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Seeing they do not see, hearing they do not hear, nor do they believe
Research and the range of the theory-praxis relationship in L2 learning
John A. W. Caldwell
Paper Presented at the European Conference on Educational Research Ljubljana, Slovenia 17 - 20 September 1998

Introduction

The passing parade of three decades of second language teaching approaches and methodologies (through grammar-translation, situational, structural, audio-lingual/visual, natural, communicative approaches) and foci of attention (learning, teaching, contextual, nature of language and its teachability) have, fortunately, generally been cumulative. However, the broad-brush theoretical grounding of some movements, for example Krashen's (1981) "comprehensible input", has tended to obscure the importance of significant complementary areas needing systematic development, such as performance skills. Focusing on major contemporary theories can blind researchers and practitioners to other data which have either never formed part of any overarching theoretical approach or which constitute a self-contained and effective set of strategies within an older methodology. These aspects are particularly important to the practitioner, the teacher in the classroom who is daily involved in the task of sifting and synthesising theory and practice to develop personally relevant pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Highly publicized "big picture" theories, however great their potential for the practitioner, textbook writer or multimedia designer, represent only a fraction of available scholarly investigations available. While Elliott's hermeneutical approach to structural understanding (1) is more strongly imbued with general psychosocial elements of whole-situation problematics, it nevertheless holds true for selective practical theories related to PCK development which is often a composite of technical, psychosocial and ethical (values about teaching) considerations.

More comprehensive definitions of scholarship and research, the emergence of new forms of research inquiry, particularly in the human-related disciplines and interdisciplinary studies, recent attention to reflective practice, action research and international deliberations on theory-praxis relationships and practical educational theories (2) have collectively led to a more critical reviewing of contemporary approaches. Action research, for instance, places greater emphasis on synthetic solutions. This can be the vital impetus for revisiting with new eyes, ears and understanding what previous decades of research have furnished. It also raises the question of whether more systematic attention needs to be given to modes of sharing, critically analysing, evaluating, and promoting the results of this type of PCK related scholarship.

Four studies at different levels within the theory-praxis relationship, ranging from informal action research to focused academic investigation, are used as illustration of the range of valid research/scholarship possibilities which now fall firmly within the definitions of scholarship that have evolved in the last decade. They are viewed from three perspectives:

* the nature or level of the scholarship/research involved.
* the way in which they relate praxis and theory
* their validity as scholarship/research, whether recorded, recognised or forgotten.

In respect of the first and third perspectives, Boyer's (1990) four definitions of scholarship, namely Scholarship of Discovery, Integration, Application and Teaching, are applied. For the second perspective, some aspects of John Elliott's (1993a-c) findings on the relationship of theory and practice to situational understanding are relevant.

Historical background
The past three decades of foreign/second language teaching and learning approaches in the West have been, in many ways, remarkable in terms of changes both in perceptions of the achievable goals and in the efforts to find more effective ways of achieving those goals. Some of the changes have been based on changes in the perceptions about the nature of language needs of society, some on the theory and research evidence in the fields of psychology, linguistics, neurology, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics and so on.

Post-second world war till the mid-60s saw a "general education" approach to modern language study, much in line with the way the classic languages had been taught in many countries. The student was offered languages, no matter which, as, for example, a training of the mind. Eventually, the exclusive status of second language study as a developer of analytical skills was dispelled by Thorndike and others, though this does not negate its capacity to do so. A side finding in studies of bilingual education and early L2 learning has been the special capacities that are coincidentally developed, such as heightened metalinguistic awareness (cf. Saunders, 1982) and interest in words per se (3) It is interesting that at a time when the instrumental, particularly economic, benefits of second language learning, were being recognized for the first time in Australia, Joe Lo Bianco, Language Australia Chief Executive, reintroduced a long lost theme of intellectual value of language learning:

it is truly likely that we are witnessing a renaissance in the appreciation of both the intellectual and cultural worth of knowing more than one language on the one hand and also the very substantial practical and economic benefits available to individuals, and to the whole society, through such skills (my emphasis). (Lo Bianco, 1989:6) The entry to the literature and/or culture of the target language society tended, in fact, to be the second justification of the non-active or non-instrumental learning of languages up to the mid-sixties and beyond.

Historically, there have, of course, been periods of active learning of second languages, at least as far back as the Greek slave or tutor teaching Greek one-on-one to the Roman patricians' sons or more recently the equally elevated French minor nobility/haute bourgeoisie's use of (often destitute) Jesuit priests and brothers as household tutors around the turn of the century, with excellent results. In fact, the 1920s around the world saw a brief flirtation with the "direct method", often through the import of native speakers. Of course, importation of such itinerants without special preparation rarely worked, as it has not done so very effectively in similar use of untrained Japanese native speakers in Australia.

Sputnik and the Russian dog in space in the 60s wrought a profound effect on language learning and teaching. Suddenly, the US government saw the goal of language learning as active language proficiency in all the four skills- listening, speaking, reading and writing, instead of the perennial grammar (analytical development) and translation (ultimately, access to literature). The listening-speaking aspects presented a real challenge. Unfortunately, Skinner's behaviourist theory was the order of the day in the 60s, and the Pavlov's dogs of L2 (the K9L2s?) became leashed to language laboratories, which, apart from providing unpolluted listening input, were a travesty of cognitive learning. From video excerpts, I have noted with dismay that the worst features of grammar-translation, behaviourism, language laboratories and direct method all continue to be part of the US military approach to language learning well into the 90s. In 1993, the Chinese government was still using intensive and extensive reading as its prime method, though it declared that communicative methods would be policy henceforth.

