I was struck by a recent throwaway remark from one of the ELT teachers who is currently working on the pre-sessional course being run at my university.

She was reacting to some materials about research and the collection of research data that we use with students preparing for postgraduate degrees. Her comment was 'That's OK if you know about research but what if you don't know?'

It is fundamental to good EAP teaching that the teacher has an understanding of the context that her/his students are preparing for. This means an understanding of research. Usually this comes from studying at postgraduate level and conducting a small research project for a masters degree. It doesn't matter what the degree subject was; it is the fact that an EAP teacher has attempted to establish a context and methodology for research though reading and reviewing relevant literature and collected and analysed data that is important. These skills transfer to any research context.

For a teacher who has never experienced research it is very difficult to guide students though this process. These are the teachers who are tempted to hold the view that they are only teaching language and not study/research competence. In my view this is not a particularly useful stance for an EAP teacher to hold.

Comments

Hi Olwyn,I think the problem boils down to a teacher's work attitudes or how he/she views his/her work as a teacher - whether s/he is willing to learn and take up new challenges in the job. It's the same  thing with some GE teachers who say, 'But I don't know about grammar...'. I've come across so many so-called 'trained teachers' with such nonchalant and arrogant attitudes, who think they are already very smart and don't need to learn anything else in their work. In fact, in my opinion, a lot of native speakers are spoilt in such a way because jobs are everywhere for them. Even if they don't know about grammar and research, it won't matter much because they can still easily get jobs in so many conversation schools in Japan or South Korea where the pays are not bad and they get to be worshipped like gods by the local people.By the way, I'd like to welcome everyone to my blog at http://eltcafe.blogspot.com/ where I put together bits and pieces of my experiences and thoughts in ELT at different times and stages. Please also feel free to comment and share your views with me!Have a nice day!

[quote=elchwa]

I've come across so many so-called 'trained teachers' with such nonchalant and arrogant attitudes, who think they are already very smart and don't need to learn anything else in their work. In fact, in my opinion, a lot of native speakers are spoilt in such a way because jobs are everywhere for them. Even if they don't know about grammar and research, it won't matter much because they can still easily get jobs in so many conversation schools in Japan or South Korea where the pays are not bad and they get to be worshipped like gods by the local people.

[/quote]

I agree with you and it makes me very uneasy to think that these so-called 'experts' are travelling the world pedalling their arrogant attitudes. They are unwilling to explore their subject (language teaching) in any depth and yet the people they talk to probably have studied this subject in much more detail. Just because they happen to speak English as their first language they are regarded as some kind of expert.

I was struck by this phenomenon at the first IATEFL conference I attended in Exeter in 2008. Many delegates came from countries such as India, China and Malaysia where they had completed PhDs and at the conference they were presenting the results of their own rigorous research. In contrast, the presenters from the UK and Europe were presenting anecodtal accounts of their own classroom experience but with complete confidence in the 'rightness' of their methods. I would have welcomed a little humility on their part - a little uncertainty which acknowledged that the communicative methodolgy was not the only way to learn languages.

Thank you for your reply, Olwyn. I however also think that a lot of PhD holders are excellent researchers, but may not necessarily be good classroom teachers. Most native speaker teachers are trained in practical courses like the CELTA and DELTA and have an advantage of being able to teach in different countries around the world, thus making them more experienced classroom teachers.On the other hand, I think a significant problem with non-native teachers is that a lot of them only have the option to work their ways up in their careers following a more 'academic' but probably less 'practical' path (eg. bachelor's --> master's --> PhD in Linguistics), which has probably made them not as competent and well-rounded as classroom teachers. I hope you can understand what I mean.

[quote=elchwa]Most native speaker teachers are trained in practical courses like the CELTA and DELTA and have an advantage of being able to teach in different countries around the world, thus making them more experienced classroom teachers.On the other hand, I think a significant problem with non-native teachers is that a lot of them only have the option to work their ways up in their careers following a more 'academic' but probably less 'practical' path (eg. bachelor's --> master's --> PhD in Linguistics), which has probably made them not as competent and well-rounded as classroom teachers. I hope you can understand what I mean.[/quote]I agree elchwa, that it is important to have good classroom practices as well as good theoretical knowledge of the subject. However, I think that sometimes CELTA and DELTA training can be too constricting. Here's an example: recently I delivered a teacher development session for new EAP teachers on our pre-sessional course. At one point I asked the teachers to work with a partner if they wanted to, i.e. they had an option to work on their own. One teacher reflected that he didn't actually want to work with a partner and preferred to do the task on his own - and yet he never offered this option to his learners but always made them work together.One thing that doing research usually teaches people is to reflect, especially to think about the reasons why they do what they do. I think it is important for CELTA/DELTA trained teachers to think hard about the purpose of pair and group work in EAP. It should not just be the automatic response to classroom management.

Dear Olwyn,Great thanks for raising this problem which is typical for some if not the majority of EAP/ESP  teachers.  And sorry for keeping silence for so long as I am on vacation now till 1 September.For me to teach means to share my own experience of learning and to develop learning strategies within my students, of course in EFL. So, it is quite natural, if a teacher have no experience in any research, s/he won't be able to teach/guide the research without understanding what it is. That is why I am for and practising 'learning by doing' as it is really true: I do - I understand!I believe, one of the qualities of an ESP/EAP teacher is to be a researcher.  EFL teachers can't be professionals in all the areas of human life, but to learn from different sources including professionals, subject teachers as well as their students/learners they CAN do.  So, action learning is for EFL teachers striving to be effective in their teaching.Hope, I was helpful in any way to you and teachers.Good-bye until 1 September.  Wishing you to have a relaxing summer.All the best to ALL teachersIrina Z.  

Being trained in CELTA and DELTA myself, I agree that the CELTA training does have a preference for the communicative approach, though I don't think that the communicative approach is necessarily not workable in EAP contexts. In fact, we should not interpret the communicative approach too narrowly as only referring to speaking and listening in class.On the other hand, the DELTA training in fact has a much wider and deeper dimension. Generally at every module of the course, candidates have to produce a background research assignment that links to a ridiculously detailed lesson plan which they analyse their own class of learners and the language (grammar, vocabulary or discourse) they are teaching. They also need to state the aim for every step in the procedures of their lesson plan to justify what they do in class. After the observed teaching, candidates have to write post-lesson comments, which they reflect on and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson and finally state some action plans for improvement. There's also a balance of work dedicated to researching and teaching language and skills throughout the course. It is true that the DELTA does not cover everything that an EAP teacher needs, but it is too naive to say that it only trains teachers to use 'pair and group work' in class. In fact, it is an excellent training to enable teachers to link theory to practice and always think about why they do what they do in class.I also agree that research helps teachers to reflect on our teaching; combined with our observation, experience and instincts. However, we also know a lot of results from 'academic research' do not lead to direct implications for the classroom. There is still a wide gap between academic research and classroom practices, which is what I've meant to say that not all teachers are 'practical' enough and they may be too 'academic' or 'theoretical', whichever you like, to bridge the gap between the two in order to make learning work for the students. 

"I think the problem boils down to a teacher's work attitudes or how he/she views his/her work as a teacher - whether s/he is willing to learn and take up new challenges in the job."Well said friend. There is no doubt that it is the root of the problem.

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