An Electronic Magazine by Omar Villarreal and Marina Kirac ©


Year 7                Number 165             May 5th 2006

10,232 SHARERS are reading this issue of SHARE this week
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being SHARED




This has been a rather difficult week. I have been down with flue since Wednesday. And the worst nightmare has become true: now Marina is down with flue… and a temperature!

I passed it on to her. It´s incredible how necessary she is to “organize our lives”. Sebas, Martin and I are trying to survive in style (if you can call pizzas and empanadas “surviving in style”),

Tomorrow (let us hope it´s a bit warmer) I´m off to Chivilcoy for a visit to one of the seats of the Licenciatura en Lengua Inglesa of UTN. I still feel a bit under the weather but I cannot (and do not want to) postpone it. I have been eagerly anticipating this trip and my meeting with the new Licenciandos for some weeks now.

All my friends are telling me I should get vaccinated against flue but ( I must confess) I´m a bit scared. Maybe when this bout of flue goes away I might reconsider (notice the use of the modal, please)



Omar and Marina




In SHARE 165


1.- "English is the key to a better life for the poor"
2.- What is Radical Constructivism?
3.- Action Research in the Foreign Language Classroom.
4.- Seminario de la Asociación Pampeana de Profesores de Inglés
5.- II Jornadas de Lectura y Escritura en Catamarca
6.- Maestría en Educación en la UBA.
7.- Concurso Docente.
8.- The Second Anglia Examination Syndicate International Congress
9.- A Course on Teaching Adults.
10.- News from the British Council.
11.- Encuentro de Capacitación Docente sobre problemáticas del aula en tiempos de crisis.
12.- The Buenos Aires Journal - Revista online en inglés y castellano
13.- Workshop In Corrientes.
14.- Shakespeare On Screen At The British Arts Centre
15.- BRAZ -TESOL 10th National Convention.
16.- Ninth IATEFL Conference in Chile.
17.- Presentación de un Libro en la Academia Nacional de Educación.






Our dear SHARER Gabriela Romero Segura from Concepción, Chile wants to SHARE this enlightening article with all of us:


Development, culture and language: ethical concerns in a postcolonial world
by  Alastair Pennycook


On the first page of a recent edition (October 99, Issue # 237) of the EL Gazette (‘English Language Journal Opening Doors Across the World’), a picture of laughing children (announcing ‘News Analysis’ on page 3) is accompanied by the subtitle "English is key to a better life for the poor". On p.2 the editorial explains further that "for many of the world’s poorest people, English can hold the key to escape from grinding poverty" (emphasis in original). And finally on p.3 the article itself carries the title "English language could be the key to a better life for the underprivileged", and the subtitle "The benefits of primary English language teaching are finally being recognized". Alongside an interesting question of modality as the headlines move from "English is key" to "English can hold the key" to "English language could be the key", these statements go to the heart of some of the issues that need to be addressed in the context of language and development.

The article itself argues that the benefits of primary school English language teaching have long been overlooked. Suggesting that English teaching has often been the domain of the privileged, aimed at overseas travel, tertiary education and so on, the article argues that by introducing widespread English into the primary sector, there will be greater access for all, and a greater democratisation of English. This is because "the impact of communication in English is immense: it affects those normally excluded from development. Rural workers now speak to the outside world through mobile phones, and write only using the Internet, both of which may be powered by solar energy. The real impact of the Internet is that anyone can make contact almost anywhere in the world immediately, and much of this contact is conducted in English."

So English is widely used, particularly in new technologies, parents around the world are demanding greater access to English, and therefore to provide more English at the primary level will enhance development. Seductive though such an argument may appear, there are several fundamental flaws. First, there are numerous questionable assumptions in this argument: Which rural workers have mobile phones? What languages would they use to speak to "the outside world"? Who has access to computers and the Internet? What actually are the languages of the Internet?. Second, there are some deeper questions we need to ask here: Does parental demand amount to a sufficient reason for wider provision? What may actually be the results of wider provision of English in schools? And most importantly for this discussion here, how might such access to English be linked to poverty, inequality and development?

I shall deal with these first two issues very briefly. The problem with the parental demand argument is that although on the one hand it looks like a basic question of educational equity, the issue is often one of parents demanding access to the language that inequitably divides social, educational and economic access. Hong Kong has been a good example of this: parental demand produced extensive schooling in English, which did not have the effect of giving people greater access to resources; rather, it gave people an inadequate education both of and through their first language. The second question has to do with the need to look very carefully at primary school education, much of which around the world suffers from immense lack of resources. We need to ask how limited resources can best be employed in order to provide more opportunities for children in general, for girls more particularly, many of whom still receive little or no schooling, and for other impoverished and disadvantaged groups. That may be instruction in mother tongues, other languages, literacy, health, agriculture, basic economics, any number of local concerns. Unless we look at the particular contexts of schooling, the funding available, the local needs, the type of access and so on, it is impossible to determine what role education in English might play, or what detrimental effects it might have.

But the key question here is how might English — and other languages — be related to development. There appear to be two basic sets of propositions in the arguments outlined above, both of which are problematic. On the one hand is the idea that language education, and particularly English language education, may cause development. The suggestion above that the presence of English in a school curriculum may in fact have negative consequences in terms of keeping other, more useful, languages and subjects out, already points to the issue that English may be negatively related to development. At the very least, for some sort of causality to be shown, the argument would need to be based on far more complex understandings about how language education may be related to change. The second major problem is that the argument above only suggests that English may help people "escape from grinding poverty". Thus, any form of gain is discussed in terms of individual or group escape rather than systemic change. It seems to me that if we want to discuss a relationship between language and development, we need to address ways in which language education may be related to other forms of positive change rather than in terms of escape. Indeed it might well be argued that escape from poverty through English (which still in any case needs to be demonstrated) perpetuates inequality and holds back development since it only provides access (for some) to inequitably distributed resources rather than change the distribution of those resources. At the very least, we need to understand these issues as related in complex, contextual ways. Indeed at this point, we need to address a whole series of questions about what we mean by development, how language education may be related to it, and what different contextual factors may lead to very different configurations of useful language education for different people in different places.

Language in relationship with development

In this paper, therefore, I want to discuss some of the basic problems involved in language and development. First of all, I would like to dwell on some different possible relationships between the notions of language and development. Given that our overall topic here is not language development (therefore to do with language learning and teaching themselves) but rather with language AND development, we need to ask how the processes of language learning and teaching may be related to broader processes of social, cultural, political and economic development. The ‘and’ here suggests little more than a conjunction of terms. If we substitute various prepositions for this, however, we get various other possibilities: Language as development, language in development, language for development, and language of development. Language as development is akin to the notion discussed above, where language development is in itself the developmental goal.

In this sense, then, which might be glossed as ‘language teaching and external funding’, development is an assumed goal of external funders — aid organizations, the World Bank, NGOs etc — and language education is one particular funded aspect of development programs. Development in this context, therefore, comes to mean little more than improving language education with funding from outside both state and commercial systems. This, then, is the first possible meaning of language and development, where language development (i.e. improvements in language education, particularly in dominant languages such as English) is assumed to equate with overall development.

While making language usefully central to our concerns here, this first meaning suggests that language development is the same as language and development. Language for development, by contrast, tends to distance the two processes, suggesting that the main issue here is one of improving language capacities so that people can better participate in development projects. Thus, while on the one hand this usefully distances itself from the assumption that language improvement is development, on the other hand this position tends to accord only a functional role to language as a tool to gain access to the development process. In terms of English language teaching, language for development is concerned merely with teaching English in order that people can participate in business, agriculture, trade and the like. Language in development (and cf Markee, 1999) seems to take us further than these two positions by asking what the role of language education may be in relationship to processes of development. Of course, this still leaves open the question of what development may be, but it enables us to see language education not as development in itself, nor as merely a tool to gain access to development, but rather as an important interrelated piece of the puzzle. Finally, language of development points to a very different issue, namely the need to look at the discourses of development, the ways in which development is constructed as a field of practice and knowledge. I shall return later to discuss the question of the importance of always looking at the language of development while we try at the same time to work out how language may operate in development.

In order to try to open up discussion of this issue, I shall look at three related sets of problems: the problem of development, the problem of culture and the problem of language. The first set of questions have to do with the whole notion of development and the relatively recent addition of the notion of sustainability to development. A crucial question here is: What images of development and sustainability are put into place by language programs? This leads to the second set of issues: What images of cultural difference and what forms of cultural exchange are produced in language programs? And finally: What images of language are conveyed through language programs and how do these relate to culture and development? In the conclusion I shall return to the question: What broad considerations does this suggest for language and development?

The problem of development

Development has of course come in for a great deal of criticism over the years. Of particular significance was the work that showed how much development aid was ultimately self-interested: it only served to recreate bonds of economic dependency (see, for example, Preston, 1986). Although there is considerable debate about when the current notion of development came in to being , it is nevertheless useful to observe that economic advantage was for a long time at the heart of much imperial education policy. According to the 1854 Despatch from the East India Company, which was to set the educational policy in India and elsewhere for the rest of the century and beyond, and which put firmly in place a principal of the moral duty to educate and a policy of vernacular education, there were more material reasons for providing education to the Indian population, since such an education will teach the natives of India the marvellous results of the employment of labor and capital, rouse them to emulate us in the development of the vast resources of their country, guide them in their efforts and gradually, but certainly, confer upon them all the advantages which accompany the healthy increase of wealth and commerce; and, at the same time, secure to us a larger and more certain supply of many articles necessary for our manufactures and extensively consumed by all classes of our population, as well as an almost inexhaustible demand for the produce of British labor. (Bureau of Education, 1922, p. 365)

A critique that only looks at economic concerns, however, has a number of shortcomings: Since it is based on the premise that the notion of development was disingenuous because it in fact sought economic servility rather than independence, it suggests that where economic gain can be shown to have occurred, presumably this was then development. But as many other critiques suggest, alongside the notion of economic development, many other problematic relations are put into play, including development as: patronising charity politics, a eurocentric model of progress, and a discourse that represents and produces the Other.

Criticising aid programs for their failure to incorporate local needs and ideas, Morris (1991) argues that development aid is frequently an attempt to assuage "the collective guilt induced by the legacy of our colonial predecessors" (p.1). Thus, rather than being aimed principally at helping in the process of development, its central concern is with assisting Europeans with their guilt over the past. This view, Morris suggests, rests on what he sees as "a peculiarly Christian insistence on the ultimate triumph of altruism" (p.3). Like landed gentry handing out food at the gates of their mansions, this aspect of development has more to do with using charity to improve how one feels about oneself rather than actually trying to change inequitable conditions.

A major focus of critique is that models of development have been profoundly eurocentric, conflating development, modernization and westernization, and promoting particular worldviews, cultures and technicist rationalism. Thus, the whole notion of development was based on the notion that in order to become more developed, societies needed to follow a ‘western’ pattern of modernization, politics, economy, education, language policy, and so on. The assumptions of European and American superiority that underpin such a view have a long history: According to McGee (1995), "in the sense of the assumption of European supremacy, New Zealand, Australia and American attitudes towards their Pacific neighbours are no different from the French or the British towards Indo-China or the Middle East during the colonial period" (p.194). Thus, even if colonial exploitation is no longer the context in which development is promoted, the assumptions about the path it should take remain the same.

While the eurocentrism of development models frequently leads to a singular path of upwards development, it also simultaneously produces images of the Other, images of non-development that need to be overcome. Arturo Escobar (1995), in his fierce critique of the ways in which "the ‘Third World’ has been produced by the discourses and practices of development since their inception in the early post-World War II period" (p.4), argues that development discourse " has been the central and most ubiquitous operator of the politics of representation and identity in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the post-World War II period" (p.214). According to Escobar these areas of the world have suffered "a succession of regimes of representation" that originate in colonialism and continue into the discourses of modernity. "From the will to civilization in the nineteenth century to today, violence has been engendered through representation" (p.214). Thus, as Escobar reminds us, "in many places there are worlds that development, even today and at this moment, is bent on destroying" (p.226). It is this concern that can be taken up by a focus on the language of development, an issue to which I shall return.

Sustainable development

Despite these critiques of the concept of development, there remains a need to have available some notion of possible development, betterment or improvement. The notion of sustainable development has, to some extent, stepped into the gap here, linked as it is to notions of local involvement, continuity, and ecological soundness. The notion of ‘sustainable development’, however, is by no means unitary or uncontested. Streeten (unpublished manuscript cited in Goulet, 1995) suggests a range of different meanings of sustainable development: 1. The maintenance, replacement and growth of capital assets; 2. Maintaining the physical environment for people’s well-being; 3. Developing a resilient system that can resist shocks and strains; 4. Avoiding burdening future generations with debts; 5. Political and administrative sustainability (participation); 6. Handing over projects to local participants. All share the common goal of concern for the future and the viability of the project in the long term. On the other hand, they differ in terms of their focus on capital accumulation, the environment, resistant systems, avoiding debt, involving local participants, and handing projects over. Language in sustainable development programs may be viewed along similar lines, covering anything from an economically sustainable program, or a hope that external funding will go on forever, to a focus on local involvement, handing the program over to local management, or even making discussion of the larger context of sustainable development part of the curriculum. I shall return to these issues later.

But not only are the meanings of sustainable development varied; it is also a contested notion. As Redclift (1994) points out, to the extent that sustainability is wedded to the notion of development, it represents something of a high-water mark of the modernist tradition. And yet, since many proponents of sustainable development also argue that sustainable development must be based on local, cultural understandings of the environment, development and change, sustainability also seems wedded to a more postmodernist vision of difference. Thus there is an interesting tension between the modernist progressivism of development discourse and the postmodern particularism of aspects of sustainability. Other critiques have also pointed out that this move to take greater account of local participation still nevertheless continue with many of the great exclusions that marked modernist development discourse. Thus, feminist critiques of sustainable development have pointed to the continued exclusion and marginalization of women from development paradigms (Harcourt, 1994).

It has also been suggested that sustainable development has become something of an unquestioned given, a notion so linked to the moral discourses of enviromentalism that it is hard to question its practices. Adams (1995) suggests that in spite of the multiple meanings of the notion, sustainable development has "colonized academic discussion of development", and is rarely given any careful scrutiny or critical analysis (p.87). The discourse of sustainable development, he argues, has its origins not so much in development theory as in "Northern environmentalism" (p.88), and thus it is tied more to a form of environmental moralising than to more direct concerns for local participation in local based projects for improvement of different conditions. Looking at the ways in which sustainable development derives from "technocentrist environmentalism", Adams argues that it "shares the dominant industrialist and modernist ideology of ...developmentalism", based as it is on rational capitalist planning models (pp. 89-90). Thus, sustainable development may be seen "as simply one more transient label on the trickle of capital flows of aid donors from the industrialized North, and something that allowed ‘business as usual’ by international capital" (p.99).

Escobar (1995) argues along similar lines when he suggests that the introduction of the notion of sustainable development, "inaugurated a period of unprecedented gluttony in the history of vision and knowledge with the concomitant rise of a global ‘ecocracy’" (p.193). According to Escobar, sustainable development remains locked within a logic of management, a world in which "The Western scientist continues to speak for the Earth" (p.194), a view of the world in which ‘development experts’ can help poor countries move smoothly towards development by a process of rational planning. Adams (1995) also links sustainable development to Northern ‘preservationism’ as it seeks to protect and conserve: "By the 1970s, international conservation was as much part of the growing global hegemony of western culture as capitalist economic development and industrialization were part of the project of ‘developmentalism’" (p.93). This notion of ‘preservationism’ is a crucial one here since it links both to the broader question of representation and to concerns in language maintenance (see below). Such preservationism may be seen as part of an Orientalist drive to create a notion of an idealised past in which all was sustainable: "Efforts in the post-colonial world to reinvent a pre-colonial Eden that never existed in fact have been no less violent in their scripting of identity than those that practice domination in the name of development" (Manzo, 1995: 238). I shall return to these issues later.

To conclude this brief discussion of (sustainable) development, it is worth reiterating the point that although we need some model of possible development here (the argument is not that development cannot or does not happen), there are also several problematic elements of development discourse that raise important questions for the following discussion of language and culture: Development, it seems almost by definition, seems to imply an upward, linear path of development that is easily conflated with notions of modernization and westernization; the addition of a notion of sustainability or of alternative development does not do enough to destabilise the discursive relations this puts in place; development puts into play a series of representations which continue to construct the recipients of development aid as backward, underdeveloped, static, traditional; sustainable development and related constructs often lead to a model of ‘preservation’.


The problem of language

While we need to problematize the notions of development and sustainable development, we are also faced by a particular challenge related to language: what models of language in the world are we using to understand the role of language education in development? In this section, then, I shall discuss a range of possible understandings of English in the world in order to see how they relate to questions of development. These models I shall term the colonial celebratory, laissez-faire liberalism, modernization, imperialism, linguistic hybridity, and postcolonial performativity.


I do not intend to dwell on this position in detail since a number of us have already documented it at length (see, for example, Bailey, 1991; Phillipson, 1992; Pennycook, 1998b). Simply put, this is a position that trumpets the benefits of English (or, of course, other languages in other contexts) over other languages, suggesting that English has both intrinsic (the nature of the language) and extrinsic (the functions of the language) qualities superior to other languages. I use the term colonial in conjunction with celebratory here because I believe these celebrations of the spread of English, its qualities and characteristics, have a long and colonial history, and form part of what I have elsewhere called the ‘adherence of discourses’ (1998b), the ways in which particular discourses adhere to English. Although I am giving this position short thrift here, it is worth observing that it is backed up by a very long history of glorifying English, and that it remains extremely popular, as shown by the public response to writers such as Honey (1997). Most importantly, this view has no place for a sense of diversity: to promote diversity is simply to deny people access to the most important language of our time, English.


