English Language Teaching and Learning:

Glossary of Concepts

Online Class: Methodological Principles on Teaching ESL
Prof. Dr. Vera Lúcia Menezes
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
01/2010

 
Affordances
 
Def. The word affordance was invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor (a person or animal). It is a quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action.To Gibson, affordances are relationships. They exist naturally: they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable. The term is used in a variety of fields: perceptual psychology, cognitive psychology, environmental psychology, industrial design, human-computer interaction (HCI), interaction design, and artificial intelligence.
 
"...the term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used. [...] Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Plates are for pushing. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction needed." (Norman 1988, p.9)
 
    
 
In recent years, the emergence of new digital technologies has offered up the possibility of extending and deepening classroom learning in ways hitherto unimagined. Much of this optimism is predicated on the idea that digital tools will extend learners' capabilities as their affordances are used to transform learning outcomes. However, one need to be aware that a given medium or technology will not automatically afford particular learning outcomes. In reality, learning is always distributed in some form between the technology, the learner, and the context. 
 
    
 
The InterActive Education project was framed broadly by socio-cultural theory that emphasises the notion that human condition is interactive and is fundamentally connected to "social and cognitive tools" (Cole & Engestrom 1993, Wertsch 1991). The idea of "cognitive tool" includes a wide range of cultural artefacts and semiotic systems. These cultural artefacts are both material and symbolic, as well as being instrumental in regulating interactions with one's environment and oneself. In this respect, there are "tools broadly conceived and the master tool is language" (Cole & Engestrom 1993, p 9). Such "tools" might be digital, such as a laptop, a word-processor, a desktop, softwares as CorelDRAW and Excel, or an Interactive Whiteboard. They could be also non-digital tools, such as paper and pencil or a dictionary. On the other hand, the idea of a "social tool"  includes people who are currently involved with the action, individuals who interact at a distance, and those who interact through another medium or socially constructed artefact, such as e-mail, a personal page, a blog, a video, a webpage, a wordpage, wikis, ebooks, eletronic magazines, and so forth. Regarding teaching and learning virtual environment, TelEduc, Blackboard, and Moodle are open source course management systems used by thousands of educational institutions to provide an organized interface for e-learning, or learning over the Internet. Therefore, it is important that students are encouraged to think about the varied opportunities that different tools offer to them and use them as a way of enhancing their learning process. 
 
In addition, the concept of affordance should be applied to help teachers - moderators in this process - begin to understand the learning potential of a new technology and be conscious that this learning potential will emerge in the classroom as a complex interrelationship of the designer's and teacher's intentions, the teacher and students' perceptions and constructions of how technology can be used, and the cultural context into which the new technology has been placed (including the subject domain and its culture). (see below community of practice and identity
 

                  
More Information on the Web
"Affordances for Visual Arts Educators":
"Mediation, Multimodality and Multiliteracies", by Prof. Reinildes Dias (UFMG):
 
Videos
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIu8e3I67HQ (Best Practices in Online Learning and Teaching)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mirxkzkxuf4 (A Vision for 21st Century Learning)
 
Bibliographical Sources
"Affordance, opportunity and the pedagogical implications of ICT":
"Affordances Beyond the Classroom":
Norman, D. A. (1988). "The psychology of everyday things." New York: Basic Books. 
 


 
Bottom-up Processing
 
Def. It is a concept related to cognitive process. Bottom-up processing is said to occur when one draws from some particular examples, instances, cases, or events to a generalization, rule, or law to capture te commonality between the examples, instances, cases, or events. That is to say that the bottom of hierarchy is assumed to contain low-level, concrete, and specific knowledge representations such as visual features, lexicons, and prepositions. 
Bottom-up and top-down refer to process that flow from either the buttom or the top of the information processing hierarchy, respectively. (see below top-down processing)
Examples:
- The creation of this webpage was a buttom-up process because I had never used this "tool" before. So, I began from a blank template and had to figure out how to handle the commands provided by Google Sites in order to build this space the way it looks like now. 
 
