Investigation into the roots of ELT, with a particular focus on the career and legacy of Harold E. Palmer (1877-1949
Smith, Richard Charles
To date there have been few serious historical investigations into the roots of ELT (defined here as post-World War II, UK-based enterprise in the domain of teaching English as a second/foreign language). The present thesis sheds new light on the sources of ELT methodology, with a particular focus on the career and legacy of the leading pre-war pioneer in the field, Harold E. Palmer (1877-1949). The first chapter begins by delimiting the field under investigation before moving on to discuss why further investigation of the roots of ELT is required. With reference to previous studies, this chapter then justifies the specific focus adopted in Part II of the thesis on the contributions of Harold E. Palmer. Chapter 1 concludes with a summary of the overall aims and scope of the study. Part I (Chapters 2 and 3) investigates the roots of ELT from a broad perspective, presenting overviews (based on consultation of primary and secondary sources) which are necessary for contextualizing and evaluating Palmer's specific contributions. Chapter 2 examines the late nineteenth and early twentieth century language teaching background, considering various methodological sources for Palmer's work and for ELT overall. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the different phases of development contributing to the post-war construction of ELT. The main findings are reported in Part II (Chapters 4 to 9), which consists of a chronological account of Palmer's career, beginning with his formative years in Hythe (1877-1902; Chapter 4), moving on to discussion of his initial experiments with methods in Verviers, Belgium (1902-15; Chapter 5), his founding of a new `science of language-teaching' in London (1915-22; Chapter 6), his initial attempts to put principles into practice in Japan (1922-27; Chapter 7), his years of established authority in Tokyo (1928-36; Chapter 8), and his attempts to apply research findings following his return to the UK (1936-49; Chapter 9). The research reported on here, based on consultation of primary sources and a number of works previously accorded little attention outside Japan, provides various new insights into Palmer's work, particularly that in Verviers and Japan. Palmer's legacy to ELT is then evaluated (in Chapter 10) on the basis particularly of research into A. S. Hornby's pre-war work in Japan and his subsequent influence on post-war ELT orthodoxy. Finally, lessons of this account for contemporary ELT are considered, and both limitations of the study and directions for further research are indicated.