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Role-Playing Dilemma

August 26, 2000|NORINE DRESSER

Marianne's English-as-a-second-language textbook has been published and receives good U.S. reviews, so she is surprised when barely a year after publication her editor requests that she remove the role-playing sections of each chapter and substitute them with more grammar exercises.

What does it mean?

The publisher encountered resistance from Asian buyers overseas. Instructors and students refused to participate in role-playing activities that were at odds with traditional teaching methodologies. In Asia, where the teacher is the complete source of knowledge, students listen, take notes, memorize, recite and follow directions. Students' ideas are neither requested nor valued. Asking them to role play threatens this established hierarchy.

Similarly, an American-educated professor teaching in England reports that her undergraduate British students are "aghast" when asked to take part in public speaking or role-play activities. She believes that it is partly due to English reserve and not wanting to be too talkative unless one has something worthwhile to say.

Stateside, ESL teachers encounter reluctance convincing newly arrived Asian students to join in discussions or ask questions. The students consider it disrespectful to question or challenge the teacher.

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Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (ThreeRivers Press, 1999). E-Mail: norined@earthlink.net.

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