The second framing of English sees its significance less in terms of inherent internal qualities and more in terms of the roles that English is deemed to play in the process of development and modernization. There are several ways in which these connections are drawn: First, English is assumed to be a language that is better suited for modern use, for science, technology, global communication, and so forth. Hogben’s (1963) proposal for Essential World English, for example, suggests a global role for English in which it serves people around the world as a "medium of communication about what will matter to most of us in what we hope will be the One World of Tomorrow" (p.7), a universal second language "for informative communication across their own frontiers about issues of common interest to themselves and others" (p.20), while other languages play a role as "a home tongue for love-making, religion, verse-craft, back chat and inexact topics in general" (p.20). This pernicious dichotomy survives in many more recent formulations of English as the global language of communication, with local languages relegated only to the role of local, personal, traditional topics. According to Hogben all language planners agree that we need a bilingual world "in which one language has priority by common consent as the sole medium of informative communication between speech communities which properly prefer to retain their native habits of discourse for reasons which have little or no relevance to the exacting semantic demands of science" (pp. 28-9). As Dua (1994) has argued in the context of India, such a formula needs to be resisted if other languages are to be given a chance to play other than these ‘traditional’ roles.

This construction of English as the language best suited to the modern world is constantly bolstered by images of English that associate it with computers, technology, science, tourism, diplomacy, internationalisation, globalisation, modern financial markets, the internet, e-learning, whatever is new. Such images are constantly produced in advertising for language schools, English language teaching conferences, textbooks, and other products associated with English. We live now amid a vast number of visual and graphic associations between English and modernization. Finally, English is linked to processes of modernization not only as the most modern of languages, but also through its supposed role as the means to social and material change. Thus, as in the discussion above of English as the key to poverty, the very presence and use of English is seen as indelibly linked to processes of modernization. As I suggested, any such connections need to be demonstrated not assumed; and the role of English in potentially changing people’s lives must be seen in the context of the potential harms it may bring to other languages, and the role it may play in the reproduction of inequality.

Recent debates in the Philippines about the notion of English for Global Competitiveness point to some of these concerns. As Ordoñez (1999) put it "English continues to occupy the place of privilege — it being the language of the ruling system, government, education, business and trade, and diplomacy... English for global competitiveness fits into the type of education that would conform to the requirements of an export-oriented economy pushed by the IMF-World Bank for the Philippines" (p.19). Ordoñez goes on to suggest that "The role of Philippine education ... seems to be that of supplying the world market economy with a docile and cheap labor force who are trained in English and the vocational and technical skills required by that economy. As it is we do have a decided advantage in the export market of domestic helpers and labourers. Cite their knowledge of English as that advantage" (p.20). Santos (1999) suggests that "to push our global competitiveness as a people and as a nation with and through English Studies, we must be sensitive to the cultural violence that the pursuit of such a goal had wrought on our people in this ending century, and must yet impose on majority of our people at the present time" (p.25). Such discussions raise much more serious concerns for how we might understand relationships between English, development and modernization.

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Laissez-faire liberalism

The most common line on English within the fields of English language teaching and applied linguistics tends to take a more ‘neutral’ line than either the colonial-celebratory or modernization arguments, espousing what I call a liberal laissez-faire attitude. The most recent example of this line of thinking is David Crystal’s (1997) globally marketed book on the global spread of English. What Crystal tries to argue for is a complementarity between a support for the benefits of English as a global means of communication and the importance of multilingualism, a balance between the dual values of "international intelligibility" and "historical identity". On the one hand we have all the advantages created by the spread of English: ease of communication, global travel and communication etc; while on the other we work to sustain local cultures and traditions. All we need in this way of thinking is to celebrate universalism while maintaining diversity. The TESOL organization also reflects this naive liberal idealism in its mission statement "to strengthen the effective teaching and learning of English around the world while respecting individuals’ language rights".

Unfortunately the very seductiveness of this easy formulation makes its social and political naivety dangerous. Reviewing Crystal’s book, for example, John Hanson (former director-general of the British Council) is able to view everything in terms of individual choice. For Hanson, the spread of English is the result of "countless millions of acts of choice, by students, teachers, employers and the employed who have no interest in the health, future, spread, or whatever of the English language. What ‘drives’ them is a view of their job prospects, their relationship with the rest of the world, their excitement in youth culture, a wish to be insiders, to be in touch" (1997: 22). Such a view of individual agency and choice fails to account for social, cultural, political and economic forces that compromise and indeed produce such choices. And such a view leads all too easily back to a colonial-celebratory mode: "English speakers, relax: English is streets ahead and fast drawing away from the rest of the chasing pack...On it still strides: we can argue what globalisation is until the cows come home — but that globalisation exists is beyond question, with English its accompanist. The accompanist is, of course, indispensable to the performance" (ibid.).

Once again, these liberal laissez-faire views are inadequate because they fail to account for the power of English, and thus the inequitable relationship between English and local languages. A simplistic view of complementary language use — English will be used for international and some intranational uses, while local languages will be used for local uses — does not take into account the far more complex social and political context of language use. As Dua (1994) points out, looking at the context of India, such a view is quite inadequate: "the complementarity of English with indigenous languages tends to go up in favour of English partly because it is dynamic and cumulative in nature and scope, partly because it is sustained by socioeconomic and market forces and partly because the educational system reproduced and legitimatizes the relations of power and knowledge implicated with English" (p.132). Phillipson (1999) has recently argued that Crystal’s attempt to describe the global spread of English in ‘neutral’, ‘apolitical’ terms results in nothing but "an uncritical endorsement of capitalism, its science and technology, a modernization ideology, monolingualism as a norm, ideological globalization and internationalization, transnationalization, the Americanization and homogenization of world culture, linguistic, culture and media imperialism" (p. 274). Thus, the ideology of laissez-faire liberalism, with its emphases on personal choice, neutrality and complementarity may be seen as potentially the most dangerous of these three paradigms.

Language ecology, language rights, linguistic imperialism

Arguing against apolitical understandings of English, Dua (1994) goes on to argue that "It must be realized that language is basically involved with class, power and knowledge. Unless the newly emerging classes associated with the Indian languages organize themselves into counter-hegemonic struggle and fight for a different political, social and cultural arrangement of power and knowledge, they will not only fail in constraining the expanding and strengthening hold of English but also contribute to the marginalization of their languages and cultures. They will thus betray the cause of both the language and cultural renaissance and the destiny of [hu]mankind" (p.133).

A number of approaches to language planning have developed frameworks for starting to address such concerns. Tollefson’s (1991) ‘historical-structural’ approach to language planning views language policy as "one mechanism by which the interests of dominant sociopolitical groups are maintained and the seeds of transformation are developed" (p.32). Tollefson’s ultimate interests in looking at language policy are to work towards a more equitable world: "To understand the impact of language policy upon the organization and function of society, language policy must be interpreted within a framework which emphasizes power and competing interests. That is, policy must be seen within the context of its role in serving the interests of the state and the groups that dominate it" (p.201). Tollefson goes on to argue for the importance of an understanding of language rights. This means that we need to go beyond a general respect for diversity and instead view access to education and other domains of use of the mother tongue as a fundamental human right: "A commitment to democracy means that the use of the mother tongue at work and in school is a fundamental human right" (p.211).

A similar perspective has also been developed by Robert Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. Drawing on Tsuda’s (1994) distinction between a "diffusion-of-English paradigm" and an "Ecology-of-language paradigm", Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas (1996) argue that rather than accepting policies that promote the global spread of English, we should work towards the preservation of language ecologies. This notion of language ecology suggests the importance of "the cultivation and preservation of languages" (Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas 1996: 441) in a way parallel to how we understand natural ecologies. M?hlhäusler (1996) has developed this idea considerably, arguing that the introduction of languages and literacy into particular language ecologies may have devastating affects on other languages and their uses. Taken alone, however, the language ecology metaphor is limited since it relies so heavily on a notion of what is ‘natural’ and therefore on what may at times appear a conservative notion of preservation (and compare my earlier comments about ‘preservationism’ and sustainable development). Conservation may easily slide into conservativism. Like M?hlhäusler and Tsuda, therefore, Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas consider two components essential to this view of language ecology: the external threat posed by dominant languages such as English (linguistic imperialism), and the grounds for arguing for internal support for minority languages (language rights).

A term that Skutnabb-Kangas (1998) makes central to her view of the inequitable allocation of language rights is ‘linguicism’. Linguicism, she argues — akin to racism and ethnicism — is a sort of "linguistically argued racism" (1998: 16), a process by which an unequal division of power is produced and maintained according to a division between groups on the basis of the language they speak. Phillipson has taken up this term and looked specifically at one form of such linguicism, namely what he calls "linguistic imperialism", and particularly English linguistic imperialism. It is important to view Phillipson’s arguments on linguistic imperialism in this light, for although his concerns about the global spread of English can be taken on their own, they are also deeply connected with this threat to linguistic human rights. What Phillipson tries to do is to show that there are significant relationships between frameworks of global imperialism — that is to say continuing relationships of global inequality in terms, following Galtung (1980) of economic, political, military, communicative (communication and transport), cultural and social imperialism — and the global spread of English. English linguistic imperialism Phillipson defines in the following way: "the dominance of English is asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages (1992: 47). That is to say, the dominant role of English in the world today is maintained and promoted through a system both of material or institutional structures (for example through English maintaining its current position as the dominant language of the Internet) and of ideological positions (arguments that promote English as a superior language).

The important point with Phillipson’s view is to understand what it can and cannot do. As he suggests, the issue for him is "structural power" (p.72), not intentions, and not local effects. He is interested in "English linguistic hegemony" which can be understood as "the explicit and implicit beliefs, purposes, and activities which characterize the ELT profession and which contribute to the maintenance of English as a dominant language" (p.73). Thus, it is the ways that English is promoted through multiple agencies and to the exclusion of other languages that is the issue. What this of course lacks is a view of how English is taken up, how people use English, why people choose to use English. As Canagarajah (1999a) comments, "In considering how social, economic, governmental, and cultural institutions effect inequality, his perspective becomes rather too impersonal and global. What is sorely missed is the individual, the particular. It is important to find out how linguistic hegemony is experienced in the day-to-day life of the people and communities in the periphery. How does English compete for dominance with other languages in the streets, markets, homes, schools, and villages of periphery communities?" (pp. 43-44). Thus, if a framework such as Phillipson's is used only to map out ways in which English has been deliberately spread, and to show how such policies and practices are connected to larger global forces, it can be useful. But the moment it slips into apparently implying effects of such promotion, it is limited. What Phillipson shows, therefore, is how and for what purposes English is deliberately promoted and spread. What he does not show is the effects of that spread in terms of what people do with English. It is perhaps the very power of Phillipson’s framework that is also its weakness.

The main mode of opposition to this external threat posed by dominant languages is through a notion of language rights (Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas, 1996; Phillipson, 1998; Skutnabb-Kangas, 1998). Reviewing various documents on human rights, they suggest that there is little provision for the positive right to education in a mother tongue. Thus, Skutnabb-Kangas argues, "we are still living with linguistic wrongs" which are a product of the belief ("monolingual reductionism") in the normality of monolingualism and the dangers of multilingualism to the security of the nation state. Both, she suggests, are dangerous myths. "Unless we work fast", she argues, "excising the cancer of monolingual reductionism may come too late, when the patient, the linguistic (and cultural) diversity in the world, is already beyond saving" (p.12). What is proposed , then, is that the "right to identify with, to maintain and to fully develop one’s mother tongue(s)" should be acknowledged as "a self-evident, fundamental individual linguistic human right" (p.22). These "universal linguistic human rights should be guaranteed for an individual in relation to the mother tongue(s), in relation to an official language (and thus in relation to bilingualism), in relation to a possible language shift, and in relation to drawing profit from education as far as the medium of education is concerned" (1998: 22; emphasis in original). This, then, is a powerful argument in favour of the support for diversity in terms of fundamental human rights. Where laissez-faire liberalism supports diversity in terms of pluralism for its own sake, and within a framework a comfortable complementarity with other languages, the language rights argument supplies a moral imperative to support minority languages as they are threatened by other languages. It is the strength of this position that gives weight to Tollefson’s (1991) demand that an applied linguist committed to democracy must also show "a commitment to the struggle for language rights" (p.211).

Powerful though such arguments are, there are also some concerns here. First, there is at times a tendency to slip into simplistic dichotomizations: Skutnabb-Kangas (1998), for example, talks of the way language perpetuates the division between "the A-team, the elites of the world, and the B-team, the dominated, ordinary people" (p.16). Such dichotomising between the "haves and have-nots" can obscure social realities far more than they reveal them. Second, there is a related tendency to then suggest that those that have rights have full access to all aspects of language, while those without such rights do not: "Linguistic majorities, speakers of a dominant language, usually enjoy all those linguistic human rights which can be seen as fundamental, regardless of how they are defined. Most linguistic minorities do not enjoy these rights. It is only a few hundred of the world’s 6-7,000 languages that have any kind of official status, and it is only speakers of official languages who enjoy all linguistic human rights" (Phillipson, Rannut and Skutnabb-Kangas, 1994: 1-2; emphasis in original). My concern here is that while an important struggle is being fought here on one front, on another there is a problem that the belief that speakers of "official languages" enjoy "all linguistic human rights" may overlook many other concerns to do with access and representation in language, concerns that are significant for speakers of both official and non-official languages (see Pennycook, 1998a).

Others concerns have to do with the difficulties in translating broad appeals to language rights into legal definitions, and in using the notion of human rights as a universal concept. Coulmas (1998), for example, draws attention to the problems involved in defining what a language and a speech community is (see also Pennycook, 1998a) and the problems in getting states to adhere to such necessarily vague definitions. "While general proclamations of linguistic human rights may not do much harm," he suggests, "it is doubtful that they can be translated into law" (p.72). Rassool (1998) and I (Pennycook, 1998a) have also questioned the possibility of using human rights discourse as an unacceptably fundamentalist claim to morality in the contemporary world. Rassool argues that the complex, interconnected nature of the modern world means we have to investigate other ways of looking at questions of language rights: "in the light of these dynamic changes taking place globally and nationally can the argument for a universalizing discourse on cultural and linguistic pluralism be sustained?" (p.98). Finally, Coulmas also asks whether the notion that language shift is necessarily a catastrophe may be a passing ideological fashion, based as it is on a "nineteenth-century romantic idea that pegs human dignity as well as individual and collective identity to individual languages" (1998: 71). Thus, while these perspectives take us far beyond the apolitical stances outlined above, while it is clearly the case that many languages are under threat, and while there are strong arguments to be made in favour of educational and other rights in mother tongues, there remain questions about the extent to which a model of linguistic imperialism and language rights is adequate for the task of understanding how languages are used.

Linguistic hybridity

Rajagopalan (1999) critiques the notion of linguistic imperialism and suggests that "the very charges being pressed against the hegemony of the English language and its putative imperialist pretensions themselves bear the imprint of a way of thinking about language moulded in an intellectual climate of excessive nationalist fervour and organized marauding of the wealth of alien nations — an intellectual climate where identities were invariably thought of in all-or-nothing terms" (1999: 201). Thus Rajagopolan is suggesting that the critical discourse employed by notions such as linguistic imperialism draw on the same modernist European frameworks that have been the cause of precisely what they seek to critique. In place of linguistic imperialism, Rajagopalan argues for a ‘world Englishes’ perspective that focuses on how languages change and adapt. This perspective (see, for example, Kachru, 1990), which has become something of an orthodoxy within applied linguistics, looks at the many new and changing forms of English around the world, suggesting that rather than an imperial imposition, the many new Englishes (Indian, Singaporean, Nigerian etc) are hybrid forms produced by appropriating English.

Although such an argument provides a useful corrective to an over-deterministic position on linguistic imperialism, there are dangers with this position. While acknowledging the problems with the absolutism of the notion of linguistic imperialism (LI), Canagarajah (1999b) also takes the world Englishes ‘linguistic hybridity’ (LH) position of Rajagopalan to task for its apolitical relativism. "While LI is deterministic in perceiving these constructs as always pliable in the hands of dominant forces, LH is anti-nomian, in seeing them as perpetually unstable, and resisting control. While LI is activist in struggling against hegemonic discourses to reconstruct a more democratic order, LH leads to apathy (as languages are seen as deconstructing themselves, transcending domination) or even playfulness (as the provision of new meanings to these constructs is treated as subverting the status quo)." (1999b: 207). Thus, in avoiding the determinism of some critical stances, we need to be cautious not to slide back into apolitical relativism. We must be cautious not to lose sight of the very real forces of global capital and media while also seeking to understand the response to cultural and linguistic spread and not assuming its instant effects.

Postcolonial performativity

In trying to find a possible way of thinking about English that acknowledges the significance of both the linguistic ecology/ imperialism/ rights perspective and the notions of appropriation and hybridity, I have started thinking in terms of what I term postcolonial performativity. Like Canagarajah (1999a), I think we need both a political understanding of the global role of English and a means to understand contextually how English is used, taken up, changed. The notion of appropriation is crucial to postcolonialism, since a central part of the postcolonial is not only a critique of the ‘metropolitan’ categories of knowledge and culture, but also a taking over of and reuse of language, culture and knowledge. But postcolonialism also demands that we work contextually. Thus, in trying to explore further what I earlier (1994) termed the ‘worldliness of English’, postcolonial performativity suggests that to understand what role English plays in particular contexts we need specific sociologies of those contexts. If we start to pursue such questions in terms of local contexts of language, it becomes possible to consider using English not so much in terms of some inevitable commonality, but rather — as with Judith Butler’s (1990) understanding of gender as something performed rather than pregiven — as another form of ‘performativity’.

