Sunday, 5 May 2013

ELT Tomorrow - a summary of Jun Liu's IATEFL 2013 plenary

This is a summary of Dr Jun Liu's plenary on the future of ELT.  You can watch an interview with the man himself here and his presentation in full here.

To talk about the future of ELT, we need to look at the future in general:

The future is already here.  While machines will replace humans in some tasks, they'll also amplify us, enabling us to do things we never dreamed of doing before.  We'll enter a new kind of partnership - one that will shed light on the unique comparative advantages of humans: thinking, creativity, spontaneity, adaptability and improvisation.  Technology has enabled us to multi-task.  We do multiple things at the same time.  So, machines don't just replace what we do; they change the nature of what we do.  By expanding our capacities, they set new expectations about what is possible and set new performance standards.  Our tools change us.

These are the future changes predicted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies:

For example, the population is increasing in developing countries and decreasing in developed countries.  Clearly, this will impact on English language teaching.
  Leadership Skills

In the past, teachers were responsible for their students only.  Now they need to consider what is going on in other levels and collaborate with their colleagues.

What is the future of education?

We are working in a global learning economy.

'The globalisation of open learning systems..... will change how educational institutions view their roles and will offer new forms of value in the global learning ecosystem.'

2020 Forecast: 6 major drivers of change
  1. Altered bodies - experimenting at the intersection of environment and performance.
  2. Amplified organisation - extended human capacity remakes the organisation.
  3. Platforms for resilliance - creating flexibility and innovation amid system failures.
  4. A new civic discourse - rearticulating identity and community in a global society.
  5. The maker economy - personal fabrication technologies plus open-source principles democratise production and design.
  6. Pattern recognition - an extremely visible world demands new sensemaking.
All of these changes will impact what we do as teachers.

The three domains of ELT

All of these fields will be globalised.
ELT as a profession
The community of skilled practitioners who are actively involved in TESL or TEFL:
  • instructors
  • researchers
  • curriculum designers
  • materials developers
  • teacher trainers
  • administrators
  • tutors
  • test developers
  • policy specialists
Anyone who makes or influences pedagogical choices in the language classroom.
Attributes of a profession
From Elliott Judd's 40th anniversary TESOL presidential plenary:
  1. Has a body of knowledge
  2. Has a prescribed regime of licensing for members
  3. Sets a code of ethics and standards
  4. Has authority
  5. Has autonomy
  6. Has power
  7. Has status and privilege
  8. Is altruistic and serves the public
  9. Is a full-time lifelong commitment
  10. Forms professional associations
Not that long ago, most English language teachers had no training whatsoever.  Now, there's lots of training available.
What's affecting the future of ELT?
To try to predict the future of ELT, Jun Liu looked at more than 40 years' worth of articles published in the TESOL Quarterly journal and identified the top ten issues affecting our profession:
  1. Language skills
  2. Language knowledge (including grammar and pronunciation)
  3. Methodology
  4. Language learning and the learners
  5. Language policy
  6. Language use - sociolinguistics
  7. Assessment
  8. Teacher development and education
  9. Curriculum and materials design
  10. Second language acquisition

There are four recurrent themes which are all inter-related:
  1. Language policy/standards
  2. Language learners and learning
  3. Curricula and teaching materials
  4. Teacher learning and development
We are in a time of migration and globalisation.  We need to redefine the role of English and legitimise varieties of native English.  We need to consider intelligibility and cross-cultural appropriateness.

'The majority of human interactions do not involve an English native speaker.'
Graddal 2006
74% of communication in English is NNS to NNS.
Redefining English
We have so many types of English now as identified by the following acronyms:
  • English as an international language (EIL)
  • English as an world language (EWL)
  • English as an global language (EGL)
  • English as a lingua franca (ELF)
  • English as an additional language (EAL)
  • English as everyone's language (EEL)
The majority of English language teachers are NNSs.

English for young learners (EYL) is a growing area.  These students are digital natives and teachers need to adapt to this.  Learners often have no interest in activities that don't have the same excitement as a computer game.

We need to introduce varieties of English that teach global/inter-cultural competence.  We need to understand who our students will be communicating with.

The six abilities of a competent English teacher

1. Make constant and effective changes

We need to try new practices in order to question our beliefs and perhaps change our behaviour.
  • Innovation will drive success
  • The qualities and skills that define a successful language professional today may be entirely different by 2020
  • Strive to cultivate adaptability and effectiveness
  • Resist relying on practices and assumptions merely because they were acceptable in the past
English teachers are constantly challenged:

2. Learn and speak at least one other language
In the future, companies will employ more bilingual or multilingual employees so there's a threat to native speakers growing up in the USA or UK.  If they don't learn a second language, they might lose out to multilingual applicants from overseas.  So, there's a huge need for learners to know more than one language and it's useful for teachers, too.  Plus, learning another language puts you back in the role of learner and gives you more empathy for your students.
3. Teach less to maximise learning
'Learning is most effective when the learner is the initiator of the learning process.'
McLean 1980
Our role as a teacher will change to become a:
  • scaffolder
  • supporter
  • facilitator
  • conductor

We will help students to explore the learning process rather than teach them what to do.  Students find learner-centred teaching intrinsically motivating.  Teachers should gradually move towards more non-directive approaches.
4. Teach English in at least one subject area
We're not just language teachers anymore.  Teachers who are knowledgeable in at least one other subject will be more employable in an increasingly competitive job market.  We need to have an integrative perspective on the role of English in the classroom.  General English teachers at tertiary level might not have jobs in the future as high school students enter higher education with IELTS band 7+ already.
5. Familiarise oneself with new learning and teaching modes
We need to be technologically prepared to work with digital natives.  We need to reimagine ways of learning and teaching English:
  • handheld learning
  • e-learning
  • classroom technology
  • digital textbooks
  • digital English - extensive exposure to English input
  • net-based teaching
  • digital teaching resources
6. Ensure learning outside the classroom
We need to break the association between learning and schooling and create learning opportunities for our students outside the classroom:
  • online learning
  • self-paced learning
  • one-to-one learning
  • handheld learning
  • mobile learning
  • collaborative learning
  • time-shifted learning - any place, any time
  • synchronous/asynchronous learning
  • blended learning
#eltchatters discussed Jun Liu's 'Six abilities' on April 17th.  I summarised the chat here.
Final thoughts
Changes are inevitable - we need to prepare ourselves for them.  We need to turn our original pyramid upside down.  After all, teachers are leaders too!!

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