Evidence-based ELT

Russel Mayne’s excellent and thought provoking talk at IATEFL last year made me consider quite a few things in ELT. He is justified in questioning received wisdom often foisted upon the profession and promoted as if true. There is a need for evidence that one method/idea/theory/piece of language etc works better than another and this is the kind of evidence than SLA/ELT research should provide. Michael Lewis (author of The Lexical Approach ) raised this a long time ago when he asked why teachers were encouraged (in pre-service training) to value something because ‘it works’ without thinking about why that is or whether something else may work better.Lewis’ books (Implementing the Lexical Approach and Teaching Collocation are the other two I would recommend) were excellent at challenging the wisdom of the time, not least the idea that language = grammar + words. He also took on what may have been the orthodoxy of the time – the use of Present – Practice – Produce (PPP) as a framework for teaching language and suggested it be replaced with Observe – Hypothesise – Experiment (OHE). While the claims about language were certainly true and could be supported with evidence from Corpus Linguistics, there was no real empirical evidence offered  for the benefit of OHE and searching the literature, nobody seemed to have done a methods-comparison study looking at PPP vs OHE. Hence the paper you can see here, produced by my colleague Patrycja Golebiewska and I. This is a simple attempt to find evidence for/against a claim- of which there are many in ELT! Thoughts and comment welcome.

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