Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘ELT Publishing’

Corruption, Bribery & Graft in the Busyness of ELT…

In Conferences, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 02/06/2018 at 6:59 pm

Say NO To Corruption (TG ver)

In Turkish there is a little saying that, at first sight, looks quite innocent – ‘…bal tutan parmağını yalar’!

In English, it translates literally as ‘he who holds the honeypot will (always) lick his finger’  but is more commonly explained as ‘anyone in charge of distributing things of value will always take something for himself’.

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Sadly, this saying has become so ingrained in the Turkish psyche that the majority of us think nothing of using the phrase on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, many of us have come to see the message behind the saying – corruption is ‘inevitable’ and (perhaps worse) even OK – as natural! After all, if we were ‘in power’, we’d find jobs for family members (look at how Trump has filled the White House with his spawn, in-laws and cronies), help out our friends in business and (even) build a nicer ‘house’ to entertain guests…wouldn’t we?

Shoe box (TG ver) (1)

We saw a blatant example of this in 2013 when canım Türkiyem glimpsed (for a few weeks) the biggest corruption scandal the country had ever seen…at the highest levels of government. OK…the claims may have been hushed up pretty sharpish (with a couple of sacrificial lambs) and the evidence dismissed on the ‘technical grounds’ that it was obtained via illegal wiretaps but the bottom line was that almost half the population didn’t even blink an eye!

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Sam Varkin has described how corruption, bribery and graft can and do hurt a country:

‘It skews the level playing field; it guarantees extra returns where none should have been had; it encourages the misallocation of economic resources, and it subverts the proper functioning of institutions. It is, in other words, without a single redeeming feature, a scourge’.

However, he also notes that this is not how it is perceived by its perpetrators: both the ‘givers’ and the ‘recipients’ (it takes two to tango…and corruption can never work when one party says ‘NO’).

‘They believe that corruption helps facilitate the flow and exchange of goods and services in hopelessly clogged and dysfunctional systems and markets (corruption and the informal economy “get things done” and “keep people employed”); that it serves as an organising principle where chaos reigns and institutions are in their early formative stages; that it supplements income and thus helps the state employ qualified and skilled personnel; and that it preserves peace and harmony by financing networks of cronyism, nepotism, and patronage’.

Rubbish!

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Corruption is all about theft and abuse of power..carried out by unethical and immoral individuals. And, THEY know what they are doing is wrong!

This is why I get so upset when I hear about it happening in education – a business sector (yes, it is a business…no escaping that fact these days) that acts as the backdrop and early environment for every single young person in a country. Education needs role models beyond reproach…some might say ‘angel-like’ mentors that can guide young minds and ensure they learn about and stay on the straight and narrow!

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The good news?

Rotten Apple

In education, across canım Türkiyem, the givers and recipients are a SMALL group of ‘rotten apples’ that tarnish the good reputation of their schools and universities as well as their own organisations (if they are suppliers to those schools).

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What can be done?

Well, there are a number of steps that can be taken immediately:

1. All suppliers to schools and universities can affirm (or reaffirm) their commitment to programmes of anti-corruption by publishing their own policies on bribery and graft.

2. Schools and universities themselves can build similar policies into their codes of professional practice and job descriptions. They can also ensure that there are strong checks and balances in place to ensure fewer irregularities when making purchases from suppliers.

3. Suppliers need to especially vigilant when offering additional professional development support to schools and universities as ‘package solutions’ and make sure that these ‘grey areas’ are not interpreted as ‘bribe-driven gifts’. This is true of conference visits that involve foreign travel, flights and hotel staysthe best way is to simply avoid them altogether!

4. School and university decision-makers make sure that they are last in line…when sharing the ‘honey’ attached to purchasing arrangements and that teachers are first in line when making decisions about those purchases (e.g. textbook and materials selection).

5. Schools and their suppliers should have zero tolerance for staff / affiliates / distributors that break any and all of these anti-corruption programmes by (a) ‘naming and shaming’ the individuals involved in the communities in which they operate, (b) reporting all infringements to the authorities, and (c) ensuring these individuals are not re-employed within the sector.

Stop Corruption (row of apples) TG ver (1)

I’m guessing that all of us, with the exception of those few ‘rotten apples’, will applaud and support steps like this – without reservation.

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I just wonder how many will…

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BIG Questions for ELL…in 2013!