Among the linguistic researchers, the Chomsky-Halliday debate over competence and performance and the related work on transformational, generative and functional grammars produced significant advances in theoretical constructs but avowedly little practical link for the L2 teacher (though the Hallidayan systemics school has had some limited impact among teachers).

Second language learning did "move on", with two major spurts in the eighties and one just breaking now. Stephen Krashen's "comprehensible input" was one. Stated a little too confidently, the theory opined that lots of input in meaningful contexts would lead to "language acquisition" or language learning by itself. It was illustrated by Krashen through his observations of a preschooler in an immigrant context, doubtless an instance of the early learner's effective use of L1 capacities being used to learn a second language before the loss of this capacity around the beginning of school years. Nevertheless, it coincided with many exciting bilingual education investigations, particularly those in Canada's French immersion programmes. It soon became apparent, however, that comprehensible input alone did not produce "effective output" and various kinds of language fossilisation, academic deficiencies and ceilings on accuracy have been reported (Harley & Swain, 1977; Canale & Swain, 1980; Felix, 1982; Cummins, 1984).

The second major change came from the work of the sociolinguists, who revealed how much of language coding depended on background knowledge of the target language's socio-cultural elements. Evidence from cognitive psychology had also demonstrated the fallacy of behaviourism as an L2 learning approach and the need for active thinking about the forms or structures of language. The term "communicative competence" came to bind together the need for communicative input, knowledge of the target language and its social envelope and the need for contextually oriented practice.

The third development relates to the unspoken aspects of language, paralinguistics, a previously neglected but emergent area of investigation in the contemporary era of electronic communications. This is addressed in more detail in the third of the four exemplar studies.

In the main, however, despite the impressive range of approaches trialled (and generally found wanting) in recent decades, the most enduring and focused investigations have tended to be on more generic teaching/learning factors, such as attitudinal and intercultural expectations in the learning process, cognitive psychology and metacognitive awareness, acquisition versus structured learning, the differentiated characteristics of experienced and neophyte teachers or, conversely, the specific "didactics" of particular languages such as the teachable sequence of grammatical items (cf.. Pienemann, 1985). L2 methodology as such, with its gamut of general approaches, methods and specific strategies, appears to have been largely ignored in systematic research.

Four levels of the praxis-theory-praxis relationship

Four levels of scholarly experiences in that curious theory-praxis related domain of PCK are presented here. The levels of scholarship and the praxis-theory relationships involved are roughly set out in Figure 1.

 

Figure 1: Four examples of praxis-theory relationships
 

1. Scholarship of Teaching

Praxis ===> vague hypotheses - tested logically/experientially

===> rough "rules of thumb" [= (quasi) action research]

2. Scholarship of Teaching ---> Scholarship of Application

Praxis ===> doubts about current practice

===> bottom up empirical tests in class [type of action research?] ===> new theory of method

===> testing in situ

-----> new established practices

3. Scholarship of Integration

Praxis ===> questioning of a gap in theory and practice

===> interdisciplinary search of the theoretical literature

===> hypotheses integrating interdisciplinary theories

===> empirical testing

===> proposals for changes in practice

4. Scholarship of Discovery

[Needs of praxis? -----> ] rigorous theoretical analysis of natural language data

===> theoretical framework

[-----> knowledge for practitioners to develop and check own PCK as needed]

 
In particular, the focus is on the "need to know and do" of these practitioners and the levels of scholarship they applied when faced with new challenges, in an attempt to give some insight into the possibilities that practitioner-researchers have in our own immediate L2 context where such scholarship is not yet a major contributor to teachers' knowledge and where opportunities for the various levels of engagement vary considerably according to professional and personal context.

1. An action research project by no name

The first study, a kind of action research project firmly embedded within the realm of praxis, involved a practical project to develop "rules of thumb" for the effective and efficient learning of French pronunciation, gender and basic verb forms for mature secondary school learners. In the late 60s, long before action research had received a respectable name and PCK was only a glimmering node in Schulman's cerebellum, I was faced by need to incorporate in my teaching and programme a sudden switch from the traditional grammar-translation written orientation to actually teaching pupils to speak French and German. The audio-lingual texts available were not equipped to offer any form of systematic, metalinguistic support to learners. In fact, these programmes offered little more than rote learning of a series of minimally discriminated dialogues. It was, to stretch the point only slightly, a case of "from nothing but grammar, to nothing". For French, particularly, recourse to traditional grammar texts as a supplement to spoken language learning also proved inadequate. It quickly dawned that spoken and written French had different frequencies of vocabulary and grammatical descriptions, including phonology, and, worse, there seemed to be available neither a general authentic descriptive grammar based on natural spoken French (4) nor, worst of all, any "PCK-ised" practical version of such an oral grammar to aid practitioners.

In normal time-restricted secondary foreign language learning classes (as distinct from immersion or bilingual education programmes), some form of rule-governed indicators for features such as phonology, gender and verb conjugations are an important efficiency support to learners, both for aural comprehension and oral performance. In most languages the written form provides a reasonable phonetic facsimile for the learner to discern or the teacher signal patterns. French (like English in some respects) is a notable exception. It is claimed that in earlier times, when definitive forms of the written language were evolving, erudition was a lucrative matter, as scribes were paid by the line. Those knowledgeable enough to include extra, long since silent, letters from the original Latin in their French texts wrote their own bonus, as it were! To take one simple example: the French novelist. Hervé Bazin wrote a delightful satire on these idiosyncrasies of French phonology called Plumons l'oiseau (Let's pluck the bird, presumably of its idiosyncratic excesses). The word oiseau is a prime example, as it is pronounced [wuzo], with apparently no direct relationship to the written form. Other phonological issues such as the mode of syllabification, the incidence (or not) of nasalisation of vowels and the "rules" for silent letters all needed some metalinguistic treatment.

