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When analyzing the social context of language teaching and learning, the first thing to consider is what Holliday (2001) refers to as the "macro social context". This outer wall that surrounds the student/teacher relationship is made of the partnerships between community and school, school and home, and the overall societal attitudes of the people who interact with the student on a daily basis. It also includes the support systems and resources that are available as the social back-up of the community.
Understanding the macro context helps to comprehend the unique culture of the school community where the teaching and learning takes place. From an ethnographic perspective, teachers may want to consider getting to know key persons in each of the layers of the macro-social context in order not just to "fit in" better in the school culture, but also for the teacher to create his or her own network of social support systems that may very well help the teacher serve the students better.
For example, let's say a teacher wants to do a specific after school activity for language learning purposes. Let us also suppose that the teacher has no clue that half of the population of the community does not have vehicles, is mostly made of high school drop-outs, and that the overall trust of the community in the school system is zero. The result will be that, although the teacher has the best intentions, the program will be a failure. If the teacher had taken the time to learn about the macro social context within which she will have to work, she would have taken a completely different plan of action that would have benefited the students, within their circumstances.
Therefore, considering the social context of teaching is the first step to make the lessons relevant and productive for the students.
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