These days demand for communicative language teaching is relatively very high. This increased demand put pressure on educators to change their teaching methods. In this article, we will examine two approaches, which focus more on the outcomes or products of learning as the starting point in course design than on classroom processes. They start by identifying the kinds of uses of language the learner is expected to be able to master at the end of a given period of instruction. Teaching strategies are then selected to help achieve these goals.
Text-based instruction, also known as a genre-based approach, sees communicative competence as involving the mastery of different types of texts. Text here is used in a special sense to refer to structured sequences of language that are used in specific contexts in specific ways. For example, in the course of a day, a speaker of English may use spoken English in many different ways, including the following:
− Casual conversational exchange with a friend
− Conversational exchange with a stranger in an elevator
− Telephone call to arrange an appointment at a hair salon
− An account to friends of an unusual experience
− Discussion of a personal problem with a friend to seek advice.
Each of these uses of language can be regarded as a text in that it exists as a unified whole with a beginning, middle, and end, it confirms to norms of organization and content, and it draws on appropriate grammar and vocabulary. Communicative competence thus involves being able to use different kinds of spoken and written texts in the specific contexts of their use.
Providing students with guided practice as they develop language skills for meaningful communication through whole texts. According to this view, learners in different contexts have to master the use of the text types occurring most frequently in specific contexts. These contexts might include: studying in an English-medium university, studying in an English-medium primary or secondary school, working in a restaurant, office, or store, socializing with neighbors in a housing complex.
Contents of a Text-Based Syllabus.
As its name implies, the core units of planning in TBI are text types. These are identified through needs analysis and through the analysis of language as it is used in different settings (text-based teaching thus has much in common with an ESP approach to language teaching, discussed above). However the syllabus also usually specifies other components of texts, such as grammar, vocabulary, topics, and functions; hence, it is a type of mixed syllabus, one which integrates reading, writing, and oral communication, and which teaches grammar through the mastery of texts rather than in isolation.
Texts, which combine one or more of these text types, Recounts Narratives Opinion texts Expositions Discussions. A text-based approach has been adopted in Singapore and forms the framework for the 2002 syllabus for primary and secondary schools. In the Singapore context, the text types that are identified can be understood as forming the communicative building blocks Singapore children need in order to perform in an English-medium school setting. The Singapore syllabus also identifies the grammatical items that are needed in order to master different text types.
While implementing a Text-Based Approach students:
− Are introduced to the social context of an authentic model of the text type being studied
− Explore features of the general cultural context in which the text type is used and the social purposes the text type achieves
− Explore the immediate context of situation by investigating the register of a model text which has been selected on the basis of the course objectives and learner need. An exploration of register involves:
- Build knowledge of the topic of the model text and knowledge of the social activity in which the text is used, e.g., job seeking
- Understand the roles and relationships of the people using the text and how these are established and maintained, e.g., the relationship between a job seeker and a prospective employer
- Understand the channel of communication being used, e.g., using the telephone, speaking face-to-face with members of an interview panel
Context-building activities include:
− Present the context through pictures, audiovisual materials, realia
− Establish the social purpose through discussions or surveys, etc.
− Cross-cultural activities, such as comparing differences in the use of the text in two cultures
− Compare the model text with other texts of the same or a contrasting type, e.g., comparing a job interview with a complex spoken exchange involving close friends, a work colleague or a stranger in a service encounter.
After all these have been done, students will have to do independent construction of the text. Here students work independently with the text. Independent construction activities include:
Listening tasks, e.g., comprehension activities in response to live or recorded material, such as performing a task, sequencing pictures, numbering, ticking or underlining material on a worksheet, answering questions. Listening and speaking tasks, e.g., role plays, simulated or authentic dialogs. Speaking tasks, e.g., spoken presentation to class, community organization, or workplace. Reading tasks, e.g., comprehension activities in response to written material such as performing a task, sequencing pictures, numbering, ticking or underlining material on a worksheet, answering questions. Writing tasks which demand that students draft and present whole texts.
There are also some problems with implementing a Text-Based Approach.