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 02/01/2013 at 6:42 am

The BIG Question:

Checken or Egg (photo TG ver)

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…could be applied to matters of LEARNing and TEACHing.

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Actually – as I was drafting (the original version of) this post, I (quite accidentally) discovered that Scott Thornbury is using a very similar title for his new e-book (to be published very shortly by The Round).

Scott’s idea is a pretty cool one – “re-engineering” a number of the core posts from his great “A-Z of ELT” and helping those lovely guys at The Round realise their goal of creating more bridges between the blogosphere and the world of conventional publishing.

This is why I felt I (just) had to re-blog a new, re-imagineered version of this post – to lose the Xmas “feel” I went with originally!

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Scott’s book is already shaping up to be a great addition to our ELT Library –  you can get a “taste” (or a “tease”) by clicking HERE.

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The THING is...

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…YOU guessed it !

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There is a bit of a problem with much of this “library”  of ours – a library that publishers have been helping us build up since the late 1970’s…a library that, I would argue, misses a great deal of the the “wood” for the “trees” (trees all those conventional publishers are busy “chopping down” on our behalf)!

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TEACHers do, of course, need books n’ stuff to help with their LEARNing.  

I’m not suggesting we should go all “Fahrenheit 451” on our favorite volumes and works of EDUliteracy. I’m saying perhaps we need a different “perspective” on how we look at the “business” we are in – and how we “do” that “business” around the globe through the books we read!

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Let me elaborate…with some BIG NUMBERS!

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Lies (people and stats)

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Before we get to the numbers (and people)…let’s start with a question:

How many English Language LEARNers are there – on the planet?

A tough one – I know!

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Well, if David Graddol is even close to being half-right – around a third of the world’s population (yes, I said 33.33% of around 7,018,500,000 human beings) – are trying to LEARN English – right now!

dogs_surprised8

give or take a million or so (and their dogs)!

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If you (as I have just done) also do a quick Google search for the acronym “ELT“, you’ll get around 37,800,000 potential bits of “bedtime reading”. However, when you do a similar search for “English Language LEARNing” – Google can only come up with around 1,910,000 pages for you to ignore.

And, “yes” – I know you can get just over 62 million pages of digital reading, if you use the acronym. But, then again…take a closer look at some of these hits – not all ELL “hits” are equal!

BESIDES…if you try “English Language Teaching”…the world’s favourite search engine will cough up 171 million results for you.

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Yani, almost three times as much “stuff” on TEACHing…than LEARNing!

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Now, this may not be much…when compared with the 252,000,000 results that you can potentially browse when you type the two little words Justin + Bieber” (and do not even ask me what happens when you type “Lady Gaga)!

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but...

…the point is…

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English Language TEACHing is BIG businessa huge “industry”…and we ain’t even touched on “textbooks” just yet!

An industry, for example, that nets the UK almost £1,500,000,000…everysinglebloody year! Not too shabby…not too shabby at all…just don’t get me started on global sales of the Top 50 publishers!

Let’s just say Amazon and Kindle have NOT delivered on their “promise”yet!

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The BIG question I have, when I consider these HUGE numbers…numbers that relate to LEARNers and their LEARNing (or SPENDing)…is this:
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Why do we call it the “ELT Industry” – not the “ELL Industry”?
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I said, a wee bit before, we ain’t touched on textbooks…so I guess we should.
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English Language LEARNers spend king’s ransom after king’s ransom on these lovely “paper-based LEARNing opportunities” – but we hardly ever hear them being described as the cornerstone of the “ELL Industry”.
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Or, did I just miss the memo?
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very rarely hear students talking about “my” textbook. It’s more a case of (the more “distant” phrase“our” book – you know, the one the TEACHer “uses”. The vast majority of TEACHers do appear to have more “ownership” of the textbooks they use in class – than the students that cough up good money for them (or, at least, take the time to photocopy them – as they are found to be too expensive for many cash-strapped students).
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As it’s these same TEACHers that control the “pace” of “textbook page turning” in our classrooms (I don’t think I have EVER heard a student ever say “Let’s turn to page 15”)…
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…I guess the whole ELT thingy really does make sense, after all – yani.

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The BIG problem isas my “birth-father” (the gossip is “working”) has noted:

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

Scott…and many of his mates…”get” this!

