The ABC of ELT

It Will All Be Different in a Few Years

Yesterday I saw an image from 7 years ago of the first Dnipro FC game I saw in the Ukraine. That means it’s 7 years since I arrived in Ukraine and my English as a foreign language teaching career began. During that time I’ve come across lots of different theories and research and the only constant thing I’ve noticed is that it all changes.

Not everything you learn on CELTA is correct

Fairly early on in my teaching career, I learnt that some of the things I had been told were gospel truth (or at least understood to be gospel truth) turned out to be more complicated or down right wrong. For example, the idea that using a students first language in the classroom might be…(trigger warning) a good thing. In fact not using their first language might be bad.

Or perhaps the biggest shocker of all. That being a “Native speaker” didn’t necessarily make you a better teacher though it almost certainly guaranteed you a higher pay grade. (To be honest, I knew this was wrong during my CELTA. I’m fairly certain all the best teachers were non-native speakers with the exception of one qualified state school teacher) .

And many more studies, theories and research which seem to conflict with “the way things should be done”. However, it didn’t stop there.

Since I learnt that these things were “wrong” I’ve also come across newer evidence that they are in fact…right or at least “not wrong”. (Not for all the statements above and this includes other ideas not mentioned). Sometimes this came from a realization that a study people had presented to me as being irrefutable evidence had a sample size of 30 people total (pretty refutable then), in other cases I haven’t been able to look at how these ideas have been deduced but instead just been told that it is “obvious” or “the evidence is there”.

What does this mean?

I don’t think this means that “all theories are true” or we should just teach how we feel but there are some things that I wonder from this trend.

  • maybe what’s good now, won’t be good in the future. Culture and the times may have an impact
  • What works for one teacher might not work for another teacher
  • New theories mean new methodology books and course materials, that’s good for the publishing industry (though they’ll do fine reselling old books too)
  • We need to be critical of big claims and ask for evidence (both for our current views and the challenging views)

Looking forward

I look forward to finding out how I am wrong now. Maybe I’ll discover that a core belief is completely stupid, but much more likely is that certain aspects need to be refined in my teaching. But hey, maybe I’m wrong about that.

What is something you were taught or believed, that turned out to be wrong?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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