An Analysis and Example of Consciousness
Raising in the EFL Classroom
by James Broadbridge
Arguments for Consciousness Raising
There are many ways CR has been justified by those who believe it is of benefit. One particular area of benefit is in the teaching of adults, Ellis believes that: “some learners (particularly adults) are likely to construct some kind of explicit representation of a rule.” (Ellis 1991:235). This way of using their intellect to learn the language vastly differs from the way our L1 is learned. CR provides students with clear information; making it easier for them to help form generalizations. Also, if this analytical style of student is aware that they want to use their intellect to learn the language; by giving them CR activities teachers are fulfilling their students needs as the students see them.
Also, when learning an L2 there is usually a great difference in the amount of exposure to that language when compared with the exposure received when learning the L1. Although in some situations the learner is exposed outside the classroom: due to living in the same country as the language they are studying; it is often the case that their only exposure to the L2 is in the classroom. Due to this limited exposure the learner is prevented from having enough access to the language to make the necessary generalizations needed to form hypotheses when being taught. CR therefore, has the following role: “The role of CR here is thus seen as one which data that are crucial for the learner’s testing of hypotheses, and for his forming generalizations, are made available to him in somewhat controlled and principled fashion.” (Rutherford 1989:18) Through gaining knowledge of the language CR allows the “accretion of new data to old and the abandonment of old hypotheses for new ones.” (ibid).
Furthermore, CR is of use because it fulfils the roles that students expect from the teacher: that of an imparter of knowledge. A particularly salient point in countries, in which Hofstede described as having “strong uncertainty avoidance societies” (Hofstede 1986: 314), one such country is Japan, where teachers are seen as experts, who are expected to have all the answers (ibid). Societies such as these would expect to have some kind of formal teacher lead classwork, and CR provides this, whilst also making teachers accountable. This accountability will be looked at in more detail later in the article when Consciousness Raising in the Japanese classroom is discussed.
Another srgument for the use of CR is when we consider that part of the process of acquisition is overgeneralisation, where students transfer the knowledge they have gained to another form of grammar in the hope that it can be used in this area also. Linguists such as White have claimed that within CLT there is little ‘negative evidence’ with which to regulate students utterances, and without this they are unable to notice, learn and correct the areas where they are overgeneneralising: CR can play a major part in providing ‘negative evidence’:
“These are the situations which require negative evidence, that is, drawing the learner`s attention to the fact that certain forms are non-occurring, or ungrammatical, in the target language. Such evidence would seem to be required when learners make certain kinds of overgeneralizations, i.e. arrive at grammars which are overinclusive.” (White 1988:3)
An example of the use of negative evidence can be found in Appendix 2, where grammatically incorrect sentences are provided to aid knowledge of the grammar. By giving students a CR activity such as Appendix 2, based on one illustrated in Ellis (1991), it allows students to learn from their mistakes, without the negative psychological effects of the demotivating “red-pen” (Yip 1994:125) correction method.
A further argument for the use of CR is evident when you consider the use of an authentic text to highlight use of the present perfect in Appendix 1. The arguments for the use of authentic texts is very strong because they are seen to help:
“… overcome the typical problem that students can’t transfer what they learn in the classroom to the outside world and to expose students to natural language in a variety of situations, adherents of the C.A. [Communicative Approach] advocate the use of authentic language materials.”(Larsen-Freeman 1986:135)
As outlined in this section, the benefits for the use of CR are clearly numerable;,however there are many arguments against its use in the classroom, and these will be discussed in the following section.
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