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Box-ticking or mind-mapping?

Thinking Change

This is a joint post between Willy Cardoso and Divya Madhavan on questions about ELT professionalism.


We worry about the current box-ticking culture in ELT teacher training and development. We think this impacts how professional knowledge is valued and how it should be valued. And we’re really not sure this is a good thing. In the words of Gert Biesta “are we valuing what we measure? or measuring what we value?”

What is box-ticking culture? It…

-focuses on visible behaviour as the main form of evidence of professional knowledge

-assumes that a change in behaviour means change in cognition

-focuses on teachers’ techniques, classroom management and control, repertoire of activities, rationales for activities, etc; all of which should match externally constructed knowledge and their translation into assessment criteria (i.e. boxes to tick)

So, boxes are ticked based on demonstrable classroom behaviours. The artistry of teaching inevitably falls into the ‘additional comments’…

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Angel or devil? The strange case of Sugata Mitra

Jeremy Harmer

Last Saturday Sugata Mitra gave a plenary at an international teachers’ conference. When it was over a proportion of the audience gave him a standing ovation, but an equal number refused to get to their feet and a proportion of the ‘reaming seated’ crowd expressed outrage and fury at what they had heard and seen. He was an angel. He was a devil. You can watch the plenary in question here, and you can read Graham Stanley’s careful response here.

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I have blogged about Sugata Mitra before in reference to his TED talk – and his plenary at the IATEFL 2014 conference over a year later was not significantly different from his TED appearance. And back then, like most speakers at TED conferences, Mitra was encouraged speak passionately and idealistically about something he believes in – and something which promotes technology’s ability to answer all problems – and…

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IATEFL Harrogate 2014: Mitra having a jelly good time

EFL Notes

The IATEFL Harrogate 2014 plenaries were bookended by two very chalk and cheese speakers. The opening plenary by David Graddol presented a well-argued thesis on English and economic development, with touches of humility e.g. when referring to his 1997 prediction that corporate decision making would move from economic rationalism to more social justice –

I think I got that wrong. Economic rationalism is alive and well.

David Graddol IATEFL Harrogate 2014 plenary

He goes on to remind us of some elementary critical thinking. Referring to an Education First graph showing a relationship between GDP per capita and English proficiency he asks what is cause and what is effect? We could add is there another variable mediating the other two?

Some very apt questions to bear in mind when assessing Sugata Mitra’s two graphs on distance from Delhi/English, Maths & Science primary school performance in India and number of council houses/GCSE…

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Never Mind the Bo**ocks – here’s The TEFL Skeptic!

The Steve Brown Blog


It’s often struck me that the IATEFL conference is a bit like a big music festival. You’ve got the global stars on the main stage, slightly more alternative acts in the bigger rooms, and then the unsigned bands that nobody has heard of (like me) playing in some faraway tent, mostly to people who are there by accident.

Some of the venues even have themes – the room with all the Learning Technologies SIG events is a bit like the dance stage, where all the techno-heads go to get turned on by people like Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly. The Consultants-E are like Daft Punk – they started out as some kind of dance-oriented outfit, and over the years they have somehow managed to stay ahead of a very fast-moving game. As their genre has become more accepted as part of the establishment, they are now firmly at the…

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