- Induction is a bottom-up strategy. 
- It refers to the use of incoming data as a source of message. From this perspective, the process of comprehension begins with the message received (a letter, for instance), which is analyzed at sucessive levels of organization - sounds, words, clauses, and sentences - until the intended meaning is arrived at. Comprehension is thus viewed as a process of decoding. Examples of bottom-up processes in listening include the follow:
 
          
                                
"The listener's lexical and grammatical competence in a language provides the basis for bottom-up processing. A person's lexical competence serve as a mental dictionary to which incoming words are referred for meaning assignment. Grammatical competence can be thought of as a set of strategies that are applied to the analysis of incoming data" (Richards 1990).  
 
 
 
More Information on the Web
"Listening Comprehension: Top-down, Buttom-up, and Interactive Models":
 
Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXYwBdihod0 (Learning Languages: Inductive Reasoning and Deductive Reasoning)
 
Bibliographical Sources
"Reading":
Richards, Jack. C.; Rodgers, Theodore S. "Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Richards, Jack. C. "The Language Teaching Matrix." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  

 
Community of Practice  (CoP)   
 
Def. Community of Practice is a term coined by Etienne Wenger, a social learning theorist, that describes a partnership between members engaged in the same practice, a craft, and/or a profession, looking for an answer to solve a problem, to overcome a challenge, etc.; it is a community formed by people interested in developing a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a group of teachers interested in improving their classes (see below teacher research), and so forth. In a nutshell: "Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (Wenger circa 2007).The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunchroom at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment. The idea that learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice has gained significant ground in recent years. As a result, communities of practice have become an important focus within organizational development and have considerable value when thinking about working with groups.
 
 
           
 
There are three crucial elements that distinguish communities of practice from other groups and communities:
The domain:  "A community of practice is something more than a club of friends or a network of connections between people. 'It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people" (op. cit.);
The community: "In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other" (op. cit.);
The practice: "Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction" (op. cit.).
While the domain provides the general area of interest for the community, the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge.
 
"This engagement in pratice has to be such that the initial relation of membership can transform itself through time into a fully established form of membership: the newcomer has to have access to both fields of visibility and fields of invisibility. So the participation of the newcomer has to find a legitimate place in the pratice of the community and this place has to be such that it allows the newcomer to be peripherally involved in activities of interest in order gradually to become a full participant. This process of increasing involvement, we have called 'legitimate peripheral participation' " (Lave and Wenger, in press). (see below identity)
 
 
  
More Information on the Web
"A Brief Introduction":
"Communities of Practice: Promoting Learner Autonomy in ICT-Delivered Courses":
"Communities of Practice and Virtual Learning Communities: benefits, barriers and success factors":
"Developing Communities of Practice Through Content, Coaching, and Peer Interaction":
 
Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63rQ3S8EHoA (What is a community of practice?)
 
Bibliographical Sources
Wenger, Etienne."Toward a theory of cultural transparency: elements of a social discourse of the visible and the invisible." Dissertation. University of California: Irvine, 1990. ( http://www.ewenger.com/pub/index.htm )
 

 
Identity     
 
Def. According to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, identity means "who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group which make them different from others."
In fact, the concept is so wide that it can be analyzed from different perspectives. In social sciences, for instance, it is used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity). In psychology and sociology, the term is used more specifically. A psychological identity relates to self-image (a person's mental model of him or herself), self-esteem, and individuality. In cognitive psychology, the term "identity" refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self. Sociology places some explanatory weight on the concept of role-behavior. The notion of identity negotiation may arise from the learning of social roles through personal experience. Identity negotiation is a process in which a person negotiates with society at large regarding the meaning of his or her identity. Psychologists most commonly use the term "identity" to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. Meanwhile, sociologists often use the term to describe social identity, or the collection of group memberships that define the individual. 
 
  
                                
 
 
Related to identity there is also the term "attitude". It affects the learner not only with respect to the processing of information and identification with people or groups, but also with respect to motives and the relationship between language and culture, and their place within the existing linguistic and cultural diversity" (Routledge Encyclopedia 2000). In addition to the individual's personal dispositions, there are at least two external forces that appear to shape the learner's language-learning attitude: environmental (social, cultural, political and economics imperatives) and pedagogic. The pedagogic factor shapes how teachers, learners and the learning situation interact with each other to trigger positive or negative attitudes in the learner (Kumaravadivelu 2006). 
 
