The Problem of the Approach Definition

The Problem of the Approach Definition

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8220-5.ch002

Abstract

The idea of approach in linguistic education has often been defined as a certain overall view of language and its acquisition. This kind of description evades distinct analysis as long as the two constituents are isolated crystallizations of largely different domains. The insulation of the major conceptual constituents causes the imprecision of current approach definitions which hampers specifying the concept's characteristics. The formulation of a precise definition implies extinguishing the concept's ambivalence for a new working model of the concept to be developed and its relations with coterminous notions to be explicated. The task of this chapter is to work out a conceptualization of an approach definition based on a variety of the concept's dimensions delineated due to establishing a new configuration of the concept perspectives viewed in terms of approach essentials. The main issues considered include the feasibility of approach definition, extinguishing the ambivalence of the approach concept, general principles of approach classification, type groups and taxonomies, antinomies of the approach concept definition issues, definition patterns of approach and the contiguous notions of method and technique, and conditions and criteria involved in the notional cluster.
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Problematizing The Task

The main objective of the present part of reasoning is producing generalized grounds for developing a substantiated definition of approach as a basic concept of language learning theory. This Chapter therefore is aimed to establish a common idea contained in diverse approach definitions and to develop a conceptual specification determining invariant qualities, functions and attributes of the concept, both in its abstract and applied form compatible with “the concrete, any-sided” trend. The considerations given in the previous rationalization are bound to raise doubts about the expedience of the search for theoretical definitions of the concept. The lack of clarity indicates the absence of a firm theoretical foundation and therefore might be of questionable value. Nevertheless, even if rigorous descriptions of approach are missing or underrepresented in the literature, there are arguably some grounds for producing generalized knowledge of the concept beyond specific language learning contexts. We advocate for establishing an explicated connection between approach and ideas that are in the center of methodology and constitute language education. A. Sayer suggests that researchers should “rely on abstraction and careful conceptualization, on attempting to abstract out the various components or influences … to return to the concrete, any-sided object and make sense of it” (Sayer, 2000). E. Rata gives a similar argument:

Theoretical understanding using a discipline’s conceptual tools does what empirical evidence-based approach cannot do. It captures the … meaning and explores causes and processes that are hidden in the phenomenon itself. (Rata, 2012, p. 58)

A generalized definition of approach is to rely on a set of systematized properties which are to meet certain criteria that are changeless and replicated in various language learning contexts. Therefore, the principal task of this Chapter is to establish (1) dimensions making up a complete idea of approach; (2) its functionality principles; (3) the mode of interaction with related notions. These are the steps which are going to be undertaken for the developments of a relevant approach definition. Instrumentally, a description will be advanced through exploring approach antinomies and types of feasible classification. The basic categories, principles and interactive mechanisms providing the guiding, controlling and organizing functions of approach over related and subordinate methodological entities are specified and synthesized into a concept description proposed.

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The Congenital Ambivalence Of The Approach Concept

As it follows from the assumptions given in the previous Chapter, the source of the approach definition problem is of dual nature. First, the concept is interpreted in tacit and variegated ways, a typical general definition of approach claiming at overwhelming globality and at the same time disregarding its actual absence. “An approach to language teaching is something that reflects a certain model or research paradigm, a theory…” (Celce-Murcia, 1991). Approach is associated with “the theory, philosophy and principles underlying a particular set of teaching practices” (Richards & Schmidt, 2010, p. 30). Second, the value range of each approach turns out to be restricted to and focused on its peculiar particulars that might or might not have their correlated counterparts in other slants. This could be exemplified by comparing the dimensions accented, say, in the following approaches.

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