Thus we need both a more complex understanding of globalization and a more complex understanding of language. Appadurai (1990) suggests the "new global cultural economy has to be understood as a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order, which cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models" (p.296). This position moves towards the "conceptualization of global culture less in terms of alleged homogenizing processes (e.g., theories which present cultural imperialism, Americanization and mass consumer culture as a proto-universal culture riding on the back of Western economic and political domination) and more in terms of the diversity, variety and richness of popular and local discourses, codes and practices which resist and play-back systematicity and order" (Featherstone, 1990: 2). >From this point of view, both the liberal approach of Crystal, with its global and local languages in mutual relationship, or the more critical view of Phillipson and others, with its local diversity threatened by global homogeneity, may be inadequate. But so too is a view that suggests that forms of language and culture are easily taken up and changed. Thus, while never losing sight of the very real forces of global capital and media, we need, at the very least, to understand the response to cultural spread and not assume its instant effects. As Claire Kramsch (1993) suggests, we need to start thinking here of what is produced in cultural encounters, not just homogeneity or heterogeneity, imperialism or resistance, but rather what ‘third cultures’ or ‘third spaces’ are constantly being created.

The problem of culture

Finally, I want to suggest that one of the major problems that continues to constrain successful language development (and other) projects is a lack of adequate models for understanding and working with cultural difference in language education. There are two principal concerns here: First, language education has for too long been considered within a framework of language teaching methods, which on the one hand discounts the much larger concerns of development and language discussed above, and on the other hand, constructs language teaching in terms of a Eurocentric path of upward progress. Second, much work in language education and applied linguistics has operated with simplistic categorisations of difference that construct identity along lines of fixed characteristics.

The developmental model of Methods

The history of language teaching has been dominated by a Eurocentric version of the upward progression of teaching methods. The popular version of this myth is that much of language teaching prior to the 20th century and most language teaching outside the Western industrialised nations has been conducted according to a so-called grammar-translation methodology. In the wealthy industrialised nations this was then replaced by a revolution in language teaching that focused on the Direct method, followed by a series of methods, starting with audiolingualism, developed during and after WWII and employing structural linguistics and behaviourist psychology, and then various contenders for method status, including the audiovisual method, cognitive code, a cluster of new methods that emerged in the 1970s including the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, and Total Physical Response; and finally the modern era of communicative language teaching and task-based learning.

There are several problems with this version of the history of language teaching as an upward history of methods. First, the notion of methods itself is a highly problematic, reductive way to think about language teaching (Pennycook, 1989). As Clarke (1983) suggests, "the term ‘method’ is a label without substance" (p.109). This leads to a narrow focus on what language teaching comprises (thus ignoring large domains of language teaching, such as which languages get taught, or what the cultural and ideological content of language teaching may be). Second, this history is an ethnocentric and developmentalist history. It is a result of a particular telling of history, a product of the "method boom" (Stern, 1985: 249) of the 1970’s, an attempt to justify this faddish, market- and career-driven era in North America by attempting to locate it within an unfolding history. Most importantly, to the extent that this history presents an upward path of development, from weaker methods to more modern teaching, it suggests a problematic progressivism, whereby whatever is happening now is presumed to be superior to what happened before.

Such claims are often made by contrasting a modern "scientific approach to the study of language and of language learning" with a past guided only by tradition (Richards and Rogers, 1986: 8). Yet, as Kelly’s (1969) work suggests, the history of language teaching has been far more cyclical than linear: "Nobody really knows what is new or what is old in present day language teaching procedures. There has been a vague feeling that modern experts have spent their time in discovering what other men[sic] have forgotten" 1969: ix). Thus, in the international context this view of methods reproduces highly problematic scales of relative development. As Tang and Absalom (1998) suggest, much of the discussion of ELT in China "concentrates on the ‘backwardness’ of Chinese EFL in the eyes of critics who contrast it with Western methods often applied in ESL and second language teaching" (p.118). Most of this writing, they suggest, "has become polarised, focussing on the contrasts between the ‘traditional’ aspects of Chinese EFL and the ‘progressive’ aspects of Western second language teaching" (p.119).

The Othering of learners

If on the one hand there has been a tendency to work with developmental models of teaching methods that ignore alternative ways of teaching, and indeed consign them to the category of ‘traditional’, there has also been a major tendency to operate with static models of cultural difference, static definitions of culture that dichotomise a West/East, Them/Us polarity of difference: what I have termed maps of the other. Such maps have a long history and centre around the process of fixing the Other. I could give dozens of such examples (see Pennycook, 1998b) but I shall illustrate my point with just one, drawn from an article on Chinese education in A Cyclopedia of Education published in 1911 (Monroe, 1911), in which Isaac Headland, professor in the Imperial University, Peking, explains that

there is nothing in the Chinese course of study in the way of mathematics or science, or indeed in any line of thought, which will tend to develop the thinking faculties, such as reason or invention, and hence these faculties have lain dormant in the Chinese mind. They have never invented anything. They have stumbled upon most of the useful, practical appliances of life, and among these upon the compass, gunpowder, and printing, and, though noted for their commercial astuteness, have lacked all power to develop them into a commercial success. (p.635)

Here we see repeated the classic colonial images of a dormant and passive people, unable to think scientifically or produce commercially (two of the great virtues of imperialism). Many such fixed cultural images have their origins in colonial relations (see Pennycook, 1998b). As Alatas (1977) illustrates in his book The Myth of the Lazy Native, the image of lazy Malays, Indonesians and Filipinos was a view that developed under colonial rule as colonists combined their derogatory images of native peoples with the view that they were lazy if they did not participate in the colonial economy. This idea that native peoples were lazy "was an important element in the ideology of colonial capitalism. It was a major justification for territorial conquest, since the degraded image of the native was basic to colonial ideology" (p.215). Cultural fixity is not tied only to ‘negative’ images, however; other fixed images may, to a degree, be seen as ‘positive’, such as "the friendly, fun-loving Filipinos" or "the happy, gentle Thais", common images revealed in a study by the Asian Society (1979) of how Asia is represented in 260 American textbooks.

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I have summarised the common constructions of difference to be found in applied linguistic and ELT writing in the table above. Such ‘maps of the Other’ can be seen as instances of Orientalism. Two recent articles have specifically drawn this connection between Orientalism and ELT in Japan. Drawing on the work of Said (1978) Susser (1998) convincingly shows how a great deal of writing on ESL/EFL in Japan can be described as Orientalist. Analysing writing on Japan according to the Said-inspired categories of Othering (dichotomous productions of Self and Other; East and West; Confucian and Christian), stereotyping (fixed assumptions about Japanese as group-oriented, hierarchical, authoritarian, passive, silent); representing Japan typically as homogeneous and harmonious; and essentializing by talking of ‘Japan’, ‘the Japanese’. Susser concludes this comprehensive study of texts on Japan by suggesting that "there is considerable Orientalism in the ESL/EFL literature on Japan" (p.63). Thus, he suggests, the point "is not that there are occasional stereotypes or factual errors; ... these fictions have been woven into a pervasive discourse that shapes our descriptions and then our perceptions of Japanese learners and classrooms" (p.64).

Kubota (1999) also looks critically at ways in which Japanese and other cultures are constructed in relationship to ELT. She points to the ways in which attempts to understand cultural difference in language education "have tended to dichotomize Western culture and Eastern culture and to draw rigid cultural boundaries between them. They have given labels such as individualism, self-expression, critical and analytic thinking, and extending knowledge to Western cultures on the one hand, and collectivism, harmony, indirection, memorization, and conserving knowledge to Asian cultures on the other" (p.14; emphasis in original). As Kubota points out, such views are based on a form of cultural determinism that reproduces colonial relations of Self and Other (and see Pennycook, 1998b). Distinctions such as extending knowledge vs conserving knowledge, for example, reproduce the distinction between changing, developing and modern cultures on the one hand, and static, conservative and traditional cultures on the other. As Kubota goes on to show, the Japanese themselves have also played a role here with their own particular productions of the uniqueness of Japanese culture.

Even approaches that critique the cultural stereotypes prevalent in so much writing on cultural difference in education still frequently reproduce the same cultural dichotomizations. Thus Littlewood’s (1999) exploration of learner autonomy in South East Asia criticises cultural stereotypes but goes on to reproduce them in a series of charts with the proviso that they are only tendencies and do not apply to everyone. Such an approach may criticise the stereotype, but at the same time it reproduces the same patterns of difference, thus failing to take into account the ways in which these categorisations reproduce cultural fixity (see Pennycook, 1998b). Thus while some work suggests a certain caution and argues that we should not overgeneralize, or that these characteristics only apply to some people, this fails to account for the question of representation, and the problem that such models still produce forms of cultural fixity.

An irony here is that work that seeks to ask the important question of appropriacy, often then falls into this trap of reproducing cultural dichotomies. ‘Is communicative language teaching appropriate in Vietnam?’, therefore, becomes a question with the answer ‘no’ because ‘Western’ culture is like this and ‘Eastern’/Vietnamese culture like that (cf. Achren and Keovilay, 1998) . Similarly, Adrian Holliday, in his key book, on ‘Appropriate methodology’, problematizes simplistic cultural dichotomies while at the same time putting into play broad dichotomous frameworks of collectionist vs integrationist orientations suggesting that language educators in the public sector in the less industrialized countries are "essentially collectionist", rendering them predefined before they have had a chance to move.


Towards appropriable pedagogies

To conclude, I shall try to pull together the interrelated themes I have been discussing here. I suggested that there are a number of difficulties in trying to understand relationships between language and development. The notion of development itself is a problematic category, all too often implying an upward, linear path of progress that is easily conflated with notions of modernization and westernization, and a series of representations which continue to construct the recipients of development aid as backward, underdeveloped, static, and traditional. As with views of English or of English language teaching as modern, preferable and new, developmentalism divides the world in detrimental ways. Sustainability has opened up new directions but does not escape the problematic forms of representation put into play by developmentalism. Like the language ecology paradigm and the static dichotomization of cultural difference, we are left only with the possibility of ‘protectionism’.

In addition, there has been inadequate work on establishing how language education might be related to forms of development or change. Sustainable development may be related to language projects in terms of keeping a language project going, making sure that there will be funds for it to continue, that there is enough local expertise for a project to continue, that a language development project fosters independence and not dependence. But all these are internal links that address the sustainability of a language project, not external links that show how language education may be related to development. What I want to ask, by contrast, is this: If we can assume that language and sustainable development mean more than merely sustaining a language program, if, by analogy with other issues in sustainable development that ask about the environment, the legacy more broadly to future generations, then, I think we have a rather different set of questions to pursue. How might language development projects be seen not in terms of their own sustainability but in terms of wider questions of sustainable development? I am concerned here not about the economy and environment so much as issues to do with language and culture. How does a certain language program relate to the sustainability and development of other languages and cultures in the context in which it operates? How in working in the area of language and development can we envisage a version of development that avoids Eurocentrism, developmentalism, preservationism?

If, for example, we consider Moffatt’s argument that an implicit aspect of all definitions of sustainable development is "the moral conviction and ethical desirability that the current generation should pass on their inheritance of natural and cultural wealth, not unchanged, but undiminished in potential, to support future generations" (p.32), then we need to ask how (English) language education might try to achieve such goals. If sustainable development ultimately hinges on an argument for the ethical desirability of passing on an undiminished potential of cultural wealth, this needs to be related more explicitly and carefully to changes in language and literacy practices. Language in sustainable development needs to be understood as both locally contingent and globally related, involving local participants in shaping their globally connected lives. As Rassool (1999) puts it in her discussion of literacy and sustainable development:

If…the concept of sustainable development highlights the responsibility that we all share in shaping the world of the future, then it follows that people must be provided with the skills, knowledges and expertise to shape their own development priorities. Literacy defined within the framework of sustainable development would therefore include a broad and critical knowledge base, and an understanding of how societies function, and the complex ways in which they are linked with global processes. As such, the economic and political context should be created in which literacy provision can be organized in a coherent and equitable way for all citizens within different societies as part of the process of political enfranchisement (p.97).

It may also be useful to distinguish between development in terms of having more and being more (Goulet, 1995). The first is always important as both a significant material base for survival and a progressive improvement of the material conditions of life. But it is also limited as a vision because it is too easily tied to an empty acquisitional materialism, in which development is simply greater access to material goods. The other side of the equation, then, concerns what it means to ‘be more’, to have more possibilities. It is this vision that is expressed educationally in Roger Simon’s (1992) notion of a ‘pedagogy of possibility’. It is this that gives us a sense of education not merely about providing the means of access to material goods but about the possibility of envisioning other possible worlds. For language education, then, we are faced by a an ethical question that asks not only does, say, English provide access to social and economic advance, but also whether teaching English opens up more possible worlds. How we understand the role of language, and in particular of English, in this process will depend very much on the models we use, from colonial celebratory, modernization or laissez-faire liberal views that fail to problematize the role of English and its relationship to other languages, to linguistic imperialism, language rights, language hybridity, and postcolonial performative perspectives that give us ways of understanding language in its political and ethical contexts. It depends very much how we view English in relation to culture and development. What forms of culture and knowledge may be related to English will depend very much on our different views of English and then on how we go about teaching it.

Adrian Holliday’s (1994) work, as well as a number of other discussions of teaching approaches in crosscultural contexts, aims to develop teaching methodologies appropriate to the social and cultural context, based on much greater understanding of classrooms and much greater collaboration between what he sees as the ‘two wings’ of ELT. The notion of appropriacy, however, while seemingly a desirable goal, may still put into play problematic dichotomies and static forms of difference. Indeed, in the context of appropriacy models of language variation, Fairclough (1992) has suggested that they "help to endow prescriptivism with a relatively acceptable face" (p37). In the guise of proposing appropriate competencies or performances for different social contexts (rather than one normative vision), they nevertheless operate with a normative and concealed notion of what is right and proper. Such models, therefore, tend towards homogeneous and static descriptions of difference.

Having looked at ways in which language is taken up, played with, and creatively used in classrooms in Vietnam, Kramsch and Sullivan (1996) move beyond a call only for appropriate pedagogy: "we can envisage the potential of an appropriate pedagogy which would, at the same time, be a pedagogy of appropriation, based on the unique privilege of the non-native speaker to poach on the so-called authentic territory of others, and make the language their own" (p. 210). This notion of appropriable pedagogy can help tie together the notion of language as postcolonial performativity, of culture as difference, of sustainable development being about creating the possibilities for being more. This syncretic model of cultural interaction works with a version of cultural difference that acknowledges that cultures are heterogeneous, diverse and dynamic; that cultural relations produce hybrid forms; that people actively appropriate cultural forms (rather than either accept or reject them); and that the product of such appropriation may be different from and greater than the sum of its original parts (heterosis).

Finally, then, we need always to consider the larger context of what we are doing, the cultural, political, social and economic implications of language programs. What might language development in English mean for other languages? What might it mean for the representation of culture? What forms of culture and knowledge may it privilege and what may it deny? What world is opened up by an education through English? How might English be a language that allows us to be more rather than just to have more? How can the relationship between outside and inside participants foster appropriability? What might a model of post-development discourse (cf. Escobar, 1995) look like? How might the notion of language as postcolonial performative start to inform language in development programs? How can we work towards an understanding of culture as difference and of pedagogy as appropriable?



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In response to a request from Omar, Dr Ernst von Glasersfeld, has been kind enough to post this article that we want to SHARE with all of you:


An Exposition of Constructivism: Why Some Like it Radical

Ernst von Glasersfeld
Scientific Reasoning Research Institute
University of Massachusetts


Man, having within himself an imagined World of lines and numbers, operates in it with abstractions, just as God, in the universe, did with reality.[1]

Giambattista Vico

When the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico published his treatise on the construction of knowledge,[2] it triggered quite a controversy  in the Giornale de' Letterati d'Italia, one of the most prestigious  scholarly journals at the time. This was in the years 1710-12. The first reviewer, who remained anonymous, had carefully read the treatise and was obviously shocked by the implications it had for traditional epistemology-- all the more so because, as he conceded, the arguments showed great learning and were presented with elegance. He was therefore impelled to question Vico's position, and he very politely suggested that one thing was lacking in the treatise: the proof that what it asserted was true.[3]
those constructivists who are "radical" because they take their theory of knowing seriously, frequently meet the same objection--except that it is sometimes expressed less politely than at the beginning of the 18th century. Now, no  less than then, it is difficult to show the critics that what they demand is the very thing constructivism must do without. To claim that one's theory of knowing is true, in the traditional sense of representing a state or feature of an experiencer-independent world, would be perjury for a radical constructivist.
One of the central points of the theory is precisely that
this kind of "truth", can never be claimed for the knowledge (or any piece of it) that human reason produces. To mark this radical departure, I have in the last few years taken to calling my orientation a theory of knowing rather than a "theory of knowledge". I agree whole-heartedly with Noddings when she says, at the beginning of her contribution to this volume, that radical constructivism should be "offered as a post-epistemological perspective". One of the consequences of such an appraisal, however, must be that one does not persist in arguing against it as though it were or purported to be a traditional theory of knowledge.
Another consequence--for me the more important one--is that constructivism
needs to be radical and must explain that one can, indeed, manage without the traditional notion of Truth. That this task is possible, may become more plausible if I trace the sources of some of the ideas that made the enterprise seem desirable.
In retrospect, the path along which I picked up relevant ideas
(somewhat abbreviated and idealized) led from the early doubts of the Pre-Socratics, via Montaigne, Berkeley, Vico, and Kant, to thinkers who developed instrumentalism and pragmatism at the turn of this century, and eventually to the Italian Operational School and Piaget's genetic epistemology.