As can be seen from the above summary, a text-based approach focuses on the products of learning rather than the processes involved. Critics have pointed out that an emphasis on individual creativity and personal expression is missing from the TBI model, which is heavily wedded to a methodology based on the study of model texts and the creation of texts based on models. Likewise, critics point out that there is a danger that the approach becomes repetitive and boring over time since approaches described above applied to the teaching of all four skills.
Competency-based instruction is an approach to the planning and delivery of courses that has been in widespread use since the 1970s. The application of its principles to language teaching is called competency-based language teaching (CBLT) — an approach that has been widely used as the basis for the design of work-related and survival-oriented language teaching programs for adults. It seeks to teach students the basic skills they need in order to prepare them for situations they commonly encounter in everyday life. Recently, competency- based frameworks have become adopted in many countries, particularly for vocational and technical education. They are also increasingly being adopted in national language curriculum, as has happened recently in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
What characterizes a competency-based approach is the focus on the outcomes of learning as the driving force of teaching and the curriculum. Auerbach (1986) identifies eight features involved in the implementation of CBLT programs in language teaching:
- A focus on successful functioning in society. The goal is to enable students to become autonomous individuals capable of coping with the demands of the world.
- A focus on life skills. Rather than teaching language in isolation, CBLT teaches language as a function of communication about concrete tasks. Students are taught just those language forms/ skills required by the situations in which they will function. These forms are normally determined by needs analysis.
- Task- or performance-oriented instruction. What counts is what students can do as a result of instruction. The emphasis is on overt behaviors rather than on knowledge or the ability to talk about language and skills.
- Modularized instruction. Language learning is broken down into meaningful chunks. Objectives are broken into narrowly focused sub objectives so that both teachers and students can get a clear sense of progress.
- Outcomes are made explicit. Outcomes are public knowledge, known and agreed upon by both learner and teacher. They are specified in terms of behavioral objectives so that students know what behaviors are expected of them.
- Continuous and ongoing assessment. Students are pre-tested to determine what skills they lack and post-tested after instruction on that skill. If they do not achieve the desired level of mastery, they continue to work on the objective and are retested.
- Demonstrated mastery of performance objectives. Rather than the traditional paper-and-pencil tests, assessment is based on the ability to demonstrate prespecified behaviors.
- Individualized, student-centered instruction. In content, level, and pace, objectives are defined in terms of individual needs; prior learning and achievement are taken into account in developing curricula. Instruction is not time-based; students’ progress at their own rates and concentrate on just those areas in which they lack competence.
There are two things to note about competency-based instruction. First, it seeks to build more accountability into education by describing what a course of instruction seeks to accomplish. Secondly, it shifts attention away from methodology or classroom processes, to learning outcomes. In a sense, one can say that with this approach it doesn’t matter what methodology is employed as long as it delivers the learning outcomes.
Implementing a Competency-Based Approach.
As we saw above, CBLT is often used in programs that focus on learners with very specific language needs. In such cases, rather than seeking to teach general English, the focus is on the specific language skills needed to function in a specific context. This is similar to an ESP approach and to some versions of a task-based approach. The starting point in course planning is therefore an identification of the tasks the learner will need to carry out within a specific setting (e.g., in the role of factory worker, restaurant employee, or nurse) and the language demands of those tasks. The competencies needed for successful task performance are then identified and used as the basis for course planning. For example, part of a specification of competencies for a job training course includes the following:
The student will be able to:
− Identify different kinds of jobs using simple help-wanted ads
− Describe personal work experience and skills
− Demonstrate ability to fill out a simple job application with assistance
− Produce required forms of identification for employment
− Identify Social Security, income tax deductions, and tax forms
− Demonstrate understanding of employment expectations, rules, regulations, and safety
− Demonstrate understanding of basic instructions and ask for clarification on the job
− Demonstrate appropriate treatment of co-workers (politeness and respect).
Critics of CBLT have argued that this approach looks easier and neater than it is. They point out that analyzing situations into tasks and underlying competencies is not always feasible or possible, and that often little more than intuition is involved. They also suggest that this is a reductionist approach. Language learning is reduced to a set of lists and such things as thinking skills are ignored.