"Negotiated interaction means that the learner should be actively involved (...) in interaction as a textual activity, interaction as an interpersonal activity and interaction as an ideational activity. During these interactional activities, teachers should facilitate the learner's understanding and use of language as a system, language as a discourse, and language as ideology" (Kumaravadivelu 2006).
 
"The experiences participants bring to the pedagogical setting are shaped, not just by what they experience in the classroom, but also by a broader social, economic, and political environment in which they grow up. These experiences have the potential to alter classroom aims and activities in ways inintended and unexpected by policy planners or curriculum designers or textbooks." (Kumaravadivelu 2006)
 
"The formation of personhood is not just a matter of interpersonal relations, but the construction of an identity of participation through mutual engagement in practice, where the coherence of identities is defined. Learning a language is not primarily learning a grammar and a lexicon from isolatable examples; neither is it primarily learning meanings and denotations, or even pragmatics from isolatable events; but it is primarily engaging in new shared ways of participating in practice, of which the use of language is an integral part. Utterances, semantic usage, and speech acts are reified emerging properties of this broader process: becoming a co-talker is becoming a co-person, as it is becoming a co-practitioner, as it is becoming a co-member: all are integral aspects of becoming a participant in the total practice of a community" (Wenger 1990).    
 
 
 
More Information on the Web
"Teacher Identity as Pedagogy: Towards a Field-Internal Conceptualisation in Bilingual and Second Language Education
 
Video
 
Bibliographical Sources
"Identity Negotiation: Where Two Roads Meet":
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod." London: LEA, 2006.
Wenger, Etienne."Toward a theory of cultural transparency: elements of a social discourse of the visible and the invisible." Dissertation. University of California: Irvine, 1990.  http://www.ewenger.com/pub/index.htm 
  

 
Learning Strategies     
 
Def. Learning strategies are the operations and routines used by the learner to facilitate the obtaining, storage, retrieval, and use of information (Rubin 1975). They are also "specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more ejoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations" (Oxford 1990). The term learning strategies then refers to what learners know and do to regulate their learning. Learners' efforts can be explicit and implicit.
 
 
            
 
Learning strategies can be organized into three broad categories as follow:
- Metacognitive strategies: it refers to higher order executive strategies such as thinking about the learning process, planning for and monitoring learning as it takes place, and self-evaluation of learning after the learning activity;
 
- Cognitive strategies: it refers to conscious ways of tackling learning materials and linguistic input. They include specific steps such as note-taking, summarizing, deducing, transferring, and elaborating;
 
- Social/affective strategies: it refers to interpersonal strategies that are consistent with the learner's psychological and emotional conditions and experiences. They include cooperative learning, peer group discussion, and interacting with competent speakers.
 
For more examples of learning strategies, click here  http://web.me.com/reinildes/Teaching_materials_for_ESL/strategies.html. (provided by Prof. Reinildes Dias, UFMG).
 
 
More Information on the Web
 
Video
 
Bibliographical Sources
"Is there a correlation between reported language learning strategy use, actual strategy use and achievement?":
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod." London: LEA, 2006.
  

 
Postmethod Condition
 
Def. The Postmethod Condition is a sustainable state of affairs that compels researchers, syllabus designers, materials producers and teachers to fundamentally restructure their view of language teaching and teacher education. Because the concept of method has severe limitations related to its ambiguous usage and application (e.g. the belief that there is a best method out there ready and waiting to be discovered; method constitutes the organizing principle for language teaching; it has a universal and ahistorical value; theorists conceive knowledge, and teachers consume knowledge; method is neutral, and has no ideological motivation) - (see below principles and procedures) -, the postmethod condition urges all these participants to review the character and content of classroom teaching in all its pedagogical and ideological perspectives. It drives them to streamline their teaching education by refiguring the reified relationship between theory and practice (kumaravadivelu 2006).
 
