Harold R. Keables

This blog has two aims.

1. To provide those doing a postgraduate course in Applied Linguistics and TESOL with a forum, where issues related to their studies are discussed and some extra materials provided. It is completely independent, and has no support or connections with any university. Let me make these preliminary remarks:

Academics teach and do research. Most of them prefer research to teaching and they haven’t been taught how to teach. So in tertiary education, teaching methodology matters little: it’s the student who counts. The students who go to the best universities are carefully selected, and a key criterion in the selection process is the student’s ability to study without spoon-feeding. A good student does her own studying and knows how to draw on the resources offered. When you sign up for a post-graduate course know that you are in charge and that you, and you alone, will determine the outcome. Your tutor is an expert, not, usually, a teacher. Your job is to use your tutor’s expertise, which means asking the right questions. Don’t ask “What should I do?”, or “Please suggest a topic”. Ask for comments on your own drafts, ask for guidance on reading; ask for clarification. Get into a dialogue with your tutor; shoot the breeze; get familiar; build a relationship, but remember: your tutor is your mentor in the Greek sense of the word, not your teacher.

2. To question the ELT Establishment

The increasing commercialisation of ELT and the corresponding weakening of genuinely educational concerns has resulted in most teachers being forced to teach in a way that shows scant regard for their worth, their training, their opinions, their job satisfaction, or the use of appropriate methods and materials. This is, in my opinion, a disgraceful state of affairs, and one which teachers need to become more aware of.

The biggest single obstacle to good ELT is the coursebook, which forces teachers to work within a framework where students are led through successive units of the book, spending too much time working on isolated linguistic structures and carefully-controlled vocabulary in a sequence which is externally predetermined and imposed on them by the textbook writer. These best-selling, globally-marketed coursebooks (and their attendant teacher books, workbooks, audio, video multimedia and web-based material) have huge promotional budgets aimed at persuading stakeholders in the ELT business that they represent the best practical way to teach English as a second or foreign language. Part of this budget is spent on sponsoring teaching conferences like TESOL International, IATEFL and all the national conferences, where the stars of the ELT world strut their stuff, and, loathe to bite the hand that feeds them, refrain from any serious criticism of the current teaching orthodoxy neatly packaged into shiny coursebooks.

In the last 50 years, studies into SLA have provided supporting evidence for the theory that SLA is a process whereby the learner’s interlanguage (a dynamic, idiosyncratic, evolving linguistic system approximating to the target language) develops as a result of attempts to communicate in the target language. The research suggests that interlanguage development progresses in stages and that it’s impossible to alter stage order or to make learners skip stages. Thus, teachability is constrained by learnability and any coursebook-driven syllabus which attempts to impose an external linguistic syllabus on learners is futile: learning happens in spite of and not because of the course design.

So this blog sets out to question the establishment and the status quo by challenging the role of coursebooks, by being critical of the so-called experts and leaders of the ELT industry – the textbook writers, teacher trainers and examiners; and by promoting the ideas of all those who are trying to buck the trend.

10 thoughts on “Hi

  1. It’s great to see such a site, put together by expert commentators, as I think it sorely fills a need for people doing an MA in TESOL/AL, especially those of us who are doing a distance course.

    I know Geoff, Gabi and Jeff as tutors from the MA Course at Leicester, so seeing them as contributors here gives me confidence that this site will be worth reading on a regular basis.

    I’d like to make a couple of suggestions if I may.

    1) The most recent posts should be at the TOP. This is pretty much universal for most blogs I’m sure and allows frequent visitors to see if something new has appeared (yes I know you can also ‘Follow’ the blog).

    2) The post should show the contributor after the title (i.e. on the line below). It’s interesting to know whose ideas they are but it isn’t always apparent from the post.

    That’s all. I think it’s worth spreading the word on other social media also to increase the level of engagement. I can put a link on my own Google+ community to get the ball rolling for you.

    Also, I’m sure you’re not intending to monetise this (!) but you may also want to consider SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to raise the visibility of the site. It all looks promising so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t show up high on Google searches for ‘MA TESOL discussion’ etc. :-)

    Anyway, good luck with the site.

    Tim Harrell

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for kind words and suggestion. I have deliberately manipulated the date of the posts; the first one has to stay on top, and I’ll try to keep the rest in order of date published.

      All the posts were written by me, and I’ll signal that in further posts (when I hope other “authors” will be in evidence) .

      I’ll have a look at SEO and then probably ask Gabi and Jeff to do it!



      P.S. I removed your subsequent additional remarks about ordering the posts as I think we’ve got this sorted.

  2. Congratulations on getting this up and running; it looks useful, and I shall pass it along to the discussion forum (listserv) of my alma mater.


  3. Hi Geoff
    From what I’ve read so far, this is an excellent site- look forward to reading more.
    Well done Geoff, keep up the good work!
    Best wishes

  4. Hi again Geoff,
    I’m having trouble accessing the comments on some of your older posts. For example, if I jump to your post on Motivation via the menu bar on the right, there doesn’t appear to be any link to the comments. Am I missing something?
    I spent an agreeable half hour scrolling back through your posts to see if I could get to the Motivation post that way and while I got pulled into reading other posts on the way, had no joy finding my pet subject. Could you help?

    • Hi Jessica,

      All comments before 22nd of September have gone. I’m afraid I might be the culprit; I wanted to delete a couple of comments and may have inadvertently deleted a lot more. Sorry about that.

  5. I found this by chance while browsing the net having a ‘break’ (ha!) from writing my dissertation for my MA TESOL. What a find! Thank you for this page :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s