Contemporary methodology in EFL teaching
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017
Author: Smagina Anna, Kazakh American Free University, Kazakhstan
Much research has been done in the field of EFL teaching in order to improve
the latter. Educators and researchers have revealed and designed a big amount
of techniques and strategies joined in methods and approaches. The main goal of
all this work is, undoubtedly, to find the most effective way of language
learning, the way that corresponds to certain requirements. However, a great
amount of teaching approaches and methods within these approaches will not
provide effective language acquisition without their appropriate
implementation. In other words, effective EFL learning depends not only on a
technique or strategy used but on a tool of implementation (i.e. education
Speaking about teachers, in modern context they are also responsible for
combining language teaching and the development of the skills required by
governmental standards. Governmental standards are determined by needs of
society in order to systematize and equalize the outcome of educational
programs. The implementer of governmental educational programs and different
teaching approaches are Higher Education Institutions.
From the time of Socrates the main goal of education was to organize
society. In other words, education should have provided socially active people,
who realized their duties as members of society since human beings survived
with its help through centuries. However, Higher Education Institutions also
produce knowledge. Thus, there are two directions in HEIs
activity: to satisfy society requirements and more ideal contribution in the
form of producing knowledge. But not just producing: tertiary education creates
transfers and preserves knowledge.
As for society requirements, higher education institutions are seen as
training area for professional skills, generic skills such as problem solving,
ability to communicate, work in groups, think critically, and skills needed for
life such as self-control, moral judgment, civic values, etc. (Chan, Brown,
& Ludlow, 2014). One way or the other HEIs are
responsible for providing products who are responsible
for changing world or society in a better way; it doesn’t matter through
developing academic knowledge or active civic engagement. It also cannot be
denied that through the process of education HEIs
teach how to learn for the purpose of doing it the whole life.
Modern reality implies socially active people who are not only capable
of working and providing services and goods, but those who can communicate
within growing globalization. The academic world has no borders now, thus,
there is a need in one language to share the knowledge all around the world.
The language of international and intercultural communication is the English
language. Therefore, there are two goals of EFL teaching in tertiary education:
to teach how to communicate using English that is how to speak English in order
to create, preserve and transfer knowledge on the global scale, and to teach
through EFL for the purpose of achieving other goals of HEIs
(i.e. skills and abilities development).
Since the role of the knowledge has shifted from
simple acquisition of it to acquisition and application in the right time and
right place, the role of the student and the teacher should have changed either
(Kouwenhoven, 2006). Within the competence-based
education, where all the curricula of one major take into account competencies
to be developed the learner-centered approach takes place (Kouwenhoven,
2006).. The learner-centered approach implies language as communication, thus,
it is seen as a network of transformations; the basic units of the language are
not only grammatical and structural, but also notional and functional (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). Hence, the target language should be
learnt both as a system and a discourse. The focus here is on learners’
communicative needs (Kumaravadivelu, 2006).
Moreover, the goals of learner-centered approach can include encouraging
the learners’ development of interpersonal skills, promoting competence in
carrying out generic activities and common roles in professional practice,
fostering identification with relevant professionals, and developing an
awareness of norms and values that promote the aims of a professional practice.
Learner-centered approach entails constructivist methods which are
characterized by learners’ active involvement in learning contexts, where they
are co-constructors of knowledge. The focus changes from
teachers concentrating on only ‘transferring knowledge’ to the learners
‘constructing knowledge’ (Vigurs, 2009). In
addition, constructivist methods raise problems and issues that are interesting
and relevant to learners. Learners then use their initiative, research skills
and experience to analyze the problem and to find solutions with the help of
peer and teacher support and collaboration. These methods should better teach
learners to become reflective and adaptable individuals and to develop the
skills and competencies required and desired by graduate employers and thus,
society (Xamaní, 2013).
That brings one to conclusion that in this approach the role of the
student prevails and the role of the teacher is:
- the developer of self-motivated, independent
and autonomous learners;
- the facilitator of the learning process.
Contemporary educational approaches imply English teacher in HEIs as:
- the model of an English speaker. A good
English teacher must speak the English language fluently, thus, is able to
notice and correct students mistakes. Also it should be noticed that students
will absorb the language from the teacher either with or without mistakes.
Teacher also should show that he never stops learning him or herself:
- the facilitator of the learning process.
First, it means that the teacher must provide calm friendly atmosphere, in
other words, mistakes-free atmosphere: students should be aware that they can
make mistakes and they will not be laughed at, they can learn from those
mistakes. Second, the teacher provides learners with strategies and techniques
that simplify processing of the material acquired. Additionally, the educator
should be consistent in his or her actions: every lesson should start with the same
activities so that students know what to expect and do not worry about doing
- the incentive provider. Motivation
in language learning plays a major role. No matter if the major is connected
directly with the English language or not the teacher should find and teach
students how to find stimuli for them to learn the target language.
