Six ELT talks raising important questions

In my previous post on education-related talks, I selected six videos dealing with topics directly associated with teaching. Of course, there is much more to discuss when it comes to the ELT industry, so I would like to share more talks I found thought-provoking. When you work as an English teacher, it’s easy to say that you focus only on teaching the language and the rest is irrelevant. However, I believe that it’s important to be aware of some issues in our profession even if you aren’t directly affected by them.

Six ELT talks raising important questions

Nicola Prentis & Russ Mayne: Where are the women in ELT?
The speakers point out that while women represent the majority of English teachers around the world, most speakers at ELT conferences are male. In fact, I was guilty of overlooking women in my previous article because I focused on the most visible names in ELT, who happen to be men from English-speaking countries. Prentis and Mayne explore reasons for this phenomenon and provide some potential solutions. I recommend that you visit their blog Gender Equality ELT for more information on this issue.

Silvana Richardson: Professionalism in English Language Teaching
This talk deals with the fact that ELT isn’t always considered to be a serious profession. Richardson provides relevant examples of threats to professionalism in the industry and states that English is often taught by people who should be nowhere near the classroom. The main problem is that it’s extremely easy to get into TEFL because some employers feel that a £49 certificate from Groupon represents a sufficient qualification to become a teacher. As a consequence, they hire native speaker conversationalists without pedagogical skills or teachers whose own English is not good enough. The speaker emphasises the role of CPD in tackling this issue.

Charlotte Williams: Diversity and inclusion in an ever-changing world
Most published ELT materials are rather bland and don’t accurately depict what happens in the real world. Some topics are simply ignored by the majority of coursebooks. Charlotte Williams highlights the importance of making the classroom an inclusive space and suggests ways of promoting diversity in a workplace. She says that we can do much more than some standalone lessons on one narrative. The speaker also provides tips for handling prejudice and microaggression in the classroom.  

JPB Gerald: Decoding and decentering whiteness in the ELT classroom
This topic isn’t easy to discuss, but it’s something that needs to be done. At the beginning of this talk, Gerald defines relevant terms related to whiteness. The issues of race and language are inextricably linked, which leads to individuals’ ethnicity playing a bigger role than it should. The talk includes suggestions for dealing with the subject on both structural and individual level. In addition, the speaker addresses tokenism and the problem with images in published ELT materials in the Q&A part of the session.

Jo Krousso: Paperless teaching
According to the speaker, ELT is a backwards industry when it comes to using paper in the classroom. The pandemic forced teachers to digitalise their materials and teach without the use of paper, but the question is whether we can learn lessons from that when we start teaching in the physical classroom again. Krousso argues against going back to piles of worksheets and other paper-based materials. She provides a lot of useful tips for paperless teaching, which is beneficial not only for the environment, but it may also lead to more engaging lessons for the students.

Vijay Ramjattan: What does an anti-racist pronunciation teacher do?
This talk focuses on the topic of prejudice associated with speech accent. Listening isn’t just a passive activity, and we sometimes make stereotypical assumptions based on someone’s ethnicity. Ramjattan points out that even some native English speakers are perceived as foreign-sounding just because of their appearance, which affects their employability. Ramjattan also criticises accent reduction services and the way intelligibility is defined. He suggests that teachers make students aware of these issues when teaching pronunciation.

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