The Way of the Sceptics


To Xenophanes (6th century B.C.) we may credit the insight that even if someone succeeded in describing exactly how the world really is, he or she would have no way of knowing that it was the "true" description.[4] This is  the major argument the sceptics have repeated for two thousand five  hundred years. It is based on the assumption that whatever ideas or knowledge we have must have been derived in some way from our experience, which includes sensing, acting, and thinking. If this is the case, we have no way of  checking the truth of our knowledge with the world presumed to be lying beyond our experiential interface, because to do this, we would need an access to such a world that does not involve our experiencing it.
Plato tried to get around this by claiming that some god had placed the pure ideas inside us and that experience with the fuzzy, imperfect world of the senses could only serve to make us "remember" what was really true.
Thus, there would be no need (and no way) to check our knowledge against
an  independent external reality. Consequently, in Plato's famous metaphor, the man who is led out of the cave of his commonplace experience is blinded by a splendid vision. But his vision is the pure realm of an interpersonal soul and not the fuzzy world perceived by the senses.[5]
From my point of view,
Plato created an ingenious poetic or "metaphysical" myth, but not a rational theory of knowing.
The sceptics position, developed into a school under Pyrrho at the end
of the next century, was diligently compiled and documented by Sextus Empiricus about 200 A.D. It smoldered under the theological debates of the middle ages and burst into full flame in the 16th century when the works of Sextus Empiricus were rediscovered. Descartes set out to put an end to it, but succeeded only in strengthening the side he was opposing (cf. Popkin, 1979).
The British Empiricists then helped to harden the sceptical doctrine by
their detailed analyses. First, Locke discarded the secondary (sensory) properties of things as sources of "true" information about the real world.
Then, Berkeley showed that Locke's arguments applied equally to the
primary properties (spatial extension, motion, number,etc.), and finally Hume delivered an even more serious blow by attributing the notion of causality (and other relations that serve to organize experience) to the conceptual habits of the human knower. The final demolition of realism was brought about when Kant suggested that the concepts of space and time were the  necessary forms of human experience, rather than characteristics of the universe. This meant that we cannot even imagine what the structure of the real world might be like, because whatever we call structure is necessarily an arrangement in space, time, or both.
These are extremely uncomfortable arguments. Philosophers have  forever tried to dismantle them, but they have had little success. The arguments are uncomfortable because they threaten a concept which we feel we cannot do without. "Knowledge" is something of which we are quite sure that we have a certain amount, and we are not prepared to relinquish it. The trouble is that throughout the occidental history of ideas and right down to our own days, two requisites have been considered fundamental in any epistemological discussion of knowledge. The first of these requisites demands that  whatever we would like to call "true knowledge" has to be independent of the knowing  subject. The second requisite is that knowledge is to be taken seriously  only if it claims to represent a world of "things-in-themselves" in a more or less veridical fashion. In other words, it is tacitly taken for granted that a fully structured and knowable world "exists" and that it is the business of the cognizing human subject to discover what that structure is.
The weakness of the sceptics' position lies in its polemical
It always sounds as though the traditional epistemologists' definition of
knowledge were the only possible one. Hence, when Montaigne says "la peste de l'homme c'est l'opinion de savoir" (mankind's plague is the conceit of
knowing)[6], it sounds as though we ought to give up all knowing. But he was referring to absolutistic claims of experiential knowledge and was discussing them in the context of the traditional dogmatic belief that religious  revelation is unquestionable. He had in mind absolute truth, and he was castigating those who claimed that a rational interpretation of experience (of which "scientific observation" is, after all, a sophisticated form) would lead to such truth. He certainly did not intend to discredit the kind of know-how that enabled his peasants to make a good wine.
In short, what the sceptics failed to stress was that, though no
truths about a "real" world could be derived from experience, experience nevertheless supplied a great deal of useful knowledge.

The Changed Concept of Knowledge

Unbeknownst to Kant, who in the 1780s hammered this limitation in
with his Critiques of pure and practical reason, Giambattista Vico had come to a very similar conclusion in 1710. The human mind can know only what the human mind has made, was his slogan and, more like Piaget than Kant, he did not assume that space and time were necessarily a priori categories, but suggested that they, too, were human constructs (Vico, 1858).

Pursuing this way of thinking, one is led to what I have called "a
reconstruction of the concept of knowledge" (von Glasersfeld, 1985). Some reconstruction is needed because, on the one hand, one can no longer maintain that the cognizing activity should or could produce a true representation of an objective world, and on the other, one does not want  to end up with a solipsistic form of idealism. The only way out, then, would seem to be a drastic modification of the relation between the cognitive structures we build up and that "real" world which we are inclined to assume as "existing" beyond our perceptual interface.[7] Instead of the illusory relation of "representation", one has to find a way of relating knowledge to reality that does not imply anything like match or correspondence. 
Neither Vico nor Kant explicitly mentioned such a conceptual alternative.
It was supplied, however, in Darwin's theory of evolution by the concept
of fit. Once this relational concept has been stripped of its erroneous formulation in the slogan "survival of the fittest" (cf. Pittendrigh, 1958; von Glasersfeld, 1980), it offers a way around the paradox of the traditional theory of knowledge. As far as I know, this was first suggested by Willam James (1880).[8] Georg Simmel (1885) elaborated it, and Aleksandr Bogdanov (1909) developed it into a comprehensive instrumentalist epistemology. Hans Vaihinger (1913), who had been working at his "Philosophy of As If" since the 1870s and who probably was quite unaware of Vico, reintroduced the idea of conceptual construction.

Piaget's Contribution

Today, in retrospect, these and other authors can be cited as
"sources" of constructivism. However, the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing today, Jean Piaget started from Kant and arrived at his view of cognition as a biologist who looked at intelligence and knowledge as biological functions whose development had to be explained and mapped in the ontogeny of organisms.
In interpreting Piaget, it is important to remember that his
publications range over an astounding variety of topics and are spread over more than half a century.[9] As with any versatile and original thinker, his ideas did not cease to develop and change (Vuik, 1981). It is, therefore, not surprising that one can spot contradictions in his work. An obvious instance is his theory of stages, which was gradually superseded by his theory of  equilibration (cf. Rowell, in press). Thus it is not too difficult to dismiss Piaget on the strength of one or two quotations; or, what is even more frequent, on the strength of what superficial summarizers have said about him. It is also likely that arguments about what Piaget actually believed will continue and that different scholars will provide different  interpretations. In my view, the following basic principles of radical constructivism emerge quite clearly if one tries to comprise as much as  possible of Piaget's writings in one coherent theory but I would argue for these principles even if they could be shown to diverge from Piaget's  thinking.




a) Knowledge is not passively received either through the senses or by way of communication;

b) Knowledge is actively built up by the cognizing subject.


a)  The function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense of the term, tending towards fit or viability;

b) cognition serves the subject's organization of the experiential world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality.


One cannot adopt these principles casually. If taken seriously, they are incompatible with the traditional notions of knowledge, truth, and objectivity, and they require a radical reconstruction of one's concept of reality. Instead of an inaccessible realm beyond perception and cognition, it now becomes the experiential world we actually live in. This world is  not an unchanging independent structure, but the result of distinctions that  generate a physical and a social environment to which, in turn, we adapt as best we can.
Consequently, one cannot adopt the constructivist principles as an
absolute truth, but only as a working hypothesis that may or may not turn out to be viable. This is the main reason why the constructivist orientation is unequivocally post-epistemological (Noddings, this volume).

The Concept of Viability


To relinquish the inveterate belief that knowledge must eventually represent something that lies beyond our experience is, indeed, a frightening step to take. It constitutes a feat of decentering that is even more demanding than the one accomplished by a few outstanding thinkers in the 16th century who realized that the earth was not the center of the universe. Because it goes against an age-old habit, it is immensely difficult to accept that, no matter how well we can predict the results of certain actions we take or the "effects" of certain "causes" we observe,  this must never be interpreted as a proof that we have discovered how the "real" world works.[10]
The key to this insight lies in what Piaget formulated in the phrase
"l'objet se laisse faire" ("the object allows itself to be treated"; 1970; p.35) At the symposium on the occasion of his 80th birthday he repeated the phrase and explained it further: "When one comes to have a true theory, this is because the object permitted it; which amounts to saying that it  contained something analogous to my actions." (Inhelder et al. 1977; p.64)
In this context
as in so many in Piaget's works it is important to remember that an "object" is never a thing-in-itself for Piaget, but something that the cognizing subject has constructed by making distinctions and coordinations in his or her perceptual field (Piaget, 1937).
That is all very well, one might say, but how does it come about that
the reality we construct is in many ways remarkably stable? And, one might also ask why, if we ourselves construct our experiential reality, can we not construct any reality we might like? The first question was answered in a categorical way by George Kelly: "To the living creature, then, the universe  is real, but it is not inexorable unless he chooses to construe it that  way" (1955; p.8). The living creature, be it fish, fowl, or human, thrives  by abstracting regularities and rules from experience that enable it to avoid disagreeable situations and, to some extent, to generate agreeable ones. This "abstracting of regularities" is always the result of  assimilation. No experience is ever the same as another in the absolute sense. Repetition and, consequently, regularity can be obtained only by disregarding certain differences. This notion of assimilation is at the core of Piaget's scheme theory. No schemes could be developed if the organism could not isolate situations in which a certain action leads to a desirable result. It is the focus on the result that distinguishes a scheme from a reflex and makes possible the form of learning that Piaget called accommodation. It takes place when a scheme does not lead to the expected result. This produces a perturbation, and the perturbation may lead either  to a modification of the pattern that was abstracted as the "triggering situation" or to a modification of the action. All this, I want to emphasize, concerns the experiential world of the acting organism, not any "external" reality. And the patterns a cognizing organism can and does abstract from experience depend on the operations of distinction and coordination the organism can and does carry out.[11] This was brilliantly demonstrated for a variety of organisms more than fifty years ago by Jakob von Uexküll (1933/1970).

The second question
why we cannot construct any reality we like can be raised only if the concept of viability is misunderstood or ignored. The absurdity of solipsism stems from the denial of any relation between knowledge and an experiencer-independent world.

Radical Constructivism has been careful to stress that all action, be it physical or conceptual, is subject to constraints. I can no more walk through the desk in front of me  than I can argue that black is white at one and the same time. What constrains me, however, is not quite the same in the two cases. That the desk constitutes an obstacle to my physical movement is due to the particular distinctions my sensory system enables me to make and to the particular way in which I have come to coordinate them. Indeed, if I now could walk through  the desk, it would no longer fit the abstraction I have made in prior  experience. This, I think, is simple enough. What is not so simple is the realization that the fact that I am able to make the particular distinctions and coordinations and establish their permanence in my experiential world, does not tell me anything other than the fact that it is one of the things my experiential reality allows me to do. Using a spatial metaphor, I have at times expressed this by saying that the viability of an action shows no more than that the "real" world leaves us room to act in that way. Conversely, when my actions fail and I am compelled to make a physical or conceptual accommodation, this does not warrant the assumption that my failure reveals something that "exists" beyond my experience. Whatever obstacle I might conjecture, can be described only in terms of my own actions. (In this context, it is important to remember that the constructivist theory holds that perception is not passive, but under all circumstances the result of action; cf. Piaget, 1969.)

The constraints that preclude my saying that black is white are, of course, not physical but conceptual. The way we use symbols to handle abstractions we have made from experience, requires among other things that we exclude contradiction (cf. von Glasersfeld, in press). Consistency, in maintaining semantic links and in avoiding contradictions, is an   indispensable condition of what I would call our "rational game".

The Question of Certainty


The domain of mathematics is in some sense the epitome of the rational game. The certainty of mathematical results has often been brought up as an argument against constructivism.
To indicate that the theoretical infallibility of mathematical
operations (in practice, mistakes may, of course, occur) cannot be claimed as proof that these operations give access to an ontological reality, I have compared this generation of certainty to the game of chess. At the painful moment when you discover that your opponent can put you into a "checkmate" position, you have no way of doubting it and your shock is as real as any shock can be.
Yet, it is obvious that the certainty you are experiencing springs from
nothing but the conceptual relations that constitute the rules of the game; and it is equally obvious that these conceptual relations are absolute in the sense that if I broke them and thus destroyed the certainty they generate, I would no longer be playing that particular game.

The comparison with chess has caused remonstrations, and I would like to clarify my position. I still believe that the certainty in mathematics springs from the same conceptual source, but this does not mean that I hold mathematics to be like chess in other ways. The biggest difference is that the elements to which the rules of chess apply are all specific to the game. Flesh and blood kings cannot be put into "mate" positions, equestrian knights move unlike their chess namesakes, and living queens show their power in ways that are inconceivable on the chess board.
In contrast, the elements to which the rules of mathematics are applied,
are not free inventions. In counting, for example, the elements start out as ordinary things that have been abstracted from ordinary experience, and the basic abstract concepts, such as "oneness" and "plurality", have a life of their own before they are incorporated in the realm of mathematics. It is precisely this connection with everyday experience and conceptual practice that leads to the contention that mathematics "reflects" the real world.

The "imagined world of lines and numbers" of which Vico speaks in the
quotation I have put at the beginning of this essay, is in no sense an arbitrary world. At the roots of the vast network of mathematical abstractions are the simple operations that allow us to perceive discrete items in the field of our experience, and simple relational concepts that allow us to unite them as "units of units". On subsequent levels of abstraction, the representations of sensory-motor material of everyday experience (Piaget's "figurative" elements) drop out, and what remains is the purely "operative", i.e., abstractions from operations.

None of this is developed in a free, wholly arbitrary fashion. Every individual's abstraction of experiential items is constrained (and thus guided) by social interaction and the need of collaboration and communication with other members of the group in which he or she grows up.
No individual can afford not to establish a relative fit with the
consensual domain of the social environment.[12]
An analogous development takes place with regard to mathematics, but
here the social interaction specifically involves those who are active in that field. The consensual domain into which the individual must learn to fit is that of mathematicians, teachers, and other adults insofar as they practice mathematics. The process of adaptation is the same as in other social domains, but there is an important difference in the way the degree of  adaptation can be assessed. In the domain of everyday living, fit can be demonstrated by sensory-motor evidence of successful interaction (e.g. when an individual asked to buy apples, returns with items that the other recognizes as apples). The only observable manifestation of the demand as well as of the response, in the abstract reaches of the domain of mathematics, are symbols of operations. The operations themselves remain unobservable. Understanding can therefore never be demonstrated by the presentation of results that may have been acquired by rote learning.[13]

This is one of the reasons why mathematics teachers often insist (to the immense boredom of the students) on the exact documentation of the algorithm by means of which the result was obtained. The flaw in this procedure is that any documentation of an algorithm is again a sequence of symbols which in themselves do not demonstrate the speaker's or writer's understanding of the symbolized operations. Hence, the production of such a sequence, too, may be the result of rote learning.

Other contributions to this volume will illustrate how a constructivist approach to instruction deals with this problem. They will also show that the constructivist teacher does not give up his or her role as a guide but this leadership takes the form of encouraging and orienting the students' constructive effort rather than curtailing their autonomy by presenting ready-made results as the only permitted path.  Here, I would merely stress the sharp distinction which, in my view, has to be made between teaching and training. The first aims at the  students' conceptual fit with the consensual domain of the particular field, a fit which, from the teacher's perspective, constitutes understanding. The second aims at the students' behavioral fit which, from the teacher's perspective, constitutes acceptable performance. This is not to say, that rote learning and the focus on adequate performance should have no place in constructively oriented instruction. But it does mean that, where the domain of mathematics is concerned, instruction that focuses on performance alone can be no better than trivial.

Concluding Remarks


If one seriously wants to adopt the radical constructivist orientation, the changes of thinking and of attitudes one has to make are formidable. It is also far from easy to maintain them consequentially. Much like physical habits, old ways of thinking are slow to die out and tend to return surreptitiously.
In everyday living we don't risk much if we continue to speak of
lovely sunsets and say that tomorrow the sun will rise at such and such a time even though we now hold that it is the earth that moves and not the sun. Similarly, there is no harm in speaking of knowledge, mathematical and other, as though it had ontological status and could be "objective" in that  sense; as a way of speaking this is virtually inevitable in the social interactions of everyday life. But when we let scientific knowledge turn into belief and begin to think of it as unquestionable dogma, we are on a dangerous slope.
The critics of Copernicus who argued that his system must be "wrong"
because it denied that the earth is the center of the universe, could not claim to be "scientific"  they argued in that way for political and religious reasons. Science, as Bellarmino pointed out, produces hypotheses, and as such, they may or may not be useful. Their use may also be  temporary. The science we have today, holds that neither the earth nor the sun has a privileged position in the universe. Like the contemporary philosophers of science, constructivists have tried to learn from that development and to give up the traditional conception of knowledge as a  "true" representation of an experiencer-independent state of affairs.

That is why radical constructivism does not claim to have found an ontological truth but merely proposes a hypothetical model that may turn out to be a useful one.
Let me conclude with a remark that is not particularly relevant to
the teaching of mathematics but might be considered by educators in general.
Throughout the two thousand five hundred years of Western epistemology,
the accepted view has been a realist view. According to it, the human knower can attain some knowledge of a really existing world and can use this knowledge to modify it. People tended to think of the world as governed by a God who would not let it go under. Then faith shifted from God to science and the world that science was mapping was called "Nature" and believed to be ultimately understandable and controllable. Yet, it was also believed to  be so immense that mankind could do no significant harm to it. Today, one does not have to look far to see that this attitude has endangered the world we are actually experiencing.  If the view is adopted that "knowledge" is the conceptual means to make sense of experience, rather than a "representation" of something that is supposed to lie beyond it, this shift of perspective brings with it an important corollary: the concepts and relations in terms of which we perceive and conceive the experiential world we live in are necessarily  generated by ourselves. In this sense it is we who are responsible for the world we are experiencing. As I have reiterated many times, radical constructivism does not suggest that we can construct anything we like, but it does claim that within the constraints that limit our construction there is room for an infinity of alternatives. It therefore does not seem untimely to suggest a theory of knowing that draws attention to the knower's  responsibility for what the knower constructs.



