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TESOL QUARTERLY Volume 25, Number 1 ❑ Spring 1991

A Journal for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

and of Standard English as a Second Dialect

SANDRA SILBERSTEIN, University of Washington
Review Editor
HEIDI RIGGENBACH, University of Washington
Brief Reports and Summaries Editor
GAIL WEINSTEIN-SHR, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Research Issues Editor
GRAHAM CROOKES, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Assistant Editor
DEBORAH GREEN, University of Washington
Editorial Assistant
MAUREEN P. PHILLIPS, University of Washington
Editorial Advisory Board
Roberta G. Abraham Michael K. Legutke
Iowa State University Goethe Institute, Munich
Joan Eisterhold Carson Sandra McKay
Georgia State University San Francisco State University
Jim Cummins David Nunan
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Macquarie University
Graham Crookes
University of Hawaii at Manoa Teresa Pica
Catherine Doughty University of Pennsylvania
The University of Sydney N. S. Prabhu
Miriam Eisenstein National University of Singapore
New York University Thomas Ricento
Yehia E1-Ezabi Japan Center for Michigan Universities/
United Arab Emerites University/ Central Michigan University
The American University in Cairo Patricia L. Rounds
Susan Gass University of Oregon
Michigan State University May Shih
Thomas Huckin San Francisco State University
University of Utah
Thom Hudson James W. Tollefson
University of Hawaii at Manoa University of Washington
Claire Kramsch Lise Winer
University of California, Berkeley Southern Illinois University
Additional Readers
Kathryn Allahyari, Nathalie Bailey, Gregary Barnes, H. Douglas Brown, James Dean Brown, Carol Chapelle,
Mark A. Clarke, James Coady, Nancy L. Commins, Ulla Connor, Joanne Devine, Rod Ellis, Fred Genesee,
Juan Guerra, William Harshbarger, Margot Haynes, Sharon Hillis, Joan Jamieson, Karen E. Johnson,
Elliot L. Judd, James Kohn, Nora E. Lewis, Peter Master, Bernard Mohan, John M. Murphy, Sonia Nieto,
Kate Parry, Patricia A. Porter, Sabrina Peck, Terry Santos, Thomas Scovel, Andrew F. Siegel,
Bernard Spolsky, Z. Q. Shr, Elizabeth Whalley, Margaret van Naerssen, Steven H. Weinberger
Advertising arranged by Patti Olson, TESOL Central Office, Alexandria, Virginia
Typesetting, printing, and binding by Pantagraph Printing, Bloomington, Illinois
Design by Chuck Thayer Advertising, San Francisco, California

To print, select PDF page
ARTICLES nos. in parentheses
Rethinking Communicative Language Teaching:
Reflection and the EFL Classroom 9 (10-28)
William L. Tarvin and Ali Yahya Al-Arishi
The TESOL Methods Course 29 (30-50)
Christine Uber Grosse
Oral Communication in TESOL:
Integrating Speaking, Listening, and Pronunciation 51 (52-76)
John M. Murphy
A Content Comprehension Approach to Reading
English for Science and Technology 77 (78-105)
Thom Hudson
Maximizing Student Performance in Summary Writing:
Managing the Cognitive Load 105 (106-122)
Margaret R. Kirkland and Mary Anne P. Saunders
Twenty-Five Years of Contrastive Rhetoric:
Text Analysis and Writing Pedagogues 123 (124-144)
Ilona Leki
Recent Publications on the Crises in U.S. Classrooms
Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements
of America’s Underprepared 145
Mike Rose
Small Victories
Samuel G. Freedman
Reviewed by Vivian Zamel
Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education
Rosalie Pedalino Porter
Reviewed by Suzanne Irujo
The Second Language Curriculum
Robert Keith Johnson
Reviewed by Barbara L. Boyd
TOEFL Test of Written English (TWE) Scoring Guide
Educational Testing Service
Reviewed by Bonny Norton Peirce
Whose Country Is This, Anyway? Teaching Resources
from Amnesty to Citizenship 165
Lenore Balliro, Guest Editor
A Citizenship Educator’s Resource Handbook, Joan LeMabre (Ed.)
(Lenore Balliro)
Content Area ESL: Social Studies, Dennis Terdy (Janet Isserlis)
Coyote: A Journey Through the Secret World of America’s Illegal Aliens,
Ted Conover (Lenore Balliro)
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (Sandra Morra)
Toward Participation: A Sample Citizenship Lesson Plan, Linda Monteith, Sidney
Pratt, and Jean Unda (Lenore Balliro)
“Let’s Make a Deal”: A Guide to Teaching About Taxes, Judy Hikes, Barbara
Garner, Helen Jones, Susan Romaine, and JoAnne Wheeler (Richard Levy)
Work Plays: You and Your Rights on the Job, Labor Education Center
(Lucille Fandel)
Curriculum for Citizenship, Sandra Morra (Richard Levy)
Urgent Care for ESL/Civics Teachers: Lesson Planning for Fostering Cooperative
Interaction Among Amnesty Students, Immigrant Legal Resource Center
(Lenore Balliro)
Making Amnesty Work: Joint Efforts to Meet the Needs of Newly Legalized
Workers, Heide Spruck Wrigley and Katherine A. Brady (Richard Levy)
Methods in English Language Teaching: Frameworks and Options,
Waldemar Marton (Jacquelyn Milman)


Soviet Students and U.S. Colleges: Social Perceptions,
Language Proficiency, and Academic Success 179
Richard L. Light and Wan Teh-yuan
Sustaining the Reading Interest of Academically Oriented ESL Students 185
Ellen Lipp and J. Penny Wheeler
Language Classroom Speech Rates: A Descriptive Study 189
Roger Griffiths

The Use of the Concept of Cultural Sensitivity
in Teacher Evaluation: A Case Study 195
Harry Krasnick
Research Issues
The Role of Hypothesis Testing in Qualitative Research 200
A Researcher Comments . . .
Polly Ulichny
Another Researcher Comments . . .
Richard K. Blot

Information for Contributors 207

Editorial Policy
General Information for Authors
Publications Received 211
Publications Available from the TESOL Central Office 213
TESOL Membership Application 223

Editor's Note

The silver cover of this volume heralds the TESOL Quarterly’s 25th
year. Articles in each of the four issues survey the history and current state
of the field. In celebration of this benchmark anniversary, the Summer and
Autumn issues are entirely devoted to state-of-the-art discussions by
distinguished colleagues. The TESOL Quarterly staff takes this oppor-
tunity to congratulate our fellow members on our silver anniversary.

In this Issue

❑ Articles in this issue of the TESOL Quarterly contribute to the ongoing

reconceptualization of practices in the field. The lead article invites us to
rethink communicative language teaching with attention to the role of
reflection. The second article examines the way we train ESOL teachers.
The third article argues for an integration of oral communication skills in
TESOL. Other articles bring a content comprehension approach to
reading and an approach to summarizing that manages the cognitive load.
We end with our first state-of-the-art discussion which surveys 25 years of
contrastive rhetoric.
William Tarvin and Ali Yahya Al-Arishi question whether many
“conspicuous action and spontaneous response” activities discourage
reflection or contemplation in the communicative language classroom.
Drawing on the work of educational theorists, philosophers, and
psychologists, they argue that activities encouraging reflection be
incorporated into today’s communicative classrooms.
● Christine Uber Grosse surveys current practice in the TESOL methods
course. Respondents from 94 teacher preparation programs provide
information concerning course content, goals, requirements, instruc-
tional materials, common problems, and suggestions for change. Along

with causes for concern, Grosse finds reason for optimism trends to
accommodate the educational needs of individual teachers, a new
emphasis on the preparation of “reflective” teachers, and “a recogni-
tion of teachers’ abilities to solve their own problems.”
• John Murphy argues for the integration of instruction in speaking,
listening, and pronunciation. Although relative degrees of emphasis
may vary depending on the instructional context, Murphy character-
izes oral communication processes as “reciprocally interdependent.”
To facilitate integrated instruction, he presents teachers with a
comprehensive list of oral communication activities arranged by
proficiency level and relative focus on accuracy or fluency.
• Thom Hudson reports on an ESP reading program that emphasizes the
role of content comprehension. The REST Project at the University of
Guadalajara, Mexico, developed a curriculum around thematic units
that parallel undergraduate course content. After instruction in the
content comprehension approach, student scores were significantly
higher on three reading subtests: reading grammar, reading compre-
hension, and cloze.
• Margaret Kirkland and Mary Anne Saunders provide an overview of
external and internal constraints on summarizing. Among external
constraints are purpose, audience, discourse conventions; internal
constraints include L2 proficiency, schemata, cognitive skills. Kirkland
and Saunders conclude that summarizing is a “highly complex, recursive
reading-writing activity” whose cognitive demands should be managed
if they are not to adversely affect student performance. The authors
suggest pedagogical approaches to “mediating the cognitive load.”
• Ilona Leki surveys 25 years of contrastive rhetoric, noting pitfalls and
promise within the research tradition. She reminds us that contrastive
rhetoric studies provide an important salutary perspective: They
highlight the fact that notions of good, authentic, clear, or convincing
writing “have no reality outside a particular cultural and rhetorical
Also in this issue:
• Reviews: Vivian Zamel reviews recent publications on the crises in
U.S. classrooms: Mike Rose’s Lives on the Boundaries: The Struggles
and Achievements of America’s Underprepared and Samuel G.
Freedman’s Small Victories. Suzanne Irujo reviews Rosalie Porter’s
Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education; Barbara Boyd
reviews Robert Johnson’s The Second Language Curriculum; and
Bonny Peirce reviews the Educational Testing Service’s TOEFL Test
of Written English (TWE) Scoring Guide.
• Book Notices: Teaching resources for amnesty and citizenship
instruction are the focus of all but one of this issue’s book notices for
which Lenore Balliro has been the guest editor.

• Brief Reports and Summaries: Richard Light and Wan Teh-yuan
examine the perceptions, language skills, and academic records of 56
Soviet undergraduate exchange students studying in U.S. colleges;
Ellen Lipp and J. Penny Wheeler survey students’ reading interests;
and Roger Griffiths reports a study that examines speech rates of
native-speaking teachers addressing nonnative-speaking students.
• The Forum: Harry Krasnick argues that the concept of cultural
sensitivity may not be ready for use in teacher evaluation. In the
subsection Research Issues, Polly Ulichny and Richard Blot comment
on the role of hypothesis testing in qualitative research.
Sandra Silberstein

TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1991

Rethinking Communicative
Language-Teaching: Reflection
and the EFL Classroom
King Saud University-Abha

The contention of this paper is that many activities in the

communicative language teaching (CLT) classroom discourage
reflection or contemplation. The first part of this paper analyzes
the prominence in CLT of phenomenalistic and intuitive activities
which, with their emphases on conspicuous action and spontane-
ous response, suggest a proclivity to a nonreflective view of
language acquisition. The second part, making use of what
philosophers and psychologists have concluded about reflection,
examines when, how, and why a person reflects. The last part of
the paper discusses three types of CLT activities which could
encourage reflection: task-oriented, process-oriented, and
synthesis-oriented. The conclusion is that more activities centered
around reflective thinking should be incorporated in ESL/EFL
classrooms to supplement the valuable phenomenally and
intuitively oriented activities.

Do ESL/EFL communicative-competence classrooms encourage

activities which promote reflection? Or is there such an emphasis on
overt-response interfactional activities, such as role or game playing,
small-group discussions, brainstorming, fast-writing, etc., that
contemplation is neglected? Do such spontaneous activities tend to
reward the “impulsive” student, the one who “tends to make either
a quick, or gambling (impulsive), guess at an answer to a problem,”
and to penalize the “reflective” student who tends “to weigh all the
considerations in a problem, work out all the loopholes, then, after
extensive reflection, carefully venture a solution” (Brown, 1980, pp.
In many classes, Underhill (1989, p. 253) writes, “conspicuous
action tends to be more highly valued” than the need of “all
participants to pause unilaterally and stand back from, and reflect
on, what they are doing.” A conspicuous-action ESL/EFL classroom

places great emphasis on what the philosopher John Locke termed
the first source of knowledge—sensation. Many of the activities
arising from Total Physical Response (TPR), the Silent Way,
Suggestopedia, and activities designed to accommodate the
affective domain, exploit the senses in promoting language
acquisition. Through these activities, there is an implicit recognition
that, as Locke maintains in An Essay Concerning Human
Understanding, a person first begins to think “when he [/she] first
has any sensation” (Locke, 1706/1961, II.i.23). Conspicuous-action
classrooms use the seen color, the heard sound, the felt warmth, and
the smelled odor—and the physical responses to these sensations—
to develop what Locke called the “simple ideas of sense” (II.ii.1). A
lesson integrating several of these types of activities, Richard-
Amato (1988) writes, is one in which “through the highly compre-
hensible input, the physical involvement, and the sensual quality of
the words and action, the students become completely absorbed in
the activity, making acquisition highly probable” (p. 185).
Richard-Amato (1988) offers as an illustration of integrative
communicative language teaching (CLT) a series of classroom
activities centered around a Mexican folktale about an imaginary
bird, the pájaro-cu. In this story the bird is featherless, and its
nakedness offends the king of the birds, the eagle, who threatens to
send it into exile. The other birds take pity on the pájaro-cu and
clothe its nakedness by contributing from their own feathers. The
resultant bird sees itself as so beautiful that it becomes vain and
disdainful of the other birds and finally exiles itself. The other birds
go to look for the lost bird, but do not expect to find it.
One of the recommended follow-up activities to the reading of
the tale is a discussion of its meaning, but most of the activities deal
with reducing a reflective story to a sensual event. Students are
shown pictures of colorful birds, they pantomime the movement of
birds, and they role-play the different types of birds. Following a
lesson in watercolor, each student is asked to paint a picture of the
missing pájaro-cu. The lost imaginary bird must be found and
placed in a real sensuous world of primary colors.
In such an approach, nothing can be illusive or elusive in the
symbolic sense that Thoreau considered when he wrote, “I long ago
lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their
trail” (1854/1966, p. 11). In the pájaro-cu unit, activities have not
been generated which explore what Locke terms the second source
of knowledge, reflection, where the mind “turns its view inward
upon itself and observes its own actions about those ideas [of
sensation] it has [and] takes from thence other ideas” (Locke, 1706/
1961, Schopenhauer calls these “ideas of reflection” or

“ideas of ideas” (Vorstellungen von Vorstellungen) (Gardiner, 1973,
p. 327), whereby we think about and communicate the contents of
phenomenal experiences. The pájaro-cu unit activities take the
phenomena of the story (the colors, the movement, the other
physical actions of the birds, etc.) and recreate or reproduce them
(through pictures, pantomime, music, dancing, and drawing).
Absent are activities which encourage “ideas of ideas,” where
phenomenal experience begets conceptual realization: the nature of
prejudice (the physically different bird must be exiled), kindness
(the charitable contributions of the other birds), vanity (the
transition of the pitiable bird to the pompous bird), irony (the bird
who resented the eagle-imposed exile finally opts for self-exile), and
the search for beauty or self (the birds’ futile quest for the beautiful
lost pájaro-cu to which each had given a part of itself).
What we propose to do in this article is first to discuss the status
of reflection as a source of knowledge in CLT. Then we will
examine what is involved in reflective thinking, which will serve as
a prelude to a discussion of three types of activities which we have
found encourage reflection among our EFL students. (Being
teachers in Saudi Arabia, we do not teach ESL students. )


To answer the question directly: to an extent, as our survey of
CLT writers’ comments on reflection and reflective activities at the
end of this section will show. However, we will begin by discussing
two CLT tendencies which we feel discourage the use of reflection
by promoting two other sources of knowledge-phenomenalism
and intuition. Although several sources can be cited to account for
these tendencies to nonreflection, the one we will concentrate on is
the failure of audiolingualism, keeping in mind Savignon’s
conclusion (1983) that CLT “came to be a symbol for everything
that audiolingualism could not be” (p. 1).
Phenomenalism is the theory that knowledge is gained through
“private sensa” (Hirst, 1973, p. 132) rather than through thought or
intuition. As our analysis of the pájaro-cu activity tried to show, an
emphasis on sensual apprehension as a promoter of language
acquisition is prominent in some of the ways, approaches, methods,
and techniques which have gathered, or been gathered, under the
CLT umbrella:
1 SeePennycook (l989) for a discussion of the blurring of these terms by CLT Proponents
and of the attempt by writers after audiolingualism “to create a myth of homogeneity”
(p. 603).


1. Sensual perception: The multicolored rods of Gattegno’s (1962)
Silent Way
2. Sensual identification: Moskowitz’s (1969) affective activities,
such as “I am a color” or"I am a shape"
3. Combined sensation: Lozanov’s (1978) Suggestopedia or the use
of music/chanting/picture activities
4. Physical response: Asher’s (1982) TPR or role or game playing
While it may be argued that the above “methods” are on the
periphery of CLT,2 promoters of more central aspects also stress that
sensually based materials promote language acquisition. Krashen and
Terrell (1983, p. 32) write that a main task of the “good” CLT teacher
is to provide “extra-linguistic” types of input, such as realia and
pictures. Savignon (1983) recommends the inclusion of a wide range
of pictorial and sound materials (songs, radio and TV programs,
films, newspapers, magazines, cartoons, advertisements, illustrations)
as stimulators of interaction and discussion. Celce-Murcia (1979)
stresses that the senses beyond the visual and the aural should not be
forgotten and suggests ways of involving the tactile, the olfactory,
and the gustatory senses. Also, since L1 language acquisition studies
suggest the importance of “here and now” items, there have been
attempts to replicate this condition in L2 classrooms through the use
of multisensory media and realia.
We believe that when classroom activities concentrate on the
“sensory principle’’—the term the 17th-century educator Comenius
used to describe learning which proceeds through direct sensual
experiencing (cited in Pennycook, p. 599)—and the “here and now,”
there will be less opportunity for activities involving Locke’s second
level of ideation, reflection, which deals with sensual reformation
and the “then and there.” To make a watercolor of a bird is not the
same as showing that color can become an abstract, hateful concept
and, like the absence of feathers, can be a basis for prejudice in
more than an imaginary aviary world. A “look-and-do” classroom,
“based solely on concreteness,” Vygotsky (1978) writes, can have
the dangerous effect of “eliminat[ing] from teaching everything
associated with abstract thinking” (p. 89). Our point is not that CLT
has reached this state or that the CLT curriculum has been
trivialized (Mukherjee, 1986) by phenomenalistic activities, but that
an excess of such sense-based activities necessarily decreases the
opportunity for reflective activities.
2 In her latest assessment, Wilga Rivers, probably the best barometer for measuring changing
trends in TESOL, downplays the significance of the Silent Way, TPR, and Suggestopedia
(cited in Arnold, 1991).

To convey an understanding of the second nonreflection procliv-
ity in CLT, we will begin with the most palpable failure of audio-
lingualism, the inability of its trainees to speak English beyond the
controlled environment of the language lab. The least modification
in the stimulus (a “Hiya” instead of the expected “Hello” or “Hey”)
could militate against a response and forestall communicative inter-
action. To remedy this audiolingual failure, CLT advocates set
one basic goal, variously expressed: the “creative” use of language
in “a wide range of communicative situations” (Savignon, 1983,
pp. 23-24), “free, spontaneous interaction” (Rivers, 1983, p. 55),
“communicative confidence” (Canale & Swain, 1980, p. 378), etc.
Hypotheses were formulated to account for the failure of audio-
lingualism to reach the goal of spontaneous, creative communica-
tive competence. Most of these involved a dichotomy, sometimes
represented as a continuum:
— Krashen’s (1982) contrast between acquisition involving un-
conscious processes and learning involving conscious or
monitored processes
— Ellis’s (1986) primary processes (those using automatic rules in
unplanned discourse) and secondary processes (those using
analyzed rules in planned discourse)
— Littlewood’s (1984) lower-level language operations which
“unfold automatically” from “ready-made plans available in
long-term memory” and higher-level operations which are
“composed consciously in the light of the speaker’s immediate
communicative intentions” (p. 75)
Although the validity of aspects of these hypotheses has been
challenged (Ellis, 1990), the principal implication for language
teaching of this dichotomizing has been to direct attention from
higher-level, conscious, monitored learning, and rule-analyzing
secondary processes to lower-level, unconscious acquisition, and
automatic-rule primary processes. Classroom activities were
designed to promote an automatic apprehension and use of the
target language, that is, an intuitive grasp of the language. Intuition,
as a source of knowledge, is defined as “immediate apprehension”
and is sometimes called “prelinguistic knowledge” (Rorty, 1973,
pp. 204-206). Manifestations of a concern for an intuitive grasp of a
language are brainstorming, fast-writing, and talking-off-the-top-
of-your-head activities, which in some CLT classrooms have
become measurements of a student’s ability to interact and
participate. Such manifestations exemplify the use of what the


German phenomenologist Husserl termed “unreflective” or “non-
reflective thinking” (1962, p. 201).
Promoting an intuitive grasp of the target language, a principal
achievement of CLT, however, can have an untoward consequence
when the use of automatic response is encouraged in a communi-
cative situation where time for reflection is needed. For example, in
the following activity, we feel a reflective square peg is being
forced into an intuitive round hole. In the activity (Richard-Amato,
1988, p. 174), students are paired up, the teacher reads the question,
“If you were President of the United States, what is the first thing
you would try to do?” One student must begin immediately to talk
to her/his partner for “a minute or so,” answering the question. Such
a question needs time for reflection. Thus it is not surprising that
Richard-Amato (1988) in observing the activity noted some students
“finish his or her response early” and are then allowed to use the
remaining seconds to “reflect silently” (p. 174). We believe it is not
just the sequence that is wrong—the time for reflection follows the
attempt at producing an answer—but that such an activity
encourages the promotion of a faulty learning strategy, that a
complex issue can be encapsuled in a 60-second sound bite. A too-
embracing insistence on the value of interaction-for-interaction’s
sake forces a reflective question to yield an intuitive answer.
Just as we argued that the conspicuous-action classroom must
evaluate a phenomenalistic activity (for instance, to determine
whether it is more valuable to pantomime the actions of birds or to
let students discuss prejudice or kindness), so we propose that the
spontaneous-action classroom must evaluate the direction of an
activity to decide whether it should pursue an immediate or
reflective response. We believe that for certain CLT activities
students should be allowed time to reflect before commencing the
activity, and once in the activity they should realize that a
communicative alternative is a pausing to reflect in lieu of giving a
“first-idea-off-the-top-of-your-head” response. We believe the CLT
presupposition that “communicative competence can be said to be
an interpersonal rather than an intrapersonal trait” (Savignon, 1983,
p. 8) has resulted in a plethora of activities which stress the former
to the neglect of the latter. CLT intuitive activities should be
complemented by those where comprehension does not spontane-
ously combust, where “time and space” (Underhill, 1989, p. 253)
allow for a slow and gradual development, and where the learner is
allowed to do some negotiating with herself/himself without being
labeled as a “loner” (Rivers, 1983, p. 49)—in essence, where
“learning is typified by silent reflection” (Breen & Candlin, 1979,
p. 100).

This quotation from Breen and Candlin is testament of a
concern in CLT with the importance of developing reflection-
oriented activities. Other examples may be cited. Curran (1972)
writes that students want “time to find, on their own, the
required word or phrase” (p. 33) and incorporates a reflective
phase in his Counselling-Learning/Community Language
Learning model. When Stern (1975), Rubin (1975), and Beebe
(1983) include among the characteristics of good language
learners that they make calculated guesses and take reasonable
risks, it is the qualifying adjectives which emphasize that a
degree of reflection, not off-the-hip shooting, makes these
learners successful. Other reflection-oriented activities are
Carton’s (1971) skill of “inferencing,” Savignon’s (1983)
discovery learning, involving the use of deductive and
inductive reasoning, and Richard-Amato’s (1988) word-focus
games, although the last two writers, we feel, put too much
emphasis on the need for these activities to take place in a
group interfactional setting. Recent research on metacognitive
strategy training (Carrell, Pharis, & Liberto, 1989; Wenden &
Rubin, 1987) reports on activities designed to develop learning
strategies among ESL students and to promote learner
consciousness of the reasoning processes. What we hope to do
in a later section of this paper is to coalesce some of these ideas
about the use of reflective thinking in the CLT classroom,
believing that this third source of knowledge has a value as
distinct as the other two, phenomenalism and intuition.

Before discussing the types of activities which promote reflection
in EFL classrooms, we will first present a conceptualization of

When Does a Person Reflect?

Husserl says reflection arises when a person questions whether
something s/he believed to exist does not exist as s/he thought, that
a statement which s/he considered true is not, or that some act
which s/he considered right when s/he did it might have been
wrong. The transition from nonreflective to reflective thinking,
Husserl believes, involves “suspending our belief in the existence”
(Schmitt, 1973, p. 143) of an object or act. Psychologists (Morgan,
King, Weisz, & Schopler, 1986) contend that a person reflects when
confronted with a problem. Toward an ordinary situation, a person


will simply respond intuitively, but for an extraordinary one, s/he
will develop “tentative notions” about the problem.

What Is Involved in Reflection?

Locke lists two general processes: integration and judgment. In
the first, the ideas of sensation are gradually integrated into the
unified experience of complex ideas; this process involves such
faculties of the mind as discerning and distinguishing one sensory
idea from another, comparing and compounding, naming, and
abstracting. As to the second process, Clapp (1973) explains that for
Locke, judgment “alter[s] the interpretation we make of the ideas
we receive from sensation” (p. 492). For Schopenhauer, the
function of reflection is essentially a practical one; it provides a
means of generalizing from our observations of how things behave
under varying conditions (Gardiner, 1973). For Husserl, reflection is
the process by which a person knows the essential features of
arbitrarily chosen examples: “Under the concept of reflection must
be included all modes of immanent apprehension of the essence”
(Husserl, 1962, p. 201). For psychologists (Morgan et al., 1986),
reflective thinking is “the process of evaluating or testing [one’s]
own reasoning. Reflective thinking allows the formal-operational
person to be his or her own critic, to evaluate a process, idea, or
solution from the perspective of an outsider and to find errors or
weak spots in it” (p. 470).

What Is the Value of Reflection?

For Locke, reflection provides us with the experience of thinking
and willing, and it combines with sensation to provide us with the
experiences of pleasure, pain, power, existence and unity (Clapp,
1973). For Schopenhauer, reflection allows us to put to use what we
learn from experience (Gardiner, 1973). For the phenomenologists,
it implements “changes of standpoint, whereby a given experience
or unreflective experience-datum undergoes a certain transforma-
tion” (Husserl, 1962, p. 201). It is the only path to essentialism
(Schmitt, 1973). For psychologists, reflection allows a person to take
her/his first notions about a problem, test “these notions for errors,”
then correct them when weaknesses are found. The reflective
person thus is “a powerful experimenter and problem solver”
because s/he uses “the ability to think through a number of possible
strategies or ‘experiments’ and to decide which one will yield the
most information” (Morgan et al., 1986, p. 470).

Common to the answers to our questions about reflection are:
1. Reflection originates when the mind is confronted with a
problem or other extraordinary situation.
2. In confronting this situation, the mind integrates such functions
as defining, comparing, abstracting, generalizing, and essential-
ity-seeking; these processes allow the mind to make an
evaluation or judgment, not just a simple intuitive response.
3. As a result, the problem has a better solution since potential
weaknesses and errors have been confronted and the extraordi-
nary situation has a richer, more essential, meaning.
A consideration of these three points about reflection, we believe,
can improve the design of CLT activities and thus promote better
target language acquisition. The first point establishes that most
communicative situations do not need reflective thinking; an
intuitive, automatic response suffices. However, certain extraordi-
nary situations are best handled through a more deliberate,
reflective approach. We believe that some CLT activities need to be
examined to determine if they are encouraging students to give
intuitive responses in communicative situations where the students
would prefer to give a delayed, postreflection response. We need to
avoid suggesting to students that unreflective uses of language are
always best.
The second point establishes what mental faculties are used in
reflection. We believe that at present CLT with its emphases on
conspicuous action and spontaneous response has unintentionally
slighted the need and desire of language learners to abstract,
generalize, and synthesize. When CLT does use reflective-thinking
activities, the activities tend to be task-oriented and do not allow
students to expand the use of their reflective faculties by examining
a metacognitive process or by synthesizing experiences.
The third point establishes that the value of reflection is personal;
it brings an inner satisfaction that one has done one’s best to
confront an extraordinary situation. In the language classroom, we
believe that activities which allow for the use of introspection
before interaction will enhance a student’s self-image because the
student will have achieved a private fruition through intrapersonal
testing, thereby eliminating certain first-notion responses. Conse-
quently s/he will approach the valuable public negotiation of mean-
ing with greater confidence. These general benefits of a greater use
of reflective thinking in CLT will be expanded and particularized in
the following section on types of reflective activities.


Three types of reflection-centered CLT classroom activities will
now be briefly discussed: (a) task-oriented, (b) process-oriented,
and (c) synthesis-oriented.

Task-Oriented Activities
Task-oriented activities involving reflective thinking, the
principal type presently used in CLT, lead students to discover
answers for themselves. In such activities, a problem is solved, a
question is answered, a conflict is resolved, a rule is formed, or a
principle is exemplified. The task can involve the use of either
inductive or deductive reasoning. Savignon’s (1983) description of
an inductive-reasoning activity in a Spanish class is typical: She
gives her students some sentences related to adjective agreement
and the following instructions: “Working in small groups or pairs
study the above sentences. What rule can you give to explain the
different forms of the adjective norteamericano?” (p. 190).
This description suggests that there are three stages in a task-
oriented activity: (a) encountering the data, (b) processing it in a
communal setting, and (c) producing a solution. The activity is
close-ended because the emphasis is on the result, the point of
eureka. We prefer a four-stage progression of our task-oriented
activities, with an emphasis on the first stage:
1. Establishing need and desire. We believe that activities are best
structured by first establishing student need and desire for the
activity. We assume that it is difficult for one to take seriously
and reflect upon activities that one has not in some way made
one’s own.
2. Shaping activities through student involvement. Just as student
need and desire should determine whether an activity will
proceed, students should also be involved in determining how
the activity will proceed. We believe that students should be
given a choice of the type of activity they wish to use; for
instance, whether it is to be a one-way information-gap task
where students are not required to pool information in solving
the problem, or a two-way information-gap task where the
participants must share information to solve the problem (Ellis,
Most CLT task-oriented activities use the latter, resulting in an
interpersonal group-discovery, but for most individuals the point
of eureka remains a solitary, triumphant confirmation. We

believe that students should be allowed to experience both
satisfaction-through-group exploration and the exhilaration of
individual achievement.
3. Hypothesis formulating. A task-oriented activity should allow
students to formulate hypotheses arising from the use of such
mental functions as defining, comparing, sorting, abstracting,
and evaluating. That is, times for reflection should be incorpo-
rated into the activity, allowing for reflection which both pre-
cedes and follows interaction. Interaction is valuable because
one student’s hypothesizing question may direct another student
to reflect over something which s/he has not considered. Thus
progress is interpersonally incremental through indirect inter-
action, since each student must reflect on the “other-student”
hypothesis and put it in the intrapersonal pattern that her/his
mind is developing.
4. Reaching a point of eureka. Sometimes quickly, sometimes
slowly, the door-opening discovery is made, bringing the task to
its completion. We think it preferable after discovery, even in
task-oriented activities, to stress not just the product, but also the
process; thus we ask students questions about the bases of their
hypotheses and even compliment a student on the logic behind a
hypothesis that turned out to be false.

Process-Oriented Activities
Process-oriented activities contrast with task-oriented activities
by stressing that the value of the activity lies in the proceeding, not
in the end. During each stage of the process, students should
experience an indigenous, distinctive sense of accomplishment, and
at the end of the process-oriented activity, the sum of these
achievements should be equally distinct and greater than that
experienced at any one stage. In a second way they are different
from task-oriented activities: Process-oriented activities are open-
ended. They close inconclusively by suggesting that (a) not every
problem has a solution, and/or (b) it is not necessary to come to a
common agreement about a solution, thus avoiding what Ellis
(1990) finds in some interactive classrooms where students simply
“go through the motion of agreeing so that they can display
solidarity” (p. 116), and/or (c) each student’s individual solution has
a validity in itself arising from her/his processing a personally
satisfying answer.
To illustrate the distinctiveness of a process-oriented activity, we
will begin by analyzing an ESL activity suggested by Francine


Schumann and described by Paulston and Bruder (1976) which
might appear to be process-oriented:
Give the students a suitable Ann Landers problem with her answer
removed, then send them out in the community to ask Americans what
their suggested solution for the problem would be. The next time the
class meets, they all compare notes and finally Landers’ answer is read.
(p. 69)
This activity, which has its own special value, is structured so that
there are multiple stages and ongoing subactivities suggestive of a
process. However, we would classify it as a conspicuous-action,
task-oriented activity because the students get a problem, are told it
has an authoritative answer, formulate hypotheses about the answer
through interacting with members of a community, explore further
hypotheses by interacting with classmates, and then are told the
authoritative answer. Such an activity, we believe, may be suggest-
ing to students that presumably few students would be willing to
accept: that all answers are in the outside world, that these answers
can be found principally by negotiating with the outside world, and
that the outside world has the only acceptable, definitive answers.
A reflective process-oriented activity can be contextually similar
to the Ann Landers activity but would attempt to discourage such
inferences. Such an activity involves three stages:
1. Protoreflective stage. The term proto is used here to mean
“beginning” and “giving rise to.” A reflective process-oriented
activity does not begin by “giv[ing] the students a suitable . . .
problem,” but by encouraging each student to examine a
personal experience, the examination of which will form the
basis for an activity. For example, if students were going to study
a fable, from which, like the Ann Landers problem, the moral has
been excised, they would be asked to recall animal narratives or
personal experiences with animals. We call this stage protoreflec-
tive because the students are asked to remember something from
their past involving animals as a prelude to relating that prior
experience to the coming activity. They make use of memory,
that “repository”’ where previous “perceptions” are “la[id] up”
and which the mind has the power “to revive” during reflective
thinking (Locke, 1706/1961, II.x.2). Also this stage is preparatory
because this preliminary focusing on a personal experience
accustoms each student to look inward and seek a personally
satisfying experience, a proclivity which hopefully the student
will carry over to the study of the central fable activity. In
subsequent activities students can relate their animal stories to
each other.

2. Analytical stage. This second stage involves more analysis than
the first and brings into play inductive as well as deductive
reasoning. In the fable activity, students are encouraged to see
the similarities and differences in their stories. Noting that in
some of their stories animals behave like people, and that some
stories present “messages,” students can work out a definition of
fables based on their personal experience.
Copies of a fable from which the ending has been excised are
then distributed. If students have understood the definition of a
fable, they will quickly note that the “fable” given them is
incomplete. Students will generally enjoy developing their own
endings, each student developing several morals.
In this stage, students have gained a metacognitive awareness
of what is involved in framing a definition; they have used such
analytical faculties as comparing and contrasting, sorting
information, discarding information, and generalizing.
3. Evaluative stage. The aim of reflective thinking is not just ana-
lytical: It is also evaluative. Through evaluation, a person will
find errors or weak points, and through the elimination of such
false hypotheses or misdirected analysis, s/he will get to
what s/he considers to be the essential. The purpose of this stage
is for students to evaluate their output.
In the evaluative stage of the fable activity, students, working
alone, first eliminate all but one of their endings.
After each student has decided on one “best answer,” students
work in small groups where several individual answers are
reduced to one group consensus. Unlike the teacher of the Ann
Landers’ activity, we do not provide an authoritative answer.
This may seem to be an anticlimactic option, but our students
know our style of teaching and probably anticipated our doing
something like this.
We compliment the students on what they have accomplished,
noting that there are not always authoritative answers to
everything, but there is always the search, and they have
demonstrated that they know how to search.

Synthesis-Oriented Activities
In his critique of the notional syllabus, Widdowson (1979) faults it
for an artificial modularization which does not allow for the
development of “an awareness of meaning potential.” A synthesis-
oriented activity will encourage each student to realize a “meaning
potential” which is hers/his alone. In such an activity, tasks are not


completed nor is process examined. Rather in synthesis-oriented
activities meaning is created by each student through latensifica-
tion, to use the term from photography where a latent image is
intensified by chemical treatment or exposure to low light,
Synthesis means the combining of often diverse conceptions into
a coherent whole. To illustrate, students in an advanced-level class
watch a video compiled from English-language TV coverage of the
events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. Several weeks later
they read Frost’s poem “Mending Walls” (with its antinomies,
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good walls make
good neighbors”). If in classroom discussion some students indicate
that they see a connection between the TV coverage and the poem,
they are exhibiting the reflective faculty of synthesis, although not
at a very high level since there is a linguistic clue, the word “wall.”
After several more weeks there is an activity comparing and
contrasting astronaut-taken photographs of the earth with a
classroom globe of the earth, and one or several students note that
one is boundless while the other has boundaries and relate this
observation to the “walls” of the two previous activities. Students
are engaging in a higher level of synthesizing. Several weeks later,
a visiting psychologist lectures and takes questions on forms of
prejudice in society and again one or several students connect this
societal barriering with the earlier physical barriers. Students are
exhibiting a still higher level of synthesis.
What is crucial for the success of a synthesis-oriented activity is
that the teacher avoid the following: (a) predetermining synthesis
by stating what the teacher feels is its cohering basis, such as by
announcing that during the semester the class will study
manifestations of barriers; and (b) consciously designing activities
which will dictate the direction synthesis will take. If a course has
20-25 activities, there is a synthetic basis, which each student can
use in making her/his own personal synthesis. Of the three types of
reflective activities, synthesis-oriented activities best allow a student
to stamp her/his validating mark on the learning process.

