Excellent Reference for ELT Researchers – Thornbury

One of the goals of ELT International is to bring important references to the attention of teachers, teacher-trainees, and international ELT research scholars. One source worth exploring is the work of Scott Thornbury. Thornbury is at his best as a teacher-trainer. I recommend him to my students and teacher trainees.

In fact, I included his book, About Language: Tasks for Teachers of English, in a new curriculum I developed for an MA-ELT program in India. I like to provide free sources whenever possible, so here’s a link where you can find Thornbury’s book, About Language: Tasks for Teachers of English, on Scribd.

At Harrogate this year, Thornbury was asked about the mismatch between teacher beliefs and practice. It’s this topic that I built into the new MA-ELT curriculum. You can listen to Thornbury’s talk at Harrogate where he discusses the communicative approach and teacher beliefs. The video is a bit slow to load, but worth listening to if you can.

I especially like Thornbury’s ideas because he looks critically at the Communicative Approach. Most people have accepted CA to the point that, in some regions, it’s almost become dogma. I’m one of the teacher educators who think there a lot of issues with that kind of acceptance, particularly in relation to the cultural implications of copying techniques that were developed in quite different environments. (More on this when I talk about materials design.)

I don’t agree with everything that Thornbury said at Harrogate. The central issue that I don’t agree with is that I don’t “celebrate” the continued publication of the old methodology books as Thornbury does in his talk. I find that, even though some of these “classics” profess CA, some of these materials still harbor remnants of times when language was taught following certain prescribed methods. I often find use of these materials give my teacher-trainees a view of pedagogy that, I think, is too simplistic. (But this brings us back to materials design and we’ll talk about that later.)

One of Thornbury’s books that I’d like to recommend, especially for ELT scholars, is Big Questions in ELT.

I’m often asked for help choosing theses topics and this book will be very useful to helping research scholars in ELT “catch up” on what is going on in the field, so they can identify an area that is still being researched.

Thornbury’s Big Questions in ELT should be in every teacher-training reference library at the very least. Graduate students who anticipate writing a number of papers would benefit from getting the book early so they understand the as field quickly as possible.

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