Monday, 19 May 2014

EBEFL asks part 2: The evidence strikes back...

One odd thing that happened after IATEFL was people suddenly assuming I was an EFL expert. I started getting questions about the efficacy of this or that method or the merits of vocabulary versus grammar. To be honest I generally have no idea and while it may be expedient for me to cultivate an image of being a knowledgeable so-and-so that's not the case. I'm not expert in very much and more importantly other 'experts' are probably not as expert as we may think. 

How do I know this? Maths. 
 
According to Fred Perry there are around 100 journals relating to SLA and language teaching at present. Each of these puts out around 3 or 4 issues a year (3x10=300) and each one has, let's say, about five articles a piece which is about 1,500 articles a year. There is no way anyone could reasonably be expected to keep up with these and all the articles/books that have gone before them. Rod Ellis may be an expert on SLA but how would he fare in discussions of ELF, testing or corpus linguistic?
 
So in short I don't know that much and nobody knows everything. These two points bring me to two requests:

No. 1. I'd like to try to help spread the 'ask for evidence' meme created by Sense about Science. If anything came out of the talk at IATEFL for me it's the need for teachers to be less afraid of asking questions and challenging the status quo. I had a large number of emails thanking me from people saying they'd always thought something was not quite right but never felt they couldn't say anything. Some had even got into trouble for questioning 'established practice'. There is nothing wrong with asking the question 'how do you know that?' In fact, it's sad that educators should feel they can't. As long as you are not rude or patronising it's reasonable to expect an answer.

So the next time someone claims that 'teacher talking time should be reduced' or 'grammar mcnuggests are bad for students' or that 'students have nine different types of intelligence' politely enquire on what grounds the speaker makes those claims and be cautious of accepting 'my experience' or 'it's obvious' as answers. There may be very good reasons for the claims, then again there may not. Either way, you'll learn something. I've always been pleasantly surprised that people, who are probably far busier than me, have taken the time to respond to my emails. And that brings me to...

No. 2 I'd like to ask anyone who is an expert/knowledgeable in a particular field, be it motivation or vocab to get in touch. As I said earlier, it's impossible for anyone to know everything and with that in mind I'd really like to start having some guest bloggers, particularly those who can offer teachers practical advice based on research. Ideally you'd be highlighting the research evidence that a certain practice or set of practices 'work' or conversely, don't.
 
Let me know at rm190@le.ac.uk
 
 
  

6 comments:

  1. Hi Russell
    Much man-love to you for what you're doing. You are my EFL hero.

    I recall someone maybe a year ago (I think it was David Petrie) mentioning the idea of a searchable EFL Masters Dissy page, where people who had gone to all the trouble of doing some research, or trawling the literature, only to have their dissertation read by 4 people, could upload the beast for the benefit of others.

    I am not sure if anything happened about this idea, or any similar, but if we are lacking the computer nerdism to make it so, or someone enthusiastic to help out generally, I throw my hat into the ring.

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    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the kind words Paul.

      I like the idea of a place to publish dissertations. It does seem a shame to waste all that stuff. but then again. If the papers are really high quality wouldn't the author seek to publish them?

      Russ

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    2. You're probably right - perhaps a lot of it isn't really of much interest to the wider world.

      What would be great is some resource that would enable someone like me, a humble teacher ploughing a lonely furrow with no access to the learned journals, to find out what research has been done on various aspects of TEFL, and therefore get some pointers as to what to research in more depth or even - god forbid - use in class.

      The only "journal" I can access at work is English Teaching Professional, which has no woo-protection that I can see.

      Maybe if your appeal to guest bloggers picks up, this place could become such a resource?

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    3. Hi Paul,

      I really hope this blog can become a place like that! I'm going to be posting on some things to do in class soon :)

      Russ

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  2. TESOL Academic may be willing to 'publish' MA dissertations. I am certain that people have uploaded links to their dissertations via the FB page previously. Might be worth a check.

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    1. let me know if you find anything out!

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