Reza Arab: A currently acceptable view is that communicative language teaching in which classroom setting is inevitably involved in meaningful communication is one of the most efficient ways to have students develop their language abilities; i.e. linguistic competence, pragmatic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence. As Tricia Hedge puts it “communicative language teaching sets out to involve learners in purposeful tasks which are embedded in meaningful contexts and which reflect and rehearse language as it is used authentically in the world outside the classroom.” [2000, p.67]
A teacher in this situation adopts multi roles simultaneously. S/he is the manager of activities, organizer of classroom, a guide, language resource, corrector, diagnoser, and evaluator. I strongly believe although this approach produces winsome outcomes in the process of teaching/learning language, it vividly expands the classical role of the teacher as the center of attention in the classroom.
Since “the social context of the communicative event is essential in giving meaning to the utterances” we inevitably must look at the classroom and its processes as a unit of society. From this point of view the class ambiance is a lively texture. Teacher is needed to molt the skin of being defined through classical, stereotypical roles. The class may not be much distinct from what we intended to avoid when we opt the communicative approach. The cause of this problem is a course of action/reaction/situation whose term I have borrowed from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: territorialization.
Territorialization is a state of affairs. Place (or territory/land) subdues us (as subjects) among specific relations and territorial boundaries. You have got a certain location in time and space; you are exactly in a context. In this context you find yourself, make your identity, and you sincerely try to preserve the status quo. Your social or – in my definition- contextual role is defined by the rules of territory and subsequently defines rules; and it is a never-ending flow. They write; it “subdivides not the people but the territory”. (p. 145) Therefore territorialization is a “flow of social arrangements” inside which you are defined.
Let me clear the issue with a couple of examples. When you are the minister of the country and sitting at the ministry desk, you feel, think, act and behave quite differently from the time you are on the other side of the desk as a person who is not the minister. The territory you have occupied, in fact, has besieged you and formed your identity. There is a cited assumption about bloodthirsty priests of the middle ages. Imagine if I were in their shoes and in their situation, what I would do? It means in that territory of time and space, the boundaries and arrangements of those magnificent churches in which you were the representative of god on the earth, you were left with nothing to do but to act accordingly. Moreover, we reside in territorialities even in family. Temporal and spatial boundaries give you a role.
Therefore, this flow is completely adaptable to the territory of classroom and teacher’s role. Being a teacher, standing in the middle of the classroom, being the source of knowledge, inspiration, and the regulator in the classroom give the person a kind of nimbus. This nimbus surrounds the person and defines how s/he acts, thinks, and behaves.
I suppose this is the main lack in theory of communicative language teaching. It still assumes teachers as the center of legitimation and facilitation in the classroom. When you take a look at different approaches, you find only “silent method” as an effort to make a so-called drastic change in current and dominant arrangements and the teacher’s role in the class; to change periphery/center relation, i.e. class/teacher relation. Unfortunately, silent method was more romantic to expedite anything.
Thus, you – as a teacher- are not able to make a student-based class as you are the teacher; you are meaningful here, in this territory. This territory gives you identity, legitimacy, and authority. Whence you are in that territory, you are a surrenderer to the flows and arrangements which have been firmly established.
Deleuze and Guattari believed it is possible to facilitate: a process which they called of deterritorialization. In sociological sense they said it “might mean to take the control and order away from a land or place (territory) that is already established. It is to undo what has been done.” While I think it is really difficult to do so in the any contexts, especially in the classroom, we have to bring in some ideas to the table.
In order to do so, I can come up with only one solution –not to solve but- to resolve the problem: “innovation” or in Richard Rorty’s terms “self-creation”. Actually it is up to the teacher to bring about changes. This varies in a wide range of actions against the territory: the classroom. Just to mention them as my raw and impondered ideas, I can name these:
– Move from a side of the classroom to the others, do not possess only one seat, and change your seat as many times which is possible. Try to avoid standing in one place, usually and especially in the center of the classroom where the teacher totally associates with the territory.
– Make the best rapport with students as much as you can, i.e. an intimate one. Never does the teacher let previous experiences of the territory interfere his innovative performance at the classroom.
– Try not to covey the traditional impression on the students as if you are the ultimate source of knowledge. Show the relativity and encourage critical thinking. Provide a setting in which criticising projects upon the teacher: the divinity of the knowledge!
To conclude, I would like to return to Hedge. She writes: “studies of innovation suggest that it is rarely successful unless a set of factors have been carefully addressed: for example, the degree of compatibility between the existing teaching philosophy and the innovation; teachers’ perception of its relevance to students’ needs; the availability of resources for the innovation; the extent of agreement between the classroom procedures of the new approach and the existing way in which teachers conduct classroom activities, and the relative advantages of the innovation. All of these factors will influence the extent to which a communicative approach is adopted by teachers and the ways in which it is adjusted.”
. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: CAPITALISM AND SCHIZOPHRENIA. Translated from the French by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000 (Tenth printing).
. Rorty, Richard. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
. Tricia Hedge. Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford University Press, 2000
. Diane Larsen-Freeman. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford University Press, 2000