AUTHORITY, MYSTERY, AND MIRACLE IN TESOL
Whether a behavioristic or humanistic approach is taken towards teaching and learning a foreign language, the fact remains that there are more questions than answers regarding how to teach and how one learns. Teaching--as all endeavors affecting human destiny--is as much an art as a science. There is no shortage of proposed ways to help modify human behaviors: methods come and go and come back ill-disguised as one or another scholar or pseudo-scholar rediscovers the light bulb. As to learning, we are only beginning to discern some of its mechanisms in some people who, in some situations and in some contexts, try and acquire some knowledge or some skills. Linguists fail to understand that linguistics is neither psychology nor pedagogy. Psychologists fail to admit that to know something is not to know how to impart it. Teachers, usually ill-trained and confused, think that by concocting a mixture of recent faddist theories with their own insight, they hold the key to teaching. "Research in second language acquisition has too short a history to supply conclusive evidence on any important question" (Klein, 1986:167).
Thus it is that much of TESOL remains a mystery, in spite of the miracles which proponents of one fad or another try to foist upon a teaching profession and a learning public hungry for valid formulaic responses. One quandary that baffles teachers is the amount and nature of authority they ought to exercise for optimum student learning. This short paper quotes a number of currently renown TESOL researchers, with a view to having their opinions on the matter. It also briefly points out some of the mysteries and miracles ascribed to the field.
Canter (1976:46-49) proposed Assertive Training as a behavioristic answer to the problem of controlling students' classroom behavior. It had occurred to Canter that teachers had been socially and educationally conditioned to ...