Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘ELT’

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training?

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 28/04/2015 at 5:52 am

Adams Quote (for Steve)

I have had intriguing tidings from some of my final year learners recently.  They are currently engaged in their second semester of “school experience,” where they spend one day a week under the tutelage of their mentor educators in local high schools.  In theory they are supposed to watch their mentors in the first term, and gradually be allowed to assume responsibility for teaching their classes in the second.  In the end they are asked to teach one, perhaps two entire classes on their own.

 Thinkers wanted (blog ver 02 TG)

The idea sounds a practical one – it’s often best to learn the rudiments of teaching from a professional.  In practice what has happened is this:  learners spend most of their time sitting at the back of the classroom watching their mentors undertake a series of repetitive exercises involving little or no language practice – gap-filling, cloze procedure and the like.  They are easy to mark and require the educator to undertake little or no extra-curricular activity.  It’s an easy way to pass the time in class.

Consequently many learners have complained of wasting their time on “school experience.” Not only do they have little or no involvement in classroom activity, but they are introduced to the jobsworth mentality in which educators do the minimum amount necessary to keep their learners amused and collect their salaries at the end of the week.  When the learners are given the space to teach their own classes, they are told to do the same gap-filling activities, as their mentors cannot be bothered to think up anything new.

 21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)

I am not in any way suggesting that this state of affairs prevails at every high school; I have encountered many enthusiastic educators willing to challenge existing approaches to pedagogy.  But what proves particularly disconcerting is that this jobsworth mentality is allowed to prevail at any institution.  It suggests that all the teacher training initiatives spearheaded by the British Council, the book publishers and other institutions have little or no influence on the way in which educators handle the day-to-day business of working with their learners.  Resources are spent to little effect – except, perhaps, to encourage institutions to spend more money on glossy textbooks and thereby increase author royalties.

Is there any possibility for change, or at least create the conditions for change?  Institutionally speaking, the prospect is a pessimistic one: many educators are so imbued with the jobsworth mentality that they perceive little or no reason to change their methods.  Even if they wanted to change, there is little or no incentive to do so.  Personal development assumes less significance than the monthly pay-check.  Even if individuals want to change, they will have to negotiate with their superiors, who might disagree with their views entirely.  Why rock the boat when things are going fine?

 Hocam will this be on the test

Perhaps the only workable solution is to begin from the ground up: to find ways outside the institution to set up initiatives dedicated not to teacher training per se, but to investigate methods of learning, both virtual as well as face-to-face.  This might require us to rethink the way institutions work – perhaps technology needs to assume a more important role in facilitating communication between educators and learners.  Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.  Undergraduate learners could be made part of the collaborative process; the insights they have acquired in the three years of their university curricula might prove invaluable in creating new learning strategies.  While jobsworth educators are difficult to shift, there are still opportunities available to create new generations of educators with a genuine and lasting commitment to listening to and learning from their learners.  Who knows – even the learners might want to become educators in the future.

 Creativity (Einstein Quote ver 03)

Yet time is running out: frustrations increase.  My fourth-year learners have a disillusioned view of their chosen profession.  For them it is not a matter of learning about the way people think and react, but simply a matter of rehearsing time-honored drills practiced by their mentors.  Perhaps the teacher training institutions and the publishers need to rethink their approach to working with institutions; rather than trying to foist their products on their so-called ‘customers,’ they might be better advised to take a lengthy time out and listen to what people want, especially those at the lowest end of the pedagogical scale.  Otherwise we are simply reinventing an educational wheel which will very soon come off the axle that drives it.

Laurence Raw

Ankara, Turkey – 27 Apr. 2015

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The 2014-15 EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Conference Calendar for Canım Türkiyem…Ver 3.1 (…even NEWer “Upgrade”)!

In Conferences, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 23/10/2014 at 2:05 pm

OK – the “quiz”how many differences can you see – from Ver 2.3?

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I’ve decided to make a few tiny, tweeny-weeny changes to this year’s Conference Calendar!

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Betting against canım Türkiyem (1915)

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Yes, that image is the first one – heck…if Warren Buffett can say something outrageous about the States (and 1776), I thought I’d just borrow his words a wee bit (and apply them to our conferences here in canım Türkiyem)!

“Bizim konferanslar”, here in Turkey, have been getting a pretty good reputation over the last few years…and this year is shaping up to be the same!

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The second change is that I am not kicking off with the International “big boys” this time around. Yani, those conferences that are far too far away (and too expensive for most of us to get to) …unless we work for an EDUorganisation that sends all its TEACHers on an “international jolly” (while all the administrators / managers stay back at home to look after the “shop”)!

You can find all the major international events at the end of this post.

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The third change was not really up to me!

With the events this year (well, the ones that have been confirmed thus far) we are starting to see a bit of a “shift” towards…more and more joint events (this is good…cool even!) and a lot more EdTech Conferences (but not as many online or UNconferences as perhaps we should).

For this reason, ’tis no longer just the ELT/ELL Calendar

…but rather the EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Calendar!

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As usual…big, bad İstanbul dominates the calendar but word has it that a couple more are in the pipeline for “mother Anatolia” (a few schools are still being a bit coy about publishing their dates) – I’ll update this post as and when we get more information on these…I think we got up to Version 6.2 last year!