Rivers (1983) writes that some teachers “take their students by
routes that are circuitous, lead to deadends, backtrack, and make
the going rough and difficult, so that attention is on the going
instead of the destination, and students begin to feel that the journey
itself is the most important thing, completely losing sight of the
goal.” She prefers a class where “students never allow themselves to

become absorbed in any activity on the way as an end in itself”
(p. 55).
Our preference is different. We like circumlocutions where the
reflective student circles a problem like a hawk spiraling above its
prey. We find, and think our students find, a fascination in the
“rough and difficult.” We like backtracking, for is not that a
definition of reflection? We have to like the “going” because our
students might spot the “destination” we have presumptuously set
without consulting them and, equally presumptuously, might
decide to sidetrack us out of playful spite. And hooray for those
students who “begin to feel that the journey itself is the most
important thing.” Does not almost every attempt at reflection have
“deadends,” inevitable and we feel valuable for ESL/EFL
To summarize, we have tried to show that many activities in
CLT, in an attempt to correct some deficiencies of audiolingualism,
show a reliance on two sources of knowledge, phenomenalism and
intuition, at the expense of the third, reflection. While some CLT
writers have acknowledged the importance of developing and
promoting reflective thinking among ESL/EFL students, the major
types of activities in the CLT spontaneous-response, conspicuous-
action classroom flow from conceptions which do not encourage
1. Phenomenalistically based activities which suggest that sensa are
crucial to language acquisition
2. lmmediate-response activities which measure if subconscious,
automatic, intuitive acquisition has occurred
3. Interfactional activities which stress that language is acquired
through an interpersonal negotiation, not through the intraper-
sonal negotiation where the mind reflectively “turns inward
upon itself”
The point of our paper is not to deny the value of phenomenalis-
tic, intuitive, interfactional activities, but to suggest that a
consideration of reflection can complement them. Particularly we
have addressed the following central assumptions of CLT:
1. The type of input. Certainly for language acquisition to be
successful, input must be comprehensible and relevant or
interesting. However, we believe that many CLT activities
assume that these criteria must be met at the same time and in the
same way. Comprehensibility must be realized immediately or
almost immediately or the student is “lost.” However, relevance
or interest, typically gauged in the CLT classroom through


conspicuous action or spontaneous participation, may not be
immediately apparent until the mind of the student has had the
time to define, sort, and abstract from the input.
2. The type of output. Output which takes the forms of first-idea
response, brainstorming, or fast-writing exhibits the characteris-
tic of conspicuous immediacy. Without doubt these and other
spontaneous-response activities are valuable forms of output, but
not when an intuitive response is encouraged or accepted in a
situation where the student realizes that s/he could produce a
better response if s/he were given the time to discard some of
her/his first notions. In certain communicative situations, a
reflection-preceding-response sequence could possibly result in
an output more indicative of the output desired by the student.
3. A reliance on interaction. It is true that “learning seen as totally a
personal and subjective matter is seeing learning in a vacuum”
(Breen & Candlin, 1979, p. 101), but we believe it is equally
extremist to stress that language acquisition is totally dependent
on interpersonal negotiation. We know of no major CLT theorist
who maintains either ultraistic position, but we have found
instances, some examined earlier in this paper, where there is an
interaction-for-interaction’s sake tendency. To counteract this
proclivity, we have proposed that for some activities an intra-
action/interaction alternating sequence be used and that for
others students have more opportunities to stand back and
reflect silently.
4. A reliance on task-oriented activities. We believe that more
process-oriented and synthesis-oriented activities will promote
the developing of critical thinking and metacognitive learning
strategies, encourage an individualizing of language acquisition,
and instill motivation and self-esteem.
We hope that those ESL/EFL teachers who see a validity in our
assessment of the spontaneous-response, conspicuous-action CLT
classroom and a value in the three types of reflective activities
which we have discussed will realize that the CLT classroom can be
invigorated by incorporating some activities promoting reflection.

William L. Tarvin has taught at King Saud University-Abha in Saudi Arabia for the
last 12 years, during 8 of which he has served as Chair of its Department of English.
His recent articles on literature, EFL methodology, and education have appeared
in Journal of Reading, Modern Language Quarterly, The McGill Journal of
Education, International Review of Education, and The Journal of Irish Literature.

Ali Yahya Al-Arishi is Vice-Dean, College of Education, King Saud University-

Abha, and an Assistant Professor in its Department of English. He received his
doctoral degree in English Education from Indiana University-Bloomington in
1984. His articles on EFL have appeared in Journal of Reading, System, and
Language Quarterly.

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TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1991

The TESOL Methods Course

Florida International University

This paper presents the results of an empirical study of the

curriculum of the TESOL methods course in the United States.
The survey sample consisted of 120 teacher preparation programs.
The response rate was 78%; 94 respondents returned 77
questionnaires and 55 course syllabi. These provided information
about the content of the TESOL methods course, its goals,
requirements, instructional materials, and common problems, and
they identified possible avenues for development and change.

The TESOL methods course is the primary vehicle for peda-

gogical instruction in the majority of TESOL teacher preparation
programs. The mission of the methods course is widely recognized
as the development of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and
awareness of teachers. Freeman (1989), who defines teaching as a
decision-making process that is firmly rooted in those four areas,
articulates the need “to define the content of language teacher
education—that is, the processes of effective language teaching”
(p. 29). Traditionally the second language methods course has
examined the historical and theoretical foundations of language
teaching, classroom techniques derived from these foundations, and
resources for professional development (Garfinkel, 1976).
Current trends in education suggest that the methods course
should be based upon knowledge of what an ESL teacher must
know and do in order to be effective. Identification of this knowl-
edge base has been imprecise at best in TESOL as well as other
educational fields. In spite of the importance of the methods course
in teacher preparation, very little is known about the precise
workings of this course in TESOL or other areas of teacher
education. Zeichner (1988) notes that “what happens inside these
courses defines teacher education’s contribution to teacher learning.
Right now we know very little as a field about what goes on inside
either the professional or academic components of programs”
(p. 33).

In their extensive review of the literature in language teacher
education, Bernhardt and Hammadou (1987) found a dearth of
empirical studies, particularly in the area of curriculum. They
specifically identified a critical need for research on the curriculum
of the methods course, as well as a need for, language education
programs to make connections with the larger field of education.
The Holmes Group (1986), a consortium of deans of colleges of
education across the United States, cited inadequate professional
preparation as one of seven major problems in teacher education
today. The Carnegie Forum report (1986) on teaching as a
profession found that too many teacher education programs
“produce graduates who complain that their education courses
failed to prepare them for teaching” (p. 71).
The purpose of this study is to examine the inner workings of the
TESOL methods course to the extent possible through analysis of
course syllabi and self-reporting questionnaires. This study
examines the content, goals, requirements, and instructional
materials of the TESOL methods course at 94 teacher preparation
programs in the United States.
The National Center for Research on Teacher Education
(NCTRE) identifies two kinds of qualities that need to be
addressed in any examination of courses in the teacher education
curriculum: academic quality and professional quality (Zeichner,
1988). The academic quality of a course encompasses the
intellectual rigor of the content and learning tasks, the degree of
challenge and opportunity for intellectual growth afforded students
in the course. Professional quality entails how the content of a
course relates to teaching and the extent to which students feel that
the course has helped them to become better teachers.
No empirical study to date has been published on the status of the
second language methods course although Richards and Crookes’
(1988) survey of the TESOL practicum provides a useful analysis of
a related course that is found in many TESOL teacher preparation
The professional organizations TESOL and ACTFL (American
Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) have each
established guidelines for the preparation of language teachers.
Additionally TESOL offers a Statement of Core Standards for Lan-
guage and Professional Preparation Programs (1985). However, the
ACTFL Provisional Program Guidelines for Foreign Language
Teacher Education (1988), currently in revision, are more specific,
complete, and up-to-date than the TESOL Guidelines for the
Certification and Preparation of Teachers of English to Speakers of
Other Languages in the United States (1976).

The study reported here examined 77 questionnaires and 55
course syllabi returned from 94 institutions. To collect the
information, the author sent a cover letter requesting course syllabi
and related materials along with a one-page, two-sided question-
naire to the directors of 120 ESOL teacher preparation programs
listed in the Directory of Professional Preparation Programs in
TESOL in the United States 1986-1988 (Frank-McNeil, 1986). The
first mailing in January 1989 yielded 73 responses; the second
mailing in April 1989 drew 20 additional responses. Total response
rate was 78% (94) responses. (Three null responses were received
and four responses came from individuals at two institutions. Six
respondents sent syllabi for two methods courses.) Appendix A
reproduces the survey questionnaire.
This study does not attempt to analyze the role of the methods
course within the context of programs for the master’s degree in
TESOL or linguistics. In some programs, the methods course is an
integral and integrated part of the whole curriculum for the master’s
degree, rather than a single course or set of courses. Empirical data
concerning the relationship of the methods course(s) to the rest of
the curriculum in the TESOL teacher education program is needed.
At present, the best source of information about this area is the
Directory of Professional Preparation Programs in TESOL in the
United States 1989-1991 (Kornblum, 1989).


Information on scheduling, audience, sections, hours, enrollment,
teacher status, and prerequisites establishes part of a profile of the
methods course and is described in detail in Appendix B. Course
design varied greatly. Nonetheless, examination of the course
syllabi reveals five areas of course design frequently addressed. In
order of frequency, these are: content (45), course requirements
(44), required readings (44), grading criteria (33), and course goals
(28). Relatively few of the respondents included each of the five
components in their syllabi.

Course Goals
The goal statements, whether set apart or within the course
description, define educational areas of importance for the learner
in terms of content, learning process, and outcomes. Essentially the
goals comprise an educational blueprint for the course. If course


requirements are the means by which the goals are achieved, then
the course content fleshes out the curricular plan that is outlined by
the goals.
In the collected syllabi, learning goals are referred to in a variety
of ways including “course objectives,” “course purpose,” and “aim
and scope.” The goals in Figure 1 are representative and fall into
four main categories:
1. Language learning: theory and practice
2. Teaching second language skills
3. Program design and materials
4. Research and technology
Most goal statements fell into the first and second categories; the
fewest were found in the fourth category.

The content of the 55 syllabi is examined in Table 1 in terms of (a)
the number of institutions that treat the same topic and (b) the
number of weeks spent on the topic. The data show that methods
courses concentrate primarily on three areas: (a) innovative and
traditional methods, (b) the theory of second language learning, and
(c) approaches to teaching the four language skills. Specific
methodologies receive the greatest amount of attention and time in
the methods courses; some instructors spend weeks on individual
methods such as the Silent Way and Suggestopedia.
The second most popular topic is the theory of second language
learning, while writing, reading, and speaking are virtually tied for
third place in terms of the coverage they receive. These are
followed by the history of methods, the communicative approach,
grammar, listening, and testing.
The information gleaned from the 77 questionnaires related to
content confirms the data collected from the course syllabi.
Respondents were asked to estimate the percent of course time that
they spent on certain areas. Both the syllabi and the questionnaires
reveal that the history and overview of methods receives con-
siderable attention in the methods course, followed closely by the
teaching of the four language skills.
In large part, the sequence of content in the methods course can
be summarized as follows:
1. Theoretical bases of language teaching and learning
2. General history of second language pedagogy

Sample Course Goals

1. Language Learning Theory and Practice

a. Identify, compare, and contrast characteristics of ESL teaching methods based on
differing models of language teaching and apply such knowledge to an increased
understanding of personal teaching practice
b. Identify psychological and social characteristics of the adult second language learner
which may affect his/her ability to learn to speak, read, or write a second language
c. Examine and integrate past and present teaching and learning experiences
d. Examine one’s own learning process, assumptions, values, and attitudes towards
teaching, learning, and language
e. Gain ability to assess the appropriateness of different methods in different situations
and for different learners
f. Gain introductory acquaintance with second language acquisition theory and its
application to second language teaching
g. Gain an understanding of the major issues and controversies in the field of second/
foreign language pedagogy and their implications for classroom teaching
2. Teaching Second Language Skills
a. Review the pedagogical literature on the teaching of the component language skills of
listening and reading, composition, speaking, and writing across the second language
b. Demonstrate an understanding of basic concepts concerning the relationship between
language and culture
c. Develop understanding of common grammatical problems ESL students encounter
and determine ways to work on these
3. Program Design and Materials
a. Develop a rational basis for the design, development, implementation, and evaluation
of instructional programs in ESL/EFL
b. Gain the ability to analyze techniques and materials for their strengths and weaknesses
and for the teaching situations to which they are most suited
c. Make informed decisions on the choice of texts and professional resource material
based on a familiarity with a wide variety of offerings from the major ESL publishers
d. Analyze principles of L2 test construction and construct L2 tests
4. Research and Technology
a. Identify relevant resources for future reference in the study of adult second language
learning and oral skills instruction
b. Gain familiarity with the university mainframe computer system
c. Gain ability to use a personal computer for preparing documents and as a language
teaching tool
d. Gain ability to use the most common pieces of audiovisual equipment to prepare and
present lessons

3. Treatment of specific methodologies

4. Separate coverage of the four (and related) skills
The general pattern for sequencing course content reflects the
order found in Long and Richards’ (1987) table of contents.


Topics Covered in Methods Course
Number of Institutions and Time Spent on Each Topica

Similarly, coverage of specific methodologies typically follows the

sequence established in the Richards and Rodgers text (1986 ).1
1 The following sequence of topics is found in Long and Richards: (a) the context of language
teaching; (b) second language acquisition and bilingualism; (c) syllabus and course design;
(d) methods and methodology; (e) listening (f) speaking (g) reading (h) writing (i)
grammar; (j) vocabulary; (k) teacher-student interaction; (1) testing.
In Richards and Rodgers the sequence of topics on specific methodologies is as follows:
(a) a brief history of language teaching; (b) the nature of approaches and methods in lan-
guage teaching; (c) the oral approach and situational language teaching; (d) the
audiolingual method; (e) communicative language teaching; (f) Total Physical Response;
(g) the Silent Way; (h) Community Language Learning; (i) the Natural Approach; (j)
Suggestopedia; (k) comparing and evaluating methods.

Course Requirements
Course requirements indirectly provide information about which
knowledge, skills, attitudes, and awareness the methods instructor
considers important and how s/he plans to develop them. Only one
syllabus focused specifically on the development of all four areas.
The wide variety of learning tasks and activities required by many
instructors is the most remarkable aspect of the course require-
ments. Clearly visible is a strong orientation toward classroom
practice and reflective teaching in the many examples of tutoring,
observation, and journal assignments.
One of the more interesting trends in the design of course
requirements is the provision of choice, where students may select
an assignment from several options in an effort to vary the
requirements to reflect the level of teaching experience of the
students and to allow for personal choice (and learning style). For
example, in one course the final project may be one of three
activities: (a) a take-home exam covering the entire course, (b)
preparation and demonstration of an oral skills lesson, or (c) a
research paper on a topic of personal interest, 15–20 pages in length.
Another program permits a student to either plan and teach a 10-
minute language lesson and develop four follow-up activities, or to
tutor high school or adult ESL students twice a week. Many other
examples of options in requirements occur throughout the syllabi.
The requirements are grouped into 10 categories below, with
frequency of occurrence in parentheses.
Exams (35). In terms of frequency of requirement and weight,
exams are the most important requirement in the majority of
methods courses. Not only do more instructors require exams than
any other activity, exams are counted more heavily. The format of
the final exam varies from a take-home exam on the entire course or
on reading and lecture material, to an in-class final on facts,
classroom problem-solving, and situational analysis, to an optional
in-class final that consists of a short personal position paper.
Papers (27). The variety of paper assignments is extensive. One
course assigns a reaction paper where students must synthesize
reactions to a particular topic or theme based on specific references
to classroom observations, tutoring/teaching, course readings, and
lectures. The research paper in another course calls for original
research or new approaches to solving a problem. Other formats for
a paper include an annotated bibliography on a topic of interest
related to ESL teaching; a four-page analysis of a thesis, qualifying
paper, or dissertation; or a reflective report or a teaching journal
recording thoughts and feelings about the teaching/learning


Reading-related activities (26). Reading activities vary widely as
instructors employ a number of creative ways to encourage students
to read and think about the assigned material. Reading heightens
awareness of the knowledge and experiential base necessary for the
development of ESL teachers and challenges teacher educators to
encourage students to (a) reflect on what they already know, (b)
think about what they have read and experienced, and (c) think
critically about possible applications for the classroom.
Reading journals are popular assignments. Students comment on
how the information they read will be useful in the ESL classroom,
or keep a dialogue journal where the methods instructor responds to
each entry but does not assign a grade, or turn in reading notes
consisting of summaries, outlines, or reactions to material for each
class assignment. Other reading-related tasks include pop quizzes,
oral reports, and a file of 10 articles and activities.
Participation (25). Although methods instructors evidently value
attendance and class participation, they award less credit for it than
any other component. Of the 25 respondents who require
participation, 16 do not count it (or do not say whether it counts)
toward the final grade. In one course the participation grade raises
or lowers the final grade by a plus or a minus and is composed of
attendance, discussion, class preparation, workbook assignments,
and oral presentations on the term paper.
Materials/curriculum development (24). The development of
lesson plans, materials, and curriculum is required in almost half of
the syllabi. Most assignments call for lesson plan writing, while
others request the development of picture files, materials, and
curriculum, and the selection and evaluation of materials via
catalogs. Some programs devote an entire course to this area. In one
methods course reported on in this study, students must develop (a)
a lesson plan, exercises, and/or materials for survival English or
English for Specific Purposes (ESP), specifying students and goals,
and (b) a lesson plan to introduce a single grammatical feature,
notion, or function using only contextualized and communicative
activities. Assignments in other courses include the preparation of
an audiotape exercise of 3-5 minutes with transcript and any
necessary written materials, and a 12-lesson-plan packet in the
content areas of math, science, and social studies, specifying student
age and language levels.
Teaching demonstration (23). The diverse forms of the teaching
demonstration include peer teaching, microteaching, and the
demonstration of a particular method or technique. In one course,

each class begins with a student-led warm-up activity. Students in
another must demonstrate an innovative teaching approach in small
groups, and give two peer-teaching demonstrations in grammar and
pronunciation. Elsewhere students have the option of conducting a
15- to 20-minute lesson with intermediate ESL students while being
observed. At its best, the teaching demonstration provides valuable
opportunities for reflection on teaching style, classroom manage-
ment, self-analysis, feedback on performance, and exploration of
alternative approaches.
A number of respondents felt that this practical teaching
component was more appropriate for the practicum, since they
view the methods course as a forum for teaching the theoretical
perspectives of innovative methods and approaches to teaching the
four language skills. However, for others the methods course is the
right (and in some programs, the only) place to put new ideas, skills,
and attitudes into practice.
Classroom observation (21). Assignments involving classroom
observation and analysis reveal an emphasis on practice. At its best,
observation is used to develop problem-solving skills, awareness,
and reflective teaching. A full discussion of observational tech-
niques and instruments appears in Day (1990). The number of ob-
servations required varies (with frequency indicated in paren-
theses): 1-4 classes (12); 4-6 classes (8); and 8-10 classes (4). Most
instructors require the completion of a written report or checklist
about the observation. One course asks students to visit and
evaluate in writing at least three ESL classes taught by student
colleagues. Another has solved the time-consuming problem of
scheduling observations by providing students with a list of ap-
proved schools and giving them the responsibility for making the
arrangements for observations.
Viewing videotapes sometimes substitutes for in-person observa-
tion. Indiana University of Pennsylvania has completed three
modules of a teacher assessment project for teachers-in-training that
uses videotapes illustrating specific teaching behaviors (Gerlach &
Millward, 1989). Vanderbilt University has developed a series of
learning experiences for cognitive discrimination training and the
development of decision-making skills using videotapes, computer
simulations, and videodiscs. The materials focus on problems
encountered by student teachers in their practice teaching
experiences (Skeel, 1989).
Tutoring/teacbing (17). Tutoring/teaching requires students to
work directly with ESL students—precisely what they will do as
professionals. A number of respondents indicated a need and desire


to include more such practice in their courses. Tutoring/teaching
assignments are a means of providing more clinical experience and
can put students in contact with prospective employers. Since
tutoring may be inappropriate for the experienced teacher, a
number of instructors provide other assignments as options, such as
teaching journals to develop reflective teaching skills and
awareness. The value of reflective teaching (Bartlett, 1990), teacher
diary studies (Bailey, 1990), and learning logs (Porter, Goldstein,
Leatherman, & Conrad, 1990) in teacher education is documented
in the literature.
Tutoring requirements vary. One course requires a minimum of
20 hours of tutoring an ESL student and keeping a teaching journal
for each hour of instruction covering what was taught, how it was
taught, and any problems that occurred. Another course requires
service as a conversation partner with international students for at
least 1 hour per week and submission of a one-page report weekly
on the experience. Students in another course develop and teach a
curriculum for ESL graduate students twice a week. They record
the planning, teaching, and evaluation of each class in a teaching log
or on a self-supervision form. They must also videotape one class
for review and evaluation.
Materials evaluation (14). The materials evaluation assignment
consists primarily of text review, evaluation, or analysis. The length
of report varies widely as does the mode of presentation: written,
oral, or both. Among the assignments are a book review of a current
ESL/EFL textbook to be written on a mainframe computer, a
critical evaluation of a text, and an annotated bibliography of ESL
texts or other materials.
Other requirements (9). Other requirements of interest include
attending a local professional conference such as the meeting of the
state affiliate of TESOL (4), producing a contrastive analysis of
English and one other language (3), and demonstrating computer
literacy where students must demonstrate a minimal proficiency
with computers by using word-processing or other application
programs (2).

Required Materials
Texts. An analysis of the content of the course syllabi reveals
striking similarities between course content and the content of the
10 most frequently required texts (see Figure 2). Evidently the texts
either reflect the knowledge base for the subject or establish it.
Three of the top eight texts deal almost exclusively with specific

Required Readings
(No. of institutions that require the material are in parentheses)

language teaching methodologies (Blair, 1982; Larsen-Freeman,

1986; and Richards & Rodgers, 1986); the rest primarily are
concerned with the theory and practice of language teaching,
approaches to teaching the four language skills, and specific
The fact that a coursepack of readings is the most frequently used
instructional material indicates a general feeling that existing texts
are inadequate in some way. The popularity of coursepacks no
doubt reflects the instructor’s desire to provide constantly updated
materials and a broader range of course content than can be
provided by a single text.
To what extent do methods text and course content reflect the
needs and interests of ESL teachers? Referring to classroom texts
and teaching, Pennycook (1989) describes the large gap between
the theories of experts and textbooks and classroom practice.
Several studies have examined the stated preferences of teachers
and supervisors regarding teacher development activities (Ervin &


Muyskens, 1982; Nerenz, 1979a, 1979b; Nerenz, Herron & Knop,
1979). More research on teacher needs and classroom practices
should be conducted with the goal of more closely relating the
content of teacher preparation courses to development needs.
Educational videotapes. Only one fourth of the respondents report
that they use educational videotapes in their methods classes; most
of these are locally or teacher-produced. Tapes that demonstrate
specific methods such as the Natural Approach, the Silent Way, the
Rassias Approach, Suggestopedia, and Total Physical Response are
used by only four or five institutions each. For those who are
interested, Mendez and Thomas (1989) have created an up-to-date
international bibliography of instructional videos.
Nearly one fifth of the respondents videotape methods students
for observation and critique. Others replied that they employ this
procedure in the practicum rather than the methods course. Half of
those using videotape to record students teaching tape only once.
Almost all of the rest make two tapes during the semester, except
for two institutions that make four tapes of each student. In all
cases, the tapes were of a teaching demonstration. The majority
used instructor, peer, and self-critique for feedback on the video.
Underused and little understood, videotapes of classroom teaching
are powerful, authentic materials for teacher education that can
facilitate reflective analysis.

Evaluation/grading criteria
About two thirds of the respondents (32) included partial or
complete information on how the course grades were derived.
Models varied widely, but some illustrative samples are provided in
Table 2. In general, the most frequently assigned and heavily
weighted assignments are exams and papers. A number of syllabi
either lacked grading criteria entirely, or had incomplete, unclear,
or incorrect scoring information (on several, the separate com-
ponents of the grade did not add up to 100%).

Respondents identified five areas for improvement of the methods
1. More observations of skilled teachers (34%)
2. More videotaping of students for feedback (31%)
3. Greater emphasis on solving classroom problems (29%)

Selected Evaluation Systems

5. Improved teaching materials (17%)

Eight respondents cited the need for more course work in TESOL
methods to cover all the topics in the depth that they require, while
five wanted to include more practical training.
The respondents to the survey provided valuable information
about the content of the TESOL methods course, its goals,
requirements, instructional materials, common problems, and
suggestions for change. They indicated that methods teachers often
struggle with too little time, too many students, too much to cover,
too little practice, a lack of adequate materials, and no real
consensus on what knowledge, skills, and attitudes should be taught


or how to promote teacher awareness of these. Knowing our
collective course goals, content, required activities, texts, grading
procedures, and prerequisites provides a picture of what is being
done and what is possible. The sharing of this curricular
information can strengthen our individual courses. Learning about
the strengths of our colleagues’ courses can underscore the strengths
of our own curricula and suggest ways to change and develop our
teacher training programs.


One of the key challenges facing the methods instructor of the
1990s will be the development of the teacher as decision maker and
problem solver. Clarke and Silberstein (1988) warn teacher
educators to avoid the pitfalls of prescriptivism, that is, the facile
provision of simple remedies to complex problems that teachers
confront daily. Too often university professors (methods instructors
included), program administrators, and researchers attempt to
dictate to language teachers how to carry out their work. The
interchange is rarely bidirectional; yet the classroom teacher
possesses the expertise and capability to discover solutions to daily
problems. Teacher training programs should encourage ESOL
teachers to “live with complexity and to appreciate ambiguity” and
allow teachers to discover solutions to “the messy reality of day-to-
day life in the classroom” (Clarke & Silberstein, 1988, p. 697).
Zimmer-Loew (1988) addressed the related issue of the need for
empowerment of the teacher through professionalization, active
involvement in the decision-making process in the classroom,
educational institution, and community. This will be a second
A third key issue in the methods course of the 1990s will be the
development of metacognitive awareness in effective teaching.
Freeman (1989) clearly describes the “trigger” effect of awareness
on the three bases of teaching—knowledge, skills, and attitudes,
calling it a vital aspect in the development of teachers and their
“internal monitoring systems” (p. 40) that enables them to assess
what works well in the classroom. In a recent study, Carrell (1989)
applies a metacognitive awareness model to L2 reading, stating that
if “the reader is not aware of his or her own limitations as a reader
or of the complexity of the task at hand, then the reader can hardly
be expected to take preventive actions to anticipate or recover from
problems” (p. 122). When we adapt her model of metacognitive
awareness to teaching, it becomes clear that classroom problems are
unlikely to be prevented, anticipated, discovered, or solved if

teachers do not perceive their limitations as teachers, or sense the
possibility of problems. Kolb and Boyatzis (1979) assert that “most
forms of psychotherapy attempt to increase the patients’ awareness
of the forces affecting his [sic] behavior with the implicit
assumption that this insight will change the patient’s behavior” (p.
Walz (1989) also underscores the importance of awareness in lan-
guage teacher education programs and recommends that language
teacher educators work to develop student recognition of what
constitutes communicative language teaching in order to enable
teachers to distinguish between mechanical and communicative
A fourth key issue for the methods course of the new decade is
reflective teaching. Maley (1989) advocates the use of reflective
teaching in teacher development programs, as does Freeman
(1989), who views the teacher educator as a collaborator with
teachers-in-training who starts them on the process of reflection.
(For a further discussion of reflection, see the article by Tarvin and
Al-Arishi in this issue of the TESOL Quarterly.) Coupled with
reflective teaching, enhanced and extended clinical experiences are
highly recommended by the Carnegie (1986) and Holmes (1986)
reports for the improvement of teacher education programs. The
utility of teaching journals for the development of reflective
teaching is indicated in the results of this survey and described by
Brinton and Holten (1989), who discuss the use of the teaching
journal entries of novice teachers at the University of California,
Los Angeles.
From this study of the TESOL methods course, gaps become
evident. The analysis of course goals reveals a striking lack of
emphasis on either classroom-based research or the use of
technology in the classroom. On the other hand, one could argue
that excessive attention is devoted to coverage of individual
methods that are rarely used, such as the Silent Way and
Suggestopedia. In the majority of programs (and textbooks), the
four language skills are still covered separately instead of with an
emphasis on how to promote the integration of skills in the
classroom. An absence of readings from (and training within) the
broader field of education tends to marginalize our profession and
narrow our viewpoint. We need to promote knowledge of and
integration into the educational mainstream. Minimally, the TESOL
methods course would do well to include work by such thinkers as
Bruner (1960, 1971), Dewey (1910, 1916, 1960), Gardner (1983,
1985), Knowles (1960, 1984), Kolb (1984), and Vygotsky (1987).
Other trends in the TESOL methods course are extremely


encouraging. The availability of choices in course assignments
accommodates the educational needs of individual teachers.
widespread use of teaching and reading journals indicates a new
emphasis on the preparation of reflective teachers and a recognition
of teachers’ abilities to solve their own problems. The use of
journals also highlights the field’s recognition of the importance of
promoting awareness and understanding of teacher beliefs about
teaching and learning. The use of observations, tutoring, and
teaching assignments brings the TESOL methods course closer to
the realities of the classroom. In spite of these developments, a
major challenge to teacher educators remains the potential gap
between classroom reality and teacher (and teacher educator)
perceptions, that is, between what teachers and researchers think
happens in the classroom and what actually goes on (Pennycook,
1989; Walz, 1989).
This study barely opens the door to what is inside the methods
course. We need to enter the room to pursue the question of what
the course really offers teachers, whether instructors encourage
problem solving or rote learning, promote active student involve-
ment in a learner-centered environment or passive listening to
teacher-centered lectures. Do methods instructors require original
thinking, problem solving, and synthesis on exams and in learning
tasks, or do their questions simply demand restatement of
information back to professors? What are the beliefs of the teacher
educators with respect to teaching and learning? How do teachers
perceive the value of the course? What is the ultimate impact of the
methods course on teacher beliefs, teaching, and learning? These
questions await further study.

Preliminary results of this study were presented at the 23rd Annual TESOL
Convention in San Antonio, March 1989. I am grateful to many people for their
assistance. In particular I thank my generous colleagues who shared their syllabi
and completed the survey; David Benseler who suggested the methodology; Sarah
Hudelson, Carole Urzúa, and Ann Raimes who gave encouragement and support;
Helen Kornblum who kindly supplied the mailing labels; Pegi Langan and Betsy
Coe-Bjorsell who helped with the data compilation; and Ann Barnacle and the
others who read and commented on the manuscript. Finally I am appreciative of
the substantive contributions of Sandra Silberstein.

Christine Uber Grosse is Assistant Professor and Director of the TESOL and
Modern Language Education Programs at Florida International University in
Miami. Among her research interests are languages for specific purposes and
second language pedagogy. Her articles have appeared in the Modern Language
Journal, Hispania, and the ESP Journal.

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The TESOL Methods Course Questionnaire
Your response to this questionnaire will contribute to a national survey of the TESOL
methods course. Thank you for your cooperation. Please check all appropriate responses.
1. Does your TESOL program offer a course in Methods of Teaching English as a Second
Language? Yes _ N o
What is the title of the course?
2. At your institution is the TESOL methods course
required for the MS in TESOL degree
required for state teacher certification in ESL
an elective for the MS in TESOL degree
other (please specify)
3. How many sections of the methods course do you offer each year?
4. What is the average enrollment per course?
5. Who teaches the TESOL methods course at your institution?
— full-time faculty member — adjunct professor


Profile of the Methods Course


TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1991

Oral Communication in TESOL:

Integrating Speaking, Listening,
and Pronunciation
Georgia State University

This article discusses the teaching of oral communication skills

(that is, speaking, listening, and pronunciation) in programs of
English as a Second Language. The article is addressed to teachers
who conduct courses in this area for ESL students in secondary
schools, colleges, and universities although the guidelines
presented can be adapted to other ESL contexts (e.g., continuing
education, private tutorials). Speaking and listening are discussed
as major skill areas; pronunciation is presented as a subset of both
speaking and listening development. This article argues that
attention to these three components of oral communication is
viewed as indispensable to any coherent curriculum design.
Although relative degrees of emphasis may vary for particular
courses, speaking, listening, and pronunciation are characterized
as reciprocally interdependent oral language processes.

Oral communication is a complex and multifaceted language

process. In this discussion, references to speaking, signal activities
that provide students opportunities for improving oral fluency
through interpersonal communication. References to pronunciation
signal activities that provide students opportunities for gaining
accurate control over the sound system. This distinction parallels
one widely accepted in the teaching of the ESL writing process.
Writing teachers commonly distinguish between activities that
focus upon skills of composing (e.g., free writing, brainstorming,
elaborating, and revising content) and those that center upon the
accuracy of the final product (e.g., grammar exercises, controlled
composition, editing, and revising syntax). Though speaking
activities and pronunciation activities are addressed separately here,
the intention is not to imply that they are mutually exclusive. Jazz
chanting (Graham, 1978, 1987), participating in communicative
activities centered upon the sound system, and rehearsing dialogues

are a few examples of the many classroom procedures that embrace
elements of both. For the purposes of the present discussion,
speaking and listening can be defined as major skill areas of
interpersonal communication; pronunciation encompasses subsets
of both speaking and listening skill development. Due to the high
degree of overlap among these areas, a fundamental premise
underlying this article is that attention to speaking, listening, and
pronunciation must proceed in an integrated fashion. The areas are,
however, addressed separately in order to highlight some crucial
differences. Each section begins with an historical methodological

The ability to speak coherently and intelligibly on a focused topic
is generally recognized as a necessary goal for ESL students.
Because many of them aspire to professional careers in English-
dominant communities, the coming decade will see increasing
pressure placed upon ESL high school, college, and university
graduates to possess excellent skills in both speech and writing. ESL
teachers of oral communication commonly turn to widely accepted
L2 teaching methods and materials. For those unfamiliar with this
area of the literature, Richards and Rogers (1986) present a useful
framework for the systematic description and comparison of L2
methods. See Pennycook (1989) and Prabhu (1990) for critiques of
the concept of method.
While examining L2 methods and approaches for the purposes of
curriculum design and lesson planning, teachers of ESL oral com-
munication need to keep at least two central considerations in mind.
First, the various methodologies most widely discussed in the
literature differ dramatically with respect to the role played by oral
language in the classroom. Speakers and listeners are expected to
interact with their peers, teachers, and other target language
speakers in qualitatively different manners within diverse L2
methods. Teachers will need to make principled decisions as they
review the literature, historical and current, on the following:
Grammar Translation (no attention is given to speaking or listening
activities at all); Total Physical Response (students rarely speak but
are challenged to physically demonstrate listening comprehension);
Audiolingualism (students repeat and orally manipulate language
forms); the Direct Method and Situational Language Teaching
(teachers do most of the talking while students engage in many
controlled, context-explicit, speaking activities); the Comprehen-
sion Approach (emphasizes listening and reading comprehension);

the Natural Approach (initially emphasizes listening comprehen-
sion, and later reading, while leaving room for guided speaking
activities); the Silent Way (teachers rarely speak, while student
speaking is focused upon grammatically sequenced language
forms); Suggestopedia (very controlled speaking activities which
are based upon lengthy written scripts and dramatic teacher
performances); Community Language Learning (many peer-to-
peer interactions that contribute to a community spirit among
students, whereas the spoken forms incorporated into the syllabus
are generated by students themselves); Communicative Language
Teaching (CLT) (many peer-to-peer, guided, and free speaking
activities which are organized around notional, functional, and/or
linguistic considerations; and a Task-Based Approach (activities are
centered upon practical tasks for students to perform that can be
weighted to emphasize oral communication).
A second consideration is that whereas the various methods and
approaches presented in the literature offer genuine alternatives for
teaching learners at early stages of L2 proficiency, several seem less
appropriate for intermediate or advanced levels of speaking
proficiency (e.g., Total Physical Response, the Silent Way, or
Suggestopedia). For example, Krashen and Terrell state explicitly
that the Natural Approach “is for beginners and is designed to help
them become intermediates” (quoted in Richards & Rogers, 1986,
p. 134). Some adaptations of any approach will be necessary to
meet the needs of particular groups of learners; moreover, these
methods are founded upon diverse theories of language and lan-
guage learning which individual teachers of ESL oral communica-
tion will need to evaluate for themselves.
Many student populations have significant spoken language
needs at the intermediate, advanced, and professional levels. For
example, ESL college students at many institutions are required to
complete a basic speech course in order to fulfill core curriculum
requirements. International teaching assistants need to develop
effective styles for lecturing to monolingual English-speaking
undergraduates. Those who major in business and marketing
commonly are expected to demonstrate mastery of public speaking
as part of the requirements of their academic departments. When
these students participate in ESL programs, specialized courses
need to be designed that focus upon requisite skills of oral commu-
Articles that address the teaching of speaking in ESL periodically
appear in the professional journals (e.g., Bassano & Christison, 1987;
Dubois, 1986; Gebhard, 1982; Maurice, 1983; Meloni & Thompson,
1980; Montgomery & Eisenstein, 1985; Murphy, in press; Richards,


1980; Scarcella, 1978; Taylor & Wolfson, 1978). Also, several L1
articles introduce speaking activities that can be adapted for use in
ESL classrooms (Bytwerk, 1985; Hansen, 1982). Yook and Seiler
(1990) discuss the needs and concerns of ESL students who
participate in speech communication courses. These are rich
sources for teachers to examine when they are exploring alternative
classroom procedures. In addition, the American Council on the
Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) provides English lan-
guage proficiency guidelines for the teaching of speaking and
listening. For both of these skill areas, the ACTFL Provisional
Proficiency Guidelines (1982, reprinted in James, 1985) describe
nine levels, ranging from novice through superior levels of
proficiency, suggesting appropriate activities at most levels. The
guidelines are illuminating since they indicate that some classroom
procedures may be proficiency-level specific. For example, public
speaking activities may be appropriate for high-intermediate,
advanced, or superior-level L2 speakers but they are inappropriate
for novice or low-intermediate level learners. On the other hand,
activities such as role playing, collaborating with peers during
interactive games, or singing popular songs may be adapted for
classroom use across several proficiency levels.
In the L2 classroom, speaking activities can be planned to include
everything from dyadic, to small-group, to whole-class interaction
patterns. Byrne (1987), Klippel (1987), and Golebiowska (1990), for
example, present teacher reference materials that are useful for
getting ESL students to speak with one another in these different
groupings. The L2 literature is rich in resources for engaging
students in speaking activities such as rehearsing dialogues,
completing information-gap activities, playing interactive games,
discussing topical issues, problem solving, role playing, and
completing speaking tasks. ESL speakers at lower levels of
proficiency will probably feel more comfortable when they are
provided with opportunities for expressing themselves in dyads and
small groups since these formats are less intimidating than ones that
require individual students to take turns speaking in front of an
entire class. Ur (1981, 1988) describes several hundred classroom
activities that can be adapted for the purpose of getting lower-level
and intermediate-level students to speak communicatively in dyads
and small groups. Nolasco and Arthur (1989) provide another
teacher reference text devoted to activities for generating lively
discussions between L2 learners.
In addition to working in dyads and small groups, students at
higher levels of proficiency sometimes need to gain experience in
expressing themselves in front of a whole class. Several writers take

the position that more proficient L2 speakers benefit from
generating and developing their own topics to present in class (Dale
& Wolf, 1988; Meloni & Thompson, 1980; Murphy, in press).
Students can develop their topics through classroom procedures
that are parallel to ones advocated in the teaching of the writing
process (see, for example, Mangelsdorf, 1989; Zamel, 1987). A
significant difference between an L2 writing course and this
component of an advanced level L2 oral communication course is
that in the case of the latter, a student’s topic culminates as an oral,
rather than as a written, presentation. Here, too, the delivery of a
student’s topic may be realized across a range of possible grouping
patterns. If working in dyads or small groups, individual students
can be provided with multiple opportunities for revising and
elaborating their presentations through a process of delivering the
same topic a number of times to different members of the class (for
further discussion, see Murphy, in press). If addressing the whole
class, a student has to cope with the kinds of affective pressures that
are likely to be encountered in content-area courses and in
nonclassroom settings. Teachers need to make decisions concerning
how to integrate these alternative structures for speaking activities
based upon knowledge of their students’ proficiency levels and
educational needs.

