Innovation and Change in English Language Education

May 2014 – Volume 18, Number 1

Innovation and Change in English Language Education

Author: Ken Hyland & Lillian Wong (2013)  
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Books
Pages ISBN Price
304 pages 9780415826877 $47.95 USD

The dialogue surrounding innovation and change is ubiquitous in the field of language teaching. Innovation and Change in English Language Education explores both ideas conceptually and practically, giving teachers and administrators the theoretical frameworks and tools needed to implement and evaluate change at various levels in their own respective language programs.

The book consists of 18 chapters written by different authors. The chapters are grouped into four sections: concepts and contexts, teacher education, language curriculum, and teaching practice. This review covers a selected review of chapters, and is not inclusive of the all of the chapters or the significant ideas contained therein. The overall theme is analyzing change at different levels, both successful initiatives and those that are less so, while examining the practical obstacles and solutions facing those who would take on innovation or find themselves in a position where change is thrust upon them.

In defining change, the editor specifies that change is necessarily context specific, with the resulting challenge being that there are no set criteria by which to measure innovation and change. Likewise, the two will only be successful if the parameters of a given context are taken into account. In illustration, each chapter outlines innovation and change through practical case studies in a variety of contexts, allowing for the mapping of frameworks and concepts onto concrete practice straightforward for the reader.

In the first section, Chapter 2 explores the theoretical and practical sides of change management, framing change as a dynamic and ongoing process which needs to be evaluated as a continuum. In contrast, the traditional route for administrators is to assess the outcomes of change and innovation from clear starting and ending points. The chapter urges practitioners to evaluate change and innovation using a well-defined model, arguing for a blend between top-down and bottom-up approaches, as well as robust data collection and fact finding specific to the situation.

Chapter 5 looks at change management literature, and how various concepts have been applied to different language teaching contexts. The authors begin by candidly explaining that planned approaches to managing structured change are often sidetracked or fail because of the different players and variables involved. The chapter outlines necessary criteria for implementing successful change and maps an adapted model to a case study for improving the teaching quality of English teachers in the Philippines. Those involved in large-scale change projects will find this chapter useful, as it includes a critical analysis of successes and shortcomings.

From the second section, Chapter 6 calls for Second Language Teacher Education (SLTE) programs to provide meaningful and reflective opportunities, grounded in a sociocultural approach to pre-service teachers as a way to bridge theory and practice. The author’s case study involved an extended team-teaching project with opportunities for observations, tutoring, lesson planning, feedback, teaching, and reflection. This chapter is valuable for teacher trainers interested in designing reflective practicums to connect theory and classroom practice.

Chapter 9 takes a practical approach with how to evaluate educational change. While conceptually compact, the chapter helps to frame what often happens with new initiatives: teachers fail to adopt an implemented change. The chapter calls for those in the position of analyzing the success or failure of a new initiative to look beyond the manifest measures of success to the latent reasons of why an initiative does (not) take hold. Latent changes involve how a person changes his/her identity or thoughts about something new and, while not observable, will often determine whether a change is lasting. Using a case study based on the adoption of a new curriculum, the author argues that understanding how the teachers thought about the course reform would have been of more value than simply measuring whether a teacher did (not) adopt a new program.

Chapter 10 explores how English became the dominant global language through a broad historical overview of political, military, and economic events. While the chapter uses historical examples through a clear narrative, it lacks a case study for practitioners to reference and does not follow the same structural approach as the other chapters. Regardless, readers interested in a macro understanding of today’s use of English as the global lingua franca will enjoy this chapter.

In the final section, Chapter 14 challenges teachers (and teacher educators) to look beyond the traditional Present, Practice, Produce (PPP) model which teacher education texts have advocated for the past 30 years, arguing that PPP does not allow for the deep-learning needed for students to acquire the language. While several alternatives are offered along with corresponding textbooks, the pre-service teacher may not be ready to absorb these unconventional and less-commonly used approaches. Finally, the author argues that textbook and curricular innovation is more effective when large groups of teachers come together to author context-relevant texts in place of the adoption of global textbooks. In-service teachers and teacher trainers will find this chapter’s exploration and discussion of different teaching approaches thought-provoking, to include: discovery-driven curricula, task-free, individualized routes, and multi-dimensional activities.

Innovation in English Language Education offers the reader a spectrum of theoretical frameworks as well as reflective insight on how innovation and change can be implemented, measured, and assessed from the classroom to the national level. The strength of this book is the seasoned voices of practitioners who critically analyze their own programs and experiences through case studies. While the diverse models and applications may make this text unwieldy for pre-service teachers who are focused on the basics of theory and methodology, this collection is particularly well-suited for in-service teachers and/or program administrators interested in putting ideas into practice.

Reviewed by
Erin N. O’Reilly
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor’s Note: The HTML version contains no page numbers. Please use the PDF version of this article for citations.