So, without further ado…here we go:

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  • I. Eğitim Kongresi (1st Education Congress – Turkish) – 21.Yüzyılda Bir Eğitim Felsefesi Oluşturmak Ve Özel Okullar
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 November 2014
  • INTCESS15 – 2nd International Conference on Education and Social Sciences
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 2 – 4 February 2015
  • 11th ELT CONFERENCEA Portrayal of Great Teaching
  • Çevre College – İstanbul, Turkey
  • 28 February 2015
  • LIF2015 (Language in Focus) – Contemporary Perspectives on Theory, Research, and Praxis in ELT and SLA
  • Caddadocia, Turkey
  • 4 – 7 March 2015
  • GlobELT 2015 – Teaching and Learning English as an Additional Language (with Hacettepe University)
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 16 – 19 April 2015 
  • edtechİST 2015 – International Educational Technology Conference in Istanbul
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 18 – 19 April 2015 
  • AGUSL15Blended Learning into Autonomy
  • Abdullah Gul University (AGU) – Kayseri, Turkey
  • 24 – 25 April 2015
  • ICEFIC 2015 (International Congress on Education for the Future: Issues and Challenges)
  • Ankara University (Faculty of Educational Sciences) – Ankara, Turkey
  • 13 – 15 May 2015
  • UDES 2015 (1st International Symposium on Language Education and Teaching)
  • Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli Üniversity – Nevşehir, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 May 2015

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ELT & ELL Conf Calendar (TG ver)8

As promised – the International (and Regional) “BIG BOYS”…

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  • LeWeb
  • Paris, France
  • 9 – 11 December 2014
  • BETT
  • London, UK
  • 21 – 24 January 2015
  • TACON2015 (21st TESOL Arabia International Conference) – Teaching and Learning in the Digital World
  • Dubai, UAE
  • 12 – 14 March 2015
  • TESOL 2015 – Crossing Borders, Building Bridges
  • Toronto, Canada
  • 25 – 28 March 2015
  • IATEFL 2015 – 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition
  • Manchester, UK
  • 11 – 14 April 2015
  • BALEAP 2015 EAP in a rapidly changing landscape: issues, challenges & solutions
  • Leicester, UK.
  • 17 – 19 April 2015
  • ISTE 2015 – Connected Learning. Connected World.
  • Philadelphia, USA
  • 28 June – 01 July 2015
  • BAAL 2015 – The British Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Conference
  • Aston University – Birmingham, UK
  • 3 – 5 September 2015

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AND, a little bit of “sauce”:

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  • LAL4 4th Language Arts and Linguistics Conference
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 25 – 26 October 2014

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As ever, please forgive me if I have missed any (just let me know and I’ll fix it, promise)…if you are still planning an event at your institution, get your skates on and let us all know (with a comment).

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Take care…sevgili hocalarım!

The 2014-15 EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Conference Calendar for Canım Türkiyem…Ver 1.1

In Conferences, Our Schools, Our Universities on 06/10/2014 at 8:06 am

This upgrade came a wee bit faster than I had anticipated…

…how many differences can you see?

8

I’ve decided to make a few tiny, tweeny-weeny changes to this year’s Conference Calendar!

8

Betting against canım Türkiyem (1915)

8

Yes, that image is the first one – heck…if Warren Buffett can say something outrageous about the States (and 1776), I thought I’d just borrow his words a wee bit (and apply them to our conferences here in canım Türkiyem)!

“Bizim konferanslar”, here in Turkey, have been getting a pretty good reputation over the last few years…and this year is shaping up to be the same!

8

The second change is that I am not kicking off with the International “big boys” this time around. Yani, those conferences that are far too far away (and too expensive for most of us to get to) …unless we work for an EDUorganisation that sends all its TEACHers on an “international jolly” (while all the administrators / managers stay back at home to look after the “shop”)!

You can find all the major international events at the end of this post.

8

The third change was not really up to me!

With the events this year (well, the ones that have been confirmed thus far) we are starting to see a bit of a “shift” towards…more and more joint events (this is good…cool even!) and a lot more EdTech Conferences (but not as many online or UNconferences as perhaps we should).

For this reason, ’tis no longer just the ELT/ELL Calendar

…but rather the EDU, EDTECH and ELT/ELL Calendar!

8

As usual…big, bad İstanbul dominates the calendar but word has it that a couple more are in the pipeline for “mother Anatolia” (a few schools are still being a bit coy about publishing their dates) – I’ll update this post as and when we get more information on these…I think we got up to Version 6.2 last year!

