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I’m going to go out on a limb with the following statement, generalising completely, but I hope in order to provoke something. It’s something I’ve a had a feeling about for some time deep down, perhaps, but only recently have I been able to crystallise these thoughts into words:

A lot of language teaching is … boring. Boring for teachers, boring for students.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t really mean boring in the sense that it leaves teachers and students wanting to scratch their eyeballs out to get some enjoyment from the language teaching/learning experience. I just mean that it’s just a little bit samey. I think a lot of teaching goes on and on and on and on … and there’s no real change.

Grammar syllabi dominate the coursebook market, the same grammar points are explained over and over, classroom procedures become doctrine. I’m not saying there’s no value in having a structure to follow (though I wish the default wasn’t based on grammar), nor that there’s no value in repetition, and I certainly see the value in creating a routine in the language classroom (I’ve taught younger learners and teens too ;)).

I just think we could change things up a bit, just every now and then.

You see, I see language teaching, and my particular strand of it, as a bit like an undiscovered country.


I recently completed the Cambridge DELTA, and one assignment that makes up Module 2 (focusing on your professional development) is all about doing something experimental.

experiment [noun]

1. [countable] a scientific test to find out what happens to someone or something in particular conditions.

2. [countable] an occasion when you test a new idea, method, or activity to find out what the result will be.

a. [uncountable] the process of testing various ideas, methods, or activities to see what effect they have

experimental [adjective]

1. using new ideas or methods that are not yet proved to be successful every time

2. relating to, based on, or used in scientific experiments

(definitions from Macmillan Dictionary)

This means investigating some aspect of language teaching that you’re unfamiliar with, reading about it, planning how to use it in your current teaching, and then assessing how successful (or not) it is. It could be a particular teaching methodology (e.g. using grammar translation, task-based learning approaches, etc.), a teaching/ classroom technique or activity (e.g. dictogloss, guided visualisations, etc.) or teaching using a particular resource (e.g. video, poetry, literature, etc.). The point is that it is experimental for you.

But I think ELT is big, so I prefer the idea of exploring it. However, this is all relative: the terrain and the maps are different for everyone.

explore [verb]

1. [intransitive/transitive] to travel to a place in order to learn about it or to search for something valuable such as oil

2. [transitive] to examine or discuss a subject, idea etc thoroughly

exploratory [adjective]

done in order to learn more about something

(definitions from Macmillan Dictionary)

I have visions of pioneering English (or other language) teachers, hacking down forests, on their way to explore language teaching, what it is and what it can be, and how a language can be taught. Human beings have a thirst to find out about the unknown, so it should be the same for language teachers finding out about what it is we do, and how we (can) do it!

I’d like to write a post about my own experimental practice, which focused on using guided visualisation, and hopefully share the experiences of a couple of colleagues, because I really think that experimenting and exploring is something that all language teachers can and should do. After all, it’s only really by trying out new things that we can open ourselves to change and in turn be changed.

What do you think? Mad? 😉

Would you be interested to hear about these experiences?

Maybe you’ve even already done some experimenting and exploring of your own. I’d love to hear about it 🙂