Having been in the TEFL field for a number of years now, I’ve witnessed the ELT pendulum swing a number of times (back and forth and sideways) when talking about methods and approaches. Throughout all these years, I have seen teachers simply ‘throw away’ all they knew and believed about a certain method or approach because a new, trendier one had just made the market. I am talking specifically about the time in Brazil when the Communicative Approach swept away the Audio-Lingual Method and its (then considered) controlled, grammar-based use of the language in a way which didn’t foster real communication. It was believed that students needed to be given every chance they could get to communicate (even to the detriment of grammar).
Time went by and teachers began to realize that yes, students seemed to have become more fluent in less time, but the quality of their communication seemed to have decreased due to poor mastery of grammar structures. Such awareness caused teachers to rethink their practice and as a result, the pendulum swung again: teachers started to draw from the ‘old’ methods the techniques which they found beneficial to help students gain a better command of the structures.
Dogme is the buzz word now. From what I have been reading, some people seem to support Dogme as a key to authentic communication while others seem to suggest that it is just a new disguise for under-planned lessons. I imagine that Dogme will enjoy its golden days for some time; however, the laws of physics are unquestionable. A time will come when the ELT pendulum will swing again, and take us all in another direction. At times, I get dizzy from the extremes, and I wish that the pendulum would stop in a middle location that would encourage us to combine the best features of the methods and approaches we have used.
How about you? Do you enjoy the pendulum swings, and immersing yourself in new teaching methods? Or do you prefer to watch from the sidelines, picking and choosing from new methods those ideas that appeal to you? Do you like the destination or the journey?
Márcia Lima has been involved in TEFL for over 25 years and currently teaches and trains teachers at her own language school in Brazil. She is also an Associate with the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). Her passions include teaching (very) young learners and using technology in the classroom. She blogs at Where English is Fun and her Twitter handle is @bamarcia.