Vol. 5. No. 1 A-1 April 2001
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Paradigm Shift: Understanding and Implementing Change in Second Language Education

George M Jacobs
JF New Paradigm Education

Thomas S C Farrell
National Institute of Education


Change seems to be a constant in education. We can better understand and implement change in second language education if we look for connections between changes. The concept of paradigm shift offers one means of making such connections. This article describes eight changes that fit with the paradigm shift in second language education toward what is most often described as communicative language teaching. These eight changes are: learner autonomy, cooperative learning, curricular integration, focus on meaning, diversity, thinking skills, alternative assessment and teachers as co-learners. The paradigm shift of which these changes are part is put into perspective as an element of larger shifts from positivism to post-positivism and from behaviorism to cognitivism. The authors argue that in second language education, although the paradigm shift was initiated many years ago, it still has been only partially implemented. Two reasons for this partial implementation are: (1) by trying to understand each change separately, second language educators have weakened their understanding by missing the larger picture; and (2) by trying to implement each change separately, second language educators have made the difficult task of change even more difficult.

Keywords:paradigm shift, post-positivism, diversity, curricular integration, focus on meaning, cooperative learning, teachers as co-learners, thinking skills, alternative assessment, learner autonomy, second language education


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