Listening instruction should play an important role in oral com-
munication curricula because high school and college students are
expected to enroll in lecture-centered courses during their earliest
experiences within mainstream classrooms. Lecture-centered
teaching in mainstream classrooms requires that ESL college
students function effectively as listeners from the very beginning of
their academic careers. Within most classroom settings, listening
serves as a primary channel for learning. Because little attention is
given to the students’ listening abilities in other academic
preparatory courses (Chamot, 1987), listening and connections
between listening, speaking, and pronunciation emerge as central
components of ESL oral communication.
The listening process currently is gaining attention as a major area
of interest in the literature on speech communication for native
speakers of English (Hunt & Cusella, 1983; Rubin & Roberts, 1987;
Stewart, 1983; Streff, 1984). Because it is a pervasive language
experience that operates in contexts ranging from simple
conversations to academic debates, the listening process merits
careful consideration. It has a primary role to play in the teaching of


ESL oral communication. Some researchers of second language
acquisition and many L2 methodologists propose that a specific
emphasis upon listening instruction, at both beginning and
intermediate levels of L2 proficiency, greatly enhances the language
learning potentials of ESL students (Dunkel, 1986; Krashen &
Terrell, 1983; Nagle & Sanders, 1986; Winitz, 1981). For advanced
students, ESL listening instruction should incorporate curricular
purposes presently advocated for L1 Iearners—e.g., listening in
order to empathize, to evaluate, to enjoy, to analyze, to critique,
and to take written notes (Wolff, Marsnik, Tacey, & Nichols, 1983).
Especially for ESL students who live and study in English-dominant
communities, certain recurring L1 themes are appropriate goals for
L2 classroom instruction: activities that encourage students to adapt
to a speaker’s appearance and delivery, to overcome external and
internal distractions, to generate interest in what a speaker has to
say, to listen for central concepts and the gist of messages, to
anticipate what may be coming next, to pay attention to paralinguis-
tic information, to give the speaker a chance before jumping to
conclusions, to ask pertinent questions, to paraphrase for the benefit
of others, and to synthesize new information in relation to what one
already knows (see Wolff et al., 1983; Wolvin & Coakley, 1982).
Prior to the 1970s, it was common for listening to be characterized
as a receptive language skill in which listeners were pictured as
passively assimilating the messages presented to them by speakers
(Morley, 1984). As information-transmission models of communica-
tion have been superseded by interfactional, cybernetic, and
transactional frames of reference, a new paradigm is emerging
(Berko, Wolvin, & Wolvin, 1981; Brown, G., 1987). Current theorists
describe listening comprehension as an interactive, interpretive
process in which listeners engage in a dynamic construction of
meaning. While attending to spoken language, listeners predict
topic development (Crow, 1983; Goss, 1982), use a series of
definable microlistening subskills (Richards, 1983), relate what they
hear to their personal stores of prior knowledge (Dunkel, 1986;
Nagle & Sanders, 1986), and creatively react to what speakers say
(Murphy, 1989). Dirven and Oakeshott-Taylor (1984), Richards
(1983), H. M. Taylor (1981), Morley (1980), Snow and Perkins
(1979), and Tarone (1974) point out that microlevel listening
subskills are just as critical to the overall listening process as
macrolevel listening strategies. In a massive study of Korean ESL
learners, Choi (1988) presents convincing evidence that practice
with microlistening is indispensable for understanding fast, fluent,
conversational speech. Microlevel phonological information carries
necessary clues that target language listeners depend upon in order

to comprehend what they hear. Practice with recognizing and
making efficient use of these clues is one way to lay a firm
foundation for oral production activities. Because microlistening
includes the aural discrimination of sound patterns within streams
of speech, it is central to the teaching of accurate pronunciation.
Richards (1983) defines and discusses over 50 separate micro-
listening subskills that ESL learners need to master in order to
understand conversational as well as academic styles of discourse. 1
His work has been highly influential in this area (Powers, 1985).
Many teachers find Richards’ taxonomy especially useful since it
presents general guidelines for assessing students’ needs, formulat-
ing objectives, evaluating materials, designing classroom proce-
dures, and constructing listening tests (Dunkel, in press).
It is widely acknowledged that listeners use strategies for listening
(Mendelsohn, 1984; Wipf, 1984). At least two separate research
studies confirm that effective L2 listeners make better use of
inferencing, self-monitoring, and elaboration strategies than do less
effective L2 listeners (Murphy, 1987; O’Malley, Chamot, & Kupper,
1989). Expanding upon Lebauer’s (1984) recommendations for
classroom instruction, Murphy (1989) proposes a series of macro-
level strategic questions for L2 listeners to attend to while attending
to academic lectures (see Appendix). Practice in implementing
these questions is intended to help develop the metacognitive skills
of L2 listeners, which can be used in the classroom as a basis for
connections between listening and speaking activities.
Listening is thus a creative activity that can be analyzed and
described. Resources such as those mentioned above provide
teachers with necessary reference materials for designing L2
classroom listening activities. Rost’s (1991 ) and Ur’s (1990) teacher
reference texts are especially useful since they include not only
guidelines for designing listening activities but numerous lesson
plans targeted for L2 classroom instruction. An important theme
that the L1 and L2 literatures share in common is the mutually
interdependent relationship between the processes of speaking and
listening. In addition, increasing numbers of ESL methodologists
argue that L2 pronunciation practice needs to be intimately linked
with the listening process (Gilbert, 1984, 1987) and with genuinely
communicative speaking activities (Acton, 1984; Celce-Murcia,
1 Richards’ taxonomy is separated into (a) 33 microskills for conversational listening (e.g.,
discriminating distinctive sounds of the target language, recognizing the stress patterns of
words, recognizing the rhythmic structure of English, distinguishing word boundaries) and
(b) 18 microskills for listening to academic lectures (e.g., identifying the purpose and scope
of a lecture, identifying the role of discourse markers, recognizing key lexical items,
deducing meanings of unfamiliar words from context, detecting the attitude of a speaker
toward subject matter).


1987; Pica, 1984). This theme leads to the next component under

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the teaching of
pronunciation with adult second language learners, as evidenced by
numerous survey articles and research reports appearing in a
number of major publications (Avery& Erlich, 1987; Leather, 1983;
Morley, 1987; Pennington & Richards, 1986). Some common themes
are as follows:
1. Pronunciation needs to be approached from both macro- and
microlevel perspectives. Morley (1987) indicates the primary
role to be played by suprasegmentals (i.e., stress, rhythm, and
intonation) in the teaching of pronunciation; she places vowel
and consonant segmental in a secondary, supporting role. In
their discussion of “voice quality settings,” Esling & Wong (1983)
suggest that when learners are provided with opportunities to
practice a small number of physical positioning for the tongue,
throat, and mouth that are representative of U.S. and Canadian
English speakers (e.g., spread lips, open jaw, palatalized tongue
position, retroflex articulation, nasal voice, lowered larynx, and
creaky voice), then the pronunciation of individual vowel and
consonant sounds realized within these settings improves. Supra-
segmental sound patterns and broadly focused voice quality
settings are separate macrolevel components of pronunciation.
Attention to these components can complement and set the stage
for classroom activities that focus upon microlevel sound
2. Attaining better pronunciation habits is intimately linked with
learners’ affective states. Stevick (1978) wrote over a decade ago
that in the teaching of pronunciation,
all too often, self-consciousness leads to tension, tension leads to poor
performance, poor performance leads to frustration, frustration
leads to added tension, and so on around a downward spiral. (p. 146)
Teachers must be tactful when making decisions on how to
correct students’ errors and when to call students’ attention to the
nonstandard forms they produce. The embarrassment of
students is widely recognized as being counterproductive and
should be avoided as much as possible. Useful guidelines for
deciding when and how to correct students’ errors tactfully are
presented by Chaudron (1988, pp. 135-153), Hendrickson (1987),

Brown, H. D. (1987, pp. 192-195), Krashen (1982, pp. 116-119),
and Fanselow (1977).
3. Improvement in pronunciation depends upon significant com-
mitments of both time and energy from learners themselves.
Acton (1984) recommends that students commit themselves
contractually to specified amounts of practice on a weekly basis
if they are to overcome “fossilized” patterns. Improvement
cannot be expected to take place overnight. Students’ abilities to
make sense of phonological explanations and to gain control over
the forms practiced in class are slowly developing processes
(Parish, 1977). Phonological “backsliding” and affective resis-
tance to change, sometimes due to social pressures from native
language and/or peer group communities, are to be expected
(Beebe, 1988).
4. The cues of standard orthography coupled with consistent
references to phonological information facilitate the teaching of
both segmental and suprasegmental features of the sound
system. Dickerson (1985) discusses the many accessible spelling
patterns from which L2 speakers can learn to predict the pronun-
ciation of even unfamiliar words. In their treatment of blending
patterns across word boundaries (i.e., reduced forms), Hill and
Beebe (1980) devote special attention to the principle that
teachers make “maximal use of orthographic cues in the teaching
of pronunciation” (p. 322). For example, they propose that
teachers first introduce the concept of contractions, which are
represented within the regular orthographic system (e. g., it’s,
that’s, we’re, I’d), before moving on to the vast number of
blending patterns characteristic of conversational speech, which

develops a similar argument and presents a useful model at the

level of curriculum design in her discussion of linking and
deletion in final consonant clusters. Dickerson (1989) provides a
comprehensive ESL text which is aimed at high-intermediate
students “whose nonnative rhythm and stress patterns damage
the intelligibility of their spoken English” (back cover of the
Teacher’s Manual). The text begins with accessible word-level
rules and practice activities, moves on to a parallel presentation
at the phrase level, and culminates in a section that places within
the grasp of ESL learners connections between orthographic
forms and sentence-level suprasegmentals such as stress, rhythm,
and intonation. This is an innovative presentation, one that uses
predictable cues of the orthographic system to provide students


with firm control over both micro- and macrolevel features of
the sound system. These writers emphasize that standard
orthography coupled with accessible references to phonological
information should be presented as a pronunciation resource for
L2 learners. Training the eye, along with the ear, not only to
recognize but to anticipate common phonological processes such
as vowel reductions, assimilation of sounds, allophonic
variations, ellipsis, parasitic consonants, phonetic syllabification,
palatalized forms, stress patterns, and the rhythm of spoken Eng-
lish is beneficial for many learners.
5. Practice on segmental as well as suprasegmental levels of the
sound system needs to be integrated with broader level commu-
nicative activities in which speakers and listeners engage in a
process of exchanging meaningful information (Pennington &
Richards, 1986). This concern emerges partly in response to the
literature on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) which
emphasizes purposeful and meaningful uses of language in L2


There are two major currents that run through any ESL course in
oral communication. The first current focuses upon elements of
phonological accuracy, a subset of both speaking and listening skill
development, while the second focuses upon broader aspects of
interpersonal communication, namely fluency in speaking and
listening. Focusing on the first, many students benefit from an
introduction to the phonological patterns of the target language and
from opportunities to explore these patterns first hand. Based upon
a needs analysis of such factors as the students’ educational and
social goals, their proficiency levels in oral language, and their
preferred learning styles, the sound system can be introduced,
examined, and practiced. As much as possible, this needs to be done
in meaningful contexts and should emerge along with realistic
concern for the role of pronunciation when people interact.
On the other hand, students need considerable practice with less
tightly controlled opportunities to express themselves fluently and
spontaneously via longer stretches of self-generated discourse. Of
fundamental importance to this focus is practice in oral reports
(Meloni & Thompson, 1980), role plays (Donahue& Parsons, 1982;
Ladousse, 1989; Livingstone, 1983), information gaps (Yorkey,
1985), sociodramas (Scarcella, 1978), project work (Eslava &

Lawson, 1979; Fried-Booth, 1986), simulations (Crookall & Oxford,
1990), and other examples of person-to-person communicative
activities are of fundamental importance.
In the teaching of ESL, speaking, listening, and pronunciation
need to be placed within the broader context of oral communica-
tion. Although attention to one or more of these areas sometimes is
neglected in the classroom, ESL teachers can highlight all three
when they are designing course curricula and/or classroom ac-
tivities. To facilitate integration it is necessary to examine simultane-
ously the components of oral communication. Figure 1 is presented
as a reference guide for teachers. It presents classroom activities for
teaching oral communication arranged by proficiency level.
Fluency activities appear under the major-skill headings of speaking
and listening, and accuracy activities appear under the subskill
headings of oral production and aural discrimination. Production
activities are located on the left and attending activities are located
on the right. Activities within each of the figure’s four quadrants are
arranged according to proficiency level, from beginning to
advanced. Readers should note, however, the provisional nature of
such a hierarchy. Specific activities can be adapted by resourceful
teachers to fit the needs of students at different levels. However,
based upon proficiency-level descriptions in the ACTFL Guidelines
(ACTFL, 1982), Figure 1 is intended to present the activities on a
continuum from beginning to advanced levels of proficiency.
Practicing teachers should plan to examine the ACTFL Guidelines
(ACTFL. 1982) for themselves in order to rearrange these listings of
activities to fit their students’ needs.
Though by no means exhaustive, the activities listed in Figure 1
suggest an ambitious scope for integrated courses in oral communi-
cation. In the classroom, one soon realizes that the various foci
represented by each quadrant sometimes suggest competing
directions. It falls to the teacher to decide when to work on pronun-
ciation, when to work on broader skills of interpersonal communi-
cation, when to emphasize either speaking, listening, or pronuncia-
tion, and when to aim for varying degrees of integration. Well-
informed decisions are grounded in (a) familiarity with the related
literatures; (b) discussions of issues raised in the literature with
colleagues; (c) teacher experimentation with different instructional
options at the levels of approach, design, and procedure; and (d)
regular revision of the curriculum. These efforts eventually lead to
a necessary and pivotal tension that lies at the core of any course in
oral communication designed for speakers of English as a second
language. Teachers learn to coordinate many different concerns,
sometimes working on the sound system (i. e., phonological


Classroom Activities for Teaching Oral Communication
Arranged by Proficiency Level


FIGURE 1 —Continued
Classroom Activities for Teaching Oral Communication
Arranged by Proficiency Level
contrasts, blending patterns, voice quality settings, rhythm patterns,
suprasegmentals), and at other times concentrating on more
conversational and communicatively more connected styles of
speaking and listening. In the context of second language
instruction, the various currents of oral communication can enrich
both teaching and learning experiences by providing alternative
focal points for classroom interactions. Classroom activities can be
structured, timed, and interrelated so the currents may run in
confluence rather than in opposing directions. This is where the
analytic and intuitive skills of teachers will come into play to
discover which activities are most appropriate at particular points in
As noted above, the sound system/pronunciation component of
oral communication is currently receiving increased attention in the
literature on teaching second languages. This renewed interest re-
flects teachers’ continuing conviction that students must be provided
opportunities for increasing the linguistic accuracy of their speech.
However, fluency components of speaking and listening continue to
be the focus of ESL courses in oral communication. In fact, even a
brief review of commercially available texts designed for teaching
ESL oral communication demonstrates that activities centered
around speaking and listening are vastly more common in these
materials than are pronunciation activities. (For some recent
examples of ESL texts see Dale & Wolf, 1988; Echeverria, 1987; Glass
& Arcario, 1985; Kayfetz & Stice, 1987; Porter, Grant & Draper, 1985;
Rooks, 1987. For some examples of teacher training resource texts,
see Brown & Yule, 1983; Golebiowska, 1990; Klippel, 1987; Ladousse,
1987, 1989; Nolasco & Arthur, 1989; Pattison, 1987; and Wessels,
1987.) One of the more widely accepted and current approaches in
the teaching of second languages, Communicative Language
Teaching, is frequently criticized for overemphasizing the acquisition
of spoken fluency while neglecting to address adequately issues
related to gaining accurate control over phonology and syntax. One
critic (Marton, 1988) states:
The most obvious risk attached to the use of the communicative
teaching strategy is related to one of its fundamental principles, namely,
that it forbids direct correction of speech errors and makes the teacher
accept structurally erroneous utterances. . . . This principle is based on
the assumption that learners’ errors are caused by the processes of
hypothesis testing and as such are transient in nature, with the corollary
that they (i.e., speech errors) tend to disappear as the learner proceeds
along the developmental path, getting ever more (comprehensible)
input and constantly revising and correcting erroneous hypotheses.
(p. 49)

A similar criticism is frequently directed toward other L2 ap-
proaches such as the Natural Approach and Counseling Learning/
Community Language Learning. Advocates for these might take
issue with Marton’s critique by pointing out that each has diverse
applications and that some practitioners make successful attempts
to address the issue of spoken accuracy effectively. Clarke (1984) in
his discussion of what classroom practitioners owe to methodolog-
ical theorists (e.g., Widdowson, Savignon, Stevick, Lazonov, Terrell,
Krashen, or Curran) speaks to this issue when he points out that
it is the (individual, autonomous) teacher who is in the position of
authority, because only the teacher can decide what to take and what to
leave, whom to listen to and whom to ignore. (p. 591)
How then are methods and approaches adapted by individual
teachers concerned with phonological accuracy who are equally
committed to encouraging conversational fluency? The practice of
indirect error correction through the teacher’s systematic efforts to
orally paraphrase, reformulate, and expand upon students’ linguis-
tically nonstandard utterances in the target language is one tech-
nique frequently discussed in the literature (Brown, H. D., 1987;
Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Marton, 1988). When this “expansion”
technique is handled effectively, L2 learners have access to
phonological (as well as semantic and syntactic) conventions of the
target language. Such exposure may be a necessary, though not
necessarily sufficient, condition for learning to take place. As
teachers deliberately attend to students’ nonstandard language
forms, rephrasing these into linguistically accurate target language
patterns, students are presented with demonstrations of conven-
tional speech. Such demonstrations of reliable L2 patterns are
crucial sources of input for learners who are affectively prepared
for, and open and sensitive to increasing their acquisition of the
target language (for a related discussion, see Smith, 1982).
A very different alternative is explicit attention to phonological
analysis, through student practice with contextualized forms, and
integration of direct error correction into classroom activities.
Those concerned by the proscriptions of CLT advocates, might
appreciate the recommendations for methodological flexibility in
H. D. Brown’s (1977, 1987) recommendation that language teachers
practice cautious, reasoned, enlightened eclecticism when making
decisions that impact actual classroom practices.
There is ample support within the TESOL literature for class-
room activities that focus explicitly upon both micro- and macro-
level features of the English sound system, especially when working


with an adult population. The point is that phonological accuracy
need not be sacrificed at the expense of conversational fluency, nor
should the opposite be the case. A similar situation is discussed by
B. Taylor (1981) who provides a model for teachers of ESL
composition in which writing instruction is depicted as unfolding
along a “two way street.” Taylor argues that writing teachers need
to focus their efforts upon both the content of a writer’s ideas and
upon the linguistic forms through which those ideas are expressed
(e.g., syntax, cohesion, rhetorical organization). In the case of oral
communication, attention to linguistic forms sometimes focuses
upon the phonological patterns of the target language, although
matters of syntax, semantics, and communicative function deserve
attention as well. Within the context of classroom interactions these
various components need to be interwoven. The effective writing
teacher, and in an analogous manner the effective teacher of oral
communication, learns to coordinate a wide range of complemen-
tary concerns.
When the sound system has been the focus of commercially
available texts, the activities presented sometimes are criticized for
being mechanical or too lacking in contextual/pragmatic relevance
to hold students’ interests (Morley, 1987). However, a number of
writers have been successful in designing communicative materials
and activities for enhancing ESL students’ accurate control over the
sound system (Celce-Murcia, 1983, 1987; Hecht & Ryan, 1979;
Kenworthy, 1987; Pica, 1984; Wong, 1988). These writers describe
diverse procedures, and familiarity with their work should help
teachers to incorporate communicative components within pronun-
ciation activities. Pica (1984) describes communicative activities
centered upon role playing, problem solving, and interactive games
that are intended for the teaching of pronunciation. After presenting
examples and guidelines for designing similar exercises, Celce-
Murcia (1987) reminds us that
the same types of activities used to teach other language areas commu-
nicatively can also be used to teach pronunciation.” (p. 10)
At the other end of the spectrum, Acton (1984) and Morley (1984)
introduce an activity they refer to as tracking that may be
unfamiliar to many ESL teachers:
In tracking, learners attempt to repeat immediately after the speaker
whatever the speaker says, on a word-by-word basis. It is an intense
experience, one that eventually forces learners to focus on intonation
contours, stress, and rhythm. (Acton, 1984, p. 77)
Tracking activities embrace elements of listening, speaking, and

pronunciation. They are not an example of, but rather an alternative
to, classroom activities that are relatively more communicative.
Since tracking is reminiscent of the roles of repetition and oral
pattern practice in the out-of-fashion Audiolingual Method, some
teachers might feel more comfortable if tracking is complemented
by the communicative instructional styles that Celce-Murcia, Pica,
and others describe.
Another practice that integrates the teaching of speaking,
listening, and pronunciation is training ESL learners to self-monitor
their private speech. Sometimes called “covert rehearsal”
(Dickerson, 1989, p. vi), this is a metacognitive learning strategy
encouraged by Morley (1988), Acton (1984), Yorio (1984), Stevick
(1980), and others. While best suited to the kind of student Krashen
(1982) has termed the “optimal Monitor user” (p. 19), it involves
critical self-evaluation and self-correction in either classroom or
nonclassroom settings. During moments of covert rehearsal a
learner applies to self-initiated utterances his/her knowledge of past
learning and memories of target language sounds. This ability is
vitally important for some students, especially for those who aspire
to improve the comprehensibility of their speech. As evidence that
strategies for covert rehearsal can be taught in the classroom,
Kenworthy (1987) introduces three practical classroom activities
that are designed to enhance this ability through the guided,
systematic, and focused analysis of audio recordings of students’
speech patterns. Teachers can experiment with these activities,
while exploring the classroom use of video, in addition to audio,
recordings as another means for integrating the teaching of
speaking, listening, and pronunciation.

The conceptual framework proposed here emphasizes that
focused attention upon a single component of oral communication
is insufficient. Pronunciation subskills, for example, are but slices of
a significantly larger pie. The same is true for the major skill areas
of speaking and listening. The potential for variety in classroom
activities increases as teachers experiment with integrating options
at the levels of curriculum design and lesson planning. The theory of
language that underlies this framework acknowledges that oral
communication is a composite of interconnecting language pro-
cesses. Attention to one area of oral communication ought to be
complemented by attention to others as systematically as is
possible. Each subset of oral communication needs to be incor-
porated within any informed curriculum design. By interweaving


activities that practice speaking, listening, and pronunciation,
teachers enrich classroom instruction. The search for ways to inte-
grate these three areas will prove imperative as ESL teachers and
methodologists attempt to clarify theoretical approaches, curricu-
lum designs, and classroom practices while providing diverse
opportunities for the development of oral language proficiency for
second language learners of English.

I would like to acknowledge Patricia A. Dunkel, Patricia Byrd, Joan Eisterhold
Carson, Chris Kamerschen, Tina Renn O’Kelley, and two anonymous TESOL
Quarterly reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

John M. Murphy is Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics
and ESL at Georgia State University. His publications have appeared in English for
Specific Purposes, TESL Canada Journal, and the TESOL Newsletter. His current
focus is classroom centered research in programs of L2 teacher preparation.

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Model for Listening Strategies Used in Academic Settings
Recalling & Summarizing
What is the general aim of this presentation?
What is the speaker saying right now?
Do I need to remember this?
Is this important enough to write down?
Have I read about this before? (Is it in my book?)
Where is the speaker heading in a general sense? How do I know?
Can I relate any of this information to something I already know? Is it worth mentioning? Is
it worth writing down?
Do I know of an example that might help the speaker make the topic clearer to understmd?
What will the speaker probably be saying next? How do I know?
What is the point of this discussion?
Could I summarize what the speaker is trying to explain?
Do I have any experience in this area?
Am I getting most of this? Do I understand it well?
Is there anything bothering me about this information?
Am I staying on target with the speaker’s topic, or am I drifting off and missing what the
speaker means to say?
Probing the Topic
Is this important information?
What are the key words being used?
Which of the concepts being presented are relatively more important?
Why isthe speaker saying’’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...”?
Do I see any connections between the ideas being presented?
How does this idea fit into the speaker’s overall plan?
How has this presentation been organized?
Interacting with Others
(While aiming to help the speaker make things clearer for myself and others)
Is this a convenient time for me to speak up in class by:
summarizing some of the content being explained?
asking a question?
providing a new and different example?
asking for help?
pointing out a relationship between ideas that some listeners may be missing?
Note. From “Listening in a Second Language: Hermeneutics and Inner Speech’ by J. M.
Murphy, 1989, TESL Canada Journal, 6, pp. 39-40. Copyright 1989 by TESL Canada
Journal. Reprinted by permission.


TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1991

A Content Comprehension Approach

to Reading English for Science
and Technology
University of Hawaii at Manoa

English for special purposes (ESP) reading programs often take

specific grammar, vocabulary, and isolated reading skills as the
organizing principle for syllabus design and fail to acknowledge
how the act of comprehending text can affect reading ability. The
present study reports on an ESP reading project which emphasizes
the role of content comprehension. The context of the study is the
Reading English for Science and Technology Project in the
Chemical Engineering Department of the Universidad de
Guadalajara. The materials for the 2-year course were developed
around thematic units which correspond to undergraduate course
content. Instruction presented grammar and vocabulary only as
they were necessary for comprehension of the text. The study
examines whether the emphasis on reading for content improved
reading comprehension as well as knowledge of reading grammar
and general reading ability. Students were administered three
reading tests: reading grammar, comprehension, and cloze.
Significant differences were found for instructional status and
subtest and for each subtest by instructional level. The results of
this study suggest that the content comprehension approach can
improve reading comprehension as well as knowledge of reading
grammar and general reading ability.

Developers of English for Special Purposes (ESP) materials are

frequently called upon to develop language materials for narrowly
defined fields of study. Too often the language of the “target” texts
is viewed as a product which the learners must master rather than as
a stimulus for a complex set of interacting learner strategies and
tasks embedded in the learning process. In part, this reflects a view
that texts are linguistic objects rather than vehicles for the
presentation of information (Johns & Davies, 1983); that is, the
passages are considered to be objects representing organizational or
syntactic structures to be studied and mastered by students.

Another view considers texts to be the media through which
specific reading skills such as skimming or scanning are to be
mastered. This approach reflects a view that such skills are
themselves products which develop as separable units. Both
orientations may lead to strict analytic and discretely regimented
views of teaching and learning.
An approach to ESP reading which incorporates the learner’s
cognitive and intentional processes in the comprehension process
allows for more psycholinguistically motivated views of learning to
read. The present study presents an ESP project designed to
integrate the learner’s individual reading strategies and motivation
to learn content into the process of learning to read English for
science and technology (EST). The approach places instructional
emphasis on the process of comprehending the content of texts. In
this sense, importance is placed on the activity through which the
content is comprehended rather than on the specific language,
rhetorical patterns, or reading skills. The focus is the interaction of
the learner’s reading strategies with the tasks the learner performs.
EST is seen within the context of the reading process, and authentic
EST reading is viewed as involving the use of text to gain
The context of the study is the Reading English for Science and
Technology (REST) Project in the Chemical Engineering
Department of the Universidad de Guadalajara (UdeG) in Mexico.
This is a joint project between the UdeG and the University of
California, Los Angeles, with additional support from the United
States Information Service and the Council for International
Exchange of Scholars. The project began in 1985 and has been the
basis for several studies and evaluations (see Hudson, 1989; Lynch,
1987; Lynch, 1990; Lynch & Hudson, 1991). The present report
focuses on the materials developed and instruction given during
1987-1989. The students in the program were in their third and
fourth years of a 5-year course leading to a degree in Chemical
Engineering. The students were “false beginners”: they had had 4 to
5 years of general EFL instruction in their preparatory and
secondary schools prior to enrolling in the university, and were
therefore not beginning the course without knowledge of English.
As in many of the reading EST courses which have been set up in
Mexican universities over the years (Alderson, 1980), the students
had no basic need to learn English other than to gain information
from journal articles, manuals, and textbooks in their university
studies and future employment.
Skills-based ESP reading projects in Mexico date from the early
1970s; Mexican universities have historically recognized the need

for reading-based English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and EST
preparation specific to the Mexican context (see Alderson, 1980;
Lynch, 1987, 1990; and Scott, 1981). The goal of this project, like
that of its predecessors, was to develop a reading EST program that
took into account the particular needs of Mexican students.
The discussion which follows addresses five areas related to the
present project and reading EST concerns in general: (a) theoretical
issues for reading EST programs and the bases for a content
comprehension approach are presented; (b) implications of the
approach for materials selection are discussed; (c) the process of
implementing the approach is detailed in an effort to provide those
involved in future programs with sample materials and specific
information regarding the development of such a program; (d)
implications of student performance throughout the course are
examined, including the types of reading and language ability
gained or lost in association with the instruction; and (e) the
implications of seeing EST instruction within the context of the
comprehension process, as shown in this project, are discussed.


In the process of comprehending a message for a particular
purpose, each reader utilizes different strategy and skill compo-
nents (Alderson, 1991, in press; Alderson & Lukmani, 1989). In the
approach discussed here, it is not assumed that all readers merely
apply the same skills more or less effectively. Readers may
comprehend the same information through application of basically
different processes. The content comprehension approach for EST
reading instruction places primary emphasis on the learner’s
purposeful interaction with the text. The application of this view of
reading to EST must necessarily address several theoretical
concerns. First, it must examine traditional views of the role of ESP.
Second, it must address the nature of the ability that is being
learned; that is, it must clearly specify the extent to which process
and product orientations are important and the nature of the
interaction of these two orientations. Third, it must address how an
emphasis on comprehension of text can improve both the reading
skills and such enabling components as lexical, grammatical, and
discourse knowledge. These three areas are addressed below.

Views of ESP
In order to understand the concerns of the approach presented
here, it may be useful to briefly summarize the features of other


ESP projects and views of ESP that are relevant to the present
study. (See Hutchinson & Waters, 1987; Lynch and Hudson, 1991;
Swales, 1985, 1988, for more exhaustive discussions of the alternate
views taken of ESP.) As noted by Hutchinson and Waters (1987),
previous work on ESP can be classified generally into three
approaches. First, language-centered approaches have viewed ESP
as primarily a language or structure issue identifying a special
language with a special grammar, register, and/or rhetorical
structure (see, for example, Swales, 1971). In such approaches,
materials may be organized around grammatical features of a text,
reading genre, or organizational patterns such as comparison and
contrast, or classification, which have been identified through target
situation analysis (see, for example, Munby, 1978; Trimble, 1985).
Second, skills-centered approaches have viewed ESP from the
point of view of the skills and strategies which underlie language
behavior (see Alderson, 1980; Widdowson, 1981). Thus, the
emphasis may be on developing reading skills rather than on
mastering the language per se. Reading ability and learning are seen
as being along a continuum of proficiency. Third, the learning-
centered approach as exemplified by Hutchinson and Waters (1987)
attempts to focus insights from the language- and skills-centered
approaches on how the learner becomes competent. This approach
attempts to view programs within the overall learning process. The
learner’s motivations, learning style, needs, and wants are all incor-
porated into the syllabus over time. Hutchinson and Waters (1987)
fault the language-centered approach because it is linguistically
based and ignores psychological considerations related to the lan-
guage acquisition process. Similarly, they view the skills-oriented
approach as inadequate because it does not fully take the learner
into account. According to Hutchinson and Waters (1987), it is too
focused on the target situation; that is,
the learner is used to identify and to analyse the target situation needs.
But then, as with the language-centered approach, the learner is
discarded and the target situation analysis is allowed to determine the
content of the course with little further reference to the learner. (p. 72)
These critiques of both the language and skills-centered ap-
proaches are important to consider in developing effective reading
programs. The content comprehension approach presented here is
sympathetic to the concern that learner factors be incorporated to a
greater degree than has been the case in the past (Hutchinson and
Waters, 1987). Indeed, in the present approach, materials selection
and instruction assume that learning is more than merely being pre-
sented language items or skills and strategies. However, caution

should be exercised before uncritically accepting Hutchinson and
Waters’ arguments. They have articulated an important alternative
aesthetic of ESP curriculum issues, and in doing so they have raised
important concerns. However, no empirical evidence attests to the
superiority of their approach over others. Moreover, their critiques
may be overstated: It is doubtful that many skills-based approaches
would actually “discard” the learner. In most cases, programs and
materials develop over a long period of time and the process
includes several iterations in which student input is inevitable.
Consequently, we should be uneasy about rejecting a skills-based
approach solely on the basis of Hutchinson and Waters’ insights.
A more important criticism of the skills-centered approach is that
there are no definable unitary skills upon which to base an ap-
proach. “Skills” such as skimming, scanning, vocabulary, inferenc-
ing, vocabulary in context, or extracting the gist of a text are not uni-
tary. Lunzer, Waite, and Dolan (1979) failed to find evidence for
separable discrete reading skills through questions designed to mea-
sure eight different reading skills. Alderson and Lukmani (1989)
found that expert judges showed little agreement on the level diffi-
culty or skill specification of test items designed to tap specific
reading skills. Additionally, when those questions for which there
was agreement were administered to examinees, there was no rela-
tionship between item level (so-called higher order vs. lower order
skills) and item difficulty. Similarly, using the two-parameter item
response model, Hudson (1990) examined student performance on
tests of grammatical structures, reading skills, reading comprehen-
sion, and vocabulary. In that research no implicationally ordered
discrete skills were found. Indeed, there was considerable overlap
of skill difficulty across structures and skills, indicating a perform-
ance relationship between task, text, and language. Because it
focuses on “skills” sui generis, the skills-centered approach has as its
basis a set of heuristic constructs, which may be useful for language
teachers and curriculum developers, but are not necessarily psycho-
linguistically real.
The task for EST reading programs, then, is to incorporate the
concerns raised by learner-centered, skills-centered, and language-
based approaches without uncritically adopting the particular
constructs associated with these views. Each learner applies some
set of abilities to a language sample with varying degrees of interest,
purpose, and skill. This process, and the historical concerns of ESP,
are accounted for by an emphasis on the learner’s comprehension of
content. Additionally, a focus on comprehension emphasizes the
role of the reading process.


The Reading Process
By approaching EST reading through the comprehension of
information, the approach described here views the language
learning of the student within a cognitive rather than a linguistic or
skills framework. Such a framework needs to take into account both
how and why reading takes place. Reading is not solely a process of
exact identification of letters, words, and ultimately sentences
leading to comprehension built from letter to word to phrase to
sentence (Goodman, 1967). Readers make use of their existing
background knowledge (schemata) to make predictions about what
is coming next in the text and about how some new, unfamiliar
piece of information relates to what is already known (Rumelhart,
1980; Rumelhart & Ortony, 1977). It is clear that basic decoding
processes are important for comprehension and are used by readers
in interaction with the more complex processes of meaning
generation (Eskey, 1987; Grabe, 1985; Rumelhart, 1977). However,
it is equally clear that readers engage in reading in order to gain
information. Reading purpose is a central concern of ESP, and
purpose does not reside in the text. It resides in the language
learner’s relationship to the learning task.
In the present context, the purpose is assumed to be comprehen-
sion of the message. Comprehension does not take place in a vacuum.
Comprehension in instructional settings is translated into some
product, such as completion of comprehension questions, a written
summary, or an oral report. This product should provide the student
some reason for reading the technical discourse at hand (Peretz,
1988). That is, the instructional task which generates the product
should incorporate purpose (Long, 1985). Purpose needs to be
addressed in an EST reading orientation which is geared to compre-
hension of content because it is through completing these reading
tasks that reading ability improves. Approaching EST instruction
through comprehension thus places ESP issues under the rubric of
reading research rather than specifically in linguistic or language
skills contexts. However, examining the application of cognitive
processes naturally raises issues concerning how language skills, or
lack thereof, are involved in reading for content comprehension.

Content Comprehension and Language Skills

A concern necessarily arises as to whether a content-centered
view of comprehension can address the learning of vocabulary and
syntax by second language readers. It is unclear how the learner as
reader can comprehend the message while that same learner as

language acquirer identifies and masters unknown vocabulary,
grammar, and text structure. There is an apparent enigma regarding
just how this bootstrap comprehension can take place if the second
language learner is deficient in essential lexical, syntactic, and
discourse knowledge necessary for comprehending the content of
the text. Any reader faces an amazingly difficult task given that the
input which must be processed is complex from two perspectives:
(a) natural language is generally very complex linguistically; and (b)
the learner must utilize nonlinguistic knowledge systems to gain
information (Sharwood Smith, 1986). The L2 reader may be
deficient in application of both of these processes in the target
language. Reading involves the simultaneous application of
elements such as context and purpose along with knowledge of
grammar, content, vocabulary, discourse conventions, graphemic
knowledge, and metacognitive awareness in order to develop an
appropriate meaning. Application of these skills does not constitute
a linear processing strategy either from the bottom up (text to
reader) or the top down (reader to text), though readers may
restrict themselves to one level of processing (Faerch & Kasper,
1986). Rather, these skills, abilities, intentions, and strategies
represent a web of assets which are summoned to accomplish
the reader’s goal. They interact and compensate one another
(Stanovich, 1980).
It is precisely because of this compensating web of assets that a
focus on comprehension can allow learners to acquire unfamiliar
vocabulary and syntactic structures in their effort to understand.
The purposefulness of the activity can lead to vocabulary
acquisition (Pitts, White, & Krashen, 1989) and to grammatical
consciousness-raising (Rutherford, 1987). While interacting with the
text in order to gain information and reduce uncertainty, the learner
is motivated to attend to unknown and immediately essential
linguistic elements. The learner can learn those structures and
vocabulary to the extent necessary to apply them to the present
task. Further, the learner works from meaning to the structure
rather than from structure to meaning. This focus on meaning
encourages comprehension throughout the ability levels rather than
only at higher levels.


