Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Creating Communicative Classrooms with Experiential Design

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Creating Communicative Classrooms with Experiential Design

Article excerpt


For years reformers have been recommending that language teaching and learning be viewed as a system of communication, with the ultimate goal being the development of functional ability in learners (Musumeci, 1997). Many U.S. world language teachers continue to focus on grammatical tendencies, using English as the medium of instruction. As a solution to providing secondary world language teachers with more than a method to teach in a communicative manner, this article suggests that they become informed about and familiar with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound design. By understanding and using the Expeditionary Learning philosophy and design, students and teachers may be able to focus on communication by engaging in experiential learning experiences, investigations, and expeditions, and use the world language during classroom lessons.

Key words: communicative competence, communicative language teaching, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, experiential learning

Language: Relevant to all languages

Introduction and Overview

Since the 1970s, attempts to reform world language1 curriculum and instruction in U.S. classrooms so that teachers and students focus on representation of language and language development as essentially meaning-based or communicative in nature instead of on grammar have been unsuccessful for the most part (Canale, 1983; Canale & Swain, 1980; Savignon, 1983, 1997, 2002). Many teachers at the secondary level continue to focus primarily on grammar and translation, and to use English as the medium of instruction when designing curriculum and teaching lessons (Hall, 2004; Rifkin, 2003). As a result, students continue to endure drill and textbook grammar exercises with memorization of verb conjugations and grammar rules, failing to develop an appropriate degree of communicative competence (Canale, 1983; Canale & Swain, 1980; Savignon, 1983, 1997).

In order to integrate communicative language teaching (Berns, 1984, 1990; Finocchiaro & Brumfit, 1983; Nunan, 1991) into classroom lessons, teachers initially can be encouraged to implement communicative activities (Burke, 2005, 2006; Ellis, 1982, 1997). Although Savignon (1983, 1997) does provide a valuable model of a communicative curriculum with the five components that she called Language Arts; Language for a Purpose; My Language is Me/Personal Second Language Use; Theater Arts; and Beyond the Classroom, teachers seem to need additional support and guidance on how to facilitate student learning and what their teacher role looks like while using this method (Lee & VanPatten, 1995). In order to incorporate into language teaching a more student-centered approach to learning with the teacher acting as a facilitator or coach, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound design can be used to guide teachers when planning communicative activities and promoting other methods used by a teacher of communicative language teaching (Burke, 2005, 2006; Campbell, Liebowitz, Mednick, & Rugen, 1998; Cousins, 1998, 2000). Focus on communication in the world language during classroom lessons while using Expeditionary Learning design can have a positive impact on student learning with visible improvement in classroom community, language production, student motivation, and student-to-student interaction (Burke, 2005).

Kumaravadivelu (2003) believes "there is an imperative need to move away from a methods-based pedagogy to a postmethod pedagogy" (p. 42) in the realm of language education. By going beyond methods, he asserts that teachers can overcome limitations posed by methods-based pedagogy. In essence, it seems that Kumaravadivelu discounts past theory, research, and practice, which molds methods-based pedagogy and which has been deeply valued by language teachers for generations. He ultimately does not consider that theory can meet practice in classrooms through field work and critical reflection, particularly through forms of action research and professional development, as seen in my work (Burke, 2005). …

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