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von Uexküll, J. 1970 Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen (with Georg Kriszat). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. (Originally published in 1933).

Vuyk, R. (1981) Overview and critique of Piaget's genetic epistemology, Vols. 1 & 2. New York: Academic Press.



1. Vico's reply to his critics, included in the 2nd edition of De Antiquissima Italorum Sapientia, 1711; reprinted in Vico (1858) p.143.

2. De Antiquissima Italorum Sapientia, Naples, 1710; reprinted with
Italian translation, 1858. [back]

3. Giornale de'Letterati d'Italia, 1711, vol.V, article VI; reprinted
in Vico (1858), p. 137. [back]

4. cf. Hermann Diels (1957), Xenophanes, fragment 34.

5. cf. Plato's "The Republic" in Great Dialogues of Plato (1956), p.
312ff. [back]

6. Montaigne wrote this in his Apologie de Raymond Sebond (1575-76);
cf. Essais, 1972, vol.2,, p.139. [back]

7. Though most philosophers, today, would agree that the ontological
realm is perceptually inaccessible, they balk at Kant's suggestion that it is also conceptually inaccessible to us. They are therefore still stuck with the paradox that they have no way of showing the truth of the ontological claims they make. [back]

8. This reference was brought to my attention by a personal
communication from Jacques Voneche (Geneva, 1985). [back]

9. See, for instance, Kitchener's recent article (1989) on Piaget's
early work on the role of social interaction and exchange. [back]

10. Paul Feyerabend's recent comment (1987) on the famous letter
Cardinal Bellarmino wrote in the context of Galileo's trial, makes this point in exemplary fashion: "To use modern terms: astronomers are entirely safe when saying that a model has predictive advantages over another model, but they get into trouble when asserting that it is therefore a faithful image of reality. Or, more generally: the fact that a model works does not by itself show that reality is structured like the model." [back]

11. The focus on "operations of distinction" is a major contribution
of Humberto Maturana's biological approach to cognition (1980); the notion as such, however, is implicit in much of Piaget's work, e.g,, his Mechanisms of perception (1969). [back]

12. Lest this be interpreted as a concession to realism, let me point
out that, in the constructivist view, the term "environment" always refers to the environment as experientially constructed by the particular subject, not to an "objective" external world. [back]

13. Thinking, conceptual development, understanding, and meaning are
located in someone's head and are never directly observable. A formidable confusion was generated by the behaviorist program that tried to equate meaning with observable response.  [back]

© 1996 Associazione Oikos





The following article was selected as the Best Article (three way tie) innterrichtspraxis for 1999.

A Role for Action Research in the Foreign Language Classroom
Jamie Rankin
Princeton University

We are convinced that the disposition to study, as objectively as possible, the consequences of our own teaching is more likely to change and improve our practices than is reading about what someone else has discovered regarding the consequences of his teaching. The latter may be helpful. The former is almost certain to be. (Corey 70)

A novice TA walks into my office and asks for advice. He's having a difficult time getting his second-semester Beginning German class to interact with him (or each other, for that matter) in any sort of engaging way. His students take part in the various communicative tasks that he gives them, but often grudgingly, or so it appears to him; and when he moves from communicative tasks to teacher-fronted instruction on forms, most of them seem to lose interest altogether. The prevailing atmosphere is dull and unmotivated, a far cry from the action-packed, fun-filled atmosphere he was hoping for. He thinks the problem might lie with his "transitions," the explanations and commentary joining task to task, or perhaps with the temperament of the class itself, or a combination of both. What can he do to engage his students? How can he sustain their attention more consistently during his grammar explanations?

Another TA, also teaching Beginning German for the first time, comes to me with a different sort of question. His students are for the most part affable and actively participating, but he is troubled by his own uncertainty regarding how he should correct their spoken errors. On the one hand, he feels compelled to address every mistake that occurs (and there are many), for fear that uncorrected errors will hinder his students' progress. If the errors go unchecked, he reasons, they may lead to bad habits that will be increasingly difficult to break. He also might be sending confusing signals to observant students who notice others' errors and are expecting him to step in with a correction. But on the other hand, he senses that to point out every error would undermine the communicative nature of the class, and violate the atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship that he has been working hard to develop. Correcting his students over and over again could only breed self-consciousness and anxiety. What should he do? Will non-correction lead to "fossilization"? Or will negative affect outweigh the advantages of correctness? To what degree is the classroom atmosphere, with its potential for positive or negative motivation, a factor in the on-going process of second language acquisition (SLA)?


My first reaction to such questions, of course, is to suggest something--anything--that will "fix the problem," mostly in the sense of assuaging the anxieties of worried TAs. But I need to be careful: How I deal with their concerns sends a message not only about the issue at hand, but about learning how to teach in general. If my mentoring style is aligned with what Michael Wallace (Training) calls the "craft" model, then I will have a TA watch me (or another teacher) conduct a class and learn inductively how an experienced teacher deals with such issues. Like an apprentice learning from a master artisan, the TA in this scenario will observe carefully, ask questions, and then model his performance after the mentor's style. If my teaching philosophy tends instead toward what Wallace terms the "applied science" model, then I will direct the TA to the (voluminous) published research on recommended teaching behaviors, task design, and classroom interaction. Here he will read what academic researchers have demonstrated in controlled studies, and extrapolate from these generalizations to his own classroom experience.


Either course of action poses problems. While there is much to be said for observing and imitating as part of the pedagogical process, several teacher-trainers (Edgar Stones and Sidney Morris, for example, as well as Wallace) point out that the "craft" model is dangerously static. Teachers-in-training who are encouraged to adopt the teaching style and techniques (and thus the pedagogical solutions) of another teacher may find themselves less able to develop their own instructional voice and presence and are perhaps less likely to reflect critically on their own teaching. Donald Schön, in turn, argues that the "applied science" model has serious shortcomings as well, notably that the kind of knowledge necessary for effective professional practice--teaching and otherwise--is inherently different from the quantifiable results of empirical research, valid and reliable though these may be.

Certainly these misgivings apply to the situations described above. Classical SLA studies on task design, classroom input, and error correction demonstrate what is statistically true for an abstraction known as "the language learner," but to do so they must cancel out the particulars of the learners they investigate. Yet what my TAs are wrestling with here are those very particulars: particular language learners who interact with them as teachers and each other as students in unique and unpredictable ways, and in doing so manifest particular problems. While one can appreciate the statistical reliability of process-product research with its emphasis on general application ("do x, and y will result"), the controlled research environment that produces these results, for all its usefulness in such studies, bears little resemblance to real-life pedagogical circumstances. As Frederick Erickson points out, the education research on "effective teaching" is of decidedly limited use to a teacher who cannot translate it into the context of a specific classroom, which generates "its own unique system" (133). Perusing such studies will make these TAs better informed, certainly, but not necessarily more effective.

Rejecting both the implications of the "craft" model and the questionable presuppositions about teaching and learning behaviors that underlie the "applied science" model, Schön argues forcefully for what he calls "reflective practice"--thinking about the decisions that one makes while carrying out one's job (teaching, in this case), in order to determine the underlying patterns, biases, and intuitions that influence what one does. Wallace (Training) expands this concept to include the integration of received knowledge--the texts of "applied science"--into the overall reflective process. In this way the shortcomings of the "applied science" model can be avoided, while the genuine contributions to knowledge made by researchers working in other paradigms can be duly recognized and appropriated.

But for all its merits, "reflective practice" is often too amorphous to help novice teachers with the specific problems they encounter. Yes, they need to gain insight into the recurring patterns of their teaching style; but the pressing need is for insight into the immediate problem. And yes, they should learn how to reflect on their own teaching in light of other research findings; but often their problems demand specific answers, not the generalizations of classical applied research. In other words, they need to engage in reflection that is directed toward their current problems--reflection that is informed and reliable enough to point them toward realizable goals, and (I would add) that is both nurtured and critiqued by means of collaboration.

These desired qualities of reflection--problem-oriented, collaborative, aimed at tangible intervention--point to a model of analysis and reflective practice known as Action Research. While Action Research (AR) has taken on an increasingly prominent role in mainstream education, ESL, and other professional training environments, it has been curiously absent (save for a brief glance in Richard Johnstone) in the discourse on foreign language teacher training. This strikes me as odd, not only because AR can be easily extrapolated to foreign language TA training (the focus of considerable attention in the literature), but because the foreign language (FL) classroom seems to me to be an ideal environment for the kind of analysis and reflection that AR promotes. In the following I seek to explore this potentially rich relationship by tracing the conceptual development of AR and then describing several levels of analysis that could accompany its application in FL classrooms.



Action Research:
The Problem of a Definition


Until quite recently, the development of AR was framed almost exclusively by the mainstream education literature, primarily in the context of elementary and high school teaching. Almost exclusively, to be sure: oddly enough, or perhaps predictably, depending on one's estimation of education theorists, the definition that captures most succinctly what I take to be the essential nature of AR is embedded in a discussion of "participatory action research" applied to industry and agriculture. Chris Argyris and Schön define AR as follows:

Action research takes its cues--its questions, puzzles, and problems--from the perceptions of practitioners within particular, local practice contexts. It bounds episodes of research according to the boundaries of the local context. It builds descriptions and theories within the practice context itself, and tests them there through intervention experiments--that is, through experiments that bear the double burden of testing hypotheses and effecting some (putatively) desirable change in the situation. (86)

In short, AR calls for a practitioner to develop a theory within a system, with the goal of doing something to improve that system: theory leading to intervention, research resulting in action.


Applied to an educational context, AR directs the teacher to examine his or her own classroom systematically and act on the insights gained. The teacher observes the situation as it currently exists, determines a course of action, implements it, notes the results through continued observation, and in the process seeks additional areas for change. AR is reflection-based, action-oriented, and, as this description suggests, cyclical. But beyond these basic components, educators differ as to what, precisely, AR should entail. Louis Cohen and Lawrence Manion echo Argyris and Schön by defining AR as "small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such intervention" (174). Wallace (Action Research), writing as a teacher-trainer in ESL programs, describes it as "basically a way of reflecting on your teaching" (4), in stark contrast to Stephen Kemmis and Robin McTaggart, for whom AR is "a form of collective self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants on social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own social or educational practices ... the approach is only action research when it is collaborative"


(5). Kemmis and McTaggart's persistent emphasis on social justice as a goal, and collaborative group effort as a necessary means toward it, places their version of AR squarely in the domain of what Sharan Merriam calls "critical research ... an ideological critique of power, privilege, and oppression in areas of educational practice" (4), and distances it from AR theorists like Wallace, for whom the terms "action research," "reflective practice," and "teacher research" are roughly synonymous.

Indeed, the diverse proponents of AR can be located on a continuum between these two ideological poles. In close proximity to Wallace are Jack Richards and Charles Lockhart, whose "action research cases" amount to little more than small-scale quantitative research done by an individual teacher. Nunan likewise sees AR primarily as a means to improved in-service teacher training through self-awareness and reflection. Working within the British tradition of AR, John Elliott takes a more centrist position; he envisions structural as well as pedagogical change occurring as administrators and teachers collaborate to promote better educational environments. Sharon Oja and Lisa Smulyan adopt much the same position, seeing AR as a means of achieving administrative improvement. Moving further toward Kemmis and McTaggart, we find Graham Crookes, who argues that AR should transcend in-class teacher research in order to deal with deeper societal structures as they are institutionalized in schools. The essays collected in Susan Noffke and Robert Stevenson, beginning with Noffke's paper on "Action Research and Democratic Schooling," adopt an even more political (and often polemical) tone.


These ideological biases work their way into what purport to be objective histories of AR. Kemmis and McTaggart, for example, in close ranks with Noffke and Stevenson, trace the roots of AR back to the work of Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist who encouraged his clients to engage in cycles of of achieving greater social justice. After situating AR firmly within this framework, the authors briefly mention the classroom adaptations of AR by Steven Corey, an educator in the 1950s, and go on to propose models for potentially radical social transformation by way of schools. Centrists on the AR political spectrum such as Oja and Smulyan give equal narrative attention to Lewin and Corey, while Mary Olson, writing expressly to promote "the teacher as researcher" rather than an agent of societal change, casts only a cursory glance at Lewin,

focusing instead on Corey as "the acknowledged early proponent of action research" (9)--hardly the role he plays in Kemmis and McTaggart's project.

But for all their differences, proponents of AR show consensus on one point: The critical observation and measured change of the teaching-learning environment is to be carried out by teachers themselves--not by outside observers who use others' classrooms as research sites. This focus on the teacher as researcher resonates profoundly with a larger corpus of teacher research, much of which follows the procedural model of AR.


One encounters throughout the genre a widespread dissatisfaction with the long-accepted view that "knowledge" about what transpires in classrooms is the privileged domain of university-based researchers who produce "research on teaching" rather than encouraging teachers to engage in their own "teacher research," to use the distinction made by Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle. Cochran-Smith and Lytle cite the Handbook of Research on Teaching as representatively culpable on this point. Although several of its 35 review articles mention researcher-teacher collaborations, "none are written by school-based teachers, or, as far as we can determine, are published accounts of teachers' work cited" (7).

The perception among many teachers is that prevailing educational theory comes from outsiders who presume to understand the "inside" complexities of the classroom--note the spatial metaphor of Inside/Outside by Cochran-Smith and Lytle, and in the titular reference to "elsewhereness" in Garth Boomer--without actually having taught in it. Many argue that the prescribed "methods" of outsiders do not correspond to the way teachers think about their own Praxis, and that the generalizability of professional research seems to be at odds with the particular knowledge teachers have about their own teaching (Elliott 45-46). The complaint of one practicing teacher provides a representative commentary:

The reports [of professional researchers] were often couched in jargon and statistics and were published in journals that rarely reached staff room shelves. Above all I felt frustrated that teachers lacked the language to argue coherently with the researchers. We seemed to live in separate worlds. A prestigious research industry seemed to be thriving at the expense of school practitioners rather than in support of them. (Anning 57)

In reaction to this trend, many teachers have opted to pursue their own avenues of research, focusing on what they know best--their own classrooms. Some have written on their own, some have done so in the context of graduate-level education seminars, while others have banded together to form teacher collectives: Robert Burgess, The Research Process in Educational Settings: Ten Case Studies; Gail Burnaford, Joseph Fischer and David Hobson, Teachers Doing Research: Practical Possibilities; Cochran-Smith and Lytle, Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge; David Hustler, Anthony Cassidy and Ted Cuff, Action Research in Classrooms and Schools; Marian Mohr and Marion MacLean, Working Together: A Guide for Teacher-Researchers; Jon Nixon, A Teacher's Guide to Action Research; Noffke and Stevenson, Educational Action Research: Becoming Practically Critical; and Olson, Opening the Door to Classroom Research. Several of the titles bear vivid witness to the writers' desire for autonomy and recognition: Glenda Bissex and Richard Bullock, Seeing for Ourselves; Dixie Goswami and Peter Stillman, Reclaiming the Classroom; or Joe Kincheloe, Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment.


In addition to an insistence on the validity of teacher knowledge, a common feature of these studies and others like them is a commitment to qualitative research, certainly the dominant paradigm in AR, and a key to its potential strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative research is commonly contrasted with quantitative, though the two are more closely linked than is sometimes admitted--quantitative research builds upon subjective interpretations of results, and qualitative studies routinely make use of traditionally quantitative metrics. But the two paradigms do show a difference in approach to their research questions, and indeed in the kinds of questions they choose to address. Where quantitative studies aim at statistical generalizability through careful measurements and controls, qualitative research focuses on the unique dynamic of a bounded social system with highly complex particulars. Quantitative study aims at probability, qualitative study at plausibility. Delineating the province of qualitative case studies, Robert Stake provides a useful comparison:

In quantitative studies, the research question seeks out a relationship between a small number of variables...Efforts are made to operationally bound the inquiry, to define the variables, and to minimize the importance of interpretation until data are analyzed.... In qualitative studies, research questions typically orient to cases or phenomena, seeking patterns of unanticipated as well as expected relationships.... The dependent variables are experientially rather than operationally defined. Situational conditions are not known in advance or controlled. (41)

Quantitative study begins with a hypothesis, controls the variables so that a cause and effect relation can be traced (if indeed there is one), and waits until the data are in to confirm or disconfirm the original hypothesis. Qualitative study, by contrast, observes the phenomena in question with no initial explanation necessarily in mind, reflects on those observations, and begins to form hypotheses as patterns emerge. The hypotheses are refined or jettisoned as the data continue to accumulate, so that only gradually does the researcher come to interpret and understand the agenda of the individual case. Where quantitative research begins and ends with its hypotheses, interpretive research allows them to emerge along with the data, "studying social life as it unfolds" (Gubrium and Holstein 12). (To delve into the pros and cons of quantitative vs. qualitative research would exceed the scope of this paper; but see Elliot Eisner and Alan Peshkin for a useful introduction to the topic; Jerome Kirk and Marc Miller, and Matthew Miles and A. Michael Huberman on validity issues; Richard Winter for a critique of the epistemology underlying quantitative research; and Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein for a survey of post-positivist critiques of qualitative research.)


