Contextualized teaching and learning

A lot has been written in the ESL literature about taking into account the social and cultural context of the learners, however very little has been said about the pedagogical implications of contextualized teaching and learning. Education has never been a sterile endeavor, separated from society or from the culture in which it takes place. In fact, the purpose of education is to form responsible, highly skilled members of society hence the idea that cultural and social values do not belong in the classroom is proving to be unrealistic and even detrimental to the success of the teaching and learning process. Nevertheless, incorporating cultural and social knowledge in education remains a challenge particularly in an era of intense globalization and massive standardization. This challenge is even greater in the case of English language teaching where oftentimes internationally published teaching and learning materials have to be adapted to the local context. So how can an international language be taught effectively by incorporating the local context? Here are a few ideas:

a) Go “glocal”. This means that international materials can be adapted to the context by association, comparison and contrast. Thus when a global issue such as pollution for example is discussed it can be referred to as both a global and a local problem by providing examples from the international and local arena.

b) Develop a cultural awareness.  As educators we have the duty to keep educating ourselves about the culture and society we work in. This in turn helps students relate to the issues we bring to the classroom and enhances their motivation and involvement. It also ensures the building of good rapport between teacher and learners.

c) Go for gradual exposure. Education is about learning new things and broadening minds but this cannot happen overnight. Research into retention in learning has shown that activating prior knowledge also known as schemata is the first step in introducing new ideas and involving learners in discussions on global issues.

Finally, learners are very much anchored in the 21st century which means they expect more from their educators in terms of individual attention, knowledge of their learning styles and the use of technology. Education is no longer about knowledge but about what one does with knowledge, how it is used towards one’s personal and social development. Learners have the right to know why what they are being taught is important or why it should matter to them hence grounding education in a local context while keeping a global outreach is the way forward. Contextualizing teaching and learning is about remembering that we, either educators or learners are ultimately citizens of the world, the different bits and pieces of a global tossed salad  and not the unidentifiable ingredients of a melting pot.


Women and emotional intelligence

The month of March marks the beginning of a season when women are celebrated for what they are and what they do. In some parts of the world, this month is celebrated with gifts and flowers in an emotional out-pour of congratulating messages and feelings of elation. Women, being the emotional creatures that they are would not let such a momentous occasion pass unnoticed hence take every opportunity to remind their loved ones that this one of the days when they should be given their due importance as women. Women have long been fighting for recognition of their merits and equal rights with their male counterparts. In their fight for equality they have been forced to do away with their emotions in the name of professionalism and their claim to positions that were traditionally held by the unemotional men. However, women are wonderfully different in the way they perceive and react to the world and now science has come to prove that their emotional nature can prove to be an asset and not a downside.

Emotions if handled correctly can be transformed into emotional intelligence which consists in the ability to monitor emotions and use this as a guide to one’s thinking and actions. It seems that the presence of emotions at the workplace is no longer seen as a negative trait as it helps in promoting collegiality, compassion and most importantly creative thinking. Passion is one of the key ingredients to any creative process and when we talk about passion a whole range of positive and negative emotions can be included. Women have an innate ability to detect emotions such as unhappiness therefore they can act very quickly to remedy a communication break-down among parties. They are also more compassionate, nurturing and people-oriented therefore they can be great at building networks and dealing with people.

Turning emotional outbursts into emotional intelligence can prove quite a challenge and for this transition to happen few steps are necessary:

a) Perceiving emotions-identifying emotions and the situations that trigger them
b) Understanding emotions-being aware of when and why emotions appear
c) Managing emotions-knowing how to control emotions to prevent outbursts
d) Using emotions-translating emotions into positive actions

Thus the notion that emotions are a proof of weakness and should be disregarded no longer stands as in reality every decision we make in our lives is affected by feelings. Women and their different, emotional approach need to see themselves as being in an advantageous position. In order for women to be recognized as high-achievers and world-changers they need to understand their emotions which, instead of being shunned, can be put to good use. Women should cease to aspire to take the place of men but rather claim their own place as successful members of the human race, irrespective of the personal or professional role they fulfill.  The acclaimed eighteenth century writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley said: “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

Alina Rebecca Chirciu
English Language Lecturer
Majan University College