A summary and critical analysis of TEFL
Theory in TEFL: Help or hindrance?
TEFL (see notes below) employs the standard much practiced ‘linear’ approach of PPP - an abbreviation describing a sequence of Presentation, Practice and Production prevalent in EFL. Furthermore, standard textbooks commonly used in the EFL classroom are adept at promoting this practice.
The linear approach mentioned here is indeed standard practice incorporating a warm-up, presentation, controlled practice, free practice and feedback phase of a standard EFL lesson.
As competition in the EFL textbook industry stiffens, publishers are increasingly offering additional teacher resources such as lesson plans and supplementary materials as ‘all-inclusive survival packs’.
In general, these include detailed descriptions of how and when the EFL practitioner is to proceed with the lesson along the lines of the standard linear approach of PPP. Unfortunately, the result is that more and more EFL teachers are tending to follow such prescribed approaches which tend to ignore other vital areas of pedagogy such as classroom management and group dynamics to name but two.
Policy, documentation, lesson plans and ‘conveyer belt teaching’
Policy has a big part to play in the changing face of EFL teaching and learning with language learning institutions in Switzerland advocating the PPP approach in a bid to secure the coveted eduQua certificate (see notes below).
EduQua requires certain documented evidence of practice and proof of training with the aim of improving practice. One such requirement is transparency for ‘clients’ which can be found in detailed, ready-made lesson plans and course overviews of the EFL materials being produced and published on a conveyer-belt scale. Indeed owing to time constraints, it is in the EFL practitioner’s interests to have these ready-made plans available as they can be used time and time again.
The result is the proliferation of a set format in EFL which publishers have recognized and thus respond to market needs by producing this type of conveyer-belt approach to teaching.
Overriding the conveyer-belt system through experience and reflection
With time a consideration then, it is easy to understand why so many teachers would appreciate this pre-packaged approach to lesson planning and teaching.
Experienced teachers however, will be aware that the same routine can be generated through reflection on what works which in turn generates the awareness that prepares the teacher for what’s coming next. In simple terms, a question is anticipated, the answer formulated and given, the information received and understood and all in a matter of minutes.Reflection and awareness also allows the teacher the confidence to wait - students are often capable of answering their own questions with a little prompting which invariably speeds up the process of learning.
Taking this on board, detailed lesson plans could be considered unnecessary and purely a policy and market-driven requirement which aims to keep the client happy and the publishing industry’s conveyer belt turning.
Sticking to the tried and tested?
Modern EFL is essentially a business which caters for career-orientated adults and this seems to be reflected in changes to the curriculum which are driven by market forces.
Perhaps it is for further studies to show, but a recent example of how the market place drives TEFL can be gauged from Cambridge ESOL activities in recent times.
On their website, ESOL claims the following: ‘In order to ensure our exams meet the needs of users, FCE and CAE have recently undergone a review and the examinations have been updated. The first session of the updated FCE and CAE exams will take place in December 2008’. (http://www.cambridgeesol.org/exams/general-english/cae.html)
It is interesting to note that the FCE and the CAE are two of Cambridge ESOL’s most popular exams. Approximately 60,000 people from 127 countries take the CAE every year. (http://www.geos-oceania.com/links/cae—-certificate-in-advanced-english.htm) and the FCE is taken by about 300,000 people from 100 countries each year. (http://www.tlh.ch/English/courses.htm).
In my view, the market has become saturated and Cambridge ESOL has deemed an ‘update’ of course materials necessary.
There is no question that it is big business with ‘a huge range of course books, practice tests and learning resources’ being produced by publishers as preparation for Cambridge ESOL exams. Cambridge claims that ‘several hundred titles specifically linked to the exams are available’ (http://www.cambridgeesol.org/resources/books-for-study.php)
For the EFL practitioner, policy and market forces alter the way English language courses are planned, structured and taught. However, while Cambridge ESOL offers a wide range of materials and practical help to aid the practitioner, experienced practitioners rely on reflection and action - methods which are establishing a foothold in the face of changing curricula driven by client’s demands and market forces.
Unfortunately, with time constraints an ever-present reality, reflection is perhaps a luxury that most teachers can’t afford and therefore welcome the pre-packaged system that has been discussed here. That is not to say however, that it doesn’t play a part - in my experience, the ‘linear’ method of PPP works in conjunction with course materials and the competent practitioner will ‘pick and choose’ from the wide-ranging wealth of resources on offer to provide the best practice for the client.
In Switzerland, EduQua also plays a part in ensuring that quality is maintained at a high level and it’s insistence on continual training means that teachers attend regular group seminars which are essentially forums for reflection and shared experience on what works.
Of course, marketing and promos will never be far away either.
Cambridge ESOL offers the world’s leading range of certificates for learners and teachers of English - taken by over 2 million people in 130 countries. They help people gain entrance to university or college, improve job prospects or measure progress in English. (http://www.cambridgeesol.org)