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Innovation and Reform in Language Teaching: Legacies from the Past

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ewa Illakowicz.

Although change in language teaching theory can appear relentless, lasting reform for better practice appears very difficult to achieve, in particular in cases where the ‘better’ ideas in question are imported ones. Within the field of ELT / TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), the last fifteen or so years have seen a helpful critical turn, involving heightened awareness of needs to develop contextually appropriate methodology or ‘post-method pedagogy’. However, in this talk I argue that, for a long-lasting improvement to occur, what is required is enhanced historical and not just sociological or political awareness. Specifically, I highlight the value of understanding the benefits and limitations of a continuous European tradition of progressive theory going back to the late nineteenth century Reform Movement. Equally, an awareness of local pedagogical traditions, including traditions of resistance to innovation and reform in different local contexts is needed, while there may need to be a new focus on identifying positive values within such traditions. I illustrate all these points with reference to original research into the roots and early development of ELT , and in relation to post-war reform efforts involving the export from the UK of situational, and, subsequently, communicative language teaching.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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