Because of the general nature of approaches, there is often no clear of their assumptions and principles in the classroom. It is difficult for teachers to understand and to use them. Methods lack clear practical application, and require special training, and necessitate major changes in teachers’ practices. The notion of methods received criticism in the 1990s for other reasons, and a number of limitations implicit in the notion of all-purpose methods were raised. Then, by the end of twentieth century, mainstream language teaching no longer regarded methods as the key factors to guarantee the success of language learning.
There are at least five criticisms addressed to the use of methods. First, it is top-down criticism on the property of methods. In practice, methods typically prescribe for teachers on how to teach. The teachers have to accept faithfully the claims or the theory underlying the methods and apply them to their own practice. Good teaching is regarded as correct use of the methods and their prescribed principles and techniques to be used in the classroom. So, in this case, the role of the teachers is marginalized because their role is not only to understand the methods but apply their principles correctly. Learners are sometimes as regarded as the passive recipients of the methods and they are supposed to only submit themselves to their regime of exercises and activities.
Methods are absent of a concept of learner-center and teacher creativity without acknowledgement that learners bring different learning styles and preferences to the learning process, that they should be consulted in the process of developing teaching programs, that teaching methods must be flexible and adaptive to learners’ needs and interests. There is often little room for the teachers’ own personal initiative and teaching style. The teachers must submit themselves to the method.
Second, methods are often misunderstood and are often promoted as all-purpose solutions as to be able to overcome teaching problems. Methods are thought to be applicable in any part of the world and applicable under any circumstance. Teachers sometimes ignore what is the starting point in language program design, i.e., a careful consideration of the context in which teaching and learning occurs including the cultural, the political, the local institutional context and the context constituted by the teachers and learners in their classrooms.
Third, it is the need for curriculum development although it takes time to find methods which will be likely to achieve teaching objectives. The teaching method needs to be carefully examined, developed, tried in schools and materials judged and it should also be assessed whether objectives are achieved and finally needs the feedback of all experience gained, to provide a starting point for further study. The elements are viewed as forming a network of interacting systems. The choice of teaching method can not determined separately from other planning and implementation practice.
Fourth, methods lack research basis. Methods are often based on the assumption that the process second language learning are fully understood. Some methods are not written based on research and researchers do not write books on methods or they are written without being empirically tested. In fact, many books are written by method gurus are full of claims and assertions about people learn languages, few of which are based on second language acquisition research or have been empirically tested.
Fifth, it is the similarity of classroom practice. Some methods are different at the beginning but later on in the classroom they are practiced similarly. It is very difficult for teachers to use methods in ways that precisely reflect the underlying principles of the methods. Teachers use different methods implemented in class with different activities to contrast methods particularly those based on classroom activities, do not exist in actual practice. Methods in general, are quite distinctive at the beginning stages of a language course, and rather indistinguishable, e.g. in a Community Language Learning Class, but within a matter of weeks, they can look like any other learner-centered curriculum.
Based on the above discussion, it is believed that teaching methods have played a central role in the development of language teaching. It will continue to be useful for teachers and student teachers to be familiar with major teaching methods proposed for second and foreign language teaching but should be usefully studied, mastered selectively and creatively and should be applicable in order to
(1) learn how different approaches and methods are used and understood when they are useful,
(2) understand some of the issues and controversies that characterize the history of language teaching,
(3) to participate in language learning experiences based different methods as basis for reflection and comparison
(4) to be aware of the rich set of activity resources available to the imaginative teacher,
(5) to appreciate how theory and practice can be linked from a variety of different perspectives. However, teachers need to be able to use approaches and methods flexibly and creatively based on their own judgment and experience.