The Concept of Method, Interested Knowledge, and the Politics of Language Teaching



    1. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
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    • Alastair Pennycook left China last year after three rich and fascinating years teaching at Xiangtan University, Hunan. He is currently looking at a range of issues around the cultural and political implications of the global spread of English.


Examining the concept of Method in second language education, this paper argues that both a historical analysis and an investigation of its current use reveal little conceptual coherence. Ultimately, the term seems to obfuscate more than to clarify our understanding of language teaching. While this may seem at first a minor quibble over terminology, there are in fact far more serious implications. By relating the role of teaching theory to more general concerns about the production of interested knowledge and the politics of language teaching, this paper argues that Method is a prescriptive concept that articulates a positivist, progressivist, and patriarchal understanding of teaching and plays an important role in maintaining inequities between, on the one hand, predominantly male academics and, on the other, female teachers and language classrooms on the international power periphery.