The issue of the lack of "subject knowledge" for oral/aural language approach was not, however, the only or even the prime one. Much of this background "academic" knowledge was known or half-remembered, deduced or induced or eventually provided through the sorts of investigations instanced in the fourth study below, that is, through the systematic Scholarship of Discovery undertaken by others. Once this knowledge was retrieved, consolidated, discerned or located, the real concern became (i) to discern in the absence of updated syllabi, what the goals or ends of a communicative approach to language were in terms of what was feasible (5) and (ii) how to make the necessary, complex and extensive knowledge of oral grammar accessible to students of increasingly diverse abilities, the essence of Shulman's definition of PCK(6). The task for the learner needed to be both simplified and made systematic and progressive. Like mathematics, there is a Bruner element, in that tasks beyond simple vocabulary learning are cumulative and there are learnable sequences of syntactic knowledge, as indicated in Pienemann's (1985) investigations on learnability and teachability of German. Unlike mathematics, however, in an interactive, spoken language course, the content of expression, that is the "message" that the learner wishes to convey or "encode", is not really in the control of the teacher, though the teacher is inevitably the source of the "medium" or the knowledge of the necessary grammar and vocabulary. In other words, early secondary classes typically have 12-13 year old intellects and interests being expressed in the language capacity of less than two year olds; in essence, an intolerable and demotivating situation, with constraints and demands far in excess of the gentler, impersonalised, non-threatening, abstracted grammar-translation approach, no matter how boring for some.

Adolescent students subjected to "communicative competence" approaches do not have the luxury of waiting till each cumulative step has been worked through to any significant level of complexity. Some form of PCK inspired "rules of thumb", a bit like the percentage strokes approach in professional tennis, needs to be available for immediate, rapid, "automatised" deployment, for comprehension but especially for the productive aspect, speaking. It was stark consciousness of both the needs and ignorance of the solutions that produced what I have described in Figure 1 as a quasi-action research project. It was "quasi" in the sense that it originated before the well-defined processes of action research had been delineated, it was intermittent, spasmodic, uncircumscribed by time or scope. In fact, the scope grew as the nature of the task was illumined by successive discoveries. With time, the enigma became something of a professional obsession. Conceived, somewhat darkly, before the days of internet and international search sources, the process was a reflective and opportunist one. Data was drawn from several major sources. Firstly and principally, the process of teaching, and failing to teach, particular aspects, along with observations of failures to learn or evidence of great difficulty in learning specific items, produced the expected propensity to reflect on specific teaching tasks. Secondly, some specific tasks lent themselves to systematic investigation over time through easily accessible sources. For example, general rules for nasalisation and exceptions could be hypothesised then checked through the phonetic descriptions in dictionaries. Through similar consistent dictionary reference, the need to learn the gender of every word at first contact, a demotivating bugbear for many learning the Romance and Germanic languages (e.g. le bras, la tê te) in formal classroom situations, was gradually obviated by the establishment of a basic rule of generally high probability, with longer term classification of exceptions. Thirdly, as reflection and more frequent checking of dynamic hypotheses became entrenched, an opportunistic behaviour of "keeping an eye open" for new data resulted in regular scanning of relevant pedagogical journals, resulting for instance in the retrospective discovery of the fundamental research findings outlined in the fourth study, and systematic attention to the speech patterns of any recorded or real life native speakers encountered. In other words, once the "unnamed", ill-discerned, timeless project had been engaged, the action research aspect became self-reinforcing, perhaps through the rewards, in teaching confidence, in confirmation of hypotheses and the location of relevant fundamental research findings.

Some simple examples of effective "rules of thumb" generated, with some illustrations of supplementary "rules of exception", are represented in Figure 2.

Figure 2: "Rules of thumb" approach
 

French pronunciation

Principle: French has a consonant-vowel syllable system

e.g. Ca/na/da; é /la/bo/ra/tion
Sub-principle: French tends to eliminate sounds that do not fit this principle

 

Instances: * it has already eliminated the "s" in many words

e.g. forê t (forest); é tampe (stamp)
* it nasalises n/m to make them vowels where necessary

e.g. co(m)positio(n); gra(n)d

but not when the n/m is needed to start the next syllable
e.g. i/nné e; i/no/pi/né /me(n)t
[exceptions noted: en/nui, am(e)/ner, e(mm)(e)/ner]

* it eliminates the consonant when it is final

e.g. ta/ba(c); su/pplé /me(n)(t); spor(t)

[general exceptions: little words those meaning
might be difficult without more information

e.g. lac, but
French gender

Principle: If you hear a consonant sound at the end of a noun, it is feminine, a vowel sound then it is masculine.

[Systematic exceptions have to be learnt [e.g. -age, -tion, -sme, -ste], plus individual exceptions]
Principle: Learn the feminine form of the adjective, take away last sound for masculine.
French Verb Forms

Principle: there is one form of the "-er" French oral verb, the base e.g. [don]

Sub-principle: the major exception is the "vous" (you) form, which adds an [e] or "ay" sound.

 
These "principles" are meant to provide an 80-90% accuracy in the early stages of language production to overcome inhibitions about speaking. Students applying the principles will "know" that they are speaking accurately and even where they make mistakes because of as yet unlearnt exceptions their overall impression to the interlocutor will be one of maturity, fluency, comprehensibility and reasonable accuracy, a very positive advance on the reduction either to silence or to infantile messages. The side-benefits, for example, of the gender rule are extended hugely by the fact that most words in French, particularly the more abstract ones, exist in a close cognate form in English, so with the gender rule, for example, nouns can be confidently transferred to French statements with considerable accuracy. Similarly, since well over 90% of verbs are of the "-er" ending variety, the transferred forms from English cognates can be quickly pressed into service. As automaticity develops with the main principles the subsequent gradual introduction of major exception sub-principles increases accuracy without the risk of overwhelming the learner with the need to apply multiple new rules simultaneously.

