“I just feel that this is what students need to learn.”
“When I was in college, we had to do that.”
After the second day of a term, a distraught colleague told me that her high-intermediate level writing-students were totally unprepared for her course. Her course was supposed to build on what they had learned the previous level, but she discovered that the students had little awareness of what a thesis statement was or what topic sentences were. Many had trouble writing cohesive sentences.
We asked their previous instructor if he had followed the curriculum and worked on these with the students. He replied that he had decided to have them write a research paper instead. His reason: “When I was in college, I had to write research papers, so I decide that it was important that they know how to do that.”
Another instructor who was supposed to teach discussion skills for students to use in small groups, instead spent half the term having the student do presentations. Her reason: “I just felt that it was good for them to do this since they will probably have to do presentations in the future.”
Why these reasons have little or no credibility concerning what/how we should teach ESL
When we hear instructors justify what/how they teach by saying, “I just feel …” or “When I was a student …” big red flags should begin to fly. Even someone with no TESL training or experience can use these to defend themselves. No instructor would use these reasons if they actually had credible research to validate what/how they teach. (In my next posts, I discuss some valid reasons.) Thus, when we hear these justifications, it probably indicates that the teacher/administrator hasn’t made the effort to do the research.
It is possible for instructors and programs to set up their own research. (I’ll describe some user-friendly ways to do this in my next two posts.) However, we should be skeptical when colleagues make claims about what should be taught based on how they “feel” or what they had to do as an undergraduate or graduate student.