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Power, Pedagogy, and the Process Syllabus: Teacher Culture as "Gatekeeper" for ELT Theory

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Title:Power, Pedagogy, and the Process Syllabus: Teacher Culture as "Gatekeeper" for ELT Theory
Authors:McGurk, Martin E.
Contributors:Brown, James D. (advisor)
University of Hawaii at Manoa. Department of English as a Second Language. (department)
Date Issued:1997
Abstract:This paper documents one teacher's implementation of a process syllabus in a three-week ESL course, paying particular attention to the reactions of program administrators and fellow teachers. It reports the successes and limitations of the implementation as perceived by the author and coparticipants and examines the role that teacher culture plays in influencing educators' responses to classroom innovation. It affirms that traditional concepts of language education can be perpetuated by teacher culture, despite exposure to innovation. Some factors that affect teachers' perceptions of new ideas are identified, suggesting that a greater understanding of teacher curture will lead to improved communication between theory and pedagogy. In conclusion, it recommends that collaborative research efforts examine teacher culture as "gatekeeper" for ELT theory. Proponents of the process syllabus (e.g., Breen, 1984, 1987; Candlin, l984), argue that it addresses the problems of design/context incongruence and empowers learners. However, critics (e.g. White, 1988) argue that the mere notions of flexibility and negotiation, which characterize the process syllabus, reflect a western cultural perspective. These skeptics assert that any syllabus inherently assumes its audience to share the values and world views of its designers. Therefore, given the wide variety of learner perspectives, it is unlikely that any single teaching philosophy, even one designed to adapt, can satisfy the needs of all learners. A third perspective which has been neglected in many discussions of this issue is that of the teacher. Teachers form a formidable subculture which is pivotal in the success of any syrllabus implementation. With this in mind, my study reports and examines the reactions of one small group of educators and their students to the introduction of a process syllabus by one teacher in a three week (thirty hour) ESL course. The goal is to uncover and examine salient factors that influence teacher' reactions to pedagogical experiments or innovations through the presentation of five individual case studies, followed by an interpretive-qualitative evaluation of the syllabus itself.
Pages/Duration:17 pages
Appears in Collections: Working Papers (1982-2000)

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