One should pay special attention to Foreign Language students who are
future teachers and Master students who receive a qualification to teach, the
educator must remember that students observe him or her as a model of teaching
and can absorb both positive and negative features of his or her behavior in
The learners are problem solvers and thinkers who process information
through their individual experience in the physical and cultural context.
Effective teachers design course and provide activities so that students can
learn by doing. Curriculum content is determined by students’ interests and
According to Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory the author’s
philosophical view on teaching is expressed by progressivism and humanism.
Indeed, my ideas about EFL teaching match those of the two philosophies of
education. As far as the learner-centered approach in the form of
constructivist methods prevails in teaching now, progressivist
and humanist theories of education is the right choice of philosophical side of
teaching because both these theories focus on learners as whole persons and the
role of the teacher here is defined as a facilitator of the learning process (Erkilz'g, 2008). As for progressivist
philosophy of education it is of primary importance to design curricula based
on needs, wants and interests of students and to provide relevant material and
interesting activities including group and individual projects, discussions,
work in groups. Problem solving and critical thinking are great parts of the
learning process because they influence students as whole persons, making them
analyze the given information. It is relevant since in the post-soviet area the
generation of the modern parents of the present-day students still just follow
orders (at work or on the community or governmental level); they do not analyze
the necessity or validity of these orders. Hence, they do not teach their
children to think critically about things that surround them. The main goal for
the teacher in tertiary education in this context is to teach students to make
their own decisions, to think critically, to ask questions and to accept
different points of view. Progressivism in teaching helps learners to reflect
on their previous experience, thus, probably, improve some skills and correct
Speaking about humanist part of teaching, it is important to develop
students’ personalities. Learners’ self - actualization and
autonomy are main goals of teaching here (Elias & Merriam, 2005). As they
are supposed to be active civic members they must find their place in society
by revealing their best qualities and developing them. Hence, progressivism is
responsible for students’ development as whole persons and humanism supplements
it with providing self-actualization and autonomy development. According to
Elias and Merriam, (2005) ‘humanism is a philosophical point of view that holds
sacred the dignity and autonomy of human beings’ (Elias & Merriam, 2005).
Therefore, the emphasis of the humanistic approach in education is on the
development of the whole person, his or her freedom, autonomy, individuality,
and personality. The main part of humanism concerns self-actualization which
means ‘becoming what one has the potentiality to become’ (Elias & Merriam,
2005). All those features are impossible to implement without providing a human
connection between teachers and learners.
Vasuhi (2011) gathered several methods of teaching
within humanistic approach which deal with teacher-student relationship. The
method of counseling learning suggests that the teacher consider learners’
feelings, intellect, relationship in class with empathy and balance. The
teacher is responsible for making the learning process interesting for students
starting it in an informal manner using their native language, then translating
language units into the English language thus encouraging them to do the same.
It makes learners to be responsible for the learning process and realize their
self-worth. In the silent way method the teacher is just a facilitator who
provides emotionally secure environment and students are responsible for
activities and can decide on the curriculum. The total physical response is a
method of teaching language where the teacher plays the role of the parent and
motivates students to learn. This method is adopted from the theory that
suggests that an infant learns how to speak by answering to the parents’
statements (Vasuhi, 2011). Anyway, in any of those
methods the teacher should consider students not as a “class” but as a “group
of people” and himself or herself as a counselor; the teacher is a facilitator
of the process of the language learning who reduces anxiety and fear in class,
providing students with interesting material and presentation of this material,
involving them in the decision making process. Hence, students feel responsible
for the knowledge acquired. Positive attitude provided by the teacher brings
motivation and the raise of learners’ self-esteem (Vasuhi,
2011). Taking into consideration all the above-mentioned factors learners
develop as ‘whole’ persons.
In other words, humanistic approach affects the following aspects of human
nature: feelings, social relations, responsibility, intellect and
self-actualization (Vasu-hi, 2011). Speaking about
feelings personal emotions and appreciation are encouraged and negative
emotions are neglected. Social relations accelerate language acquisition
through desire to discuss learners’ problems and wants. Learners are
responsible to observe and criticize each other. Intellect and
self-actualization deal with revealing learners’ deepest qualities acquiring
knowledge only intellectually.
As all approaches of education humanistic approach has its pros and cons
for EFL learning. As for advantages, mistakes-free atmosphere provided by
different humanistic methods of teaching accelerates the development of
speaking skills. In addition, within humanistic methods students solve every
day problems, they help each other to solve their problems thus developing good
reasoning and critical thinking that is needed to take tests like IELTS.
Discussing learners’ mistakes in groups students have
an opportunity to explain those mistakes to each other, therefore they process
the acquiring knowledge more deeply. Concerning tertiary education within the
humanistic approach the following competencies or life skills can be acquired:
self-development and self-actualization which are important for active civic
engagement, problem-solving, and the development of moral values, interviewing
skills, conflict resolution and leadership.