This type of scholarship remains close to praxis at all times because its origins lie in the problems of teaching and the needs of subject content knowledge, PCK and generic pedagogies. It does, however, through reflection, involve the formation of hypotheses, testing of these against current and potential subject content knowledge, trialling in classroom teaching, evaluation and review and resort, where available, to the products of other forms of scholarship. In this particular case, the Scholarship of Discovery, perhaps a response by the researchers to the generally perceived needs of praxis, provided invaluable confirmation of the validity of the principles developed and extension of the potential range of such "rules of thumb". Given the changes in effectiveness of praxis derived from such scholarship, it would appear to be valid, though validity could be enhanced through wider professional sharing and critical review.

A lifetime of Scholarship of Application

The second example, a ground-up (praxis-stimulated) series of related inquiries developing into the application of dynamic interactions between theory and practice, provides a very significant counterweight to the limiting aspect of Krashen's comprehensible input. It is a method developed in the seventies which stresses systematic teaching for effective spoken and written language output (Dodson, 1967; Butzkamm & Dodson, 1980; Alexander & Butzkamm, 1983). While it lacked the benefit of substantial empirical testing or theoretical support in the early years, the method has been justified both via the results of large-scale funded implementation in the primary and secondary schools of Wales (Dodson, 1985a) and ensuing theoretical interpretations (Butzkamm, 1980, 1993; Dodson, 1985b; Caldwell, 1990; Caldwell & Pillar, 1998), in addition to the allied findings of Cummins, Swain, and associates, illustrating the need for constant review of old data in the light of the new. This is an area where the Scholarship of Discovery, the immediately recognisable traditional pattern of detached university research, often comprised of top-down investigations of theoretical principles, can frequently be seen to remain aloof from needs of praxis. By contrast, the work of Dodson and his associates and followers is distinctly weighted towards praxis but with a constant and scholarly eye to emergent theory for both confirmation and review of their systematically evolved forms of praxis.

In many ways, Dodson's entry into the Scholarship of Teaching and subsequently Application are extreme illustrations of the urgent "needs must" state that sometimes besets praxis, like the pressing needs for a form of treatment in a major epidemic. It is a stark reminder that praxis and learning cannot always afford to rely or wait upon the results of formal empirical or theoretical investigation, particularly since such scholarship until recently has not been held to serve the needs of praxis. Carl Dodson's urgency for praxis-based research arose initially when he was thrust into teaching in the dire and demanding context of the preparation of interpreters during and after World War II (Dodson et al., 1968: 3-7). The need for near perfect language skills to be developed in short order led this practitioner to recognise the inadequacies of the conventional wisdom of grammar-translation. He resorted initially to a reflective approach, reverting firstly to an analysis of his recollections of his own bilingual development in Germany from the age of four and from this developing a logical series of strategies to simulate those experiences with his adult learners. The success in teaching practice of this form of reflective action research instilled the desire to check the hypotheses formed from his introspection and practical applications, on the one hand by reference to support in the limited empirical literature available at the time on early language and bilingual development (e.g. Weir, 1962) and on the other to undertake a series of (loosely) controlled classroom experiments to check the validity and relative importance of some of the variables he had applied collectively in the urgency of praxis. The findings included confirmation of the importance of the availability of the written text to learners, of knowledge of the meaning of what is being learnt, of the rote learning of high frequency vocabulary and structures as language models for manipulation and of the use of pictures to aid recall. These early investigations very much resembled a series of action research projects, attempts by the practitioner to resolve pedagogical difficulties impeding successful teaching and learning, an endeavour in systematic PCK development somewhere beyond the basic Scholarship of Teaching.

With the publication of his text on the Bilingual Method (Dodson, 1967), he declared his commitment to a form of research roughly comparable to the Scholarship of Application, with new intellectual understanding [arising] out of vital interaction between theory and practice, and one renew[ing] the other (University Grants Commission, 1998) . Already there was forming a clear intention to provide a systematic sequence of methodological steps for normal classroom language teaching. Access to accumulating, supportive literature on bilingual development (e.g. Baetens Beardsmore, 1981, 1986), a fruitful collaboration with the prolific German researcher in didactics of English L2 teaching, Wolfgang Butzkamm, major national projects in Welsh bilingual education (Dodson, 1985a) and the emergence of more general L2 research findings (cf. Butzkamm & Dodson, 1980) led to further practical refinements and the establishment of a theory-praxis framework for what is arguably the only enduring systematic L2 methodology for the normal language classroom. This eventual framework involved, inter alia

(i) a sequence of loosely prescribed structured learning steps (Caldwell, 1990: 461-464). These range firstly through a series of medium-orientated activities, including rote learning and role-taking of a short dialogue comprised of high frequency structures and lexicon suited to student ability and level of interest, interpretation exercises to check knowledge of meaning, substitution and extension exercises in language manipulation ("mental gymnastics"), independent speaking of sentences by individuals (a semi-creative activity to begin to link message generated by the individual, nonetheless constrained by the topic at hand, with the medium-orientated structures and lexicon being taught). Secondly, creative message-orientated activities are a crucial part of the development of effective output. These include role-making activities at various levels of spontaneity and allied question and answer sessions in which follow-up circumstantial questions are addressed by the audience to the actors concerning their personae. Alternatively, in bilingual settings such as the Welsh schools, target language subject content materials and resources were developed to provide such communicative interactions (Dodson, 1985a)

(ii) an advocacy of constant fluctuation in the learning process between medium and message-orientated activities to develop performance capacities systematically from the earliest stages (Dodson, 1985b).

