Thinking Eclectically: Enhancing language Teaching Experience in the EFL Classroom.
It has been argued that the ‘single’ approach or method in language teaching is not always responsive to the dynamic classroom context. As a matter of fact, adopting and working with a single approach or method in language teaching does not guarantee a successful teaching/learning experience to a great extent. Usually, the single method has got a limited set of activities and techniques, which hardly leaves any chances for the teachers to vary their ways of teaching and make it effective as well as appealing. For this reason, the Eclectic approach came into being to enable teachers to select what works within their own dynamic contexts flexibly.
The Eclectic Approach is a compilation of different teaching and learning approaches and methods. The approach supports the use of the different learning activities that will help to realize the lesson objectives. In the field of education, a good number of specialists perceive the approach under study as desirable, coherent, and pluralistic to language teaching. Gao (2011) documents that the preferred language teaching methods in the Eclectic Approach are Grammar-Translation, structural method, and CLT. Though, teachers can still take advantage of the other methods too. Whether the teacher uses a set of methods or another, the goal and focus of the methods should always be on the learners. Wali (2009:40) asserts that one of the premises of eclecticism is that teaching should serve learners not methods. Teachers then should feel free in choosing techniques and procedures inside the classroom. The most important thing is to select flexible methods and techniques that will full fill the learner’s needs. Hence, a ‘teacher is not bound or confined to the prescriptions of a particular method but is free to draw from a vast range of methods and resources to teach a particular topic’.
After attempting to define the eclectic approach and some of its main objectives, it is equally important to shed light on the characteristics and principles that make the approach a peculiar one. To begin with, Ali (1981) lists major principles of eclecticism. Some of them are giving a chance to choose different kinds of teaching techniques, solving difficulties that may emerge from the presentation of the textbook materials, and finally saving both time and effort in the presentation of language activities. Interestingly, what makes the eclectic approach special is the characteristic of being subjective. That is to say, the teacher independently opts for what servers his learners according to a relevant context, environment, and attitudes. Another appealing feature of the eclectic approach is that the connection between L1 (first language) and L2 (second language) is absolutely inevitable. The linguistic background and communicative competence of the L1 that the learner has acquired play a significant role in learning L2. Equally important, the eclectic approach is regarded as situational or context-specific. This means that the application of the eclectic approach should be localized or contextualized to teaching and learning contexts. Every teaching and learning situation is different and therefore requires a different approach. Concerning learners’ errors, the approach considers errors as a normal part of the learning process. Error correction should not be done instantly but at the end of the communicative activity. The aim of correcting students’ errors is to help learners rectify their earlier knowledge that could be wrong. Moreover, the eclectic approach integrates both deductive and inductive strategies in the same lesson. As Krashen asserts, students are creative; they can ‘work out the rules’ themselves. Though, sometimes, they can find difficulties when dealing with abstract forms of language. In this case, the teacher should present a clear explanation about the rule to them. Another interesting feature of the eclectic approach is that it views language as a whole. Skills and language components like reading, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar are meaningless when they are used separately. Therefore, meaning is expressed when language is used as a whole, which means that language teaching, therefore, should follow the same way.
In the same vein, it’s necessary to point out that language can’t be separated from its culture in any way or another. Language and culture are intertwined. In fact, language is the cornerstone of any culture. Teachers, according to the eclectic approach, should retain the fact that language is culture-bound. The situation used in teaching language should be reflecting this keen relationship between culture and language. Apart from this aspect, the eclectic approach favors learner-centered lessons. Gao (2011) states that the practice stage of the lesson should be learner-centered and the teacher should encourage students to participate actively.’ Teachers in the approach under study are considered facilitators, organizers, and guides in the learning process. They need to provide a variety of activities to meet the needs of different learning styles. As a result, all students will have at least some activities that appeal to them. When choosing topics, teachers should be careful; the topic and classroom activities should be relevant to the culture of the learners. This means that ‘teachers should be researchers and be aware of the culture o the learners and the community.
Apart from the features and principles of the eclectic approach, it is equally relevant to shed light on the teaching materials highlighted in the article. Teachers are required to opt for materials that serve the learners’ needs and suit the cultural context of learning and teaching that they are a part of. Both visual and linguistic materials can be used in the eclectic approach. Some examples of these materials are realia, chats, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, radio, film, music, maps, pictures, and computers. Furthermore, the incorporation of technology in education is another factor that will also enable teachers to vary their materials. Duncan (2004) states that in the classroom, meaning can be made through an interaction of music, the spoken voice, sound effects, language, and pictures. Accordingly, teachers should also be able ‘to transform and repurpose any materials and use it anew for the objectives of the lesson at hand’.
Without a doubt, the eclectic approach has got a lot of advantages as it intends to focus and serve the learners instead of the methods. First of all, the approach enables language teachers to make use of a range of alternatives and embrace all the four language skills of speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Then, the same approach also gives teachers the freedom to choose what is appropriate in their own dynamic teaching contexts. Finally, the eclectic approach helps teachers teach effectively by drawing on the strength of various methods and avoiding their weaknesses. Despite the numerous advantages, there are also drawbacks to adopting the eclectic approach. For instance, mixing all manner of methods and approaches may result in conflict in the approach; methods, normally, have different principles, objectives, and manners of working. Another disadvantage, teachers may forget about the rationale of combining techniques altogether when they are introduced to new ones. Usually, this occurs when teachers try to add new methods and techniques to the previous ones.
To conclude, the eclectic approach is ‘ a hybrid which should be viewed as one method comprising features of different methods’. Using this approach will result in successful teaching and learning experience. However, the teacher is required to be knowledgeable, sage, and meticulous when selecting what he or she thinks will satisfy the needs of his learners within a certain context.