Sunday, 5 February, 2023

Teaching English Effectively under New National Curriculum

Rezaul Islam

Before and immediately after the formulation of the National Curriculum -2022, a whispering sound regarding how to teach English in the classroom under the new curriculum has widely spread among the secondary level English teachers of Bangladesh.They are extremely perplexed and confused with this new idea of teaching-learning approach in the context of our country. Our English teachers have a variety of linguistic shortcomings and limitations as it is not their native language. So, their anxieties, worries and concerns about the new pedagogical approach are not unusual and illogical.

A very close observation is needed to understand the ins and outs of the pedagogical approach of this curriculum that is going to be implemented from 2023 with grade six and seven only. And year after year, this curriculum will reach to the learners of upper grades.The pedagogical approach that has been introduced in this curriculum is widely known as Experiential Learning which is a brainchild of the famous American educational theorist David Allen Kolb who published his Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) in 1984, inspired by the work of gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin.

David Allen Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory is a flexible and easy going teaching- learning approach that allows teachers to be innovative as well as creative in the field of teaching.The approach works on two levels: a four-stage learning cycle and four distinct learning styles.The learning cycle has four stages: Concrete Learning, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation. Effective learning can be seen when the learner progresses through the cycle. The learner can enter the cycle at any stage.

The first stage is Concrete Learning where the learner faces a new experience or reinterprets an existing experience. Here, a teacher needs to bring out students' experiences that show their previous knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. This stage is followed by reflective observation where the learner reflects on the experience on a personal basis. At this point, a teacher will encourage and help the students to apply their critical thinking or analytical abilities and publish the experiences they shared among themselves initially.

After this, comes Abstract Conceptualization where the learner generates new ideas and thoughts or modifies existing abstract ideas based on the reflections arising from the reflective observation stage. During this stage, a teacher's only task is to help the students relate their known knowledge, skills, values and attitudes with the theory that is needed to achieve competencies. Lastly, in the Active Experimentation stage, the learner uses the new ideas in real life situations to observe if anything changes. They will continue practising it in real life what they have learnt in this process to achieve a particular competency.This second experience becomes the concrete experience for the beginning of the next cycle. In this way, the learning cycle revolves.

To clarify the cycle further, a concrete example can be given here. Let us suppose, a child of a particular society knows that  he/she needs to say 'Assalamualaikum' at the very first when he/she meets someone. This is his/her Concrete Experience about greeting someone. But, when he/she is given a task to think about this experience from a broader context using his/her thinking capabilities and analytical abilities according to the Experiential Learning Cycle, he/she reflects on this real experience of life and asks questions about this personal experience from different angles. This is his/her Reflective Observation about the experience. After a series of observations and queries, he/she may be able to find out the knowledge that only the Muslims use 'Assalamualaikum' as greetings among themselves. On the other hand, the Hindus use 'Namaskar' as greetings among themselves. But, people in general use 'Adab' as greetings to people from other religions. This knowledge from Reflective Observation is called Abstract Conceptualisation. And, at last, when he/she applies this knowledge in real life situations, it is called Active Experimentation.

The educational impacts of the Experiential Learning Theory are many. It helps teachers develop more appropriate learning opportunities for target learners. It also helps teachers design activities that will give opportunities to learners to learn in ways that suit the learners' learning styles and focuses on activities that enable learners to go through each of the four stages of the experiential learning cycle. In a word, this Experiential learning cycle is needed to achieve different competencies by the learners.

Under the new curriculum, following the Experiential Learning Cycle, a student, initially, acquires four primary competencies namely; knowledge, skills, values and attitudes with the help of which he will acquire some higher competencies. For grade six, the number of higher competencies are four. They are: ability to communicate with relevance to a given context; 2. an ability to use appropriate vocabulary/expressions (in the form of synonyms, antonyms, phrases etc.) and structures in accordance with the context; 3. an ability to appreciate a democratic atmosphere in communication and participate accordingly; 4. an ability to comprehend and connect to a literary text using contextual clues.

Likewise, with the help of the four primary competencies, a student of grade seven will acquire four higher competencies such as 1. ability to repair communication breakdown relating to the contexts; 2. ability to recognise and transform different sentence structures; 3. ability to practice democratic norms in accordance with relevant social practices and, 4. ability to connect emotionally with a literary text and express personal feelings on it. These competencies are very much essential and inseparable for the lives of our youths who can effectively use them as necessary tools to cope with this dynamic and competitive world of ours.

Under this new curriculum, like other areas of pedagogical approach, a visible reformation has been brought about in the field of assessment process. The framework of this English curriculum especially focuses on the Assessment of Learning and Assessment as Learning. Assessment of  Learning is usually summative and is mostly done at the end of a task, unit of work etc. It is designed to provide evidence of achievement to parents, other educators, the students themselves and sometimes to outside groups (e.g., employers, other educational institutions). Assessment of Learning is the assessment that becomes public and results in statements or symbols about how well students are learning. It often has a direct bearing on students’ futures. It is important, then, that the underlying logic and measurement of Assessment of Learning be credible and defensible.

Unlike the Assessment of Learning process, Assessment as Learning (also known as formative assessment) will ensure students' active engagement and participation in assessing their own learning. Through this process, students are able to learn about themselves as learners become aware of how they learn. Students reflect on their work on a regular basis usually through self and peer assessment and decide (often with the help of the teacher particularly in the early stages) what their next learning will be. Assessment as Learning helps students to take more responsibility for their own learning and observing future directions fruitfully. It is important to note that this new curriculum mostly focuses on Assessment as Learning or formative assessment that covers 60%  assessment scope.

There is no denying the fact that the National Curriculum-2022 will become a hard nut to crack for the teachers to teach English in the classroom for the time being as it will be a completely new experience for them from the context of Bangladesh. But, if they do some hard work going through the teachers' manual properly and learn the basic pedagogical approach and the contents of the textbooks designed for the new curriculum intensively, they can successfully overcome the initial hurdle that this new system may create. So, let this attempt of ours be a success in the long run.


The writer teaches English at Paikgacha Govt. Girls' High School, Khulna