The idea of post-method era in language teaching seems to be becoming a prevalent one. A few researchers have written on this, notably B. Kumaravadivelu, but I have a bit of an issue with the idea in general because the honest truth as I see it is that we need methods more than we need teachers. It is relatively easy to do away with teachers but not so with with methods, and teachers have been using them since time immemorial as an expedient way of inculcating. So the belief that we are living in a post-method period I think is a tad presumptuous.
A method is just a series of steps used to perform a process that
leads to (‘eventually’ in the case of language learning) something
resembling a finished product. Actually, any activity or exercise
contains a method, and who in their right mind would really do away
with these? Even your way of presenting contains a method. Eliciting
self-corrections is a method because the action can be broken down and
analysed technically. We use methods to do all sorts of things, and
professional people of all fields implicitly use such systems all the
time. It simply means working consistently with a purpose and a plan.
The term ‘post-method era’ seems to have a connotation of whiggish history about it; that we have evolved through the methods and we are now at the pinnacle of the profession — the end of history as it were. Obviously that kind of thinking is a bit of a nonsense when given proper scrutiny. But the problem is that this hubristic view gets repeated as conventional wisdom and a turgid sameness that makes it sound to me rather glib.
I think the term ‘post-method’ is basically an inaccurate and fluffy framing of the situation and we have to be careful of using it cheaply. We are really in an eclectic and flexible stage of language teaching. We are in a regressive and perhaps less disciplined and less rigid period. The methods of former decades have been diluted and teachers’ strategies have become more idiosyncratic and maybe more rounded in order to balance various inputs and ideas. But the methods haven’t really gone away. There is just more to choose from now and less social distance between people in the classroom.
The very idea of a blanket term like post-method feels anti-empirical, which in the long run is never going to be a good thing. And if a rejection of all methodological approaches is propagated, it could lead to an unintentional yet pervasive negligence of the responsibility we have to learners. Let’s not pretend people don’t learn with methods. We have used them for centuries and the blame for poor proficiency lies elsewhere in more affective factors.
Language learning is of course a non-linear pursuit but because
teachers’ time with learners is so limited, we have to adopt formulas
that bring some sort of efficiency to the process. As conformist as
that may be to some, it’s that way for a reason and the real
responsibility for making them work lies with school management and
teacher trainers, who can sometimes be woefully lacking in the ability
to communicate clearly in this regard.
In the classroom, students don’t just want an interesting teacher they can have a laugh with, they also want someone who enacts a meaningful task and makes the learning points memorable and I think to do that well, over the length of a whole course, you do need to employ methods of some description.
Just by saying that we are in a ‘post-method era’ does not make it
really true. Just as saying what you do is ‘dogme’ does not necessarily
make it dogme. There are a lot of soundbites that fly around and carry
little weight, but methods are different. They are transferable. They
give order and direction. They make things productive and there’s no
great mystery to them: they are supposed to make things easier for
people. They are useful. More useful than not at any rate. And a good
one that works is actually beneficial and thus really important.