This plenary talk explores the idea of 'inefficient' approaches to teaching of language and the resultant learning outcomes.

Speaker(s): 
Kathleen Graves

About the session

The efficiency of inefficiency: an ecological perspective on curriculum

Efficiency is the ability to do or produce something without wasting materials, time or energy. In a curriculum driven by efficiency, the aim is to get learners to learn as much as possible in as little time as possible with the fewest resources necessary. In ELT, the global role of English has made efficient delivery of English instruction a major concern of ministries of education, educational institutions and schools. This demand creates tremendous pressures on teachers and students to produce results quickly in the classroom. Unfortunately however, many educational efforts aimed at efficiency in classrooms often do not lead to the intended outcomes. So teachers are caught between needing to use time and resources efficiently and acknowledging that learning a language is a process that takes time.

In contrast, an ecological perspective on curriculum focuses on growth and development. These processes evolve through the interplay among learners, teacher, subject matter and the learning environment. Learning must take root and be nurtured; and teachers must focus on who the learners are, not only what they must learn. All of which takes time, and seems to be at odds with efficiency. Or is it? In the end, an approach to learning that seems inefficient may actually be efficient in terms of meeting educational goals in lasting ways.

In this talk, we will look at the ecology of one specific classroom and how a seemingly inefficient approach to teaching of language leads to learning outcomes that appear to be deeply embedded in students' lives and experience. We will explore the implications of these ideas for teachers, teacher educators, and curriculum designers.

About the speaker

Kathleen Graves is Associate Professor of Education Practice at the University of Michigan. She started her career as an English teacher in Taiwan and later taught in the US, Japan and Brazil. She has worked on curriculum renewal and language teacher education in the US, Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil, Japan and Korea. Her research focuses on the role of classroom practice in curriculum renewal and supporting teachers' professional development as the key to successful educational reform. She is the editor/author of three books on curriculum design, series editor of the TESOL Language Curriculum Development series and co-editor of the forthcoming book International Perspectives on Materials in ELT. She has also coauthored two coursebook series for English language learners. 

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