Review ~ Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching

A collection of up-to-date articles looking at the main issues and approaches in current language teaching.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi
The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching

The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching

Need a book that has a number of good articles covering the important issues and approaches in current language teaching? The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching could be what you are looking for. This book is a compilation of short up-to-date papers covering a wide range of topics in second language teaching. The book begins with a very informative Introduction written by the editors. Many people usually skip the introduction and dive straight into the content, but with this book it is highly recommended to read this part first as it is very interesting and extremely informative, giving an overview of the issues relevant to pedagogy and methodology today. It is written in a way that even readers new to the field can understand, tells you where to find the relevant articles, and ends with a list of additional references. Following the introduction, the book contains 30 papers or “chapters” which are divided into five sections. They are well-categorized, making it easy to jump around the book for chapters relevant to your interest. The editors have written brief useful introductions at the beginning of each section.

Section 1: Rethinking our Understanding of Teaching contains five papers which focus on concepts, philosophies and approaches in the English Language Teaching field. Topics such as English as an International Language, Reflective Pedagogy, Learner-Centered Teaching, Class-Centered Teaching, and Competence and Performance in Language Teaching are covered. All are very relevant to contemporary teaching and the different philosophies that teachers follow, and the connections between them become clear as you are reading.

Section 2: Learner Diversity and Classroom Learning contains papers looking at topics such as classroom management, motivation, learner strategies, teaching large classes, mixed level classes, young learners, teenagers and adults. This section is very useful as most teachers can relate to all of the problems mentioned in the chapters – most classrooms are diverse with students of differing levels, ages, sizes and motivation and this can be challenging for teachers. This section gives a lot of advice about how to manage the classroom, incorporate different teaching strategies and increase motivation.

Section 3: Pedagogical Approaches and Practices covers developments in teaching approaches and practices, especially over the past fifteen years. This section focuses more on curriculum development and related policies and on methodologies rather than actual pedagogy. There are chapters on task-based language education, text-based teaching, content-based learning, outcomes-based teaching, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and literacy-based language teaching.

Section 4: Components of the Curriculum focuses on the various language skills to be taught. There are seven chapters and they cover speaking, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar instruction. The authors in this section look at different practices which have emerged from recent research and theory and discuss the ones which are seen as the most effective. While it is a useful section, more knowledge of theory and research “jargon” is needed to understand this section than is necessary for the other parts of the book.

Section 5: Media and Materials looks at exactly that. Although there are only three papers, they are authored by Brian Tomlinson, Mike Levy and Hayo Reinders, who are all well-known in their respective fields. Tomlinson’s chapter on Materials Development manages to raise a number of issues in the development of materials. He questions a number of issues such as predetermined language points versus authentic language, should materials be safe or controversial, and what role technology will play in the future development of materials. His paper is set out as separate questions which he then answers and includes a lot of good further references. I like how it is set out as it is very easy to read and he raises a lot of issues that face teachers daily when making materials. Levy’s chapter focuses on technology in the classroom and is broken into subheadings of skill areas. It is easy to understand but is more of an overview, so if you are looking for specific ideas then you may be disappointed. Reinders finishes with a chapter on online and blended instruction. This also more of an overview of the topic than a list of practical ideas but is highly relevant these days as many institutions are moving this way in their courses and curricula.

Overall this book has a lot of useful papers. There is something for everyone in the field, be they teachers, pre-service teachers or just people interested in language teaching. The only downfalls are that it is a little big to carry and many of the papers are quite short. Not all chapters may be relevant to your situation but you will find something relevant to your teaching. The chapters I enjoyed the most were those in Section 5, as technology is becoming more prevalent in the classroom and I thought these were very relevant (though I wish they were longer). I found the articles in Section 1 to be the most difficult ones to read as they need to be discussed in more detail, especially for teachers new to the field. Overall I liked how it was set out in sections in a very logical manner and how each chapter has an excellent reference list, and positives such as these more than make up for the few negatives.

Reviewed by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi for Teflnet August 2012

One Comment

  • atousa mosahebi says:

    very good

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