So, without further ado…here we go:

8

  • I. Eğitim Kongresi (1st Education Congress – Turkish) – 21.Yüzyılda Bir Eğitim Felsefesi Oluşturmak Ve Özel Okullar
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 November 2014
  • INTCESS15 – 2nd International Conference on Education and Social Sciences
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 2 – 4 February 2015
  • LIF2015 (Language in Focus) – Contemporary Perspectives on Theory, Research, and Praxis in ELT and SLA
  • Caddadocia, Turkey
  • 4 – 7 March 2015
  • EdTech Summit 2015
  • Bahçeşehir University – İstanbul, Turkey
  • 14 March 2015 (UPDATE Coming Soon)
  • GlobELT 2015 – Teaching and Learning English as an Additional Language (with Hacettepe University)
  • Antalya, Turkey
  • 16 – 19 April 2015
  • edtechİST 2015 – International Educational Technology Conference in Istanbul
  • İstanbul, Turkey
  • 18 – 19 April 2015
  • UDES 2015 (1st International Symposium on Language Education and Teaching)
  • Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli Üniversity – Nevşehir, Turkey
  • 28 – 30 May 2015
  • INGED 2015 (17th International INGED ELT Conference)
  • Çankaya University – Ankara, Turkey
  • October 2015 (UPDATE Coming Soon)

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ELT & ELL Conf Calendar (TG ver)

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As promised – the International (and Regional) “BIG BOYS”…

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  • LeWeb
  • Paris, France
  • 9 – 11 December 2014
  • BETT
  • London, UK
  • 21 – 24 January 2015
  • TACON2015 (21st TESOL Arabia International Conference) – Teaching and Learning in the Digital World
  • Dubai, UAE
  • 12 – 14 March 2015
  • TESOL 2015 – Crossing Borders, Building Bridges
  • Toronto, Canada
  • 25 – 28 March 2015
  • IATEFL 2015 – 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition
  • Manchester, UK
  • 11 – 14 April 2015
  • BALEAP 2015 EAP in a rapidly changing landscape: issues, challenges & solutions
  • Leicester, UK.
  • 17 – 19 April 2015
  • ISTE 2015 – Connected Learning. Connected World.
  • Philadelphia, USA
  • 28 June – 01 July 2015
  • BAAL 2015 – The British Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Conference
  • Aston University – Birmingham, UK
  • 3 – 5 September 2015

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AND, a little bit of “sauce”:

8

  • LAL4 4th Language Arts and Linguistics Conference
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 25 – 26 October 2014

8

As ever, please forgive me if I have missed any (just let me know and I’ll fix it, promise)…if you are still planning an event at your institution, get your skates on and let us all know (with a comment).

8

Take care…sevgili hocalarım!

 

Is it all in the Genes? (from GUEST BLOGGER – Steve Brown)

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 05/03/2014 at 8:25 am

Today’s bout of bloggery is from Steve Brown (aka @sbrowntweets on Twitter).

I first came across Steve when I was pointed in the direction of his blog post “21 Questions for Language TEACHers”. I have to admit I had not stumbled upon Steve’s blog – the very-easy-to-remember(The) Steve Brown Blog” – until Mike Griffin gave him a nod in one of his posts and I kicked meself for not seeing it earlier.

I loved his questions so I decided to stalk his blog pages a wee bit more. When I came up for air, I told him (via Twitter) that I was sorry I had had not recognised his “bloggery genius” earlier – and then asked if he’d be interested in answering a question (rather than just helping us thunk over his – he has just done another wonderful “quiz” for all us teachers, too…take a look)!

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He agreed – and here we are this morning!

THUNKers Wanted (for Steve)

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When Tony asked me to do a guest post on his blog I was flattered, then excited, then a bit scared.

I got (really) scared at the point when he “suggested” I try answering this question:

DNA (LEARNing TEACHer) Blog ver 01

Freakishly scary, right?

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I mean, where do you start? This question isn’t just about what makes a good teacher, but what (if anything) is hard-wired into a person that predisposes them to effective, reflective, developmental teaching.

At least I think that’s what the question is!

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So, let’s start with a definition of a LEARNing TEACHer.

I would suggest that this is a teacher who continues to LEARN throughout their career. Someone who recognises that completing a teacher training qualification does not make you the “finished article”. Someone who realises that there is no finished article.

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Parker Quote (for Steve)

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Someone who constantly seeks ways to…

improve,

develop and

enhance their skills & talents.

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If this is our definition of a LEARNing Teacher, maybe we can identify what qualities such a person needs to have.

They need to be able to take new information on board, to respond well to feedback, to pick up new information and ideas, and to have the technical skills to put them into practice.

LEARNing Quote 01 (Steve)

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Of course, much is made of such qualities in the world of ELT teacher training courses. Trainees are expected to make steady progress from observed lesson to observed lesson, absorbing new information from input and feedback sessions then putting it into practice at the very next opportunity.

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But all that stuff is LEARNable!

Adams Quote (for Steve)

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You can LEARN how to manage a class, how to give instructions, how to do effective boardwork, how to clarify language, how to correct errors. This is what the ancient Greeks called poeisis – the implementation of techniques. You learn what needs to be done, then you do it.

Is that all that teaching involves though? Is it just a matter of following set procedures, using tried and tested techniques?

Sure, you need to be able to acquire those technical skills, but you also need to know when to use them.

Best TEACHers (new ver) TG

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Teaching is an essentially human activity; you’re working closely with real people, and these real people will respond in very varied ways to the techniques you implement.

A sensitivity to these responses and an ability to react appropriately are therefore crucial. This is more like what the ancient Greeks called praxis – action that is informed by a wider context, taking into account the moral, socio-economic or political consequences that your teaching might have, beyond the classroom.

I mean the impact on the students’ lives, and the resulting consequences for society in general.

Resnick Quote (for Steve) TG ver

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In terms of what goes into a teacher’s DNA, therefore, the skills themselves are less important because they are LEARNable. What is more fundamental is an inherent AWAREness of the “implications” of employing these skills.

