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The Social Context

Appropriate Methodology and Social Context

By A. Holliday (1994)
Chapter 1: The Social Context


In this chapter, describes the diversity and interconnection between and among cultural
contexts as national, professional, host institution, student and classroom culture and in
more detail the context, and analyses the local cultures of teacher-learner relationship. He
also explains his point about the real lack of knowledge of what happens between people
from two basic contexts (BANA & TESEP) making it difficult to be sure of the ideal
methodology in the classroom. The author also mentions various positions on the issue in


The Social Context



The Social Context



In search of what happens between people



A division in the profession



Which social context?



The Classroom and its environment



Personal Appraisal





The Social Context

1. The Social Context

Holliday (1994) argues that to achieve appropriate methodologies in the classroom, we
should know the three areas of concern: 1.What we know and what we should know about
the social context, 2. How far this provides a more appropriate basis of methodologies in
the classroom, 3. The research techniques which are necessary for finding out what we
need to know about the social context with the points mentioned the author just tries to
cheer the courage to look beyond.

2. In search of what happens between people

Many researchers

tell us how learning a second language takes place but do not

necessarily deal with the attitudes and expectations of people in the learning situation
where social forces influence both within the institution and the wider community outside
the classroom. For example Breen (1962 :142 - 151) argues that the metaphor of the
classroom as culture or as coral gardens allows us to perceive the psychological
change and social events characteristic of the classroom as irrevocably linked and
mutually engaged. Such a perspective on classroom can help explain more fully the
relationship between classroom input and learning outcomes, and is particularly relevant
in the culture learning situation. Then syllabus and curriculum designers try hard to
consider the social-logistical, administrative ,psycho- pedagogic and methodological
constraints on their work in the pots Munby era.

Holliday (ibid.) describes the lack of information necessary for the proper design of a
product, such as situations that actually happens in the classroom. Other authors like
Allwright (1988) argued the classroom is the place where the multiplicity and complexity of
interaction but Holliday (ibid.) discusses with him about that it is not sufficient to look only
within the classroom to understand the interaction. He emphasized that within classroom
is influenced by factors within the wider educational institution, the wider educational
environment and the wider society.


The Social Context


Influenced by




3. A division in the profession

Holliday (ibid) mentions the work of curriculum developers and teachers about teachers
and curriculum developers who are native to the countries where they work, and the same
nationality was the students they teach but who are trying to make sense of
methodologies developed in BANA for ideal teaching-learning situations which are very
different from their own. Moreover he argues on the other hand that it is necessary to
have enough information about what really happens between people in the classroom.
There are difficulties in implementing the methodology in developed countries (like the
Japan case) , this happens because there are methodologies that are only designed for
areas BANA and then have to be implemented where the author points this like a virtual
monopoly on received methodology.


The Social Context

4. Which social context?

First, Holliday (ibid) mentions two social contexts of language education according to Van
Lier (1988).

Van Lier (1988)



Involves the wider community-home school

Involves socio psychological aspects of

relations, L1 L2. Relative status, learners

group dynamics within the classroom.

attitudes and reference groups.

Holliday chooses to focus on the macro social context because it concerns the influences
from outside. He argues that attitudes derived from relationships of status, role and
authority brought by students and teachers. As also it is important to include sociology
and anthropology for elaboration of an appropriate methodology in classroom situations.

5. The Classroom and its environment

According to Coleman (1996) and Holliday (1994), the influence of social context on
second language acquisition/learning is strongly emphasized. They explain the social
context as social forces within both the institution and the wider community outside the
classroom, and which in turn influence the way in which people, i.e. social interaction
between teacher and learners, deal with each other in the classroom. To promote the
concept of teacher-learner partnership, it is truly crucial to seek for clear understanding on
what really happens in the classroom and between teacher and students. The social
context in which teaching and learning take place is considered an important source of
explanation for classroom phenomena.


The Social Context

Taken from Holliday (1994)

Based on Holliday (ibid.), the classroom is described as a micro social context in the
sense that what happens within the classroom reflects, affects, and is affected by the
complex of influences and interests of macro social context i.e. the host educational
environment (consisting the host countrys ministry of education, aid agency, and other
involved government institutions). Investigating the micro context to discover what
happens between teacher and students will be through looking at the macro context
additionally, that is, the wider social relationships between classroom participants and
influences from outside the classroom.


