Introduction to Communicative Language Teaching

This page contains information about the course Introduction to Communicative Language Teaching (ENE001), which I taught at the University of Graz from 2015 to 2018. The course was the first in a series of courses that aimed to develop the professional competence of pre-service English language teachers.

Please note that the information in this page refers to the courses taught in past academic years. This information is no longer current, and is retained here for archival purposes only.

An overview of the course, including information about intended learning outcomes, course structure and activities, can be found in the course syllabus.


Overview of the course

This course seeks to provide participants with an introduction to key issues and debates involved in teaching foreign languages at the secondary school level. Through in-class input sessions and additional reading, participants will become aware of theoretical frameworks and ideas underlying current approaches to language teaching including the Austrian national curriculum. In class, there will be opportunity to discuss various issues surrounding foreign language teaching, including but not limited to plurilingualism, working with mixed-ability groups, English as Lingua Franca, differentiation, and digital literacy. Students will be encouraged to develop their critical reflective skills by considering the appropriacy as well as possible limitations of different approaches. Students should complete the course with an understanding of the rationale underpinning a range of contemporary methods and techniques used in foreign language education, in particular those associated with communicative language teaching.

Course Aims

  • To explore basic principles of contemporary approaches to language teaching; focusing on communicative language teaching;
  • To introduce participants to key issues and debates in language education;
  • To provide an overview of methodologies used in language education;
  • To help participants develop their own teaching competences;
  • To support participants in developing self-awareness and critical reflection skills.

Course outline

Session Topic Assessment Activity
1Overview of Language Teacher Education Assignment 0: Learner autobiography
2Approaches, methods & techniques I: Early Approaches
3Approaches, methods & techniques II: Communicative Language Teaching; Post-method
4 Theoretical aspects of SLA
5 Teacher competencies & teacher roles
6 Individual differencesAssignment 1: Reflective task
7 Planning lessons and courses
8 Teaching Reading
9 Teaching Listening; Educational Technology
10Teaching Speaking
11 Teaching WritingAssignment 2: Lesson Plan
12Presentation of Assignment 2
13Assessment of language learning
14 Continuing professional development for language educatorsAssignment 3: Personal Development Plan
15 Student-led revision

Doing the course

Workload

This course carries 2.5 ECTS credits, corresponding to 62.5 hours of learning. Of these, 18 hours correspond to compulsory session attendance (12 sessions x 90 minutes). The remaining time refers to independent study and completing assigned coursework, the assessed reflection task (see assessment), receiving personal feedback during office hours, and examination preparation.

Language of Instruction

This course is conducted in English. Participants are not be penalised for using the language incorrectly, but they are be expected to engage with the lecture content and the assigned readings. Language issues cannot be accepted as an excuse for failing to complete assignments. If you have language difficulties with specific content areas (e.g., if you are not sure you fully understand parts of a lecture or an assigned text), be proactive and let me know.

Teaching and learning

In this course, participants are expected to participate in a minimum of 12 sessions. Attendance in the sessions is compulsory (see below for the attendance policy), and you will be expected to actively participate in the tasks that take place in the sessions. You may use your laptops, tablets or other electronic devices to take notes.

Throughout the course, participants are assigned a number of tasks, which will be completed during the session, or set as homework. Homework tasks are normally submitted through MOODLE, the Content Management System used by the University of Graz. These should be submitted before the assigned deadline, or else they will not be read/marked. If exceptional circumstances prevent you from completing an assignment on time, you will be expected to ask for an extension before the deadline expires. Deadlines will not be extended after they have expired.

Participants are also be expected to study assigned readings every week. These will be usually from the required textbook (see below), and there may be additional texts, which you will be able to download from MOODLE. You will, hopefully, find that spreading out your reading across the semester is a more effective way to learn than cramming before the final examination.

Attendance policy

Per university regulations, participants are required to attend 75% of the sessions in order to pass this course. This means that you must be present in at least 12 sessions out of 15.

If you are unable to attend a session, you will be expected to notify the course tutor in advance. Upon returning to the course, you will be expected to produce appropriate documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note) justifying your absence.

If you have to leave early, or arrive late, you should obtain permission from the course tutor. In such an event, your attendance record will be adjusted proportionally to reflect the part of the session in which you were present. For example, if you have to leave 30 minutes before the end of the session, you will receive credit for 2/3 of the session.

Assessment

There will be three assessed reflection tasks during the semester. Details about these tasks will be made available during the course. These are compulsory assignments, and they account for 40% of your total grade.

AssignmentDescriptionMode of WorkWeighting
0Language learning autobiographyIndividualnot assessed
1Reflective taskIndividual10%
2Lesson plan & rationaleGroup20%
3Personal development planIndividual10%

There is also an end-of-course test, which accounts for 60% of the final grade. Information about the content of the test, and details about the time and location are given during the course.

Detailed Information about Sessions

Session 1: Overview of Language Teacher Education

This session aims to provide participants with an overview of the course. There will be a discussion of expectations from the participants and the tutor. Information will be provided regarding attendance and assessment policies. In addition, participants will be introduced to key concepts relevant to language teacher education.

Required Reading: none

Assignment O (non-assessed): Participants will be required to write a short narrative autobiography as language learners, outlining how they came to learn each language in their linguistic repertoire, and critically reflect on which learning experiences proved particularly effective or demotivating. 

