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Integrating the Four Skills: Current and Historical Perspect

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Doreen Ifkovits

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of Integrating the Four Skills: Current and Historical Perspect

Integrating the Four Skills:
Current and Historical Perspectives

How the Four Skills Became Separated
* In the early 1940s , the Linguistic Society of America taught language teaching to U.S. Armed Forces. It was based on structural linguistic methods.
* The structural and behaviorist approach became known as the "oral method", the "aural-oral method", the "structural method", and then the "audiolingual method".
* In the 1960s, the U.K. emphasized the situational approach. Its main emphasis was on speaking and listening skills.
* Lessons were developed around specific topics, such as the post office, the doctor's office, a visit to the theater, etc.
* In the 1970s--the concept of "communicative competence" . Separation of the four skills became a contrast to teaching language as a means of communicating.
* Communicative Language Teaching--goal is for learners to communicate effectively both inside and outside of the classroom.
Linguistic and Methodological Bases for
Integrating the Four Skills
* 1970s--language skills can't be taught as separate elements.
* Communicative approach--integration of the four skills
* Widdowson (1978)--one of the 1st linguists to promote integrating the four skills. He believed that learners need to develop both receptive and productive skills.
* Seldom are language skills used in isolation--both speaking and listening are necessary in a conversation in both spoken and written discourse
* 1980s and 1990s--use of integrated communicative activities and task-based instruction.
* Nunan (2001) recommends identifying the contexts and situations in which learners will communicate. Work toward functional goals.

Key Considerations in
Integrated Language Teaching and Curricula
* Most basic integrated teaching applies the skills in the same language medium.
* An example is when listening passages are also used for speaking and pronunciation.
* More complex integrated curricula, language materials are organized thematically. Exposes learner to context linked vocabulary.
* Discourse-based approach--Incremental skills can be transfered from one aspect of language to another allowing for easy integration of a broad set of skills
* There are some disadvantages:
1. A curriculum that focuses on single language skill at a time allows for more focused teaching and intensive learning
2. Greater demands on both the teacher and the learner
3. Learners have different proficiency levels.
4. Less emphasis on teaching grammar, vocabulary, accuracy in language production
Language Tests and Testing of the Four Skills
* Standardized testing has not aligned with the developments in teaching
* 1960s--language tests contained a large number of discrete-point multiple choice tests. Discrete-point tests do not accurately measure learner's communication abilities.
* In the U.K., tests were created to be communicative and integrated. The tests were unreliable and error-prone.
* Language assessments have remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s-separation of the four skills.
* 1990s and early 2000s--some modifications have been made to incorporate integration of writing, grammar, and vocabulary.
* Language testing continues to rely on skill subsets and the separation of the four skills.
* Main problem is that the skills needed for communication and communicative competence is very large in range and scope
Current Perspectives on Integrated Teaching
* Teaching reading is linked to writing and vocabulary, teaching writing is linked to reading and grammar, and speaking is linked to listening and pronunciation
* Use of a variety of teaching models, such as content-based or theme-based, task-based, text-based, discoursed-based, technology-based, standards-based
* Emphasis on fluency and accuracy
* There can be drawbacks: all focus on communication with interaction may lack depth and substance; lacks a teaching focus on writing and literacy
* Recently--standards and outcomes-based language teaching curricula has become a priority.
* Stern (1992) guidelines for an integrated curriculum--combines learning the language skills through an achievement oriented syllabus including culture learning, communicative skills, and general education.
Discussion Questions
1. One approach to language instruction was the "situational approach", where instruction was based on specific topics, such as the post office, doctor's office, or a visit to the theater. Do you think this approach can be effective? Why or why not?

2. Some experts (Swan, 2005; Widdowson, 1990, 2003) believe that integrated language instruction with its focus on the learning process may overlook the quality of the learning product. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
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