ITILT 2 Multiplier Event, June 2017
Language teaching in public educational settings in Europe is subject to pressure from many different sources. Official programmes and curricula, textbooks and other ready-made teaching materials, educational institutions and other stakeholders, as well as teacher educators and researchers all offer different and often conflicting recommendations regarding language teaching in primary and second schools, as well as vocational and higher education settings. Learners must cover a certain part of a larger programme in order to succeed in high-stakes examinations. Textbooks have been purchased and need to be used efficiently. Schools want teachers to participate in class exchanges, and place pressure on teachers to use technology for international collaboration; at the same time, teachers must respect rules regarding internet safety and privacy laws. Educators and researchers generally call for change, for evidence of learning, and for reflective, collaborative, even open practices. All these can prove destabilising as well as time-consuming for teachers. In many ways, European projects such as iTILT, focusing on integrating technology to improve interactive language teaching, can appear to add to, rather than relieve the tensions of everyday classroom practice.
In this presentation, I intend to take a step back from the very practical details of technology integration and language pedagogy to ask a deceptively simple question: why change? What is wrong with the way we traditionally teach languages? Why not stick with the traditional presentation-practice-production (PPP) model which many of us experienced as language learners? After all, many modern textbooks still propose teaching units which Present a particular grammatical structure, provide exercises to Practice the new forms, followed by more open-ended Production activities where learners can test their new skills? Why are newer action-oriented approaches or task-based language (TBLT) considered more effective and more likely to produce confident users of the target language?
This presentation starts with an overview of two European projects: iTILT (LLP 2011-13) and ITILT 2 (Erasmus+ 2014-17). Then I contrast PPP and TBLT approaches, drawing on examples from French teachers of English in the iTILT project at primary, secondary, and university levels to illustrate these differences . A close analysis of the video examples shows the weaknesses of PPP in addressing the complexity of the language learning task facing learners, and suggests TBLT may offer a more flexible and ultimately more effective framework for second language acquisition and learning.
Anderson, J. (2016). Why practice makes perfect sense: the past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education. ELTED, 19. PDF
Ellis, R. (2013). Task-based language teaching: Responding to the critics. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 8. PDF