No best method - critical analysis

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Universidad del Turabo
Graduate Program
School of Education

Critical Analysis of the Article
There Is No Best Method-Why?
N.S. Prabhu

Jannette Delgado Olmeda
EDUC 555
Prof. Luis Medina Rosado
November 15, 2008
Prabhu, N. S., (1990). There is no best method-why?. Tesol Quarterly, 24 (2), pp. 161-176.

Abstract – In this article N. S. Prabhu from the NationalUniversity of Singapore studies the statement widely discussed, but not concluded: There Is No Best Method. He provides input on three views parting from the concept of method. The first is based on differences of contexts, the second on validity or truthfulness, and the third on the idea that a method is neither good nor bad. He is already convinced that the first two views do not help in the overalldiscussion, but the latter might be conceivable regarding educators’ choices.

The issue brought about by Prabhu rests upon the many discussions regarding the best method for language teaching. The author considers this to be indecisive, disoriented, tolerant and even reconciliatory. In other words, experts stop the debate to avoid confrontations or provide room for others to take theconsiderations into research.

The following diagrams served as a way to map the author’s ideas. It had been a relentless process to understand the flow of thoughts presented in this article. Nonetheless, after going back and forth through the wordings and other references discussed, it had become clearer how the issue brings more controversy yet light to the teaching and learning process of second languageacquisition.
His research starts by defining method or giving it a general interpretation. As stated by Richards and Rodgers (2001, p. viii) ‘the teaching of any subject matter is usually based on an analysis…the application of teaching and learning principles…referred to as a teaching method or approach…with a body of classroom practices derived from them’. Dr. J. Govoni’s (2008) timelinesummarizing mayor approaches, methods and techniques is also in agreement that a method is a practical application of approach, an overall plan, and level of which theory is put into practice. Therefore, this generalization serves as catapult to the three explanations the author uses to discuss the statement: There Is No Best Method.
Prabhu thinks of the term method as a global concept andsuggests examining its use in light of the variety of contexts a language is taught, the validity of its principles, and considerations regarding choices in the practice of pedagogy.

First, he provides an inventory of variations to encounter when using a method in different contexts. In a determined situation differences will arise when dealing with whom the policies are developed for, in whichenvironment, attitudes and other social and cultural distinctions. Circumstances in an educational organization such as objectives, time, resources, efficiency, class size, and ethos are to be considered. When it comes to purpose, the factors multiply the variations. We must have in mind when it comes to teachers: status, training, beliefs, autonomy, and skills. The learner’s age, aspirations,experiences, and attitudes also come into play. Currently other factors that can be added are learning styles, communication strategies, personality, and psychological processes.

Knowing this inventory, we could only focus on narrowing the scope to a single teaching context to explore variables and options in methods. The author believes contextual variability should develop new approaches to resolvethem. In order to do that, we need to determine dependency between contextual factors and instructional methods to make it significant. This of course has its pros and cons. On one hand, contextual factors are not easy to identify and not simple to assess, while on the other instructional methods help make decisions and determine forms of variation to make instruction pertinent. As an example...
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