In fine, Dodson represents an exemplary model of the practitioner engaged in the whole gamut of L2 education from infants to tertiary level who, when confronted with doubts about the validity of inherited PCK, undertakes not only multiple action research and empirical projects to test praxis-based hypotheses but also constant recourse to the research literature to the point where a theory of method capable of extensive in situ application has evolved. Because of his constant desire to relate theory and praxis to the needs of teaching, it is not drawing too long a bow to suggest that through the application of his carefully constructed methodology within the Welsh school system he has contributed significantly to the manifest stabilisation of the Welsh language.

From praxis to the Scholarship of Integration and back

The third example is a theoretical integration and subsequent empirical classroom application by Pillar (1997) of emerging research findings in a number of allied discipline domains, including paralinguistics, neurolinguistics, neurology and language pedagogy. The work of Pillar is an interesting instance of intellectual curiosity arising from the daily engagement with praxis. It was not so much an effort to solve an exigent teaching problem, as was decidedly the case for the first two examples, but rather to resolve an enigma of teaching praxis which mismatched with extramural social reality. Granville Pillar, ex-engineer, concurrent entertainer, relatively neophyte secondary German teacher, was puzzled, in an era of L2 teaching ostensibly targetting communicative competence and in a social climate dominated by the visual media, by the lack of pedagogical attention to paralinguistics, that is, the visual elements of communication and by the failure of L2 methodology to exploit visual media resources. Doubtless he was influenced in this perception by his knowledge, as an entertainer, of the important "message" component in body language, which he demonstrated very effectively in his own teaching.

Pillar undertook to pursue this investigation through the more traditional academic path of full-time doctoral study, a possibility not afforded to many experienced practitioners. Once embarked on a rigorous search of the theoretical literature, he rapidly realised that the solutions would not be found from a narrow focus on the scant pedagogically related literature available. The scope of his study began in an endeavour to determine the importance and nature of paralinguistic signals in the decoding of language intake. It quickly expanded to encompass general neurological findings on brain processes and more particularly neurolinguistic interpretations, especially the work of Danesi (1991, 1994). Danesi investigated the mechanisms governing the transformation of sensory input into intake and the significance of sensory bimodality (the relationship of visual and audio signals) involving the right-left flow of information within the brain, which indicated the predominance of visual signals in interpreting new sensory input before the verbal signals were addressed. Pillar's work also needed to embrace the existing empirical findings on the effects of visual inputs involving body language, including video and role-plays, on both comprehension and performance skills (Condon, 1980; Gassin, 1990, 1992; Orton, 1995; Neu, 1990). From his theoretical interdisciplinary, integrative study, the relevance of bimodal input in language intake was logically and rigorously demonstrated. In other words, the role of the visual in L2 teaching was theoretically vital.

Yet for the practitioner in Pillar there remained the natural imperative of demonstrating the relevance for praxis or, in Schwab's (1970) terms, reintegrating the theory into an understanding of the whole language teaching approach. From these interdisciplinary theoretical gleanings came two significant pedagogical hypotheses:

(i) that the medium of video, which combines visually-mediated paralinguistic behaviour and contextual input with audio-mediated verbal language, is more effective as teaching tool than audio-tape in developing L2 communicative competence

(ii) that exposure to and conscious knowledge of native-speaker paralinguistic behaviour through explicit instruction and training in total body communication has the potential to enhance significantly aural comprehension and oral interpersonal communicative skills, and thus communicative competence. (Pillar, 1997: 7)

As a practitioner Pillar needed to know whether the most readily accessible form of native-speaker paralinguistic input, video material, would actually be effective in portraying the paralinguistic signals in the classroom context, thus supporting the development of the communicative skills and, equally significantly, whether with its aid these skills could actually be taught effectively in the limited class time available, rather than "caught" through intensive and extended input over time, as Krashen's acquisition theory and, more importantly, comments made by Gassin (1992: 99)(7) in relation to her earlier role-play experiments seemed to imply.

The results from empirical classroom testing were strongly affirmative (Caldwell & Pillar, 1998), particularly for the performance aspects. What is especially encouraging in this work is that the rigorous approach to the theoretical grounding has led to valid knowledge of not only what happens but a strong confidence in the why, that is, an alignment of theory and practice of the most useful kind. The path from praxis to theory and back can be seen here at its most effective, undoubtedly enhanced by the time availability and the structure involved in formal doctoral study.

Scholarship of Discovery with links to praxis

The final instance illustrates a remarkable example of the results of well-grounded, systematic linguistic research of the "discovery" type, with strong implications for the spoken language aspects of L2 teaching praxis or PCK, being ignored or lost from sight, no doubt falling into the shadow of some of the exciting theoretical developments such as the Chomsky-Halliday debates and Krashen's propositions. It relates to the extensive French "oral grammar" discoveries in the late sixties. If the first example is an archetypal instance of a practitioner reluctantly but ineluctably embroiled in scholarly investigations at the marginal level by the very nature of the teaching/learning process and the professional demands to improve PCK, this final example is, in a sense, the reverse of the coin, the efforts of researchers per se, responding to the needs of the profession. Such interest among the discovery researchers in providing research-grounded knowledge susceptible to application in praxis is somewhat rare. It must be said, however, that the French school system, particularly secondary, has traditionally encouraged a theory-praxis research orientation in that the agré gation (something of an EdD equivalent) is required for teachers to reach the loftier heights of the pay scale.

