RP Challenge 4: ELC Analysis

It’s been about 7 weeks since my last post for the RP Blog Challenge, and I’ve fallen a little behind. Challenge 5 has already been posted, but I’ve yet to do challenge 4. Admittedly I’ve been a bit busy with Delta studies, but I had hoped to complete challenge 4 earlier. I think I have been putting it off in part because step 2, analysis, is quite hard, and also because of the moment I chose to describe. As I mentioned in my RPC 3 post, the incident happened around 5 years ago, so perhaps too much time has passed since then. I wondered, just like Anne Hendler, whether I should have changed my description, but I will not do so. It’s the first time I’ve used the ELC as a tool to reflect, and I will continue with it for my initial description.

Challenge 4 was set by Josette LeBlanc over on John Pfordresher’s blog. The basic gist of this stage is to ask WHY. Because I have found this stage difficult, I am going to look at the posts from my fellow group members for inspiration. Anne Hendler (whose post is linked to above), Zhenya Polosatova, and Hana Tichá.

Like Anne and Zhenya, my description is reposted again below:


I had just started teaching at my current job, where I teach Korean adults. I was about 2-3 months into the new job, and my previous experience had been with younger learners. This particular class was quite large with around 35 students of mixed ability. It was early afternoon, about 2 or 3pm, which was the beginning of my teaching day. The lesson had been put together by another teacher in the organization and distributed among all of the teaching centres in the country. In the phase of the class I am describing,  we were talking about commonly confused words and phrases. The students had a worksheet with around 10 – 12 words and phrases, each with a brief explanation of when the word is used, and a space for the students to write an example sentence.

Before the class, I had briefly glanced over the list, but not really paid much attention to it. When I first started out teaching, I knew very little about the technical side of English, and in fact found the ‘grammar’ component on the CertTESOL to be the most challenging (I scored 51% on the grammar test – had I been 2% lower, I would have failed the course).

As we began to go over the list of words and their uses, one student puts her hand up in the air. She was an older student, a housewife, and was sitting at a table with a small group of other more mature students, all of whom were at a fairly high level (the rest of the people in the class were university aged). Now, I had just read out the phrase ‘everyday’ and given an example which was something like ‘everyday I wake up early’, when the student raised her hand. “Is that correct?” she queried, “shouldn’t it be ‘every day’?” I immediately came back with: “No, it IS correct.” After all, I was the ‘teacher‘, I knew how to use English. How dare she challenge me? “But…” she said, “on the other side of the sheet, it says we should use ‘every day’?!” I could feel the blood rushing to my head as I turned over the sheet, and saw the explanation for ‘every day’. I’d had no idea at the time that ‘everyday’ and ‘every day’ were different. “Well, I’m British” I said, “and I think this was written by an American teacher, so both are correct!” I quickly moved on, and continued with the rest of the lesson. I could see that the student didn’t buy it at all. Immediately after, I remember going back to the teachers’ room to search Google in an attempt to find evidence to prove that I hadn’t made a mistake. No such evidence exists, and I’ve never told anyone the story before.

I knew I’d made a mistake, I felt embarrassed and disappointed with myself. I can’t say what the student must have felt, but I don’t imagine it was good.

N.B. Italicised comments are used to indicate a ‘previous me’.


Why?

Why did I choose this particular occasion? I already mentioned in my previous post that the reason for choosing this particular interaction was because even after 5 years, it was something that I still remember, I think of it as my ‘everyday’ moment, and it helps to remind me to think before I speak.

Why didn’t I read over the materials more carefully? After all, if I had done, I wouldn’t have made the mistake. This was probably due in part to lack of time, also in part due to the materials themself – they weren’t professionally designed, and perhaps hadn’t been proofread – and then also partly due to me being a little lazy and just skimming the materials, rather than taking the time to think about the material that I had to help the students with.

Why did I act in that way? Why did I not admit my mistake when I first noticed it? I think it goes back to how I felt a teacher should behave back then. The teacher should be the person who stands at the front of the class, and should have the knowledge. I believed that I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes and that I should know all of the answers.

Why did the student ask me the question in front of the whole class, even when she seemingly knew the answer already? I don’t think there was any intention on the student’s part to cause embarrassment, but perhaps she did want to catch me out?

