As another preview of SLB´s forthcoming teacher-training clinic with Geoff Jordan on Saturday 21st February (for which spaces are very limited – act fast if you want in!), the man himself agreed to a short interview. Simple as that. So here it is.
SLB: Can you give us a brief outline of the topics you’ll cover in the clinic?
GJ: a) 3 Recent Developments in Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT). Mike Long has just published a major work; Peter Skehan is doing good research on task types; Jane Willis has re-vamped her “Task Cycle”.
b) Drop-off and drop-out: Why do students abandon courses and what can we do about it?
SLB: What’s your personal interest in these topics?
GJ: One of my main academic interests is theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), and TBLT fits well with SLA research findings. As for the second topic, I don’t think any of us can afford to ignore it.
SLB: What benefits (or indeed drawbacks) can an awareness of SLA theory have for “lay” language teachers?
GJ: The main benefit is appreciating that students don’t learn what teachers teach.
SLB: You’ve recently been described as “very forthright”, and as someone who attracts “negative comments from some of the many nice people in our profession who think [your] criticisms are personal attacks“. Is that your problem or theirs? In other words, are ELT people too nice to each other?
GJ: There’s nothing wrong with people being nice to each other – I admire those who are : ) I think the ELT establishment – the British Council managers, the coursebook writers, the CELTA examiners, the conference plenary speakers – are mostly anti-intellectual snobs who choose to deflect criticisms of their publications and policies by interpreting them as personal attacks. As I said recently, I’ve never called anyone arrogant or stupid in a public forum or accused anybody of abusing their position. If people choose to see my criticisms as personal attacks, then they, not I, are indulging in ad hominem arguments.
SLB: Finally, you recently wrote that “By coming together as a collective …. teachers have a better chance of getting not only better pay but also more control over how they teach and what materials they use.” We (obviously) agree with both points, but what would
you say to those teachers (and students) who, for whatever reason, are reluctant to abandon the pre-packaged materials normally prescribed by course directors?
GJ: I quite understand that a great many teachers either can’t or don’t want to abandon coursebooks and other pre-packaged materials. At least, whatever coursebook we might be using, we can close it for a while now and then, and do some other stuff, right?