The work on the most frequently occurring lexicon in spoken language, le franç ais fondamental (cf. Galisson, 1966), had obvious potency for the preparation of high-frequency dialogues and vocabulary for language manipulations of the pattern practice variety, as well as immense significance for textbook production of dialogues and recorded supplements, where it has, in fact, been more systematically exploited. The knowledge that some 850 words constituted around 90% of the frequency of the spoken language used in the extensive corpus collected has enormous implications for the teacher. For those with a modicum of French, the implications for PCK of the distribution information contained in "La grammaire orale" edition of Le Franç ais dans le monde (1968) will be both manifest and profound. Of the 1,000 most frequently used words, some 300 were the "grammatical words" (pronouns, determinants, prepositions, adverbs), 300 nouns, 200 verbs and 100 adjectives (Rivenc, 1968: 27). Despite French's reputation of being prone to nominalisation (that is, the extensive use of nouns rather than verbs to convey meaning), it is immediately obvious that such a perception originated in the erudition and aesthetics of the written language, not the spoken. In fact, nouns constitute an even smaller part (12%) of the 250 most frequently used words, while verbs constituted 20% (Figure 3 from Rivenc, 1968: 29).

[FIGURE 3] Nouns, adjectives and verbs in the first 250 most frequent words in Le français fondamental.
 
 

NOUNS
ADJECTIVES
VERBS
Heure exemple petit être trouver entendre
Jour côté grand avoir donner rentrer
Chose matin bon faire comprendre commencer
An travail beau dire connaître marcher
Moment histoire vieux aller partir regarder
Monsieur voiture seul voir demander rendre
Franc école français savoir tenir revenir
(monnaie) français gros pouvoir aimer lire
Enfant fille intéressant falloir penser monter
Madame type demi vouloir rester payer (et être payé)
(mesd.) coup   venir manger parler
Maison mot   prendre appeler chercher
Femme vie   arriver sortir jouer
Gens eau   croire travailler paraître
Mois point   mettre acheter attendre
Soir film   passer laisser perdre
Année     devoir écouter  
 

The little "grammatical words" constituted a massive 76% of the 150 most frequently used words (Figure 4 from Rivenc, 1968: 28). In order to achieve confidence and hence fluency in early spoken language development, it is evident that more concentration needs to be given to the simple grammatical words that facilitate sentence structure, the "sentence building" or "sentence glue" forms.
 

[FIGURE 4] Grammatical words in the first 150 most frequent words in Le francais fondamental
 
 

Pronouns
determinatives Prepositions, 

conjunctions

adverbs
Miscellaneous
Je nous la de pas toujours Avoir
il(s) moi le à ne après (auxil.)
ce(ce qui, que (relatif) un et oui maintenant c'est
ce que. lui les que y tout il y a
c'est) le une alors bien quand Ah
On tout des mais même Oh
Vous les du en non plus Être (auxil.)
Ça l' au pour très comment Autre
qui (relatif) te l' dans enfin jamais Deux
elle(s) où (relatif) ce comme plus moins Ben
Se qu'est-ce- que mon puis même vraiment Trois
Tu la des (= de les) parce que autre voilà Hein
En   cette avec beaucoup assez quoi!
    ma par rien trop eh bien
    son quand un peu d'ailleurs cent
    sa si (condit.) aussi peut-être vingt
    ces sur encore   quatre
    votre on     dix
      chez     cinq
      que (après compar)       
 

Similarly, given the fact that other data confirmed the "rule of thumb" perception that noun and adjective gender in French is largely rule-governed and based on final sound(s) (Figure 5, from Rigault, 1968: 39), the greatest time demand in the cognitive learning of French emerges in the area of the verb forms, including, unfortunately, many irregular forms.
 

[FIGURE 5] : Determination of gender by final sound(s)
 
 

  F(em) M(asc) %M   F M %M   F M %M
* 0 17 100,0 [3] 85 1368 94,2 [a] 169 802 82,6
[ã] 14 1949 99,3 [m] 114 1292 91,9 [r] 1190 3577 75,0
[?] 9 929 99;0 [?] 61 564 90,2 # 1875 794 29,6
[ø] 5 184 97,4 [f] 33 268 89,0 [i] 1762 575 24,6
[o] 24 841 97,2 [u] 21 150 87,7 [z] 551 61 10,0
* = 'un' nasal # = 'on' nasal

Table 1: Last sound
 
 

  F(em) M(asc) %M   F M %M   F M %M
[ro] 0 117 100,0 [z# ] 72 17 19,1 [az] 72 7 8,9
[sm] 0 697 100,0 [uj] 29 5 14,7 [yd] 43 4 8,5
[az] 10 1277 99,2 [mi] 155 26 14,3 [jõ] 1785 166 8,5
[#] 8 445 98,2 [oz] 139 23 14,1 [iz] 84 7 7,6
[je] 15 735 98,0 [?t] 473 76 13,8 [te] 924 73 7,5
[if] 3 128 97,7 [ri] 607 93 13,2 [in] 440 29 6,0
[ys] 4 132 97,0 [ad] 173 25 12,6 [fi] 112 7 5,8
[st] 33 607 94,8 [yr] 448 63 12,3 [ãs] 453 13 2,7
[r] 95 1499 94,0 [ks] 11 80 12,0 [g* i] 246 5 2,0
[af] 10 77 88,5 [iv] 50 6 10,7 [øz] 157 0 0;0
 
# 'on' nasal g* = 'je' sound

Table 2: Last two sounds
 

  F(em) M(asc) %M   F M %M   F M %M
[zr] 0 65 100,0 [?tr] 9 147 94,2 [tyr] 162 3 1,8
[tr] 3 161 99,0 [t?r] 14 148 91,3 [ite] 761 10 1,2
[nr] 1 100 99,0 [j?r] 262 44 14,3 [zj # ] 67 1 0,1
[sr] 3 127 97,6 [lyr] 54 2 3,5 [sj # ] 1688 4 0,02
# = 'on' nasal

Table 3: Last three sounds

On the other hand, the same volume confirmed that the number of forms in each conjugation, in terms of sound (as opposed to spelling), is far less complex that the traditional modes of written conjugation have impressed on learners - and teachers (Figure 6, from Marty, 1968: 49). Again, the "rules of thumb" of the PCK of the first example are borne out by the evidence of the scholarship of discovery.
 