The approach adopted here assumes that the reader has some-
thing to comprehend, a reason to read, and it is in the process of
reading for comprehension that deficits in language and reading


abilities may be remediated. Appropriate reading strategies can be
strengthened and schemata can be made more robust. There are
three implications of this approach for materials selection and use.
These pertain to the use of authentic materials, the recommendation
of a thematic basis for text organization, and the derivation of in-
structional points.
An issue for materials selection concerns the role of authentic
texts in the curriculum. Authentic in this instance is used to denote
both the material to which the readers are exposed and the activities
which they are to perform (Clarke & Silberstein, 1977; Phillips &
Shettlesworth, 1978; Widdowson, 1979). For an ESP context, I am
recommending use of well-selected, authentic (unmodified in any
way) texts. Pedagogic tasks can then be developed to lead the
reader to an authentic response ( Widdowson, 1979). Most justifica-
tions for the use of modified or simplified texts have focused on al-
lowing the students access to the language form and thus to the con-
tent of the text. Although there may be instances where simplifica-
tion or modification are justified, there are several arguments in
favor of the use of unmodified materials, three of which appear par-
ticularly important in the context of EST. First, when material is
simplified or modified, it is often changed in ways that may make
the material more difficult (Fillmore, 1981 ); that is, when material is
simplified to reduce the sentence length or complexity, frequently
the cohesive elements of the text are reduced in such a way that
relationships between ideas are lost. Second, modified or simplified
material may change the nature of the text and consequently the
nature of the reader’s strategy application. Readers utilize and
develop metacognitive strategies in the process of comprehension
(Barnett, 1988; Carrell, 1989; Devine, 1984). These are important
skills for readers to develop in order to compensate when con-
fronted with difficult-to-process texts. However, while interacting
with modified or simplified text, the student may develop strategies
which work well with these texts but which are not transferable to
unaltered texts of the type they will need to read. Thus, simplified
text may interfere with the successful development and applica-
tion of the reader’s skills. Third, materials and activities should
reflect “real world” activities (Clarke and Silberstein, 1977, p. 136;
Silberstein, 1987), and material which has been simplified may not
have been adapted to reflect any real-world tasks. The language
learning process itself should involve tasks which are authentic to
the specialist area (Long, 1985) and are realistic (Silberstein, 1987).
Because the approach described here assumes that reading,
linguistic, and metacognitive skills are broad nonhomogeneous
bands which overlap and interact, authentic materials present the

most appropriate form of input from which the reader develops
and expands those skills.
A second implication of the content comprehension approach to
EST indicated above is the need for a topic basis for readings. This
is certainly not exclusive to the approach adopted here. Many EST
as well as general English courses adopt this thematic orientation.
However, the thematic orientation of a content comprehension
approach to reading instruction consciously facilitates the reconcil-
iation of new with old information. A topic- or thematic-based cur-
riculum helps to create more semantically robust background
knowledge. The topical nature of material promotes the utilization
of the reader’s background knowledge in the comprehension pro-
cess. Part of that background knowledge is the knowledge that
when one reads in the real world, one reads materials on a given
topic and for a particular reason. Further, an individual in a
technical field often reads content on similar topics during any par-
ticular period of time. An educational approach that focuses on lan-
guage learning alone, ignoring the learning of subject matter, is gen-
erally inadequate to the needs of language learners (Mohan, 1986).
It is essential for students to see what they can and cannot do while
working with texts to gain content information,
A third implication is that the focus of instruction emerges from
the reading task. That is, the instruction directed to grammar,
vocabulary, and rhetorical structures arise from a need to process
the text and carry out the comprehension task (Silberstein, 1987).
Additionally, reading skills activities such as skimming, scanning,
reading for meaning, activating schemata, and applying metacogni-
tive strategies come from a task which requires that skill to be used
(Crookes, 1986; Long, 1985; Silberstein, 1987). The texts should be
selected for content rather than in order for students to practice a
particular structure or skill. Barnett (1988) has indicated that explicit
reading skill instruction may be ineffective; that is, there is little
evidence to indicate that isolated reading skill practice is any more
effective than isolated grammatical pattern practice in terms of
communicative performance. When the points of instruction are
derived from the reading tasks, instruction is more attentive to the
processes and strategies that the student must learn than to mastery
of separable language products such as a particular rhetorical style
or a particular grammatical structure.


The REST Project employs a modified “adjunct model” (Brinton,


Snow, & Wesche, 1989, p. 16) of ESP instruction: Students are
enrolled in content courses and a language course, with the courses
sharing a content base. The REST Project, however, is not linked to
a specific content course as in the strict adjunct model described by
Brinton, Snow, and Wesche. Rather the REST Project uses content
from across a variety of courses the students have taken or are
taking. The materials for the 2-year REST courses are developed
around 10 thematic units which correspond to course content in the
Chemical Engineering undergraduate program. These themes are
presented in Figure 1.

REST Project Thematic Units

1. General science/Physics and chemistry
2. The field of chemical engineering
3. Energy
4. Materials and properties
5. Environment: Technical issues and solutions

6. Technology
7. Electronics
8. Computers
9. Equipment design
10. Physical and mechanical processes

The thematic materials developed for each of the content-based

units in the REST curriculum are technical selections dealing with
issues and topics that could be covered in one of the required
courses for the major. In the first year, the materials tend to cover
content from courses that the students have already taken. Thus,
students have the technical content schema for the articles and
become confident about reading English. However, the later units
in the second year of the course cover material that the students are
currently, or will soon be, studying, and the focus shifts to relevance
for their future professional preparation.
In the materials design process in the REST Project, authentic
articles and tasks are identified. As the materials are selected, text
criteria are developed for each thematic unit. Examples of the text
criteria for the fourth unit of Years 1 and 2 are provided below in
Figures 2 and 3 (whose framework is adapted from Smith, 1988).

Unit Criteria for Unit IV of Year 1 Text Selection

Unit IV: Properties and Materials
Unit Criteria

The criteria for text selection cover the language content as well as
information regarding the language processing and learning of the
students. An example of how the text criteria for the different units
differ can be seen in the Article Content section of the two units
presented in Figures 2 and 3. In the first-year unit, the content is
general in nature in order to avoid focusing on one particular
property, whereas in the second-year unit the materials which are
called for are to be very specific. This particular distinction is based
on the types of content to be covered in the two different units as
much as it is based on the difference in reading proficiency between
the two years.
An example of the use of the materials selected on the basis of the
unit criteria from Figures 2 and 3 is provided in the unit sequence
charts in Figures 4 and 5.
Many of the suggested activities associated with the articles listed


Unit Criteria for Unit IV of Year 2 Text selection

Unit IV: Equipment Design
Text Criteria

in Figures 4 and 5 are similar to activities in traditional skills-based

approaches to EST reading. However, with the materials presented
here the students are not taught skimming or scanning or main idea
reading as isolated skills. Rather, the materials are presented so that
the student performs the various skills and subskills in parallel as
they move toward comprehension of the text content; that is, the
activities identified in Figures 4 and 5 are identified as appropriate
for the texts and the tasks. Through the use of the unit sequence
chart, materials developers can view the articles as a thematic unit
and construct an overall reading component. At this point, the texts
are viewed individually to determine what tasks will help lead the
student to the content of the text.
The Appendix provides a sample of the materials developed for
the second text of the fourth unit in Year 2. These materials are
designed to help the student read the passage for comprehension.
The particular text represented here is a complex 12-page article
requiring a great deal of processing if students are to use the

Unit Sequence Chart for Year 1, Unit IV

Unit IV: Properties and Materials
Unit Sequence Chart

information presented. First, in Steps I, II, and III of the curriculum,

students work with important vocabulary and prediction activities.
These serve as set-up activities for the reading the students will do.
Step IV guides the students through skimming the two focal
sections of the article. This provides students with a functional
understanding of the article structure. Additionally, students gain
information they would be called upon to display in their content
courses. Step V focuses students on the information necessary to


Unit Sequence Chart for Year 2, Unit IV

solve problems addressed by the text. These activities are similar to

those the students would actually perform with an article of this
type; that is, the students are not likely to read the entire article in
depth. Rather, in trying to solve a particular problem they would go
to the article for help. Step VI then guides the students through a
very dense section of the text. The decisions which the students
supply reflect comprehension of key concepts necessary to carry
out the operations presented in the passage. Finally, in Step VII, the
students provide a summary of one topic in the passage. Summariz-
ing requires the type of knowledge any reader would be expected
to have obtained from reading the passage.
It should be clear from the preceding discussion that the focus of
the materials development process was to provide the students with
the ability to comprehend the content of materials they needed for

their studies. Grammar, rhetorical structure, and vocabulary treat-
ment emerged from the texts themselves. Finally, the purposes for
the activities emerged from the purposes that the students would
authentically have for these types of reading tasks.


As noted above, a reasonable concern about a content compre-
hension approach to reading is whether language abilities other than
reading ability are improved. Earlier approaches have argued that
focusing on the special grammar or structure of ESP texts will im-
prove comprehension. What has not been addressed in the past is
whether the converse can be true; that is, if grammar or global read-
ing ability are not the focus of instruction, can they improve through
a focus on content comprehension? The answer to this question is
one of the foci of this study.
Lynch (1987) indicated the effectiveness of the general REST
ESP model over a non-ESP-based approach to instruction em-
ployed with a control group at another campus of the UdeG. Thus,
the general model has been demonstrated to bean effective instruc-
tional approach. However, the present evaluation is concerned with
two additional questions related specifically to the REST content
comprehension approach:
1. Can the emphasis on reading skills utilized in the project improve
reading comprehension?
2. Do grammar and general ability skills improve in addition to
reading comprehension ability?
In order to answer these questions, students were administered
one of three reading comprehension tests at the beginning and end
of each year. The subjects comprised the 364 REST Project students
at entrance (no instruction) or exit (2 academic years of instruction)
between 1987 and 1989. Because the tests were administered at
different times between 1987 and 1989 the n-sizes vary for each test.
Different test forms were used at entrance and exit. Each test form
included a 30-item contextualized grammar test, a 10-item reading
comprehension test, and a 25-item general ability multiple-choice
cloze test. The grammar subtest contained items, such as the
following, taken from chemical engineering journals:
1. When a fluid contains abrasive particles, the valve chosen
have a flow path with a smooth contour to minimize turbulence and
(a) which (c) therefore
(b) should (d) do


The reading comprehension subtests contained photocopies of
texts taken from chemical engineering or technical journals. The
passages were preceded by items which asked for general
comprehension of the passage purpose as well as specific
information. Questions were similar to the following:

2. According to Figure 1 (Cuadro 1) what happens to the cost of

preventive maintenance as the interval of time between inspections
(a) A total minimum cost is achieved.
(b) The cost increases.
(c) The cost decreases.
(d) There is no effect on the cost at all.

The multiple-choice cloze subtest was constructed from a

passage selected from a chemical engineering or technical text. The
deleted terms included items such as phrases, nouns, adjectives, and
logical connectors—all constrained by the context of the passage as
a whole. This subtest was designed to serve as a general reading
ability measure, not strictly as a comprehension of information
measure. An example is the following

3. An microcomputer application is data

(a) unknown
(b) awful
(c) open
(d) excellent
acquisition and analysis. A general purpose , together
with a few peripherals and some . . . (a) process
(b) calculator
(c) microcomputer
(d) application

Thus, the three subtests examine reading grammar, reading com-

prehension, and general reading ability. Reliability coefficients
for the three forms are KR20 = .89 for Form 1, KR20 = .90 for
Form 2, and KR20 = .84 for Form 3.

The means and standard deviations for percent-correct scores on
the three forms of the test are presented in Table 1. The scores are
higher for the instructed group than for the uninstructed group on
each subtest of each test form. The reading comprehension subtests

Means and Standard Deviations for Instructed and Uninstructed
Students on the Three Test Forms

have means higher than the other subtests for both the uninstructed
and instructed groups across all forms of the test.
The correlations among the subtests for each test are presented in
Table 2. In most cases, the grammar and multiple-choice cloze
subtests have the highest correlations. This is predictable as both of
these are primarily language-specific components whereas the
reading comprehension subtest scores will be affected by reading
strategy performance. In most cases, the reading comprehension
subtest has lower correlations with the other two subtests but does
not consistently correlate more highly with one than with the other.
In order to examine scores before and after instruction and the
interrelationships among the subtests, a repeated measures
multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) for each test is shown
in Table 3. Instructional status is the between-subjects factor; the
within-subjects factors are subtest and the subtest-by-status
interaction. Since the subjects did not take all three forms of the test,
it is not appropriate to examine status-by-test or subtest-by-test
interactions. On all three forms of the test, there is a significant
difference (p < .05) indicated for status (instructed vs. unin-
structed) and for subtest (grammar, comprehension, and cloze). On
Form 3, there is also a significant interaction for subtest by status.
In order to determine whether there remained a significant main
effect on the subtests for the instructional status, Scheffé post hoc
comparisons for differences between all possible pairs of means
were computed. These are shown in Table 4 and indicate that there


Correlations of Subtests on Each Form of the Test

Repeated Measures ANOVA Tables for Each Form of the Test

was a significant difference for each subtest by instructional level

on each of the three test forms.

Seheffé Comparison Mean Differences Between
Instructed and Uninstructed Examinees
significant Difference

The primary concern in the evaluation of the effectiveness of the
REST Project was whether or not the students improved in their
EST reading ability. The secondary concern was whether the
students improved their grammar, vocabulary, and general reading
abilities. The results in Tables 3 and 4 show significant and
meaningful improvement by the students after instruction. The
students improved in all three skill areas measured by the tests. The
post hoc comparisons show this to be the case for all subtests on all
three forms of the test. Thus, a content comprehension approach in
which students were not presented a structurally based syllabus
helped students improve both their EST reading comprehension as
well as their grammar and general language reading ability. This is
additionally of interest, given that the instruction and materials
focused on EST reading rather than grammar or skills, when it is
recalled that the EST reading subtest correlated less well with the
grammar and cloze subtests than these two subtests did with one
another. Instruction in EST reading, then, is shown here to improve
other language skills not highly correlated.
Although there are significant differences associated with
instructional status, there are two anomalies in the results. The most
obvious is the interaction of subtest by status indicated in Form 3 of
the tests. This appears to be due to a lower improvement in cloze
scores than the relatively large gain in the scores on the grammar
and reading subtests. The reason for this low improvement, in
contrast with the other test forms, is not clear. The second anomaly
is the relatively low improvement in reading comprehension on


Form 1 of the tests. In fact, there was low improvement on all three
subtests relative to Forms 2 and 3. This general low improvement
may be due to one of two factors. First, Form 1 was a form of the
test administered early in the program of materials development
articulated above. The instructed students who took this form
received early pilot versions of the instructional materials. Many of
the materials they received were eventually deleted or radically
changed. Second, there were only 28 instructed students for this
form of the test. Given the relatively large standard deviations in
comparison to the other two forms of the test, the distribution of
scores in this group may be creating the low differences; that is, a
single very low score could affect the instructed mean scores
strongly. Both of these anomalies need further analysis.

The REST Project curriculum presented in this study is based on
a concern for motivating students with relevant, authentic reading
materials as well as a concern for applying current reading theory to
foreign language reading instruction. This implies that students
receive instruction in language structure, listening, speaking, and
writing only as these serve to enforce the students’ ability to read
technical English. The goal of the project is for students to become
autonomous readers in the field of chemical engineering by the end
of their second year.
After instruction in the content comprehension approach, student
scores were significantly higher on the three reading subtests than
when they started the program. The implications of these findings
are not that other approaches to instruction and syllabus design are
either ineffective or logically flawed. Rather, the implications are
that a content comprehension approach to reading can be an
effective basis for a program to improve reading ability; at the same
time this approach does not impede the development of other
language components. Specifically, the approach exemplified here
was best for the REST Project because of the unique needs of the
students. Other such projects should consider the content
comprehension approach but should also examine various other
models and perhaps be eclectic in their application.
Finally, this study shows a need to address several types of
evaluation in ESP projects. Evaluation is an area sadly lacking in
most ESP, indeed in most EFL/ESL, work. Too often unsubstan-
tiated claims are made about what programs should look like or
should do. The present study represents a first step in the process of
validating a comprehension approach to EST instruction. There are

still several research areas to be pursued. First, the study should be
replicated in a non-Spanish-speaking context. Second, there should
be a more detailed examination of student reactions to this type of
instruction. Finally, research should be conducted to examine
whether the content comprehension approach works better or less
well than other approaches to EST.

A preliminary discussion of some of the data presented here appeared in the
University of Hawai’i Working Papers in ESL. The author would like to thank Shira
Smith, J. D. Brown, Graham Crookes and anonymous TESOL Quarterly reviewers
for comments and suggestions. Also, the author would like to thank the teachers
and students at the REST Project.

Thom Hudson is Assistant Professor in the Department of English as a Second
Language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His primary interests are language
testing, second language reading, ESP, and program evaluation. He has taught
ESL/EFL in the U. S., Egypt, and Mexico.

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Materials Developed for Year 2, Unit IV, Text 2

Extending the Life of Tubular Heat Exchangers

Chemical Engineering, July 20, 1987, pp. 74-86
I. Vocabulary List: Read the following vocabulary list for this article. Some of the
expressions are defined in Spanish. Others are defined in English.
English - Spanish

English - English
employ - use
restart – start again
shutdown – terminate operation
startup – begin operation


II. Interpretation: Translate the title and the first two paragraphs of the text into your own
words in Spanish.
A) Title
B) Paragraph One

C) Paragraph Two

III. Vocabulary in Context: Find the following terms. Write their definitions in either
English or Spanish.
EXAMPLE: rnothballirtg (p. 74, CO1. 1) = “successfully shutting down for long periods
without deterioration.”
1. retubing (75/2)
2. rebundling (75/2)
3. retrofitting (75/2)
4. heat-location maps (77/1)
5. tube-plug map (77/1)
6. sleeving (79/1)
7. heat shield (85/2)

IV. Comprehension: Use the text to answer the following questions in Spanish. The items
are NOT in text order. The answers should be complete and contain ALL the important
1. What is the procedure for mothballing if it is NOT safe to fill the exchanger with process
2. In rebundling, what should be done if the shell and bundle have been changed and deviate
from the original plans?


V. Chart: Use the text to complete the following chart. You may answer in either English or
Spanish but the answers must be complete,


1. When a more corrosion resistant material is used

PROBLEM: does not conduct heat as well
as original material

2. When the exchanger is retrofit with thicker tubes

PROBLEM: reduces tubeside flow area, thus
increasing tube velocity and pressure drop


3. When the tube thickness is reduced during retrofit

PROBLEM: tubes may become sensitive to
flow-induced vibration damage

VII. Summary: Choose ONE of the following three topics and summarize the decisions
necessary for each topic.

A. retubing: The tube-to-tubesheet joints can be welded. However, the work will be
dangerous. There is no work outage scheduled but there could be. The unit cannot be
bypassed. A replacement bundle could be ordered but it will take 6-8 weeks and there are
only 5 weeks of inventory on hand. Summarize the rest of the decisions to be made before
retubing, replacing the bundle, or replacing the exchanger.
B. tube-end plugging: The unit has been in operation for 5 years. There is no hazard to
workers. The damage is in the first 2–3 rows near the inlet to the shell. The tube-side pressure
is higher than the shell-side pressure. What are the remaining decisions and procedures for
tube-end plugging?
C. full retubing: Summarize the difference in making a decision about whether to retube or
rebundle a large-removable bundle versus retubing or rebundling a fixed-tubesheet


TESOL QUARTERLY, VoI.25, N0. l, Spring 1991

Maximizing Student Performance

in Summary Writing:
Managing Cognitive Load
George Washington University

Summarizing skills are essential in an academic setting due to the

frequency of summary assignments, the potential for using
summarizing as a study aid, and the need for these skills in more
complex assignments involving the incorporation of source
material in original discourse. Yet summarizing is a highly
complex, recursive reading-writing activity involving constraints
that can impose an overwhelming cognitive load on students,
thereby adversely affecting performance. External constraints
include such factors as purpose and audience of the assignment,
features of the assignment itself, discourse community conven-
tions, nature of the material to be summarized, time constraints,
and the working environment. Internal constraints consist of L2
proficiency, content schemata, affect, formal schemata, cognitive
skills, and metacognitive skills. This paper provides an overview
of these constraints in relation to summarizing, and suggests
pedagogical approaches to mediating the cognitive load.

Summarizing skills are essential to academic success; they are

required to produce study summaries, to complete various types of
summary assignments, and to complete tasks that call for the
incorporation of source material in academic papers and presenta-
tions. Despite the importance of this skill, textbooks generally
provide a cursory treatment of summarizing, apparently assuming
that students have mastered these skills previously. Recent research
by Brown and Day (1983), Garner (1985), Johns (1985), Anderson
and Hidi (1988/1989), Sarig (in press), and others has provided a
glimpse of the complexities inherent in summarizing. When we
consider the nature of reading-writing activities and the complexi-
ties of cognition, metacognition, schemata, L2 acquisition, and
other aspects of summary writing, it becomes apparent that the
overwhelming cognitive load on ESL students is likely responsible
for the inadequate summaries teachers receive.

Like all reading-writing activities, summarizing is an interactive,
recursive process. Sarig (in press) has documented this in her study
of the on-line protocols of a student writing L1 and L2 study
summaries. Like Sarig, we notice that in summarizing a text, we
work back and forth between the text, the paper we are writing,
and the requirements of the assignment—rereading, rewriting, and
continually reflecting on and comparing aspects of these elements.
Recursion is a complex cognitive operation that is linked to cogni-
tive development. In their studies of planning skills for summary
writing among students of different age groups, Brown, Day, and
Jones (1983) indicate that “the ability to work recursively on
information to render it as succinctly as possible requires judgment
and effort, knowledge, and strategies, and is, therefore, late
developing” (p. 968).
Thus, cognitive load is determined by a number of interacting
internal and external constraints. This paper provides an overview
of these constraints and their relation to summarizing instruction
and suggests pedagogical approaches to mediating cognitive load.

Horowitz (1988) and Flower (1987, 1989) have stressed the
significance of the role external constraints play in determining
student success with assignments. These constraints include such
factors as the purpose and audience of the assignment, features of
the assignment itself, time constraints, the environment in which the
student must function, and the various conventions expected by the
discourse community.
Most summarizing in an academic setting is done either to fulfill
a professor’s assignment or as a study aid for oneself. Even in the
latter case, the professor constitutes the critical audience. In either
case, while there is the explicit purpose of reporting the gist of the
material or critiquing it, the implicit purpose is to demonstrate one’s
competence in the subject matter. Students need to consider the
professor’s professional experience, perspective, and personal
prejudice. Students must also be adequately familiar with academic
and discourse community conventions to be able to anticipate the
professor’s expectations, many of which may not be explicitly
elaborated in the assignment.
In every summary assignment there is a complex, dynamic
interaction between the features of the audience, the implicit and
explicit purposes, and the other operative constraints of the
assignment, such as required length, nature of the material to be
summarized, degree of synthesis necessary, number of sources to be


summarized, whether and to what extent documentation is
required, number of references the student must use for support,
and the way the assignment is expressed or presented. To illustrate,
graduate political science students are frequently assigned a series
of major critiques requiring informative summarizing skills,
argumentation skills, incorporation of supporting material from
multiple sources, familiarity with documentation, and so on.
One of the external constraints more frequently discussed is the
nature of the material to be summarized. Hidi and Anderson (1986)
identified length of text, genre (narrative vs. exposition) and
complexity (vocabulary, sentence structure, abstractness, familiar-
ity of ideas, poor or vague organization) as the primary textual
features impacting cognitive load in summarizing. We suspect that,
at least for L2 students, length of text may have a lesser impact on
cognitive load than that attributed to it by Hidi and Anderson.
Second language students in the latter half of high-intermediate
EFL at George Washington University have reported that they felt
summarizing material of a paragraph or so in length was more
difficult than summarizing an article or section of an article because
they felt more constrained by the structure and/or language of the
shorter segment. Perhaps the difficulty of manipulating language in
an L2 context renders L2 proficiency a more important factor than
text length in creating difficulty for L2 students.
We have adapted Hidi and Anderson’s textual features to better
reflect our experience with L2 students:
1. Familiarity (degree to which the information or genre is related
to individual schemata)
2. Complexity
a. Information density (frequency/nature of vocabulary and
extent of explanation; complexity of concepts, or number and
kind of interrelationships; complexity of sentence structure)
b. Degree of abstractness
c. Clarity/readability (factors a and b above; factors deter-
mined by writing style or ability, such as vague organization,
poor ability to clarify points, or obscure style; formatting and
3. Length
Interrelationships between these factors and perceived summariz-
ing difficulty need to be studied.
In teaching summarizing, we recommend limiting these exter-
nal constraints, making certain that the ones we impose in our


assignments are clear. This can help to prevent cognitive overload
by offsetting some of the less easily controlled internal constraints,
and it can allow students the “cognitive space” to focus on
improving their skills. As Folman (1988) theorized, limiting the
context lessens the cognitive work and allows the student to focus
on the writing activity.

In designing assignments or materials for teaching summarizing,
we base decisions about external constraints on our assessment of
the students’ operative internal constraints. (It should be remem-
bered that, once determined, teachers’ expectations function as
external constraints on the student.) Those internal constraints
focused on here are: L2 proficiency, content schemata, affect,
formal schemata, cognitive skills, and metacognitive skills, Weak-
nesses in any of these areas can short-circuit student success.

L2 Proficiency
The L2 skills needed in summarizing include adequate reading
skills and comprehension level plus adequate control of grammar,
vocabulary, and writing skills to manipulate and express the
information. In our experience, limitations in any of these result in
semantic distortions, inability to paraphrase, and other problems.
As in other reading-writing tasks, adequate L2 skills seem
fundamental to successful summarizing, regardless of skills and
strategies the student may have in L1. This observation is supported
by Clarke’s (1980) and Carrell’s (1988) findings on the transfer of L1
reading skills to L2 reading, in which indications of a kind of ceiling
effect were found; i.e., students must attain a certain level of
proficiency in the second language before they can profit from L1
reading skills. Hence, students should not be expected to produce
formal, graded academic summaries until they have at least a high-
intermediate level of proficiency. Even then, it is important to
compensate for the proficiency level by carefully controlling the
external constraints.

Content Schemata
The vast amount of research conducted on the role of content
schemata in reading by Carrell (1987), Rumelhart (1980), Johnson
(1982), and others has demonstrated that students must have
appropriate content schemata available in order to be able to


comprehend material, a prerequisite to manipulating it. While this is
an extremely important constraint in summary writing, it is largely
controllable since we can carefully select the materials to be
summarized and build background schemata through prereading
activities, a series of readings, discussions, etc.

Closely related to the area of content schemata is the affective
domain. Steffenson, Joag-dev, and Anderson (1979), and Markham
and Latham (1987) have demonstrated the significant role of cultural
factors and religion (which involve both content schemata and
affect) in reading comprehension. Unfortunately, little formal
research has been conducted on the role of affect per se in reading-
writing activities. Johns (1988) reported that one of the major
problems identified by professors she interviewed was international
students’ highly emotional responses to texts that offended their
cultural values. Since such an emotional response can prove debili-
tating in a summarizing context, Johns’ report highlights the impor-
tance of exercising care and sensitivity in selecting texts that students
must manipulate. Brand (1987) and McLeod (1987) also emphasize
the importance of affect in writing and urge further study.

Formal Schemata
Carrell (1984b) has described formal schemata as the abstract
knowledge structures that represent conventional organization of a
text, aiding the reader in comprehension and recall. We expand this
definition to include all formal expectations of a discourse
community. Applied to the U.S. academic discourse community,
the term would include expectations concerning elements such as
format, thought and rhetorical patterns, and the conventions of
paraphrasing, quotation, and documentation. Whereas the formal
schemata of the professor constitute external constraints, the formal
schemata available to the student are internal constraints.
In designing summary assignments, we suggest that instructors
select texts embodying patterns that are manageable for their
particular students. Carrell (1984a) claims that patterns exhibiting a
strong relationship such as cause-effect or comparison seem to be
easier than those exhibiting a weaker link, such as description.
Typically, instructors also train students in the special conventions
of summaries: the type of material appropriate in introductions,
how to acknowledge the source, when to quote, and how to


Cognitive Skills
In this section, we overview critical thinking skills in general,
focusing briefly on two cognitive skills particularly important in
summary writing—superordination and transformation—and rele-
vant aspects of text processing.
A look at the critical thinking skills used in summarizing
underscores the sophistication required to produce effective
academic summaries. We view critical thinking as the use of one or
more cognitive operations to serve a particular problem-solving
purpose. Adapting the work of Bloom (1956) and Holten (1988), we
interpret the entire summarizing task, and each part, as a problem-
solving activity which entails the ability to identify the problem
clearly, find or generate alternative solutions, test alternative
solutions, and select the best from among them, all occurring
recursively. Comprehension, the foundation of summary writing,
involves analysis and synthesis, just as the latter skills involve the
former. An essential element of comprehension in a summarizing
context is the cognitive operation superordination, constructing a
more general conceptual framework from analysis and synthesis of
specific information. Application, the ability to apply compre-
hended material to the task at hand, relates to the summarizing
context as transformation or reconceptualization. (Superordination
and transformation will be discussed below). Finally, there is a
three-way, mutually dependent relationship among the skills of
decision making, evaluation, and selection. For example, decision
making is used in evaluating source material and in the selection of
appropriate concepts for use in the summary, while evaluation and
selection can also be used in decision making.
A commonly identified problem area in summary writing is
superordination (Anderson & Hidi, 1988/1989; Brown & Day,
1983). Superordination, or what Ausubel (1968) terms “subsump-
tion” (p. 100) occurs at very specific levels of text comprehension
when the student constructs general categories to include specific
details, but it also occurs when achieving the macrolevel conceptual
framework of a text. Thus, it plays a key role in achieving the
purposes of writing a study summary by providing the conceptual
framework that facilitates comprehension and memory (Brown,
Campione, & Day, 1981; Kintch & van Dijk, 1978), hence facili-
tating development of the content schemata of the curriculum.
When one is summarizing for another reader, superordination
further serves as a foundation for transformation, which provides
the same sort of conceptual framework for the reader.
Transformation has also been identified as a problem area in
summarizing (Sarig, in press). In this context, it is a cognitive


operation, or series of cognitive operations, performed in convert-
ing source input into text. The product of transformation is an
explicit, reader-based expression of the macrolevel conceptual
framework of a source text.
Johns (1985), Garner (1985), Hidi and Anderson (1986), and
others have noted failure of younger or less prepared L1 students to
superordinate. These students are less developed cognitively, at
least in terms of this skill. We see the same feature in L2 summaries,
and feel that it may be due to insufficient development of this cog-
nitive skill and a bottom-up text processing strategy.
According to Rumelhart (1984), the reading process involves both
top-down and bottom-up text processing. As the words and phrases
help the reader construct an interpretation of the text from the
bottom up, that interpretation assists in constructing a more global
comprehension, which in turn helps the student interpret later
words and phrases in a top-down manner. Superordination is an
important cognitive operation in constructing this more global
understanding and thus serves as a key to top-down processing.
When we look at examples of student work, it becomes apparent
that many rely on a bottom-up approach to reading comprehension,
preventing them from getting “the big picture” in planning and
writing the summary, and potentially resulting in plagiarism and/or
lack of cohesion in the final product.
It is easy to speculate on the causes of an overreliance on bottom-
up processing, and more research is clearly needed in this area. In
our experience, students with weaker L2 proficiencies demonstrate
a greater tendency to process text bottom-up. Perhaps, too,
weakness in other internal constraints will manifest itself in bottom-
up processing. And in those cultures where students have been
trained to memorize details (de-emphasizing overall comprehen-
sion), they have been trained to process bottom-up. Perhaps
students in fields of study where they must focus on details have
been trained in an academic culture that values bottom-up
processing. Engineering professors at our university report that
international students often focus on the specific information in
their reading, but overlook the conceptual interrelationships within
a reading or lecture, or between different readings.
At the university level, teaching summarizing skills may be the
most appropriate context for training students both to super-
ordinate and to adopt top-down processing. We can do this by
modeling our thought processes aloud, providing specific training
in both areas, and providing sample written summaries of familiar
material. We must also provide materials and methods that trigger


superordination and top-down processing. Without these skills,
students cannot be expected to transform material effectively.

Metacognitive Skills
Crucial to effective cognitive and critical thinking skills are the
conscious awareness and control we call metacognition. Figure 1,
based in part on an adaptation of Sarig’s conceptualization (in
press), roughly outlines our perception of the role of the metacog-
nitive skills of planning, assessment, and repair in the recursive
process of writing an informative summary. This model does not
attempt to represent the important interactions and simultaneity of
these activities documented in Sarig’s study.1
Expanding Sarig’s taxonomy (1988), “planning” can include goal
setting, strategy selection, and rudimentary ideational formulation.
Whereas these skills tend to be related to cognitive development,
Brown, Day, and Jones (1983) found that the presence of planning
activities was the best predictor of success for older elementary
students in producing efficient summaries of texts. Adult university
students should be able to utilize appropriate planning mechanisms
unless (a) they are not aware of these mechanisms, as may be the
case with students who have had little L1 writing experience, or (b)
they are performing so many complex linguistic and cognitive
activities simultaneously that the kinds of mature planning
mechanisms they would use if they were writing in L1 are short-
In Figure 1, assessment involves (a) assessing the assignment,
evaluating the source and relating its form and content to one’s own
schemata, and (b) evaluating the summary in terms of its
relationship to the specific purpose of the assignment, the accuracy
of the condensed representation of the essential information in the
source, and lexical/grammatical correctness. Repair occurs at any
of the points in the summarizing process. A student can repair (a)
his/her understanding of the assignment, the text, the relationship
between the text and the assignment; and (b) the production of the
summary at any stage in the process and within any of the layers of
the activity. These metacognitive activities are clearly not tidy
linear endeavors.
As seen in Johns (1985) and Sarig (in press), so-called adept
writers perform these metacognitive functions automatically,
as part of their normal reading-to-writing strategy. It is the
1 Sarig’s
taxonomy of the processes of composing a study summary identifies planning,
operating, and assessing as major operations, classifying repair as one aspect of the
operating system.


Metacognitive Processes Operative in Informative Summaries

“underprepared” writer who is deficient in these metacognitive

skills and can be empowered to perform them. In fact, the
effectiveness of training has been demonstrated on younger, less
developmentally “ready” students by Brown, Campione, and Day


(1981). L2 students can similarly benefit from metacognitive
training within the context of a manageable cognitive load. In
addition to specific training, appropriate metacognitive activities
can be triggered through teacher modeling, revision, checklists, and
guidelines with metacognitive cues built in.
In sum, students who are attempting to write summaries are
operating under a cognitive load determined by their individual
internal constraints and the external constraints imposed by the
assignment and context. It is important to stress that these
constraints are all interactive. The students are attempting to
marshal their skills and strategies to mediate this cognitive load. As
instructors, we must ensure that this cognitive load is manageable
and that students have the skills needed to successfully mediate it.
General suggestions for controlling the cognitive load have been
presented in the relevant sections above; more specific instructional
suggestions are provided below.

As previously stated, when instructors teach summarizing skills, it
is important to control the external constraints based on our analysis
of the students’ internal constraints. Simultaneously, we must build
student skills in the areas that constitute internal constraints.
Although we typically do much of this balancing intuitively,
conscious consideration of these factors can improve our teaching
effectiveness. The discussion here is limited to informative sum-
Depending on their L2 proficiency and critical thinking skills,
students may need background training in isolated skills prior to
attempting formal summaries. If summary writing is taught at the
high-intermediate level or above, such activities can be used for
individual remediation.
An inductive approach may be helpful in teaching superordina-
tion. Teachers can list details and elicit relationships or generaliza-
tions orally. The same approach can be applied to short readings
with no explicit generalization and then to more complex readings
with multiple levels of meaning. These activities can begin orally
and progress to collaborative written exercises in which students
supply topic sentences and main idea sentences. Such activities
typically begin with concrete material and move to more abstract
content. As we work on superordination, modeling or dem-
onstrating our own thinking process aloud for students can be very
helpful in clarifying our expectations in terms of cognitive and
metacognitive operations.


Training in study skills such as underlining, color coding,
mapping, or diagraming can also serve as useful preparatory
work. Such skills help students attain the overview (superordina-
tion) essential for top-down planning and help them understand the
extent of recursion needed in a complex reading-writing activity.
Jones, Pierce, and Hunter (1988/1989) provide clear mapping
diagrams that are both simple and sufficiently detailed for
summarizing. They stress the superiority of mapping over outlining
or notetaking, which they feel result in linear approaches to
summarizing that thwart recursion and transformation to an
effective reader-based summary. A sequence of underlining, color-
coding, and mapping can serve to force recursion, thus stimulating
or cueing superordination and transformation.
Oral summaries can be used before proceeding to written
summaries. This provides a foundation for students from cultures
that focus more on oral skills and those with an auditory perceptual
modality preference. Oral group activities seem to develop a
greater awareness of the cognitive and metacognitive operations
being used. Furthermore, if students summarize an article read the
previous day, dependence on long-term memory tends to trigger
top-down processing, thus fostering the development of this
essential skill. (Obviously, this strategy can be applied to written
summaries as well.) It is important that a top-down approach be
stressed through explanation, modeling, and demonstration with
written examples in order to maintain it at a conscious level. This
helps to clarify our expectations and to facilitate students’
internalization of the approach.
The “Introduction to Informative Summaries” handout, which
the authors used in the latter half of a high-intermediate course,
appears in Appendix A. In the introductory explanation, we
establish some basic knowledge about summaries. In the “Format”
and “Important Points to Remember” sections, we present the
formal schemata necessary to write an informative summary (i.e.,
the formal expectations of the audience). We have used questions in
the “Format” section to stimulate the reading-writing interaction, as
Horowitz suggests (1988), and to provide a visual stimulus to the
top-down approach. On another handout page, omitted here, we
present a model summary of material the students have previously
read for analysis and discussion. This model makes concrete the
formal schemata and the top-down approach presented in the
previous sections. Of course, the materials described thus far could
be presented inductively, eliciting the formal schemata from the
In step 3 of the “Summarizing Process” section, shown in


Appendix A, we stimulate a top-down approach as students provide
us an overview of the text in the form of a visual diagram. This
contrasts with textbooks that focus largely on bottom-up activities
such as deleting details and redundancy. We cue metacognitive
operations as well as recursion in the reflective material following
each step. The metacognitive operations of assessment and repair
are also cued in a checklist in the last section of the student handout.
As indicated above, the activities and cueing selected for use
should be determined by the internal constraints characterizing
specific groups of students. Simply providing a list of the features of
a good summary or a process (two approaches common in
textbooks) is not adequate to help students mediate the cognitive
load. Teachers must carefully construct the assignment and
carefully select material to be summarized. We must also provide
teaching materials, methods, and training that demonstrate
appropriate summarizing and help students internalize the recursive
process and cues that will enable them to achieve the desired
In order to be able to identify, break down, and teach the
complexities of summary writing, we must have a metacognitive
awareness and control of what is involved in the cognitive load. The
best way to achieve this is probably to write summaries and monitor
our own cognitive and metacognitive operations and strategies.
Then, perhaps the checklist in Appendix B can help us develop and
effectively utilize our metacognitive awareness of the summary
writing cognitive load. By effectively managing the cognitive load
that our students confront, we can maximize their performance and
skill development.
Many of the areas touched on in this paper require extensive
research before ESL practitioners fully understand the nature of
summary writing. We would particularly welcome investigation of
(a) the relationship between affect and schemata; (b) the relation-
ship between specific textual features and student performance; (c)
the nature of the critical thinking skills involved in summarizing,
especially as they relate to L2 proficiency and the recursive cogni-
tive activities; and (d) the threshold effect in the transfer of L1 skills
to L2. Understanding the complexities and constraints involved in
summarizing is an important key to facilitating our students’
academic success.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 23rd Annual TESOL
Convention in San Antonio, TX, March 1989. The authors wish to thank the
anonymous TESOL Quarterly reviewers for their helpful comments.

