« Languages:Reboot | Main | #SOLO, I'm ridin' #SOLO »

February 14, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Alex Bellars

big shout out to you too, mate...great weekend, and an honour to share it with so many inspirational people!

Steve Smith

Hello Chris

I watched quite a bit of your presentation up to about the 1 hour mark. Thanks for posting it and sharing. A few points occurred to me:

1. I thought your argument about the exam boards dictating our content in lessons was a bit outdated now, since we can choose what we wish to do for CAs. No need to talk about household chores for CAs, though they might turn up on listening and reading papers.

In terms of what content might interest 16 year olds, this is tricky, because different kids are interested in different things. This has always been a problem for course book writers. I do believe that we suffer too much from the backwash effect of GCSE and teach to the test too much. Hard not too, with targets to meet etc.

2. On the perfect tense preceding the imperfect in a SoW, this is not because the NC levels dictate it. It was ever so, because the perfect is much more productive and useful than the imperfect. True, it is harder, but ease of learning need not always dictate the sequence.

3. You were quite critical, I think, of teacher-led styles. But don't we need to provide lots of "comprehensible input" to allow some element of natural acquisition to occur. Now, maybe this works less well with pupils of lower aptitude, but if language teaching becomes too much based on the social and analytical, then you remove an important element of language learning.

I'm afraid I didn't get beyond the 1 hour mark, so I hope I am not off the mark with these comments.



Chris Harte

Hi Steve, thanks, as ever, for your insightful comments, although we do not always agree, it is always thought provoking to receive your critique!
Just to answer your points...
1. The exam boards absolutely dictate content and as you say yourself any of the topic vocabulary could come up and I would argue that the topic areas are not intellectually stimulating enough for young people and it defies understanding why they are so removed from the target language speaking country. Disasterously, in my opinion, there is no particular demand even at AS level now to learn about the clture of the language.
But just to be absolutely clear, my point, although absolutely critical of the exam bards choice of content which I believe is more outdated than my critique of it, my main argument against the exam boards is the fact that they dictate the type of learning that has to happen (as you say we are all measured and judged) i.e. mass memorisation without the need to truly understand the language you are producing. Surely the assessment needs to be designed to assess ability to understand and manipulate language rather than the ability to memorise it.

2.Perfect tense - I agree that the dfficulty should not necessarily dictate order, but I would argue that by building up really strong grammatical understanding we should rexamine the sequence of teaching grammar. I would argue that it could be more effective to go from the present to other non compound tenses (I don't accept the point that it is less useful than the perfect by the way) simply becasue when you do introduce the perfect tense and learn it really well, you can then move on to other wonderful tenses like the plu perfect, future perfect and conditional perfect! I am still at the embryonic stage of thinking abut this but will keep blogging about it but just because "it was ever so" does not mean that it should ever be!

3. I absolutely agree with you, I argued that we need to provide and support learner access to "comprehensible input" (I called this the holistic/atomistic stage) and although I was flippant about some teacher led styles, it was much more to do with the desired outcomes of those teachers (I, the expert, will teach you 10 pets) not the fact that they were teacher led. I hope if you watch the end of the video you will see that I argue for a blended curriculum rather than a dogmatic one.

I really enjoy the level of challenge you bring to the debate and hope we can chew the fat in person some day!

Steve Smith

You are right that exam boards dictate content, but we don't have to always teach what's in the spec, thankfully. I've always hated that backwash effect of assessment. Agree that CAs are seriously flawed and encouraging rote learning, though this can support weaker students, just as the old learned talk did.

With most of our students, given the limited time we are given for the job, we'll always struggle to get spontaneity or much internalised linguistic competence, which is why the boards allow rote learning.

I'll try and watch the rest of the presentation.

I wish in our job we had more time for discussion of methodology.




Great post. I especially liked number 6 and can remember how my parents tried to evaluate the stuff I was learning in school and how they didn't get many things. As a parent it is important to trust a teacher. If a parent does not trust the teacher, why should the kid?

The comments to this entry are closed.