Ten days ago I attended two courses as part of the UNSW summer school. The morning course was Classroom-based Research for Language Teachers by David Nunan and the afternoon course was Sociocultural Theory and the Pedagogical Imperative by James Lantolf.
The classroom-based Research for Language Teachers course dealt with topics such as the nature of qualitative and quantitative research together with methodology and methods specific to the language classroom. We covered most of the material presented in Nunan and Bailey’s book Exploring second language classroom research. Though the topics and materials were well known for me, the experience was quite enriching and challenging. I could actually confirm that the methodology of my study is solid and that there are small things that I need to polish.
Sociocultural Theory and the Pedagogical Imperative course was simple amazing! Lantolf presented Sociocultural theory in such a way that engaged both novices in the theory and those, like me , who have been trying to understand it for a while. Then he tackled the concept of language from a SCT and second language acquisition. Then we analysed examples of how we can apply a SCT perspective into the second language classroom and the pedagogical imperative.
The course made me reflect on my own understandings of SCT and its implications for language teacher education and second language acquisition. These are some of my learnings:
•Education: grounded in explicit mediation is ‘artificial development’ of the individual.
–‘restructures all functions of behavior in a most essential manner’
–focuses on and privileges learning over teaching
–all developmental mechanisms are inside the learner [the container]
–focuses on dialectical unity of teaching/learning
–obuchenie is a central mechanism in development
Language is a cultural artifact to construct the meanings they need for communicative and cognitive activity
•SCT is grounded in the ontology of the social individual
•Development occurs at the nexus of the person and the other
•Also cognitive but cognition is not exclusively in the head
•Social is the source of (cultural) development
•SCT is a dialectical approach to mind and mental development
•Educational activity, including language education, is a special kind of development
•The more complex something is the more systematic explicit instruction is called for
• Teaching is mediation through systematic unit of instruction and social interaction
•Development = understanding and performance
Lantolf, J. P. & M. E. Poehner. (forthcoming). Sociocultural theory and Second Language Education: The Pedagogical Imperative. Routledge