Why didn’t I apologise to the student privately after the incident or correct my mistake? Probably because at the time, I still felt embarrassed and that I should have known the answer. By telling the student that I had made a mistake, I would have been admitting that I didn’t know the answer when I feel that I should have, and back then, I think my position as the teacher would have been weakened (not a thought I hold now – more on this in the next post).

Feelings and Needs

Josette also challenged us, for this part of the challenge, to look through the lens of feelings and needs.

What were my feelings? My feeling at the time was of embarrassment, in front of the whole class. What did I need? I needed to maintain my position in the class as the teacher, and I felt at the time I needed to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about. I felt that as a need because without it, how could any of the other students believe what I had to say in that class or any other class?

What was the student’s feelings? I imagine frustration, perhaps confusion? What about her needs? She needed an answer that either validated her belief or something that helped her to understand why her belief was wrong. She probably needed, as well, a teacher that she could trust to be honest and admit to a mistake.

So, that is what I have for now, for the analysis section of the challenge. I’m still a little unsure whether I have approached it in the right way, and have been successful in my analysis. The next part of the challenge, the generalization stage, will follow shortly, I hope.

English and economic development – my learners in Korea

With a slick set of presentation slides, that moved and waved and rippled, David Graddol kicked off IATEFL 2014 at Harrogate with his plenary on English and economic development.

Economists Equation

Relationship between English and the economy

“The role of English in economic development is a complex and under researched area – despite the importance it plays in rationalising massive nation investments in English teaching and individual family sacrifice” was the concluding remark. The talk itself focussed on a number of different strands related to English and economic development, and was, in places, rather complex, as the screenshot hints at.

In this post, I hope to look at just a few strands that Graddol mentioned and think about how they relate to my experience in the Korean context.

StarbucksYou can watch a recording of the talk below. I wasn’t in Harrogate, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to follow along live online, from the comfort of a downtown Starbucks, 7,000 miles away. In fact the picture above was taken at just about the same time that Graddol mentioned Starbucks and their seeming ‘reluctance to make a profit’ in the UK.

The corporates are taking over

Large corporations was a theme common to Graddol’s talks at IATEFL and TESOL14 (which is also available online here.) His jab at Starbucks for not paying their tax was to highlight the nature of businesses. Now we can criticise Starbucks (and Google and Amazon) all we want, but at the end of the day, all they are doing is realizing the main aim of any limited company: To make as much money as possible for the shareholders. It is in fact the duty of the directors of a company to make as much profit as possible for the shareholders, and if they fail in their duty, they are answerable to those shareholders. You might not like that, but that’s what it is. I spent much of my second year at university studying the role and actions of companies, from corporate governance to commercial law. I’m not defending large companies, just observing. In his talk, Graddol even points to the influence that corporations had in helping the English language to leave England. When English arrived in Jamestown in 1607, and a few weeks later in India, it was taken there by companies.

But what does this have to do with ELT? During his talk, Graddol says that the large corporates are now taking over our world. They are buying the language schools, the curriculums, the language testing, and so on. Now, to be up front, I work for a large corporate private English school, and in 2010, our international division was purchased by a large multinational publishing and education company. So I’m a cog (albeit a very small one) in the very large machine that is the business of ELT.

Graddol moves on and suggests that employers are now looking for people either at the A1/2 scale, who have a basic level of English, or at the other end C1/2, and that there’s no place for those in the middle. But this is at odds with what language schools are doing by teaching students to the B2 level. I wonder what implications this has in Korea. Do employers in Korea have the same expectations? Should we be aiming to teach our students higher? Is that even possible? (Not questions I am going to address here).

Student expectations and beliefs

And what about the students, what are their expectations and beliefs?

How important is it to know English to advance in your company?

(Screenshot from Pearson’s Business English Index & Globalization of English Report)

At one point, Graddol shows a graph from Pearson’s Business English Index & Globalization of English Report (which is available as a pdf download here) The question was: How Important is it to know English to advance in your company? Right after Graddol’s talk finished, I had to rush off to work, but it had got me thinking about what my students expect from studying English, and why they were here. As I said, I work at a private academy with adult students. The majority of my students are university aged, but there are also quite a few workers. I had a spare 15 minutes before one of my classes, so I decided to put together a very brief survey, to look at the attitudes of some of my students towards English. I asked them to complete four simple questions:

  1. Why do you study English?
  2. Choose one word to complete the sentence English is ___ for getting a promotion in Korea. (a. Required, b. Important, c. helpful, d. not important.)
  3. Do you think that English will help you to get a better salary? YES/NO
  4. Are you a worker or a student.

