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(c) Alexander Sokol, Riga, 2000, contacts@thinking-approach.org


Why do the current approaches analysed above fail to bring us to the resolution of the initial contradictions? The answer to this question is well-known.

Second language acquisition (SLA) is not a linear process (highlighted by me - A.S.) in as much as we do not acquire present simple before moving on to acquire present continuous, and so on. (Hunt 1999, p. 9).

If we accept this, Nunan's statement that 'any proposal failing to offer criteria for grading and sequencing can hardly claim to be a syllabus at all' (Nunan 1991, p.47) appears no longer relevant. It is self-evident that looking for an ideal sequence will never produce a non-linear syllabus.

A possible alternative is The Net Technology of syllabus design. Unlike the traditional approaches represented as a rope with fixed ends along which a student is moving 'acquiring' a new couple of inches every lesson, here we deal with a large net. Until we put this net into water, we may not say in which part of it a fish is going to be. However, being more experienced than our students in terms of 'language fishing', we may provide a lot of assistance to help them not lose a fish.

In other words, at every lesson a teacher must be ready to teach virtually any language point, however what exactly they will teach depends on the learners needs in the particular situation1.

Another advantage of the Net Technology is its suitability for teaching process subjects such as thinking2. The resolution of the key contradiction of education lies in teaching students how to retrieve information rather than drowning them in the information itself.

For a long time, much English language teaching has been on the margins of education. Indeed, some teachers will actually say that they are only responsible for teaching the language, and not for the general development of the student. This, however, is an illusion. Whether we are aware of it or not, students will always learn more in their language classes than just language. They will also learn their role in the classroom and (to a greater or lesser extent) pick up values and attitudes from the texts they use. They will also learn a lot about themselves as learners, about what language learning involves, and whether they should consider themselves good learners.

In all likelihood, the work we ask them to do in the classroom will contribute to habits in learning that will remain with them their entire lives. We are perhaps not always fully aware of what our impact can be, but it can be considerable. It is important then to think beyond the language alone (highlighted by me - A.S.) and reflect on how our teaching does, or does not, enrich the lives of the students.
(Littlejohn 1999, p.10)

If we still want to consider that 'English language teaching is often at the forefront of methodology and materials, providing a model and lead for other subjects' (Graddol 1998), it is high time we started developing a 'futures curriculum' paying more attention to teaching our students pertinent future skills in addition to a full range language practice.

However, if language skills are usually known to teachers, future skills may appear a problem. The Text Technology as an element of a 'futures curriculum' is based on the Theory of Inventive Problems Solving (TRIZ) developed by Genrich Altshuller. TRIZ is one of the few sciences providing tools for problem-solving in various fields of human activity. It aims at teaching people strong thinking - one of the most pertinent future skills - and has justified itself in many different fields all around the world.

The list of skills you may see below is the basis of the General Theory of Strong Thinking (OTSM-TRIZ) which may become a pivot of a 'futures curriculum'.


1 It goes without saying that a teacher can 'help' his/her students come to the problem they need. Moreover, such behaviour is often justified. What is important for the Net Approach that a teacher is flexible enough to refuse to teach a pre-planned material if it is irrelevant in the given situation or students are not motivated to acquire it.

2 'The thinking lessons are somewhat unlike knowledge lessons in which the teacher is the source of knowledge. Teaching a process subject like thinking can be awkward at first for both teacher and students. The teacher may feel lost without some body of knowledge to impart. The student feels lost without the definite sense of achievement given by getting a "right" answer.' (Edward de Bono - Model lessons)




() 1997-2000 OTSM-TRIZ Technologies Center


21 Nov 2000