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TEACHers like Scott “favour dialogue over transmission” and recognise that the process of NOT trying to fill “empty vessels” on a 24/7 basis is best facilitated by ASKing questions.

This is why he has promised us a “question-driven” approach in his new book – and some of the “teaser questions” he’ll be looking at are:

  • How do you achieve ‘flow’ in your teaching?
  • What makes an activity ‘communicative’?
  • Is there anything wrong with rote learning?
  • Can you teach well without planning?
  • Do rules help?

These are wonderful questions…and I’m sure many TEACHers will be very eager to read Scott’s “answers”

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Fewer, I fear, will take the time to reflect on his “questions for discussion” – many will totally miss the real point behind the book (IMHO).

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WHY (joker Face)

…am I thunking in such a dark & gloomy manner at the start of a bright NEW YEAR?

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Well, it’s quite simple really! I do not have much of a choice…the way things stand at the moment.

The ELT Industry is made up of suppliers (who seek to push their wares into this “market” of almost 234,000,000 LEARNers) …and “providers” (institutional players like our schools, colleges and universities).

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Both of these sets of “stakeholders” have to be “seen” to have all the ANSWERS.

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Get Answers Button

If they were seen to be more about “LEARNing” (than being “LEARNed” and “expert”)…they might not make as much money or “get” as many students!

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Peter Block has been telling us for years that it is this “take” on “what matters” that keeps luring us back to the Dark Side.

This “fascination” we have with allthingsanswers – drives our relentless search for the next “big thing”“quick-fix” or “magic bullet”. The “obsession” we have with an “answer-orientated” way of doing “business”…prevents us from really “seeing” the (LEARNing) wood for the (TEACHing) trees we noted earlier!

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Time for a RANT

That “business” in ELT is still dominated by the interests (or “convenience”) of our INSTITUTIONS – the thingsthe fixes….the bullets we focus on are, more often than not, all about the TEACHing.

Very few of our institutions take the time to ask the questions we need to ask – probably because the questions themselves are just “too” important! Instead, our preference for “quick-fix” TEACHing recipes all too often does little more than advance the culture of “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”) – rather than meaningful attention to student LEARNing and SUCCESS.

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Now, around about 500 words ago, you probably got a very crisp mental image of “me” in your head – just another guy having a rant! Just another guy having a bitch an’ a whine – with no bloody “answers”!

Isn’t that the whole point…the whole problem?

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Block (fingerprint quote)

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Well, to prove I do mean “well”I want to challenge all our “ELT Institutions” with a few “BIG Questions for ELL…for 2013”.

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Your “mission”, should you choose to accept it, is to put one of these questions (every week) on the agenda of your regular “meetings” – and come up with your OWN answers…through your OWN conversations…with those that “matter” at your OWN institution!

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Let’s start with a couple of “easy” ones:

Why (all over the globe) are “lessons” always around 50-55 minutes in length – shirously, in every country?

Why are so many of our classrooms organised in rows that “point” at the TEACHer (in fact, why do we still have classrooms at all)?

Why (in many classrooms) do TEACHers do more “talking” than the LEARNers?

Why do so many institutions (and their TEACHers) still “ban” mobile devices and “smart phones” in the classrooms?

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This one still bakes the noodle of many an administrator:

Why do some institutions still believe that (relatively) untrained and inexperienced “native speakers” are better than qualified and experienced “local” practitioners?

8

This one could keep decision-makers awake at night:

Why do ELT institutions (and TEACHers) still approach English Language Learning as something that can be “taught” or “delivered”?

8

These ones might hit home for a few of them, too:

Why do so many of us (TEACHers) still complain that we do not have enough time to “cover” the material?

Why do so many schools operate with a curriculum that is little more than the “contents page” of a textbook?

Why do so many institutions allow publishers to select their themes and texts – rather than letting the LEARNers do it?

Why do so many institutions still work with the premise that “if we do not assess it, the LEARNers will not do it”?

Why do institutions still assume that students will LEARN more English if we test them more often?

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And a couple on TEACHer LEARNing:

Why do schools and universities still believe that TEACHers can “LEARN” from one-shot, one-way workshops (especially if they serve no other purpose but to keep TEACHers busy during holidays)?

Why does ELT (as a “discipline”) still LEARN so little from other disciplines?

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Heyyou never knowASKing questions like these…might, just maybe, help us co-create a few ANSWERS…that help Google balance things a wee bit more in 2013!

