In a recent exchange on the TESL-L listserv regarding
the roles of experience and theoretical knowledge in
determining classroom practice, Temple University Japan's
Peter J. Castagnaro called for a new paradigm for developing
sources of relevant knowledge about ESL teaching. He has contributed
his comment here for the readers of ESL MiniConference Online.
When you say the "belief" aspect of teaching removes
education from straightforward experimental designs,
there is your "reason" at work based on your experience (as well as
Prabhu's). But experience unfettered by controls is rarely enough (it is
enough when it achieves replicable, pragmatic success, and can then be
Experience that uses controls is science, but needn't be
the controls that you have mentioned, those that center on "groups" and the
cult of the average (as has up to now dominated much TESOL research). There
are single case experimental designs that might take us further. These days
TESOL's over reliance on group comparison research is perhaps about to be
eclipsed by qualitative methods or ethnography which are said to contribute
to our "understanding" or "knowledge" (and NOT simply churning up variables
for later "real" research).
Little will be accomplished, since for the most
part these contribute only generic, metaphorical, or metronymical extensions
within our TESOL "verbal community," discovering and isolating no new
contingent relationships. It would be a depressing situation except for the
fact that there ARE successful educational advances in parallel areas, and
these in the area of language AND based on empirical research. Recent work
in childhood autism and unmotivated, underprepared students, for example.
These areas have brought in research based practices from precision
teaching, direct instruction, and behavior analysis with remarkable positive
effect. Check out Morningside
Academy in Seattle, or the direct instruction,
or precision teaching e-mail discussions lists.
Comment by Peter J. Castagnaro, M.Ed.
IELP/START/ Temple University Japan
2002 ESL MiniConference Online