Ever since the advent of communicative language teaching in the early 1980s the role of grammar teaching in instructed second language acquisition has been debated. It has been of interest to both researchers and practicing language teachers. The role of grammar teaching as such, and the point of knowing grammar rules (what we might call explicit language knowledge or declarative knowledge) has been the object of many controversies. After all, our language course syllabi are all about communicative competence or what we might call implicit language knowledge or procedural knowledge
This is the first module of the CIRCLE course. Like all the modules, it is made up of some reading, a video or audio file, some discussion questions and a forum. In addition, you can sign up to attend an online Zoom seminar on the topic.
Points of departure
Our view of language education is informed by Paul Nation’s Four Strands mode. Listen to Tore’s account of the model here.
Take a look at the tips on reading research at the bottom of our landing page.
Read these two articles. Paul Nation is one of the most influential figures in language education, and the ideas he expresses in this article are central to our thinking on language education. We will be returning to the ideas in this article in many of the upcoming modules. The very recent article by Schurz & Coumel is a comparison of what English teachers in lower and upper secondary schools in Sweden, Austria, and France say about their grammar teaching.
- Nation, P. (2007). The four strands, International Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 2-13, https://doi.org/10.2167/illt039.0
- Schurz, A., & Coumel, M. (2020). Grammar teaching in ELT: A cross-national comparison of teacher-reported practices. Language Teaching Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168820964137
You may enjoy listening to Paul Nation talk about applying the four strands in a talk to the US Department of State Foreign Service Institute.
Nation, P. (2017). Applying the four strands: Paul Nation speaks to FSI on language learning. US Department of State Foreign Service Institute (1 hr 11 minutes)
As a bonus, Ellman’s keynote lecture for Cambridge University Press English Language Teaching problematises grammar teaching during a pandemic.
1. While you are reading Nation’s article and perhaps viewing his video, consider your own language teaching in the light of the four strands. How is the article relevant to or interesting for your own teaching?
2. While you are reading the article by Schurz & Coumel, consider the context of the research, such as when and where any data was collected and who the learners were. Identify what the article sets out to achieve, and to what extent it succeeds. How is the article relevant to or interesting for your own teaching?
Share your answers to these questions in the discussion forum at the bottom of this page.
We had the pleasure of a conversation with Alexandra Schurz (University of Vienna) and Marion Coumel (University of Warwick) about their research into the teaching of grammar in three countries.
There was a free Zoom seminar to discuss the topic of Grammar teaching – when? why? how? at 16:00 – 17:00 (Swedish time) on Monday 22 March 2021. You are welcome to continue the discussion at the end of this page.
Share your answers to the reading questions in the forum at the bottom of this page. Feel free to respond to others when you have posted your own text. Please try to build on others’ responses. The discussion is moderated, so your text will not appear immediately.
You can fill in your email address and/or your name if you choose, or you can remain anonymous. For more discussion, join our CIRCLE Facebook group.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.