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Mission Possible (wt Tom in DXB)

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N.B: One of the most comprehensive discussions of trends in language education is presented by David Graddol, in his excellent monograph “English Next. In this, he builds on his innovative analysis given in The Future of English (1997) – and also offers a great deal of insight into helping us understand where the “business” of ELT (and ELL) is going.

All I Want For Christmas…

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 24/12/2012 at 3:30 pm

…is a wee bit more of a focus on ELL…rather than just ELT!

Checken or Egg (photo TG ver)

Yes, that is English Language LEARNing…not the gene or the enzyme.

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And, as it is almost Chistmas, I guess “turkey” might have been a better choice than “chicken” – I know, I know! Baby Jesus, Mary and Yusuf…everyone is a critic!

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Actually, I was planning to use the title “BIG Questions in ELL (for 2013)” for this post but, quite accidentally, discovered that Scott Thornbury is using a very similar title for his new e-book (to be published very shortly by The Round).

Scott’s idea is a pretty cool one – “re-engineering” a number of the core posts from his greatA-Z of ELT” and helping those lovely guys at The Round realise their goal of creating more bridges between the blogosphere and the world of conventional publishing.

The book is already shaping up to be a great addition to our ELT Library –  you can get a “taste” (or a “tease”) by clicking HERE.

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The THING is...

8

…YOU guessed IT !

8

There is a bit of a problem with much of this “library” – a library that publishers have been helping us build up since the late 1970’s…a library that, I would argue, misses a great deal of the the wood for the trees (trees all those conventional publishers are busy “chopping down” on our behalf)!

TEACHers do, of course, need books n’ stuff to help with their LEARNing.  

I’m not suggesting we should go all “Fahrenheit 451” on our favorite volumes and works of EDUliteracy. I’m saying perhaps we need a different “perspective” on how we look at the “business” we are in – and how we “do” that “business” around the globe through the books we read!

8

Let me elaborate…

…as if an objection or three would stop me!

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Lies (people and stats)

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Before we get to the numbers (and people)…let’s start with a question:

  • How many English Language LEARNers will be hoping that a big, fat guy (all dressed in “red” and hungry for minced pies) will “break into” their homes tonight – and leave them a copy of Raymond Murphy’s “English Grammar in Use” (the new, revised, upgraded, on-line version – of course).

A tough one – I know!

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Well, if David Graddol is even close to being half-right – around a third of the world’s population (yes, I said 33.33% of around 7,018,500,000 human beings – give or take a million) are trying to LEARN English…as I sit here and worry about whether I can find a “hindi”  big enough to feed all my relatives here in big, bad Istanbul tomorrow afternoon!

Noël Baba” really did show a lot of “investment savvy” by picking up all those shares in CUP, Pearson and Cengage over the last 20 years! Damn my principles…

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OK – I smell a roll with all these BIG numberslet’s see if we can’t find some more legs for this post!

If you (as I have just done) do a quick Google search for the acronym “ELT“, you’ll get around 37,800,000 potential bits of “bedtime reading”. However, when you do a similar search for “English Language LEARNing” – Google can only come up with around 1,910,000 pages for you to ignore.

And, “yes” – I know you can get just over 62 million pages of digital reading, if you use the acronym. But, then again…take a closer look at some of these hits!

BESIDES…if you try “English Language Teaching”…the world’s favourite search engine will cough up 171 million results for you.

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Yani, almost three times as much “stuff” on TEACHing…than LEARNing!

8

Now, this may not be much…when compared with the 252,000,000 results that you can potentially browse when you type the two little words Justin + Bieber(and do not even ask me what happens when you typeLady Gaga)!

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but...

…the point is…English Language TEACHing is BIG businessa huge “industry”…and we ain’t even touched on “textbooks” just yet!

An industry, for example, that nets the UK almost £1,500,000,000…every, single, bloody year! Not too shabby…not too shabby at all…just don’t get me started on global sales of the Top 50 publishers!

Let’s just say Amazon and Kindle have NOT delivered on their “promise”yet!

