An ELT Heracles, that’s me! Having waded through the swamps of SLA research and armed with years of teaching experience I finally pluck up the courage to cut off the ELT Hydra’s head and vanquish doubt forever. Although I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that every time I cut off one of the creature’s heads, two heads grow in its place. So maybe I should just leave the creature alone, stop asking questions and go back to apishly spoon-feeding my unsuspecting students lumpy blobs of product-orientated artificially processed discreet units of nothingness until they become grammar obese and teacher dependent?

Anyway, nobody said it would be easy, so chin up mon brave, stay cool and contemplate the Hydra’s new heads.

So …

  • Why do we dumb down our teaching materials?
  • Who benefits most from dumbing down; learners or teachers?
  • Doesn’t authentic language teaching rely principally on the use of authentic language and authentic communication?
  • Shouldn’t we use authentic materials and adapt the focus of our teaching according to level instead of artificially creating the materials?
  • Wouldn’t it be better that learners get used to authentic English from the very outset?
  • Is a real life learning-process based approach to ELT more effective than a piece-by-piece-unit-by-unit-now-turn-to-page-127-for-more-exercises approach?
  • What would the implications of teaching with authentic materials be for course design and lesson plans, the teacher’s role in the classroom, the use of text books, tests and assessments, teacher training and evaluation and so on and so forth and a long list of etc?

Some scary questions indeed, though I must confess maybe not so scary for me. I can afford to be brave when the Hydra’s not going to eat me just yet. I live an ELT castle far from danger. I am self-employed and don’t have a DOS breathing down my neck. I live in a country that has internet access and is free from political censorship. My students are all reasonably well off, are internet literate, have smart phones and tablets and bring their technology to class. I am internet savvy and have all the equipment that I need from photocopier to wireless internet for the students. I can afford and have almost unlimited access to journals, newspapers, magazines and podcasts. The average group size for my classes is 8. Groups are homogenous and I can handpick the students for the groups according to age, level and personality. All the students, without exception, are highly motivated and hardworking, trusting me explicitly to manage and coordinate their learning from behind rather than being the main protagonist.

 

Having said that, and even though I live in a perfect world, I still think that the notion of authenticity and the use of authentic materials, rather than artificially created ones, is well worth looking into and that we should question the logic behind dumbing down.

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