"Japanese learners, who otherwise seem to be stuck with a choice between schools offering either grammar-cramming or largely aimless (and endless) conversation lessons." Hmmmmm, could aimless be a code word for callan? (comments 'long distance interview")
Hi, GeorgeGood to hear from you again: you sound like you've been pretty active in the meantime. Just to qickly address a couple of points you make.
Firstly, 'aimless' was in no way a reference to the Callan Method; in fact 'aimless' is one thing it is definitely not, although how well-aimed it is is open to serious doubt.
I think if you talk to students on EFL courses in general, one of the most common complaints would be a sense of aimlessness. I think this is largely a result of the wishy-washy thinking that seems to pervade the influential circles in global EFL, especially among teacher-trainers, and as a result becomes standard in classrooms where Communicative teaching is the orthodox approach. This is an overgeneralisation but a lot of 'trained' teachers come out of their four-week TEFL course with a veneer of basic grammar and a set of principles about teaching which are presented by their trainers as 'truths'. As far as I have been able to see, some major practical issues are simply not addressed: they are trained to teach in a little bubble. Teaching mono-lingual classes is seldom given more than a brief nod, although it's where many teachers will end up. From what I can gather, the difference between teaching working students on part-time courses, rather than students on full-time courses is not an issue that is addressed but again, many teachers will be encountering this reality and are not prepared for the different demands or expectations.
To cut things short (as you can see, this is an issue I think counts), many teachers' focus is on the 'single lesson' as a self-contained entity, whose success comes down largely to how much communication was prompted. How beneficial (or interesting) those communication acts were and how they fitted into a broader strategy of 'learning' are points that are often not in the foreground of the teacher's mind but they may be very much what the learners feel are important. This separate-episode approach that can, if things work out, make for an 'entertaining' lesson today, is what I mean by 'aimless' teaching.
While in Japan I heard about a popular type of course (and very profitable for the organisations that run them). The student phones the 'school' and arranges a rendez-vous with a 'teacher' (often untrained and unqualified) at, usually, a cafè for a 45-minute 'lesson'. The 'schools' arrange it so that the student gets a different teacher each time. This assures that the student gets to talk to different people (good) but also allows the teacher to not have to teach anything, as with a bit of practice they become quite skilled at stretching the introductions out to cover most of the lesson-time. This is important because your student might ask you about some tricky point of grammar and that could be a place you don't want to end up going.
Teaching is often aimless because teachers like to think that learning is such an unpredicably personal and creative experience that imposing aims and frameworks and so on is for narrow-minded, bean-counting philistines. I have a feeling this is a topic we may touch on again.