#IATEFL2018: ELT as emancipatory practice by Steve Brown

Here’s another set of notes from a talk I attended yesterday.


We live in a world where people who are in position of power are using it to further disadvantage people in an already disadvantaged position.

We are assisting to the commodification of language, learning and teaching!

Wheere is power located in ELT?

  • school owners
  • publishing companies
  • examining bodies /qualification providers
  • education policy-makers
  • employers

Where is power low or lacking?

  • teachers
  • students
  • writers
  • ELT methodologists

ELT is a neoliberal profession!

Ways of looking at education include:

  • education as censorship or disempowerment (teaching to be ‘thick’)
  • education as indoctrination or imperialism (imposing a majority agenda on minority communities)
  • education as empowerment: people developing capacities to act successfully within the existing system and structures of power –> but this implies no transformation
  • education as emancipation: give people the power to critically engage with the status quo and find ways to transform it for the better

Empowerment is not enough. We need an emancipatory approach, using teaching as a means of affecting change: analysing Ss needs, working with what they need, finding ways to include critical thinking in our lessons.

Ideas for the classroom

Fpr teacher trainers — here are some alternative questions to ask about our teaching (instead of “did you reach your aims?”):

  • Who benefits most from the lesson?
  • What underlying values and assumptions axist within lesson content?
  • How (if at all) does the lesson address issues of injustice and inequality?
  • What impact (if any) does this lesson have on the wider world around us?

Pushing ELT along the continuum:

  • education as priority instead of profit
  • using a co-created syllabus instead of having a pre-determined one
  • moving from ‘banking’ methodology (T ‘deposits’ knowledge into learners) to participatory methodologies
  • moving from bland, generic topics to topics that challenge beliefs and focus on social justice
  • from trying to create ‘apolitical’ institution to institutions that acknowledge the intrinsically political nature of education.

Concrete ideas

For Institutions

  • apply SLA theory to curriculum design
  • take a more critical approach to material selection
  • use more localised materials
  • localised CPD, not just international TESOL qualifications
  • exploit 21st century skills agenda (including critical thinking)
  • bring critical thinking into the assessment process!

For Teachers

  • include PARNSIPs!
  • tap into alternative sources of motivation –> going from personal, self-centred motivation to community-oriented one, that take into account the wider world
  • don’t be afraid of “cans of worms”
  • include space for co-operation
  • encourage reflection on societal positioning and underlying reasons
  • encourage reflection on societal positioning and underlying reasons
  • and so on!

Care to comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from The Mast-Head

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading