#KELTChat Summary – 15th April 2012: Integrating Personal and Institutional Teaching Beliefs

Welcome to our bi-weekly #KELTChat summary. I must say that this was one of the most lively and interesting #KELTChats yet, and I was very lucky to be able to moderate it. Actually, I mostly just sat back and watched the debate roll along, thanks to excellent contributions from @michaelegriffin, @seouldaddy, @barryjamesonelt, @annehendler, @keisenhow and @languagebubble. I’d also like to extend a big thanks to @GwendaAtkinson and @ninaisk who were participating in their first ever #KELTChat, and to our foreign correspondent @kevchanwow for a couple of timely interventions. We hope you’ll all be back next time, preferably with friends!

How do we integrate our beliefs with those or our institution?

This was where we started out with our chat. Many chatters felt that they had a good amount of freedom to do what they wanted in their classrooms, and this led to simply trying out new stuff without consulting the administration, “Easier to ask forgiveness than permission” as @seouldaddy put it. Others saw compromise as key, and learning to change what you can and accept what you can’t (for example, grading on a curve). After all, we are all paid by our institutions, and they do have the final say.

An excellent point was made by @michaelegriffin, who suggested that when we talk about beliefs it is not necessarily a case of right and wrong,but one of difference. There may also be the problem of teachers who do not have, or are unaware of their own beliefs. As a solution to this problem, it was suggested that written reflection could aid a teacher in clarifying their own beliefs before they tried to integrate them.

How do we deal with coursebooks?

The conversation then turned to a predictably hot issue. It seemed that most of the participants were in situations where they were given a coursebook to teach from, where perhaps they would have preferred otherwise. The general attitude seemed to be that coursebooks were useful to provide a structure, but that the content must be tuned much more to the students lives. However, books can be useful for providing useful input and models and even as a structure to the lesson. I thought this linked nicely to my recent blog post about coursebooks, and I’d also highly recommend this post for those trying to adapt a coursebook.

One negative consequence of abandoning the book completely may be student complaints; understandably too – why buy the book if you’re never going to open it? One crafty suggestion was to assign book work for homework, thus ensuring the students are using it, and making maximum use of time with a “native speaker” (don’t kill me Jenkins devotees) in the class. @keisenhow further suggested giving students the choice of ‘book’ or ‘real life’, with the latter being much more popular.


This was again a big issue for many people, including myself. We identified plenty of problems, grading on a curve (mentioned earlier) and having to give written exams for ostensibly conversation based courses. @michaelegriffin even questioned the validity of written exams as a whole. Some suggestions were put forward, such as open ended written questions and continuous assessment throughout the course. These were very popular, but could cause problems with institutional goals and also teacher time-poverty.

Teacher or Entertainer

The last quarter of the discussion turned toward another familiar topic, especially to those who work in private academies, that of teachers who are forced to be ‘entertaining’ first, and help students to learn second. This was the case for one participant who felt that he was a ‘gag-man’ and that ‘serious teachers get more strife’ within their institution, due to the fact that students and parents pressure (consciously or not) to be fun. It was also pointed out that university teachers face a similar pressure due to student evaluations.

The fact that this was a polar opposition was challenged, with @annehendler stating that both were possible and that when having fun, learning could take place by accident. Strategies for keeping class fun from the ‘schizophrenic’ @languagebubble included being serious for 10 minutes an hour and using laughter as a tool for learning. It was at this point that the distinction between ‘humour’ and ‘fun’ was drawn, and the value of humour for rapport building was highlighted.


I hope that this summary has covered some of the main points. Thanks once again to those who participated. Please continue to spread the word about #KELTChat, and see you in two weeks time!


Alex (@breathyvowel)

Memorable Tweets

These were some of the most memorable tweets from tonight’s discussion:

  • @barryjamesonelt: my bosses own the school so their livelihood is on the line but I’m not a machine. I have my own teaching principles #keltchat
  • @michaelegriffin: and then once we know what our beliefs are then we can prioritize and think about where to bend or change or not.#KELTchat
  • @breathyvowel: I take the themes and the grammar, and try to work it into a more personal, convo driven framework.#KELTchat
  • @keisenhow: I BELIEVE the lessons should pertain to the Ss lives, not the generic life of the textbook. #KELTchat
  • @GwendaAtkinson: agreed — throughout…even portfolio style…ss learnin how2monitor themselves/their grades/givin fdbk #KELTchat
  • @SeoulDaddy: Being an entertainer is great if that drives engagement with the language and objectives of the course.#KELTchat
  • @languagebubble: its sad but true. ironic- when i cared abt evals is when i used to get lower feedback than the new me of ‘not caring’ #KELTChat