27 students in my class at the time completed the survey. Of those, 8 were employed and the remaining 19 were university students.

I purposefully left question one as open as possible, as I was interested to see what my learners would say. Answers varied from just a couple of words to a few sentences, with responses such as “Just because” and “I want to speak fluently”. But out of the 27, eleven learners said specifically they they were studying English because it was important for them to get a job.

Question 2, as you may have noticed, was quite similar to the graph that Graddol showed in his talk. I should point out that the Pearson numbers are from a survey that asked current employees, and it’s probably fair to say that they spent much longer than 15 minutes to put their’s together. Nonetheless, the results from my learners are below:

Korean Students - English for getting a job

 

And for question 3:

Korean students - studying English to get a better salary

 

So it’s quite clear that, at least as far as the learners I teach are concerned, they believe that English has some effect on their ability to be successful in getting jobs. Interestingly, for question 3, of the four learners who answered “No”, three of them were already in employment, which clearly shows that the majority of university students, soon to become job seekers, feel that having good English skills will help them to earn more money.

Now these numbers aren’t really that surprising to me. I’ve heard from my learners time and time again that they want to study English to help them get a better job. So what does that mean for our teaching? Should we be working to help teach our students about the English that they will require in workplace, and not about their hobbies. As Graddol said, what good is being able to talk about your hobbies or families when you’re in a restaurant and all you want to do is order food? A couple of years ago, my company – the international branch, that one that is owned by the big multinational corporation I mentioned before – decided to roll out a new business English course that was mandatory for ALL students to take. Well, that multinational corporation that owns my company just so happens to be Pearson.

I can only talk for my experience and my students in Korea. In fact, I can’t even talk for the students in Korea, I can only talk for the students that are in my centre in Daegu. And they do not like this ‘business English course’ – “it’s boring”, “not relevant to them”, they “don’t understand it” and so on. In fact, the course itself is not actually that bad. I can’t really go into specifics etc. here, but in my opinion, as courses go, it’s quite good. It’s just that the students don’t see it. And at first this was quite surprising to me. One of the elements of the course is a unit that is essentially all about job interviews. I’ll ask my learners at the beginning of a class if they think they might need to do an English job interview in the future, and many of them say yes, but when asked about the unit, they still say that it’s not relevant to them. What might the problem be here? Perhaps, it’s because the students have to take this ‘business English course’, when they reach a certain level (language level that is) in our program, and perhaps they find it linguistically challenging.

It could also be because of who the students taking the course are. Many of my university students still live at home, and have never had a job that requires them to think about the kind of topics that are brought up in the course. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really go over too well with my students, and many of them are happy to get back into the general English course.

So, while many of my students say that they think English is important for them to get a job, I wonder whether this is really the case, or whether they just think that English is important for getting a job. And when it comes to actually learning the type of English that could be useful to many non-native English speaking job seekers, the point is missed, because it’s not the ‘type’ of English they need. In Korea, many of the large conglomerates (Samsung, Hyundai, SK, etc.) require most (or all?) job candidates to submit an English test score. In the past these scores have typically been from the TOEIC speaking test, but more often these days, it seems that companies in Korea are favouring the OPIc. But once they’ve actually gotten the job, will they have a need for English in the company? I have no doubt that there are roles within Korean companies that do require English speakers, but I fear that these are few and far between. I think that a lot of my students now have these romantic ideas that by having good English skills they are going to get a job at Samsung, and jet-set around the world, experiencing all of these wonderful places, impressing their bosses with their amazing English. However, in reality, many will end up in a job they don’t like, where English is not actually a part of their job. Their years spent studying English wasted. And this, as Graddol said in his talk, is a problem, because if students are just chasing English grades, then you’re not actually adding to the GDP.

Perhaps this paints rather a bleak picture, but I think that for some of my students, it is a reality.