Margaret R. Kirkland is Assistant Professor of EFL at The George Washington
University, where she coordinates technical writing courses at the high-
intermediate and advanced levels. Her research interests relate to cognition in
reading-writing activities, composition, and discourse community cultures.
Mary Anne P. Saunders is Assistant Professor of EFL at The George Washington
University. She coordinates grammar/writing and research courses at the high-
intermediate level. Her professional interests include research in methodologies
and materials, in reading-writing instruction, and in learning-disabled nonnative
English speakers.

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Introduction to Informative Summaries
The purpose of an informative summary is to report what someone else has said in a
concise form that is easy for your reader to understand. Summaries are often given as course
assignments. However, the skills you develop in learning to summarize can also be used in
other important situations: e.g., when you have to explain something you have read in class,
when you have to express what you have learned from lectures and tests on a test, when you
have to incorporate material in your research papers or reports,
Below are the points that need to be covered in your informative summaries. You do not,
however, always have to present these points in this order,
Main Point #1 and Main Point #2 represent the most important ideas/information in the
article, even though the author may not have presented them in this order. Sometimes it is
necessary to rearrange the information to clarify it in a condensed form.

SOURCE: — Who is the author?

— What is the title?
I PURPOSE: Why did the author write this?
I author saying?



1. It should be clear to the reader of your summary that this is a report of someone else’s
work. This can be accomplished by
a. mentioning the source at or near the beginning of the introduction (as indicated above)
b. mentioning the author’s name periodically throughout the summary
c. giving the bibliographical information in a heading at the top of your first page (refer
to the example summary) or in a footnote
2. Use your own words. You may want to include one or two quotations for emphasis or to
prove what the author said, but otherwise, everything must be paraphrased.
3. Try to keep the same emphasis as that of the author.

1. Read the assignment and reflect on the expectations.
2. Read the material to be summarized and think about it.
Look for “the big picture.” What is the main idea; how do the points fit
together? Who is the author; why did he/she write this?
3. Make a visual diagram of the material.
Does it show how the main points are related?
4. Write your summary based on the diagram. (Do not refer to the article until you have a
rough draft.)
Refer to the guidelines and/or assignment whenever you need to.
5. Review your summary to be sure it is complete and clear. Does it represent the ideas
Compare your summary with your diagram, then with the article.
6. Compare your summary with the assignment. (In this case, compare it with the guidelines
and checklist, too.)
Have you satisfied the expectations?
7. Revise and “polish” your summary.
Is it easy to read? Does it report the complete idea?


Use the following questions to help you evaluate and revise your summary. If you check “no”
for any of the questions, refer to the guidelines before revising your paper.

1. Does your summary give “the big picture”? (Does it
emphasize the relationship between the main points?)
2. Have you clarified what the author says about each
point (rather than giving only the topic)?
3. IS it clew that your paper is a summary of someone else’s
material? (Have you mentioned the source at the
beginning, periodically throughout the summary, and in
a bibliographical heading or footnote?)
4. Have you expressed the ideas in your own words


Questions for Monitoring Cognitive Load






TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 25, No. l, Spring 1991

Twenty-Five Years of Contrastive

Rhetoric: Text Analysis and
Writing Pedagogues
University of Tennessee

Contrastive rhetoric studies with implications for the ESL writing

classroom began with Robert Kaplan’s 1966 study of some 600 L2
student essays. This work was exploratory and, to a degree, more
intuitive than scientific, but valuable in establishing contrastive
rhetoric as a new field of inquiry.
It has also created controversy. Kaplan’s diagrams of rhetorical
patterns have been widely reprinted, appearing even in ESL
composition textbooks. Indeed, it is in L2 writing classes that
contrastive rhetoric work has the greatest potential practical
application. The diagrams, with their implications in regard to
patterns of written discourse, readily place contrastive rhetoric into
the current traditional approach to teaching ESL writing (Silva,
1990), but contrastive rhetoric has not found much favor with those
who adopt a process orientation to teaching writing.
Proponents of process approaches maintain that contrastive
rhetoric research examines the product only, detaching it from and
ignoring both the contrastive rhetorical context from which the L2
writers emerge and the processes these writers may have gone
through to produce a text. Furthermore, as a result of this research
orientation toward the product, when the findings of contrastive
rhetoric have been applied to L2 writing, they have, almost by
definition, been prescriptive: In English we write like this; those
who would write well in English must look at this pattern and
imitate it.
Modern contrastive rhetoric researchers, hoping to reconcile
contrastive rhetoric to teaching composition, insist, perhaps
somewhat defensively, that text-oriented research does not equal
product-oriented writing instruction (Grabe & Kaplan, 1989). While
that may be the case, in practice the diagrams have, in fact, been
used to justify prescriptive approaches to teaching writing. Even
more unfortunately, perhaps because of the simplicity of the
diagrams, the findings of early contrastive rhetoric studies were

whole-heartedly embraced in many ESL writing classes, which
actually taught that English speakers think in a straight line while
Asians think in circles and others think in zigzags.
On the other hand, by turning their backs on contrastive rhetoric,
process-oriented researchers and writing teachers are logically
compelled to argue that L2 writing problems are, in fact, those of
any developing writer, a position that Mohan and Lo (1985) take
when they suggest that problems of Chinese students writing in
English do not result from the influence of Chinese rhetorical
patterns but are the usual difficulties of inexperienced writers.
Several objections to that position might reasonably be raised.
Those who ignore the insights of contrastive rhetoric imply that
students come to L2 writing without any previously learned
discourse schemata. Yet writing conventions are taught in schools.
While many children already can read when they start school and
many read outside school for entertainment, few can write when
they enter school and, except for letters and lists, few write outside
school. In other words, writing, for most school children, is nearly
always school sponsored and inevitably, therefore, reflects the
culture of the school system and reproduces culturally preferred
discourse styles. Furthermore, if we consider the age and level of
education of the many ESL graduate students studying in English-
speaking countries, it is difficult to take the position that these L2
writers are inexperienced in writing in L1.
Another difficulty with the anticontrastive rhetoric position is its
implication that L1 writing strategies are not transferred to L2
writing situations. While sufficient research does not exist to
establish firmly to what degree L1 writing strategies transfer to L2,
Jones and Tetroe (1987) conclude from a study of Spanish-speaking
writers writing in English and Spanish that transfer of higher level
planning skills in writing does occur, particularly with writers
beyond a certain threshold of proficiency in L2. Hall (1990) also
concludes that some revising strategies appear to function across
languages. The Carson, Carrell, Silberstein, Kroll, and Kuehn (1990)
study of both Chinese and Japanese students revealed a complex
pattern of interactions between L1 and L2 reading and writing
skills. If writing strategies do transfer across languages, presumably
ESL students might then employ strategies learned for specific L1
writing contexts to their L2 writing. The L1 strategies might differ
from those appropriate in, for example, English-medium universi-
ties, proving, therefore, to be ineffective in the new context.
It seems reasonable to assume that different cultures would ori-
ent their discourse in different ways. Even different discourse com-
munities within a single language, such as those constituted by


different academic disciplines, have different writing conventions:
preferred length of sentences, choice of vocabulary, acceptability
of using first person, extent of using passive voice, degree to which
writers are permitted to interpret, amount of metaphorical language
accepted. If different discourse communities employ differing rhet-
orics, and if there is transfer of skills and strategies from L1 to L2,
then contrastive rhetoric studies might reveal the shape of those
rhetorical skills and strategies in writers from different cultures.
Contrastive rhetoric studies have become considerably more
complex over the last 25 years and have explored a number of
different directions related to written discourse across cultures. This
article (a) provides an overview of these changes and research
problems associated with them, (b) re-analyzes the concerns of
process-oriented teachers and researchers in light of these changes,
and (c) examines the extent to which the findings of modern
contrastive rhetoric can play a more legitimate, less prescriptive
role in L2 writing classrooms.


For years after the introduction of the idea of contrastive rhetoric
little progress was made in this type of text analysis. During the
1970s the development of text linguistics or discourse analysis might
have given contrastive rhetoric a more scientific, less intuitive base,
but it did not in fact have much effect. Discourse analysis of the
1970s focused either on spoken discourse, rather than written, or
analyzed such features of written text as anaphora or cohesive links
between propositions. This focus yielded atomized, disparate bits
of information that seemed either to be incapable of explaining
differences in larger segments of discourse or almost to trivialize the
differences. Patterns of usage emerging from text linguistics studies
did not seem generalizable or broad enough to have much pedagog-
ic function. The failure to contribute much to pedagogy may have
come from what Carrell (1984b) describes as text linguists’ attempt
to extend linguistic methodology to full texts and to create “a kind
of ‘grammar’ for texts, with texts viewed simply as units larger than
sentences, or as a sequence of sentences” instead of examining “the
linguistic properties of texts (e.g., cohesion), but also the social-psy-
chological, interactive properties of texts” (p. 111).
The 1980s, however, thanks to developments like the work of de
Beaugrande (1980) in discourse analysis and text linguistics, have
sparked renewed interest in contrastive rhetoric and in the
exploration of more than the strictly surface features of discourse
although, like anaphora or nominalization, these less immediately


obvious features may still be quantifiable. John Hinds has published
extensively on Japanese rhetoric (1976, 1980, 1984, 1987); Alan
Purves and colleagues with the International Association for
Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Study of Written
Composition began in 1980 to collect and analyze the high school
exit essays of 20,000 12-, 14-, and 18-year-old students in 14 countries
(Purves & Takala, 1982). In 1984 the Annual Review of Applied
Linguistics devoted an entire issue to contrastive rhetoric (Kaplan,
1984). The middle to late 1980s saw the publication of Ulla Connor
and Robert Kaplan’s Writing Across Languages (1987) and Purves’
Writing Across Language and Cultures (1988). Several unpublished
manuscripts, theses, and dissertations on contrastive rhetoric also
attest to a renewed interest in contrastive rhetoric.
Most of these studies have continued to explore Japanese, Chi-
nese, Arabic, and Spanish, thus reflecting our student populations,
but work has also appeared on Korean, Thai, and Hindi; there have
been surprisingly few studies of European languages other than
Spanish, however.


The recent research approaches taken to contrastive rhetoric have
been varied, making comparison of the findings across the analyses
difficult. Some researchers continue to focus on L2 student writing,
but the two main approaches to contrastive rhetoric now seem
either (a) to examine L1 texts from different cultures, often
professional, published work, written for native speakers, and the
rhetorical contexts in which these tests are inscribed; or (b) to
establish textual criteria and search for those qualities in samples of
successful and unsuccessful texts by students writing in their L1.
Some researchers (Ostler, 1988; Santana-Seda, 1975) have con-
tinued Kaplan’s approach, examining the English writing of non-
native English-speaking students to detect systematic textual dif-
ferences in their written English style and that of native speakers.
Taking the position that L1 writing skills are transferable and are
transferred to L2 writing tasks, studies of this kind face the burden
of addressing Mohan and Lo’s argument (1985) that what is being
identified as non-English is, in fact, merely nonskilled, develop-
mental writing.
Another more dubious intuitive research approach has been to
describe the “temperament” of a culture and attempt to deduce
how writers from that culture will write or, alternatively, to use the
writing of a culture to draw conclusions about the temperament of
the culture. Hamady (1960) and Shouby (1951), for example, wrote


about the influence of Arabic on the so called Arab personality, and
although this work is quite old, references to these two articles have
continued to appear in the contrastive rhetoric literature.
From essays by Thai and U.S. high school students on the
generation gap, Bickner and Peyasantiwong (1988) draw conclu-
sions about differences in world views of U.S. and Thai young
people; young people from the U.S. are said to see themselves as the
center of the universe, whereas Thai teens supposedly see the teen
years as transitions to real life, adult life, where they are patiently
waiting to take their rightful places. In another study of Thai and
U.S. high school students’ writing (Indrasutra, 1988), the two groups
of students were asked to write on the topics “I Made a Hard
Decision” and “I Succeeded at Last.” The researcher explains the
Thai students’ greater focus on internal struggle as stemming from
Buddhist training, which emphasizes human inability to affect
external events and which, as a result, causes Thais to focus
inwardly. Edamatsu (1978) uses examples of Japanese writing to
make the case that the Japanese have difficulty thinking “democrat-
ically” (p. 18). A problem with this type of approach to contrastive
rhetoric is obviously the serious danger of stereotyping and over-
The dominant line of inquiry in contrastive rhetoric studies has
been to look at discourse in L1 and compare it with English, or more
exactly, with what English is said to look like. Rather than looking
at actual English writing for his description of English, Kaplan
(1967), for example, relied on style manuals from the 1960s
instructing students how to write proper paragraphs. In fact, one
criticism of contrastive rhetoric’s descriptions of English is directed
at this reliance on style manuals or textbook writers to describe
English writing. Researchers since Kaplan’s time (Braddock, 1974)
have made it clear that professional native-speaker English writers
do not, in fact, necessarily write in a straight line beginning with a
topic sentence and moving directly to support, and so on. There are
numerous variations apparent in a normal English text.
Nevertheless, many who describe English writing still refer to the
straight line pattern as though it fully accounted for English
practices, comparing texts from another L1 to this pattern.
Pandharapande (1984) explains Marathi texts with a diagram of
small spirals within a circle. Basing the discussion on a traditional
view of the English paragraph, this author notes that Marathi does
not follow the English pattern of paragraphs but rather probably
uses the tarka, a traditional Sanskrit unit of organization which
consists of “a logical hypothesis which is examined by providing
evidence to support or reject the hypothesis” (p. 130), thus


permitting opposing points of view in the same paragraph or unit of
discourse. The author regards this type of approach as uncharacter-
istic of English, which the author views as developing only one self-
consistent idea per paragraph.
Like Pandharapande’s research, recent studies of L1 writing have
focused primarily on textual analysis of L1 writing published by
professionals for consumption by native-speaker readers (Clyne,
1984, for German; Dantas-Whitney & Grabe, 1989, for Brazilian
Portuguese; Eggington, 1987, for Korean; Hinds, 1980 & 1987, for
Japanese; Kachru, 1988, for Hindi; Pandharapande, 1984, for
Marathi; Tsao, 1984, for Mandarin; Zellermayer, 1988, for Hebrew).
In this kind of analysis, obviously the researcher must know the L1
very well, but it is also important to select the text carefully. Grabe
(1987) warns that researchers examining or comparing expository
texts, for example, must be sure that they are comparing the same
type of text across cultures. In his examination of texts in English,
Grabe found that the single category of expository writing covered
several subgenres he was able to identify as text types within the
category of expository writing: humanities, general information,
and two different types of natural science texts.
Another problem arising from the comparison of texts across
cultures is related to the frequency of a particular text type in a
particular culture. Hortatory (exhortational) texts are common in
Iran, for example, but uncommon in the U.S. (Houghton & Hoey,
1984). A comparison of that text type in these two cultures then
would yield skewed or invalid results since that type of text appears
with very different frequencies in the two cultures.
Eggington’s work (1987) with academic Korean writing further
illustrates the difficulty in selecting appropriate texts across cultures
for comparison. He finds that Korean academic texts may be
written either in a style similar to that of academic English or in a
more Korean style, depending on whether or not the Korean author
of the text has been trained in an English-speaking country, as
apparently many have. Both text types commonly appear in
journals written for other Korean academics. Clearly, depending on
whether the contrastive rhetoric researcher fell upon one or the
other of these two common text types, the research conclusions
would be quite different. In examining Hindi writing, Kachru
(1984) also finds both Hindi style and English style texts, a situation
stemming from India’s colonial history. Similarly, Clyne (1984)
makes the point that German writing on math and engineering
resembles English style but that writing on chemistry looks more
German, characterized by a greater freedom to bring in broader
issues not directly related to the discussion at hand.


On the other hand, Tsao (1984) explains the text characteristics
specific to Chinese writing and then cites Mo (1982), who finds
those same patterns in English paragraphs! Thus, when examining
professional writing across cultures, it is clearly important to move
beyond the texts themselves to an examination of the rhetorical
context in which they are embedded.


Part of the rhetorical context is educational and rhetorical
tradition. Thus, rather than looking directly at L1 texts, other
researchers have investigated writing prescriptions in different
cultures by looking at current rhetorics or style manuals. However,
while English fairly bulges with style manuals and rhetorics, there
appear to be few style manuals or composition texts for school use
in other cultures, and most of those address specific formal text
features of specific text types, like business letters, or contain
grammatical prescriptions (Kachru, 1988). This approach is, of
course, open to the same criticism directed against dependence on
English style manuals to characterize English prose style.
Other difficulties arise with this approach as well; it is not always
clear how to interpret the manuals’ prescriptions. Attempting to
establish that writing in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not
characterized by indirectness, Mohan and Lo (1985) cite a Chinese
style manual’s exhortations to seek directness and clarity and to
avoid repetition. However, since no examples are given of texts ful-
filling these injunctions, it is difficult to know if these manuals mean
the same thing that English manuals mean by directness and clarity.
Matalene’s descriptions (1985) of her PRC students’ essays charac-
terized them as full of concrete detail; it is not unreasonable to spec-
ulate that such concrete detail might well be what is referred to by
the writers of the Chinese style manual as direct and clear. The
manual’s injunction to avoid repetition might be displayed in a text
which draws no conclusion at the end if the conclusion is taken to be
obvious from the exposition. Yet the possible repetition implied by
an explicit conclusion is expected in English.
Similarly, Eggington (1987) points out that a Korean expository
pattern looks like the typical English introduction-body-conclusion
pattern but that the content and function of those three sections are
different in Korean rhetoric.
In addition to examining writing manuals to learn how writing is
taught, other investigators have attempted to look directly at school
writing instruction, but the results are inconclusive. Although


schools are clearly the dominant influence on student writing,
according to some investigators, few young people in other cultures
are explicitly taught how to write in school. Kachru (1984),
Eggington (1987) and Hinds (1987) note that in India, Korea, and
Japan, respectively, there is little or no direct instruction in writing
in the L1. Hinds (1987) reports that Japanese children study writing
only to the sixth grade.
On the other hand, Liebman-Kleine (1986) surveyed 77 interna-
tional students on their experiences learning to write in their own
languages. Most of these students report having studied writing in
school and, interestingly, report having been instructed to write in
patterns similar to what they were later told was the appropriate
pattern to use in English. While it is possible that these students
were projecting backward their experiences in writing classes in En-
glish, they reported that their school teachers had told them good
writing had an introduction, development with support, and a con-
clusion. French school children are also specifically taught how to
write (Bassetti, 1990), but the textual style they learn is not similar to
English patterns; French children learn to write literary textual
studies called explications de textes and to rely in other school spon-
sored writing on a rigid tripartite text structure of thesis-antithesis-
However young people are initiated into their cultures, the care-
ful investigation by Carson (in press) of literacy instruction in Japan
and the PRC makes clear that reading and writing are complexly
and variously inscribed in cultures, and simple descriptions of
reading and writing instruction in schools are probably inadequate
and perhaps misleading.
In an effort to see how school writing instruction is realized in
actual texts, student writers from different cultural backgrounds
have been assigned the same writing task, and the texts examined
for differences. Indrasutra (1988), and Bickner and Peyasantiwong
(1988) looked at the writing of Thai and U.S. students writing on the
same subjects. Connor and Lauer (1988) examined groups of native
speaker students writing in English from the U. S., Britain, and New
Zealand and noted systematic differences even among these
speakers of English.
Beyond the examination of manuals and direct instruction in
writing, another approach to contrastive rhetoric studies has
been to look more broadly at education in different cultures. Purves’
IEA project, covering 14 countries, investigates types of writing
assignments in high schools (Purves & Takala, 1982). Regretta-
bly, only about one quarter to one third of the school systems
cooperating in the project are Asian, African, or Middle Eastern,


the rest being Western (including locations such as New Zealand). 1
Some researchers have examined student discourse in L1 and
correlated text characteristics with high and low ratings within the
L1 educational system. Jie and Lederman (1988) discuss entrance
exams for Chinese universities. Despite claims that China’s rhetori-
cal preferences are shifting (Hinds, 1987), these authors note that
essays with more traditional features like elaborate metaphors and
literary references are still the ones rated highly in these exams.
Further broadening the examination of the context in which L1
writing takes place, some researchers have looked at a country’s
economic, social, and political history in an attempt to explain text
development. Kachru (1984, 1988), writing about Hindi, points out
that while oral exposition was common in Sanskrit and has influ-
enced Hindi, Hindi expository writing did not really exist before
British colonization and therefore can be expected to show the in-
fluences both of oral Sanskrit exposition and written British exposi-
Matalene (1985) cites Oliver’s discussion (1971) of the historical
political function of rhetoric in ancient China, one quite different
from the rhetorical tradition in the West. Oliver points out that
rhetoric in the Western tradition had as its goal to convince political
equals in a public forum of some political position and, as a result,
placed a great deal of emphasis on the individual speaker’s ability to
reason and to marshal evidence. The Asian tradition Oliver cites
grows out of political relationships entirely different from those
influenced by ancient Greek civilization and therefore imposed a
different duty on the rhetor, who was called upon less to convince
than to announce truth and to arrange the propositions of the
announcement such that it might be easily and harmoniously agreed
upon by referring to communal, traditional wisdom. This type of
research, then, looks at the effect of rhetorical traditions on modern


All these studies constitute one line of inquiry in contrastive
1 Another, ultimately unsuccessful, direction taken by researchers in this project asked
students to indicate preferences for bipolar sets of adjectives describing a text and to
attempt to predict their teachers’ preferences for the same group of texts and descriptors.
Degenhart and Takala (1988) hoped with this research to be able to develop a simple
system that would tabulate cultural preferences for some 24 textual characteristics of a good
essay as perceived by high school students in several different countries. The descriptors
included such terms as (“a good essay should be”) narrowed to one point, exhaustive of the
subject, humorous, formal, precise, abstract, etc. Unfortunately, the research was
unsuccessful because the students were inconsistent in their preferences over time—about
five weeks—and this line of research was dropped.


rhetoric, which has been to analyze the form the texts from various
cultures take. The other major strand in contrastive rhetoric studies
is more data-driven and seems to come more directly from
linguistics. In this approach, researchers target certain features of
discourse and then analyze L1 texts written in a variety of cultures
to see how those languages compare on those features. This is the
basis of Purves’ (1986) analysis of writing samples from the IEA
study, for example. Purves has been able to classify the writing style
of 14 different participating countries using categories like personal
versus impersonal, ornamented versus plain, abstract versus
concrete, single versus multiple focus, and propositional coherence
strategies (if this, then this, for example) versus appositional
coherence strategies (chronological patterns). Thus, Australian
writing style is characterized as highly personal, figurative, single
focus, and propositional; while Finnish is impersonal, plain,
multiple focus, and appositional.
Dantas-Whitney and Grabe (1989) analyzed editorials in Brazilian
Portuguese in the Jornal do Brazil and in English in the Christian
Science Monitor using three criteria: the presence or absence of
narratives, the orientation (that is, the relationship between the
writer and reader), and the formality of the presentation of the
information. They found that the Portuguese and English texts were
similar on the first and third characteristics but differed on the
orientation they exhibited. The English tendency was information-
oriented with a responsibility on the part of the writer to
accommodate the reader, whereas the Portuguese orientation was
interfactional, interpersonal, using more concrete and colloquial
Hinds’ (1987) focus is also on reader versus writer responsibility
for successful communication. He hopes to categorize the rhetorics
of various cultures according to the degree to which the reader is
required to make inferential bridges between propositions and to
deduce meaning from a text, as opposed to the degree of the
writer’s duty to explicitly provide explanations of propositions.
Thus, he analyzes Japanese as using a reader-responsible rhetoric,
English as using a writer-responsible rhetoric, and Chinese as being
in transition from a reader- to a writer-responsible rhetoric.
Similarly, from an examination of translations of Hebrew to English
and English to Hebrew, Zellermayer (1988) concludes that by
evoking shared context between reader and writer, Hebrew writing
requires more reader involvement than does English.
Along similar lines, but in far greater detail, Biber’s (1988)
analyses of different text types and genres in English suggest
a potential direction for contrastive rhetoric studies for both


diachronic and synchronic examinations of text. Biber investigated
the degree to which various English text types might be character-
ized with reference to the presence or absence of categories of
linguistic features. Heavy use of deictics, for example, indicates a
context-dependent type of writing which implies considerable
interactive reader involvement. This detailed examination of the
linguistic features of a text in order to distinguish text types informs
Grabe’s (1987) study of English subgenres of expository prose.
Although cross-linguistic comparisons of this type are as yet
extremely limited (Biber cites a single example of such a study), if
clear and objectively defined linguistic features of texts can distin-
guish among text types in English, presumably these same features
might be defined for other languages, contributing to the descrip-
tive characterization of text types across languages. These research-
ers have thus elaborated a potentially rich methodology for data-
based contrastive rhetoric studies.
Connor’s approach (1987) is somewhat different. Connor estab-
lishes a series of three sets of criteria for argumentative texts: the
text structure (problem-solution), the text’s successive speech acts
(asserting a claim, justifying the claim, and inducing the original
claim from observations), and evidence of awareness of audience.
Essays written in L1 from Finland, Germany, the U. S., and Britain
were then rated holistically. An examination of the highest and
lowest rated essays from each language group reveals that the best
rated essays fulfilled cross-cultural expectations implied by
Connor’s original criteria. In other words, she notes a correlation be-
tween the presence or absence of the features she identifies and a
high or low independent rating, thus implying the existence of a
universal argumentation style which transcends cultural boundaries.
As we see with all these approaches, contrastive rhetoric textual
studies expanded a great deal in the 1980s. While they continue to
examine contrasts in the smallest features of texts, they now also
include investigations of the broad political and historical contexts
for writing and recognize that not simply rhetorical style but also
purpose, task, topic, and audience are culturally informed.
Furthermore, textual studies regard as their domain both diachronic
and synchronic study; Hinds (1987) suggests, for example, that
Chinese is becoming a writer-responsible language having been
reader-responsible. Such analyses are provocative in their implica-
tions for claims about oral and literate cultures by writers such as
Ong (1982) and Olson (1977); the latter argues that the ideal West-
ern text, unlike texts from oral cultures, is the least context-depen-
dent, that is, as writer-responsible as possible. Contrastive rhetoric
studies can, thus, add to our understanding of the structure of texts


and perhaps eventually to a deeper understanding of cultures. The
question remains how these understandings translate into classroom


The findings of modern contrastive rhetorical studies are much
less immediately importable into the ESL writing classroom than
they once seemed. In a sense, this change is positive since rhetorical
patterns of any culture are surely more complex than they were
once thought to be, more dynamic and protean, responding to the
interaction between discourse communities and individual writers
over time and in varied contexts. When this characterization of
written texts from any culture, or any discourse community, is
acknowledged, it becomes much less likely that contrastive rhetoric
can be put to use prescriptively in the classroom. It appears to be
this prescriptive and simplistic application of contrastive rhetoric
insights to which process-oriented teachers and researchers most
object. Thus, as contrastive rhetoric studies become more sophisti-
cated, an important objection to their pedagogical implications is
A second doubt about the applicability of contrastive rhetoric
studies to writing classrooms, indeed, an objection to the validity of
the entire enterprise raised by process-oriented teachers and
researchers concerns the rhetorical contexts from which the texts
studied are drawn. As shown in the warnings and analyses by
Grabe, Eggington, and Clyne, contrastive rhetoric researchers have
become aware of this problem and are attempting to designate with
greater exactness the complex network of textual types, purposes,
readers, places of publication, and other specifics of context from
which their texts are drawn. Clearly, some of the designations will
make the findings of contrastive rhetoric studies inapplicable to
ESL writing classrooms; there is little pedagogical purpose in
discovering the prevalence of a particular style of writing in, for
example, Japanese magazine articles if Japanese students are not
writing magazine articles.
In suggesting different slants on the development of schemata or
on other goals of writing classrooms, I do not wish to imply that a
textual orientation is the polar opposite of a process orientation or
that these orientations are mutually exclusive. They certainly do not
have to be, and most teachers probably focus on different aspects
of text study and text creation at different times and to different
degrees depending on the particular class. Nonetheless, it is


worthwhile to note that these approaches imply different pedagog-
ical foci.
A writing pedagogy that embraces the textual orientation of
contrastive rhetoric would work to actively foster the construction
in students of rhetorical schemata which hopefully correspond to
those of English-speaking readers. A difference, then, between such
a pedagogy and one less likely to be interested in contrastive
rhetoric findings, a process orientation, for example, would center
on the approach taken for the development of schemata. A textual
orientation suggests that schemata can be directly taught while a
process orientation would hope to induce the construction of
schemata indirectly, perhaps through student contact with target
language (or, more precisely, target discourse community) read-
ings. A process pedagogy appears to assume that schemata are or
can be absorbed unconsciously, perhaps in somewhat the same way
as comprehensible input is thought to promote acquisition of gram-
matical forms (Krashen, 1981). In a process-oriented classroom, if
L2 readings are used, they do not typically serve as examples of suc-
cessful target language communication but rather as sources for
ideas or touchstones for personal interactions and reactions. Their
content is to be evaluated against personal experience. The
questions asked of a text are likely to be: What does the author
mean? Does it make sense to you? Do you agree? Have you had
similar experiences? A writing class with a greater textual orienta-
tion, an English for Academic/Specific Purposes class, for example,
is more likely to ask: What are the main sections of the piece? What
is in each section? What textual devices are used to advance the ar-
gument? What is the tone? These questions echo those of
contrastive rhetoric research.
This is not to say that a process pedagogy ignores structure, but
that the focus of such a writing course would privilege the structure
of the student’s evolving text rather than the structure of an outside
text. By the same token, a textual orientation does not require
students to ignore content but rather might attempt to discover how
structures promote meaning in texts—by comparing them,
analyzing them, looking for ways in which they duplicate each
other, trying to uncover patterns and variations on patterns, patterns
which advance meaning.
Although a textual orientation appears at first glance to concern
itself primarily with form, the true or ultimate focus of a textual
orientation, and of contrastive rhetoric studies, and an appropriate
pedagogical agenda of a textual orientation in a writing class, is a
focus not on form but on audience. At their most pedagogically
useful, contrastive rhetoric studies concern themselves with the


social construction of knowledge within discourse communities. In
other words, an appropriate textual pedagogy does not construe
audience simplistically as merely a reader or readers with particular
preferences or opinions which must be accommodated by the writ-
er, but rather implies an attempt “to tap into the consensual con-
struction” (Rubin, 1988, p. 28) of such matters as how, when, and
where a point is established and supported in a text within the tar-
get discourse community. Similarly, contrastive rhetoric attempts to
articulate the parameters of that consensual construction.
This is the core of the problem ESL students face. How can they
tap into the dynamic consensual construction of knowledge-
through-discourse when they are precisely not participants in that
consent. Donald Bartholomae (1985) makes the point that native
English-speaking writing students are initiates into the discourse
community of the university.2 When they write for that community,
of which they are not yet full-fledged members, they are required
to imagine themselves as members, to take on the role of members
of the community, and, as Bartholomae says, to “invent the universi-
ty,” that is, to attempt to represent that community to themselves,
and to hold that representation in mind as they write. ESL students
are also inventing the university, in Bartholomae’s sense, but in most
cases are likely to have already in place at least the beginnings (and
for graduate students perhaps quite an elaborate version) of another
competing representation of the university and of the discourse
expectations of that community. At their most pedagogically useful,
contrastive rhetoric studies simplify the students’ task by offering
glimpses into the differences between those two representations.
These glimpses are intended to help students present themselves
(i.e., their texts) as already part of the discourse community they are
It should be clear that the distinction between a process
orientation and a textual orientation in a writing pedagogy is not the
simple distinction between form and content. Both attempt to
create appropriate text schemata in writing students, both work to
initiate students into the target discourse community, and both
focus on the discovery of meaning—but in different ways. One is
not innately more prescriptive than the other, but each draws its
ability to lighten the student writer’s load from a different source:
one from idea exploration and the exploitation of students’ own
cognitive resources, the other from an exploration of how other
2 For the sake of simplicity, I refer to a university “discourse community” as though there
were a single community. Clearly, this is not the case even within a single university in a
single English-speaking country, not to mention across the many countries and academic
settings in which advanced writing in English is taught.


writers have solved meaning problems and from a recognition that
different cultures have evolved different ways of solving those
problems. It should also be clear that a primary focus on one of
these approaches to teaching writing in no way, in and of itself,
must entail the exclusion of the other.


Contrastive rhetoric and contrastive rhetoric methodology are
still in their “formative stages” (Purves, 1988, p. 15). In theory,
contrastive rhetoric studies potentially have a great deal to offer
classroom teachers. In the case of EFL writing teachers dealing with
groups of EFL students from a single native language and
educational background, the benefits of contrastive rhetorical
analyses are perhaps more obvious, particularly if the students have
consciously learned contrasting text forms in their native languages,
as might be the case, for example, with the French students
mentioned earlier.
At this point, however, the immediate practical uses of the
findings of contrastive rhetoric for ESL writing teachers are not
altogether clear. But these immediate, practical pedagogical
implications are an issue worth raising. What are ESL writing
teachers to do with the information that cultures approach writing
differently? Obviously, whether their pedagogy is process oriented
or textually oriented, teachers will most likely not be trained in the
specific rhetorics of various cultures and will probably simply more
or less impose typical English forms on all nonnative speakers,
regardless of their L1, in much the same way English grammar is
“imposed,” in most cases, without regard to a contrastive analysis of
the L1 and L2.
If this is the case, does contrastive rhetoric have anything to
contribute now, during its formative stages, to classroom teaching?
Ideally, contrastive rhetoric studies will help avoid stereotypes
based on failing to recognize that preferences in writing styles are
culturally informed. More practically, however, perhaps teachers
will, in fact, retain and use information on a variety of Lls: that
Spanish rhetoric requires longer introductions than English does;
that Japanese employs a reader-responsible rhetoric while English
favors a writer-responsible one; that certain ways of structuring
arguments appear to be admired in a variety of cultures. This
information is not trivial and can potentially lead teachers to a
deeper understanding of text structure, which will help both
teachers and students analyze qualities of texts that are admired and
considered to represent successful communication. Furthermore, as


many teachers will attest, when conveyed to L2 student writers, the
findings of contrastive rhetoric often produce instant enlightenment
about their writing in English, as students suddenly become
conscious of the implicit assumptions behind the way they construct
written ideas and behind the way English does.
Unfortunately, this sudden enlightenment does not, however,
mean sudden improvement, as Schlumberger and Mangelsdorf
(1989) show in their research. They directly lectured on some of the
findings of contrastive rhetoric studies to one group of students, but
this attention focused on contrastive rhetoric seemed to have no
effect on the students’ subsequent writing compared with that of a
control group. This finding is consistent with the results of research
with native speakers which shows that clear, even profound
cognitive awareness of rhetorical strategies does not necessarily
translate into the ability to use that knowledge in actual writing
situations (Quick, 1983). As language and writing teachers well
know, the ability to understand may far exceed the skill to use that
Nevertheless, contrastive rhetoric can bring a different kind of
benefit. Students who are having trouble writing in English and
who are made aware of cultural differences in rhetoric suddenly
view themselves, not as suffering from individual inadequacies, but
as coming from a particular rhetorical tradition, which they must
retain of course, but which cannot be applied wholesale to English
writing. To help her students make their own rhetorical traditions
visible to themselves, Liebman (1988) has had writing classes do
ethnographic research, looking for the supposedly preferred
writing style of their own cultures by analyzing published texts or
letters in their L1. The metacognitive awareness students can
develop in this way is one more step along the road to the
realization that writing consists of making choices, an important
insight for young writers to develop.
As for changing students’ native writing style preferences, it
seems clear that ESL teachers have a responsibility to teach the
expectations of the English audience to L2 writers. Research in
reading shows that readers understand better what they are familiar
with and that applies both to content and to form, that is, to
rhetorical patterns of development (Carrell, 1984a). Recall studies
(Connor, 1984; Carrell, 1984a) show that readers recall texts better
if the information is presented in a form they expect or are familiar
with. This means that our students’ texts will be easier for their
professors to read if the writers show the kind of audience
awareness that comes from knowing what the rhetorical expecta-
tions of the reader are and whether these student writers provide for


them. While it is always difficult, even for a native-speaker writer,
to anticipate reader needs, for nonnative speakers this problem is
exacerbated, and yet misjudging the amount of explicit bridging the
reader needs may result in textual incoherence. Directly confronting
the issue of the varieties of rhetorics and resulting expectations of
native-speaker readers may help ESL students become more aware
of themselves as members of a variety of discourse communities.
The exploration of rhetorical contrasts across cultures may also
help us to avoid uncritically adopting techniques from native-
speaker composition classrooms into TESL contexts. In a touching
personal account of the confrontation between differing rhetorical
expectations, Fan Shen (1989), a Chinese graduate student in the
U. S., describes her reaction to being told, in her literature class, to
write naturally, to be herself, to find her own voice. She quickly
realized that she could not possibly “be herself,” her Chinese self,
and write a text that would be acceptable, or even comprehensible,
to an English-speaking audience. Instead, she found herself forced
to develop an English “self,” one that would correspond to the
expectations of “self” in the U.S. academic discourse community.
Contrastive rhetoric studies help us to remember that the idea of
“being yourself,” or writing elegantly, or communicating clearly
and convincingly has no reality outside a particular cultural and
rhetorical context and that our discourse community is only one of

I would like to thank Tony Silva and two anonymous TESOL Quarterly reviewers
for their careful readings and insightful comments.

