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Recognizing contextual resources: Post-method approaches to building on learner's communicative repertoires

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Title: Recognizing contextual resources: Post-method approaches to building on learner's communicative repertoires
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The characteristics of endangered language learners range from infants to elders, and from proficient speakers acquiring literacy to complete beginners, with all levels of linguistic competence in between. This paper discusses the need for careful consideration of learner and context characteristics, and presents two complementary frameworks that support teachers in making detailed assessments of the linguistic resources that learners possess, while avoiding the common trap of categorizing learners through deficit perspectives and perpetuating exclusionary education dynamics.

The post-method movement in language teaching (Pennycook, 1989; Kumaravadivelu 1994, 2006) offers guidance for teachers facing the need to adapt their practice to learner's diverse linguistic repertoires, expectations, and to a range of education environments. Beginning with awareness of the socio-cultural context, this framework emphasizes the need to validate teachers in the creation of their own uniquely-appropriate practices, rather than fostering dependence on methods and materials prescribed from outside experts. Foreign and second language teaching methods generally fall far short of meeting the expectations or needs of endangered language learners (Hinton, 2001), and thus teachers need to be equipped to use them flexibly and to innovate in context-appropriate ways. The framework of communicative repertoires (Gumperz & Hymes, 1964; Rymes 2013) can assist teachers in the task of recognizing each learner's receptive and productive language capacities, focusing on the linguistic resources that learners possess, rather than the more common perspective that frames learners as deficient in relation to the target speaker norm. This framework can also help to identify concrete communication goals, and measure linguistic competence achieved.

In addition to supporting awareness of learner characteristics and encouraging context-specific innovation, the post-method approach also attends to the potential of language education to highlight and address issues of social inequality. Social power dynamics are significant in all contexts of language education (Tollefson, 1991; Norton, 2000), however it is especially important to consider these factors when working with learners and languages that have in many cases been (or continue to be) subjected to prejudice and hostility through formal education. The post-method approach is thus particularly appropriate for practitioners of endangered language education, allowing for consideration of social factors, attention to learner's communicative repertoires, and active recognition of the many resources available for building successful communication and successful communities of learners.

References
Gumperz, J. & Hymes, D. (Eds.) (1964), The ethnography of communication. AA 66 (6).
Hinton, L. (2001). Language revitalization: An overview. In K. L. Hale & L. Hinton (Eds.), The green book of language revitalization in practice. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Kumarivadivelu, B. (1994), The Postmethod Condition: (E)merging Strategies for Second/Foreign Language Teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 28: 27–48.
Kumarivadivelu, B. (2006). TESOL Methods: Changing tracks, challenging trends. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), pp.59-81
Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Pennycook, A. (1989), The Concept of Method, Interested Knowledge, and the Politics of Language Teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 23: 589–618.
Rymes, B. (2013). Communicating beyond language: Everyday encounters with diversity. New York: Routledge.
Tollefson, J. (1991). Planning language, planning inequality. London: Longman.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/25379
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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