The Social Context

Personal Appraisal
This chapter I found very interesting and the way Holliday (1994) not only gives his views
on the importance the social context plays in learning but also the author explains the
difference and the reasons why it should be developed syllabus, curricula and materials
that fit properly to each sector. (BANA & TESEP). On the other hand Holliday (ibid)
mentions that there were attempts to improve teaching methodologies in the Post Munby
but were not successful because the problem was not seen from a more social
perspective. He argues that the experts could not identify the reason for the problem in
this case were (the deep social forces) in local settings affect which language learning.
Other authors (Hutchinson 1989 - Robinson 1989 - White 1988) say that another missing
element was the information necessary for proper product design. I think in those times
both designers and syllabus and curriculum specialists could not see the most important
factor in learning: the social and emotional factor, or perhaps not given the place it
deserved and profited only education without reaching the solution. As explained by Hoyle
(1970) how "unfinished" research is adequate for the needs of curricula planning.
An important distinction made by Cazden (2001) is that teachers are responsible for both
the affective and academic aspects of effective classrooms and classroom talk. Teachers
can direct classroom discourse so that both these goals are targeted and supported. For
example, teachers can accept, deny, recast, expand, or encourage elaboration of
students' responses. "Success for students in culturally diverse classrooms depends on
the degree to which there are strategies that encourage all students to talk and work
together" (DeVillar & Faltis, 1991). One strategy (among many) promoted by Echevarria
and Graves (2003) is the use of direct, rather than indirect, questions to promote clarity.
So while instructional talk should be engaging, there is a place to use direct questions of
students and then facilitate the elaboration of their responses as a means to develop
academic language use and motivate them as learners. Thus the teacher serves as a
conduit for sharing information and scaffolding social and academic language. Low levels
of instruction and low-quality interactions often combine to yield poor academic
achievement among students who are busy constructing the meaning of the language and
the content of school. Rich language interactions, however, encourage thinking, social
relationships, and expanded language use. As Johnston (2004) admonished, we "have to
think more carefully about the language we use to offer our students the best learning
environments we can".


The Social Context

Also, information technology transfer is not an easy task, and seems to be particularly
daunting for developing countries. As most technology is designed and produced in
developed countries, it is culturally-biased in favor of those developed countries social
and cultural systems. In short, Hollidays (1978) suggestion is that, in the scope of
language education, we interpret culture from a linguistic viewpoint: just as in language
education the term language does not mean the whole, abstract concept of English or
other language , but a particular variety of a language, such as commercial Chinese,
academic French, or beginners literacy in context English, the cultural context for
language teaching/learning should not be seen as: English culture or western culture in
general, but something much more specic: the cultural context in language education
practice is a context for language, a system of meanings that is realized in language and
hence can be construed in language (Holliday, ibid).As far as language educational
contexts are concerned, texts realize what Lemke (1990) calls activity structures, i.e., the
situational contexts in which discourse sequences occur. According to Lemke an activity
structure is dened as a socially recognizable sequence of actions, and the types of
situation that make up the overall context of situation for learning

(e.g. a foreign

language) can be realized by different modes of discourse, such as teacher- student

dialogue, group work, pair work, teacher monologue, etc.
I think as teachers sometimes we miss many opportunities to help students communicate
in class, allowing them to be less involved in interactions. Therefore, we should try to be
effective teachers that encourage their students' participation in classroom discussions,
welcome their contributions, and motivate them by such practices (Cazden, 2001; Stipek,


The Social Context


Cazden, C. (2001), Classroom Discourse: The Language of Teaching and Learning.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.
DeVillar & Faltis, (1991) Cultural Diversity in Schools: From Rhetoric to Practice. State
University of New York Press, Albany.
Echevarria and Graves (2003) Sheltered Content Instruction:

Teaching English

Language Learners with Diverse Abilities, Pearson Education Canada.

Halliday (1978) Language as a Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language

and Meaning, University Park Press.
Hoyle,E (1970) Planning organizational change in education. Research in Education

May, 1-22.
Hutchinson (1989), Robinson (1989), White (1988) Learning how to manage.
Cairo, Ain Shams University.
Johnston (2004) Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning,
Stenhouse Publishers.

Stipek,D. (2002). Motivation to learn: integrating theory and practice. University of

Michigan, Allyn and Bacon.