Monthly Archives: February 2012

Blog 5: Teacher knows best?


As I have mentioned in a previous comment from taking a TEFL module last semester and through analysis of some of the methodologies, in addition to Amy’s comment, have got me thinking about the positives of EFL ideologies and methodologies and how they can be applied to improve mainstream schooling.

EFL methodology encourages moving away from traditional methodologies for example the ‘chalk and talk/ jug and mug method’ and encouraging interactions.

“Chalk and talk” means that the teacher uses a lot of the class time utilising the black board/white board/interactive white board to give the students explanations.

Another traditional teaching methodology is known as the “jug and mug” method of teaching. Through this method students are viewed as empty mugs and the teacher is the jug who fills the empty mugs by pouring their knowledge onto them (Harmer, 2007).

What the teacher is doing is transmitting information to the class. They take questions from the students and answer them. The teacher does most of the talking and is the most active person in the room. The students have a more passive role as participants. This role is usually fulfilled by the students taking notes. This is the dominant method of education in educational cultures in many countries. This is also the expected role of a teacher and the students have a passive role.

Here is a video about a topic I I touched on in my blog last week on the importance of e-learning and how it can replace ‘chalk and talk ineffective methods of learning. In the ‘chalk and talk method’ there are gaps in students learning as they are not engaging hands on with the academic material, either mentally or physically. 

Certainly if I look back at my own schooling Primary and Secondary school as well as University it has fallen into the traditional ‘chalk and talk method/ jug and mug method’ of teaching. It is just assumed that by sitting passively in a class and taking notes that you will absorb information like a sponge but largely this is not the case.

Have many of you been exposed to these traditional methods of teaching if so what did you think of them?

In my opinion learning cannot be simply about just filling a student with information there must be more personal interpretation and understanding going on. Scrivener (2005, p.19) says that the “chalk and talk” (traditional) methodology of teaching just does not work; in fact he contends that a teaching style that relies heavily upon this methodology is “inappropriate”.Students need to be able to communicate, they need to do a number of different language tasks or whatever task is appropriate to the subject, they also need feedback on their performance and possibly further explanations.

So why is this methodology still used? 

Sadly a teacher who breaks away from this methodology may be criticised, not only by the students, but also by their parents, other teachers and management within the school/college/language school.

Is it ever appropriate?

This methodology may be suitable for large classes or lectures where it isn’t possible to have more practical lessons with the students. I found a video on the advantages of the chalk and talk methodology in mathematics. But even in this domain there still has to be a certain amount of practical trial and error of mathematics problems.

Scrivener (2005) contends that the methodology which you choose as a teacher should be governed by what you as a teacher view to be the best methodology for your students so if it is appropriate in the particular learning environment and the students are benefiting from it, it should be utilized.

But in my viewpoint we only need to look at the quantity of students zoning out in lecture theatres and classrooms to realize that this method can only usually maintain student’s concentration for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Surely there has to be a wind of change at some stage? 


‘I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand’ – Confucius





Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English Language Teaching. Pearson
Longman. London.

Scrivener, J. (2005). Learning Teaching: A guidebook for English Language teachers. Macmillan. London.

Siriopoulos, Costas and Pomonis, Gerasimos A., Alternatives to ‘Chalk and Talk’: Active Vs. Passive Learning – A Literature Review of the Debate (May 2006). Available at SSRN: or


TEFL your ticket to the world!


TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language. TEFL is most commonly used when speaking about teaching English to learners who live outside a native English speaking country. TEFL is sometimes used in place of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language)

Teachers of English are increasingly sought after particularly in our globalized world whereby success in a language that has millions of speakers is crucial. English is spoken by more than 300 million native speakers, and between 400 and 800 million foreign users. There are estimated to be around 1 billion people learning English throughout the world. It is the official language of air transport and shipping; the prominent language of science, technology, computers, and commerce; and a large medium of education, publishing, and international negotiation. All these factors make English very desirable to learn. Hence scholars commonly refer to its latest phase as ‘ World English’. 

Additionally as Declan pointed out in his week one blog, encouraging bilingualism in our education system is very important.  Learning languages increases mobility, communication and employability (Language, Linguistics and Area Studies, 2005). As Declan rightly said the more languages you speak the more job markets are open to you. Sandra also highlighted some of the benefits of Bilingualism in her week two blog.

