Are we over-innovating?

Are you doing it for them or because you feel you have to?

A student of mine (Post MA, now doing MEd for secondary EFL in the Netherlands) recently asked if we weren’t so busy “innovating” in education that we forgot the pupils. There are pupils who simply like to sit back and listen and be told what to do without always having to discuss it with a neighbour, come up with the rules themselves, make a word web etc. Obviously there are various ways of looking at this such as learning styles and multiple intelligences along with diminishing class time and increased external input but what about the ‘good old’ chalk and talk style of class? How many of us actually sometimes preferred that sort of class? How many of us did actually learn things which we could subsequently apply? How many of us enjoyed lectures at university where we just sat and sponged up the information which flooded over us? How many of us enjoy listening to discussions on the radio or on podcasts? How many of us really enjoy being active in the classroom? How many of us want to try out our newly learnt/acquired skills?

Rather than indicate what my reaction was to this student I’m more curious to know how others feel about this?

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4 thoughts on “Are we over-innovating?

  1. I’ve been thinking about posting something along these lines for a while, really since I did TESL training. Hahaha. I was never one that liked group work (still absolutely hate it as a student) or talking with my partners (like doing this informally outside of class). I liked listening and absorbing information given to me, whether it be in lecture form, TED talk, conference talk, podcasts, etc. I still prefer that to reading. Despite the tendency towards creating a very communicative classroom, I’m not sure it’s always the best for everyone. I think the difference here between what I learned in university and how I learned and what we’re talking about is that this is language learning, which is entirely meant for communication–not something you usually do passively.

    1. I have to say that as a pupil at school I liked to sit back and listen and practise and repeat things in my head (the accent sounded so much better in my head than in my mouth!). I guess in terms of MI I was intrapersonal and visual. It was really only when I felt sure enough of myself that I would actually try to produce sounds. Luckily I had teachers who were happy to leave me alone (perhaps less CLT inclined?). At university we had some very traditional lessons which I absolutely loved! I see my students now on a Monday morning often just wanting to “sit and soak” whilst I try to get them to interact and leap around as I’ve been brainwashed into thinking activating didactics + ICT + collaborative learning etc = the only truly effective way of learning a language….. and yet I don’t think that’s how I learnt English……..

  2. I think your student might be right? Have you heard of Parkinson’s law? Work will expand to fill the time available. Nowadays we ppt everything and make all this extra material but does that extra effort equate to an equal amount if learner improvement?

    1. No, I’d never heard of Parkinson’s law. But there could be some truth to it. I now spend hours learning about new ‘methods’, new ‘techniques’ etc trying not to be a chalk and talk teacher, not to resemble my own teachers too closely and move with the times…… but my pupils are no more skilled than they used to be except perhaps in slang (thanks to TV?).

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