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BIG Questions for ELL...in 2013!

The BIG Question:

Checken or Egg (photo TG ver)

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...could be applied to matters of LEARNing and TEACHing.

8 Actually - as I was drafting (the original version of) this post, I (quite accidentally) discovered that Scott Thornbury is using a very similar title for his new e-book (to be published very shortly by The Round). Scott's idea is a pretty cool one - "re-engineering" a number of the core posts from his great "A-Z of ELT" and helping those lovely guys at The Round realise their goal of creating more bridges between the blogosphere and the world of conventional publishing. This is why I felt I (just) had to re-blog a new, re-imagineered version of this post - to lose the Xmas "feel" I went with originally! 8 Scott's book is already shaping up to be a great addition to our ELT Library -  you can get a "taste" (or a "tease") by clicking HERE. 8


The THING is...

...YOU guessed it !8 There is a bit of a problem with much of this "library"  of ours - a library that publishers have been helping us build up since the late 1970's...a library that, I would argue, misses a great deal of the the "wood" for the "trees" (trees all those conventional publishers are busy "chopping down" on our behalf)! 8 TEACHers do, of course, need books n' stuff to help with their LEARNing.   I'm not suggesting we should go all "Fahrenheit 451" on our favorite volumes and works of EDUliteracy. I'm saying perhaps we need a different "perspective" on how we look at the "business" we are in - and how we "do" that "business" around the globe through the books we read! 8

Let me elaborate...with some BIG NUMBERS!8


Lies (people and stats)

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

A tough oneI know!8 Well, if David Graddol is even close to being half-right - around a third of the world's population (yes, I said 33.33% of around 7,018,500,000 human beings) - are trying to LEARN English - right now!


dogs_surprised

...give or take a million or so (and their dogs)!8 If you (as I have just done) also do a quick Google search for the acronym "ELT", you'll get around 37,800,000 potential bits of "bedtime reading". However, when you do a similar search for "English Language LEARNing" - Google can only come up with around 1,910,000 pages for you to ignore. And, "yes" - I know you can get just over 62 million pages of digital reading, if you use the acronym. But, then again...take a closer look at some of these hits - not all ELL "hits" are equal! BESIDES...if you try "English Language Teaching"...the world's favourite search engine will cough up 171 million results for you. 8

Yani, almost three times as much "stuff" on TEACHing...than LEARNing!8 Now, this may not be much...when compared with the 252,000,000 results that you can potentially browse when you type the two little words "Justin" + "Bieber(and do not even ask me what happens when you type "Lady Gaga")! 8


but...

...the point is...8 English Language TEACHing is BIG business...a huge "industry"...and we ain't even touched on "textbooks" just yet! An industry, for example, that nets the UK almost £1,500,000,000...everysinglebloody year! Not too shabby...not too shabby at all...just don't get me started on global sales of the Top 50 publishers! Let's just say Amazon and Kindle have NOT delivered on their "promise"...yet!

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The BIG question I have, when I consider these HUGE numbers...numbers that relate to LEARNers and their LEARNing (or SPENDing)...is this:

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Why do we call it the "ELT Industry" - not the "ELL Industry"?

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I said, a wee bit before, we ain't touched on textbooks...so I guess we should.

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English Language LEARNers spend king's ransom after king's ransom on these lovely "paper-based LEARNing opportunities" - but we hardly ever hear them being described as the cornerstone of the "ELL Industry".

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Or, did I just miss the memo?

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very rarely hear students talking about "my" textbook. It's more a case of (the more "distant" phrase"our" book - you know, the one the TEACHer "uses". The vast majority of TEACHers do appear to have more "ownership" of the textbooks they use in class - than the students that cough up good money for them (or, at least, take the time to photocopy them - as they are found to be too expensive for many cash-strapped students).

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As it's these same TEACHers that control the "pace" of "textbook page turning" in our classrooms (I don't think I have EVER heard a student ever say "Let's turn to page 15")...

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...I guess the whole ELT thingy really does make sense, after all - yani.8 The BIG problem is...as my "birth-father" (the gossip is "working") has noted:


Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

Scott...and many of his mates..."get" this!8 TEACHers like Scott "favour dialogue over transmission" and recognise that the process of NOT trying to fill "empty vessels" on a 24/7 basis is best facilitated by ASKing questions. This is why he has promised us a "question-driven" approach in his new book - and some of the "teaser questions" he'll be looking at are:

  1. How do you achieve 'flow' in your teaching?

  2. What makes an activity 'communicative'?

  3. Is there anything wrong with rote learning?

  4. Can you teach well without planning?

  5. Do rules help? These are wonderful questions...and I'm sure many TEACHers will be very eager to read Scott's "answers" 8 Fewer, I fear, will take the time to reflect on his "questions for discussion" - many will totally miss the real point behind the book (IMHO). 8


WHY (joker Face)

...am I thunking in such a dark & gloomy manner at the start of a bright NEW YEAR?8 Well, it's quite simple really! I do not have much of a choice...the way things stand at the moment. The ELT Industry is made up of "suppliers" (who seek to push their wares into this "market" of almost 234,000,000 LEARNers) ...and "providers" (institutional players like our schools, colleges and universities). 8 Both of these sets of "stakeholders" have to be "seen" to have all the ANSWERS. 8


Get Answers Button

If they were seen to be more about "LEARNing" (than being "LEARNed" and "expert")...they might not make as much money or "get" as many students!8 Peter Block has been telling us for years that it is this "take" on "what matters" that keeps luring us back to the Dark Side. This "fascination" we have with allthingsanswers - drives our relentless search for the next "big thing"“quick-fix” or “magic bullet”. The "obsession" we have with an “answer-orientated” way of doing "business"...prevents us from really "seeing" the (LEARNing) wood for the (TEACHing) trees we noted earlier! 8


Time for a RANT

Isn't that the whole point...the whole problem?

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Block (fingerprint quote)
Why (all over the globe) are "lessons" always around 50-55 minutes in length - shirously, in every country? Why are so many of our classrooms organised in rows that "point" at the TEACHer (in fact, why do we still have classrooms at all)? Why (in many classrooms) do TEACHers do more "talking" than the LEARNers? Why do so many institutions (and their TEACHers) still "ban" mobile devices and "smart phones" in the classrooms?8 This one still bakes the noodle of many an administrator:
Why do some institutions still believe that (relatively) untrained and inexperienced "native speakers" are better than qualified and experienced "local" practitioners?8 This one could keep decision-makers awake at night:
Why do ELT institutions (and TEACHers) still approach English Language Learning as something that can be "taught" or "delivered"?8 These ones might hit home for a few of them, too:
Why do so many of us (TEACHers) still complain that we do not have enough time to "cover" the material? Why do so many schools operate with a curriculum that is little more than the "contents page" of a textbook? Why do so many institutions allow publishers to select their themes and texts - rather than letting the LEARNers do it? Why do so many institutions still work with the premise that "if we do not assess it, the LEARNers will not do it"? Why do institutions still assume that students will LEARN more English if we test them more often?8 And a couple on TEACHer LEARNing:
Why do schools and universities still believe that TEACHers can "LEARN" from one-shot, one-way workshops (especially if they serve no other purpose but to keep TEACHers busy during holidays)? Why does ELT (as a "discipline") still LEARN so little from other disciplines?8 Hey...you never know...ASKing questions like these...might, just maybe, help us co-create a few ANSWERS...that help Google balance things a wee bit more in 2013! 8
Mission Possible (wt Tom in DXB)
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