The distinction between quantitative and qualitative inquiry is important in considering how to carry out AR projects to their full potential, since AR can include both paradigms. Many of the issues one faces in the classroom (e.g., task design, learner differences, and error correction) have been dealt with in quantitative studies. But to apply these insights to a particular classroom dynamic (e.g., Why do certain materials seem to engage some small groups but not others? Should the teacher let John and Mary work together, even though their proficiency levels are so disparate? What about the student who insists on correcting his peers' mistakes?), one must engage in some form of reflective, qualitative analysis. To take a real-life example: Roy Lyster's recent study strongly suggests that explicit corrective feedback is preferable to non-implicit recasts of erroneous utterances. But though his data are no doubt accurate, qualitative considerations suggest--perhaps even more strongly--that implementing Lyster's proposal consistently in a real classroom could be disastrous. Whatever the quantitative studies may show to be generally true, the results are of little use if a teacher cannot benefit from them in a local system. And to understand the relation of general ideas to particular social contexts, we must engage in qualitative research.


Action Research and Methodology


Both of the issues discussed above--teacher research as an "insider" project, and qualitative inquiry as the appropriate paradigm for its application--are incorporated by AR into a conceptually useful research model. We can now regard it in more detail, following the outline suggested by Kemmis and McTaggart.

The starting point of AR is a classroom problem or simply a desire on the teacher's part to improve learning. Having decided on the focus of the research, the teacher engages in a period of observing and reflecting, using a variety of tools--personal diaries, post-class notes, video and audio tapes, collaborator observation, and student interviews, to name the more common types--in order to view the classroom from as many perspectives as possible. The goal is to determine not only what is going on, but also the underlying reasons for it--to discern, as Erickson suggests, between "behavior" and "action":

A crucial analytic distinction in interpretive research is that between behavior, the physical act, and action, which is the physical behavior plus the meaning interpretations held by the actor and those with whom the actor is engaged in interaction. The object of interpretive social research is action, not behavior. (126-27)

In other words, the teacher cannot be satisfied merely with counting up test scores on vocabulary quizzes, or noting the number of times a student raises her hand to be called on, or checking for frequency of error types. Those are behaviors--and potentially interesting behaviors, depending on the questions one may want to ask about them--but not actions, in Erickson's terms. The teacher seeks rather to understand why students remember and use certain words, or volunteer to speak, or display interlanguage variability, and the teacher does so by making connections between student, input, and classroom interaction. Interpretive research procedures are especially important, as the teacher gathers data, searches for possible patterns, forms hypotheses, looks for (dis)confirmations, gathers more data, refines the hypotheses, and so on.


When the teacher feels that there is enough interpreted data to suggest what may work in the situation, a plan can be developed for specific action. Kemmis and McTaggart emphasize that at this stage, collaboration is crucial; the teacher should work together with colleagues to formulate a plan of action and profit from their collective experience. The planning stage is also where the relevant research literature--quantitative and qualitative--can provide useful ideas and suggest new connections. The plan may take the form of new tasks, or a new way of introducing or sequencing them; new configurations for small-group work; a more consciously controlled ratio of teacher-talk to student-talk; new ways of dealing with texts or listening comprehension or writing skills; strategies for error correction; or any one of an almost infinite set of possibilities.

Once the plan has been formed, the next step is to carry it out and, while doing so, to engage once again in careful observation of how the classroom matrix is affected (if at all) by the changes adopted. "Action in the sense intended here is deliberate and controlled--it is a careful and thoughtful variation of practice, and is critically informed" (Kemmis and McTaggart 12). During this observation phase the teacher should once again collect as much data as possible by means of diaries, interviews, recordings, and collaborator observation, so that these data may be compared with those gathered during the initial observation cycle. Only then can the teacher reflect on the plan and the effectiveness of its implementation, and begin to consider another plan that will further improve the teaching-learning situation. This cycle--Observe,  Plan, Act, Reflect, Observe, ...--constitutes for AR what Evert Gummesson calls the hermeneutic spiral, a visual metaphor appropriated by numerous AR practitioners for how the model should inform classroom practice.

If there is a weak link here, it is in the application of qualitative research principles to the observation/reflection segment of the spiral. Unfortunately, much of the current AR literature shows little appreciation of the rigor expected in other interpretive disciplines, such as anthropology, ethnography, or social history. The lack of connection between AR in its current state and these fields (to be fair, the snubbing is generally mutual) has resulted in many published AR case studies that fail to evince the self-critical and context-sensitive stance of naturalistic interpretive work done elsewhere. This point needs to be emphasized for teachers considering AR projects, and one way of doing so is to consider the ways in which qualitative analysis can throw light on what happens in the unique environment of a FL classroom.


Action Research and the Foreign Language Classroom


It might just be possible for someone observing a language classroom to assume that with the exception of students chattering away in German, there is no fundamental difference between the L2 classroom and what one might encounter in any "normal" L1 classroom. The L2 itself as a classroom feature is, in this view, merely an additional component of an otherwise typical learning environment. But is this the case? Consider: every class has a topical focus (biology, history, math) that sets it apart from other classes; but under normal circumstances, there is a common language in use that serves as a medium for all classroom interaction, regardless of the topic. A chemistry lab may exhibit unique physical features (Bunsen burners and test tubes) and discipline-specific vocabulary ("binding" and "polymers"), but there is still a shared language, not at all unique to chemistry, that is used for questions, instructions, jokes, disruptions, and (when necessary) panicked commands to flee the smoke-filled room. To turn the example around: it would be a strange art class indeed in which all communication--content teaching, questions, clarifications, and complaints--took place solely by means of hand-drawn sketches.


Yet in a communicative foreign language class, this is surprisingly close to what happens. The very thing to be learned (and which, presumably, the students have not yet mastered) is also the means of learning it. The pedagogical object is simultaneously the pedagogical medium. Thus the foreign language classroom is not at all a "normal" classroom with an added feature called L2, as if "uses foreign language" were roughly equivalent with "uses colored chalk." It is rather a qualitatively different pedagogical environment, in which, as Willis Edmondson notes, "the foreign language may be



the content of instruction, the goal of instruction, the medium of instruction, the medium of classroom management, the medium of everyday (non-pedagogic) talk, and the medium for practising target discourse" (162). As such, it requires a unique set of interpretive lenses for observation and understanding.


There is an imbalance of knowledge and power lurking within these "coexisting discourse worlds," as Edmondson refers to the various roles of the FL in such a classroom. If we could in fact find an art class in which all interaction took place not by means of words but with spontaneous sketches, we would note a disparity between the teacher's and the students' expressive abilities. The fluid drawing skills of the former would contrast markedly, perhaps painfully, with the primitive, awkward efforts produced by the latter.


The teacher would wield an altogether different kind of power over the class than in "worded" classroom settings, and the students would find themselves in a correspondingly unequal position to respond. It is in this sense that the L2 in a foreign language classroom not only pervades the discourse of the classroom, as would an engaging topic of discussion. Rather, it changes the rules of how discussion itself becomes constituted--who takes the floor, who responds, who gets noticed, what can be expressed and at what level of expertise, and how all of these discourse phenomena are regulated and negotiated by the actors involved. The unequal abilities of students and teacher, and among students themselves, fundamentally alter the ways in which the social dynamic of the FL classroom emerges.


The teacher faces a host of performance issues: How can I hold students' attention? give feedback without annoying, frustrating, or confusing the speakers? monitor the comprehensibility of my speech and still come across as spontaneous and natural? Students face similar (and perhaps more daunting) challenges: How can I make myself known here without using my "real" language? maintain my voice and personality while making sounds that don't feel at all like my own? show how hard I've worked if the best I can produce sounds like a toddler's babbling? Or as the case may be: How can I cover up my lack of preparation without words to help me? The power that comes from language control shifts to those who are adept at language manipulation, and those seeking this power--teacher or student--must learn to play the language game with new rules. It is precisely this constant shifting of meaning and power that makes interpretive study of the FL classroom so difficult, and at the same time so very fascinating.

My purpose here is not to review the means of interpretive analysis in general,  since there are competent guidebooks for doing so (see, for example, John Lofland and Lyn Lofland, Analyzing Social Settings); nor to provide an account of practical methods of observation or description, several of which have appeared recently (e.g., Robert Emerson et al., Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes;  Merriam, Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education; Stake, The Art of Case Study Research; Wallace, Action Research for Language Teachers; see also Claire Kramsch, Context and Culture in Language Teaching). I wish rather to suggest some possible applications of interpretive analysis to several examples of FL classroom "problems," in order to show how an AR project might begin, and in doing so to bring up several interpretive factors that might play a role in the initial stages of its development.


On numerous occasions, TAs have approached me with questions of how to deal with inappropriate uses of humor in the classroom, say, in the form of sexist jokes, or crude references to WWII atrocities. Besides quick-fix reactions (which in some cases, I hasten to add, may be justified and even preferable), there is potential here for a useful AR project. The social manipulation of humor is always a multi-faceted and elusive phenomenon and therefore a prime candidate for interpretive study.


Hoping to capitalize on the humorous potential of juxtaposing contradictory meanings or foiling listeners' expectations, students--and often teachers--in L2 settings will make elaborate use of code-switching (moving from L1 to L2 or vice versa), cross-linguistic puns, and cross-cultural dissimilarities in order to be funny, out of a variety of motivations. A recent student of mine delighted in spouting out was auch immer! and als ob! as soon as he learned these phrases, thanks to the cultural cachet of whatever! and as if! that accompanied the appearance of Clueless. Sometimes what might be called an L2 sarcasm evolves: the speaker says something he or she doesn't necessarily mean, but hopes will strike others as funny simply because an unexpected (L2) form of expression was employed. Rendering a familiar (L1) joke--any joke--by means of newly acquired L2 elements can fall into this category of discourse.


An observer trying to understand the interactional patterns in such a classroom would have to analyze the humor carefully (who uses it, who responds to it, what themes or topics its users exploit, and the relative positions of the actors on the interlanguage spectrum) in order to assess the underlying motivations. Moreover, the observer would need to bear in mind that in a social context of limited linguistic possibilities (and hence perceived powerlessness), and one in which "playful" use of language is encouraged, students will deploy various strategies--including immature behavior--to make themselves noticed (cf. P. Harder, "The Reduced Personality of the Language Learner"). Whereas in another context a student might show more social maturity or at least restraint, the pressure to gain attention by any means available in the confined world of the L2 classroom can lead to potentially offensive expression--expression which, because of its "foreignness," may not even sound offensive to some participants, occupied as they are in reformulating the message mentally in order to comprehend it, rather than in evaluating its propriety. The AR intervention, whatever it is, must take these factors into account.




An instructor's struggles with authority reflect a common problem for teachers at all levels of expertise. As Erickson notes:

[Classroom social organization] is a matter of local meanings and local politics, of teaching as rhetoric (persuasion), and of student assent as the grounds of legitimacy for such persuasion and leadership by a teacher. (133)

Issues such as "legitimacy" become problematized when the "rhetoric" itself is not only a means of communication, but the very object of study, as noted above. Besides negotiating their authority in the usual pedagogical context, foreign language TAs must continually (re)interpret their status as language "providers," doling out language in measured doses. With the potential for interactive meaning that develops as students gradually work their way up the interlanguage ladder comes the potential for classroom control. In the process of SLA, students acquire not only the structures and vocabulary assigned from the textbook, but also the means to joke around, impress each another, insert their personalities into task performance, and otherwise establish their social identity within the classroom. They are quick to seize the reins of power by whatever linguistic means possible, and can change a structured drill into casual banter, make comments that subvert the teacher's legitimacy, or ask questions that might reveal the teacher's incompetence--all in order to "gain control over the norms of interaction and interpretation established by the teacher" (Kramsch 52).

But the teacher continues to wield significant control nonetheless, as long as some sort of "target-language-only" rule has been established and (tacitly) agreed upon. The teacher chooses the tasks to be performed in class, and these may lie within or without the students' competence; the teacher shapes the students' interactional repertoire by divulging or withholding certain gambits or idioms, and dictates the language register that becomes the classroom norm. In view of students' uneven production and comprehension levels, the teacher must decide to whom the lessons will be "pitched," whose responses will be corrected most frequently, and who will be allowed to dominate the floor with questions or comments. I say "decide" as if such behaviors were based on conscious choice, but of course in most cases these teacher behaviors are based on unreflective reactions. If such issues are the focus of an AR project, then rigorous, critical observation is essential to note these patterns and to improve the "language democracy" of the classroom.




A third and final example is a problem that classroom observers frequently encounter, but teachers themselves rarely perceive--and one for which an AR project can serve as an effective means of teacher training. I will call it, for lack of a better name, "What's going on here?" and define it as the sense one has that someone in the classroom simply does not grasp what is happening. The teacher, for example, introduces a task; the students respond by performing a task--but not the task the teacher had in mind, or at least not in the way the teacher intended. The teacher makes a comment or tells a joke; a student replies with what appears to be a complete non sequitur. One could simply label the phenomenon "miscomprehension," but that would not do it justice. I suggest

that it has more to do with Erving Goffman's notion of "footing" and the way that expectations of meaning careen back and forth in a FL classroom and sometimes veer off track.


In Goffman's view, footing is how people perceive and adjust their stance with respect to the discourse in which they are involved. While functioning as "speakers" and "hearers," they take on a variety of subroles within these categories. A speaker may act as what Goffman calls a "principal" by addressing others from a position of authority within a social hierarchy, "active in some particular social identity or role, some special capacity as a member of a group, office, category, relationship, association ... some socially based source of self-identification" (145). In a discussion, for example, the person who begins calling on people to voice their opinions takes on a "principal" role as the organizer of the discussion. A teacher likewise assumes the role of "principal" when calling on students by name, thereby demonstrating the authority to control which students talk and in what order. If not "principals," participants may be "authors" by simply stating what they themselves wish to say. In Goffman's terms, an author is someone "who has selected the sentiments that are being expressed and the words in which they are encoded" (144) so that the focus is on the message, not on any status it might imply. But speakers are not always principals or authors; they can also instantiate words that others have already produced. As is often the case with FL teachers, they may recite dialogues from a textbook, quote model sentences to display grammaticality or correct pronunciation, or repeat language from an audiovisual source.


Problems arise when students are unsure which "footing" an utterance is meant to convey--whether the utterance is intended to show hierarchy ("I'm giving instructions here"), or provide an example, or be taken as a genuine conversational gambit with the teacher speaking as "author." Students may in fact comprehend the words uttered by the teacher, but misconstrue the footing of the exchange altogether. And if the footing is unclear, or worse, thought to be understood but in fact miscomprehended, students will find themselves adrift in a sea of apparently unconnected words and behaviors. The teacher will speak as "principal," for example, assuming an authoritative role to provide corrective feedback; but the student, not recognizing the verbal signals in L2 of such a stance, assumes that the teacher speaks here as "author" and responds with a casual reply to the contents rather than the expected repetition of the correction. Or the teacher will pose what is intended to be a "communicative" question, focusing on content, only to find students repeating it or re-casting it in another tense, or in some other way treating it not as the utterance of an "author" but of a "principal" who wants to exploit its pedagogical value. Such "misfootings" can run in both directions, of course. Foreign language teachers routinely misapprehend students' interactional intentions, so that both groups fail to negotiate successfully what Dell Hymes calls the "genre" of an exchange, i.e., whether it is to be construed as a conversation, sarcasm, corrective feedback, or model sentence.


A pair of examples from Beginning German: The teacher has given students the task of jotting down a list of verb infinitives at random, then writing the past participle next to each verb, so that students working in pairs can form a narrative in the past tense that connects these randomly selected verbs in some creative way. As the teacher moves around the room to listen in on what students are saying, she hears one student end a sentence with gefahrt. Choosing not to correct the mistake overtly, she responds with a corrective recast ending in gefahren. The student looks flustered, so the teacher reminds her more explicitly that the past participle of fahren is gefahren, and encourages her to repeat the corrected sentence. The student does so, but still looks confused. Only later does the reason become clear: the student was reading her partner's list, not her own, and was in the process of pointing out the partner's mistake. The teacher heard only the initial reading and assumed that the student was speaking on her own as "author," when in fact the student was quoting someone else's language. The problem here was not the meaning or form of the word, but the footing of its utterance.

In another example, the teacher wishes to set up a listening comprehension drill that will focus attention on the "t" in simple past weak verbs. He intends to read several statements and questions that mix present and simple past weak verbs, and asks his students to indicate if the action described is jetzt or schon passiert, depending on what they hear. The teacher begins with a question: Hörtest du etwas?, hoping for a response of schon passiert. But the students unanimously interpret this as the utterance of an "author," rather than a quote, and begin looking around to see what could have

prompted the teacher to ask the (apparently real) question: "Did you hear something?" They understood the question with no difficulty; but they missed the teacher's footing indications entirely.


"Hearers" can have problems as well. Goffman distinguishes among three groups: the true "addressees" of a speaker; "bystanders," who may overhear a conversation but refrain from consciously listening in; and "eavesdroppers," who intentionally listen while others engage in conversation (131ff.). Kramsch points out the numerous shifts that can take place for "hearers" in an example involving a teacher and several students during an English lesson in a German school (38ff.). The class is responding to a text dealing with the language function of "expressing likes and dislikes":


Bernd: Peter don't like jazz music.

Atnam: (raises his hand)

Teacher: Atnam.

Atnam: That was wrong.

Teacher: Why? Can you say it in the right way?

Atnam: Peter, Peter don't likes, likes ...

