An Epistemological Approach to Interpret an Article from the Field of Tesol (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

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Philosophy of Science and Social Science Research Practice

An epistemological approach to interpret an article from the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Sajjadllah Alhawsawi

19/01/2009

Introduction
In this paper, after reading outside sources, I selected three concepts: humanism, social-constructivism, and scepticism. These will be discussed in the following pages. Subsequently, an article from the field of TESOL was selected. The article, written by Sert (2006) was taken from the Asian EFL Journal and was entitled “EFL Student Teachers’ Learning Autonomy”. It is summarized in order to provide a general background. The literature review part of the article was then interpreted from the perspectives of humanism, social-constructivism and scepticism, taking into consideration an array of underlying sub-species of these concepts and their correlations.

Epistemological Concepts: Humanism, social-constructivism and scepticism • The Concept of Humanism
Humanism is a social concept which states that knowledge is created and shared among humans and it is used to solve human complexities and differences. By and large, humanism is a wide-ranging secular phenomenon which has developed over centuries and has been adopted for several purposes. There are a variety of viewpoints within this concept. According to Gogineni (2000) the dominant view is called ‘modern or naturalistic humanism’ and draws its ‘roots from Aristotle and Socrates’. It is defined as "a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion" (Lamont, cited in Edwords, 1989: para. 6). Therefore, humanism can be described as an ‘anthropocentric’ or ‘human-centered’. It puts great emphasis on the study of both human needs and interests. It believes that human beings act out of ‘intentionality’ and ‘values’ (Kurtz, 2000; Huitt, 2001). From Locke’s perspective all objects of understanding are operated from human experience, and this experience consists of sensation and reflections. What is more, the way in which humans construct knowledge is by understanding what they perceive from external sensible factors. This experience allows them to expand their knowledge to go beyond reason. It is not only reason which creates knowledge: human experience constructs and reconstructs it.

Maritain (1996) believes that a human being is at once material and spiritual and is capable of acting on his or her own will. From this viewpoint the ultimate purpose of human beings is to obey God’s law voluntarily. This perspective runs counter to the claim of the naturalistic humanists who believe that an individual must be autonomous with the ability to self-actualize. From the above, it could be concluded that knowledge can be constructed through reason as well as human experience. Therefore, in this paper I will interpret Sert (2006) from both aspects of humanism.

• The Concept of Social-constructivism
Constructivism is generally understood as a philosophy of constructing knowledge through human experience. This phenomenon is further divided into social-constructivism and radical constructivism. These two main schools of thought have been developed by many theorists such as Dewey (1938) and Gregen (1994). It makes sense to define the philosophy of constructivism and radical constructivism as an introduction to the social-constructivism which is the focus of this section. Firstly, Schwandt (2007: 38) defines the philosophy of constructivism in this way: “that human beings do not find or discover knowledge so much as construct or make it”. Human beings usually create concepts and schemes to make sense of experience. Additionally, they constantly assess and adjust these constructions of knowledge based on the new experiences (Schwandt, 2007).

Secondly,...
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