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Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice

Jack C. Richards & Willy A. Renandya, editors
Cambridge University Press, 2002
pp. vi + 422

Reviewed by :

Robert J. Dickey
Kyongju University, Korea

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An Anthology of Current Practice
My dictionary says an anthology is "a collection of poems or writings, selected by an editor, around a common theme." Unlike many collections in the language teaching field, this one is not a "history of ELT." All the articles in "Methodology in Language Teaching" are from the past eleven years, most are less than five years old, and all but three were previously published elsewhere. And the focus is on how we teach now, not how we got here.

The principle purpose of this type of book is to illustrate the issues, not merely shortcut the library process.

The Stars come out
One would always hope the anthologist chooses the best examples for the anthology - Richards and Renandya have certainly culled from top scholars in this collection. H.D. Brown, Rod Ellis, William Grabe, Marilyn Lewis, Paul Nation, David Nunan, Rebecca Oxford, Jack C. Richards, Fredricka Stoller, and Penny Ur are but a few of the great names in this galaxy of stars collection. On the other hand, these articles hardly represent their most cited works: most of these were published in journals of less renown, or in books edited by others. The principle purpose of this type of book is to illustrate the issues, not merely shortcut the library process.

Looking at Issues
The strength of this book is in its coverage. 16 sections are comprised of 41 articles covering lots of areas, including Lesson Planning, Tasks and Project Work, Teaching Listening, Teaching Speaking, Teaching Reading, Teaching Writing, Teaching Pronunciation, Teaching Grammar, Teaching Vocabulary, Assessment, Professional Development, and Technologies. Most articles include both a short review of current approaches and specific recommendations and examples for classroom teachers.

Organizational matters
Like a good anthology of literature, much of the strength of the book is found beyond the individual articles. The 41 chapters (articles) are organized into the 16 sections, which is a first way to keep oneself focused on the main issue. Each section begins with a brief introduction, which includes numerous cites beyond the articles listed within. Thus the book can be a "starter" for those initiating a new area of reading. Fortunately these introductions do not detract from the main message, delivered through the articles themselves.

This is a rather hefty book. The 8-page subject index at the back makes the book far more reader friendly, as concepts often cross the various sections and may be somewhat hidden by the article titles themselves. There is also an author index, comprised of the various cites in BOTH the section introductions and the articles themselves, another potentially useful tool. Credits for each article are contained in a short listing near the back of the book. These are big pages with good margins for scribblings. All this makes it a book one can return to in the future.

Working through it
This book requires lots of time. The individual articles are well-written, yet each handles its issue in its own way. This is not a textbook, it's more like sitting in the library and reading through several "general coverage" ELT journals: you need lots of breaks to digest what you've read. The section introductions, usually less than two pages, offer a nice short encapsulation of what is to come, but then an editing peculiarity strikes, one I found irritating. The discussion questions come immediately after the introductions, but this includes both "before reading" and "after reading" questions. It was annoying to have to go back to the introduction section to find the questions, and I found my eyes wandering ahead to "after reading" questions before I'd gotten to the articles. The number of questions provided (8-9 in most cases) and the editors' comment that the book is intended to cover the range of issues normally covered in ELT methodology courses leads me to believe that the book is envisioned as a set of readings for such a course, perhaps as a counter-part to Richards & Rodgers' (1986/2001) "Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching."

This is probably not the book every teacher will jump out to buy. It may well become a preferred title for required or recommended readings in a number of MATESOL programs, and would no doubt be useful for a teacher's workroom library as less experienced teachers aim to become better acquainted with various concepts. Richards & Renandya's "Methodology in Language Teaching" would be a very nice book for a small group of teachers engaging in weekly dialog (perhaps via email?) to work through. And I'm sure I'll revisit this anthology from time to time as I revisit various issues in my own continuing professional development.

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