The aim of methodologists is manifested in finding a single, ideal method that can lead to the successful teaching of all types of foreign language learners in a classroom. Each method is based on a particular theory of language and language learning. It contains detailed specifications of objectives, teacher/learner roles, and teaching procedures and techniques. It leaves no room for creativity or individualism. The teachers find themselves enslaved by a certain method and obliged to follow its rules word by word and apply its practices in their classrooms. They are regarded as good and successful teachers only when they go by the rules dictated in the teachers’ book.
One of the misconceptions introduced by Harper and De Job (2004) about English Language Learners (ELLs) states that they all “learn English in the same way at the same rate.” This misconception views the foreign learners of English as the submissive recipients of any given method. They need to accept their passive roles in the method era. Methodologists ignored the fact that learners have different learning styles and approaches to the learning process, and that teaching methods must mainly put into consideration the learners’ needs and interests.
There is a study that was conducted to survey classroom reality from teachers’ perspective and examines how Japanese EFL teachers view CLT and whether they are making use of it. The study’s end-results state that almost all Japanese EFL teachers have their own conception of what CLT is and what they should do ideally. Even their actual classroom practices are different from their understanding of CLT. It is based on such studies and conclusions drawn from practitioners’ views that linguists came to realize that none of the teaching methods can be applied in their purest form in the actual classroom. They are not derived from classroom experiences and research studies but are imposed upon both teachers and learners. They do not reflect the diverse classroom realities.
In a paper presented during the 1989 Annual Convention of TESOL, the authors demonstrated that “Methods like the TPR, Suggestopedia and counseling learning presume many facts that are realities in the West but not quite so in many parts of the world. […] In short, the fact remains that except for possible isolated cases, these methods do not have either consistent universality of appeal or feasibility of application.”
We can safely conclude that teaching methods have failed (a) to offer creativity and individualism to teachers, (b) to respect the multicolored learning styles of learners, and (c) to produce a context-relevant “Language Program Design”.
Post-method Era (PM Era)
The identification of the complexity of the current worldwide foreign English teaching situation and the diversity of the learning styles among foreign English learners has led some practitioners to the conclusion that we have moved to the post-method era, suggesting the abandonment of the “prolonged preoccupation [with methods] that has been increasingly unproductive and misguided.” (Stern 1985)
Principled Pragmatism. Unlike eclecticism, which is a characteristic feature of what Stern (1895) called the “century-old obsession”, the “post-method era” is based on principled pragmatism, where the “relationship between theory and practice, ideas and their actualization, can only be realized within the domain of application” (Widdowson 1990). Since the post-method pedagogy is considered to be derived on the local level from CLT, some post-methodologists suggest that rather than finding an alternative to methods, the post-method pedagogy may be understood as synthesis of various methods under the umbrella of CLT.
PM Era and Teachers. The post-method condition enables practitioners to create location-specific, classroom-oriented, innovative practices. It enables teachers to use approaches and methods creatively, based on their own judgment, and interchangeably according to their learners’ needs. In order for the post-method pedagogy to be productive for both teachers and learners, teachers need to gain experiences and knowledge to develop individual practices and techniques that will reflect their individual beliefs, values, principles, and experiences. These practices and techniques will be used interchangeably by the teachers, depending on the type of class or learners they are teaching. Teachers also need to “theorize from practice and practice what they theorize.” This is what we call “teacher autonomy”. Brown (2002) suggests a “principled approach” towards teaching where EFL teachers (a) diagnose the needs of their students, (b) treat students with successful pedagogical techniques, and (c) assess the outcome of those treatments.
PM Era and Learners. Kumaravadivelu (2001) says that “the post-method learner is an autonomous learner,” someone who is independent, self-directed, self-motivated, critically reflective, and collaborative. Thanks to the post-method era, learners have been given the chance to focus on their learning processes, first by defining their learning styles, and then by developing appropriate strategies for the accurate production and comprehension of the foreign language. Nunan (1999), however, classifies learners into concrete learners, analytical learners, and authority-oriented learners. Concrete learners are those who prefer learning by games, pictures, films and video, talking in pairs, learning through the use of cassette and going on excursions. Analytical learners are the opposite of communicative learners. They like studying grammar, studying independently, finding their own mistakes, always having homework, and learning through reading newspapers. Authority-oriented learners are those who like their teachers explaining everything for them, writing everything in a notebook, and sticking to their own textbook.
PM Era and Teaching Materials. Although linguists, methodologists, and practitioners have admitted that we have moved beyond the search for “an alternative method” to the “search for an alternative to methods,” the problem of teaching materials is hard to settle. In some countries, teachers are still confined by the Teacher Book components and are never considered good teachers by the inspectors unless they go by the book. They also need to teach using the implied textbooks, especially in countries where the two concepts of method and textbook are regarded as one. Here we give the example of the Spanish-speaking world where method and textbook share a single name, “métado”. They can, however, use extra learning materials that suit their learners’ needs, whether use pictures and films (concrete learners), give homework that is not taken from the textbook (analytical learners), or just stick to the textbook and give hand-outs (authority-oriented learners). They can also “adopt, adapt, [and] develop” any method and create different teaching materials according to their learners’ socioeconomic and linguistic characteristics, cultural backgrounds, and needs. In this context, Kumaravadivelu (2006) calls for a “pedagogy of particularity,” by which he means being “sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institutional context embedded in a particular social milieu.”