From Receptive to Productive in


This article describes a curricular innovation in a post-intermediate EFL university course. The aim of the project was to build on the reading proficiency of the learners to improve their much less fully developed oral and written communication skills. An experimental course was developed around a connected series of group and individual projects on the topic of American Indians. The main psychopedagogical guidelines for the course were provided by the maturation process as described by the Russian psychologists Vigotsky (1962) and Leontiev (1981) and by the notion that shared knowledge is a prerequisite to purposeful and meaningful interaction (Castelfranchi and Parisi 1980, Hartmann 1980). University students from different study areas used reading materials to develop proficiency in speaking and writing. In the final project, a videotaped simulation of a court hearing involving an Indian land claim, each of the 18 students delivered a speech and participated in a debate. For this and the preceding projects in the course, the issues of teacher roles, learner roles, materials, skill transfer, and empathy-building activities are discussed. There was considerable evidence for the validity of the three assumptions on which this pedagogical experiment was based: 1) It is feasible to reverse the canonical sequence of skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in language learning; 2) needs analysis is an ongoing process of learner observation which takes into account both cognitive and affective responses; and 3) language teaching can be usefully conceived as action-based research aiming at learner-specific procedures.