• Thanks for that, Magda. It’s very interesting (and I am dying to try out the experiment with the equations myself sometime – it almost makes me look forward to the beginning of classes!).

    My comment about ‘appropriate methodology’ was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It’s not so much that I don’t understand what appropriate methodology is and how it relates to mainstream TESOL pedagogy. I was just thinking that if each setting, down to the point of individual classes, is unique, then to claim that I have found the optimal way to teach in any particular setting is rather trivial: what works for one class may not be ‘appropriate’ for the next one. Add to this the complications arising from diachronic change, and ‘appropriate methodology’ seems impossible to pin down. This seems to suggest – to me, at least – that ‘appropriate methodology’ is more about attitude than about methods. I am not sure how this meshes in with your own research.

    What I find really intriguing is your last point: about education being unpredictable, but not entirely so. This is, in fact, a textbook definition of how complex systems behave. The overlaping cultures schematic (which I suppose also traces its provenance to Holliday) is also very close to systems thinking, and so is your discussion of different levels. So perhaps you may want to give some thought on whether adopting a more explicit systems perspective would be useful in your research.

  • Magda Rostron

    Hi Achilleas,

    Thank you for your comments.

    1. I have now posted a link to the slide you referred to but with the equation modified by using proper mathematical symbols. Yes, there is a deliberate error embedded in it. My point was to illustrate the passivity on the part of my past students who simply copied everything from the board without any questions. I used the mathematical equation because it is so neat and I remembered it from school, not because I taught them maths ?!

    2. Ultimately, I am not sure whether in my case the quest for “appropriate methodology” (Holliday’s phrase in: “Appropriate Methodology and Social Contex”, 1994) isn’t just an excuse for… a quest – in that direction perhaps but without much hope for completing it. Holliday (1994) saw the issue of appropriate methodology in relation to the then very popular communicative approach (early, mid-nineties) which he critiqued accordingly. Julian Edge wrote something very important about the fact that the approach entailed certain exercises and tasks which involved critical thinking, solving problems, asking (impertinent) questions, even doubting the teacher, etc. The question then arose as to what extent such tasks may be compatible with the prevalent culture and politics of the country where it was being taught and what far-reaching consequences there might be of its practice.

    Appropriate – or culture-sensitive methodology – I’d change the phrase to “culturally aware” perhaps, striving to incorporate significant elements of the local culture into the teaching/learning process without changing its core objectives. It is certainly an issue I have been trying to work out myself – especially in the context of the subversive effect that western education sometimes seems to be having on its non-western recipients.

    3. The most we can extract from the realisation that education is a messy business is that education – although generally understood to perpetuate social and cultural paradigms (Bourdieu and others, hello!) – sometimes turns out to have a subversive impact on the status quo. For instance, look at the communist Poland where the government (opposed by most sections of the society as an ideologically hostile entity imposed by a foreign power) gave every citizen free access to education which was supposed to reinforce the government’s position. In the end it only contributed to its overthrow because people learnt in the process to question that very same ideology the state promoted.

    Yes, the subversive side of education makes it unpredictable but only to certain degree – maybe a bit like weather forecast. We know there is a storm coming but it may dissipate on the way. Alternatively, it may destroy everything in its path. But it is coming. Also, the subversiveness of education is most visible (and less unpredictable, more “measurable”, describable”) when articulated by and examined in and by individuals. Hence my idea for this research… – to explore non-western students’ experiences of western education, their responses to it, interactions with it. I have enough anecdotal evidence to make me convinced that their experiences are often nothing like the intended institutional goals which envision a rather sanitised form of an educational process. And all this is very much uncharted waters here.

  • Hi Magda,

    Thanks for sharing this; it was greatly interesting! Three points that stand out for me are:

    a) I just can’t follow the equations in slide 4, or rather more specifically, I can’t understand what happened as you move from line 3 to line 4. Or is it meant to be wrong?

    b) I am very intrigued by your research questions (p.8). My own MA thesis was about similar dynamics of ‘harmony’ / ‘tension’ between various local and global shaping influences, so I can see how what you are doing can have a sort of ‘translocal’ resonance. One thing I find puzzling is the quest for the ‘most appropriate methodology’. Could there be such a thing?

    c) I think you hit the nail on the head with the realisation that ‘Education is a messy and unpredictable business‘. But what do you think are the epistemological implications of this realisation? How does one go about understanding something so messy, and what value are our findings if education is unpredictable?

  • Magda Rostron

    OK, thanks!

  • Richard Fay

    I added it also to the accumulating list itself so that this list keeps a hold on all the ppts etc.