Demand High ELT

#AusELT is excited by its first ever guest for next month’s chat on March 7th, 8:30pm AESDT. Jim Scrivener will be joining us to discuss developments in ‘Demand High ELT’.

‘You can start NOW’. There is a buzz in the room. Laughter erupts from one table. Conversations continue with ease. The teacher wanders the room with a sense of contentment but makes a few quick notes of errors made on the target language. A table of students notices this but the teacher makes light of it and moves on without incident. These errors are brought up in an anonymous, non-confrontational manner to the whole class later, corrected as required and the class moves on. Time is up. ‘See you, teacher’. 

The teacher evaluates the lesson; lesson aims achieved, highly communicative tasks, feedback provided, happy students, successful lesson.

Or was it? Could our teacher be doing more?

Communicative Language Teaching has been the contemporary approach in ELT for some decades now. However, voices are challenging whether it could be enhanced to do more. I have personally had discussions with a number of colleagues on this topic over the past few years. What is striking is that the teaching instincts of many teachers are sensing that something is amiss.

Adrian Underhill adds some thoughts on this CLT dilemma below.

Underhill lays out some questions for our teacher above:

  • Were the students challenged enough?
  • What was the demand like on the students?
  • Could the students (and the teacher) be doing more?

When you spend some time looking at how striking this issue is within ELT, as Underhill states, there are a number of levels that need to be considered. It is difficult for initial teacher training courses like the CELTA to sufficiently tackle these questions. This is often due to time constraints and the demanding nature of these courses. Coursebooks and other lesson materials are not always consciously designed to deal with the questions. In-house PD sessions in colleges may hit on these questions but an hour long session may not have the impact needed. The same could be said for lesson observations that are often done by Academic Managers or a teacher’s peers.

This brings us to an area currently being investigated by Underhill and Jim Scrivener, ‘Demand-High Teaching’. These two well-known ELT authors laid out the premise of this notion in an article published in The Guardian in October 2012.

What are your thoughts on ‘Demand High ELT’? Please join us on March 7th to discuss this topic further and feel free to leave a comment with the #AusELT community below.

3 thoughts on “Demand High ELT

  1. Karen Benson

    I am delighted we are having this discussion. I have been talking to teachers for years about how we can increase the learning intensity in our classes. These conversations seem to have some parallel with the concept of Demand High Teaching. I am really looking forward to the chat 😉

  2. Emily Edwards

    Very interesting topic. After a couple of years teaching, I felt this kind of ‘unease’ with some CLT materials – the class is having fun, but are they really learning enough? This chat will be really useful for the teacher training I do now – looking forward to it too Karen!


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