The best method for ELT

All of us CELTA folk have been persuaded that communicative approaches are the best and that the Traditional TEFL method is the way to go. You may also have been told how ‘old fashioned’ grammar translation is/was and even the Audiolingual method. You were probably also told that lessons should be level-specific, mixed skills, i+1, engaging, incorporate new tech and books.

In essence, the TEFL method we learned on the CELTA is a mix of others but seems to claim to be a superior ‘blend’. It has bits of drilling, eliciting, mini-tasks and various bits n’ bobs from everywhere.

But in many countries none of these are done. I have seen at least a handful of EFL schools in Asia and Europe that don’t use the TEFL method, neither do government schools. Yet, they all produce students who pass exams and can perform in English at some level.

The TEFL method has attracted followers and similar ‘fun’ (a word that is associated far too often with TEFL for my liking, yes I’m an old fart) approaches have been created for teaching other languages.

Does it get better/worse at DELTA level?

He certainly does not conform to the ‘whirl-around-the-room” orthodoxy of ELT standards, and believe me I have sat through enough Cambridge DELTA assessors’ meeting to tell you that this is mostly the style that’s popular with them.

Marisa Constantinides, CELTA/DELTA tutor and the brilliant brains behind #ELTchat.

It would seem not, in fact it seems that fun  and perhaps ‘whirling’ increases by the time you get to the DELTA. So, for the MA you probably need a brass band, a carnival and some professional dancers.

So, what does it all mean?

Is the TEFL method just a creation to entertain students and enable people with a 4 week certificate to teach?

Is it really the best way to teach any language?

I’ve heard of French and Spanish courses that use.TEFL methods as it is deemed the ‘most efficient’ or possibly entertaining so students enjoy themselves.

If the EFL method is the best then why aren’t people climbing on desks in primary/high school or is it only suitable for teaching languages. How about algebra running dictations?


4 thoughts on “The best method for ELT

    • Chia calls hers Informed Principled Eclecticism but I think it still implies that we are choosing from book-based methods. How about or own? We can’t forever be nicking people’s stuff. Eventually, you organically do have your own method I guess but you need a certain amount of confidence to stick with it and develop it. Mine now is just ‘talk with your students’.

  1. I read an article recently (Prabhu 1990) that by its title alone was about the fact the best method is the one that works most effectively with your students due to a wide variety of factors. I’m of that mind–that there is no best. There is certainly a leaning towards one particular style or another at any given time, but it’s always important to bring it into question for progress to be made. Of course, this progress may not be linearly in one direction.

    Sometimes what you do yourself has no name that you know of and perhaps can’t be labelled as one thing or the other. I’m sure there is a crossover in what methods or approaches are used between TEFL and other subject matter. One can learn so much from trying out another’s ideas.

    • Thanks for the comment Tyson.

      Oh yes, Prabhu is a classic and seems to be used by many unis to introduce the ‘best method’ argument.

      Yes, I’ve lost track of the amount of courses on methods that I’ve taught and in the end you take it all, play with it and create your own. Whether you really need to learn all these methods first or whether a fresh-faced CELT grad with little knowledge can do it better is the question. I was bogged down too much with all these methods and it wasn’t until after the MA that I went “some of this just isn’t realistic and from trial and error I think I know what works for my context”.

      It also relates to the classic ‘teacher vs tutor”. What I mean is that teacher researchers go round teacher classrooms looking at what they do and why and then create a model or theory to explain it for others to copy. Which means that someone, probably less qualified than them, created the approach through their own development/reflection and they were not weighed down with all the baggage of what you should/n’t do. Teaching is good for that in that you see very quickly what works.

      I really like Adam Beale’s blog because he started developing after his CELTA, Dale Coulter too and they really think out of the box and take risks. Adam is a really natural teacher and is afraid to do things that would be out of the framework of many approaches.

      If we are truly in a ‘post-methods era’ or ‘beyond methods’ then should we just put them to rest and rely onour own instincts, set procedures or just stick to basic and flexible structures or approaches??

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