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The BIG question I have, when I consider these HUGE numbers…numbers that relate to LEARNers and their LEARNing (or SPENDing)…is this:
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Why do we call it the “ELT Industry” – …not the “ELL Industry”?
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I said, a wee bit before, we ain’t touched on textbooks…so I guess we should.
8
English Language LEARNers spend king’s ransom after king’s ransom on these lovely “LEARNing opportunities” – but we hardly ever hear them being described as the cornerstone of the “ELL Industry”.
8
Or, did I just miss the memo?
8
I very rarely hear students talking about “my” textbook. It’s more a case of (the more “distant” phrase) “our” bookyou know, the one the TEACHer “uses”.
8
The vast majority of TEACHers do appear to have more “ownership” of the textbooks they use in class – than the students that cough up good money for them (or, at least, take the time to photocopy them – as they are found to be too expensive for many cash-strapped students).
8
As it’s these same TEACHers that control the “pace” of “textbook page turning” in our classrooms…I guess the whole ELT thingy makes sense, yani (BTW – I don’t think I have EVER heard a student ever say “Let’s turn to page 15”)!

8

The BIG problem isas my “birth-father” (the gossip is “working”) has noted:

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

Scott…and many of his mates…”get” this!

8

TEACHers like Scott “favour dialogue over transmission” and recognise that the process of NOT trying to fill “empty vessels” on a 24/7 basis is…best facilitated by ASKing questions.

This is why he has promised us a “question-driven” approach in his new book.

Some of the “teaser questions” he’ll be looking at are:

  • How do you achieve ‘flow’ in your teaching?
  • What makes an activity ‘communicative’?
  • Is there anything wrong with rote learning?
  • Can you teach well without planning?
  • Do rules help?

These are wonderful questions…and I’m sure many TEACHers will be very eager to read Scott’s “answers”

8

Fewer, I fear, will take the time to reflect on his “questions for discussion” – many will totally miss the real point behind the book.

8

WHY (joker Face)

…am I thunking in such a dark & gloomy manner on Xmas Eve?

8

Well, it’s quite simple really!

The ELT Industry is made up of suppliers (who seek to push their wares into this “market” of almost 234,000,000 LEARNers) and “providers” (institutional players like our schools, colleges and universities) – and both of these sets of “stakeholders” have to be seen to have all the ANSWERS.

8

Get Answers Button

8

Peter Block has been telling us for years that it is this “take” on “what matters” that keeps luring us back to the Dark Side. This “fascination” drives our relentless search for the next “big thing”“quick-fix” or “magic bullet”. This “obsession” with an “answer-orientated” way of doing “business”…prevents us from really “seeing” the (LEARNing) wood for the (TEACHing) trees we noted earlier!

8

Block (fingerprint quote)

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That “business” in ELT is still dominated by the interests (or “convenience”) of our INSTITUTIONS – the things…the fixes….the bullets we focus on are, more often than not, all about the TEACHing.

Very few of our institutions take the time to ask the questions we need to ask – probably because the questions themselves are just “too” important!

Instead, our preference for “quick-fix” TEACHing recipes all too often does little more than advance the culture of “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”) – rather than meaningful attention to student LEARNing and SUCCESS.

8

Now, around about 300 words ago, you probably got a very crisp mental image of “me” in your head – or perhaps thunked “What an EDUScrooge or ELTGrinch”!

I mean…it’s Christmas Eve…for crying out loud!

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Well, to prove I do mean “well”I’m going to gift all our “ELT Institutions”…with a few “BIG Questions for ELL…for 2013”.

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Now, I’m not sure how many I will be able to produce (before I have to rush out to buy that “hindi” I told you about earlier)…so here we go:

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Let’s start with a couple of “easy” ones:

Why (all over the globe) are “lessons” always around 50-55 minutes in length – shirously, all over the world?

Why are so many of our classrooms organised in rows that “point” at the TEACHer (in fact, why do we still have classrooms at all)?

Why (in many classrooms) do TEACHers do more “talking” than the LEARNers?

Why do so many institutions (and their TEACHers) still “ban” mobile devices and “smart phones” in the classrooms?

8

This one still bakes the noodle of many an administrator:

Why do some institutions still believe that (relatively) untrained and inexperienced “native speakers” are better than qualified and experienced “local” practitioners?

8

This one could keep decision-makers awake at night:

Why do ELT institutions (and TEACHers) still approach English Language Learning as something that can be “taught” or “delivered”?

8

These ones might hit home for a few of them, too:

Why do so many of us (TEACHers) still complain that we do not have enough time to “cover” the material?

Why do so many schools operate with a curriculum that is little more than the “contents page” of a textbook?