Russ Mayne, the James Randi of the ELT world?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to get my head around why Russ Mayne’s IATEFL talk, on A guide to pseudo-science in English language teaching, seems to have been so popular. Twitter was alive with praise and positive comments, right after the talk:

I’d been following Russ’s tweets in the days leading up to the conference, and felt a pang of jealousy that I wouldn’t be able to see it; It sounded really good. Fortunately, the good folks at IATEFL had the good sense to live stream and record the talk, which you can see below.

So what was the talk all about? Essentially, it was about debunking some of the more outlandish claims in ELT that have nonetheless gained some levels of popularity. He looks at Neuro Linguistic Programming, Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles and Brain Gym, takes them apart, and then through the magic of his ‘Baloney detection kit’ offers up ways to spot further examples of pseudo-science in ELT, as he puts it.

Before watching the talk, I was on board with his views of NLP and Multiple Intelligences to a certain extent, although in fairness I didn’t really know that much about them.

But learning styles, I was going to need a little more convincing. After all, I think it’s fair to say that our students don’t learn in the same way, at the same pace, so learning styles make sense. But that’s just the problem, they make sense, because we want them to make sense.

Now, I’m going to hold my hands up and say that in the past, I have used a learning style questionnaire with some students. At the time, I didn’t know that much (and still don’t really know that much) about learning styles, but I wanted to let my students see that not everyone is the same and if their friend picks something up, while they struggle with it, perhaps there’s a reason for it. I did three different sessions for learners at three of my company’s teaching centres in Korea. I had an English version of the questionnaire and a Korean version. In the first and second sessions, I used the questionnaire, but quickly found something wasn’t quite right. All of the learners were getting pretty similar scores for each of the categories, and not one of the students in either of the sessions had one particular learning style that stood out. By the time we got to the third session, I abandoned using the questionnaire, and just put it down to my poor explanation, or maybe the questionnaire wasn’t clear. (Just to point out, the sessions were not on learning styles as such, they just took up a few minutes of the session).

The point in Russ’s talk that got me, and was when I began to see what he was getting at was when Russ said “They seem personal … In the same way that horoscopes do.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. And I hate horoscopes. Maybe hate is a strong word, but I just feel that they are a complete waste of time, and feel quite strongly about it.

Horoscopes are essentially the same crap, re-worded, so that they make sense to everyone. They are Barnum Statements, named after P.T. Barnum, famous for the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute”. In the YouTube video below, British illusionist Derren Brown talks to Richard Dawkins about Barnum statements and explains exactly what they are, and what they do.

Of course, Derren Brown is not the first illusionist or ‘magician’ to try and expose pseudo science. Perhaps the most well-known skeptic is James Randi.

One of the ways that some educators have used the idea of learning styles is to give their students a questionnaire to try and discover their learning style and then match their style to a particular teaching style. So to see if indeed the type of questions found on learning style questionnaires are just the same, if they are Barnum statements, I asked some of my students to answer Yes or No to a handful of questions. These questions I took from a Learning Styles Questionnaire from Tanner and Green, Tasks for Teacher Education, Longman, 1998. – This was the same questionnaire that I had used in the sessions I mentioned above. I hastily put together a quick survey, that is completely unofficial and the results are in no way statistically valid, and I got 22 of my students to respond. I didn’t tell them what it was for, but just asked them to write Yes or No.

  • When learning, I watch the teacher’s face a lot. 19 students said YES.
  • If I write something down, I remember it better. 19 students said YES.
  • I can see pictures in my head. 20 students said YES.
  • I like making things with my hands. 19 students said YES.
  • It helps me understand when I discuss things with other people. 22 (100%) students said YES.

