It is uncommon nowadays to start a discussion about ESL language teaching without taking the learners into consideration. A recent focus among researchers in this field has been on the identifying and characterizing the learners’ individualities that influence their performance in language learning or acquisition, as well as on considering their affective and emotional experiences in a more humanistic way. More and more educationalists and researchers have addressed themselves to such humanistic ideas and techniques in this field (see, e.g. Moskowitz, 1978; Nemiroff, 1997), that is, to attach importance to the esthetic enjoyment or pleasure of the ESL learners in their language learning.
Among them, Stemick (1990) stands out when he explored in his teaching practice showing how humanistic methods are realized in the classroom and how it works. Although more and more people begin shifting the teaching focus from on teachers to students, and more specifically, to the learners’ psychological or affective needs beyond their knowledge needs.
However, from the perspective of testing, few of them take efforts to give sufficient attention to the application of humanistic methods in language testing, although research in this area could also contribute directly to the language acquisition. This paper starts with a literature review of humanism in language teaching, with a purpose to find the theoretical basis of applying the humanism in language test design and administration. Then some practical suggestions are given to create a user-friendly environment and to make the testing process more humanistic and more enjoyable.
These suggestions are garnered from a variety of sources, including experimental and field research, examinee feedback, expert opinion, and current practice. 1. Definition of humanism and humanism in language teaching Out of the notion that learners are at the center of the learning as well as the teaching process, and that learner growing is a self-concept-shaping and self-discovering process, humanism in teaching is attracting more and more esteem since the later part of last century with the rising of the cognitive sciences.
According to Kohonen (1992), experiential or humanistic teaching has diverse origins, being derived from diverse philosophical and academic positions, however, what is to draw these positions together is the construct of humanism, and it is to this construct that the writer would now like to turn. Humanistic psychology attempts to make sense of esthetic and emotional experience at the point where sociology and psychology intersect.
It captures the fact that as humans we are simultaneously looking inwards and operating outwards, and that any attempts to understand what motivates behavior must necessarily capture the individual in relation to the group. This dualistic perspective on experience is captured in the following quote: “… the individual’s self-concept is a social product that is shaped gradually through interaction with the environment. It is an organized, integrated pattern of self-related perceptions, which become increasingly differentiated and complex.
The development of a healthy self-concept is promoted by a positive self-regard and an unconditional acceptance by the significant others”. (Kohonen 1992, cited in Stemick, 1990). In the opening chapter of her book Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Classroom, titled ‘All about humanistic education’, Gertrude Moskowitz (1978) has devoted more explicit attention to the meaning of the term ‘humanistic’ as applied to language teaching. She comments that ‘youngsters . . .
(in particular) are searching for their identity and are in need of self-acceptance’ and that they ‘complain of feelings of isolation and detachment’. She says that (what is called) “humanistic” education is related to a concern for personal development, self-acceptance, and acceptance by others, ‘Humanistic education . . . takes into consideration that learning is affected by how students feel about themselves’. It ‘is concerned with educating the whole person – the intellectual and the emotional dimensions’.
Medgyes (1986) cites Moskowitz, and says: “In both the Humanistic-Psychological Approach and the Communicative Approach, learners are seen not so much as full-time linguistic objects at whom language teaching is aimed, but rather as human individuals whose personal dignity and integrity, and the complexity of whose ideas, thoughts, needs, and sentiments, should be respected. ” Richards and Rodgers (1986), again citing Moskowitz, say that ‘In sum, humanistic techniques engage the whole person, including the emotions and feelings as well as linguistic knowledge and behavioral skills’.