May 29, 2012 by Willy Cardoso
At the beginning of my talk yesterday at IATEFL LT & TD Conference in Istanbul, I asked the audience the following questions:
- Who’s responsible for generating the knowledge base of our profession?
- Is English Language Teaching a profession? What qualifies it as such?
- Theory: an unnecessary intrusion?
I’m not going discuss them here thoroughly, not yet. But below are some quotes and stuff I said (paraphrased here) in order to trigger some train of thought.
“The moral authority or pedagogical legitimacy of the goals themselves is not an issue of professional concern. Professionals do their job, they don’t define it” (Schon 1983: 12).
“If education is to become a profession its practitioners must strive to achieve universal consensus about the ends of education and about the techniques necessary for bringing about these ends; all of this being grounded in a demonstrable knowledge base, which also commands universal, rational assent, and housed within institutions whose structure enables the techniques to be efficiently and effectively applied and the results accurately assessed” (Parker, 1997: 12).
Teachers are the in the lowest layer of this ‘knowledge hierarchy’, then how can they validate their bottom-up, highly-contextualized, ‘at-the-chalk-face’ knowledge?
I feel there is an anti-intellectualism in ELT (and education in general). Why?
The apparent aversion to theory is perhaps because it is given, imported, external to teachers’ contexts. What if instead we became better at theorizing ourselves? Instead of teaching theory, we taught theorizing.
“If educators make a distinction between teaching theory as a body of knowledge that inform students’ understanding of the world and the practice of theorizing as a pedagogical activity in which students actually participate, it becomes possible to assert the mutual importance of both practices without one erasing or cancelling out the other” (Henry Giroux)
Teaching and learning are not about convergence onto a pre-existent truth, but a divergence –about broadening what is knowable and doable.
The questions above were aimed mainly at English language teachers, but many of the arguments and questions raised are relevant in the whole of the education ‘industry’.
In true TEFL fashion, discuss in pairs 🙂