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But the question isn’t just about a good teacher; it’s about a LEARNing teacher.

So as well as an awareness of what you’re doing, there needs to be something else in the DNA that “drives” you forward, that keeps you “wanting” to LEARN more.

Resnick Quote TG ver

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I would suggest that this requires FOUR qualities:

Interest

You can’t LEARN how to be interested in something – either you’re interested or you’re not. So you need to have an interest in the subject you teach, and you also need to have an interest in the whole “business” of teaching and LEARNing.

Motivation

Again, this has to go in the DNA because you can’t LEARN how to want to do something. Desire to take action comes from somewhere very deep down. 

Inquiry

I suppose you could argue that this is very closely related to motivation, but it’s not exactly the same. While motivation is a desire to take action, inquiry is a desire to find things out. You can have your interest piqued or your curiosity raised, but I think that a constantly questioning approach to life, or a reluctance to just accept everything as it is, is something you either have or you don’t have.

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Tolstoy Fish Quote (new ver) TG

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Humility

In order to get better at something, it is important to be able to recognise how bad you are at it. In fact, failures or shortcomings need to be welcomed and embraced as opportunities for development.

We tell this to our students, so we need to demonstrate these qualities in ourselves as well. Humility is certainly something that can be developed, but the ability to equate failure with opportunity is something that some people find very difficult, and others find impossible.

LEARNing and ADAPTATION (Steve)

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I’m not sure I’m doing very well here in describing what the DNA of a LEARNing teacher looks like, though.

Can we visualise it?

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Apparently, regular DNA looks like this:

DNA (Steves Ver)

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You’ve got the four chemicals Adenine, Cyostine, Thymine and Guanine, surrounded by sugar and phosphate.

Maybe the DNA of a LEARNing Teacher can look pretty similar.

Replace the four chemicals with Interest, Motivation, Inquiry and Humility, and surround it all with…AWAREness!

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What if 06

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Of course this is incredibly “unscientific” and I apologise to everyone who actually knows something about DNA. I would welcome any comments from such people.

Trying to answer Tony’s question has raised three related questions for me, which I think I can answer now:

Steves ANSWERS

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Steve Brown

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How long does it take to LEARN English, hocam? – The “10,000 Hour” Upgrade…

In ELT and ELL, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 21/02/2014 at 9:55 pm

There is a lot of talk around canım Türkiyem these days about how many hours are needed for students to LEARN or “speak” English. In fact, we have even invented new acronyms to help us do this – classroom contact hours are now frequently referred to as GLHs (or “guided learning hours”).

What a queer turn of phrase – when what so many schools really mean is “bums on seats” and ears “pointed at” the teacher!

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TELLıng theTRUTH (Ver 03)

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These discussions have been “aided” by wider (mis)understanding of the CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment)– now, you know the reason for the abbreviation!), and its six levels of proficiency from A1 to C2.

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Now, not everyone is a fan of the CEFR – mostly because it has been skillfully co-opted by ELT marketeers eager to sell their wares (by pasting on a EU logo onto whatever they are flogging)!

However (and in truth), the CEFR is refreshing change from the “fuzzy labels” of the past – “intermediate” or “upper-intermediate” or even “pre-faculty” (in academic contexts).

More of the same (my dogs)

I never did really know what these terms meant anyways!

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Besides, the CEFR was originally designed to improve levels of “transparency” – always a “fan” of that (as is Julian)!

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Fasülye (Blog new ver)

YES…there is a “prize” for any non-Turkish speaker that can work out that one!

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In a way, it is impossible to accurately calculate the hours needed to LEARN a language – as it depends on factors such as the learner’s language background, the intensity of study and levels of individual engagement, the learner’s age and motivation (even “gender” – yes, girls do generally kick ass in the right environment), and the amount of study and exposure outside the classroom – in addition to the quality of TEACHing (we sometimes forget this one) …and how many iTunes downloads a student clocks up each week!

Many ELL professionals, for example, think it’s a total waste of time to even try and run a “time and motion study” on language LEARNing.

Afterall, it’s the “quality” rather than the “quantity” of hours that matter…isn’t it?

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So, what do we “know”:

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GLHs (Hocam post)

Yep, that bloody acronym…again!

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I really, really, really have my doubts about the recommended GLHs for C2 – most higher-level learners do not get to this level based on classroom GLHs alone (“talent” is a key factor, as is extended contact with native speaker-like environments – ….or taking a “spouse”…)!

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C2 Level (Hocam Post)

Also, the right kind of “interest” or “engagement” is soooooooo importantmy wife has been an EL learner for 27 years (her first “second” language was French) and I do not think she would mind if I said she would probably struggle in a more “academic”  ELL environment – she would, however, wipe the floor with most native speakers on matters of a spiritual nature, reconnective healing, and…counselling workaholic EDUcators!

But, that’s for another post…

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For many hazırlık centres or “prep schools” at university level in Turkey the distinction between B2 and B1 is of more interest. This is because, in terms of the CEFR, most Turkish universities have selected a hazırlık “exit requirement somewhere between B2 and B1.

We see this more clearly when we look at IELTS equivalencies for these CEFR levels – somewhere between IELTS band 4.5 and 6.5 for those of you more familiar with IELTS.

