teacher training program involving “Access Teachers,” who, as far as I’m aware, are US government sponsored EFL teachers. These teachers from around the world teach English as a foreign language to marginalized students in their region. They came to the US for a professional development course and cultural immersion.

My goal was to show how language education can (and should) involve not only promoting and facilitating linguistic (as well as cultural) competence, but also creating a better life for society at large by constant inquiry of commonly held assumptions and practices in order to better understand the relationship of the those in power to those who are not. This understanding of the world would be the first step toward transforming it, which is the ultimate goal of Critical Pedagogy and possibly the only worthy goal of education in general. Most of all, however, I wanted to focus on some ways to realize a critical approach in the English language classroom - how understanding the world may be necessary to understand the word. This practice application of a critical approach was enacted through an critical analysis and adaptation of some selected materials from a popular ESL textbook. While only a small step toward a truly critical approach, it was my hope to plant the seed of such an approach so that these teachers might include it in their lives as transformative intellectuals.

The workshop was based on a condensed version of Pennycook’s (1999) three themes of a critical approach to TESOL as it is presented in his article, Introduction: Critical Approaches to TESOL, which introduced the special topic of critical approaches in a volume of TESOL Quarterly. It was also based on Kumaravadivelu’s (2003) acclaimed book, Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Teaching – specifically his chapter titled "Ensuring Social Relevance."

As requested from workshop:

While creation, adaptation, and supplementation of materials - on the parts of the teachers and students - are preferred in a critical approach to teaching English, some critically oriented ESL materials do exist. Here is a short list, most of which are for higher English proficiency.

  • Coelho, E., Winer, L. & Olson, J. W-B. (1989). All sides of the issue. New York: Alemany Press.

  • Fox, L. (1980). Perspectives: An intermediate reader. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

  • Numrich, C. (2003). Consider the issues. New York: Pearson.

  • Shulman, M. (1988). Cultures in contrast. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

  • Shulman, M. (2004). Thinking critically: World issues for reading, writing and research. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

  • Smith, L. C. & Mare, N. N . (1990). Issues for today: An effective reading skills text. New York: Newbury House.

The PowerPoint and the reading texts used in the workshop are downloadable below.