An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT: G is for Gaps

#4: G is for Gaps

No, not those kind of gaps; not a cloze, not a key word transformation, nor a gapped text, and certainly not an information gap. A gapped teacher – with a thinking gap. A gap in thinking which results in a disconnected application of teaching. A gap in thinking which leads to the application of disparate activities which leads to a series of gaps in the thinking of students, which leads to an addiction to the need for constant stimulus and ‘new’ ideas which leads to…..

The best teachers develop (and are helped to develop) with a broad view of their profession.  A good teacher will understand their students’ needs and interests, where their students come from, and where they are going. They will understand the learning process and the significant part that motivation has to play. Thus, the gaps between material and student will be filled with relevant, stimulating activities, helping students (and teacher) achieve their goals, in the short and long terms.

Teachers who lack experience or have never developed this understanding, will be on the constant look out for newness.  But the newness found and delivered will not fit the wider vision, the gapped teacher will deliver the equivalent of a chocolate diet – pleasurable in the short term, but which does nothing for long-term health. It still surprises me when I see a teacher hoovering up activities and spitting them out without a single thought for the purpose and expected result of the activity.

So, I wonder, what causes it? Various thoughts cross my mind, none of which completely satisfies. Could it be a general insecurity? After all, teachers are generally undervalued, and it may be an attempt to prove their worth with a million different things. Could be our disposable culture, where constant stimulus is sought and expected by all? Could it be the pay and conditions of many schools, which do not motivate the work of developing a  greater understanding? Or could it be my imagination that this gap exists? Let me know….

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Dennis Warren

I'm a teacher/trainer but I have a background in computational linguistics, and am interested in virtually everything. I hold a bachelor's degree in Linguistics and a master's degree in Cognitive Science.

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