#KELTchat on “The myth of proficiency” May 10th, 2015

It is time for another KELTchat. The next chat  will be a one hour chat and will start at 8 pm Korea time– click here for times in other areas.

The main focus of the chat is “The myth of proficiency” as discussed by Donald Freeman at the IATEFL 2015 conference. The talk can be viewed here and is not required viewing in order to participate in the chat. Also, the slides from the presentation can be found here: Donald Freeman Plenary (1). Finally, Lizzie Pinard has written up the talk here: http:// http://reflectiveteachingreflectivelearning.com/2015/04/11/iatefl-2015-opening-plenary-donald-freeman/

Regarding this topic, one teacher says, “It struck a chord because my classroom seems a long way from the ‘real world’ and I don’t really feel as if my job is really readying students to go out and speak English, more to give them a bit of a peek at what they might have to do in future.”
What do you think?
How do you see your role as a teacher with reference to proficiency and preparing students for the real world?
If we are not preparing learners for the “real world”, what else can we be doing?

In the talk, Freeman quotes Nunan who says:

“Proficiency, simply put, refers to the ability to perform real world tasks with a specified degree of skill.”
Nunan, 1987.“The ghost in the machine,”

What do you think of this definition?
Do you share this definition?
Are there any problems with this definition?

Freeman points out that proficiency is often graded using terms such as “near-native”, but this is an experiential and geopolitical concept rather than an empirical and linguistic one. He argues that this makes it almost impossible to teach or assess on this basis because the concept covers a wide and shifting range of knowledge, skills and contexts; language is like water, not ice. He argues for a much more bounded view of language and proficiency in the classroom.

How might teaching towards “native-like” proficiency impact your teaching?
How might freeing yourself from the shackles of this myth impact your teaching?
What kind of boundaries do you or could you set up in your classroom to make clearer goals?
What about learners’ voices? How can a teacher involve learners in the critical consideration of this myth in order to determine how it affects language learning goals?


Here’s a link to the storify of the chat in case you missed it or just want to re-live it.