Teacher: (writes on chalkboard: Jenny likes jazz music. Peter does not like jazz music.) Hatte zunächst die Namen vertauscht. Jetzt haben wir's umgekehrt, ist genau falsch 'rum.

Manfred: Is' doch egal. (38, citing Butzkamm 80)


The teacher in this case calls on one student to correct the utterance of another, thereby framing her interaction with the students as "principal" to "addressees." But whereas in a normal conversational context, any nearby hearers (as "bystanders") would be expected to avoid listening in, the teacher assumes that the other students in the class, though not speaking, are actively comprehending and processing the exchange. She expects them, in Goffman's terms, to take on the role of "eavesdroppers." As the conversation progresses, the teacher misinterprets what the called-on student wishes to correct, which results in the teacher writing something on the board that, while grammatically correct, is factually wrong. The teacher then switches codes and comments on the mistake in her own (and the students') L1, speaking now as an "author" to whomever might be listening, and thereby re-aligning the students either as collective "addressees," who now participate on her level, or as "bystanders"--but who in either case perhaps feel that this is the first "real" communication that has taken place during the episode. The teacher's comments prompt a student to assure the teacher that it doesn't matter, making that student an "author," using the commonly shared L1. The entire exchange lasts perhaps 20 seconds, but those few moments encompass a dizzying swirl of footing-switches, and one may well wonder if the rest of the class was keeping up with the dance.

To position this analysis in the framework of AR, we could imagine that this teacher might decide that code-switching was a problem in the class and begin an AR project to foster more consistent use of L2. The teacher would engage in qualitative analysis of the class, and would (we hope) arrive at some of the insights discussed above. A quantitative researcher, by contrast, might simply note that Manfred switched to L1 and count the number of times this happened or the number of L1 words uttered. But the kind of observation that informs AR emphasizes not the behavior (code-switching) but the action behind it (a footing shift in response to multiple inputs) and seeks change with that perspective in mind.


Reliability and Validity


These ways of observing and interpreting must be joined with some methodological means of ensuring the reliability and validity of the AR project's conclusions. If one is trying to note patterns of response to humor, or indications of authority struggles, or recurrent instances of footing problems, how does one know (a) if one is "seeing" what's really there, and (b) if one is interpreting it correctly?


In quantitative inquiry ("I propose that giving a short vocabulary quiz every day will improve my students' ability to use these words spontaneously"), there are well-established standards and criteria for evaluation: random selection of subjects, control for extraneous variables, statistical analysis, and the like. But for interpretive analysis ("Why do my students tend to use certain new words, but not others?"), no generally accepted standards exist, as any perusal of AR case studies will quickly make clear. Yet there is a consensus among qualitative researchers elsewhere on at least two essentials: triangulation of observation and analysis, and attempts to disconfirm the emerging hypotheses. Numerous studies, some of which are cited above, describe these standards in detail (notably Miles and Huberman, and Kirk and Miller). Erickson suggests that a qualitative research report can meet the demand for validity and reliability if it shows the relations drawn between concrete detail and abstract assertion; displays the range of evidence for the assertions; and makes explicit the author's own interpretive stance. (153)


At the very least, one should try to ensure that multiple perspectives are regarded in deciding on the problem to be analyzed, the intervention to be attempted, and the interpretation to be derived. A primary component of this is collaborative group discussion, as enjoined by Kemmis and McTaggart. There are additional ways of achieving validity, however: frequent classroom observations with detailed field notes for later discussion, participant interviews, and classroom audio and video tapes, to name a few. Assuming these measures are part of the AR project design, they must be cited and explained when writing up the results of the project. Kirk and Miller maintain that "reliability depends essentially on explicitly described observational procedures" (41). Readers can then judge for themselves the validity of the observations and the plausibility of the interpretive findings.


My commentary on AR's history, methodology, and conceptual application is intended to be informative on its own; but it is also meant to serve as a backdrop for two case studies to follow. During a recent spring semester, two sections of German 102 became the sites for AR projects carried out by graduate student TAs, each of whom focused on one of the pedagogical problems described at the outset of this paper. These students read much of the background material related above during a fall-semester seminar and decided collaboratively to engage in AR case studies involving their own teaching under my supervision. The basic format of Kemmis and McTaggart's program served as our methodological template, but in addition we adhered to several guidelines proposed by Oja and Smulyan (12 ff.):




While not insisting that AR involve constant collaboration, as do Kemmis and McTaggart, we recognized the value of working together and pooling our experience in hopes of improving individual Praxis. For both projects, this meant weekly meetings devoted to discussion of the data we had gathered from the classrooms, in order to comment on specific issues and consider more general questions that emerged from the classroom situations. We visited each others' classes, as mutually agreed upon, and engaged in frequent informal discussion about the project topics.


Focus on Practice


While theoretical writings on AR formed the initial phase of the project, the principal subject of our weekly discussions remained the actual classroom situations in which the TAs found themselves. The goal was the improvement of those situations by means of reflective changes in action, using the AR cycle of Plan, Act, Observe, Reflect. We decided to aim at one complete cycle during the semester, culminating in a clearly-defined action response to the perceived problem.


Project Support


My role was that of coordinator and collaborator: I organized the project, provided materials on AR and the nature of qualitative analysis in general, and then guided each teacher through the AR cycle. During several phases I functioned chiefly as "triangulationist," observing what was going on in the classroom prior to, and during, the intervention portion of the cycle.


Professional Development


Numerous teacher trainers (such as Leo Bartlett, Johnstone, Richards and Lockhart, and Wallace) agree that AR can be a useful component in teacher training and development, both for the researcher and his or her potential reading audience. Elliott has both groups in mind when he notes that AR often forces us to reconsider our underlying assumptions about teaching and learning, challenging "the fundamental beliefs embodied in existing practices about the nature of learning, teaching and evaluation" (9). Those who engage in the research and those who read it thoughtfully must face inevitable challenges to their "fundamental beliefs" about teaching in ways that transcend the usual exhortations of a teacher trainer.


It became evident over the course of our project that this process was taking place with all those involved. Teacher behaviors that would have been difficult to define, let alone change by means of feedback, underwent a process of modification from within, based on the TAs' own perception of the classroom problems and desire for change. The results were so positive that we felt it would be of benefit to let other teachers and teacher-trainers "listen in" on the process and consider how they might adapt the AR model to their own use. In doing so, we wish to underscore an important difference in how one reads quantitative as opposed to qualitative studies. Where quantitative studies postulate generalizability and encourage replication, qualitative studies acknowledge the very particular and local character of each study, and encourage reflective comparison. Erickson points out that in qualitative research, "the search is not for abstract universals ... but for concrete universals, arrived at by studying a specific case in great detail and then comparing it with other cases studied in equally great detail" (130). We hope that the examples presented here will be of help in precisely that way--by stimulating readers to consider their own classroom situations with an eye to reflection and intervention.

There was no attempt made to impose a particular format on the writing-up of these studies, nor was there any requirement to consult secondary literature, as the studies themselves indicate. The TAs were encouraged simply to relate in as much detail as possible the impetus for their AR cycle, and the processes of observation, planning, and acting that ensued. The results are not intended to be models of qualitative analysis, or even (for that matter) of AR, but rather examples of how a project like this can work out in practice. We became acutely aware of the limitations imposed on us by the same "real life" we were trying to observe. There was no time to carry out multiple cycles of AR, as originally intended; videotape recorders and microphones occasionally refused to function; scheduling problems made collaborative observation a very real challenge; and throughout the process, the "fuzziness" that lies at the heart of interpretive study was the cause of no little frustration. And yet as the studies developed, we were able to see that real change is possible, that reflection is a powerful teaching tool, and that collaborative effort can be full of rewards.


Works Cited

Anning, Angela. "'Curriculum in Action' in Action." Action Research in Classrooms and Schools. Hustler, Cassidy, and Cuff 56-66.

Argyris, Chris, and Donald Schön. "Participatory Action Research and Action Science Compared." Participatory Action Research. Ed. William Whyte. Newbury Park: Sage, 1991. 85-96.

Bartlett, Leo. "Teacher Development through Reflective Teaching." Richards and Nunan 202-14.

Bissex, Glenda, and Richard Bullock. Seeing for Ourselves: Case Study Research by Teachers of Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987.

Boomer, Garth. "Addressing the Problem of Elsewhereness: A Case for Action Research in Schools." Reclaiming the Classroom: Teacher Research as an Agency for Change. Goswami and Stillman 4-13.

Burgess, Robert, ed. The Research Process in Educational Settings: Ten Case Studies. Lewes: Falmer, 1984.

Burnaford, Gail, Joseph Fischer, and David Hobson. Teachers Doing Research: Practical Possibilities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1996.

Butzkamm, Wolfgang. "Der kritische Moment: Zwischen formbezogenem Üben und inhaltsbezogenem Sprechen." Kommunikation im Klassenzimmer und Fremdsprachenlernen. Ed. Manfred Heid. München: Goethe-Institut, 1982. 77-89.

Cochran-Smith, Marilyn, and Susan Lytle. Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge. New York: Teachers College-Columbia U, 1993.

Cohen, Louis, and Lawrence Manion. Research Methods in Education. 2nd ed. London: Croom, 1985.

Corey, Steven. Action Research to Improve School Practices. New York: Teachers College-Columbia U, 1953.

Crookes, Graham. "Action Research for Second Language Teachers: Going Beyond Teacher Research." Applied Linguistics 14 (1992): 130-44.

Edmondson, Willis. "Discourse Worlds in the Classroom and in Foreign Language Learning." Studies in Second Language Acquisition 7 (1985): 159-68.

Eisner, Elliot, and Alan Peshkin, eds. Qualitative Inquiry in Education: The Continuing Debate. New York: Teachers College-Columbia U, 1990.

Elliott, John. Action Research for Educational Change. Philadelphia: Open University P, 1991.

Emerson, Robert, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995.

Erickson, Frederick. "Qualitative Methods in Research on Teaching." Handbook of Research on Teaching. Ed. Merlin Wittrock. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1986. 119-61.

Goffman, Erving. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1981.

Goswami, Dixie, and Peter Stillman, eds. Reclaiming the Classroom: Teacher Research as an Agency for Change. Portsmouth, NH : Heinemann, 1987.

Gubrium, Jaber, and James Holstein. The New Language of Qualitative Method. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

Gummesson, Evert. Qualitative Methods in Management Research. Newbury Park: Sage, 1991.

Harder, Peter. "Discourse as Self-Expression: The Reduced Personality of the Foreign Language Learner." Applied Linguistics 1 (1980): 262-70.

Hustler, David, Anthony Cassidy, and Ted Cuff, eds. Action Research in Classrooms and Schools. London: Allen, 1986.

Hymes, Dell. Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1974.

Johnstone, Richard. "Action-research in the Foreign Languages Classroom." Language Learning Journal 1.1 (1990): 22-25.

Kemmis, Stephen, and Robin McTaggart. The Action Research Planner. Victoria: Deakin UP, 1988.

Kincheloe, Joe. Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment. London: Falmer, 1991.

Kirk, Jerome, and Marc Miller. Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1986.

Kramsch, Claire. Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.

Lewin, Kurt. "Action Research and Minority Problems." Journal of Social Issues 2 (1946): 34-46.

Lofland, John, and Lyn Lofland. Analyzing Social Settings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1995.

Lyster, Roy. "Recasts, Repetition, and Ambiguity in L2 Classroom Discourse." Studies in Second Language Acquisition 20 (1997): 51-81.

Merriam, Sharan. Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education. San Francisco: Jossey, 1998.

Miles, Matthew, and A. Michael Huberman. "Drawing Valid Meaning from Qualitative Data: Toward a Shared Craft." Educational Researcher 13 (1984): 20-30.

Mohr, Marian, and Marion MacLean. Working Together: A Guide for Teacher-Researchers. Urbana: NCTE, 1987.

Nixon, Jon. A Teacher's Guide to Action Research. London: Grant, 1981.

Noffke, Susan, and Robert Stevenson, eds. Educational Action Research: Becoming Practically Critical. New York: Teachers College-Columbia U, 1995.

Nunan, David. "Action Research in the Language Classroom." Richards and Nunan 62-81.

Oja, Sharon, and Lisa Smulyan. Collaborative Action Research: A Developmental Approach. London: Falmer, 1989.

Olson, Mary, ed. Opening the Door to Classroom Research. Newark: Intl. Reading Assn., 1990.

Richards, Jack, and Charles Lockhart. Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

Richards, Jack, and David Nunan, eds. Second Language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.

Schön, Donald. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey, 1987.

------. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic, 1983.

Stake, Robert. The Art of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1995.

Stones, Edgar, and Sidney Morris. Teaching Practice: Problems and Perspectives. London: Methuen, 1972.

Wallace, Michael. Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

------. Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Winter, Richard. Action-Research and the Nature of Social Inquiry: Professional Innovation and Educational Work. Aldershot: Avebury, 1987.

Wittrock, Merlin, ed. Handbook of Research on Teaching. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1986.


Selected AR Internet Resources
(as of 9/99): [a history of AR] [graduate student AR reports] [links to more AR sites] [participatory AR site at Cornell University] [on-line journal for teacher research] [AR international online journal]


© 1999 by the American Association of Teachers of German.





Our dear SHARER Graciela Pascual has got an invitation for all of us:


1º Seminario-Taller

organizado por la Asociación Pampeana de Profesores de Inglés (APPI)

Red de Capacitadores en Lenguas Extranjeras   

ELT: Making our teaching practice more reflective and more creative


Módulo  1: Improving your students' pronunciation

by Miriam Germani & Lucía Rivas

Phonology in the EFL classroom

Sábado 6/05/06


Módulo  2: Reflective Learning through TBL (Task-Based Learning)

by Aurelia García & M.G.di Franco

...the pleasure of 'real'  learning!

Sábados 20/05/06  y  24/06/06


Módulo  3  Young Learners...teaching with a smile in your heart!

by Grace Bertolini (from Buenos Aires)

Practical techniques for teaching children

Sábado  03/06/06


Total 40 horas reloj:  24 horas presenciales (6 hs por encuentro) 16 horas: para elaboración de trabajos y tutorías.

Se otorgarán certificados de Asistencia  y de Aprobación con puntaje. Resolución Ministerial de La Pampa en trámite.

FEES: Socios y Estudiantes $ 25 x encuentro, $ 90 x 4 encuentros ; No-Socios $ 40 x encuentro, $ 140 x 4 encuentros.

Solicite planillas de inscripción a los Tel 414313 / 423473 o por mail a ,  ,






Our dear SHARERS from the Organizing Committee of Cátedra UNESCO announce:


Cátedra UNESCO para el mejoramiento de la calidad y equidad de la educación en América Latina con base en la Lectura y la Escritura

Jornadas de Lectura y Escritura
Lectura y Escritura: Caminos para la construcción del mundo

28, 29 y 30 de Junio de 2006 - Avda. Belgrano 300 - Catamarca - República Argentina

- Docentes e Investigadores de Letras, Lenguas, Lenguas Extranjeras, Filosofía, Ciencias de la Educación, Ciencias Sociales y Políticas, Comunicación Social, Disciplinas Tecnológicas y Psicología.

Areas Tematicas
- La escritura académica y científica
- La incidencia de la reflexión lingüística en la producción y comprensión de textos
- Sujeto, representación y estética en la lectura
- Comprensión y producción de textos en los diferentes niveles educativos
- Lectura y escritura del discurso literario
- Implicaciones pedagógicas en la enseñanza de la lectura y la escritura
- Lectura y escritura en lenguas extranjeras
- Sociedad, espacio e historia: lecturas posibles
- Lectura, escritura y nuevas tecnologías
- Lectura crítica de los medios

Tipos de Actividades:
Conferencias plenarias, Paneles, Presentación de libros, Trabajo en Comisiones

Especialistas que confirmaron su participación:
Dra. Elvira Arnoux (Universidad de Buenos Aires,) Coordinadora de la sede Argentina de la Cátedra UNESCO de Lectura y la Escritura, quien tendrá a su cargo la Conferencia Plenaria titulada: "La reescritura como herramienta pedagógica en la enseñanza superior"

Dra. María Cristina Martínez (Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia,) Coordinadora General de la Cátedra UNESCO en América Latina, cuya conferencia Plenaria versará sobre: "El aprendizaje a partir de los textos expositivos"

Panel a cargo de la Dra. Mabel Pipkin y la Mgter. Susana Hocevar, Coordinadoras subsedes de la Cátedra UNESCO Universidades de Entre Ríos y Cuyo respectivamente.

Panel a cargo de la Dra. Mabel Giammatteo y equipo (Universidad de Buenos Aires).

Presentación del libro: La lectura y la informática. Caminos al conocimiento, de Lidia Aguirre de Quevedo (comp.)

Aranceles: Estos valores regirán hasta el 12 de mayo.
- Docente con Ponencia $ 60,°°
- Docente Asistente $ 30,°°
- Alumno con Ponencia $ 15,°°
- Alumno Asistente Sin Cargo
Los participantes de la ciudad de Catamarca deben abonar los aranceles en Secretaría de la Facultad de Humanidades, Avda. Belgrano 300.
Los participantes de afuera de Catamarca deben hacerlo a la Cuenta Corriente Facultad de Humanidades N° 46611770/16 del Banco Nación.

Desde el 12 de mayo y hasta el 02 de junio los aranceles se incrementarán $ 20 en cada categoría. La ficha de inscripción debe ser enviada por este medio hasta el 02 de junio. Correo electrónico:



Our dear SHARER Laura Radetich has sent us all this information:


Maestría en Educación. Pedagogías críticas y problemáticas socioeducativas.



Hasta el 31 de mayo está abierta la preinscripción a la Maestría en Educación. Pedagogías críticas y problemáticas socioeducativas que ofrece la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UBA.

