Empowering Teachers for Excellence

The field of English Language Teaching has gone through many changes, fashions, trends and paradigm shifts in its search for excellence for our language learners. From this history of well-intentioned innovations and transitions a number of key principles have emerged on which we can base our decisions about teaching in the 21st century:

  1. Teachers are the key to students’ success in language learning. Empowering teachers to take the right decisions about how best to teach their students is the most important principle.
  2. Students are as varied as grains of sand on a beach. They each have their individual abilities, aspirations and histories. Only those who have a chance to get to know them, their teachers, can make informed decisions about their learning.
  3. The English language is both our goal and our common creation. Unlike any other language in the modern world, it is the property not of its so-called “native speakers” but of the millions of people who use it every day to communicate the vital messages of their lives. As such, it is less a model and more a tool for each of us to bend to our purposes.
  4. Materials and resources to teach English have never been more plentiful or accessible. Selecting from the wide variety of materials that meet specific learners’ needs is a vital part of the teacher’s role. It is most unlikely that a single set of materials will meet all the needs of our learners, just as it is unlikely that the same set of materials will be relevant to a variety of different contexts.
  5. The theories and axioms which support our field, linguistics, pedagogy, psychology, etc., are as complex as they are vital to success. Teachers need to devote themselves to staying current in all relevant fields and, in this effort, they need the support of school administrators and managers.
  6. The development of teachers is a never-ending task. The interplay between theory and practice criss-crosses a teacher’s professional life, as new challenges require innovative approaches and half-forgotten methods find new life in unexpected classroom contexts.
  7. The development of learners is equally important. Like all education, English Language Teaching seeks to transform, to create not only English language learners but also English language users who will spend a life time perfecting their skills.
  8. Understanding the context in which the teaching and learning occurs is vital to success. As teachers immersed in the local teaching/learning context, we share a common language with our students, a common identity and a common understanding of the needs of learners in our classrooms.

The two presenters come from very different learning / teaching contexts. They will each draw on their experience of language teachers and language learners to illustrate these principles as well as drawing on the international research and Teacher Development literature.

This keynote presentation is intended to be a rallying call for to those throughout Asia who wish to empower teachers in their quest to bring excellence to each and every English language learner.