Deconstructing teaching English to speakers of other languages : problematising a professional discourse
This thesis provides a post-modern critique of the profession of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This critique derives from the findings of a progressivist applied ethnographic study of group of ESOL teachers working at an institution of higher education in Britain. The analysis of the findings using post-modern theory revealed that there was a complex mêlée of discourses (in the Foucauldian sense) at work in the research setting: a localised idiosyncratic discourse containing the voices of the teachers and the management, and a dominating mainstream discourse containing institutional and academic voices. The teachers in their classroom practices and their construction of these practices reproduced the norms of this dominant discourse in a pedagogy which can be described as weak communicative language teaching. This reproduction resulted in contradictions in their practices and constructions of their practices with regard to learner-centredness and to the superiority of the pedagogy, as well as to tensions and conflicts between the ethos of education and the requirements of an ‘industry’. Three arguments emerge from these problems: 1. The pedagogy helps to maintain the low-status of TESOL because it reduces teaching to a series of ‘universally-applicable’ techniques and skills, the rudiments of which can be taught on a one-month training course. This pedagogy suits the institutional voice which regards TESOL as a private-sector industry. 2. This modernist ‘scientific’ pedagogy constructed as ‘universally-applicable’ and superior to other ways of teaching is potentially inappropriate because it cannot respond to social, cultural and political contexts of the classrooms in which it is used. 3. The pedagogy is legitimised with theories of learner-centredness that claim to be responsive to students’ needs engendering learner autonomy and self-actualisation while creating a ‘democratic’ and participative classroom. Using Focauldian theory, it can be seen that learner-centredness in fact masks the subtle operation of biopower, and is commensurate with a pedagogy designed as a commodity. These arguments can be located in wider shifts in education and professionalism in late-modern consumer capitalism where the public sector is being invaded by private-sector discourses. I finally propose the possibility of an alternative post-modern pedagogy with a commensurate post-modern critical profession.