Why do so many institutions allow publishers to select their themes and texts – rather than letting the LEARNers do it?

Why do so many institutions still work with the premise that “if we do not assess it, the LEARNers will not do it”?

Why do institutions still assume that students will LEARN more English if we test them more often?

8

And a couple on TEACHer LEARNing:

Why do schools and universities still believe that TEACHers can “LEARN” from one-shot, one-way workshops (especially if they serve no other purpose but to keep TEACHers busy during holidays)?

Why does ELT (as a “discipline”) still LEARN so little from other disciplines?


Hey…you never knowASKing questions like these…might, just maybe, help us co-create a few ANSWERS…that LEARNers might recognise as a “real” Christmas present!

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Mission Possible (wt Tom in DXB)

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P.S: Father Christmas – if you are reading this, all I really want…is an iPhone5! I have been a good boy…all year! But, if you cannot manage that…world peace, an end to poverty and equitable access to education for every little girl on the planet will do just fine.

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P.P.S: Everyone Else – One of the most comprehensive discussions of trends in language education is presented by David Graddol, in his excellent monograph “English Next. In this, he builds on his innovative analysis given in The Future of English (1997) – and also offers a great deal of insight into helping us understand where the business of ELT is going.

The “LEARNing Academic” Vs. The “LEARNing Publisher”…

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 06/12/2012 at 1:00 pm

LEARNing DUMMY

…and never the twain shall meet?

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A few days ago, one of my favourite “guest-bloogers” (actually, I’m begining to think he has become a permanentsquatter” on the ‘ole blog) – Laurence, did a great post for me.

The post was entitled – Going to the Dogs!

Now, this was probably all my fault…because I had suggested (in an earlier post) that he might enjoy the company of those wicked, wicked “ELT dogmatistas we hear so much about these days.

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Laurence is not an ELT expert per sebut he works with groups of “future ELT Teachers”…to improve their speaking and communication skills. I have seen him in action – he does a grand job!

In his guest post, he did a wonderful job of reflecting on how his own philosophy of LEARNing and TEACHing “mapped” onto many of the tenets of Dogme ELT – as personified in Teaching UNplugged (by Luke Meddings  and  Scott Thornbury  – 2009).

However, what was really interesting came a bit later

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A “publisher”! 

Yes, a “real” Sith Lordcalled Tim, read the post and added a wonderful comment.

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Now, I’m sorry – but who the hell would take a Sith Lord called “Darth Tim” seriously?

Dark Side (vaders cookies)

I would…now!

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Both Laurence and Tim talked about the “A-ah” moments they are experiencing…no, “living” – as LEARNing takes a bigger, and bigger role in how both of them “do business”.

Tim, for example, noted:

Discovering the ethos of Dogme and how it puts learning at the centre of its thinking has altered my perception as a publisher well and truly.

Even Luke….sorry… Scott  picked up on that juiciest of comments and a few of us had a little tweet-fest!

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Eureka (TG blog ver)

I also had a little “A-ah” moment…of my own!

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I wondered (acaba)…what would happen if I put this LEARNing Academic and this LEARNing Publisher together…in the same room!

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Red flag and Bull

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BUT…I had a wee problem!

Those of you that know the blog…and Laurenceknow that he lives and works in Ankara.

Like me – he is a hanım köylü!

Tim, on the other hand…while being very involved in H.Ed projects for the Turkish “market”…is based in Cambridge – and is very much the sert erkek

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Wot to do?

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What about if we put them in a virtual “coffee shop”with a strong cup of Turkish kahve (“sade”, of course)…I thunked to meself.

Would it turn out like this:

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…or would something “beautiful” happen? 

Judge for yourself!

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GUEST POST 

by

Laurence Raw & Tim Gifford

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Time to LEARN

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Laurence: I’m intrigued that we should be meeting like this. I’ve not actually met an ELT publisher before; my stereotype of them is that they’re more than happy to sell their existing materials to unsuspecting customers, but less willing to listen to them – unless, of course, they happen to be big names who can sell books. But it’s nice that we’ve got together to discuss the Dogme movement, even though I’m still not sure exactly what it signifies. Any views?

