Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Four Factors Which Can Negatively Impact English Language Teaching and Learning


Pity The Poor English Language Teacher?

The poor English teacher of today, with so many demands on their time and expectations. At times we hardly know where to turn. There are more and more students in fewer and fewer classes and even those classes are expected to be taught with less and less resources or fewer and fewer hours. The results however, both on the part of learners and the administration, is to produce better and better English language production skills.

Some Critical Impact Factors

Some of the key factors English or Foreign Language teachers face can include the following:

• Large class sizes

• Limited time

• Insufficient resources

• Mixed ability students

• Students with learning disabilities

• Behavioral problems

• Administrative demands

• Personal restrictions


Briefly, let’s consider each one in turn and how its negative impact on English or foreign language teaching and learning is felt.

Large class sizes
How many learners are in your EFL or ESL classes? 10, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50 or even more? Average class sizes continue to sneak upwards as administrators attempt to extract the maximum profits from gross institute or departmental revenues. The EFL or ESL teacher then is caught in the middle struggling to teach English or foreign language skills to a growing number of learners in each class group.

Limited time
Ouch! According to statistical data from language research institutes, the minimum number of hours for an English EFL, ESL or foreign language class to be successful is around five – that’s the minimum, they say. In an increasing number of universities, language institutes and primary / secondary schools, the class room contact hours are going down. Many such places now pose learners with only three hours or less per week of actual language instruction.

Insufficient resources
“How many of you have all the resources you need to teach your English classes?” When I posed this question to a group of my students in an EFL Teacher training course, none answered to the affirmative. Not only do they lack sufficient contact hours, but are lacking sufficient teaching resources as well.

Mixed ability students
No matter what level you may teach from pre-kinder to kinder, from primary to secondary school or at the university and adult levels, learners within a particular course group will be of varying or mixed ability. There is virtually no such thing as a “homogenous” group of learners in a class. Even when learners come from the same socio-economic background, are from the same country, ethnic or language group there are bound to be vast inequalities in their abilities.

These four factors can have a substantial impact on the effectiveness of the English EFL or ESL language teacher. With more and more students in fewer and fewer classes and even those classes are expected to be taught with less and less resources or fewer and fewer hours. The results however, both on the part of learners and the administration, is to produce better and better English language production skills. The need then is for solutions to an ever-worsening series of problems. This will require the full cooperation of both teachers, administrators and to some extent, the learners themselves. Some additional factors which can negatively impact the EFL or ESL class room, teaching and learning will be addressed in the next part of this series.

Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on the lucrative, fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign Language, send for his no-cost, full multi-media, hypertext-linked pdf ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”. Send an e-mail with "Free ELT EBook" in the subject line to: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

1 comment:

paula said...

I think the article is very good and too real, since we as teachers of a monolingual school can find diverse group of people, and especially, very big groups, we have almost 40 people in the same class and they have different points of view, expectations and they like different things, whitout talk about the common teenager problems, also we only have two or three hours a week to work with them. This is a very strong work for everybody.