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Work Frames of English Language Teaching

What does this figure mean?

This is one way the work of English language teaching can be framed, according to Pennington & Hoekje (2014).  This appeals to me as both a practitioner and a researcher because attention to English language teaching is often simplified to only instruction.  The other parts of the frame sometimes influence learning and pedagogy more than direct instruction.  To learn how so, I will review the peripheral parts of the frame that support instruction.

Disciplinary Field

Pennington & Hoekje (2014) claim that the three disciplinary fields had the most affect on English language teaching curriculum:  linguistics, psychology, and education.  They also claim that the "home discipline of ELT" is applied linguistics, where studies on second language acquisition are in the heart of the profession.  Coming from two graduate programs in education, I am much aware of the differences linguists, applied linguists, and educators bring to English language teaching.  To put simply, linguists may be more equipped to address issues with the language acquisition process.  However, educators may be more equipped to address issues of curriculum design and assessment.  Through my teaching experience, I have seen some students drawn to ELT with a stronger linguistics influence because they are fascinated by language and language learning.  Unfortunately, I believe these English language learners are in the minority.  Most students, through my experience, learn English for educational or economic reasons, meaning if they do not learn English, they will suffer educational or economic disadvantages.


My interpretation of Pennington & Hoekje's explanation of profession is that it is more subjective and through association.  The clearest example of profession are the organizations such at TESOL International Association and the International Association of Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  These two examples are international organizations, the first with headquarters in the United States and the second in the United Kingdom.  This may seem arbitrary to some but very political to other ELTs.  Profession is tied to identity, so I believe it is up to each ELT to decide where he and she wants to be or feels like a good fit.  These organizations and other smaller ones help ELTs make sense of the current research and policies that will or may affect their classrooms.


The business aspect of ELT is made most clear through the publishing industry (Pearson ELT and Cambridge University Press) and the corporate entities (INTO and ELS Language Centers) that form partnerships with universities.  The past decades have demonstrated a move for education programs to adopt corporate business models with the perception of students as clients.  Through my perspective, it is beginning to permeate nearly all areas of English language teaching locally and internationally.  This is worrying concern for many ELTs who may see their status as professors and instructors reduced to laborers delivering instruction designed and assessed by someone else in the institution.


For me, this was the more difficult section to understand at first.  Pennington & Hoekje's interpretation of service seems to be divided into two discourses of service, humanistic and pragmatic, as shown in the figure below.

Through my teaching experience and MA and PhD education, I have embodied the humanistic discourse of service as it matches my teaching philosophy and disposition well.  Through my experience in instructional design, I also embody the pragmatic discourse of service.  These two discourses can easily contrast when it comes to defining "achievement" and "student needs."  Most experienced teachers have found that changing one's pedagogy too quickly based on short-term student or market needs does more harm than good.

Concluding Questions

Besides the interactions in the classroom and the curriculum you develop, what aspects of this framework affect your English language teaching?

When searching out new ideas or learning solutions, where do you turn first?  Research?  Professional organizations?  Practical business/service tips?

How do you negotiate between the humanistic and pragmatic narratives as an English language teacher?


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