Adamas University Education, Language

#LanguageNext: Directions in English Language Teaching

As a discipline of studies that effectively unites academia and industry, ELT or English Language Teaching has always fascinated all of us who are privileged to teach as well as research in the field of Applied Linguistics. For quite some time I have been actively engaged in exploring the evolving trends of ELT worldwide as well as in the Indian context and this article reflects on my views regarding the radical mutation that teaching the language, esp. English has undergone in the last few months.

Stories and histories

Though ELT in India has a history as old as the nation’s colonial past, the scope of the subject in addressing issues of employability has been recognized only in present times, more specifically in the last few decades. Along with most other public and private sectors undergoing a transformation due to globalization and economic liberalization in the country during the 1990s, there was an extensive change in the educational scenario- an event that placed ELT in the limelight. Terms like ESP, EFL, TESOL, TEFL (suddenly) became synonymous with international job opportunities. Organizations like British Council, India and Regional English Language Office (RELO, US) became major players in spreading awareness of the results of outcome-based education integral to ELT by opening their doors to fellowships, research and case-studies, projects and training programs.

Winds of change

In the past few years, with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) gradually emerging as a global game changer in employment scenario, the expansive scope of ELT has been acknowledged by educational regulatory bodies in India like the University Grants Commission that has included it as a skill-enhancement course in the Undergraduate studies in English in CBCS mode. English departments across the nation are gearing up to equip themselves in providing functional linguistic skill to the learners. Researchers are being funded in this discipline to find loopholes in existing language theories and curriculum, design roadmaps to direct teachers and learners towards a better understanding and utilization of the targeted skills.  In a nutshell, recognition of the multidisciplinary context, skill-based pedagogy and outcome-driven approach of this discipline and its integral role in the burgeoning service industry has made a degree in ELT no less than Wonka’s ‘golden ticket’.

Adapt to survive, survive to adapt

The year 2020 will always be remembered for the unprecedented global crisis caused due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, this year will also be noted for humanity’s defensive war-cry, the fight to survive, to exist, and to not “go gentle into that good night”. Nations in ‘lockdown’ situation have rapidly responded to changing situations by digitizing their daily transactions, communications and most significantly, the educational platforms. With classrooms going online and teachers and students collaboratively creating knowledge in a simulated, digital medium, education has undergone a paradigmatic and perceptual shift.

Expanded beyond its physical ‘brick and mortar’ existence, classrooms are now digital interfaces for knowledge interchange.

Interestingly, researchers, curriculum designers and ELT practitioners across the globe have advocated blended learning and flipped classrooms for more than a decade now. The present situation has left educational institutions with no choice but to reconstruct the classrooms and revise the pedagogy. What was earlier in synchrony with classroom learning in a physical space has become the only feasible site for continuing education in ‘covided’ times.

Future perfect!

Attending academic webinars and professional workshops related to English language teaching in the last two months have exposed me to discussions and deliberations regarding envisioning future directions in this discipline. A major section of ELT practitioners believe that digital literacy is going to play a crucial role in ELT as well as education in general. Even after the lockdown is lifted and students start coming to the campus, digital classrooms are going to be a part of the ‘new normal’.

  • Collaborative Learning is the future of any form of learning: Education during Covid-19 crisis has hinged on the collaborative enterprise of students and teachers communicating, sharing ideas and constructing a knowledge base. English language teaching in the near future will not only experience an increased collaboration among facilitators for developing materials and assessment tools but also increased use of collaborative tools and techniques in classroom pedagogy. Collaborative reading and writing skills will be targeted by language instructors.
  • Exploring Cyberspace: Cyberspace will be widely used for conducting language classes with increased inclusion of diverse digital tools. Teachers are already exploring digital platforms and tools to refashion and redesign their language curriculum and reaping the benefits of the pool of resources. As envisioned, there will be an increase in facilitators using digital tools to design their curriculum and teaching materials, for example, use of graphics, animations in lectures and video lectures and devising innovative assessment techniques.
  • Blending authentic tasks in digital learning: Situated learning or learning by means of engagement in authentic tasks is already considered an effective way of language learning. What is interesting is the way ELT practitioners are blending authentic tasks in digital medium by breaking the fourth wall. Teleconferencing media is playing and will continue to play an integral role in simulating zones of proximal development.

What is clear from discussions and deliberations regarding the future direction of ELT are the increased use of digital domain in the context of teaching-learning and reconstruction of the curriculum to include the digital space. As for the future of the discipline, well, with the ever-increasing need for proficiency in functional language skills in the ever-increasing, shape-shifting capitalist economy, ELT will continue to play a pivotal role in imparting need-based, skill-oriented training and facilitating outcome-driven education.

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