 
           
 
The coherent postmethod pedagogy is presented in terms of a three-dimensional system of three pedagogic parameters:
 
- Particularity: the most important aspect of postmethod pedagogy. That is to say, any postmethod pedagogic "must be sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institucional context embedded in a particular sociocultural mileu" (Kumaravadivelu 2001). (see below "local level" in procedures) The parameter of particularity then rejects the very idea method-based pedagogies are founded upon, namely, there can be one set of teaching aims and objectives realizable through one set of teaching principles and procedures. This parameter emphasizes the relevance of local exigencies and lived experience.

- Practicality: it refers broadly to the relationship between theory and practice, and narrowly to the teacher's skill in monitoring his or her own teaching effectiveness. The teacher is advised to do action research in the classroom by testing, interpreting, and judging the usefulness of professional theories proposed by experts. If context-sensitive pedagogic has to emerge from teachers and their practice of everyday teaching, then they ought to be enabled to theorize from their practice and practice what they theorize. However, this objective, however, cannot be achieved simply by asking them to put into practice professional theories proposed by others. It can be achieved only by helping them develop the knowledge and skill, attitude, and autonomy necessary to construct their own context-sensitive theory of practice, possible when there is a union of action and thought ("teacher's reflection and action"). (see above community of practice)

- Possibility: this parameter owes much of its origin to the educational philosophy of the Brazilian intellectual, Paulo Freire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Freire). He and his followers (e.g. Giroux 1988; Simon 1988) took the position that pedagogy, any pedagogy, is closely linked to power and dominance, and is aimed at creating and sustaining social inequalities. They stress the importance of acknowledging and highlighting students' and teachers' individual identity, and they encourage them to question the status quo that keeps them subjugated. They also stress the "the need to develop theories, forms of knowledge, and social practices that work with the experiences that people bring to the pedagogical setting" (Giroux 1988). (see above identity)
 

The postmethod pedagogy tries to explore the instructional means for real life communication in the L2 classroom and to get the learners not just to develop linguistic accuracy, but to expand fluency. Learners are assumed as partners in a cooperative venture, and they are pushed to the way in which they could reach to their fullest potential (Brown 2001).

 
 
More Information on the Web
"A perspectiva pós-método":
"Postmethod Condition and Its Implications for English Language Teachers":
Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFOhVdQt27c (Paulo Freire and Critical Pedagogy)
 
Bibliographical Sources
"A New Challenge in the Methodology of the Post-Method Era":
"EFL Teachers' Attitude towards Post-Method Pedagogy and Their Students' Achievement":
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Learning." New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod." London: LEA, 2006.
 

 
Principles

Def. Principles may be operationally defined as a set of insights derived from theoretical and applied linguistics, cognitive psychology, information sciences, and other disciplines that provide theoretical bases for the study of language learning, language planning, and language teaching. The term thus includes not only the theoretical assumptions governing language learning and teaching but also those governing syllabus design, materials production, and evaluation measures. Certain elements of Antony's approach (1963), and Richards and Rodger's approach (1982) and design can be subssumed under "principles". (see below postmethod condition)

 

Procedures

Def. Procedures may be operationally defined as a set of teaching strategies adopted/adapted by the teacher in order to accomplish the stated and unstated, short- and long-term goals of language learning and teaching in the classroom. Classroom events, activities, or techniques can be covered under "procedures". (see below postmethod condition)
 

         

 
In order to simplify the descriptive framework and make a two-part distinction, Kumaravadivelu (2006) employed these definitions to argue that 
 
"two major componets of any systematic learning/teaching operation are the principles that shape our concepts and convictions, and the procedures that help us translate those principles into a workable plan in a specific classroom context." 
 
 

                            

 
This categorization proposed by Kumaravadivelu is an attempt to transcend the limitations, ambiguous usage, and myths involving the concept "method". According to him, what is needed is not alternative methods, but "an alternative to methods." In the current pedagogic environment, where the teacher is increasingly playing, at the local level (see above postmethod condition), multiple roles of teacher, researcher, syllabus designer, and materials producer, it is very important to take into consideration the complex connections between intervening factors, such as societal demands, institucional resources and constraints, instructional effectiveness, and learner needs. In counterpart, teachers need to explore how they can base teaching on a flexible framework of principles and procedures, less prescriptive than a fixed method and adaptable to their own situations.  
 