[FIGURE 6] : Verb forms (-er and ir regular verbs)
 
Manger (to eat)
 

Radical infix ending
  - -, # , e pres. ind., pres. subj. 

1,2,3,6, imper. 2; 

prés. indic. 4,5; imper. 

4, 5; imperf. ind. 

1,2,3,6

mã  j # , e imperf. ind., pres. 

sub. 4, 5

  r e,a, #  future 1,5, pres. cond. 

1,2,3,6; fut. 2,3; fut. 

4,6

  e*rj # , e pres. condit. 4,5
e* = schwa # = 'on' nasal

Finir (to finish)
 

Radical infix ending  
  - - Pres. ind., 1,2,3; im- 

per. 2;

Fini s -, # , e Pres. ind. 6, pres. 

subj. 1,2,3,6; pres. 

ind., imper. 4,5; im- 

perf. ind. 1,2,3,6

  sj #, e imperf. ind., pres 

subj. 4,5

  r e, a, #  future 1,5, pres. cond. 

1,2,3,6; fut. 2,3; fut. 

4,6

  rj # , e pres. condit. 4,5
# = 'on' nasal
 

It goes without saying that following access to this knowledge, the practitioner's PCK of the first example was variously tested, challenged, rejected, modified and/or extended on the basis of the security of this fully validated knowledge. In a sense, le cercle é tait bouclé , the quest at a successful end. Yet the theory-praxis relationship here remains to some extent unresolved. It is problematic whether the significance of the 1966 and 1968 oral grammar findings would have been recognised without the impetus of the earlier praxis-generated PCK questions, reflections and action research efforts for resolution. Otherwise, the scholarship of discovery findings risked being the proverbial needle in the haystack. In passing, it is worth noting the value of Le Franç ais dans le Monde, arguably the best international pedagogical journal of its kind, in deliberately seeking to forge such theory-praxis links. The methodology and content of the findings inevitably raised further pedagogical questions. (8) For example, is the high frequency lexicon of le franç ais fondamental actually the most suited to the levels of interest and sentence building ability of the various age levels of school students, as Dodson would contend as crucial? How useful for the teacher/learner are the still very complex tables of oral variations of less regular verbs? Are there any further "rules of thumb" that can be usefully derived from such data? If well over 90% of verbs are of the regular "-er" variety, what is the cost-benefit at each level of linguistic advance in dealing with these more difficult verbs, despite their prominence in natural language? PCK was never meant to be simple! Taken all in all, this one number of Le Franç ais dans le Monde remains a vital resource for the French teacher and a constant reminder of the need to refresh our memories of the best of our pedagogical foundations.

Summation

The paper has viewed four examples of scholarship/research in L2 pedagogy from three perspectives: the nature or level of the scholarship involved, the way they relate theory and praxis and the validity of the research. A fourth perspective, the need to revisit enduring pedagogical content knowledge, permeates the study.

The range of theory-praxis related research illustrated encompasses roughly the four classifications of Boyer's classifications. The first example is contained strictly within the Scholarship of Teaching. It constitutes a development of pedagogical content knowledge which, in methodological terms, can best be described as quasi action research, in that the development over time has been intermittent, unstructured, opportunistic and evaluated only in the context of the effect of its application on teaching outcomes and the challenges to validity presented by spasmodic access to relevant research literature. In this respect, it undoubtedly reflects patterns of PCK growth experienced by most teachers consciously interested in such growth. It might best be described as an instance of the practitioner-researcher-for-self, where scholarship adheres tightly to the needs of praxis.

The second example, the life work of Carl Dodson, no doubt originated in the same level of Scholarship of Teaching, but quickly evolved to Scholarship of Application. From reflection, logico-deductive introspection and tentative empirical trials, the work built a consistent, well-documented structured methodological framework, securely embedded in theory. The progress of his goals and interests, initially immersed in praxis, evolved under the goad of intellectual reflection towards universalisation, hence the tendency for greater theoretical framing. Dodson's work merits constant revisit. In the light of recent pedagogical and neurolinguistic developments, Dodson's work is a pioneering illustration of the 'practical science' approach to pedagogical theory where theoretical inquiry is continually redefining its 'agenda' and 'findings' in the light of the problematics of practice, and those problematics are in turn being continuously informed by theoretical inquiry (Elliott, 1993: 9). It is a type of explicitation and justification of logically deduced pedagogical discoveries for the sake of others, which might best be dubbed practitioner-researcher-for-self-to-others.

The third case, that of Granville Pillar, constitutes a strongly interdisciplinary example of the Scholarship of Integration. Pillar is a praxis-inspired soul-mate of the pure researcher. The motivation is more the resolution of an intellectual enigma of praxis through theoretical investigation than the need to resolve a current pressing problem of praxis. The instance seems to be one of the practitioner-researcher-for-inquiry.