Tim: … in a way the Dogme movement could be described as being like a cup of coffee: it’s rich and invigorating. It offers both stimulation and comfort to the educators that enjoy it. But it’s also prone to being branded and commercialised by “my kind” as another edu-commodity when in fact everyone’s preferences and contexts are different. Imposing educational ‘tastes’ doesn’t benefit anyone, in the same way that assuming how people like their coffee isn’t going to get great results.

Laurence:  Only if publishers use the name all the time, without actually investigating what it signifies.  Since writing my last post, I’ve been mentioning Dogme to both learners and educators; their initial reaction is one of mystification, as if it were some new kind of technique or strategy that departs from prevailing approaches to language teaching.  But when you get down to it, we’re not really talking rocket science here; just a re-emphasis on learning and collaboration, rather than an overreliance on textbook learning.  Perhaps you’ve got a different view?

Tim: That’s what I’m getting at. My past experience of ELT publishing has been the “mass production” approach which entailed including gratuitous references to assessment frameworks or developments in education within our products in order to make them more attractive to teachers and directors. There was very little consideration given to actually understanding what these materials or concepts were or what they’d mean to the student sitting at their desk in a classroom halfway around the world. But that was “how it was done”.

Laurence:  Which strikes me as exceptionally intriguing. In my youth, I always assumed that a textbook was there to help learners find out “how it was done” – whether it was learning French, doing comprehension exercises, or finding out about biology (a subject I was never very good at).  It seems that, from the view of conventional publishing, a textbook is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes; so long as it looks good, and draws on prevailing – some might say modish – frameworks, then it might sell and hence prove suitable for publishers.  This is why I am so against the idea of textbooks per se.  They are often an impediment to, rather than a resource for learning.  But I’d really like to know: what is it about Dogme – or the strategies associated with it – that proves so attractive for you?

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LEARNing not a newspaper

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Tim:  What struck me as I started reading about Dogme was that there was a learner involved in this arrangement who was having assumptions made about their learning needs and behaviours without them being consulted at all. The textbooks, materials and references we were piling into these learning environments weren’t doing anything to assist the student in their learning journey, and were in fact perpetuating the “course book is king” principle.

Laurence:  But isn’t that what publishers need to do in order to ensure a profit? What interests me above all about dogme-inspired learning approaches is that they are “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” in conception.  Your term “piling into” is a significant one, suggesting that in some ways publishers are trying to impose from the top, rather than listening to the views from the bottom. I’m not being critical of these policies; it’s what all publishers do, whether they’re involved in ELT or any other branch of learning.  So, how do you think you can accommodate Dogme-inspired principles into future publishing strategies?

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UNcover LEARNing FQs

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Tim:  It’s essential that publishers “walk the walk” alongside the teachers and directors they publish for as well the students that are, ultimately, the end users in this educational process. Rather than creating and selling content and components to shore up a brand or to “glamify” the annual sales catalogue, they need to immerse themselves in the realities and motivations of the learners they are going to be in contact with via their materials. The key words here are responsibilityresponsiveness and respect; publishers need to recognise and fulfil the responsibility that their position requires, and appreciate that their involvement in the process doesn’t finish once the order has been delivered.

Laurence: I think it’s necessary to go beyond these terms, to be honest with you. I really believe that publishers, just like many educators, have a sketchy grasp of the “realities and motivations” of learners in different contexts, chiefly because they don’t want to listen. “Responsiveness” only comes about if everyone is prepared to be responsive to everyone else in a communal situation. I’ve attended so many conferences where publishers’ representatives exist solely to sell books to teachers, and don’t really take the trouble to listen to what is being discussed, especially in informal discussions. The publishers I really like working with are those who take the trouble to listen, to criticize, to negotiate, and thereby reshape the ideas of those that they try to serve. Sometimes this can lead to what diplomats call “a full and frank discussion” but at the end of it, both readers and publishers end up having learned something about themselves, their approaches, and the validity of what they are doing. In other words, we’re back to what I believe lies at the heart of Dogme learning principles – negotiation and cooperation are useful in themselves as ways of advancing knowledge, understanding, and more significantly, LEARNing – a question of adapting oneself to changing educational conditions.

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Learnacy ZONE

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Tim: Absolutely, and that’s LEARNing that can and must happen for all involved, I think.

Laurence: So we are on the same page! But, I have to ask – as a publisher – what do you think “Dogme-inspired” materials should “look” like?

Tim: Ahhh, now there’s a question…

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Questions (O'Conner Quote) NEW

…to be CONTINUED…