As for disadvantages not all methods of humanism are applicable in adult
education and not all of them can deal with all the levels of language
proficiency. For example, the method of counseling learning is only good for
beginners. Also, informal style of speaking affects academic development among
students. Along with the failure of academic knowledge acquisition students may
not acquire certain competences that are required by society or government, for
example, in the silent way method where learners are responsible for the
curriculum. Moreover, friendly atmosphere which implements peer
criticism and appreciation should have a system of assessment that differs from
present ones in order to avoid fear and anxiety for getting bad marks.
As far as humanistic approach has both advantages and disadvantages it
cannot be fully implemented in EFL classroom. However, it cannot be denied that
even partially implemented humanism can enlarge opportunities to learn the
English language and influence teachers’ development. Within human relations
between the teacher and learners in EFL classroom where the first one is a
counselor or even a mentor, teachers can reflect on their actions in class by
observing students response towards these actions. Thus, taking into account
students feelings, teachers have opportunities to improve their teaching and
As for the implementation of the above-mentioned philosophical view on
EFL teaching it is the following: setting necessary human relations between the
teacher and students, defining curricula content according to learners’
interests, providing respective classroom activities.
The most important step for the teacher at the beginning of the course
is to introduce him or herself in the best way in order to gain prestige.
Effective language learning is impossible without students’ respect towards a teacher.
To gain prestige among students the teacher should be calm, confident and
consistent (Magno, 2009). In addition, within the
humanistic theory of education it is important to create ‘human’ relations
between a teacher and students and, thus, to build trust between them. First of
all, the teacher should show students that he or she is a human being and not a
robot that just provides knowledge and assesses outcomes. It can be done by
introducing him or herself with the help of a short funny story about the
teacher him or herself. ‘Human’ relations between students and the teacher
provide calm and friendly atmosphere, where students listen to the teacher’s
and each other’s points of view and try to help each other. Such kind of
relations can be very encouraging and the teacher can take advantage of it and
motivate students to learn the English language. For example, after gaining
students’ trust the teacher can ask them the following questions: “Why do you
want to learn English?” or if English learning is obligatory “Why do you think
you must learn English?” Therefore, students themselves find motivation to
learn EFL. Moreover, the teacher can be a good motivation either as he or she
is a model of an English speaker and English learner. It is closely connected
with creating human relationships with students and mistakes-free atmosphere: I
am a teacher but I can and I make mistakes. However, I am not ashamed of it and
I look into the dictionary to correct pronunciation or translation mistakes or
I read some grammar rules to correct grammar mistakes. It also has been
emphasized that the teacher s the facilitator of the learning process so it is
necessary to provide students with learning techniques and a choice of their
As for curricula content it is determined in the first few lessons by
means of questionnaires, interviews and discussions with students. Therefore,
students take part in decision making on the content of curricula. However,
they do not always decide on everything in the course, it depends on the
competencies required since the teacher is responsible for combining language
learning and skills development.
Classroom activities are closely connected with the curricula content
defining as the content determines activities. Within humanistic and progressivist philosophy of education one would recommend
learning EFL by group projects, where, for example, every group is responsible
for explaining a certain rule to the whole class; by discussions relevant
problems using previous experience, thus, developing critical thinking and
accepting different opinions; by individual projects in order to develop
autonomy and reveal the strongest features of each student; reflection
discussions (i.e. students point out their mistakes and discuss how to remove them).
On the whole all the activities along with the curricula content provide
students with the development of self-actualization and autonomy, core and
Summing up, the implementation of such philosophical theories of
education as progressivism and humanism can be effective for EFL learning
within higher education institutions as the educator is seen as a counselor and
a facilitator of the learning process which is necessary for students who do
not reveal their personalities yet and, hence, are not ready to become active
civic members. The teacher in this context provides them with opportunity to
become ones with the help of certain activities.
In recent years a lot of techniques and strategies of EFL teaching have
been studied. Different educators have proved many of them to be effective so
it may seem difficult to choose only one that can provide effective EFL
learning because language learning within HEIs
includes not only EFL acquisition but developing active members of society that
is the development of certain competencies required by governmental standards.
Therefore, teachers have a lot of responsibilities in the context of tertiary
education: they are to teach English taking into consideration the importance
of the language as far as it is the language of international communication,
they should provide the most effective EFL teaching for the purpose of
achieving the required level of proficiency, they are to develop skills
connected to the major to satisfy governmental requirements to graduates.
However, since curricula are competence-based the learner-centered
approach is used. The teaching approach determines methods that are applicable
in EFL teaching. The techniques and strategies within these methods are chosen
by the teacher as well as philosophical approach to education. It turned out
that such philosophies of education as progressivism and humanism can
supplement the basic teaching approach (the learner-centered approach) and
teaching techniques within this approach in order to improve EFL acquisition
along with competencies development.
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017