Educational perspectives on ELT

Society and the individual; traditional, progressive and transformative

Authored by: Graham Crookes

The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415747394
eBook ISBN: 9781315676203
Adobe ISBN: 9781317384472


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‘Educational perspectives on ELT’ means understanding ELT in light of larger movements within the domain of education that have influenced our field, movements which provide overarching educational aims for any particular perspective on formal instruction. In this chapter, I relate aims to curriculum concepts and philosophies of education associated with three major perspectives: first, ‘traditional’ forms of education and second, progressive education, with transformative perspectives presented as an optimistic third view more visible recently in ELT. The understanding of ELT in terms of its educational aims is important, as ELT is often thought of only in an instrumental way. An educational understanding relates, at an individual level, to what teachers themselves are aiming at, in terms of their personal values as articulated in their philosophies of teaching (though, clearly, educational perspectives are also of interest at broader levels, i.e. institutional/governmental, and also philosophical). Teachers who see ELT as a form of education would naturally want to determine what their educational values are and would therefore wish to be aware of trends or patterns in this area. In explaining this, I have drawn on a simple three-part category system that we inherit from specialists in the philosophy of education – they refer to these categories as ‘philosophies of schooling’. On the face of it, such a simple system seems likely to oversimplify – surely an area as broad as this cannot be neatly fitted into just three boxes. Some simplification for purposes of initial exposition is defensible and necessary, though I note that this particular systematisation of educational ideas has its own history and reflects its own cultural and historical biases, having emerged in the US in the mid-twentieth century.

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