El programa se desarrollará en la sede de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de Puán 480 y otorgará el título de Magister de la Universidad de Buenos Aires en Educación, pedagogías críticas y problemáticas socioeducativas.


Quienes podrán inscribirse en la Maestría en Educación:


1. Los egresados de Carreras de Licenciaturas o Profesorados Universitarios en Ciencias de la Educación, Pedagogía, Psicopedagogía,  Didáctica  y otros títulos afines, egresados de Universidades estatales o privadas, argentinas o extranjeras.


2. Los egresados de Institutos Terciarios de formación de Profesores para Enseñanza Media, Técnica y Superior.


3. Los graduados de otras carreras universitarias, con formación pedagógica certificada, previa aceptación de la  Comisión de Maestría.


Los alumnos del posgrado pertenecerán a algunas de estas dos categorías:


A. los que cursarán los seminarios y actividades del posgrado en forma no arancelada por ser egresados de alguna de las carreras de grado de esta Facultad

B. los que, cumpliendo las condiciones de titulación y formación para la inscripción indicadas en A deberán pagar matrícula y aranceles atendiendo a la Resol. 1245/99:


En qué consiste el cursado de la Maestría:


1 Seminario de Pedagogías Críticas y 1 Seminario de Problemáticas Socioeducativas comunes y obligatorios a todos los alumnos

2 Seminarios Electivos - de diferentes áreas

2 Seminarios Orientados al tema de tesis a elegir entre la oferta de este posgrado o de otras instituciones

1  Seminario de Investigación en educación

1 Pasantía en instituciones, informe de trabajo de campo o similar

16 Reuniones Tutoriales

1 Taller de Escritura de Tesis


Áreas de Trabajo Academico de la Maestría  (cada estudiante deberá elegir una de ellas durante el cursado de los ciclos II y III; el ciclo I es común a todos)


1.      Área  Educación, Pedagogía Y  Praxis. Teoría y praxis pedagógica en el conocimiento educativo.

2.      Área Sociología De La Educación. Teorías y problemáticas socioeducativas y escenarios contemporáneos..

3.     Area  Educación, Institucion Escolar  y Politicas Públicas

4.     Area  Educación, Cultura y Subjetividad.


Direccion De La Maestria:   Dra. Flora Hillert  -  Mgr. Silvia   Llomovatte


Personal Docente


Personal docente permanente

Mgr.  Silvia Llomovatte, Profesora UBA, Dra.  Flora M. Hillert , Profesora, UBA                

Lic.  Dora  González; Profesora, UBA, Mgr. Carina  Kaplan, Profesora, UBA        

Mgr. Graciela Morgade, Profesora, UBA, Lic. Daniel Suárez; Profesor, UBA,

Dr. Pablo Pineau, Profesor, UBA, Lic. Julia Silber, Profesora UNLP,

Mgr. Marcela Mollis , Profesora, UBA, Dra. Silvia Grinberg , UNSAM


Personal docente invitado

Prof. Carlos Cullen, Mgr. Pedro Krotsch. Dr. Pablo Gentili, Mgr. Miryam Feldfeber       

Dra. Sandra Carli, Dr. Etelvina Sandoval, Dr. Ángel Pérez Gómez, Dr. Daniel           



Para informaciones y preinscripción:   


1.      Dirigirse a   ó al teléfono 4432-0606 (int. 188) después de las 14 hs preguntando por Julieta.

2.      Mención del título de grado o terciario, el año y la institución, breve descripción de la trayectoria profesional o académica y de los motivos de elección de esta maestría.






El Rectorado del IES en Lenguas Vivas "J. R. Fernández" invita a presentar antecedentes, a los interesados en hacerse cargo del dictado de las siguientes materias:


Lengua Inglesa III - 6 hs cátedra - miércoles y jueves de 18.00 a 20.00 - Interino -Traductorado- Plan 1989


Traducción Técnico-Científica II - 5 hs cátedra - martes de 8.30 a 11.50 - Interino-  Traductorado en Inglés-Plan 1989


Lengua Inglesa IV - 4 hs cátedra - jueves de 18.00 a 20.40 - Interino - Traductorado- Plan 1989                              


Fecha límite de entrega en Secretaría General: viernes 12 de mayo, 16 horas.





Our dear SHARER Mónica Blanco Kunz wants to invite us all Anglia´s Second Congress:


The Second Anglia Examination Syndicate International Congress And Exhibition

For ELT Professionals

Optimising The Various Roles Of ELT Managers, Teachers And Learners


11 - 12 August 2006 - Morning & Afternoon

Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE) - Lima 717, City Of Buenos Aires


Organised By:

Anglia Examination Syndicate

Chichester College

Kesington Schools Of English


In Collaboration With:

Universidad Argentina de la Empresa


This 2-day Mega-Event will offer a balanced programme of stimulating and high quality presentations.

All delegates will have an opportunity to meet colleagues from different parts of Argentina and abroad in order to establish links and contacts, thus creating or extending already existing professional interests. They will also have the chance to find out about the latest ELT publications and services in a large resources exhibition area

for ELT-related promotional stands.


Welcome Chris Kunz To Argentina!!


Join This Unmissable 2-Full-Day Mega-Event and rub shoulders with around-the-world top-notch ELT Gurus


The following Speakers have confirmed their participation:


Chris Kunz, Omar Villarreal, Ana Maria Rozzi De Bergel, Oriel Villagarcia, Griselda Beacon, Patricia Gomez, Celia Zubiri, Alicia Lopez Oyhenart, Laurie Sullivan, Alfred Hopkins, Jamie Duncan, Laura Szmuch, Karina Duarte, Mariela Lucente, Andrea Coviella, Gabriela Diaz, Claudia Alvarez, Viviana Cassouto, Nancy Rossi, Valeria Goluza,

Maria Laura Araneo, Marcela Villan, Hector Eduardo Garzon, Analia Kandel, Carlos Galizzi, Susana Trabaldo, Lorena Roque,

As well as many, many more to come...!!


Mega-Raffle Prizes within easy eeach of a fair share of the audience!!


Special Treat For All Participants!!

A Superb Raffle Prize: 4-Week Course At Chichester College, England For January 2007

Certificates Of Attendance Issued by Chichester College, England.


For Congress details and Online Registration, Visit

Call For Papers Open Until 31 May 2006


With the Support of:


Universidad Argentina De La Empresa

Universidad Tecnologica Nacional

Universidad Caece

British Tourist Authority (Visit Britain)

Asociación De Profesores De Ingles Del Conurbano Bonaerense

Share E-Magazine 

English And Fun

The Buenos Aires Players - E-Teaching On Line

Richmond Publishing - Macmillan Publishers - Oxford University Press

Patricia Gomez Arts & Education - Resourceful Teaching - On The Road –

Sullivan & Associates - Net-Learning - Red Intelectual Magazine - TWC International

Apple Consultancy - Ameghino Bookshop - New Tools For Teachers- Wise –

ELT Today - Bright Minds School Of English - Instituto Babel - The Bridge School Of English - Excel Educational Services - The Buenos Aires Journal


Anglia Examination Syndicate -  - +54 11 4246-3547






Our dear SHARER Mady Casco has sent us this announcement:


"At Home -Buenos Aires" is running the following Methodology Workshops on:


Adults as Learners of a Foreign Language

(12 hour-workshop) created and conducted by  Mady  Casco



Main issues when teaching adults

Andragogy & Constructivism

Motivation & Anxiety

Different Approaches to teaching a foreign language to adults

Adults learning English in companies

Scaffolding authentic material

Integrating the four skills

Turning a  reader into a topic-based unit

Using video and DVD

Using Music in the class


When? 2-session workshop: May 13th & May 27th  or  July 1st & July 15th (from 9 to 15.30)

3-session workshop: June 10th, June 24 and July 8th (9 to 13)


Where? "At Home - Buenos Aires" Av Santa Fé 3946 - Capital Federal

For further information: contact  /  or call  4833-2965  








Mary Godward, Manager Knowledge and Learning, British Council Argentina writes to us:




Crossing Borders is an exciting new initiative that uses information technology to link young writers in Africa with experienced mentors in the UK. The project is funded by the British Council in London, designed and managed by the Department of English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University and enabled by a network of British Council offices in Africa. Participants in the project are drawn from Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, S. Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana and Southern Africa. Mentors represent a wide range of cultural backgrounds and writing practice, creating a project that is rich in cultural exchange as well as practical strategies for writing development. Crossing Borders is creating a new, international community of writers who communicate through the development of new writing to share their knowledge and experience.


The third edition of Crossing Borders magazine is now available online at  and includes:

·   ·   Editorial by Becky Clarke

·   ·   Feature article by Becky Clarke on 'What an Agent Does'

·   ·   Blame the Cooker by Syned Mthatiwa from Malawi

·   ·   Did You Know Lebo? by Wame Molefhe from Botswana

·   ·   Flushed Out by Bunmi Julius-Adeoye from Nigeria

·   ·   One Woman's Price by Millicent Muthoni from Kenya

·   ·   When Silence Speaks by Batsirai Easther Chigama from Zimbabwe

·   ·   Diaspora by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers from South Africa




The Learn English Professionals British Council website has always offered high quality listening material which could be used only at a PC. With the increasing popularity of portable MP3 players, the site has also started offering downloadable materials which can be listened to on the move. If you would like to test any, please go to


(3) Offshoots: We have just received a copy of the latest Offshoots - a series of CDs produced by the British Council over the last three years, based on seminars which took place in the UK. This one includes:


·       Enterprising universities

·       Exploiting genetic knowledge

·       Leadership in school education

·       Higher education management

·       Tackling corruption worldwide


If any of you would like to borrow them, please contact Ignacio Aguilo at the British Council Argentina (


(4) Night Haunts - Writer Sukhdev Sandhu’s web project


Sukhdev Sandhu, one of the writers featured in New Writing 12 and film critic of the Daily Telegraph, is writing for the Night Haunts web project. The introduction of the web site provides a brief description of the project:


Night Haunts unfolds in monthly episodes through 2006 on a specially designed website. In this contemporary nocturnal journal, Sandhu prospects in the London night with the people who drive its pulse from cleaners to praying nuns, security guards to the Samaritans. In each episode, Sandhu reflects on the nature of the urban night. Has night life been corroded by light and entertainment? What are the invisible forces that pulse through the sleeping city? Is real darkness possible anymore?


I am sure many of you will find the site very interesting and may even encourage your students to look at it! The address is and, if you would like to be kept informed on the new episodes, you can subscribe to their e-mail alert service.


Enjoy the reading…



Mary Godward

Manager Knowledge and Learning - British Council

M T de Alvear 590 - 4th Floor - C1058AAF Buenos Aires -Argentina

T +54 (0)11 4311 9814 - F +54 (0)11 4311 7747 -






Our dear SHARER Cristina de la Vega has sent us this announcement:


Encuentro de Capacitacion Docente


El 19 y 20 de mayo se llevará a cabo el Encuentro de Capacitación Docente, organizado por Acuarell Capacitación y que otorga puntaje docente.


Dirigido a Docentes y profesionales de educación, ambas jornadas estarán destinadas a talleres para abordar temas vinculados a: 

prevención de la violencia en el aula, estrés docente, sesiones de coaching con profesionales especializados para trabajar el abordaje de problemáticas del aula,

Inteligencia emocional hacia la alfabetización emocional y cambio del clima del aula.

Técnicas superadoras de conflictos escolares.


Serán algunos de los temas que se desarrollarán durante las dos jornadas. Para mayor información dirigirse a: Acuarell Capacitación - Tel. 4827-5235 en el horario de 10 a 19hs. o bien por mail a: o visitando   







Our dear SHARER Alfred Hopkins writes to us:


º Our latest interviews at include a controversial U.S. writer, MickeyZ, opposed to the war machine,Meredith, who is involved in the women's peace movement, and Mercedes Meroño, vice president of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (in Spanish).


º Keep in touch: we are organizing a creative writing contest!

Alfred Hopkins   15 62 52 10 28


The Hopkins Creative Language Lab's theatre and storytelling workshop meets this Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Salta 755, Buenos Aires city. If you didn't attend last Saturday's demonstration class you are welcome to try a free class any Saturday.


º Those who like the movies might be interested in this: we are filming short silent movies for a palmtop web site. Anyone interested is invited to act, propose a script, direct, or film. The address:

Contact: Phone: 15 62 52 10 28






Our dear SHARER Peie from YES Bookshop sent us these details about a forthcoming course she is organizing:



Lecturer: Grace Bertolini

May 20th - Duration: 1 Day

Further information:


Fee: $ 35 till May 12th.

2 or more people: $ 33 each / ACPLI members $ 30


Certificates of attendance will be issued







Our dear SHARER Cecilia Fernández, Arts Manager British Council – Argentina, has sent us this invitation:


British Arts Centre de la Asociación Argentina de Cultura Inglesa, entidad civil sin fines de lucro.

Conferencias BAC/Mayo : Shakespeare on Screen - Dictada por Daniel Rosenthal


Lunes 8 de Mayo de 2006, 19 hs - Suipacha 1333  -  Entrada libre y gratuita - Dictada en inglés


Great Story, Shame About the Poetry!"

How Hollywood Plays Fast and Loose with Shakespeare


For more than 50 years, American film-makers have taken huge liberties with Shakespeare's plays - abandoning the originals language and setting but retaining and reshaping the plots and characters to create a range of  Westerns, gangster thrillers, high-school  comedies and dramas, and even science-fiction. Using comparative clips from orthodox Shakespeare films and American genre adaptations, author and lecturer Daniel Rosenthal will illustrate what we learn about Shakespeare and Hollywood when:

"The Tempest" takes a journey into outer space in "Forbidden  Planet"(1956), "Macbeth" becomes a gun-toting criminal in "Joe Macbeth" (1955) and "Men of Respect" (1991), "Othello" is transformed into a teenage basketball star in "O" (2000), "King Lear" is a Liverpool crime lord ("My Kingdom", 2001) or cattle baron ("King of Texas", 2002), "The Taming of the Shrew" plays out at a high school in Seattle in "10 Things I Hate About You" (1999)


Daniel Rosenthal was born in London in 1971 and educated a University College School, London and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He is author of "Shakespeare on Screen" (Hamlyn, London, 2000; published in Spanish by the Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires in May 2006) and the editor of the annual "Variety International Film Guide". He is working on a major new history of the National Theatre of Great Britain. He has been a freelance interviewer and feature writer since 1996, writing on film and theatre for The Times, Independent and Observer.


Con el apoyo de British Council. Para ampliar la información consulte siempre nuestra página web


Suipacha 1333  /  Tel 4393-6941  / /

Martes a Viernes de 15 a 21 horas





Our dear SHARER Sara Walker at wants to invite all SHARERS to:

BRAZ-TESOL 10th National Convention "Teaching, Learning, Leading" ,

July 8-11 2006, Brasilia , Brazil

BRAZ-TESOL 10th National Convention "Teaching,Learning, Leading" will be held at the Convention Center in Brasilia Brazil from July 8-11 2006, with around 1,500 participants.

Full information and forms can be fiound on the BRAZ-TESOL  website at . Commercial and sponsorship information is also
available on the site. 
Further information from Shaun Dowling or Sara Walker




Our dear SHARER Gabriela Silva,  Projects Officer -  British Council Chile,
has written to us:


IATEFL Chile is organising the 9th IATEFL Conference: "E-L-T: Enthusiasm Language Teaching"

The Conference will be held in Santiago de Chile on 18 & 19 July 2006 at Universidad Central. The topic of  this conference focuses on the enthusiasm and motivation for learning and how it can be taken into the language classroom. We invite teachers, trainers,  and all ELT professionals to share successful  experiences and present works and research done in the field.

For any enquiries please email

IATEFL - Chile was founded in 1992 by the British Council, The British Institute, the North American Institute, and the Association of British Schools  (ABSCH).  The aim of our work is to offer opportunities for professional development for teachers of English, through the organization of  conferences, seminars, and workshops.

 Gabriela Silva -  Projects Officer -  British Council
 Eliodoro Yanez 832, Santiago, Chile -  T +56 (2) 410 6914 - F +56 (2) 410 6929





La Fundación Lúminis  comunica la presentación del libro "El desafío de la equidad educativa" Buenos Aires, Granica, 2006, del académico Lic. Juan José Llach (IAE-Universidad Austral), el lunes 22 de Mayo a las 18,30 horas en la Academia Nacional de Educación, Pacheco de Melo 2084,


El Lic. Juan José Llach , se referirá a su obra y  harán uso de la palabra el Ministro de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología, Lic. Daniel Filmus, el académico Prof. Alfredo M. van Gelderen y la Dra. Silvina Gvirtz, Directora de la Escuela de Educación de la Universidad de San Andrés y autora de uno de los capítulos del libro.




We would like to finish this issue of SHARE with a message that a dear SHARER (and one of our first subscribers) from Corrientes has sent us


Queridos Omar y Marina,

Esto podrá parecer muy "cursi", pero me gustó mucho me pareció dulce y es una manera de decirles Gracias por todo lo que nos dan en cada edición del SHARE MAGAZINE.

Dicen que la Vida nos devuelve todo lo que le entregamos así que uds. seguramente reciben y seguirán recibiendo gracias en abundancia.

Con el cariño de siempre.

Susana Lawless



Omar and Marina.



SHARE is distributed free of charge. All announcements in this electronic magazine are also absolutely free of charge. We do not endorse any of the services announced or the views expressed by the contributors.  For more information about the characteristics and readership of SHARE visit:
VISIT OUR WEBSITE : There you can read all past  issues of SHARE in the section SHARE ARCHIVES.