The final example is the archetypal form of the "pure" Scholarship of Discovery, the work of researchers in linguistics, though focused on subject content with strong implications for praxis. The findings are not presented in terms of teaching methodology. They are, however, framed in a manner which offers "food for thought" to the practitioner in the process of reflecting on and extending such elements in personal PCK. They fall somewhere on the continuum between researcher and researcher-for-practitioners, perhaps closer to the latter.

While the above summary comments address the type of research and the theory-praxis relationship, the question of validity is harder to resolve. In strict research methodology terms of validity, there is undoubtedly a cline (or incline) from case one through to case four. The different practical scholarship circumstances of the practitioner, the doctoral student and the university researcher virtually guarantee such a cline.

Perhaps the question that needs most to be addressed is "Valid for what?" or perhaps better "Useful for what?" Full-bodied postgraduate investigations on "rule of thumb" pedagogical shortcuts or empirical trials of praxis-derived teaching strategies may not be justifiable in cost-benefit terms. For the practitioner at large, time-consuming in-depth research is unlikely to be more than a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence at most. Yet, at a less intense level of investigation, the various forms of the Scholarship of Teaching, including informal action research, remain legitimate forms of scholarship and, in their greater incidence, are likely to be of the most direct practical benefit to the PCK and hence teaching capacities of the practitioner concerned and peers. Some comfort can be taken from Elliott's assertion that it is possible to justify an idea in comparison with others by showing how it provides a more comprehensive and unified account of available evidence (1993b: 10). And perhaps because they are of such immediate benefit, their legitimacy and their limits may need to be more explicitly acknowledged and rewarded. Perhaps they need to become more collective (cf. Fullan & Hargreaves, 1992), more open to collaborative peer challenge, more widely circulated for review, comment and extension through home pages, web sites such as Telenex, the development of effective electronic professional journals and the like.

It is not really a question of judging the diverse forms of research as more or less important. Like abilities in different disciplines, the different degrees of time, effort and intellectual commitment required cannot be equated and rated, except in terms of the goals, intent and exigency of the investigations themselves. Some forms will inevitably be more or less valued in different contexts, by different sets of peers and at different periods of time. It would seem self-evident that it requires specific ranges of skills and knowledge, professional experiences and the capacity to review and extend skills and knowledge to operate effectively in any one of these scholarship contexts. Certainly, given time and opportunity individuals can and should transmute, for example through postgraduate study or changes in vocational prospects, but each set of skills, knowledge and experience is valuable in itself and its peculiar value should be openly acknowledged. From that point of acceptance, theory-praxis links will begin to flourish across the full range of the teaching profession to the profit of all.

The illustrated cases suggest, nevertheless, that there is a patent need for mechanisms to facilitate full-time research study for those practitioners with well-developed PCK or method knowledge which has led to the generation of significant broad research questions relating to pedagogical issues. Without such access, advanced research studies are likely to remain for the most part the preserve of either professional researchers engaged at detached theoretical levels of investigation, since these are valuable to and valued by professional peers, or the harassed part-time candidate, the practitioner constrained to some praxis-based empirical investigation largely devoid of the requisite depth of theoretical and/or interdisciplinary underpinnings. While process is an integral aspect of postgraduate research, neither academia nor society can afford to treat product with such profligacy.

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Notes

 

1. Cf. Elliott, 1993a: 18: "From the hermeneutic perspective bias is a condition of situational understanding because all interpretation is shaped by a practical culture i.e. a system of value and belief which is conditioned by practical concerns theoretical analyses are episodes of an overall attempt to arrive at a holistic understanding of a situation."

2. Cf. Elliott, 1993: 2: "When teachers monitor their own practices they bring such theories into a conscious realm of reflection which enables them to test and modify them through further experimental action. In this way theory is derived from practice and in turn informs its further development."

3. One of the features of evaluation by staff of several 1980s pilot projects involving the author in early second language instruction under the aegis of the NSW Education Department's multicultural education programme was their perception of the increased interest of the infants school children (5-8 years of age) in creative and effective use of English lexicon, demonstrated most noticeably in the creative writing of the older children.

4. Historical record shows that, in the late 60s, at least two aspects of "oral grammar" investigations, frequency of lexicon (Galisson, 1966) and grammatical forms such as gender distinctions and conjugations (Le Franç ais dans le Monde, 1968) had appeared in France, though not generally disseminated to practitioners elsewhere.

5. Cf. Elliott, 1993c: 69: "In the 'practical science' paradigm of reflective inquiry reflection about means (the problematic dimension) and reflection about beliefs and assumptions which frame conceptions of ends (the critical dimension) are inseparable and interactive."

6. "It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction. Pedagogical content knowledge is the category most likely to distinguish the understanding of the content specialist from that 

7. A question of some pedagogical importance is under what circumstances and to what extent instruction can influence kinesic und prosodic acquisition. It is hypothesized that acquisition of appropriate kinesic behaviour is gradual and developmental; that it takes place largely out of consciousness of the individual; and that the type and amount of exposure to kinesic forms through direct experience or visual input may play a determining role in acquisition along with various psychological factors.

8. Cf. Elliott, 1993c: 70: "Theories may illuminate particular aspects of practical problems and the insights they provide can then be synthesized into an understanding of the whole situation. In practical reflection, as Schwab (1970) pointed out, theories are selected and utilized eclectically in terms of their perceived relevance for discerning and discriminating the practically significant features of the situation. Their selection and use is subordinated to the practitioner's quest to understand the problematics of their practice in a situation as a totality. According to Schwab a theory always abstracts a particular aspect of a situation and thereby dissociates it from the whole. It provides only a limited and partial insight which needs to be reintegrated into an understanding of the whole."

 

This document was added to the Education-line database 18 December 1998