Revisiting Humanistic Approaches: Squaring the Circle in the ESP Classroom


The positivistic paradigm of research and teacher-centred English language instruction involving traditional didactic techniques such as lecturing must be questioned for two reasons: the increasing power of information technology, and advances in educational methodology such as learner-centred teaching and constructivism. While acknowledging a role to be played by the model of instructor-centric teaching and directed learning, this small-scale exploratory research paper investigates not only the contribution of humanistic principles to the teaching of English for Specific Purposes -  such as active learning and problem-based learning methods requiring group work - but also seeks to 'square the circle' and harmonize positivistic and humanistic approaches. This is attempted by researching the use of support groups the attempt to combine conventional pedagogical principles with the humanistic values and goals of student-centred learning. In effect, such a method not only harmonizes the above educaitonal methodologies by promoting a proactive approach to learning, but also contributes to the aims of education by incorporating more authentic social and moral dimensions of human life. Indeed, research in the author's English language classes at Macao Polytechnic Institute has found that support groups offer English-language teaching potentially rewarding academic and affective experiences for both teachers and students.


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