Happy with your TEFL methodology & sick of the tech classroom?

I’m sure I saw Scott Thornbury once talking about an EFL teacher that had told him, “I don’t need any of this new stuff in my class. I’m completely happy with my TEFL methodology”

It’s an interesting point, isn’t it? Of course, there’s the old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. If you’ve got a class full of happy, talking students and they are passing their exams (if relevant to your situation), do you really have to be trying to incorporate new ideas into every lesson?

I quite like to use video in and out of class (in a Connected Classroom Russell Stannard kinda ‘video for homework’ way) and I do take an interest in techy stuff that can be found on tefltecher, Nik Peachey and teachertrainingvideos.com. But I can take it or leave it – I pick the stuff I like and leave the rest. Of course, this is only looking at the technological side of things and barely considering the tip of the iceberg re different methodologies/theories/thinking that I could bring to my lessons.

I saw this infographic below about the effectiveness of computer games in TEFL and it made me wonder… I have never been into computer games and wouldn’t know the first thing about utilising them in a lesson. Surely any attempt to do so would end up in me looking like an old fart. Yes, I know that I could get all TEFLy and get the students to collaboratively decide on how to use games in class – but would my class of A1 pensioners really be into that?? It almost blew their minds when I showed up with a laptop with a video lesson.

We cannot teach the whole aspect of language – we are not the parents of our students – so there is always some degree of selection going on in terms of content and the way it is presented.

Some Questions

1. Is it a TEFL crime to say, “I’m happy with the way I teach”… at least for the moment – maybe I’ll have another look again in 3 months time! 🙂

2. Is there any proof that integrating a new approach in class and putting students outside of their comfort zone will improve their L2 output?

3. When your feedback and student results are great, do you have to keep changing (your methodology) for change’s sake? Does that make you a better teacher?

4. More importantly, does trying out ‘new stuff’ in class (that you’re probably not expertly accustomed to) provide improved learner outcomes?

I don’t know – I’m asking!

Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here.
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4 Responses to Happy with your TEFL methodology & sick of the tech classroom?

  1. Hi Bren,

    I follow a certain ‘way’ of teaching that has been pretty much the same now for the last few years. It works for me and for most of my students (you can’t fool all the students all the time).

    However, if I were to do the same stuff with my students year after I would get thoroughly bored very quickly. The thing that I change is the material I use. I try to write all of my own material and I am constantly updating my old stuff. I add certain elements every now and again; I am going to experiment with videos for homework for the end of this year, but any change is incremental and not to the underlying principles.

    This is not to say that big changes can’t be for the better. When I discovered Michael Lewis and the Lexical Approach, and even more so when I read The English Verb it drastically changed the way I taught. Ditto Language Play by Guy Cook. It is just that I haven’t read or found anything in the last few years that offers a completely different way of approaching ELT.

    • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

      Thanks for the comment and the book recommendations, Stephen.

      It’s a nice way of putting it. I suppose that I, too don’t keep flip-flopping my methodology, but I definitely make new content all the time. When I come across a new tool that I think does actually benefit the learner in terms of class presentation or usability for tasks/homework, then I readily incorporate it.

      Doing the DIploma was good for reading about ideas new to me and again, if I think they’re workable into my already successful classes (without wanting to blow one’s own trumpet) then I’m very open to that.

      I suppose that I possibly get a bit overwhelmed with the daily reams of new ‘stuff’ that is bombarded on twitter – and as a teacher that wants to progress and provide the best possible lessons for the learner, there is a certain subconscious guilt that one should be aware of/using everything… but that’s probably not the case and I should just unplug from the matrix a bit more. 🙂

      Just finally though, you said that you haven’t read or found anything in the last few years that offers a completely different way of approaching ELT.… so can I ask what are your thoughts on Dogme?

  2. You are absolutely right about the Diploma giving you the space to read about and investigate other ways of teaching.

    The reason I didn’t include Dogme as affecting me over the last couple of years is because I first heard about when I was doing my Dip about 12 years ago. At the time I used to walk into class with piles of photocopies to cover every eventuality and because I was scared of not having enough material to last the class. Dogme informed my teaching practice to make me confident about reacting to my students and seeing where they could lead the class.

    It seemed to have largely disappeared until a few years ago when all this controversy started. As with most approaches, though, it offers something, but not everything.

    If you are interested, I wrote a bit more about my thoughts on Dogme here: http://goo.gl/hdBoU

  3. Kyle Mawer says:

    As co-author of the book “Digital Play: Computer games and Language Aims” I would just like to say that I think the Dogme approach has been and will continue to be a highly influential methodology in my teaching career and that I do apply it to my classroom gaming lessons. Admittably, I do work in an environment where technology “usually” works and with young learners so adopting aspects of their lives and culture seems like a natural progression for me.

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