Ilona Leki is Associate Professor of English at the University of Tennessee. Her
publications include Academic Writing: Techniques and Tasks (St. Martin’s Press,
1989); Reading in the Composition Classroom: Second Language Perspectives
(Ed., with Joan Carson, Newbury House, in press); and Understanding ESL
Writers: A Guide for Teachers (Boynton-Cook, in press). She is coeditor (with
Tony Silva) of the forthcoming Journal of Second Language Writing.


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The TESOL Quarterly welcomes evaluative reviews of publications relevant to
TESOL professionals. In addition to textbooks and reference materials, these
include computer and video software, testing instruments, and other forms of
nonprint materials.


University of Washington

Recent Publications on the Crises in U.S. Classrooms

Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and
Achievements of America’s Underprepared.
Mike Rose. New York: The Free Press, 1989. Pp. xiv + 255,
Small Victories.
Samuel G. Freedman. New York: Harper & Row, 1990. Pp.
xii + 431.

■ Both of these books are about the “small victories” that are possible
for students who live their “lives on the boundary.” Rose narrates his
own experiences and those of the students he comes in contact with—
students who, like himself, have been marginalized because of class,
race, poverty, and difference. Freedman chronicles a year in the life
of a high school teacher, Jessica Siegel, her school community, and
her students—students who represent “all the confusion an immigrant
society can offer” (p. 31). In both cases these authors provide us with
rich, complex, and often painful accounts of how and why these
students came to be relegated to the borders of society and schooling,
facing not only economic and political barriers, but barriers posed by
the very schools they entered. As we come to understand the sources
for these students’ difficulties and frustrations, we also come to see
the students as Rose and Siegel do: as individuals with promise and
potential—this despite the fact that this vision is constantly
challenged and compromised by the larger contexts within which
these students live.
Rose’s volume (now available in paperback) begins with his
autobiographical account of growing up as a child of immigrants
who enters the world of school and comes to understand firsthand
what it means to be labelled underprepared, to feel disoriented and
alienated. The story of his own “journey from the high school
vocational track up through the latticework of the American

University” (p. 8) is interwoven with his reflections about the range
of students he comes to teach—for example, children from
impoverished neighborhoods who were identified as the school’s
poorest readers, college students who were designated as
“remedial” and mystified by the academic work they were
assigned, and adults in a literacy program who represented
“America’s underclass,” who “got lost in our schools” (p. 215). It is
through these individual cases, recollected in rich detail, that Rose
makes the argument that schools, with their reductive assumptions
about language and literacy and their mechanistic approaches to
curriculum, make it difficult if not impossible for these students to
experience success:
There ended up being little room in such a curriculum . . . to explore the
real stuff of literacy: conveying something meaningful, communicating
information, creating narratives, shaping what we see and feel and
believe into written language. . . . The curriculum I saw drained the life
out of all this, reduced literacy to the dry dismembering of language—
not alive, not communicative at all. . . . It seemed to me that such a
curriculum was especially troublesome for children like the ones in my
class: children who had not been prepped in their homes to look at
language in this dissected, unnatural way; children for whom English
was a foreign language; children of particularly mobile families who fell
out of the curricular lockstep demanded by this approach to language;
. . . children who, like me long ago, just didn’t see the sense in such
analysis, and, before long, were missing it, not getting it and falling
behind. (pp. 109-110)
This argument runs through Rose’s other writing (1985; 1988); here
it is extended and bolstered by the fully drawn and haunting
portraits of individual students whose problems are directly related
to the ways in which these students have been (misdiagnosed and
characterized. In the case of Tranquilino, a Spanish-speaking adult
attending an English language program, for example, it becomes
clear that his difficulties stemmed not so much from his limited
“skills,” but from his attitude toward learning the English language
and from his feelings about a US. classroom. And Spanish-speaking
Lucia, a single, working mother, experienced frustrations that had
less to do with her ability to read and understand English than with
the conflict between her cultural perspective, personal background,
family history, and the assumptions underlying the work she was
It is also through case studies such as these that Rose reveals the
kind of teaching and engagement that give rise to the development
of voice, confidence, and competence. He understands that for
these students, school represent-s an unfamiliar culture, with its own


language and sets of conventions, and that conditions must be
conducive for acquisition to occur:
A traveler in a foreign land best learns names of people and places, how
to express ideas, ways to carry on a conversation by moving around in
the culture, participating as fully as he can, making mistakes, saying
things half right, blushing, then being encouraged by a friendly native
speaker to try again. He’ll pick up the details of grammar and usage as
he goes along. What he must not do is hold back from the teeming flow
of life, must not sit in his hotel room and drill himself on all possible
gaffes before entering the streets. He’d never leave the room. (p. 142)
Rose demonstrates what makes it possible for these students to
“leave the room,” venture forth, cross the boundary. By teaching on
the basis of the “power of invitation” (p. 132), Rose immerses
students in reading, writing, and thinking that allow them to make
connections between what they already know and what they are
striving to understand, to take risks with a language and culture they
view as forbidding, and to discover their own capacities as learners.
His own success and failure as a student and the experiences of the
students he works with make a compelling argument against current
educational practices that in their very attempt to deal with the so-
called literacy crisis inhibit rather than foster the development of
language and literacy.

Like the students described by Rose, the students who populate

the world of Seward High School in Freedman’s book, a school that
has become the “catchbasin for poor black, Hispanic, and Asian
children” (p. 118), have experienced multiple failure, perform
below grade level, find little connection between school and their
social realities, feel vulnerable and disenfranchised. In fact,
Freedman uses the same metaphor: They have “traveled to a
border, to a frontier. Some will never cross it” (p. 9). Here we find
students, who are the newest immigrants, who come from homes
where English is not spoken:
an American-born black alongside a Panamanian who has the same
pigment but speaks Spanish at home; a Chinese in pleated trousers and
aviator glasses in front of a compatriot with crudely hacked hair and a
second-hand sweatshirt; a Wilberto next to a Wilfredo; three Robertos,
one of whom wants to be called Domingo. (p. 31)
Freedman creates a rich tapestry as he describes these students,
their teacher Jessica Siegel, her colleagues, and the broader socio-
cultural/economic context of this inner-city high school. We get to
know and care deeply about Siegel’s students and share her vision
that they are heroes, even those who fail. In the case of two of these

students, See Wai and Carlo, Freedman provides full biographical
details of their histories, tracing their childhoods in their native
countries and recounting their struggles of readjustment in the
United States, struggles that included their inevitable frustrations
with the English language:
See Wai wrote and thought in Chinese, and that was a problem. His
interests were history and literature, not mathematics and science, so he
could not hide his flawed English behind formulas and equations. He
agonized over English, bending syllables like soft wire and handling
idioms like hot coals. (pp. 205-206)
In the case of Carlos,
English confounded him, with its incongruous grammar and its devious
diction, and even in a bilingual class, he needed to repeat himself three
or four times to be understood. . . . And when he erred too often, the
teacher commanded him to write the troublesome word on the board
one hundred times. (p. 282)
Seamlessly woven into these biographies is the kind of documenta-
tion that enriches and informs the individual lives of these students,
while allowing us to view these individuals as prototypical. In the
chapter devoted to See Wai, for example, we learn about his
particular circumstances at the same time that we come to see him
as representative of other immigrants who left China in search of
“Gum San,” the “Gold Mountain,” who settled in Chinatown, a
place that contradicted the Chinese vision of “Gum San,” and yet
were expected to fulfill the stereotypical image of the “model
Freedman’s ability (and Rose’s) to blend narrative, historical
account, and analysis represents, interestingly enough, exactly the
kind of connection making that Siegel enables her students to
undertake. She wants them to see that “history and literature aren’t
separate,” that “everything’s connected” (p. 271). So, like Rose,
Siegel insists on challenging students like See Wai and Carlos with
the types of sophisticated reading, writing, and reflection that belie
the predictions of these students’ standardized test scores; she
invites them to read, write, and use language meaningfully-this
despite, or rather because of, their limited language and literacy.
She recognizes that these students do not speak English at home,
may not have books at home, have learned to avoid and fear
writing, yet “tries to disarm the fear and soften the shame that
surround writing. . . . She practices the art of the possible” (p. 34).
We observe classroom events as Freedman captures Siegel’s
intelligence, passion, patience, gestures, and movements, and her


students’ keen insights, senses of humor, honesty, and wit. We are
enthralled by dramatic classroom scenes (for example, the sessions
exploring the links and tensions between The Great Gatsby, Martin
Luther King, and the American Dream) during which Siegel poses
questions, coaxes, and waits, trusting that students will discover the
relationship between literature, history, and their own lives.
But with the success come also disappointment and despair.
Given the poverty, crime, and social ills that surround Seward High
School, there are students whose circumstances are so tragic, whose
difficulties so relentless, that even the intervention of a teacher like
Siegel is futile. Additionally, we find at Seward the same conditions
that are typical of high school instruction—the deadly routine, the
overcrowded classes, the short periods, the artificial divisions
within the curriculum, the narrowly prescribed objectives and goals
(see, for example, Applebee, 1984; Goodlad, 1984; Oakes, 1985;
Sizer, 1984). Siegel, too, finds herself constrained and stalemated by
the bureaucracy and system that victimize her students. As she
punches a time clock, Siegel likens her school to a steel mill, and the
burdens of her work repeatedly threaten to overtake her. The rigid
practices, inflexible regulations, and insensitive conditions that
impinge on her work (for example, the process of “equalization” of
class size that embroils Siegel in a battle to keep an additional
student in her class, or the Teacher’s Choice [budget] Program that
paradoxically gives teachers little choice in determining their most
critical needs) eventually do overwhelm her, forcing her to give up
teaching and reclaim a life for herself.

Both Rose and Siegel model a pedagogy of possibilities, but these

possibilities are too often confounded by forces beyond their
control. The educational institutions within which they teach and
the larger social, political, and cultural contexts within which these
institutions are situated must be understood and challenged, Rose
and Freedman argue, if students are to cross the barriers that
exclude them. As Siegel recognizes, “shaking poor minority
[students] out of that inchoate, enveloping belief in their own
insignificance demands more than pedagogy” (p. 50). At the crux of
these portraits of two master teachers lies the realization that unless
education is viewed as part of a whole constellation of social forces,
unless we share in the responsibility of critically examining and
transforming our institutions, poor and minority students will
remain on the boundary, teachers like Siegel are bound to be
defeated, and the victories are likely to be small indeed.

Applebee, A. N. (1984). Contexts for learning to write: Studies of
secondary school instruction. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Goodlad, J. I. (1984). A place called school. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. N e w
Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Rose, M. (1985). The language of exclusion: Writing instruction at the
university. College English, 47, 341-359.
Rose, M. (1988). Narrowing the mind and page: Remedial writers and
cognitive reductionism. College Composition and Communication, 39,
Sizer, T. R. (1984). Horace’s compromise: The dilemma of the American
high school. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

University of Massachusetts at Boston

Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education

Rosalie Pedalino Porter. New York: Basic Books, 1990. Pp.
xiii + 285.

Rosalie Porter’s book on the politics of bilingual education was

written to address the “widespread lack of understanding of this
controversial field” (p. 1). The arguments she presents are based on
her experience teaching bilingual classes, earning a doctorate in
second language acquisition, administering an ESL and bilingual
program, and researching during a year as a Bunting fellow at
Radcliffe College.
The introduction to the book, “The Bilingual Controversy,” sets
the scene. Here Porter introduces her premise that native language
instruction retards the acquisition of English, and previews the
arguments that will be presented in the rest of the book. In chapter
1, Porter recounts her “Firsthand Experience in Educating
Language Minorities.” She tells how she entered the field of
bilingual education and how her teaching experiences led her to
question the basic assumptions of bilingual education. Chapter 2
shows her “Confronting the Political Power of the Bilingual
Bureaucracy”; the Massachusetts State Department of Education
put pressure on the Newton Public Schools, where Porter was
directing the bilingual education program, to provide more native
language instruction. After 4 years of “bureaucratic vindictiveness”
(P. 44) and “trumped-up charges” (p. 46), the case had still not been


settled in 1989. This chapter also summarizes efforts made in
Massachusetts in recent years to pass legislation giving local
communities the option to provide either bilingual or alternative
programs for linguistic-minority students.
Chapter 3, “Reassessing the Assumptions Underlying Twenty
Years of Bilingual Education,” presents arguments against the major
positions on which bilingual education is based. Porter contends
that there is no convincing evidence that bilingual education is
effective and cites research which purports to contradict the
assumptions of vernacular advantage, native language literacy first,
and linguistic interdependence. Chapter 4 describes bilingual
education programs in West Germany, the Soviet Union, Sweden,
and Canada. By summarizing their strengths, weaknesses, and the
controversies surrounding them, Porter gives us the opportunity of
“Learning from Other Multilingual Societies.”
Chapter 5 provides “The Fresh Breeze of Innovation in U.S.
Alternative Programs” through a detailed description of the
program in Newton, and information about ESL programs in
Berkeley, CA, and Fairfax, VA. Porter claims that linguistic
minority students in these programs are able to achieve grade-level
equivalence in regular classrooms after just a few years. This
chapter also includes descriptions of structured immersion and two-
way programs as alternatives to bilingual education. In chapter 6,
Porter looks “Beyond Bilingual Education” to issues of language
policy, cultural pluralism, and nationhood. Here she critiques the
romanticism of the ethnic identity movement and presents her
fundamental assumptions that cultural pluralism will prevent
integration and that teaching language-minority values will prevent
students from learning English. In chapter 7, Porter addresses the
claim that bilingual education can provide a much-needed resource
of literate bilingual citizens; she views this position as flawed by the
unlikelihood of achieving “balanced bilingualism” (p. 207) in the
United States. Her final chapter on “Decisions for the Future” calls
for changes in federal funding, liberalization of state bilingual
education laws, and educational improvements such as cooperative
learning, business/school partnerships, dropout prevention
programs, extended school years, and improved teacher training.
This book is a fascinating chronicle of Porter’s journey from a
first-grade classroom where she did not understand the language of
instruction to a seat on the National Advisory Council on Bilingual
Education. If it were an autobiography, it could be praised for its
powerful statement of a personal belief shaped by experience and
maintained in the face of opposition which almost amounted to
persecution according to her account. However, this is not an

autobiography; it is a book which purports to be a serious scholarly
work. As such, it has some strengths, but several major flaws.
The strengths of the book include Porter’s honest and thorough
presentation of both sides of the English-only debate. Her
suggestions for improving education, while not original, are
comprehensive and well-presented. Her repeated statement that
bilingual education is often unnecessarily segregative is not
unfounded, although many efforts are being made to find workable
models which will achieve more integration without sacrificing
native language instruction (Brisk, 1991; Irujo, 1989). Her insistence
that the state of Massachusetts needs to do more for linguistic-
minority students who are not in bilingual education programs is
justified, and steps are being taken in that direction. Her pride in the
ESL program which she developed is well-deserved: Newton could
serve as a model for any system wishing to implement a program
for linguistic-minority students where native language instruction is
either not possible or not necessary.
Unfortunately, the flaws of the book far outweigh its strengths.
Because Porter’s basic premise is not unequivocally supported by
the evidence, she resorts to unscholarly strategies to make her point.
The first part of the book reads like a personal vendetta against the
Massachusetts Bureau of Transitional Bilingual Education, which
may or may not be justified, but is hardly evidence in support of the
assertion that bilingual education has failed. In the rest of the book,
Porter systematically ignores research which does not agree with
her position, and in several cases misrepresents the findings of a
study by quoting only certain aspects of the results. She uses the
work of other researchers extensively, but replaces their conclusions
with her own. Much of her evidence against bilingual education is
anecdotal, and in at least one case with which I am personally
familiar, she has twisted events to make them appear to support her
It may not be realistic to expect a scholar who is promoting a
controversial position to present both sides of the issue with equal
depth and objectivity. However, it is not justifiable to give the
impression, as Porter does, that there is no research evidence for the
opposing view. For example, she presents the Baker and de Kanter
(1983) study which concluded that there was no evidence for the
effectiveness of bilingual education, but ignores the Willig (1985)
meta-analysis of the same data. Willig found that “in every instance
where there did not appear to be crucial inequalities between
experimental and comparison groups, children in the bilingual
programs averaged higher than the comparison children on
criterion instruments” (p. 312). Also ignored is a review of the


research evidence on bilingual education prepared by the U.S.
General Accounting Office (1987). In this report, the majority of a
panel of 10 experts agreed that the evidence indicates that the use of
the native language helps students learn English.
There are several examples of Porter’s misrepresentation of
others’ research findings in order to support her own views. Using
Genesee’s work on Canadian immersion programs, which operate
in a very different sociocultural environment from U.S. bilingual
programs, she quotes a statement from his 1983 paper saying that
early use of the student’s first language interferes with second
language learning. However, she omits any reference to his
statement in the same paper that the advocacy of Canadian-style
immersion programs for minority-language children in the United
States is “unsubstantiated and conceptually weak” (p. 31). She cites
the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory’s bilingual
reading study (Mace-Matluck & Hoover, 1984) as showing no
advantage for initial reading instruction in the native language. One
of the authors of that study, however, interprets these results as
being due to the fact that “support in Spanish language appears to
be terminated too soon to yield positive results in Spanish reading or
maximum benefits in English reading” (Mace-Matluck, 1984, p. 4).
Porter relies extensively on McLaughlin (1985) for information
about programs for linguistic-minority students in other countries
and uses his data to conclude that these programs are ineffective.
McLaughlin’s conclusion, however, is that “what evidence there is
. . . favors a combined approach in which both languages are used
from the beginning of schooling” (p. 58).
Porter’s memory of certain events also seems to be colored by her
desire to use them to support her position. She reports that “At a
meeting in Massachusetts of the executive board of the English as a
Second Language Teachers state organization [MATSOL], one
board member asked us to consider whether, in fact, the teaching of
English is an act of cultural imperialism” (p. 217). The actual
context was that the topic of English teaching as cultural im-
perialism was suggested as a possibility for a panel discussion to be
sponsored by MATSOL at the Society for International Education,
Training, and Research (SIETAR) Conference which was to be
held in Boston that year. The scope of the discussion would have
been international, with any possible application to the United
States being only one of several subtopics. She is also in error in
reporting that the suggestion came from “a faculty member of the
Department of English as a Second Language at our state
university” (p. 217); in fact the suggestion came from me.
This incident is undoubtedly a minor one, but it casts doubt on

the objectivity of Porter’s account of many other events reported in
the book, just as the examples given of her misrepresentation of
others’ work cast doubt on the objectivity of all of her research.
When she claims that linguistic-minority students in all-English
programs can achieve grade-level equivalence in 1 to 3 years, she
supports this claim by citing “author’s findings based on research” in
various school districts (p. 261), although she supplies no data to
substantiate her claim. One cannot help wondering why her
findings differ so greatly from those of Collier (1987). In a study
involving large numbers of limited English proficient (LEP)
students in all-English programs, Collier found that “depending on
age, it may take these advantaged LEP students anywhere from 4 to
8 years or more to reach the 50th NCE [normal curve equivalent] on
standardized tests across all the subject areas” (p. 637). Collier also
concluded that those children who took longer to reach grade-level
equivalence (the 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds) were those who “received
the least amount of L1 [first language] schooling in comparison with
all other older arrivals in the study” (p. 632).
Several aspects of Porter’s position are puzzling because of their
inconsistency. She advocates structured immersion, based on the
Canadian model, as an alternative to bilingual education,
overlooking the fact that Canadian immersion programs are in
reality bilingual programs, with instruction in the native language
introduced in the third or fourth year and maintained throughout
the rest of the program. She dismisses the notion that bilingual
education can contribute to the linguistic resources of the United
States, arguing that it is unrealistic to expect this country to become
a nation of “balanced bilingual,” but ignoring the fact that
individuals and societies may reap the benefits of bilingualism
without achieving full bilingualism. Her position on this matter is
especially puzzling in light of her call for improved foreign
language programs. Her claim that she wants “to generate a national
discussion of the issues without name-calling” (p. 255) is also
puzzling, given the title of the book. To speak with forked tongue
is “to speak deceptively” (p. iv), and she accuses the bilingual
education “establishment” of speaking with forked tongue for the
last 20 years in promoting native language instruction. This implicit
assertion that advocates of bilingual education are liars is indicative
of the tone of the book, which is unfortunate. Porter’s academic
training, extensive research, and writing skills could have enabled
her to write a book providing the rational discussion which she says
she wanted to generate. Instead, she has added to “the myths, mis-
representations and distortions” (p. 1) which she purports to dispel.
Rosalie Porter and I have worked in ESL and bilingual education


in Massachusetts for many years. Our careers have followed parallel
courses: We both returned to school to finish undergraduate degrees
in Spanish after raising our children; we both got jobs teaching in
the exciting new field of bilingual education in the 1970s; we later
earned master’s and doctoral degrees in bilingual education and
second language acquisition. Her experiences in a bilingual
classroom convinced her that native language instruction did not
work; mine convinced me that it was essential that students have a
solid base in their native language in order to make progress in
English. I did not want to write a negative review of a book written
by a colleague, but the issues are too important for me to remain
silent. Many TESOL practitioners are not as informed as they might
be on issues involving use of the native language in instruction, and
a personal odyssey such as this can be very convincing. In spite of
Porter’s assertions to the contrary, there is strong evidence that
native language instruction does not delay the acquisition of
English. On the contrary, it not only facilitates learning English, it
also avoids interrupting the learning of other subjects. Native
language instruction can aid limited English proficient students, and
is indispensable for many.

Baker, K. A., & de Kanter, A. A. (1982). Effectiveness of bilingual
education: A review of the literature (Technical analysis report series).
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Brisk, M. (1991). Language and cultural harmony: An integrated bilingual
program. Unpublished manuscript, Boston University.
Collier, V. P. (1987). Age and rate of acquisition of second language for
academic purposes. TESOL Quarterly, 21 (3), 617-641.
Genesee, F. (1983). Bilingual education of majority-language children: The
immersion experiments in review. Applied Psycholinguistics, 4, 1-46.
Irujo, S. (1989, May). Bilingualism—An asset. Paper presented at the
NABE Annual Conference, Miami, FL.
Mace-Matluck, B. J. (1984). SEDL bilingual reading study. Handout
prepared for the Workshop on Research in Child Bilingualism, National
Center for Bilingual Research, Los Alamitos, CA.
Mace-Matluck, B. J., & Hoover, W. A. (1984). Teaching reading to
bilingual children study (Executive summary). Austin, TX: Southwest
Educational Development Laboratory.
McLaughlin, B. (1985). Second language acquisition in childhood: Vol. 2.
School-age children (2nd ed.). Hillside, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
United States General Accounting Office (1987). Bilingual education: A
new look at the research evidence (Briefing report to the Chairman,
Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives).
Washington, DC: Author.

Willig, A. C. (1985). A meta-analysis of selected studies on the
effectiveness of bilingual education. Review of Educational Research,
55, 269-317.

Boston University

The Second Language Curriculum

Robert Keith Johnson (Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1989. Pp. xxii + 314.

The Second Language Curriculum, edited by Robert Keith

Johnson, contributes to the growing body of writing on curriculum
design. Written from a learner-centered perspective, the articles
contained in this volume demonstrate sensitivity to the contribu-
tions that students can make to curriculum design. These articles
give practical applications for theoretical concepts about the role
that students should play in classroom planning and practice.
The Second Languuge Curriculum is published as part of the
Cambridge Applied Linguistics series edited by Michael H. Long
and Jack C. Richards. This book addresses issues of curriculum
planning, practice, and evaluation from various perspectives (e.g.,
teacher, planner, evaluator, student); however, the focus is on
decision making at an institutional or classroom level. Readings
examine practical issues faced by teachers and local administrators,
but at the same time they examine the underlying theoretical
considerations which guide decision making. By supporting their
practical suggestions with theoretical justification, the authors hope
to enable teachers to make more informed decisions about
curriculum planning.
The book is divided into five major sections: “Curriculum
Planning”; “Ends/Means Specification”; “Programme Implementa-
tion”; “Classroom Implementation”; and “Evaluation.” The first
four sections correspond to the stages of the decision-making
process of planning a language curriculum. These four stages
involve specifying the aims of the curriculum, considering practical
constraints, and collaborating with the participants of the program.
Evaluation, the topic of the fifth section of this volume, is defined
by Brown as “the systematic collection and analysis of all relevant
information necessary to promote the improvement of a curricu-
lum, and assess its effectiveness and efficiency, as well as the
participants’ attitudes within the context of the particular in-
stitutions involved” (p. 223). Because evaluation is so critical to the


formation of a solid language curriculum, the authors argue that it
should be performed during all four previous stages.
The first section of the book, “Curriculum Planning,” provides a
general overview of the issues involved in developing and
modifying a curriculum. In the first chapter, Johnson develops a
framework for the stages of planning discussed throughout the
book. Next, Rodgers examines the political issues which influence
the decision-making process and also provides a helpful checklist
for anyone involved in the process at present. The checklist includes
a scale for rating major factors to be considered in curriculum
planning (i.e., knowledge factors, learner factors, instructional
factors, management factors). This section closes with Hargreaves’
schema for integrating evaluation into program design.
The following section, entitled “Ends/Means Specification,”
focuses on the importance of letting learners’ needs shape decisions
about the content and method of the second language (L2)
curriculum. Chapters by both Berwick and Brindley highlight the
need for negotiation between teachers and learners about what will
be taught and how it will be taught. Berwick outlines the theoretical
approaches to syllabus design (e.g., design based on specific com-
petencies, on cognitive or learning processes, on social activities and
problems), then explains the role of student input in each approach.
In the next chapter, Swales stresses the need to view language
programs in their “realpolitik” (p. 85) contexts, considering factors
of economics and politics. This section of The Second Language
Curriculum is both thought provoking and insightful, although
more concrete examples of how these approaches have been used
would have been beneficial.
The third section, “Programme Implementation,” examines issues
involving teacher training, faculty selection, materials design, and
materials selection. Pennington outlines a strategy for training,
organizing, and maintaining a language program faculty. Next,
Breen, Candlin, Dam, and Gabrielsen describe the evolution of a
series of teacher training workshops and the lessons they learned
from each successive workshop. In the following chapter on
materials design, Low presents different ways to structure course
units, but his explanation is not always clear. Next, Littlejohn and
Scott illuminate many of the underlying assumptions of ESL texts,
such as assumptions about the nature of knowledge, the nature of
learning, and role relations within the classroom. This chapter will
help guide the classroom teacher in his or her choice of classroom
The following section, “Classroom Implementation,” places a
strong emphasis on the “hidden agenda” of learners. Nunan

explores this notion, suggesting ways in which teachers can
ascertain and address students’ agendas. Breen makes a distinction
between what is planned, what is taught, and what is learned in the
L2 curriculum, and gives advice on how teachers can cope with any
discrepancy among the three elements. In a chapter on the need to
examine classroom exercises in the context of a theoretical
framework, Stern emphasized that L2 professionals need to unify
theory, planning, and classroom behavior. This need for integration
is expressed consistently throughout the book.
The final section discusses some factors used in several
approaches to evaluating language programs (e.g., the theoretical
base, variable selection, data collection). Brown’s chapter takes a
historical approach to evaluation, examining conflicting ap-
proaches. Next, Bachman defends the use of criterion-referenced
tests for program evaluation and notes the importance of carefully
defined criteria for evaluation so that we can initiate more
comparative evaluations of programs. Hudson explores mastery
testing, and finally, Elley discusses some of the practical problems
encountered when actually evaluating a program (e. g., choosing
evaluators and designing tests).
Structuring the book into these sections reinforces the overall
decision-making process by outlining the stages the program
designer must follow. Unfortunately, Johnson’s reasons for placing
a given reading in a particular section are not always evident. For
example, he places a chapter by Hargreaves entitled “DES-lMPL-
EVALU-IGN: An Evaluator’s Checklist” into the curriculum-plan-
ning section, even though the purpose of the chapter is to provide a
framework for evaluation. Nevertheless, Johnson’s introduction and
overview compensate for the lack of unity within sections and
between chapters.
The strengths of The Second Language Curriculum lie in its
emphasis on the notion that the learner is one of the key participants
in the curricular decision-making process and that the various stages
of curriculum planning need to be integrated. This insistence may
make planning seem more complex than it has been in the past, but
this complexity reflects more accurately the reality of the situation.
Overall, this is a worthwhile book for anyone involved in
curriculum planning and implementation. The sections on ends/
means specification and on classroom implementation are
especially useful for classroom teachers because these are the tasks
that teachers most frequently perform. In addition, the chapters are
generally written in an accessible style. With its focus on practical
application, this book does not emphasize theory and research for
the issues raised. However, it is a very useful and readable book for


anyone who is seeking a general orientation to the current issues in
curriculum planning. It is especially useful for the novice L2
curriculum planner or evaluator.

Nankai University, People’s Republic of China

TOEFL Test of Written English (TWE) Scoring Guide

Educational Testing Service. Princeton, NJ: Author, 1990. P. 1.

The Test of Written English (TWE) is a 30-minute essay test that

has recently been offered in conjunction with the Test of English as
a Foreign Language (TOEFL) four times a year. The purpose of the
test is to give TOEFL candidates the “opportunity to demonstrate
[their] ability to write in English” (Educational Testing Service,
1990, p. 3). The test was developed to complement indirect
measures of writing proficiency in the TOEFL (Stansfield, 1986).
Although the TWE score is not incorporated into the overall
TOEFL score, TOEFL candidates are obliged to take the TWE if it
is offered at the TOEFL administration for which they have
registered. A total of 314,854 candidates took the TWE from
November 1987 to May 1989 (ETS, 1989, p. 13). In 1986 the
Educational Testing Service (ETS) developed and copyrighted
scoring guidelines for the TWE. In 1990, ETS developed a revised
version of these guidelines, which it refers to as the Test of Written
English Scoring Guide (see Appendix). My purpose is to review the
TWE Scoring Guide and comment on its strengths and limitations.
The TWE Scoring Guide has been developed as a criterion-
referenced rather than norm-referenced instrument to help readers
maintain common standards across administrations and good
interrater reliability (Stansfield, 1986). It is a 6-point holistic scoring
guide and each of the 6 descriptors is illustrated with four or five
rubrics. The descriptors focus on the degree to which the
examinee’s writing demonstrates rhetorical and syntactic “compe-
tence.” TWE examinees who score at Levels 5 and 6 are judged to
be “competent” writers; at Level 4, “minimally competent” writers;
at Level 3, writers with developing competence”; at Level 2, writers
who “suggest incompetence”; and Level 1, writers who “demon-
strate incompetence.” Thus, as readers are assessing scripts, they
can use the notion of competence as a reference point in their
judgments. (I was slightly mystified, however, by the reference to
“clear competence” at Level 6—can competence ever be “un-
clear”?) When readers have to make decisions about the specific

characteristics of a “competent” writer, the rubrics beneath each
descriptor are designed to assist readers in their assessments. A
Level 5 essay, for example, “may address some parts of the task
more effectively than others; is generally well organized and
developed; uses details to support a thesis or illustrate an idea;
displays facility in the use of language; demonstrates some syntactic
variety and range of vocabulary.”
A major strength of the TWE Scoring Guide is that it is a holistic
rather than analytic scoring guide. Since the reader is required to
give a global score that reflects the merits of a particular essay, a
holistic scoring guide gives the reader the flexibility to reward
exceptional features of an examinee’s essay. In contrast, in an
analytic scoring guide a particular weighting is given to specified
features of a text and a reader does not have the latitude to give
additional credit for exceptional aspects of a feature or even give
credit for aspects of writing not appearing on an analytic scoring
guide (see Matthews, 1990). In addition, an analytic scoring guide
frequently diverts the reader’s attention from the central message of
the text because of its focus on discrete elements in the text.
The TWE Scoring Guide encourages readers to “focus on what
the examinee does well” and the descriptors and rubrics are
sufficiently flexible to allow readers to use their discretion in
making judgments. While the descriptors establish that the
“rhetorical and syntactic” features of a script are the main criteria
by which the essays are to be judged, there is latitude in the
interpretation of these descriptors. Readers are also encouraged to
be flexible in their judgment of what constitutes an appropriate
interpretation of the essay topic. “Though examinees are asked to
write on a specific topic, parts of the topic may be treated by
implication.” The TWE Scoring Guide thus gives readers the
flexibility to “bias for best” (Swain, 1984, p. 15).
Notwithstanding these strengths, the TWE Scoring Guide does
not give sufficient attention to the role of the reader in the process
of assessment. Judgments that readers make are as much a function
of the reader’s engagement with the text as the quality of the
examinee’s writing. In other words, readers come to the text with
their own expectations, background knowledge, and interests. As
the readers read the scripts of the examinees, they are actively
attempting to make sense of the examinees’ texts. In order to do this,
readers have to activate their own schemata and respond to the
texts—not as judges, but as participants in a communicative event.
This is not acknowledged in the TWE Scoring Guide.
The TWE Scoring Guide assumes that meaning is buried in the
examinee’s text, to be ferreted out by the reader—a reader who is,


presumably, more of an observer than a participant. The essays are
described as “demonstrating” different levels of competence; the
essays “address the task” with varying degrees of effectiveness. The
assumption that the quality of the message conveyed by the writer
is contained within the text alone is theoretically problematic.
Meaning is not a function of a text alone, nor is it a function of the
reader’s interpretation of that text; it is a function of the writer,
reader, and text in a complex interaction (for a summary of this
position, see Peirce, 1990).
It is interesting to note that the revised scale for the British
Council’s English Language Testing Service (ELTS) test (see
Hughes, 1989, pp. 87-89) makes the role of the reader the central
theme in its banding scheme, which is a 9-point holistic scale. The
essay of a writer at Level 9 is described as follows: “The writing
displays an ability to communicate in a way which gives the reader
full satisfaction”; a writer at Level 6 “displays an ability to
communicate although there is occasional strain for the reader”; a
writer at Level 3 “does not display an ability to communicate; the
reader cannot find any organizational structure and cannot follow a
message.” Such descriptors foreground the role of the reader in the
assessment process and help to resolve the ambivalent role of reader
as both participant and judge in a communicative event.
Significantly, however, neither the ELTS banding scheme nor the
TWE Scoring Guide, in and of themselves, can guarantee that the
essays of examinees will be reliably scored. No matter how
carefully the TWE Scoring Guide has been developed, no matter
how detailed the rubrics, readers still have to make their own
independent judgments as to how proficient a “competent” writer
is, whether a topic has indeed been “effectively” addressed.
Readers have to make their own fine distinctions between essays
that are “well organized and well developed,” essays that are
“generally well organized and developed,” and those that are
“adequately organized and developed. ” The scoring guide cannot
exercise discretion, nor are maverick judgments welcome.
In the final analysis, it is not the Scoring Guide that guarantees
reliable scoring of TWE papers, but the nature of the training that
the readers receive and the type of benchmark essays that serve as
reference points for readers. Readers who do not internalize an
“ETS reading” of the scripts would not be considered suitable TWE
readers as they would compromise the interrater reliability of the
In sum, although the TWE Scoring Guide slights the role of the
reader in the scoring of texts, it is succinct, meticulously developed,
and practical. Its credibility, however, lies ultimately in the degree

of confidence that the TESOL profession has in the institution that
trains the TWE readers to use the scoring guide and in the standards
of writing competence that are established in the TWE benchmark
essays. The TWE Scoring Guide remains a work of art and not an
instrument of science.

Educational Testing Service. (1989). TOEFL Test of Written English
Guide. Princeton, NJ: Author.
Educational Testing Service. (1990). 1990-91 bulletin of information for
TOEFL & TSE. Princeton, NJ: Author.
Hughes, A. (1989). Testing for Language Teachers. C a m b r i d g e :
Cambridge University Press.
Matthews, M. (1990). The measurement of productive skills: Doubts
concerning the assessment criteria of certain public examinations. ELT
Journal, 44 (2), 117-121.
Peirce, B. N. (1990). Comments on “Toward a pedagogy of possibility in
the teaching of English internationally: People’s English in South
Africa”: The author responds. TESOL Quarterly 24 (l), 105-112.
Stansfield, C. W. (1986). A history of the Test of Written English: The
developmental year. Language Testing, 3 (2), 224-234.
Swain, M. (1984). Teaching and testing communicatively. TESL Talk, 15,


Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Test of Written English (TWE ) Scoring Guide
(Revised 2/90)

Readers will assign scores based on the following scoring guide. Though examinees are asked
to write on a specific topic, parts of the topic may be treated by implication. Readers should
focus on what the examinee does well.
6 Demonstrates clear competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels,
though it may have occasional errors.
A paper in this category
-effectively addresses the writing task
-is well organized and well developed
–uses clearly appropriate details to support a thesis or illustrate ideas
-displays consistent facility in the use of language
-demonstrates syntactic variety and appropriate word choice


5 Demonstrates competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels, though it
will probably have occasional errors.
A paper in this category
-may address some parts of the task more effectively than others
-is generally well organized and developed
–uses details to support a thesis or illustrate an idea
-displays facility in the use of language
-demonstrates some syntactic variety and range of vocabulary
4 Demonstrates minimal competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels.
A paper in this category
-addresses the writing topic adequately but may slight parts of the task
-is adequately organized and developed
–uses some details to support a thesis or illustrate an idea
-demonstrates adequate but possibly inconsistent facility with syntax and usage
-may contain some errors that occasionally obscure meaning
3 Demonstrates some developing competence in writing, but it remains flawed on either the
rhetorical or syntactic level or both.
A paper in this category may reveal one or more of the following weaknesses:
–inadequate organization or development
-inappropriate or insufficient details to support or illustrate generalizations
–a noticeably inappropriate choice of words or word forms
–an accumulation of errors in sentence structure and/or usage
2 Suggests incompetence in writing.
A paper in this category is seriously flawed by one or more of the following
-serious disorganization or underdevelopment
-little or no detail, or irrelevant specifics
–serious and frequent errors in sentence structure or usage
–serious problems with focus
1 Demonstrates incompetence in writing.
A paper in this category
–may be incoherent
-may be undeveloped
–may contain severe and persistent writing errors
Papers that reject the assignment or fail to address the question must be given to the Table
Leader. Papers that exhibit absolutely no response at all must also be given to the Table
Note. Copyright © 1986, 1990 by Educational Testing Service. Reprinted by permission,

The TESOL Quarterly welcomes short evaluative reviews of print and nonprint
publications relevant to TESOL professionals. Book notices may not exceed 500
words and must contain some discussion of the significance of the work in the
context of current theory and practice in TESOL.

