4/26/2014

IATEFL - JEREMY HARMER AND SCOTT THORNBURY

It was a great pleasure for me to watch Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury speak online once more at IATEFL. I attended sessions for both of them before at the Nile Tesol Annual Conferences 2012/2013. At that time, Jeremy Harmer spoke about variations of language teaching to keep students attracted and interested, while Scott spoke of new grammar perspectives especially about those related to Active and Passive Voice. This year at IATEFL, they met together to discuss CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) and how they started as trainee traditional teachers, yet how they went against this and tried to lead a new trend of teaching by the end of the 70s. Harmer said that when people became so much interested in CLT, they 'lost focus'. He said,"in the zeal for applying CLT, we lost focus which is provided by drilling." By 'focus' he meant "what is going on with the language" i.e. the rules of grammar and structure. On the other hand,Scott Thornbury said,"it doesn't matter what knowledge of grammar or language resources you have, it is how resourceful you are with what you have in order to communicate what you need to say of write." Some people have very good knowledge or vocabulary or grammar, yet they can't communicate using the language. He believed that a teacher is a 'facilitator, a manager of learning'. The teacher is the one who plans what to do, at what time and how. Thus he believed that "teaching is a kind of management issue not knowledge." Teachers can start their lessons in the traditional way following a coursebook system, but because communication learning is very important, if they can 'flip' the classroom and start with 'task based learning'that would be more beneficial and more effective. Both Harmer and Thornbury, came to the conclusion that having a mixture between traditional and CLT is the best possible solution and that it is the situation, system or school that implies which way to go. Yet, the most important point as Heremy set as a conclusion,"CLT gave us an understanding of the importance of the need to learn the language, not only that, but to provoke students to learn, provoke the need to do that." I enjoyed this conversation or rather discussion so much that I repeated it online more than once. From my personal experience over 30 years, I support the conclusion they finally got to. You can be a wonderful traditional teacher, but where would you take your students? Would they be really able to communicate using the language? Would they be really passionate about the need to learn and communicate? We need to have this mixture between traditional and CLT. Also it is much better to be guided by a coursebook rather than adopt your own work!! Well designed curriculums can achieve great results, yet to apply them we need to follow well-designed systems of work and train teachers how to follow them. It would be also advisable to make some kind of questionnaires, among teachers and students as well as limited researches as a kind of feedback to check the benefit of such systems and what are the best ways to enhance them. Finally, as Jeremy said,"if you can create the need [motivation] in the students to learn the language, that's it." How to interest yourself as well as the students in the learning process is the key to successful learning!!!
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