Summaries of some interesting twitter chats about English language teaching
Something to watch—an online teacher education site which seems to have roped in some interesting people as instructors / course writers / etc.
Recently two of the best-know names in our business, Adrian Underhill and Jim Scrivener, have started a new blog where they challenge what they see as the contemporary tendency for teachers to settle for good-enough. I haven’t watched enough classes lately to agree or disagree with Underhill and Scrivener’s observation that these days many teachers do
little more than a series of announcements to start up and close down exercises and activities. There is typically a lack of “up-close” teaching skills, no “hands-on” work with language and little or no engagement with the process or experience of learning. Much of traditional “teaching” is devolved to the coursebook. And coursebooks are now so good that they can take that strain.
…but I do welcome any blog that challenges us, as teachers, to do the best job we can.
I wonder if this good-enough teaching, if it is really a thing, relates to a shift in teacher identity from teacher as professional, where teachers are expected to be skilled and knowledgeable enough to teach in whatever way is required by the needs of their students, to teacher as technician, who is required to teach only what is set down by a strict curriculum or to the needs of a standardized test.
Chia Suan Chong’s blog includes a fine video explanation and detailed examples of how to do her version of materials-light teaching, walking into the classroom “with nothing but a pen” as she describes it, based on Scott Thornbury’s concept of Dogme EFL. Even if, like me, you feel that going completely materials free all the time is kind of drastic, Chia’s ideas are very useful for those times when you’re forced to do without your usual planning and resources—when you have to do a last minute substitution for a sick colleague for example.
I suspect that her methods are easier for an experienced and confident teacher than for one new to the profession, but I can’t help but be impressed by how well she incorporates truly learner-centred conversation with a great deal of lexis and grammar work. She seems to not to do very much writing with her students though, which seems a shame as the reduce preparation times her approach allows would let the teacher spend more time giving useful feedback on students writing.