It’s pretty easy to see that some of these sentences appear to be true for most, if not all students. So is that a learning style, or just something that people like to do? Some of the other questions had a bit more variation in the answers, but as I said, I didn’t really have time to put it together (this time round), and the sentences that I asked my students to respond to were in English, so not their L1. The biggest variations in answers seemed to be in the more linguistically complicated questions, as opposed to the questions above, which are fairly basic and easy to understand (cf. ‘I would rather read than be read to’ which quite a few of my students had difficulty in understanding.) Maybe I should have spent a bit more time working on a learning styles questionnaire, then again, maybe that would just have been a waste of time? ;)

The second issue that I have with learning styles is more anecdotal (both as a teacher and an occasional language learner). I’ve had classes where I’ve done an activity, and it’s gone great. I feel really happy, and think I’ve cracked it. Only to become disappointed a few weeks later when I try a similar activity with the same group of learners. What went well the first time doesn’t go so well this time. Why? Well the first time it was novel and exciting, the second time not so much. So let’s say the teacher ‘finds out’ that some of her students are ‘visual learners’. If her lessons are then constantly based on ‘visual learning’ it’s going to get pretty boring, pretty quickly. Some days, my learners want to get up, move around and mingle. But not every day!

Now, while I probably don’t feel as strongly against learning styles (yet), maybe because I need to do some more reading, I think the last paragraph from this advanced access article from ELTJ echos* my feelings:

Further research with more appropriate methodologies is needed to validate the use of learning styles assessment in instruction (Pashler et al. op.cit.). Until this occurs, however, as Chapelle (1992: 381) states, we simply cannot disregard the concept of learning style, ‘which express[es] some of our intuitions about students and which facilitate[s] appreciation for the divergent approaches to thinking and learning’.

[*UPDATE: Russ also mentions the above quote in his talk, and comments that this what the author is saying that we should just keep testing them until they work, but that in his opinion is not the way it should work. When I read the statement, I (perhaps wrongly) interpreted it as saying that the "more appropriate methodologies is needed to validate [or invalidate] the use of learning styles.” So to clarify my current position, until I have read more, I am not totally convinced I can disregard the concept of learning styles yet, but I’m closer now than I was 2 weeks ago.]

In opening this post, I said that I’d been trying to get my head around why the talk was so popular. I knew I’d enjoyed it, because I was still thinking about it a couple of days later. It was like I’d just seen a movie that I came across unexpectedly, and couldn’t get out of my head, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what was so good about it. But then I came across Steve Brown’s (excellent) post, where he sums up why Russ’s talk got so many people talking. He starts by reviewing some of the more well-known speakers, comparing them to some well-known Glastonbury figures, before saying:

This year, the “same old same old” feel about IATEFL was given a major shake-up by the arrival of a new act.

And that’s just it. The reason is now so obvious. It’s because it was fresh. It wasn’t the same re-hashed information that you’ve read or been told over and over. Someone came in and said “Look, it might look nice, and you might be amazed by it, but that doesn’t make it real.” Perhaps Russ Mayne could be the James Randi of the ELT world?

Here’s hoping that this freshness will continue, that there will be people who get us to stop and think, but then there’s the skeptical side of me that thinks we might still be in for a lot of the same old.

Russ’s blog is called Evidence Based EFL and his Twitter handle is @ebefl.

Harrogate Online 2014

Drawing Challenge

Sandy Millin has had an idea for a fun and interesting Drawing Challenge. And because I have many better things to be doing, I thought I’d give it a go. My drawing is terrible, in fact I very rarely draw on the board if I can help it. Except for #1 below, which I use occasionally with my adult learners, I haven’t really drawn in class since working with YLs. Every now and again, I do want a picture in class to show an example, so I’ll either prepare it on a PowerPoint beforehand, or I’ll cheat and ask one of my students to come up and draw for me.

Challenge Rules (as described by Sandy)

  1. Choose four things you often have to draw in the classroom, or that you’ve had bad experiences drawing in the past (!). I suggest a person doing a particular action or job, an animal, a vehicle, and a miscellaneous object, but you can draw whatever you like.
  2. Draw them in any way you see fit (on a board, on paper, on a tablet…) but don’t spend any more time on it than you would in a lesson.
  3. Share the results for us to guess what they are. :)

My Drawings

For drawings 2-4, I am just trying to draw the thing. In fact, I still follow a story similar to this for my picture 4 that I learned when I was a child. For picture number 1, I’m not trying to elicit the thing (a boy), but rather a description of the boy.

drawing challengeOn a final note, Sandy cites Christina Rebuffet-Broadus and her Sketchnotes as an inspiration for the challenge, and I have to agree with Sandy about the slight sense of jealousy at the notes. I really love the concept though, and you can see my attempt at some brief notes from a recent webinar. Note the complete lack of pictures.