Yes, you heard me…there are some “bodies” here in canım Türkiyem that believe that a student with a Band 5.0 in IELTS…can go onto a full-time, English-medium…undergraduate programme!

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Handle the truth

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BUT, maybe we should just avoid talking about IELTS…for now!

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You know me sooooo well!

I never did listen to my lawyers that much…

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Most “hazırlık centres” in Turkey are still to define their programmes and progression systems in terms of CEFR (the labels, we use…at least!) – TOEFL scores or IELTS bands are the more common form of currency when discussing what it takes to “graduate” from hazırlık into “freshman year”.

Top ranking universities in the UK currently all require an IELTS band of 7.0 and other “respectable” UK universities ask for an IELTS band of 6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in each module) for international students applying to their undergraduate programmes. These universities will also accept a band 5.5 for entry onto their “foundation programmes” – …the equivalent to hazırlık.

If you want to live in Australia (forEVER – …speak to my wife before you do that!), you have to make sure you have an IELTS band of 7.0 – remember this!

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However, let me introduce you to my little friend:

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Gladwell

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Yeah, I know some (very smart) buggers have been having a dig at Malcolm Amcaof late!

But, you know what, I like this 10K thunk of “his” (…and Anders Enişte).

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I was going to do an analysis of the 10,000 hour “rule” for ELL – but someone beat me to it…someone I love to bits!

Sarah Eaton, a wonderful ELL Consultant from Canada – and…

…fellow “Jedi blogger

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I have mentioned Sarah a fair few times on allthingslearning – and she has often extended more than a helping hand to little ‘ole moi with my bouts of bloggery!

Sarah did a great paper on the time required to become “an ELL expert” – and published a version on her own blog (Literacy, Languages and Leadership).

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In her paper, she suggested a number of “scenarios” (you know how I loves me “mini-cases”):

Scenarios (no years)

Now, I know we ELL professionals are not that well-known for our “math skills” (I hate that my English is being “corrupted” by those guys “across the pond”)!

BUT, get your calculator out…NOW!

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Bet you didn’t!

The calculator thingy…that is.

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Scenarios (years)

Bet you (real “cash” money…this time!)…you are thunking something like this

Expletive (one)

…right now!

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I got thunking to meselfwhat if we did this for our hazırlık schools…here in canım Türkiyem!

I did, you know!

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Here goes!

This is what you WILL thunktrust meI’m a TEACHer:

Expletive (four)

Don’t believe me?

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Hazırlık (01)8

Told you so!

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The solution?

Well, I guess we need to look at our tried and tested quality / improvement strategyyou know the one, çoçuklar:

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ELT Strategy

Yeah…right! Worked in the past…YES?

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Let’s crunch the numbers…with a calculator!

Double the number of contact hours (sorry, GHLs!)…and…let’s throw in a “summer school” – why not!

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Hazırlık (02)

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You know what I am thunking, YES?

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Expletive (sixteen)

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YOU, too?

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Ask the studentsgo on, I dare you!

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Expletive (too many to count)

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So….what is the answer…Tony Paşa?

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Scroll up!

Yes, UP!

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What do my dogs say!

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New BLOGS on the BLOCK (in Türkiye)…

In Guest BLOGGERS, News & Updates (from the CBO) on 19/05/2012 at 12:35 pm

A few weeks back, I did a post entitled – Made in Türkiye (BLOGS that is)… – and highlighted a number of great ELT bloggers from Canım Türkiye (Seriously, seriously…Google Translate…when will you get your act together)!

OK – I also had a bit of a “rant” about how many of these bloggers cannot use the beautiful spellings of their names and surnames. But, things are changing – and as a wise old fella once said:

 

Also, if you is a fan of the “Bard of Avon” (and have a couple of hours to spare) – why not check out the excellent movie “Anonymous” this weekend. You will not regret it…

Tony, will you ever LEARN to “focus”?

 

Ken Wilson also did a recent post – Young Turks in ELT (in their own words)and profiled a few of the lovely and talented bloggers from around the country. But, I have to say that a few of them (you know who you are) were, shall we say, not quite as “young” as Ken’s title suggested – and certainly not as “lovely” as some of Ken’s female bloggers!

 

Anyways, I’ve also been doing a bit of “digital stalking” and come across a batch of new bloggers from around Anatolia…and that tiny, wee place that pretends it’s a city but is, in fact, almost a country in itself

The reason I like so many of these new blogs is that they are really getting to grips with “reflective practice” – by sharing some very personal stories about TEACHer LEARNing and growth…


 

So, yes – this is a “call to arms”…drop in and say “hi” to some of our new kids on the block, leave a comment and pass on the word…

…and, hey…let us know if you hear of any more budding bloggers out there!

So, you wanna be an ELT Teacher Trainer…huh?

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Training on 04/01/2012 at 7:28 pm

Those of you that know me intimately (well, maybe not “that” intimately) will know that I spend some of my “free time” working with teachers and school leaders on various development programmes and LEARNing opportunities (gotta plug the blog – it is, afterall a brand new year)!

Right now, I’m getting ready to work with a bunch of ELT teachers – who have taken the “leap” and are planning the “transformation” into the role of ELL Teacher Educator (sounds so much better than “ELT Trainer”, dunnit)?

