One staple of learning is the point that we must learn from those who've trodden the same steps as ourselves previously. The whole notion of not just learning from out mistakes but THEIR mistakes. A kind of cost/benefit approach to wisdom.
I came across this interview with a TEFL guy I admire greatly, David Nunan. He's wrote academic stuff, he's wrote textbooks, been the head of large educational organizations and just has a "can do" aura about him...So he's a good one to try and sniff some wisdom from. Here is the interview in whole......good reading even though he gives short (and wrong) thrift to the pace and role of technology in language learning! go here for a whole raft more of interviews of TEFL types....
Dr. David C. Nunan is a world renowned linguist and specialist in the field of TESOL. An acclaimed author of many teacher training textbooks as well as coursebooks, Professor Nunan has also served on a number of executive, academic and editorial boards. He is past President of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), is currently the President of Anaheim University and teaches at the Hong Kong University. He resides in Hong Kong with his family.
ELT: How has ELT changed since you started in the profession?
DN: When I started teaching, we were in the grip of audiolingualism. So the biggest change I experienced was the impact of communicative language teaching, which began to have an impact in the mid-1970s, and is still going on today.
How do you find ways to motivate yourself as a teacher, lecturer, and researcher?
I love what I do, and when you love what you do, then you are automatically motivated. I sometimes stop and think "Gee, they actually PAY me to do this!"
Over the past decade, there has been a shift towards the idea of student independence when they learn English, and substantial research has been done on 'learner-centered' approaches to teaching. Is this the way English is going to be taught over the next decade?
This really depends on the context. In some contexts, the degree to which you can foster independent learning is restricted by either cultural factors or the prior learning experiences of the students. Learner-centeredness is more of an attitude that an approach. Also, I would not say that learner-centeredness is necessarily synonymous with independence - although in most situations it is.
How much of your work time involves academic research? What avenues are you currently pursuing and why?
About one-third of my work time involves academic research. Currently, I am involved in two projects. One of these looks at the impact of new technology on learning outcomes. The other is looking at how learner conceptions of language and learning change as a result of exposure to learner-centered instruction.
In your experience as a professor to candidates for the Master-level TESOL/TEFL courses, what generally separates a 'good' thesis/dissertation from an 'excellent' one?
The excellent dissertation has a degree of creativity and originality that is generally missing from the 'good' dissertation.
How long do you spend on research and writing for any course textbook?
It generally takes around four years, although my new series for younger learners, Go For It, took seven years, and involved writing eight drafts.
What aspect of the writing process is the most time-consuming?
Rewriting successive drafts as a result of feedback from teachers who pilot the materials. I have to achieve a compromise between my ideas and what teachers and learners are ready to accept.
Both your course series 'Listen In' and 'Speak Out' have been described by the publisher as "Made for Asia". Does this imply that particular teaching techniques or exercises are more effective for an Asian setting than an international one?
I think that the basic concepts apply to most EFL situations - e.g. don't overload the students with lots of new vocabulary and grammar, don't ask learners to come up with language that they haven't been specifically prepared for etc. The biggest difference is in terms of the topics, the contexts in which the language is taught, and the overall 'look' of the materials.
Your latest course textbook, 'Go For It!', is aimed at middle and high school students. What motivated you to write a course for such a group?
I wanted to see whether my ideas on learner-centered instruction and task-based learning could be made to 'work' with low-proficient learners in the 10 - 15 year old age range.
How often do you give presentations at conferences every year? How long do you give yourself to plan and research for the presentation?
I average around forty presentations at international conferences each year. That doesn't mean a have 40 different presentations. I usually have around ten new presentation each year, and offer these to conference organizers or whoever invites me. So, in August, I gave around 26 presentations in five Latin American countries over a three week period. However, there were only around six different topics that were dealt with.
You gave a presentation at the JALT'99 Conference titled 'ELT in the New Millennium'. Will technology play a major role in language learning?
Technology is already having a big impact in some situations, but it will be many years I think before every learner has access to technology.
What has been TESOL's biggest contributions to the ESL/EFL world?
I think it's done a great deal to professionalize the EFL/ESL world. It provides wonderful professional development opportunities through the annual convention, the TESOL academies, etc.. In the field of research, it has established the TESOL International Research Foundation. Within the U.S. it does a great job of advocacy for the profession. And it has done a great deal to develop and disseminate standards for teaching and teacher education in the last 4 - 5 years.
What are your goals in your term as TESOL President?
I wanted to do more to internationalize the association. Being the first President to run the organization from so far away from head office has been a real challenge.
Away from the educational field, how do you spend the remainder of your time? What hobbies do you engage in?
What time? I receive up to 400 TESOL-related email every 24 hours - and these can take me up to six hours to deal with!. Actually, if I get any free time I like to paint - I'm an enthusiastic, but VERY amateur, watercolor artist.
How's life in Hong Kong for an expatriate? Have things changed significantly after the 1997 hand-over?
No, life goes on - at breakneck speed!