Introducing Zhenya Polosatova – Harrogate Online Registered Blogger IATEFL 2014

ELT blogger Adam Simpson started a blog ‘chain reaction’ a few days ago to help introduce the Harrogate Online Registered bloggers.

In the lead up to the conference, I’m trying to start a ‘chain reaction‘ blog challenge: I choose two or three of this year’s registered bloggers and introduce them on my blog. These bloggers then in turn choose other registered bloggers and interview them… and so it goes on until you all have a good idea of who will be blogging about this years event.

I was interviewed by Chris Lima, and so now it is my turn to introduce another blogger.

I chose Zhenya Polosatova, and below are her answers:

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Zhenya Polosatova, I have been in ELT field for the last 15 years and worked as a teacher of English, Director for Teacher Education and Development with International House DNK as a part of my employed career in Ukraine. I am also a practicing teacher trainer and run courses for teachers and educators with World Learning SIT and as an independent consultant.

Which talk/session are you most looking forward to from this year’s IATEFL?

The efficiency of inefficiency: an ecological perspective on curriculum by Kathleen Graves http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/sessions/2014-04-03/plenary-session-kathleen-gravesI highly respect the speaker and love reading her articles and books about Teacher Education and Reflection, plus the topic is relevant to me (I am working distantly on a curriculum development project for an Asian country and preparing to run a pilot course in the near future). I thoroughly enjoyed the plenary this morning and planning some of my reflections and thoughts on my blog.

Which areas of ELT are you interested in?

From the answers above you might guess that they are curriculum design and development, reflective skills and practices as a means of professional growth and perhaps efficiency of education (if such area exists) in a more general sense.

I know you are not attending the event in person this year, so how do you plan to follow along?

I am fortunate to have flexible working hours now (working distantly means that any time of day could be my work time!) and plan to use the opportunity to watch and reflect on the sessions available online, follow the conversations on Twitter and catch up reading blog posts by those who are attending the conference.

Could you tell us a bit about your blog? http://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com

I started Wednesday Seminars in December 2013 as my first independent writing space to reflect and share on the experiences I have had in both teaching and training and as a way to connect with my colleagues all around the world (both the people I know or have worked with and the people I might have a chance to meet and work together in the future!) I am a new blogger but already enjoying a chance to see my readers’ comments and thoughts in response to what I am saying. I feel I start to have a new perspective on a number of things in my work, and beyond.

Why did you sign up to be a Harrogate Online ELT blogger?

To be completely honest, I did this out of curiosity clicking on a link someone shared in Twitter. It was in the evening before the conference began, and I even thought I was too late. I am so glad I made that click, and sent an e-mail, and started to learn more about the great event. I think there are moments that (coincidentally) you get signs, or prompts, and just follow along. This probably happened to me, and I am open to the coming learning and sharing.

 

I can highly recommend Zhenya’s blog. You can also find her on Twitter @ZhenyaDnipro. A full list of all Harrogate Online Registered Bloggers is available here.

Looking ahead to IATEFL 2014, online

With just a few days to go until IATEFL 2014, the ELT world seems to be getting pretty excited. Much of the chat on Twitter seems to be related to the event, which is being held in Harrogate. For those who don’t know, Harrogate is in the north of England, quite close to Leeds and York. Fortunately for us worker bees, who for whatever reason will be unable to attend the conference, IATEFL in conjunction with the British Council will be making much of the content available live and on demand. Click on the banner below to go to the Harrogate Online site.

Harrogate Online 2014There are a total of 5 plenary sessions over four days, as well as a Pecha Kucha session. You can see the full schedule of Plenaries, including start times, here.


Plenary Schedule (all times are UK time)

Wednesday 2nd April

09:15 David Graddol - English and economic development

Thursday 3rd April

09:00 Kathleen Graves - The efficiency of inefficiency: an ecological perspective on curriculum

Friday 4th April

09:00 Michael Hoey - Old approaches, new perspectives: the implications of a corpus linguistic theory for learning the English language

Saturday 5th April

09:00 Sugata Mitra - The future of learning

13:15 Jackie Kay - The imagined land


David Graddol

Perhaps the one I am most looking forward to is David Graddol’s talk on English and Economic Growth. I first came across David Graddol whilst doing the sociolinguistics module of my MA. His book Changing English(affiliate link), which was written written with Dick Leith, Joan Swann, Martin Rhys and Julia Gillen is a really great and easy-to-understand overview of, well, changing English.