I was pulling together some on-line “bedtime reading” resources together as pre-sessional prep – and actually went back to one of my very first posts (almost a year ago to see what had changed – to see if I have changed)!

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In that post, I made a few observations – as have others before and after me:

 

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  • There is no one best “route” for becoming a teacher educator – and sometimes many of the so-called “trainer-training” programmes that have sprung up over the years are a waste of time!
  • There is no one best “trainer profile” – trainers and teacher educators come in all shapes and sizes (but many of them are “rounder” than most – and, not sure why, a large proportion of them still smoke)!
  • Teacher training or educator LEARNing, as a job, is about “service” – to teachers and the profession. It’s about“serving” – not being “served”.
  • Teacher-training is really about who you are, what you know, what you stand forand how you share all of that and get others to “find their voice” and share what they have to offer.
  • It’s bloody hard work – not just about “winning the crowd” or “having a laugh” (what I call the “ka-ka-kee school of teacher training”) – and requires a lot of varied and multiple experiences if you really want to add value to the LEARNing and teaching of others.

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NONE of these have changed – over the past 12 months!

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What had changed for me, however, was the resources I was recommending to people. In my early days as a teacher trainer, I focussed vey much on “content”. If I was working with ELT professionals, all my recommendations were about ELL – if I was working with engineering lecturers, all my stuff would come from the literature about “engineering education” (go on, I dare you, try and find that kind of stuff)!

With the recommendations I have been making more recently, there’s much more of a “variety” – much more “transdisciplinarity” (is that a real word, acaba)! This has got to be a good thing and it made me realise that I have another area in which I am walking-my-talk.

Yes, reading is good – and sexy – but reading outside of our disciplines, our comfort zones is sexier!

 

Anyways, I thought I’d share the most recent “bedtime reading list” with you – especially, if you are thinking of taking the “leap”:

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REFLECTION, REFLECTIVE PRACTICE & REFLECTING 


BECOMING A TEACHER TRAINER 


PLANNING WORKSHOPS & TRAINING EVENTS 

 

What I will say, to wrap up, is also that a few other of my ideas and bits of advice (from last year) also remain unchanged.

Just as we are starting to realise that “intelligence is learnable” (finally), we are starting to see that teacher training abilities can be learned – but require Disraeli’s “three pillars”.

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So, what does all this mean for teachers who are thinking about moving into teacher training (or educator LEARNing):

  • Watch a lot – go to as many training sessions as you can, check out as many conference papers as you can, get on the web and find other presenters. LEARN like your hair’s on fire!
  • Reflect a lot – think about the sessions you go to and draw up a list. Think about the “best” training sessions you have been to – ask yourself: What worked? What mattered most? What did the presenter/facilitator “do” and how did that make you feel? – DO IT! Also, think about the “worst” sessions you went to – ask yourself: How did I feel? What got in the way of my learning? What stopped my engagement? DON’T DO IT – EVER!

Most importantly:

  • Get your hands “dirty” a lot – as a wise man (I actually thought it was a woman last year) once said:

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You will LEARN more by doing “teacher-trainer-type” things and “failing” than by reading a bookand you will figure out how to make it happen, if you really want it!

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ELT’s “Dirty Little Secrets”…Part Two

In ELT and ELL, The Paradigm Debate on 23/02/2011 at 5:28 am

Steven Tyler: Well hellfire…Randy? Where did we leave things last night?

Randy Jackson: Dawg…that post had me on the edge of my seat! That was da bomb!

Jennifer Lopez: Why did I sign up for this?! I wanna go home!

 

We left things yesterday with a question…what are the dirty little secrets of ELT?


  • ELT, like all language learning endeavours, cannot guarantee success!

  • ELT, like all educational endeavours, has no “magic bullet” or single “best-practice model” (even if one did exist, the probability of it working on an “anytime-anywhere basis” would be zero)!

  • ELT, like almost all areas of modern human endeavour, operates in a world that is “answer-orientated” and has become addicted the notion of the “quick-fix”!

 

The first of our dirty little secrets is the result of the “the logical problem of language acquisition”. This problem is a fundamental dilemma that keeps many teaching professionals and practitioners awake at night.

As Bley-Vroman notes:

The lack of general guaranteed success is the most striking characteristic of adult foreign language learning. Normal children inevitably achieve perfect mastery of the language; adult foreign language learners do not.

… Not only is success in adult foreign language learning not guaranteed, complete success is extremely rare, or perhaps even non-existent, especially as regards ‘accent’ and the ability to make subtle grammaticality judgments.

Bley-Vroman’s logical problem essentially highlights the fact that ELT has not been able to fully explain its own “reality”. Yani, why it is that there are many adults who achieve very high language proficiency levels when they have enough time and input, put in enough effort and exhibit the right attitude, motivation and learning strategies/styles – in a nutshell, are provided with the right learning opportunities, in the right environment, at the right time.

And, why others do not – or end up all “fossilised”.

Neither have we been able to fully explain why so many “young learners” are not achieving the proficiency levels their young brains suggest they care capable of attaining. But, let’s save that one for another conversation…

Graddol also hints at the second of ELT’s dirty little secrets when he notes:

There is no single way of teaching English, no single way of learning it, no single motive for doing so, no single syllabus or textbook, no single way of assessing proficiency and, indeed, no single variety of English which provides the target of learning. It is tempting, but unhelpful, to say there are as many combinations of these as there are learners and teachers.

