Future directions in ELT: where are we headed?

Future directions in ELT: where are we headed?

IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) is a British organisation that deals with the issues of English language learning and teaching. IATEFL holds annual conferences, where ELT professionals from all over the world get together for a week in the UK for talks, workshops and networking. To keep our readers updated we have made up our minds to introduce topics discussed in the IATEFL conference 2019 every week.  So, in this article, we are going to show you ideas about the future of ELT that were put forward at the plenary. The presentation was divided into four points, each introduced by speakers from different countries. This plenary is aimed at challenging all of us to step back, asking questions and sharing wishes and predictions in ELT for the coming years.

Materials to support a changing learning context

Katherine Bilsborough – a writer of 30 coursebooks and many online courses, shares with us her ideas and wishes about one of the most significant things in the ESL classroom – materials. She believes that due to the good quality books learning levels of the English language can be highly improved in the future. Here are five points that Bilsborough mentions:

  • More principle-led, quality materials.

These days there are overwhelming materials in ELT almost about everything. Of course, some of them are really excellent and worth using. However, some lack usefulness and good quality. Unfortunately, not all teachers have the skills to evaluate the material they have selected. Hence, it would be really nice to have more quality control over publishing materials. To solve the problem, more and more trainings can be organized in teacher training programs, over the evaluation of materials, in designing everything. In this regard, the collaborative work of teachers, methodologists and other ELT professors will bring a good result.

  • Less exams dominance in YL materials.

The next point the speaker really worries about is the dominance of exams among young learners. She states that exams are not necessary for YL, and they restrict the learning procedure and make some limits in it. So she truly wishes to be fewer exams in YL materials in the future.

  • Good materials for everyone, everywhere, no matter how much money they have.

The third point Bilsborough would like to change is the price of books and all other learning materials. Good quality materials are usually used by privileged students, and not everybody can afford to buy them and use in their education. No teacher should be prevented from using good quality materials because of money.

  • Access to topics that get excluded from coursebooks.

Every controversial topic in any particular context needs to be available. Teachers might choose not to use them, but they need to exist.

  • Materials that reflect learner’s realities.

The last but not the least wish the speaker has about the future is that the materials should somehow reflect learners’ realities to make them more motivated and interested in the class. Students should be able to see themselves in the materials.

English in the future workplace

The next speaker is Evan Frendo, who is a freelance English Language Teaching Professional, specializing in Business English and English for Specific Purposes. He points out the importance of English in the workplace and focuses on the need to find the best way to help learners use technologies. In fact, if our industry can work out how to use these tools, they will help people to do much better job at communicating. Among these useful tools, you can find Google Translate, special applications for learning English and for communicating with a foreign colleague.

Changing attitudes and learning habits

Mercedes Viola introduces her ideas on changing attitudes and learning habits that she desires to see in the future of English. She states that the attitude towards learning is gradually changing. She sees learners that work on collaboration and diversity, people who learn with and from others. Viola also thinks that there will be brave learners in the future, who will claim that they do not have all the answers and are willing to find them.

New roles for the teacher

The last speaker of the plenary is Amol Padwad, who focuses on the new roles that the teacher will take in the future. He is quite sure that in spite of new technologies the job of a teacher will still be needed in large numbers, and it will be still a human being. The teacher of the future will be multi-tasking, multi-skilled, both technology – exploiting and technology dependent, and most of the teachers will be non-native speakers. The future teacher will not be a ‘mere English teacher’. He/she will be responsible for learner’s critical thinking, soft skills and enhancing employability, skills necessary for collaboration and teamwork.

Here you can watch the whole plenary.

As we can see from the plenary, being an English teacher, is not just about teaching grammar or vocabulary. It is far more than that. There should be flexibility in every context – teaching materials, methods, approaches, and the teacher is responsible for every single step. Since teachers educate people, they can influence our future and make it more sustainable. We, teachers, should be creative and hardworking enough to take benefits from everything and to improve teaching strategies and materials for a brighter future.


Вероника Аветисян

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