Whose Country Is This, Anyway? Teaching Resources from Amnesty to


When ESL/Civics classes federally funded by SLIAG (State Legaliza-

tion Impact Assistance Grant) were started in 1988 to help newly legalized
immigrants meet the legal requirements of second stage amnesty, teachers
and program coordinators faced a challenge of trying to meet confusing
legal mandates within principles of good education. Although useful
guidebooks from community groups and other organizations (e.g., the
American Council for Nationalities Service, and LaRaza) were created
quickly to meet the crisis of getting programs started, few appropriate
teaching materials for ESL/Civics existed to meet the needs of these
specialized multilevel, short-term classes. Within months, publishers began
to promote new texts aimed at the amnesty audience; the task then became
one of evaluation and selection.
The situation regarding individuals studying under SLIAG funding has
changed considerably since 1988. The majority of people have adjusted
their status from temporary to permanent residency with most of those
acquiring a Certificate of Satisfactory Pursuit through SLIAG-funded
classes. This has two important consequences. One is that there are still
thousands of people who completed Stage I of amnesty (i.e., applied for
Temporary Resident status) but who still need to complete Stage II (i.e.,
adjust their status to Permanent Resident or become “undocumented”
once again) if they are not to be at risk of losing their temporary residency
status. That means that there is still a need, nationwide, for ESL/Civics
amnesty classes. (California, for example, anticipates serving some 400,000
amnesty clients in 1990 -1991.) The second consequence is that many
students who have successfully adjusted their status through short-term
classes are now interested in continuing their studies in ESL or adult basic
education (ABE) in order to achieve citizenship as soon as they are eligible.
Many states have recently adjusted their guidelines to meet this need so
that SLIAG-eligible students can continue their studies in any of these
fields. Many programs have tried to provide a transition for their students
from ESL/Civics to Citizenship classes so they could move beyond the
legalization phase into fuller participation in their communities and
What does this mean for teachers and programs? The crisis of designing

and implementing second stage Amnesty ESL/Civics programs is no
longer the most pressing concern as it was in 1988. However, there is still
a need for appropriate resources, materials, and curricula—both for
meeting the needs of the 40-hour ESL/Civics curriculum and for
citizenship preparation.
The books reviewed below are appropriate as sourcebooks for ESL/
Civics, History, or Citizenship preparation and can be adapted to amnesty
requirements, citizenship preparation, or as content-based units in other
ESL curricula. They were selected because they challenge the accepted
version of U.S. history represented in many social studies or civics texts
(including the federal textbooks), because they redefine “what counts” as
civics and citizenship content and preparation, or because they provide
useful information at an accessible language level. Some of the books are
sources for teachers themselves—to reanalyze history and civics in light of
the needs, demands, and rights of the students in classes. A note indicates
when a resource includes material in languages other than English.
My book notices appear with those of Richard Levy (Bureau of Adult
Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts) and Amnesty or Citizenship
teachers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. My thanks to Richard Levy
for his collaboration on this project.


Adult Literacy Resource Institute, Roxbury Community
College/ University of Massachusetts at Boston

A Citizenship Educator’s Resource Handbook. Joan LeMabre (Ed.).

Boston: Commonwealth Literacy Campaign, 1990. Pp. 50. (Available from
Department of Education, 1385 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA 02169)

In compiling this useful reference work, editor Joan LeMabre of the

Commonwealth Literacy Campaign of Massachusetts encouraged
practitioners in Massachusetts ESL/Civics and Citizenship classes to share
their experience and expertise by contributing brief reviews of useful or
innovative materials. What resulted is a mix of reviews of materials ranging
from commercially available texts like those published by Steck-Vaughn
to references for less-known and less-mainstream resources like Literacy
for Empowerment: A Resource Handbook for Community Based
Educators published by the Association for Community Based Education
(ACBE) in Washington, DC. One of the strengths of the guide is that it also
includes (and thus validates) nonprint, “alternative” materials. There are
descriptions of videos, tours, and “field trips,” as well as workshops
offered by local organizations like the national Rainbow Coalition and the
Immigrant Rights and Advocacy Training Coalition (IRATE)—a union-
sponsored project in Massachusetts that provides outreach to workers
about their rights on the job. These references reflect the creativity of
many teachers who have sought out relevant, real-life sources to bring life
to their classrooms.


Each entry describes the format, identifies the intended audience, and
offers a brief commentary. Ordering information for each citation is
included in the appendix. This guide has a Massachusetts focus in its listing
of local resources, so teachers from other areas of the country may not be
familiar with some of the specific state references. However, teachers in
any state should be inspired to seek out similar agencies in their own
communities to enrich their curriculum.
Adult Literacy Resource Institute, Roxbury Community
College/ University of Massachusetts at Boston

Content Area ESL: Social Studies. Dennis Terdy. Palatine, IL: Linmore,
1986. Pp. 169. (Available from the publisher, P.O. Box 1546, Palatine, IL
Dennis Terdy broke new ground in 1986 with Content Area ESL in
making a U.S. history text available and accessible to adult nonnative
speakers of English. Along with a complete rationale and syllabus, the text
lends itself not only to Amnesty and Citizenship classes, but also to high
school worksite, and other language classes where learners express interest
in learning more about U.S. history. The author notes that the book was
written for the “high-beginning-low-intermediate adult, and incorporates a
variety of content-based approaches into its 19 chapters of U.S. history”
(p. i). From “Native Americans” to “The U.S. Today,” each chapter begins
with a personal survey to activate learners’ prior knowledge, to develop
schema, and to introduce key vocabulary before reading. As learners are
challenged cognitively, they also have ample opportunity to practice
reading and writing strategies, to develop “graphical” (J. Isserlis, personal
communication) literacy capabilities, and to expand language skills
through writing and in-class discussion. By integrating content and learner
experiences through the use of maps, diagrams, graphs, and timelines, the
book allows for the inevitable range of learning styles and levels prevalent
among most adult learning centers nationwide. Additionally, illustrations
of key events throughout the text facilitate increased comprehension and
possibilities for discussion.
As a core text, Content Area ESL might be too difficult for beginning-
level literacy students in Amnesty programs. However, as Amnesty
programs begin to redefine themselves, this text would be a good source
for continuing to provide learners with the opportunity to study U.S.
history. The refugee and immigrant experiences of the past 200 years are
reflected in the text, and the potential for further learning through
students’ sharing of their own lives—through language experience
activities, oral histories, problem-posing—make Terdy’s work a text to
have and use.

International Institute of Rhode Island


Coyote: A Journey Through the Secret World of America’s Illegal Aliens.
Ted Conover. New York: Random House, 1987. Pp. 265. (English with
Spanish dialogue throughout)

Many of us teaching Amnesty and Citizenship classes lack a context for

understanding the experiences and histories that students bring to class.
Given their precarious status as newly legalized immigrants, it is
understandable that students may be initially reluctant to openly share
their stories and struggles—particularly with teachers who are outside of
the immigrant experience. Ted Conover’s book allows us a small window
into the experiences of “undocumented workers” or “illegal aliens’’—terms
he uses with reluctance.
For over a year, Conover travelled with a group of Mexicans, crossing
and recrossing the border illegally, working in fruit orchards, riding on
endless buses, and gradually gaining the trust of some of his fellow
travelers and workers. What emerges is a portrait—sympathetic but not
patronizing-–of a group of men and women, their struggles, despairs,
hopes, and dreams of a life that is better for them and for their families.
We are afforded glimpses into the codes, rituals, and dangers of
negotiating with coyotes (smugglers of “illegal aliens” across the U. S.-
Mexican border) to get across the border, and the actual physical and
symbolic passage from Mexico to the U.S. Because our sympathies are
directed toward the immigrants he cares about, we see portraits of
LaMigra in quite a different light than would the local INS officer. The
author’s perspective as a participant-observer, one who experiences and
analyzes from a cultural perspective outside the lives of the immigrants, is
a valuable one. It does not provide a substitute for the stories and truths of
students in our classes, the participants themselves. What it does provide is
a bit of a context that allows us to reevaluate our assumptions and that
gives us a place from which to start asking questions.
Coyote is primarily useful as a “background” text for teachers, especially
those who work with students from Mexico and Central America.
However, it should also be useful as a resource that can be adapted for the
classroom. Certain passages and dialogue present themselves as wonderful
catalysts for problem-posing or for reading and discussion material. With
a little creativity, teachers could create their own language-practice
materials from these excerpts.

Adult Literacy Resource Institute, Roxbury Community
College/ University of Massachusetts at Boston


A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn. New York: Harper
& ROW, 1980. pp. 614.

A People’s History of the United States is a powerful and straightfor-

ward examination of United States history that provokes new understand-
ings and provides a critical framework for analysis of that history. Zinn
looks at history from the perspective of the participants as opposed to that
of the “leaders.” He challenges readers’ prior learning about U.S. history—
a history that has been selected and written almost entirely by dominant
This reexamination of what has been taught is revealing and compelling
to its readers. Zinn’s text is engaging as an understanding of the many
crucial and forceful popular struggles that have shaped the economic and
therefore social fabric of the United States. It is empowering because it
better equips the reader to make sense out of current world events.
Zinn’s account gives people’s movements their appropriate position in
U.S. history. Defying the myth that ‘things simply happen,’ Zinn’s analysis
debunks popular myths and supplies little-known historical information
which explains such phenomena as the following: why there are no
descendants of the “Indians” on Hispanola; why the “freeing” of the slaves
was not a liberation issue but an economic one; why John F. Kennedy
“really” got us involved in Vietnam.
This book makes an ideal core history book for State Legalization
Impact Assistance Grant (SLIAG) projects. It provides the teacher with
relevant socio/cultural/economic information useful as a source for what
Freire (1985) would call “generative themes” (p. 61)—themes that distill
and embody points of contradiction in the social and political fabric of
people’s lives and become rich sources for analysis in the classroom. My
five years’ experience with adult Civics classes has taught me that students
who have been educated in history in their own countries often share some
of Zinn’s analyses. This book better enables the teacher to facilitate critical
dialogue concerning U.S. history.

Freire, Paul. (1985). The Politics of Education. South Hadley, MA: Bergin &

International Institute of Rhode Island


Toward Participation: A Sample Citizenship Lesson Plan. Linda Monteith,
Sidney Pratt, and Jean Unda. Toronto: Ministry of Citizenship, 1989,
Pp. 47. (Available from Ministry of Citizenship, 77 Bloor Street West, 5th
Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Some of the most innovative, flexible, and creative ESL and literacy
materials seem to emerge from Canada. Towards Participation is no
exception. As the title suggests, this short, concise guidebook has a
participatory perspective on citizenship. That is, citizenship is viewed as a
process where people shape and challenge their roles as citizens rather
than passively assimilating into the status quo. This participatory
perspective is reflected in the kind of lesson planning encouraged by the
The series of model lesson plans in Toward Participation focuses on
“issues and disputes” in the news that can be used to “develop the attitudes,
skills, and knowledge needed by learners for participatory citizenship.”
The authors recognize that it is not enough simply to encourage teachers to
develop learner-centered materials; they provide a structure and sequence
for adapting real-life materials for the classroom. This is particularly
practical and comforting for the new teacher or the teacher who wants to
adopt participatory practices but who may be reluctant to stray from the
prescribed sequence in a commercial workbook. The authors demystify
the participatory process by developing a sequence of sample lessons
using an article from a local newspaper (on transportation cuts for the
elderly) and adapting it in different ways for different purposes.
One lesson focuses on the photograph that accompanies a news story as
a way to build context and activate/develop schema for the article itself;
another focuses on reading and analyzing content as a basis for a debate
that follows. Language skills are not neglected in the interest of issues; they
are presented in context throughout. For example, activities for the news
article begin with literal comprehension activities (including retelling the
story through strips of dialogue and cartoons) and move toward oral
language practice in lessons that guide students through preparing for and
actually holding the debate.
In another section, guidelines for a role play show how to connect the
reading material to the lives of the students and to uncover issues in
students’ own communities—thus providing sources of material to develop
a next series of lessons. After practicing with the lesson plans the authors
provide, teachers should find the process of bringing current newspaper
articles into their classes less mysterious and more inviting.

Adult Literacy Resource Institute, Roxbury Community
College/ University of Massachusetts at Boston


“Let’s Make a Deal”: A Guide to Teaching About Taxes. Judy Hikes,
Barbara Garner, Helen Jones, Susan Romaine, and JoAnne Wheeler.
Boston: Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Literacy, 1989. Pp. 101.
(Available through MCAL, 1-800-447-8844)

Arising out of the need to help students in adult education understand

and take action about the tax crisis and service cuts afflicting
Massachusetts, Let’s Make a Deal provides a valuable resource for adult
basic education (ABE), ESL, SLIAG, and Citizenship teachers. The guide
helps students understand taxes, their role in society, and the concept of
participatory citizenship, while simultaneously helping them to strengthen
their basic math, language, and problem-solving abilities.
Despite the fact that the materials are specific to Massachusetts, both the
basic skills and the understandings of taxes developed in the guide are
useful and can be adapted to any state. The organization of the guide
facilitates its use in the classroom. Materials are divided into three sections
("Good Government," “Taxes and State Budget,” and “How You Can Be
Heard”) and are color coded for objectives, background, lessons, and
curriculum materials. Using a problem-solving/empowerment approach,
the authors have developed in clear, straightforward language and pictures
lessons that can help students understand the day-to-day consequences of,
and often abstract discussions about, taxes. For example, one exercise asks
students to look at 11 pictures and discuss what things they would not have
if they didn’t pay taxes. Another lesson helps students to understand
different kinds of taxes and loopholes and to compare relative tax burdens.
A third set of materials provides instruction in reading tax-related materials
(paycheck records, tax forms and tables) and in calculating and complet-
ing tax returns. A lesson in the final section asks students to evaluate
different options for resolving the “tax crisis” in Massachusetts.
These materials are not meant to constitute a comprehensive curriculum.
Rather, they are a set of materials which can be adapted and drawn upon.
Consequently, each section has suggestions for adapting the materials to
ABE and ESL learners at different levels of abilities. In addition, a
supplement outlines math skills that could tie in with the tax curriculum,
including a short, but highly relevant, bibliography. As with any materials,
there are minor sections that need improvement (e. g., the definition of
“progressive” [p. 19] taxes is unclear); nonetheless, these materials would
make an excellent addition to any curriculum teaching citizenship. By
directly and powerfully relating abstract concepts to everyday experience,
by providing practice in analyzing confusing information, and by
presenting nonthreatening ways to get involved politically, Let’s Make a
Deal makes teaching citizenship easier and more productive. It links the
material to the changeable reality of students’ lives.

Bureau of Adult Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts


WorkPlays: You and Your Rights on the Job. Labor Education Center.
North Dartmouth, MA: Southeastern Massachusetts University, 1988.
(Video and 100-page workbook available from Workplace Education
Project, Labor Education Center, Southeastern Massachusetts University,
Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, MA 02747, 508-999-8007) (Fact-
sheets available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese)

WorkPlays is a combination of videotape, language workbook, and fact

sheets to teach immigrant workers about their rights on the job. Using a
problem-posing approach, WorkPlays focuses on problematic aspects of
immigrant workers’ reality and hopes to encourage students’ critical
capacity to make choices around those issues and to transform their work
situations where possible.
The 50-minute videotape is organized around five themes which have
been designed as five units: “Safety and Health,” “Workers Compensa-
tion, “ “Discrimination,” “Belonging to a Union,” and “Other Rights. ” Each
unit presents two or three skits in a problem-posing format and follows a
cast of characters (immigrant factory workers). This series of skits reads
like a soap opera, and students seem to enjoy following the characters
from episode to episode, delighting in the colloquial expressions they
learn. Students are encouraged to respond to each skit, moving from a
descriptive to an interpretive level. So that they can answer questions that
arise from the interpretive level, students receive five fact sheets on
workers rights with each unit. The fact sheets are offered in English at an
intermediate reading level. However, because of the complex nature of the
information, the fact sheets are also included in Spanish, Portuguese, and
Chinese so that students can read these in their first language as well. The
fact sheets give participants meaningful reading material and offer the
chance to practice reading comprehension with material immediately
relevant to their lives. The information also acquaints students with
community resource organizations.
WorkBook for WorkPlays includes suggested activities that cover
listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Sample activities include
silent previewing strategies (for predicting events and setting schema);
context-based grammar activities; cloze exercises; composition assign-
ments like writing a letter to one of the characters to offer advice; and
cooperative learning activities for researching questions through reading
the fact sheets. The workbook also includes the complete texts of all the
dialogues in the videotape. Though the video is geared to an intermediate
level of proficiency, I have used it with multilevel classes in which some
beginners have “shone’’—especially during the prelistening/previewing
segments because of their highly developed abilities to “read” pictures.
In my experience, WorkPlays has been a priceless ingredient in a
curriculum for students studying ESL and Civics (or any content-based
curriculum) since it deals with community/civics themes, laws, rights, and
responsibilities in a way that touches students immediately. It has led easily
to participants sharing their own stories about how they have dealt with


these issues. The structure of WorkPlays allows for flexible adaptation; the
skits can be used in any order. I’ve used them as a way into the discussion
of a particular topic or for working on particular competencies. At other
times WorkPlays has been just the thing with which to follow up after a
particular issue has surfaced spontaneously within the class. In sum, this is
an invaluable resource for worker-students of ESL—one teachers can use
over and over.
El Centro del Cardenal, Boston

Curriculum for Citizenship. Sandra Morra. Providence, RI: International

Institute of Rhode Island, 1988. Pp. 57. (Available from IIRI/Project
Persona, 375 Broad Street, Providence, RI 02907)

Developed as a curriculum outline for teaching students the specific

skills necessary to pass a Citizenship exam, Curriculum for Citizenship can
also serve as a useful resource for SLIAG programs serving people in Stage
II and those who have completed Stage I. At first glance many of the
materials in this work seem suite traditional. However, unlike more
traditional curricula where facts’ are presented without a focus on critical
analysis, the introduction to Morra’s work stresses the need for “dialogue”
(p. 1). This dialogue focuses on critical thinking and equality between
participants, respect for different cultures, and an accurate and realistic
picture of how people in the U.S. have struggled and continue to struggle
for opportunities which exist here. This perspective provides a framework
in which the traditional materials can be transformed.
For example, in discussing “History and the New World,” not only are
the explorers and their journeys mentioned, but instructors are also asked
to “provide a framework for the understanding of the significance and
importance of this exploration in terms of ‘How we view our world
today’” (p. 6). This task may challenge many teachers, particularly those
working with beginning ESL students. However, by applying such
questions to materials in this bibliography (e.g., Howard Zinn’s A People’s
History of the United States), a teacher may provide students with a
critical understanding of their native countries and with a basis for linking
their own experience in their native lands with those of people in the U.S.
Throughout the Curriculum, opportunities are presented to the
instructor to organize learning experiences about the United States
government, history, and citizenship which both help students learn the
specifics necessary to pass the citizenship exam and develop a more
critical view of these topics and of reviewing information in general.
However, to accomplish these goals considerable work is necessary on the
part of the teacher to fill in the background information and to develop the
various frameworks which will challenge the students. Without such
teacher effort Curriculum for Citizenship may be reduced to a more
traditional outline.


As with many material guides, there is more material here than the vast
majority of students will have time, or in fact need, to study. But working
within such a curriculum is far superior to simply memorizing the fifty
most commonly asked questions (for Citizenship exams) which many
students and programs have chosen as a route to citizenship. Memorizing
the facts is indeed important to the goal of passing the exam; Morra’s
approach, however, encourages students to critically analyze those facts
and to question how and why such facts came to be highlighted to begin
with. (Note that the questions are included in the Curriculum as a practice
tool to passing the exam; they are not the focus of study.)
The Curriculum also includes an English language development
component outlining the various skills necessary to pass the citizenship
exam. Obviously the skills will vary from state to state and even from
examiner to examiner, and teachers should approach the section with
attention to local experience.
In short, the Curriculum provides a very positive resource for teachers
willing and able to take an outline and adapt it to meet the needs and
backgrounds of those particular individuals with whom they are working.

Bureau of Adult Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Urgent Care for ESL\Civics Teachers: Lesson Planning for Fostering

Cooperative Interaction Among Amnesty Students. Immigrant Legal
Resource Center and students from Stanford School of Education. San
Francisco: ILRC, 1989. Pp. 161. (Available from Immigrant Legal
Resource Center, 1663 Mission Street, Suite 602, San Francisco, CA 94103)
(English with some Spanish throughout)

Urgent Care, a special project sponsored by the Immigrant Legal

Resource Center in San Francisco and written by graduate students at the
Stanford School of Education is a thick, rich, thoughtful collection of
lessons worth the $70 price tag. It is equally useful as a resource for ESL/
Civics courses, as a sourcebook for teaching multilevel classes, and as a
model for teachers to create a similar resource for their own programs.
Each of the eight lessons in the book was developed and piloted by a
different graduate student, yet they all share the same assumptions about
the value of cooperative learning, especially as a strategy for multilevel
classes. Rather than assuming that teachers and students are familiar or
comfortable with small-group, pair, or other interactive teaching strat-
egies, the book devotes considerable space in its introduction to reviewing
important elements of this approach. Preceding the content-based units
(including topics such as “Mapping Your World,” “Immigration Past and
Present,” “Tapping Community Resources,” “Acting Out the Three
Branches of Government, “ “The Bill of Rights and Beyond”), lesson 1


allows students and teachers to practice and reflect upon some principles
of cooperative learning. The simple “Broken Squares” activity in this
lesson involves students in a specific nonverbal task, allowing them to
reflect upon how they worked together to complete the task.
The content lessons that follow are thorough, detailed, and self-
contained; each lesson includes 4–6 hours of instruction. Materials to
implement a lesson—e. g., worksheets, slides, handouts—are included. In
effect, each lesson is a sequence of lessons. For example, in lesson 2,
“Mapping Your World,” there are six well-developed activities ranging
from “Mapping the Neighborhood You Left Behind” to “Mapping the
World.” Each activity clearly explains procedures, including typically
overlooked details such as the arrangements of the chairs in the classroom.
There is also a list of materials needed for each activity, a vocabulary list
(Spanish and English) and easily reproducible student handouts. As with
each lesson in the book, there are slides that accompany the activities,
clearly labeled and numbered.
Each of the other lessons follows a similar format—complete and with
varied activities that reflect a real sensitivity to varying learning styles and
mixed abilities in language proficiency and literacy. Many of the lessons
contain bilingual English/Spanish content. And the authors do not rely
solely on the written word. For example, in the activity where students
research and create their own community resources directory, there is a
space in the directory form for a visual symbol of the agency. There is also
a series of phone dialogues for getting the information to fill out the
directory. Thus, students with low literacy levels are invited into the lesson
in a variety of ways. Other examples include a kinesthetic activity for
immigration (“Walking into Slides”), and an activity where students create
their own political cartoon.
Urgent Care is packaged in a three-ring binder, making it easy to
remove and replace sections for copying. This is a hands-on, “teacher
friendly” resource.

Adult Literacy Resource Institute, Roxbury Community
College/ University of Massachusetts at Boston

Making Amnesty Work: Joint Efforts to Meet the Needs of Newly

Legalized Workers. Heide Spruck Wrigley and Katherine A. Brady. San
Francisco, CA: Immigrant Legal Resource Center, 1989. Pp. 75. (Available
from ILRC, 1663 Mission Street, Suite 602, San Francisco, CA 94103)

Making Amnesty Work might be better titled Almost Eveything You

Have To (But Don’t Necessarily Want To) Know About Amnesty—
Including Even How To Teach It—In Words You Can Understand. This
brief handbook outlines virtually all the key requirements and issues
related to the Amnesty program in clear understandable language, with


explanations of many confusing issues supplemented by clear case
examples. As a functional handbook, it helps practitioners through the
maze of hard to remember regulations and requirements by highlighting
the most essential points; i.e., “If you cannot remember anything else about
amnesty, remember this” (p. 12) and by providing links to informational,
legal, organizing, and educational resources across the country. Coalition
building is not merely addressed as an abstract goal, but is illustrated with
methods, examples of successful coalitions, and phone numbers through
which to contact these groups.
Unlike many other works dealing with amnesty, which tend to operate
in a political and economic vacuum, Making Amnesty Work addresses the
issues of undocumented workers, including the “Family Fairness” program
and “What to Do in an INS Raid,” (chapter 11); the links between newly
legalized workers, the economy, and the labor pool (chapter 5); and the
potential positive and negative roles that employers can play (chapters
7-8). Such information provides a range of background information of
which many teachers and administrators are unaware.
At the same time, Making Amnesty Work also addresses, with
refreshingly specific suggestions, how to teach a SLIAG class, how to link
the classroom and the community, and how to make the experience useful
for immigrant workers. In particular, chapter 10, “Teach the Students, Not
the Book: A Curriculum Guide” provides extremely valuable materials for
SLIAG programs. This chapter not only provides helpful suggestions on
how to develop curriculum within the limits of SLIAG; more significantly,
it gives practitioners guidelines on and specific examples of realistic and
acceptable performance levels for lower level students. This chapter also
explicitly covers methods for linking the curriculum (educational goals)
with amnesty (legalization goals) and offers guidelines for helping students
to develop strategies for taking the INS test as part of their studies.
Amnesty teachers who participated in a workshop facilitated by Heide
Wrigley in June 1989 at the Adult Literacy Resource Institute in Boston
gave strong positive feedback on the curriculum and methodology drawn
from this chapter.

Bureau of Adult Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

* * * * *


Methods in English Language Teaching: Frameworks and Options.
Waldemar Marton. New York: Prentice Hall, 1988. Pp. xiii + 128.

Methods in English Language Teaching departs from the usual format

of methods texts. Instead of presenting each method separately, it
provides four general frameworks into which methods can be categorized.
These are referred to as receptive, communicative, reconstructive, and
eclectic strategies of language teaching. There is a thorough discussion of
the psycholinguistic characteristics, pedagogical dimensions, learner
characteristics (personality, age, and aptitude), and contextual factors
(intensity of teaching, class size, level of language study, and teacher
characteristics) for each strategy along with an analysis of the advantages
and disadvantages of implementing each.
Marton begins by defining a language teaching strategy as “a globally
conceived set of pedagogical procedures imposing a definite learning
strategy on the learner directly leading to the development of competence
in the target language” (p. 2). By this definition, this perspective fails to
recognize humanistic teaching strategies among its four categories because
they do not identify specific learning strategies which develop compe-
tence in the target language.
A receptive strategy, as implied by its name, has as its objective
comprehension. It is based on the premise that it does not matter if
linguistic competence is developed via receptive or productive activities.
It is assumed that developing comprehension will also develop the
potential and readiness for production skills.
A communicative strategy is viewed as the replication, in the classroom,
of the natural process of first language acquisition. The goal is for the
learner to be able to communicate in the target language. This differs from
the receptive strategy in that hypotheses about the language are formed
not only by observing input but also by interpreting feedback. A
communicative strategy is viewed, like first language acquisition, as
creative construction.
The third framework, the reconstructive strategy, bases all activities on
a text in the target language. This text provides the linguistic means needed
by the learner to execute a productive task which is related to the text. The
task may take a variety of forms, such as renarrating, summarizing, or
adapting. However, the learner is expected to produce accurate utterances
without the use of communication strategies. With this strategy, a learner
will not perform beyond his or her level of competence.
Methods in English Language Teaching is the only book I have seen
which provides an in-depth analysis of eclectic methodology, the fourth
strategy which Marton presents. Practical and theoretical eclecticism are
defined and both are rejected as sound teaching alternatives. Practical
eclecticism refers to taking bits and pieces from a variety of methods
without regard or understanding of how they do (or do not) fit together to
complement each other in working toward a common goal. Theoretical
eclecticism is the attempt to reconcile seemingly contradictory aspects of


two different theories. This results in either the development of a new
theory or the modification of one of the original theories.
Marton then meticulously describes the strengths and weaknesses of
systemic eclecticism. Systemic eclecticism is the careful selection of
particular insights and procedures from various methods as they fit most
appropriately into the language teaching/learning process. Although on
the surface this appears to be a sound approach, Marton feels that it does
not offer adequate guidance as to what can be selected and combined to
maintain a good pedagogy. Marton then proposes four possible
combinations among the receptive, communicative, and reconstructive
frameworks, cautioning against the popular embracing of “practical,
intuitive eclecticism” as an “optimal pedagogical solution” (p. 86), rather,
stressing the conditions necessary for these combinations to be justifiable.
Marton also proposes the usefulness of eclectic strategy for the purpose
of remediation, carefully explaining the model necessary for successful
At the end of each section, a chart is presented which lists the particular
variables by which each strategy can be evaluated, indicating positive,
negative, or no value with respect to adoption of the strategy. In a similar
manner, the four possible combinations of eclecticism are compared.
Lastly, Marton discusses the processes of language learning as they relate
to the teaching of second language grammar. Some common pitfalls in
grammar teaching are noted, and a sequence of activities for explicit
teaching of second language grammar suggested.
The book offers a unique frame of reference for examining second
language teaching methodology and should be a welcome addition to any
conscientious language teacher’s library.

University of Guam


The TESOL Quarterly invites readers to submit short reports and updates on their
work. These summaries may address any areas of interest to Quarterly readers.
Authors’ addresses are printed with these reports to enable interested readers to
contact the authors for more details.


University of Massachusetts at Amherst/
Temple University

Soviet Students at U.S. Colleges:

Social Perceptions, Language Proficiency,
and Academic Success


The University at Albany, State University of New York

This study examines the perceptions, language skills, and academic

records of 56 Soviet undergraduate exchange students studying in the U.S.
during the academic year 1988-1989. The students were sponsored under
an ongoing exchange agreement between the Soviet Ministry of Education
and the American Collegiate Consortium centered at Middlebury College
in Vermont. They began their year of study in the U.S. with a 3-week ESL/
orientation program at Middlebury College during the summer of 1988,
after which they spent an academic year at one of 26 participating colleges
in the Northeast.
Previous research has raised a number of issues related to international
students at U.S. colleges, which we were interested in pursuing with this
group of Soviet students. Recent studies, for example, have found high
correlations between language learners’ self-ratings of their own language
skills and their language proficiency test scores (e. g., Clark, 1981). Other
researchers have suggested that college students’ self-predicted grades are
often valid and reliable predictors of students’ subsequent academic
performance (Biggs & Johnson, 1972). Another line of research has
examined the relationships of language proficiency test scores to academic
success of international learners (Hale, Stansfield, & Duran, 1984; Light,
Xu, & Mossop, 1987). Others have noted significant positive correlations
between the length of writing samples and other measures of writing
quality (Faigley, 1979; Nold & Freedman, 1977). We were interested in
investigating these issues and others as they related to this group of Soviet

Language tests, consisting of a timed writing sample and the Test of
English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), were administered to the 56
Soviet students in the summer of 1988 at Middlebury College prior to their
study at U.S. colleges. A questionnaire was administered at the same time.
During the spring of 1989, a poststudy questionnaire was given to the 55
Soviet students who successfully completed the fall 1988 semester. Forty-
eight students completed and returned this poststudy questionnaire, a
return rate of 87%. Only those who responded to this poststudy question-
naire were included in the inferential analysis. Information requested on
the questionnaires included standard demographic data, self-ratings of
academic language tasks, predictions of academic success, grades earned
during the fall semester, and ratings of preparation for study in the U.S.

Language Proficiency and Academic Success
Previous research has suggested the difficulty of predicting academic
success based on TOEFL scores (Hale et al., 1984; Light et al., 1987;
American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers,
1971). This same difficulty emerges with this group of Soviet students.
Their mean TOEFL score was 462 (SD = 85, range = 307-613). Although
the Educational Testing Service (ETS) (1987) reports that 74% of the
colleges in a recent survey recommended full-time English study for
students with TOEFL scores below 547, these Soviet students achieved an
overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.4 (4.0 = A). They achieved this
despite the fact that 43 of them had TOEFL scores below 547, the cutoff
point for full-time English study reported in the ETS study.
Although it would have been difficult to predict the academic success
achieved by these students based on their TOEFL scores, we did find a
significant correlation between their summer 1988 TOEFL scores and
GPA earned during fall 1988 (r= .33, p < .05). In addition, these TOEFL
scores did correlate positively with the number of courses successfully
completed by the Soviet students (r = .25, p < .05), a finding consistent
with Light, Xu, and Mossop’s 1987 study of international students at the
State University of New York at Albany. Our analysis also showed that
these TOEFL scores were highly correlated with the total number of
words written by the Soviet students in a writing sample administered at
the same time (r = .69, p < .0001). As did their TOEFL scores, the total
number of words on their writing samples correlated positively with their
GPA (r = .26, p < .05). Finally, we found that TOEFL means were
significantly higher for English and humanities majors than for science
majors (t = 2.40, p < .05). (See Table 1.)

Language-Related Academic Tasks

The Soviet students were given pre- and poststudy questions about their
ability to accomplish a number of language-related academic tasks. They


Descriptive Statistics of TOEFL Scores and Length of
Writing Samples by Major and Language Background

were asked to rate their ability at these tasks on a scale of 1 (do with much
difficulty) to 6 (do very easily). Table 2 below shows the mean ratings
given to these 10 tasks on the pre- and poststudy questionnaires and the
results of paired t tests. As noted on the table, the students’ self-rated
abilities increased significantly on 7 of these 10 tasks. The three tasks in
which the Soviets reported least improvement (participate in class
discussions, read in areas other than major, present oral reports) are also
suggested as problematic areas for other international learners in similar
contexts (e.g., Abraham, 1990).
These findings suggest that for this group of learners, with widely
differing English language skills, a single semester of study at a U.S.
college provided sufficient contextual support to allow them to significant-
ly improve their confidence in performing an important set of language
related academic tasks.
We also noted a significant positive correlation between the Soviet
students’ ratings of their abilities on the 10 academic tasks and their
TOEFL scores. The positive correlation held for both pre- and poststudy
ability ratings on these tasks (r = .42 & .37, p < .005).

Students’ Predictions of Success

Prior to beginning their studies, the Soviets were asked to predict, on a
scale of 1 to 4 (poor–excellent), their grades for the next 2 semesters. They
were an optimistic group, with 58% predicting excellent or good grades the
first semester, and 89% predicting such grades the second semester. We
found a significant positive correlation between TOEFL scores and grade


Mean Ability Ratings and Significance Tests on
Academic Tasks Pre- and Poststudy

predictions for the first semester (r = .25, p < .05) but not for the second
semester. Students’ high school grades and their home-country college
grades were significantly correlated (r = .74, p < .001). These grades
were also positively correlated with their actual grade point averages in
U.S. colleges in fall 1988 (r = 29, p < .05). Unlike Biggs and Johnson’s
(1972) findings with U.S. college students, the Soviet students’ prestudy
self-predictions of academic success on a scale of 1 to 4 (poor-excellent)
did not correlate significantly with either their high school or home college
grades or with their earned GPA at U.S. colleges.

Prior Preparation for Study in the U.S.

Prior to beginning their year of academic study in the U. S., and again
after the fall semester of study at their U.S. colleges, the Soviet students
were asked about the adequacy of the information they received in the
USSR regarding study in the U.S. On the prestudy questionnaire the
majority (65% or over) of the Soviet students indicated they had an
adequate knowledge about the U.S. educational environment on all of the
dimensions considered (Table 3). However, after their first semester of
study here, their perceptions of the adequacy of their preparation dropped
on all dimensions but one. This general decline in their sense of how well
they had been prepared for study at U.S. colleges may have been due at
least in part to their coming face-to-face for the first time with the realities
and complexities of life on a U.S. campus.

Traditional wisdom might have predicted severe difficulties for these
Soviet undergraduate students in their first experience at a U.S. college.


Self-Reported Level of Knowledge of U.S. Educational Environment

These predictions would have been based on their low TOEFL scores (an
average of 462, ranging from 303 to 613; 43 of the 56 students scoring
below 547), on the shock of studying in a new culture, and on the
requirement that they take half of their coursework outside their major
field. In spite of these factors, the majority of the Soviet students were
successful during the first semester of study at a U.S. college, as measured
by their mean 3.4 grade point average, and by the average of 12 credits
successfully completed during the semester.
What might account for their successes despite the negative indicators?
Clearly these were special students carefully selected by their home
institutions for study in the U.S. They appeared highly motivated and
confident during the summer orientation program, and this confidence is
reflected in their responses on our prestudy questionnaire. Some
researchers have argued that grading at U.S. colleges is generally more
lenient for international students (e.g., K. Wilson of Educational Testing
Service, personal communication, 1990). Beyond this, we might look to
recent research on the roles of interaction in second language contexts for
clues to their success. A number of such studies are consistent with the
insights of Vygotsky (1978) and his concern with the role of social
interaction in learning. One recent study, for example, demonstrated the
importance of interactionally modified input to comprehension in a study
of adult ESL learners (Pica, Young, & Doughty, 1987). Somewhat earlier,
John-Steiner (1985) and Wong Filmore (1976) conducted separate studies
with Finnish immigrant children in Swedish schools and Mexican children
in U.S. schools. The results of the two studies suggest the importance of


interaction in the acquisition of school subjects as well as second language
skills. The Heidelberg Project (Klein & Ditmar, 1979) studied the acquisi-
tion of German by Italian and Spanish immigrant workers and found high
positive correlations between their German language proficiency and their
social contact with Germans. Finally, a large-scale study of 2,700 U.S.
college seniors majoring in foreign languages found that even a brief time
spent abroad where students engaged in social interaction had a substantial
positive effect on their foreign language proficiency (Carroll, 1967).
Taken together, these studies tend to support the view that for the Soviet
students in this study, the inevitable interaction with students on U.S.
college campuses played an important role in their academic success. The
interaction was inevitable because each student was one of only two or
three students from the Soviet Union at their campus, without the
previously ubiquitous Soviet government advisor present. Whatever the
explanations, the Soviet students’ performance in their first semester of
study at a U.S. college campus was quite remarkable. Although they had
an overall average TOEFL score of 462, they earned an average GPA of
3.4, with 18 of 48 students earning at least a 3.5 and only 7 earning below
3.0. Further investigation may shed more light on what accounted for their
strong academic performance in spite of several negative indicators.

Our thanks to Nancy Tumposky and Ed Witaszek, colleagues at the Middlebury College
Soviet orientation program, for their assistance in data collection and their helpful comments.
Thanks also to Raymond Benson, Director of the American Collegiate Consortium at
Middlebury College, and to the Soviet students who participated in the study for their help
and patience. This study was supported in part by the American Collegiate Consortium at
Middlebury College and by the School of Education, The University at Albany, State
University of New York.
Copies of the questionnaires may be obtained by writing the authors.