He is also correct when he suggests that:

the teaching of English has been seen in the past as largely a technical issue about the best methodology, a practical issue of resources in teacher training and text books

In saying this he is suggesting that there are big changes that have taken place in how we do business as a profession.

So what has changed – in practice?

If the first of our dirty little secrets acknowledges that the profession is built on a “black box”, the second suggests that the black box is also full of “something else”.

This something else is the beliefs, attitudes and underlying assumptions of ELT teachers and institutions themselves.

We all know that there are many, many, many unresolved debates on the place of grammar, comprehension, input and skills in ELT.  We also know that many ELT experts disagree on the best way to “teach” speaking, vocabulary and writing – and we also hear stories that a large number of instructors / lecturers still teach how they were taught or use “folklore” that flies in the face of more recent foreign language pedagogy and second language acquisition research.

The problem is that there are two “gaps”:

  • what we say we “used to do” yesterday and what we say “we do” today.
  • where we say “we are going” and where we “remain in practice” today.

We can see these gaps when we compare what many students say about their experiences of learning English and what institutions say about themselves on their web pages…what we say about the approaches we use as institutions and what actually happens in many classrooms around the world.

For example, I was in a student chat-room the other day – the students there were talking about whether it was a good idea to “pass” or “fail” (on purpose) the ELT prep school exam.

What had happened to these kids to make them so “strategic” that they would choose to “waste” a year of their lives?

In exploring the true nature of both gaps, I think it’s fair to ask all schools and universities involved in ELT:

  • Where are all the best practices people are talking about – in practice?
  • Where are the so-called improvements that are expanding learning – in practice?
  • Where are all the transformational practices that are making a real difference to the lives of our learners – in practice?

  • Where is the “next practice” that is guiding us on our journey into the 21st century?

These questions of “best” or “next” practice bring us to the third of our dirty little secrets.

I am not sure that as a profession we have truly moved on from lock-step teaching, that we have really embraced learning-centred practice or that we have drawn enough on the potential of technology to improve and expand the quality of student language learning.

I may be mistaken – and there are many great “champions” out there who can prove me wrong. But, the fact of the matter is I am talking about the wider profession – not the courageous individuals out there in the trenches trying to walk-their-talk, breaking the rules and pushing boundaries!

We need more of these “guys”!

The third dirty little secret is essentially about how we breathe life into all the innovations we discuss and all the ideas we pick up from conferences and websites. Sadly, our addiction to “answers”, things that “work” and “quick-fix bags of tricks” has not been able to realise wider change across the profession as a whole.

We have ELT experts doing the “conference circuit” rehashing the same sessions they had last year, the same bag of tricks from the year before that…and data telling us that conference presentations still only impact 10-15% of their “listeners” in a meaningful way.

This type of “learning” simply feeds the culture of “alıntı, çalıntı ve mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”) that characterises so much of how we “do business” in today’s world – not just in the world of ELT.

A key question that comes to mind – and I do not wish to play the blame game here (OK – maybe I do) – is whether it is ELT professionals themselves or the schools, universities and education systems (in which they find themselves) that have contributed most to this culture of “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak”.

It is certainly true that many talented ELT professionals find themselves in organisations that demonstrate a profound lack of conceptual clarity (in terms of who they are and where they are going). It is also a reality that current trends in testing and assessment mean that many of us are forced to work in systems that look more like an “examocracy” than “learning academies”.

However, as individuals we also have to go to that “dark place” and ask ourselves some tough questions:

  • What is our “talk” – as individual educators?
  • Are we truly “walking-our-talk” – as individual educators?
  • …and, What do we do – if we discover a “dirty little secret” or two about ourselves?

 

My thanks to Brian McVeigh for helping me learn about “examocracies” – and seeing that there are many more of these “educato-examination systems” around the world!

 

Bley-Vroman, R. (1989). The logical problem of foreign language learning. Linguistic Analysis 19:56-104.

McVeigh, B. J. (2006). The State Bearing Gifts: Deception and disaffection in Japanese higher education. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman & Little­field Publishers, Inc.

ELT’s “Dirty Little Secrets”…

In ELT and ELL, The Paradigm Debate on 21/02/2011 at 4:27 pm

When I first planned to draw on the phrase “dirty little secrets” for this post, I did consider that my words may be taken out of context and perhaps used as part of the “blame game” that is frequently played out in education.

After all, the phrase more often than not conjures up notions of concealment / secretiveness and shame / guilt – and the popular press loves nothing more than beating up on teachers and educators for the failings of our schools and universities!

That having been said…I have always had more faith in transparency than secrets – and taking my lead from Julian Assange (of WikiLeaks “infamousy”) I thought it was time to shine a bit more light on the “dark side” of things in ELT.

…Besides, as any “self-help guru” worth his or her salt will tell you “moving on from less positive situations or feelings involves recognising a few simple truths”:

  • Secrets, shame or guilt can actually help us improve things – as they prompt us to make changes
  • Change involves going to some of our “darker places” (as Luke Skywalker had to), ending the blame game – and it also takes more than an ounce of courage
  • Courage is helped along best through truth, acceptance, forgiveness and connecting with others on things that “matter”

Don’t get me wrong – it is not only ELT that has these types of secrets.

