Examples of putting theory into practice

I’ve enjoyed watching the recent debates about various educational theories, but feel disappointed that no one is providing real-life examples of how these theories can be applied in a Taiwan EFL class setting. Huffing and puffing about the last 20 years of research doesn’t help the vast majority of people who are new to this business and not sure if they are teaching the right way. Providing some examples might help people to start researching. Newbies as well as us old farts might learn something new.

So…what’s your favorite educational theory, and how have YOU ACTUALLY USED IT in the classroom?

[quote=“dangerousapple”]I’ve enjoyed watching the recent debates about various educational theories, but feel disappointed that no one is providing real-life examples of how these theories can be applied in a Taiwan EFL class setting. Huffing and puffing about the last 20 years of research doesn’t help the vast majority of people who are new to this business and not sure if they are teaching the right way. Providing some examples might help people to start researching. Newbies as well as us old farts might learn something new.

So…what’s your favorite educational theory, and how have YOU ACTUALLY USED IT in the classroom?[/quote]I’m writing a very short book on this stuff. I’ll post some examples when I get time (there are some extremely brief examples in the post I just made over in the speaking practice thread). I don’t think it’s so much a case of “a favourite theory” as just basing what you do in the classroom on some general good principles derived from research evidence.

It would be great to hear from others on this topic. It’s so important to link research (maybe not too much “theory”, but definitely research evidence) to practice.

OK, I’ve been thinking about this all day, and have a suggestion. But I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with a little more “huffing and puffing” first :wink: .

The question is a very good one. It scares me a little when I talk to language teachers who seem to have absolutely no interest in how the brain learns a new language (and there are some out there). But I understand that many people feel intimidated by the idea of studying SLA research, or don’t feel they have time to. Some other people have read some SLA books but find it hard to put them into practice, feeling that these grand ideas and principles will never work on the ground in less-than-ideal teaching situations.

I think that no matter how difficult a teaching situation is, it is almost always possible to improve things by basing one’s practice on a few fundamental principles derived from the research evidence. It can make students more motivated, and help more students get more proficient more rapidly. That’s what my book is about. It describes a few simple principles and provides ideas and practical pointers for classroom activities. But it’s hard to present things in a clear, simple manner without oversimplification and distortion. The part of the book which deals more specifically with the research evidence and resulting principles is around 12,000 words. That’s a fair bit, but even so many issues are over-simplified and others are omitted altogether. It’s my hope that as well as giving people some food for thought and activities ideas straight away, the book will also encourage people to read much further, both in terms of research/theoretical materials and practical teaching books. So it’s really hard to say anything meaningful about this in a few hundred words in a post on Forumosa.

Another thing is that people already post good practical ideas on Forumosa (and I hope people do this more and more). Some of these ideas work well with what I know of SLA, and others can be adapted easily so they work better. It’s not that knowing a bit about SLA means you suddenly drop all the activities you did before in favour of some kind of magical new “method”. It’s a gradual thing, and at first the only difference you may see in the students is that they may be a little more motivated and relaxed. Over time, I think it can make a big difference in students’ proficiency. But it does take time and patience.

With these qualifications in mind, what I suggest is that you post details of a particular teaching situation. The age of the students, the number of them in the class, the topic and/or specific short-term language goal, and the students’ level. Try to go into a bit of detail about this last one. What do the students understand, and what can they produce? (I’m talking about communicative situations here). What specific problems do they have? Then I and others can post with ideas for activities, including how they might relate to SLA research. I think that talking about specific examples like this could be a useful way into looking at the bigger issues involved.