 
 
More Information on the Web 
"Teaching Techniques in Foreing Language":
"Reciprocal Teaching procedures and principles: two teachers developing understanding":
 
Video
 
Bibliographical Sources
Brown, H. D. "Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy." New York: Longman, 2000.
Richards, Jack. C.; Rodgers, Theodore S. "Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Richards, Jack. C. "The Language Teaching Matrix." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for Language Learning." New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod." London: LEA, 2006.
 

 
Teacher research
 
Def. Every day, teachers engage in research. Working with students to facilitate learning, teachers develop lesson plans, evaluate student work, and share outcomes with students, parents, and administrators. Thus teacher research is a more intentional and systematic version of what good teachers already do. They then begin again with new units and lessons to clarify and review concepts as well as develop new understanding. That may not sound much like research - most of us call it teaching -; but if we describe those activities in slightly different language, we would say that on a daily basis teachers design and implement a plan of action, observe and analyze outcomes, and modify plans to better meet the needs of students (Anderson, Amy. ref.).
 
 
         
 
 
Finally, the findings of teacher research impact teacher practice directly, because they stay in the classroom and are shared with the researcher's colleagues. While alone a teacher can pursue research on his/her own, the value and effectiveness of teacher research are magnified when several teachers at a school work together, forming a "community of practice" (see above community of practice), a supportive research group to act as a sounding board, provide encouragement, and explore next steps. This opportunity for collaboration with colleagues breaks through the isolation many teachers experience. The process invites teachers to include students in decisions about curriculum in an effort to develop and incorporate best practices.
 
 
 
More Information on the Web
"Appreciative coach-mentoring as inquiry in initial teacher education":
 
Video
 
Bibliographical Sources
"An introduction to teacher research" by Amy Anderson:
Kumaravadivelu, B. "Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod." London: LEA, 2006.
Pachler, Norbert; Redondo, Ana. "A Practical Guide to Teaching Modern Foreing Languages in the Secondary School." New York: Routledge, 2007.
  

 
Top-down Processing
 
Def. It is a concept related to cognitive process. Top-down processing is said to occur when one infers from a generalization, rule, or law to conclude something about a particular example, instance, case, or event. It refers to the use of background knowledge in understanding the meaning of a message. Background knowledge may take several forms. It may be previous knowledge about the topic of discourse, it may be situational or contextual knowledge, or it may be knowledge stored in long-term memory in the form of "schemata" and "scripts" - plans about the overall structure of events and the relationship between them.
Because in most situations bottom-up and top-down process work together to ensure accurate and rapid processing of information, cognitive psychologists and cognitive scients believe they are processes indispensable to human thinking. (see above bottom-up processing)
Examples:
- The creation of this web page was a top-down process because when I chose this "tool" to work with, I had already in mind the kind of product I wanted to develop. My idea was to create a webpage for academic purpose where I could store web documents and present concepts from my field of study using my creativity and previous knowledge both on webpages and the subjects treated here (see bibliographical sources). 
 
- Deduction is a top-down strategy.
- "If an adult was seated on a park bench reading aloud from a book to a group of enthralled young children, an observer would probably assume that the adult was reading a story - rather than, say, a recipe or a set of instructions on how to assemble a computer. This set of expectations for a particular kind of discourse is generated from the situation, from knowledge of a world populated by adults and children and typical interactions between them. On moving closer, the observer is able to confirm that the children are indeed listening to a story. Now the observer activates his or her "schema" for stories. This can be thought of as a set of expectations as to how the content of the discourse will develop" (Richards 1990). 
 
 
   
 
 
            
 More Information on the Web
"Deductive and Inductive Reasonings":
Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDySF4ABSPY (The Relationship Between Sensation and Perception)
Bibliographical Sources
"Changing Your Mind: On the Contributions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Guidance in Visual Search for Feature Singletons":
"Top-down, Middle-out, and Bottom-up Processes: A Cognitive Perspective of Teaching and Learning Economics":
Richards, Jack. C.; Rodgers, Theodore S. "Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Richards, Jack. C. "The Language Teaching Matrix." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.       
 
 
 

 



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