Professionals in the business of ELT are no different to those in wider educational circles or those in other sectors – we all have our own personal dirty little secrets (I watch both “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?” and “American Idol”) and many of the dirty little secrets we have at work are “common”.

So……what are the dirty little secrets of ELT?


.…..Check back TOMORROW!

[ Told you I was a fan of “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?” and “American Idol”……….. ]

 

The “New Orthodoxy” of ELT

In ELT and ELL on 19/02/2011 at 9:07 am

Like many language teaching professionals I am always intrigued by new trends in language and language learning.

Trends have a way of clarifying “where we are” and “where we are going” – and help us spot the “driving forces” that will shape how we “do business” in the future.

However, in looking at trends or patterns it is important to remember that we cannot simply jump on the “flavour-of-the-month” band-wagon. As educators, we need to reflect critically on how underlying trends and changes will develop over time and impact the types of “living educational philosophies” and “lived missions” we use to design learning opportunities for our students and the planned experiences we take into our classrooms.

One interesting set of trends I saw recently were presented in a “think piece” prepared to help educational leaders and teachers better understand current trends in language education. In the monograph, Global Trends in Language Learning in the 21st Century, Eaton presents an innovative list of “what’s in” and “what’s out” for the language classroom:

What’s OUT

  • Vague, hollow promises that can’t be proven.
  • Saying that learning languages is easy.
  • Authoritative teacher attitudes.
  • Complaining about cutbacks and lack of funding.
  • Language labs.

What’s IN

  • Clear, provable demonstrations of learning.
  • Frameworks, benchmarks and other asset-based approaches to assessment.
  • Individualized, customizable, learner-centred approaches.
  • Proving the value of language learning through stories and speech.
  • Using technology for language learning.
  • Linking language learning to leadership skills.
  • Showing funders the impact their investment has on our students, our communities and our world.

At first sight, her list of “ins” and “outs” does not seem to offer many earth-shattering insights.

It is certainly true that behind Eaton’s list is a more powerful message on the purpose of language learning: the focus in language education in the twenty-first century is no longer on grammar, memorization and learning from rote, but rather using language and cultural knowledge as a means to communicate and connect to others around the globe. However, this should not be news to many of us – as is her suggestion that more old fashioned “authoritarian models are giving way to gentler, more collaborative models” and the fact that “geographical and physical boundaries are being transcended by technology”.

What is different, however, is her emphasis on the fact that that we need to reconceptualise how we “do business” in ELT around the notion of “walking our talk” and knowing exactly “what that talk is all about”.

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.

Graddol’s main purpose is to explore a wide range of trends from demography, economy, technology, society, education and languages. Ultimately, he arrives at the same conclusion as David Crystal and recognises that English has become “the” de facto global language. In much the same way that Crystal notes, he also claims that the current, apparently unassailable, position of English as the world’s lingua franca, is the result of the unprecedented social, technological and economic global changes we face today.

Some of the economic trends to which he refers have already become a reality. This month saw Japan’s 42-year ranking as the world’s second-largest economy come to an end – as she was finally eclipsed by China.

Graddol draws on some mind-boggling statistics, generated by a computer model developed by The English Company (UK) Ltd to forecast potential demand for English in the education systems around the globe.

  • There are now over 5 billion people globally who do not speak English as either their first or second language.
  • Around 1.9 billion of these are between the ages of 6–24 (the key age group for education and training).
  • The total number of non-English speakers is expected to rise slowly and peak in 2030 at just over 2 billion.

In 2000, the British Council estimated that there were around 750 million and 1 billion people that were learning English. If Graddol and The English Company are correct, almost a third of the world’s population is trying to learn English – as I write this.

This is great news for ELT professionals – we all get to keep our jobs for the next 20 years. Well, not such great news for native speakers. This is because, as Crystal notes, the spread of English is not as stable and permanent as it once was. Graddol suggests that the rise of “Global Englishes” and Teaching and learning English as a lingua franca (ELF) is changing the traditional face of ELT and EFL – but that’s for another conversation!

It is this last point that distinguishes Graddol’s work from that of Crystal.

Graddol also focuses his attention on the impact these changes and the rise of “linguistic post-modernity” are having on the world of ELT and uses this to introduce what he describes as the “new orthodoxy” that is shaping the world of ELL.

For Graddol, this new orthodoxy is built on four pillars:

(1) Start teaching English at primary school – preferably Grade 1 but at least by Grade 3.

(2) Begin teaching at least part of the curriculum through English at secondary school. Possibly provide specialist support by English teachers.

(3) Require students to be proficient in English at entry; reduce support for English teaching within university to specialised subject knowledge.

(4) Teach more courses at university through English, or at least expect students to be able to access study materials – such as textbooks – in English.

In his earlier monograph Graddol suggested that “the future was bilingual”, however, in his sequel he talks more of how English has become a “basic skill” (as is the case with literacy, numeracy, technology and learning how to learn) in today’s globalised world – and about how this is having a profound impact on who is learning English.

So, what does this new orthodoxy mean for YOU?


The Language Revolution (Themes for the 21st Century) by David Crystal

The English Language: A Guided Tour of the Language by David Crystal

Redesigning English by Sharon Goodman, David Graddol, and Theresa Lillis