Abraham, P. (1990, March). 600 on TOEFL is not enough. Paper presented at the
24th Annual TESOL Convention, San Francisco, CA.
American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. (1971).
AACRAO-AID participant selection and placement study. (Report to the
Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of State). Washington,
Biggs, D., & Johnson, J. (1972). Self-made academic predictions of junior college
students. Journal of Educational Research, 6, 85-88.
Carroll, J. (1967). Foreign language proficiency levels attained by language majors
near graduation from college. Foreign Language Annals, 1, 131-151.
Clark, J. L. D. (1981). College students’ knowledge and beliefs: A summary of
global understanding. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 215 653).
Educational Testing Service. (1987). Guidelines for use of TOEFL scores.
Princeton, NJ: Author.


Faigley, L. L. (1979). The influence of generative rhetoric on the syntactic maturity
and writing effectiveness of college freshmen. Research on the Teaching of Eng-
lish, 13, 197-206.
Hale, G., Stansfield, C., & Duran, R. (1984). Summaries of TOEFL studies, 1963-
1982. (Res. Rep. No. 16). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
John-Steiner, V. (1985). The road to competence in an alien land: A Vygotskian
perspective on bilingualism. In J. Wertsch (Ed.), Culture, communication, and
cognition: Vygotskian perspectives (pp. 348-371). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Klein, W., & Dittmar, N. (1979). Developing grammars. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Light, R., Xu, M., & Mossop, J. (1987). English proficiency and academic
performance of international students. TESOL Quarterly, 21 (2), 251-261.
Nold, E. W., & Freedman, S. W. (1977). An analysis of readers’ responses to essays.
Research in the teaching of English, 11:164-174.
Pica, T., Young, R., & Doughty, C. (1987). The impact of interaction on
comprehension. TESOL Quarterly, 21 (4), 737-758.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Wong Filmore, L. (1976). The second time around: Cognitive and social strategies
in second language acquisition. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford
University, Stanford, CA.

Authors’ Address: c/o Light, TESOL Program, The University at Albany, State
University of New York, Albany, NY 12222.

Sustaining the Reading Interests of

Academically Oriented ESL Students
California State University, Fresno
Ferris State University

The importance of high-interest reading materials is stressed by

researchers working with native speakers (e.g., Fader, 1976; Smith, 1978)
and with second language students. Eskey and Grabe (1988) state that
engaging in extensive reading is the only way for second language students
to build their top-down and bottom-up reading-processing skills. Ibsen
(1990) reminds us that extensive reading of literature helps foreign lan-
guage readers understand the cultures of different communities. Krashen
suggests that interesting reading materials can be valuable “comprehen-
sible input” (1985). In discussing vocabulary acquisition of native speakers,
Adams (1990) suggests that “the extent of . . . incidental vocabulary
acquisition depends strongly on the amount a child reads” (p. 28).


Despite this emphasis on offering learners large amounts of interesting
reading materials, teachers are left on their own to discover students’
interests. Some no doubt use a classroom ethnography approach as
suggested by Williams (1986):
Ask them [students] what they like reading in their own language, peer over
their shoulders in the library. . . . To check the interest-level of texts currently
being used in your EFL reading course, ask learners to assess them as
“interesting,” “all right,” or “boring.” But be prepared for a few surprises! (p. 42)
Another approach is for teachers to give students an interest inventory
questionnaire (Lipp, 1988a), as was done for this study. The purpose of this
study was to identify the subjects or genres of English books that were of
most interest to adult ESL students, to contrast these interests with those of
native speakers, and to identify students’ preferred book length. This kind
of information can help ESL instructors select instructional materials
which may help students develop and maintain a habit of pleasure reading
in English.


International students at four ESL programs (Michigan State University
[MSU], Ferris State University [FSU], Delta College of Michigan [DCM],
and California State University, Fresno [CSUF] ) were asked to fill out a
short questionnaire in which they marked “subjects” that they would like
to read about in English for pleasure. Students were also asked to select the
three kinds of books that interested them the most. On the questionnaire,
27 subjects or genres were listed, and blank spaces were provided for
additional ones. Other questions probed age, country of origin, and
subsequent academic plans. The participants were limited to students who
planned to enroll at a U.S. university after completing their English
studies, who were between 18 and 32 years old, and who identified three
primary interests. Of 206 student questionnaires that met these conditions,
74 were from MSU, 65 from CSUF, 52 from FSU, and 15 were from DCM.
Of the 206 students, the largest numbers were from the countries of Japan
(29%), Indonesia (11%), and Saudi Arabia (8%); 64% were from Northeast
Asia, 1.5% from the Middle East, 11% from Latin America, 6% from Europe,
2% from Africa, and 2% did not identify a native country.
In another questionnaire, the same group of CSUF intensive English
program students reported on their preferred book length for reading in
English. They were asked to select the length that appealed to them the
most from seven choices (less than 50 pages, 50–75 pages, 75–100 pages,
100-150 pages, 150-200 pages, 200.300 pages, and more than 300 pages).
These students’ test scores (Secondary Level English Proficiency Test, Part
II [SLEP]) were also collected to see how preferred book length was
related to students’ English proficiency. Students with SLEP scores
ranging from 14 to 31 were included in this part of the study.


Reading Interests
Students’ major reading interests were noted by tabulating the three
genres that students reported wanting to read the most. Totals were then
compiled for each school, and school totals were added together to obtain
an overall ranking of the genres.
Examining the genres most frequently identified as students’ top three
reading choices, we found that world problems was the most frequently
indicated interest, with almost one quarter of the students selecting it. Of
major interest to 15%–18% of students were the following: sports, travel to
other countries, mystery, adventure, academic subjects, and historical
novels. Of major interest to 12%–14% of students were the following:
science fiction, travel in the U. S., romance, famous people, and cars and
It should be noted that while the students’ overall preferences related to
fiction seemed to be similar to those of native speakers, their interests in
nonfiction books differed. In a Gallup survey, U.S. adult book readers,
who presumably were mostly native or near-native English speakers, rated
action/adventure, historical, and mystery as the most popular kinds of
novels. Short story collections, romance/Gothic, and “modern dramatic
novels” were also preferred by at least 20% of the respondents (Book
Industry Study, 1978, cited in Gray, 1980, p. 278). ESL students’ top
reading interests included these kinds of books as well. However, for
native speakers, biographies, autobiographies and cookbooks were the
nonfiction genres that were most popular while ESL students’ favorite
nonfiction areas were world problems, sports, travel to other countries,
and academic subjects.
Furthermore, since the ESL students’ highest ranked reading interest areas
were for nonfiction books, we infer that these students’ primary motivation
for reading English books was knowledge rather than pleasure. However,
the survey on the U.S. bookreading population showed that book readers
were motivated by pleasure more than by an interest in furthering their
knowledge (Book Industry Study, 1978, cited by Gray, 1980).
Another study should be conducted to see if second language learners
who differ in type of motivation for learning English also differ in
motivation for reading books in English. Are students with primarily
academic goals—those primarily seeking degrees in the U.S. and then
departing—less-motivated readers than immigrant ESL students? If this is
so, it cannot be simply the difficulty in reading in English that prevents the
international students with academic goals from seeking pleasure from this
activity, as reading would presumably be equally difficult for many
immigrant students. Is it because the international students view reading
only as a tool to help them gain knowledge about their field and to help
them achieve their academic goal? In any case, if they are less motivated
to read for pleasure in English, then sustained silent reading (SSR)
programs may help because SSR has been linked to improved student
attitudes towards reading (Wiesendanger & Birlem, 1984).


Book Length
Besides investigating genres of particular interest to students, we also
studied the length of English books that ESL students preferred.
Respondents were divided into three groups on the basis of three levels of
proficiency. Perhaps not surprisingly, the low-proficiency group’s
responses indicated a preference for very short books, those under 75
pages, while the majority of the middle-proficiency group accepted
somewhat longer books. Of considerable interest, however, was the fact
that even the high group preferred books of only 75 to 100 pages, with
their next most popular length being a still very modest 150 to 200 pages.

According to Alvermann (1990), “Research has established that reading
involves not so much what we do with our eyes as how interested we are
in what we are reading” (p. 105). Administering a reading inventory is a
way to assess students’ reading interests. Students can benefit because
instructors can use this information to avoid pitfalls when selecting reading
materials for their theme-based reading units, extensive reading (Bamford,
1984) or sustained silent reading (Carrell& Eisterhold, 1983; Lipp, 1988b).
When searching for readings on world problems, instructors often use
current newspaper and news magazine articles. When selecting literature,
they may have tried to use reading lists of adolescent and adult books such
as the one by Reed (1988) to locate interesting books for their students.
Unfortunately, our study suggests that unless instructors also consider
shorter graded readers such as those recommended by Bamford (1984)
and Hill and Thomas (1988), they may find that many students consider
the books too long. We need reading lists that focus on the genres that
students want to read (Brown [1987], Lipp [1990], and Reed [1988]
provide lists of suggested books on several high-interest genres) and that
include titles of relatively short books, i.e., those about 150 pages in length
or shorter. With this information, we can help our students become better

Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print: A
Summarv. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Center for the Study of Reading.
Alvermann, D. E., & Muth, K. D. (1990). Affective goals in reading and writing. In
G. G. Duffy (Ed.), Reading in the middle schools (2nd ed., pp. 97-110). Newark,
NJ: International Reading Association.
Bamford, J. (1984). Extensive reading by means of graded readers. Reading in a
Foreign Language, 2 (2), 218-260.
Brown, D. S. (1987). A world of books: An annotated reading list for ESL/EFL
students (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.


Carrell, P. L., & Eisterhold, J. C. (1983). Schema theory and ESL reading
pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 17 (4), 553-573.
Educational Testing Service. (1981). Secondary level English proficiency test
(SLEP). Princeton, NJ: Author.
Eskey, K. E., & Grabe, W. (1988). Interactive models for second language reading:
Perspectives on instruction. In P. L. Carrell, J. Devine, & D. E. Eskey (Eds.),
Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading (pp. 223-238). New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Fader, Daniel. (1976). The new hooked on books. New York: G. P. Putman’s Sons.
Gray, Donald. (1980). Books: A review essay of the 1978 consumer research study
on reading and book purchasing. College English, 42 (3), 283-292.
Hill, D. R., & Thomas, H. R. (1988). Survey review: Graded readers I. ELT
Journal, 42 (l), 44-52.
Hill, D. R., & Thomas, H. R. (1988). Survey review: Graded readers II. ELT
Journal, 42 (2), 124-136.
Ibsen, E. B. (1990). The double role of fiction in foreign-language learning:
Towards a creative methodology. English Teaching Forum, 28 (3), 2-9.
Krashen, S. (1985). Inquiries and insights. Hayward, CA: Alemany Press.
Lipp, E. (1988a). Using a reading interest inventory to select pleasure reading for
intensive English program students. CATESOL News, 19 (8), 6-8.
Lipp, E. (1988b). Sustained silent reading: A new concept for reading labs. Paper
presented at the 22nd Annual TESOL Convention, Chicago, IL.
Lipp, E. (1990). Reading acquisition through sustained silent reading A practical
approach. CATESOL Journal, 3 (l), 75-91.
Reed, A. J. S. (1988). Comics to classics: A parent’s guide to books for teens and
preteens. Newark, NJ: International Reading Association.
Smith, F. (1978). Reading without nonsense. New York: Teachers College Press.
Wiesendanger, K. D., & Birlem, E. B. (1984). The effectiveness of SSR: An
overview of the research. Reading Horizons, 24, 197-201.
Williams, R. (1986). Top ten principles for teaching reading. ELT Journal, 40 (1),

Authors’ Address: c/o Lipp, American Language Institute, California State

University, Fresno, CA 93740.

Language Classroom Speech Rates:

A Descriptive Study
Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration

The widely-held belief that speech rate (SR) can be modified to

facilitate nonnative-speaker (NNS) comprehension is supported by
accumulating research evidence (e.g., Conrad, 1989; Griffiths, 1990a) and
a beginning can be made in recommending speed limits for certain
proficiency-level groups. However, there is almost no reliable evidence to


indicate that rate is actually adjusted in second language classrooms.
Nonetheless, in the literature on second language teaching and acquisition,
the occurrence of SR modification to students of different proficiency
levels is frequently assumed, and a study by Hakansson (1986) purports to
show that rate also changes over relatively short time periods. This is not,
however, a finding which would be predicted from a reading of the
specialized literature (e. g., Goldman-Eisler, 1954; Kowal, Wiese, &
O’Connell, 1983), and methodological flaws undermine confidence in the
finding (for a critical review, see Griffiths, in press). The present study
was, therefore, designed to investigate the following issues:
1. The relationship between native-speaker (NS) SR and learner
proficiency levels in English language classrooms
2. The degree of SR change over time (specifically, as in the Hakansson
study, over two 5-week periods)
3. The relationship between rates obtained in NS-NNS classrooms and
comparable NS-NS baseline conditions

The data for the present study were obtained from audiotaped
recordings of lessons given by 10 EFL university teachers at Sultan Qaboos
University in Oman. Each teacher recorded one lesson (given to the same
group of students) during the first week of the semester, one during the
fifth week and another during the tenth week.
In order to sample SRS in lessons to students of different proficiency
levels, thereby adding to the generalizability of the findings, recordings
were made in first-, second-, and third-year classes.
Four male teachers, one English and three from the U. S., each recorded
three language lessons with first-semester science students. Testing of this
particular enrollment of students on the Comprehensive English Language
Test (CELT) show them to be of elementary proficiency although a
minority of intermediate-level students were placed in some classes.
Generally, however, the students can be regarded as false beginners as
they had received, on average, 9 years of English language instruction at
Three teachers, two female and one male, all English, recorded three
language lessons with second-year agriculture students whose overall
proficiency can best be described as high elementary; however, there
were, in these classes, rather fewer of the more advanced students and, in
the class of one teacher, rather more lower-level students.
Three other teachers—two female and one male, two English and one
Irish—recorded language lessons with third-year students of lower-
intermediate proficiency in the Faculty of Medicine.
NS-NS baselines were obtained as each teacher presented a body of
information (e.g., on why Arabic is so difficult to learn) in a short talk to
groups of NSs in a formal setting (classroom or office). (It has to be


acknowledged that this genre may not be exactly identical to the EFL
lessons—in which, in any case, a number of genres are exhibited—but no
more satisfactory comparison can be drawn; EFL teachers in this setting
do not give lessons to NSs).

SR was calculated in syllables per second (sps) using digital stop-watch
timing. To promote some degree of methodological comparability with
Hakansson’s study, SR was calculated from the first two 30-sec periods
when the teacher spoke continuously without interruption of any kind and
in which no pause was equal to or greater than 3 sec. Pausological literature
(e.g., Goldman-Eisler, 1954) indicates that samples of about 100 syllables
in length (normally achieved in 30 sec of continuous speech) are required
to give stable rates. Moreover, longer samples are often not found in EFL
lessons where interaction frequently interrupts teacher talk. The 3-sec on-
time threshold was adopted on the basis of previous findings on pause
frequency and duration (Griffiths, 1990b). The segments sampled
necessarily included different genres of speech (e. g., the spontaneous
giving of instructions, oral reading) and, to control for this, the samples are
best regarded as group, rather than individual, data.

The findings on SR in lessons to the first-, second-, and third-year groups
and the changes in rates observed over the three time periods are given in
Table 1.

Speech Rates (sps) of 10 EFL Teachers for 3 Time Periods,
With NS-NNS Baseline

Year of
students Teacher Week 1 Week 5 Week 10 NS-NS
1 A 3.8 3.2 3.4 4.3
1 B 2.8 2.7 3.4 2.8
1 C 2.4 2.3 2.8 3.1
1 D 4.3 4.0 4.5 4.1
2 E 2.8 2.5 2.7 3.3
2 F 3.4 2.8 2.5 3.6
2 G 2.6 3.2 3.2 3.0
3 3.7 3.7 3.9 3.8
3 3.1 3.5 2.8 3.0
3 3.6 3.5 3.7 3.1


In accordance with the aims set out earlier, the first relationship
investigated was that of SR and proficiency level. The average rates for
each teacher were analysed to give the means and standard deviations of
the three cells (SRS in deliveries to first-, second-, and third-year students).
These are shown in Table 2.

Means and Standard Deviations of Speech Rates (sps)
of EFL Teachers by Student Proficiency Level

Level No. of teachers m SD

(first-year) 4 3.3 0.7
(second-year) 3 2.8 0.3
(third-year) 3 3.5 0.3

The relationship is not as anticipated. Although the fastest mean rate

occurred in deliveries to the highest-proficiency-level students, the slowest
rate was to the second-year group.
As the means indicated some difference in SR in lessons to the different
groups, a one-way ANOVA was performed to test if any of the observed
variation in rates was significant. However, with such a small sample size,
unbalanced design, and possible lack of variance homogeneity, the
resulting findings cannot be regarded as other than tentative. Results of the
analysis were, however, far from being significant (F [2,7] = 1.135,
p = .3742). Therefore, no significant difference is evident in the SRs of
teachers in lessons to students of different proficiency levels.
Modifications over the three time periods were investigated using the
same procedure. Means and standard deviations for SRs of all 10 teachers
to all classes over the three periods are shown in Table 3.

Means and Standard Deviations of Speech Rates (sps)
of EFL Teachers by Time Period (N = 10)

Time m SD
Week 1 3.2 0.6
Week 5 3.1 0.6
Week 10 3.3 0.6


Again the relationship does not follow the pattern indicated in the study
by Hakansson (1986). The similarity in rates is much more apparent than
any perceived difference. The results of a repeated measures ANOVA
confirmed the homogeneity of SR over the time periods (F [2,18] = .525,
p = .601).
A similar procedure was used to investigate the relationship between
SRS to the NNS learners and rates observed in the NS-NS baseline data. In
this section of the analysis, the mean SRS of the teachers in all sampled
periods were compared to those observed in the baseline sessions. The
means and standard deviations for the two sets of figures are given in
Table 4.

Means and Standard Deviations of Speech Rates (sps)
of EFL Teachers to Native and Nonnative Speakers

Condition m SD
NS-NNS 3.3 0.5
NS-NS 3.4 0.5

Although the relationship is as the general literature on second language

teaching and acquisition would predict (with slower deliveries to NNSs),
the similarity between the means and the level of the standard deviation
suggest that the difference is not significant. This was confirmed by the
results of a one-tailed matched-pairs t test: t (9) = 1.355, p > .05).
Observed differences in SRs on all three dimensions were, therefore,
shown to be nonsignificant. SR did not significantly differ over time,
between proficiency levels of NNSs, or in utterances between NS-NNSs
and NS-NSs.

The major findings of this study, that SR in language classes does not
differ from a NS-NS baseline and does not significantly vary in speech to
NNSs of differing proficiency levels, would not be expected from a
reading of the literature. The evidence, from this and other studies in this
series of investigations of temporal variables (Griffiths, 1990b), is,
however, unequivocal: Adjustment of rate is the exception rather than the
norm. This does not, of course, mean that no SR modification occurs, but
rather indicates that it might not be as pervasive as the extant literature
suggests. A nonsignificant statistical finding in this case is therefore an
illuminating one.


Conrad, L. (1989). The effects of time-compressed speech on native and EFL
listening comprehension. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 11, 1-16.
Goldman-Eisler, F. (1954). On the variability of the speed of talking and on its
relation to the length of utterances in conversation. British Journal of
Psychology, 45, 94-107.
Griffiths, R. T. (1990a). Speech rate and NNS comprehension: A preliminary study
in time-benefit analysis. Language Learning, 40, 311-336.
Griffiths, R. T. (1990b). Temporal variables in L2 classroom input: A descriptive
and experimental study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of
Southampton, England.
Griffiths, R. T. (in press). Pausological research in an L2 context A rationale and
review of selected studies. Applied Linguistics.
Hakansson, G. (1986). Quantitative aspects of teacher talk. In G. Kasper (Ed.),
Learning, teaching, and communicating in the foreign language classroom (pp.
83-98). Aarhus, The Netherlands: Aarhus University Press.
Kowal, S. H., Wiese, R., & O’Connell, D. C. (1983). The use of time in storytelling.
Language and Speech, 26, 377-392.

Author’s Address: Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration,

Sagamine, Nisshin-cho, Aichi-gun, Aichi, Japan 470-01


The TESOL Quarterly invites commentary on current trends or practices in the
TESOL profession. It also welcomes responses or rebuttals to any articles or
remarks published here in The Forum or elsewhere in the Quarterly.

The Use of the Concept of Cultural

Sensitivity in Teacher Evaluation:
A Case Study
WUSC Canada-Indonesia Predeparture Program

Cultural sensitivity ought to be a highly useful concept in TESOL,

for it reminds us that the ESOL instructor must be capable not only
in the theory and pedagogy of TESOL but in cross-cultural
communication too. However, to know whether this expectation
has been met in particular cases, we need more than just a maxim
(“be culturally sensitive”). Unfortunately, we do not yet have
agreement as to what cultural sensitivity actually means, let alone an
operational definition (Krasnick, 1987). The following account
illustrates the type of problem that can occur when attempting to
use the concept of cultural sensitivity in teacher evaluation.


One summer several years ago, a U.S. university sent an instructor
to one of the Pacific islands to teach two sections of an introductory
content course (i. e., not ESOL). The students in the course were
public school teachers enrolled in the university’s off-campus BA
program. Some had not graduated from high school, all but one
were ESL speakers, and most if not all were working for the local
Department of Education when not in class.
Because many of the students reported that they had difficulty
understanding the textbook prescribed for the course, the instructor
devoted the class time to summarizing and explaining the textbook
content to the students. In the end, though the grades were not high,
nearly all of the students who completed the course requirements
passed. Given the students’ English language comprehension

problems, the large number of basic concepts to be mastered, and
the students’ time constraints and other responsibilities, the
instructor considered the enterprise to have been a success.
Subsequently, however, negative student comments about the
instructor were sent to the instructor’s dean. The comments
appeared to have been rewritten by a native speaker of English,
who added the recommendation that the instructor be allowed to
“fry in hell.” Inasmuch as some of the comments were used by the
dean as evidence that the instructor was lacking in “cultural
sensitivity,” this case offers an opportunity to inquire into the use of
this concept in teacher evaluation.


Most of the criticisms dealt with pedagogy. As stated earlier, the
instructor had adhered closely to the textbook in the lectures; for
examinations, the instructor selected the easier multiple-choice
questions from among the hundreds supplied with the textbook,
supplementing these with other questions designed to assess
students’ ability to apply the concepts covered in the textbook to
new situations. Two student comments show a very different view:
Lectures were totally useless because the test questions did not come
from the lectures, but [the instructor] led students to believe they would.
[The instructor] did not write the tests, but used ones that had been
written by someone else. [The instructor] did not look at them
beforehand, and did not know that some of the questions should not
have been there because the points were not covered in either the text or
the lectures.
What the dean expressed concern about, however, was not these
claims, which deal with basic professional competence (deception,
negligence), but rather cultural sensitivity, presumably referring to
the following criticisms (but possibly based on other communica-
tions unknown to the instructor):
Wasn’t very nice. Acted like a missionary to the natives, with a superior
attitude. Seemed to equate a poor command of English with
[The instructor’s] attitude seemed to indicate that [the instructor] didn’t
like [our island].
The thing to note at this point is that these are attributions-
assumptions concerning the meaning (intention) of the instructor’s
various actions, whatever they may have been.


In his treatise on cross-cultural interaction problems, Brislin
(1981) cautions the sojourner against interpreting hosts’ behavior in
the same way that such behavior would normally be interpreted in
the sojourner’s home country. In principle, of course, this cross-
cultural interpretation problem exists for hosts as well as for guests.
By the nature of the case, however, the analytical focus is usually on
guests, as in the present instance: In accepting the student criticisms,
the university apparently discounted the possibility that the students
might have had difficulties in making accurate cross-cultural
interpretations of behavior.
A key concept in such situations is what is referred to in social
psychology as the “fundamental attribution error” (Brislin, 1981,
p. 93), the tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to traits:
When an individual observes another person behave in some way, there
is a strong tendency to attribute the behavior to a trait . . . because
people’s behavior is much more visible and salient than the situational
factors which may have elicited that behavior.
In this homogeneous island society, the instructor’s most noticeable
trait was undoubtedly that of being from the U. S., and as Brislin
notes (p. 80), a previously developed stereotype of “Americans”
may be applied to a person who is labeled as such. More generally,
he observes that “when hosts have had experience with other
foreigners, they develop categories into which new visitors are
placed” (p. 204), and occasionally “new interactions begin on a
defensive or even hostile note” (p. 205) since “already established
categories color the reception, treatment, and opportunities offered
by the hosts” (p. 208) when the next visitor arrives. In the present
case, then, the fundamental attribution error would have been to
interpret the instructor’s behavior in terms of an existing stereotype
of Americans and/or attribute it to underlying negative cultural
attitudes, rather than consider other possible explanations.
Specific hypotheses come readily to mind with respect to the
comments from students cited earlier. Brislin points out that hosts
may respond to the sojourner’s social role. Had previous instructors
acted like missionaries? Disliked the island and its people? Equated
a poor command of English with limited intelligence? This
particular island society had been converted to Christianity and
therefore had been visited by real missionaries—could this explain
why the instructor’s behavior was seen by one of the students as like
that of a missionary? Or, if students had hoped to receive higher
grades in the course than the ones they eventually received, is it


possible that their “disconfirmed expectancies” took on undue
significance (see Brislin, Cushner, Cherrie & Yong, 1986, pp. 249-
250) and that their perceptions or attributions were affected?
We lack the data with which to test such hypotheses in the present
case, of course, but the central issue is clear: Do these student
comments reflect problematic cross-cultural attributions made in
undetermined circumstances?


Bearing in mind the conventional wisdom that student evalua-
tions may always reflect a variety of factors quite unrelated to
actual instructor performance, the university’s ready acceptance of
these particular comments as valid is puzzling. One possible
explanation might involve what Lerner (1980) calls “the belief in a
just world.” Over a period of more than two decades, Lerner and
others have demonstrated that many individuals believe that, in
general, “people ‘get what they deserve’” (p. 11). For example, such
individuals would agree with this statement on Lerner’s 20-item
“Belief in a Just World” attitude scale: “Students almost always
deserve the grades they receive in school.” Presumably, they would
also agree with this structurally identical proposition: Teachers
almost always deserve the student evaluations they receive.
Lerner explains that maintaining the belief in a just world may
entail what is often called “blaming the victim”:
If it is possible to attribute the victim’s fate to something he did or failed
to do, then the sense of justice is often satisfied. (p. 21)
The implication, then, is that educational administrators in whom
the belief in a just world is relatively strong might attend more to
the presumed blame-worthiness of an instructor who received
negative student evaluations than to the validity of the comments
themselves, especially if the comments were “vivid” (sharp, clear,
interesting, or unexpected), as in the present case, since vivid
information is especially influential in affecting judgments of other
people (Brislin, 1981, pp. 92, 108).

This case is offered as a caution, Whether the university’s
uncritical acceptance of the student comments as valid reflects the
belief in a just world or something else, what emerges from this
episode is the disturbing possibility that factors which would


otherwise merit examination may be passed over in favor of
explanations involving cross-cultural communication variables such
as the concept of cultural sensitivity (or, more precisely, the lack of
it) —this, despite the daunting definitional and measurement
problems inherent in this concept. Would it not be ironic if the
concept of cultural sensitivity, intended to broaden and enrich our
vision of cross-cultural teaching, instead had the effect of narrowing
The fact that employment decisions in education are often based
partly on student evaluations means that there is also a professional
issue to be addressed, particularly when, as at the university in
question, peer observations are not used. While student evaluations
in every teaching situation are subject to distortion, the special
characteristic of evaluations in TESOL and other cross-cultural
teaching is that the students face all of the problems that confront
sojourners in attempting to make accurate interpretations of the
meaning of the behavior of individuals from other cultures (their
teachers). In essence, anonymous student evaluations are similar in
form to hearsay: Such evidence might well provide a reason to
commence an inquiry, but it should not replace the inquiry. Student
evaluation forms cannot provide us the answers to two questions of
central importance in the fundamental attribution error issue: What
behavior did the students notice, and how did the students know
what significance to attach to it?
Finally, the possibility that the concept of cultural sensitivity was
used in this way because of enmity toward the instructor would
make its role more significant, not less. Although decision makers
should be both competent and fair, especially when, as was true
here, their deliberations are subject neither to scrutiny nor to
review, this goal is always imperfectly achieved. The use of
concepts that lack operational definitions not only renders the
evaluation process even more difficult, but inevitably increases the
possibility of misuse as well.
Thus it is possible that, at the moment, the concept of cultural
sensitivity is not one which is ready for use in teacher evaluation. At
the very least, remembering that much of TESOL involves cross-
cultural teaching, it seems safe to say that the concept of cultural
sensitivity deserves more attention than it has received thus far.


Brislin, R. W. (1981). Cross-cultural encounters: Face-to-face interaction.
New York: Pergamon Press.
Brislin, R. W., Cushner, K., Cherrie, C., & Yong, M. (1986). Intercultural
interactions: A practical guide. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Krasnick, H. (1987, April). Cultural sensitivity in teaching. Paper presented
at the RELC Regional Seminar, Singapore.
Lerner, M. J. (1980). The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion.
New York: Plenum.

Research Issues
The TESOL Quarterly publishes brief commentaries on aspects of qualitative and
quantitative research. For this issue, we asked two researchers to address the fol-
lowing question: “To what extent do ethnographers investigate general research
questions, and to what extent do they test specific hypotheses?”


University of Hawaii at Manoa

The Role of Hypothesis Testing in Qualitative Research

A Researcher Comments. . .

Harvard University

The simple answer to this question is that, yes, ethnographers usually

begin their investigation with general research questions, and no, they do
not test specific hypotheses. But from this simple answer one can get a
misguided perception about the focus of ethnography and its ability to
inform us of complex processes involved in language teaching and
learning. Ethnographers (I will refer specifically to those who study L2
socialization—meaning both teaching and learning) usually go into a field
of study with a general question about some aspect of language behavior,
learning, teaching, or interaction. For example, one might ask, “How does
the development of writing over time (or lack of it) of a group of learners
relate to a variety of circumstances present in the instructional setting, the
broader context of the institution and/or community, and the individual
relationships writers have with their own writing?” At this level of
generality, however, the question is likely to be answered with a “thin”
description of all of the things that affect L2 writing for a particular group
of people.


In order for the ethnography to inform us of underlying significant
relationships in learning to write, the research question needs more focus.
Thus, questions about learning to write become more specific as the
ethnographer begins to uncover the relationships that exist between
individuals, institutions, teaching, and learning. Some particular events,
attitudes, routines, or beliefs will appear to influence the progress of these
writers in particularly important ways. Ethnographers, as a result, focus
their analyses on these elements specifically and in great detail. For
example, a more focused question driving the analysis might become,
“How does teacher feedback to student writers or writing vary, and
what relationship does this variation have to students’ ability, type of
instructional activity, and students’ development as writers?” With a
guiding question of this nature, the ethnographer will collect data
specifically relating to these areas of focus and examine all of the data in
light of it. The resulting analysis should not only describe the relationships
but, more importantly, attempt to explain why the relationships exist,
based on the data collected and a thorough understanding of the culture of
the setting.
Why doesn’t an ethnographer test hypotheses? The problem here is with
the term test. Normally, in quantitative research designs, testing
hypotheses involves manipulating variables so as to isolate specific factors
and observe their effect on learning outcomes. Thus, the researcher needs
to hypothesize what the significant relationships are before the research
project can be carried out. An ethnographer, instead, determines the
significant relationships only after observation in the field. Secondly, in a
hypothesis-testing research design, the crucial variables reflecting these
relationships will, as far as possible, be isolated from the surrounding
context in order to permit measurement or counting. Counts are then
compared with those of similarly isolated variables in contrasting
relationships. This generally involves some manipulation of the natural
setting and always involves reducing the complexity of variables so that
they appear to be clear, unambiguous, and countable.
In contrast, ethnography eschews any manipulation of the naturally
occurring situation (except that caused by the observer’s presence). In
addition, since an underlying goal of ethnographic research is to discover
the complexity of human actions and the meanings (explanations) they
take on in their cultural context, any attempt to reduce variables in order
to compare artificially constructed, contrasting situations would not be
considered part of the ethnographic investigation.
Perhaps, then, a better way to ask the original question is the following:
“Do ethnographers investigate specific relationships which impact
language teaching and learning?” Yes. “Do they not merely describe but
also explain why the relationships impact language socialization the way
they do?” Good ones do.


Polly Ulichny is Research Associate and Instructor in the Teacher Education
Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has published in the
areas of classroom interaction, discourse analysis, and ethnography.

A Second Researcher Comments. . .

Lehman College, City University of New York

The question as stated is intriguing, due, no doubt, to its ambiguity. The

ambiguity stems, on the one hand, from the current use of the term
ethnography in areas much beyond its traditional home in anthropology
and, on the other hand, to the form of the question itself.
As a result of the ever-widening use of the term ethnography in the
health sciences, social psychology, history, sociology, and, notably, in
research on education and in educational program evaluation, it is difficult
to determine to what the term now refers. Its appropriation by educational
researchers, who strip it of its history and meaning within anthropology
has resulted ironically in weakening the potential of ethnography for
understanding the educative process itself. For many, ethnography has
become an umbrella term which subsumes a large tool kit of research
methods and techniques which would be better grouped under the rubric
qualitative. The frequent equating of ethnographic with qualitative
increases the degree of ambiguity in questions like that to which we
respond here. Although such a use may not be intended, this can no longer
be determined from the question itself. We must then ask: To which
ethnographers does the question refer? Does the questioner assume that all
ethnographers do or should act similarly in the process of ethnographic
research? In other words, Is there an ethnography? or Are there
Recourse to the “canon” of ethnographic research espoused by
practicing anthropologists provides no solution since as Hymes (1978, p. 1)
has emphasized, “Anthropologists themselves do not have a unified
conception of ethnography.” This creates the potential for misunderstand-
ing when those untrained in anthropology wish to adopt ethnography and
adapt it to their own purposes. While attempts by anthropologists to offer
assistance (Heath, 1982; Spindler, 1982; Watson-Gegeo, 1988) by “defining
the essentials” may ease concern by researchers who wish to “get it right,”
these attempts simultaneously sustain the illusion that ethnography is
monolithic. Let us be unequivocal: There is no one ethnography. The
implications of this statement will be troublesome for many, especially for
those who wish to make “the ethnographic method” their own. But while
the notion of many ethnographies may be deemed a weakness, it may be
viewed, in fact, as a strength. Because it seems never to be clear to what


ethnography as a label refers, because we have not exhausted the
possibilities of ethnography, questions which cannot be raised using other
categories can be raised within the conversation of ethnography. Questions
ruled out by a prior understanding of what work those other categories can
do become grist for the ethnographer’s mill.
There is, in the question posed above, the interesting tension produced
by the counterpoising of “general” with “specific,” “investigate” with “test,”
and “questions” with “hypotheses.” Within what categorical framework
can these be comfortably, or even uncomfortably, counterpoised? Does
ethnography’s status as a cultural science rest upon the resolution of this
tension in favor of one or the other pole or is the tension itself essential to
ethnography’s unique position between the humanities and the natural
Further, the "to what extent . . ." would seem to imply the prior
existence of a continuum or the need for a scale against which to measure
the goal or purpose of ethnographic research. It calls for inquiry into the
logical possibility that the extent to which ethnographers do either is zero,
making “Do ethnographers investigate general research questions or do
they test specific hypotheses?” a necessary reformulation. To this question
there are, logically, four possible answers: Ethnographers test hypotheses;
they investigate general research questions; they do both; or th,ey do
neither. Limited space prevents the adequate exploration of these four
possibilities. Nevertheless, a few points must be raised.
Are research questions and hypotheses commensurate? Hypotheses are
understood, in a Popperian (1968) framework, as statements capable of
passing the test of falsifiability. The prior limiting of ethnography to the
task of devising such tests would preclude the very possibility of asking a
wide range of questions which are incapable of falsification. For Popper,
to entertain such questions and attempt answers is to talk nonsense. But
such “nonsensical” questions and answers may be of great significance
both to actors and to ethnographers within a particular sociocultural
Of the four logical possibilities, the last, ethnographers neither
investigate general research questions nor test specific hypotheses, would
seem to be the most extreme, because, if such a case can be made, the
utility of ethnography understood as a research method would be
undermined. If ethnographers do neither, then, from an epistemological
and ethical perspective (the two, in ethnography, are inseparable) an
alternative form of the original question is preferred wherein “can” and
“should” replace “do.” Such a question arises naturally within the tradition
of a critical anthropology where the task of ethnography is first and
foremost one of understanding, an understanding gained fundamentally
through the process of description. Through description ethnographers
discover the inadequacy of their own categories to the task of
understanding. This discovery provides the opportunity for reflection: We
come to understand ourselves by understanding others. In other words, a
major source of ethnography’s utility as a research method lies in its


concern to expose the categories used by the “native” and by the
ethnographer to construct and to understand their sociocultural world, to
show what categories are available to make sense of the world, what they
include, and, as important, what they exclude. The worlds of the native
and of the ethnographer are inextricably intertwined in the doing of
ethnographic research because the determination of what is excluded from
the cultural categories (the limits of the labels) rests upon comparison.
Without comparison there is no ethnography. In short, as presented here,
ethnographic inquiry is dialectical, it is part and parcel of an “anthro-
pology [which] abstractly conceived as the study of man [sic], is actually
the study of men in crisis by men in crisis” (Diamond, 1974, p. 93).
The active engagement of the ethnographer as subject in the research
process itself is likely to cause some discomfort to those schooled in more
positivistically oriented fields. It immediately begs a series of questions,
the most fundamental being that of “objectivity”—a can of worms even
larger than that we have already opened. Determining the legitimacy of
the question itself requires a continuing critical dialogue among
representatives of the differing research traditions. Certainly ethnog-
raphers can contribute to the debate.
The process we have engaged in here is illustrative, albeit on a small
scale, of ethnographic method from a critical perspective. The attempt to
identify and to begin to unpack the categories which contain the terms of
the question is a moment in the engagement of two research traditions. An
ethnographer, educated in a particular school of anthropology, critical
anthropology, confronts a question posed by one whose education and
work lie in research on second language acquisition. Such confrontation,
begun in an examination of the initial question posed (Why this question?),
continued over the long term, cannot but serve to develop theory by
forcing an investigation of the manner in which we conceptualize research,
and the relation of that conceptualization to the way in which research is
carried out. An ethnography in the service of TESOL would become one
which not only sought to uncover the significant questions in, for example,
classroom research on second language acquisition, but would,
simultaneously, seek to identify and to understand questions arising from
the political and sociocultural contexts within which second language
acquisition becomes possible, even necessary.

Richard K. Blot is Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program in Reading at
Lehman College, City University of New York.


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Hymes, D. (1978). What is ethnography? (Sociolinguistic Working Paper No. 45).
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