Session 2: Approaches, methods & techniques I: Early Approaches

This session will provide a historical overview of salient approaches to language education, including Grammar Translation, and Audiolingualism. These will be related to dominant educational, psychological and linguistic theories of the time. Connections will be made with the participants’ language learning experiences (as described in Assignment 0).

Required reading: Chapter 4 in Harmer, J. (2017). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 3: Approaches, methods & techniques II: CLT & Post-method

The first part of this session will provide opportunities for the in-depth discussion of the communicative approach, its theoretical underpinnings and practical implications. Key concepts such as authenticity and communicative appropriacy will be introduced. The theoretical input will be discussed in relation to examples from textbooks used in secondary education.

The second part of this session will focus on a comparison of the strengths and limitations of diverse methods, drawing on the theoretical input presented in the last two sessions and the participants’ experiences. This will lead to a discussion of appropriate methodology (e.g., Holliday, 1994) and post-method pedagogy (e.g., Kumaravadivelu, 2001)

Required reading: Akbari, R. (2008). Postmethod discourse and practice. TESOL Quarterly, 42(4), 641-652.

Session 4: Theoretical aspects of SLA

This theoretically-oriented session aims at developing the participants’ understanding of the language acquisition process. Participants will be introduced to concepts like transitional language systems. This theoretical knowledge will be related to the CEFR, and participants will engage with the scales of the instrument in order to familiarise themselves with the various levels. Practical implications about error correction and feedback will also be explored.

Required reading: Chapter 8 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 5: Teacher competencies & teacher roles

This session will focus on the linguistic, pedagogical, methodological, cultural and ethical competences that contribute to effective teaching. The diverse roles that teachers assume will also be discussed, in order to broaden the participants ‘sphere of possibility’.

Required reading: Chapter 6 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 6: Individual differences

This session mirrors Session 5, but shifts emphasis on the language learner. In the session, participants will be introduced to a range of variables that may differentiate learners, with emphasis on the construct of motivation. Opportunities will be provided for critical reflection on how individual differences were accommodated in their language learning experience, and examples of differentiated EFL materials will be discussed in session.

Required reading: Chapter 5 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Assignment 1: Starting in this session, participants will be expected to work on a short reflective paper in which they critically discuss one of topics covered in the course, relating it to their own experience as language learners. This paper will be assessed (see Assessment Policy).

Session 7: Planning lessons and courses

This session introduces participants to the concept of the lesson plan. The aims of lesson planning will be discussed, and participants will be provided with multiple examples of lesson plans, which they will compare and contrast in relation to set criteria. The session will conclude with a practical task, in which participants will be required to create a draft lesson plan template – this will be used as the seed for Assignment 2.

Required reading: Chapter 12 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Assignment 2: Starting in this session, participants will be expected to work on an assignment that consists of a lesson plan and an associated rationale. This paper will be assessed (see Assessment Policy).

Session 8: Teaching Reading

In the first part of this session, participants are introduced to information processing theory (bottom-up and top-down approaches) as they relate to comprehending input, and they are alerted to different purposes and modes of reading (e.g., skimming and scanning). Following that, in the second part, learners engage with examples of EFL learning materials, in order to derive a template for a reading lesson with pre-, during- and post- reading phases.  In the final part of the session, they return the lesson plan template they had developed in Session 7, which they populate with possible activities.

Required reading: Chapter 18 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 9: Teaching Listening; Educational Technology

In the first part of the session, participants reflect on the differences between reading and listening comprehension. Similar to Session 8, different types of listening tasks are evaluated, drawing on EFL materials. In the second part of the session, participants are introduced to diverse technological options that can be used to develop the listening skill, including options for extended listening (e.g., podcasts).

Required reading: Chapter 19 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 10: Teaching Speaking

This session focusses on activities that can be used to develop the listening skill. Using loop-input techniques to demonstrate each activity (e.g., debates), participants engage with diverse theoretical issues connected to teaching speaking (e.g., the relative importance of fluency and accuracy, options for error correction).

Required reading: Chapter 21 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 11: Teaching Writing

This session introduces learners to two orientations to teaching writing: product- and process-oriented writing. These options are experientially demonstrated, critically evaluated and discussed.

Required reading: Chapter 20 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 12: Presentation of Assignment 2

In this session, participants will present the assignments that they had been preparing from Session 7 onwards. Depending on practical constraints, this may be done through microteaching, and possible peer-evaluation.

Session 13: Assessment of language learning

This session focusses on the theoretical and practical aspects of language learning assessment. Key concepts such as validity, reliability, practicality and pedagogical utility will be introduced. These will then be used for a critical evaluation of existing examinations in the national context.

Required reading: Chapter 22 in Harmer, J. (2015). The Practice of English Language Teaching (5th Ed). Harlow: Longman.

Session 14: Continuing professional development for language educators

This session will focus on impressing onto participants the need for continuing professional development, and will introduce methods that can facilitate this process (e.g. peer-observation, reflective journals). Personal development plans such as the EPOSTL will be introduced.

Required reading: Chapter 11 in Edge, J. & Garton, S. (209). From Experience to Knowledge in ELT. Oxford: OUP.

Assignment 3: Participants will be asked to produce a personal development plan outlining their development priorities, the activities that they will use in order to attain these goals, and the ways in which they will demonstrate learning (see Assessment Policy).

Session 15: Revision

This session will be used for a student-directed revision of material covered in the previous 14 weeks, in preparation for the final examination.