There was a time when we would teach students as if they were all one and the same, and treat them as if they needed one and the same thing. There was a time when we were the fountains of knowledge and we knew everything our students needed to know.
There might even have been a time when we were content with teaching wholly from a given coursebook and doing the same thing year after year, hoping that perhaps some students might reap the benefits of what we do.
But in these changing times, the needs of our students are being re-defined and ground beneath us is shifting so rapidly that we ourselves are having to re-address what we do as teachers and trainers, and how we do it.
Here are three key changes that impact on what we do.
We live in a time when the world is more and more connected through trade, business, education, scientific research and professional development and so on. And the lingua franca, i.e. the common language of cross-border communication, is English.
English is no longer simply learnt in order to communicate with native speakers from Britain or America. English is now needed do business, exchange information, manage international teams and participate in global training sessions. This means our students need (or will need) English to function in these demanding international scenarios, and not merely to order food in a restaurant or write a book review.
Communicating internationally means that our students will need practical skills to conduct meetings with people from different backgrounds, present, negotiate and make small talk in English, and manage diversity in intercultural situations.
Although these skills are sometimes addressed on a Business English course, they are progressively becoming valuable skills for anyone communicating internationally.
We live in a time when one size no longer fits all. Corporations that market products worldwide quickly realize that they have to tailor everything, from the marketing to the packaging to the product itself, to suit the local tastes. Increased personalization is also seen on the internet and on social media. The same should apply to our classroom.
People learn differently, have different interests, different motivations and different needs. The same course content delivered in the same way might work for some but not all. We therefore need to be adept at conducting a thorough needs analysis; we need to be skilled at facilitating learning in such a way that it benefits not just some but all of our students; we need to be trained and competent at supporting special education needs, whether that is present through dyslexia, autism or other learning need.
3. Technological advances
We live in a time when Google seems to have all the answers, when attention span seems to get shorter by the minute, and the boundaries between work and play have become increasingly blurred.
Are we able to make use of technology
• to help us make our classes more engaging?
• to make tasks more about critical thinking and less about repetition and regurgitation of knowledge?
• to spur our students on to learn and apply what they’ve learnt outside the classroom?
We live in a time when change is exponential. And we can longer afford to not act!
So how are we ensuring that we continually develop ourselves professionally?
Chia Suan Chong
Associate Trainer, York Associates