Researching “Designer ELT Methods”
September 12, 2012
This is just a quick page/post/response here that I am writing because of a conversation that occurred on Twitter but I just couldn’t imaging thinking about or counting 140 characters for. I hope you, dear reader, will be forgiving in terms of (lack of) logic and (plethora of) mistakes.
A friend on Twitter suggested researching and comparing the methods like TPR, (de?) Suggestopedia and The Silent Way which were discussed during today’s #ELTchat.
He mentioned that it would be a worthwhile undertaking. I am not so sure.
A few difficulties come to mind with this suggestion.
First of all, I highly doubt that there are many lessons or courses going on in the world where a teacher subscribes to totally TPR. I could be wrong, though. It seems to me that most teachers are like the #ELTchat crew and ready to pick and choose and borrow from various methods rather than simply subscribing to one. To be honest, I have a hard time imaging a course where the teacher does nothing but TPR all class every class.
Next, as I mentioned on teh twitters, I think that the objectives of all these methods are quite different. This means to me that it would be “unfair” to pit them against each other because they are trying to do different things. They are approaching language learning from a different angle with a different purpose/concept in mind.
I am also thinking about the students and the teachers. I happen to think that a teacher that truly believes in the power of TPR is going to more successful than the teacher that doesn’t.
When I raised some of the above issues my research friendly friend suggested suggested testing them and finding out which particular technique is good for which particular goal. I guess my main concern is still the first one in that I don’t think people are seriously proposing classrooms that are strictly Silent Way these days so I am not sure how much would come out of it.
*This is not to discourage anyone from undertaking such reasearch.
I think there are just so many variables involved that it would make “proving” much of anything pretty impossible to me.
I guess the only thing I can say with any degree of certainty (at the risk of revealing my true cynicism and stubbornness?) is that I can’t imagine any research on these methods that would really mean very much to me or change my opinion.
It seems we’re on the same wavelength on this, Mike. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said: … “a teacher that truly believes in the power of TPR is going to more successful than the teacher that doesn’t”. We (many of us) do what we believe in and we teach the way we believe is the best for our students. This will never change because we’re human beings. Also, I agree that there is no perfect method. To elaborate on TPR, all kids go through so-called silent period (oh dear, I caught myself worrying about the term – is it still acceptable, has anybody disproved it, is it considered pseudo-science?) and then they start speaking. So, as you point out, teaching methods try to do different things and as time flies, we adjust them to our needs and/or the students’ needs. No method works perfectly in all situations and environments so what’s the point in proving which is the best one? Let’s juxtapose them and see when they work, where they work, for whom they work, and most importantly, do they suit OUR students’ needs, not IF they work at all. Honestly, I don’t think we can ever answer the question whether they really work…..