I’ve just spent the last couple of hours reading through several academic papers looking for quotes and evidence to support my argument for an essay I’ll submit for an upcoming training course. I’ve lost the will to live.
I just find the way academic information is given in the TEFL industry to be off-putting and boring. I try to present information in a fun, engaging way in my TEFL classroom, it’s a shame academics can’t do the same in their reports, journals, books or talks.
One big clique of academics
When it comes to writing essays it isn’t enough to say Thai learners struggle with pronunciation in terms of the L and R sounds, I have to find a source to support that. Apparently my six years teaching in Thailand doesn’t make my point valid, but, someone who’s written a dull book, and probably not taught here as long as me, count more and are a good source to prove my thoughts. Just that is enough to turn me off from academics in TEFL.
Adding to this, the process for referencing in essays is time consuming. although this isn’t just a TEFL problem, rather an academic one. The marker is probably going to read the same quote about R / L pronunciation from ten different essays, each with the same source. Do they need to know the book edition, page number and author’s favorite type of cookie and whatever other nonsense is required in referencing?
In short, the methods and style of current TEFL academic information is a turn off and is probably stopping countless teachers from learning more. The people on the academic side seem to be like a big clique and this was actually discussed by someone on Twitter in regards to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool earlier this month.
In the response to the IATEFL clique tweet, some people commented that they did feel a little on the outside when attending for the first time and there seemed to be a regular crowd of people who attend and know each other well. Others commented that they were going to bring outside friends with them but that it proved too expensive. Finally others said it was a scene for selfies with the TEFL superstar speakers. It sounds a bit like the episode of Friends where Ross invites everyone to his paleontology conference.
Common sense surely?
Some of the talks at IATEFL sounded interesting and sharing ideas and information is good of course. A talk on the idea of teacher mental health was a great idea and is something which should be discussed. However, some of the talks seemed to cover basic topics such as how to manage teen students. I felt like some talks were just there as the person wanted to speak rather than having something of great benefit to TEFL teachers worldwide. That’s what I don’t really like about the academic side of TEFL. A lot of it seems like common sense but is wrapped in long words and fancy terms to make it sound clever.
I get the feeling that a lot of academics are more interested in giving talks or researching than actual teaching and, whilst that isn’t necessarily a problem, it bugs me when I have to quote these people in essays on training courses. It really puts me off further leaning when the input through talks, books and journals just seems like common sense. I’d love there to be a way of learning that was more inclusive and less focused on using academic jargon and methods that just aren’t practical.
We all want to understand!
Teacher conferences are a potential way to learn more but I’d want them to be in a more relaxed form. I don’t want to feel like I’m gatecrashing a group of people who are used to using little-known acronyms and words with at least five syllables. I’m not asking for a dumbed down version but just a more inclusive way of getting teachers interested in practical ideas.
I think practical is the key word when it comes to gaining knew TEFL knowledge. The knowledge I want to learn should be able to be used in the classroom, not just on a computer simulator.
The other major input is from books / journals and, perhaps, it’s harder for the format of these to change. I can’t wait for people to write new books which will make the ones I’m using now for my course obsolete. It really feels like a punishment reading some of the books I’ve had to in the last week.
The internet is a great way to learn more and hopefully we will see online sources being given more value in academic learning in the future as their format is more inclusive as articles are shorter and many are written by current teachers. This is where I’d like to quote more from but I’ve been advised to focus on books and journals.
I actually work with a few teachers who have presented at conferences or write teaching blogs and, to be honest, they have ideas that were a little different from most. I also know that they don’t over-complicate things for the sake of it.
I like reading their sites or listening to them talk about TEFL. Hopefully there will be a new wave of people who are passionate about the academic side of TEFL but more open to making it inclusive, and interesting to all.
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