He has also authored a number of FREE to download e-books for the British Council, which are again, both excellent reads in my opinion:

Both of these publications together highlight just how much the role of English changed in just 9 short years.

In addition to the Future of English? and English Next, I recently found out about two more publications, again available for free, that Graddol has written. I’ve yet to read these two, but plan to do so in the next few weeks. They are:

Judging by the description of Graddol’s plenary, we can expect to hear some criticisms and if his plenary at TESOL 2014 last week is anything to go by, large educational corporations might be in for an ear-full as well! Incidentally, the recording of Graddol’s plenary at TESOL 2014 is available for free on the conference website.

Michael Hoey

In a close second, for me, will be Michael Hoey’s talk on Old approaches, new perspectives. In the description on the IATEFL site, Hoey states:

I shall briefly describe the major claims of both [Stephen Krashen and Michael Lewis] as well as outlining some of the criticisms that have been levelled against them. I shall then seek to demonstrate that their claims are compatible with current corpus-linguistic research, which is itself supported by long-standing and robust psychological research.

It’s no secret that both Mr Krashen and Mr Lewis are controversial in our community. I remember in the first week or so of starting my MA, one of the online tutors openly criticised us, the MA students, for relying too heavily on Krashen in our assignments. It came as quite a shock as we were just one week in; I think it was in fact directed more towards what previous candidates had done. An apology was quickly issued, but it was nonetheless an interesting insight into how Krashen is viewed. Being perhaps a bit naive, and new to the academic side of ELT, I took on board what this tutor had written and accepted, without question that Krashen was wrong. Of course I have matured since then, and have come to realise that the issue is not black and white. While I don’t subscribe to Krashen’s view of language acquisition as it stands, there is no doubt that the debate and discussion that has resulted from Krashen’s ideas has shaped the way we teach and think about language acquisition today, whether we like it or not. Without Krashen I wonder where we would be now?

Of course Michael Lewis is most widely known for his Lexical Approach. I have to admit that I bought the book* last year, and perhaps read the introduction, but haven’t picked it up since. However, a couple of weeks ago, I did finish The English Verb*, which I really enjoyed. Lewis presents a view of the English verb system, which emphasized and reinforced a lot about what I already believed about English grammar. Since reading it however, my understanding of tense and aspect especially has become a lot clearer. Again, that’s not  to say that I agree with everything Lewis had to say, for example, he argues for using a different set of terminology, but I think his ideas are sound.

I hope that Hoey’s talk will help us to look at Krashen and Lewis from a different perspective and avoid the ‘Krashen bashing’, which seems to be prevalent any time Krashen’s name is mentioned.

Registered bloggers

As I mentioned in my brief last post, I have signed up as a registered blogger for the first time this year in the hope that it will push me to get more involved (and also perhaps as an excuse to avoid doing my Delta studies :p). Adam Simpson, has also had the great idea of starting a chain blog, where he has introduced some registered bloggers, who in turn will introduce others who have signed up. I’ve enjoyed reading through the bloggers’ introductions so far, and suggest you do the same.

Starting with the man who kicked the whole thing off, Adam Simpson introduces Lizzie Pinard, David Petrie, Christina Rebuffet-Broadus and Graham Stanley.

Graham Stanley introduces David Read, Chris Lima and Mercedes Viola.

Lizzie Pinard introduces Sandy Millin and Mura Nava.

Chris Lima introduces David Harbinson (that’s me) and Michael Harrison.

Sandy Millin introduces Laura Patsko and Katy Davies.

And I think that’s as far as the chain reaction has got up until now.

*Affiliate links to Book Depository

IATEFL 2014, Harrogate Online

Blogger-harrogate-300x300-bannerThe Annual IATEFL Conference kicks off on Wednesday 2nd April in Harrogate, UK. While I’m not going, I’m hoping to follow along to as much as possible online. I hope that by becoming a registered blogger, it will give me the motivation to stay up-to-date with the conference, and share my ideas and thoughts.