What is HLT

What is HLT?

HLT is not a method, though since the late 1970s, it has been strongly associated with a number of unconventional methods – The Silent Way, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response – that had little in common, except perhaps that they were the purposeful creations of charismatic educators from disciplines outside ELT and employed distinctive, non-mainstream, techniques  and resources. Looking at what happens in classrooms and drawing conclusions based on observation might be a way to arrive at a definition, or at least a description, of HLT. This was the guiding principle behind Diane Larsen-Freeman’s Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (1986; 3rd ed. with Marti Anderson 2011), in which she surveyed methods from Grammar-Translation to Task-Based Learning by observing and describing individual classroom ‘moves’ and the principles informing them.

Nor is HLT an approach, and although it might be interesting to observe classes taught by self-identifying humanistic teachers to see what commonalities emerge, it is probably more accurate to talk about a plurality of humanistic approaches. In Humanism in Language Teaching (1990) Earl Stevick based his response to academic critiques of humanistic approaches on five recurrent concepts that cluster around definitions of humanism:

  1. Feelings, both emotional and aesthetic
  2. Social relations, and the encouragement of friendship and cooperation
  3. Responsibility
  4. Intellect, including the free exercise of critical reason
  5. Self-actualisation, which entails the pursuit of individuality rather than conformity

These concepts, or values, seem to a greater or lesser extent to be characteristic of a humanistic tendency in language teaching, which ELT practitioners will recognise, not only as ways of doing ELT, but more significantly, as ways of being in a language classroom and ways of being a language teacher.

HLT is not even a describable and definable body of practices (although it draws upon all kinds of existing methods) – it is rather an assemblage of beliefs, attitudes, educational philosophies and dispositions.

Historical context

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