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My Reintroduction to TESOL Methodology

From 2003 to 2007, TESOL Methodology was my thing.  I taught it as a teacher trainer at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul, Korea and as a Senior English Language Fellow in Russia.  Before earning my PhD, those two jobs were the high points of my career.  Now I am in a position that combines those experiences with my newer (raw) skills as a researcher, coordinating curriculum for an intensive English program.  One thing I love about this job is that I get to revisit literature on TESOL methodology through the lens of a researcher.

Shocked Not Shocked

As I'm updating myself on the developments of content-based instruction (CBI), I was shocked how much of the literature is based more from the qualitative side of research than quantitative.  Then again, I had to remind myself about education research in general, that's it's quite difficult to conduct ethical and valid "experiments" in the classroom.  I remember that deflated feeling early in my coursework that many studies on teaching methods are not respected highly by many researchers.  I believe this is one reason for the divide between researchers and practitioners.  Many new teachers are told that a certain approach or methodology is the best way to teach their students, but most of that reasoning seems to be based on the institution's attachment or commitment to a philosophy rather than empirical evidence.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite because my expertise is in TESOL methodology and qualitative research, however I am more convinced of results from quantitative research because I have a personal bias towards science and skepticism.  What I love about the advent of Web 2.0 is that we know can compile more and more narratives about what works and what doesn't work in the classroom from all over the world.  Some teachers are more connected than ever before because on social media and personal learning networks, but the problem still remains that these teachers are likely a certain type of teacher that does not represent all teachers.  So it is possible to compile more evidence that a certain teaching approach works better or worse than others.

Science of Learning

First of all, I'd like to promote a blogger, Russell Mayne, who writes on the science of learning in EFL, but I think many of his posts are relevant beyond the EFL contexts.  His blog is called Evidence Based EFL and can be found at  Please check it out!

Secondly, a great book for those with a preference for evidence-based pedagogy should check out the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, which I blogged about last year at
Much of what I want to say about the science of learning is contained in that post.

What Am I Learning Now?

Through my reintroduction to TESOL methodology, I'm learning how more closely related TESOL is to fields outside of education and linguistics, such as philosophy and anthropology.  When I took courses in the departments of communications and sociocultural anthropology, one name came up in both that always sounded familiar but I couldn't exactly pin it down.  It was Dell Hymes, one of the "founders" of the communicative language teaching approach.  Through all of my graduate education, I learned much about him indirectly but I never had a course or the time to read through his work.  This shows that there is always much to learn in the little niche that is English language teaching even after you earn a PhD.  That being said, I'm not going to pursue another degree.

I am interested in learning more about making research more accessible to practitioners, and helping teachers develop critical thinking skills specifically on the latest research and trends to avoid getting snared by disciplinary buzzwords that are more sales pitches for publishers and technology peddlers than research-informed theories and practices.


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