Influential research by Pearl and Lambert (1962) has advanced the area of the advantages of bilingualism and shown how it can improve ones intellect by giving one ‘superiority in concept formation, and a more diversified set of mental abilities’ (Pearl and Lambert, 1962, p.20). Specifically bilingualism can improved ones metalinguistic knowledge, theory of mind and pronunciation L2 (Myers-Scotton, 2006). Flege et al. (2002) among other factors.

Pearl and Lamberts positive findings have been mirrored in many other studies into bilingualism ever since especially in Western Ontario and areas of Canada (Liedtke and Nelson 1986; Bain, 1974; Cummins and Gulutsan, 1974), Switzerland (Balkan, 1970), Israel (Ben-Zeev, 1977a), South Africa (Ianco-Worrall, 1972), and the United States (Ben-Zeev, 1977b; Duncan and De Avila, 1979).

Metalinguistic knowledge and the mental flexibility linked with this form of knowledge is also enhanced in bilinguals (Myers-Scotton, 2006). Research is emerging to indicate that bilingual children who experience two languages from birth demonstrate superior performance on TOM false belief tasks  in comparison to their monolingual equivalents (Goetz, 2003; Kovacs, 2009).

Also bilinguals are at an advantage when it comes to finding the alternative meaning of stimuli in particular at reversing ambiguous figures. Bilingual children were more successful than monolinguals in seeing the other meaning in the images (Bialystok and Shaper, 2005). 

There are places throughout the UK to get qualified and if not courses can be taken online. One can get qualified with i-to-i that carry out courses throughout the UK and online and there is also the British council that adminsiters standardized qualifications. Many of the official institutions that administer TEFL certificates also provide information on finding a job and a list of current vacancies.

The RSA/Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificates are the most widely known and respected qualifications. Both involve a four-week training programme. A lot of entry-level teaching positions ask for one out of two of these qualifications. If you don’t have them you will usually earn less or, in certain countries, it may be challenging to find a teaching position.  

International House (IH) in particular is a well-respected, world-wide organisation that provides CELTA teacher training in centres in countries around the world.

If you are flexible about the money you earn and want to work in a beautiful country Thailand, Ecuador, or Indonesia are good places to teach. But if you require more income Eastern Europe, Turkey, or Taiwan are good options. Teaching English in South Korea or Japan is also good for earning money. But if you are looking for the cream of the crop in terms of income and are ok with a very hot climate, the absolute best-paying jobs are mostly found in the Middle East. But obviously how much you earn within these countries varies greatly depending on the institution you are working at. Generally Universities and private educational institutions will pay better than independent smaller schools. But a lot of TEFL teachers supplement what they earn by giving private tuitoring.

So……the world is your oyster!




Bain, B. (1974). Bilingualism and cognition: Toward a general theory. In Bilingualism, biculturalism, and education: Proceedings from the conference at College Universitaire Saint Jean, ed. S. T. Carey. Edmonton: University of Alberta Printing Department.

Balkan, L. (1970). Les effets du bilinguisme francais-anglais sur les aptitudes intellectuelles. Bruxelles: Aimav.

Ben Zeev, S. (1977a). Mechanisms by which child-hood bilingualism affects understanding of language and cognitive structures. In P. A. Hornby (Ed.), Bilingualism: Psychological, social, and educational implications (pp. 29-55). New York: Academic Press.

Cummins, J., and M. Gulutsan. (1974). Bilingual education and cognition. Alberta Journal of Educational Research 20: 259-69.

Duncan, S. E., and E. A. De Avila. (1979). Bilingualism and cognition: Some recent findings. NABE Journal 4: 15-50.

Flege, J. E., Mackay, I. R., and Piske, T. (2002). Assessing bilingual dominance. Applied Psycholinguistics 23: 567-98.

Goetz, P. J. (2003). The effects of bilingualism on Theory of Mind development. Bilingualism: Language and Congition, 6, 1-15.

Ianco-Worrall, A. (1972). Bilingualism and cognitive development. Child Development. 43: 1390-1400

 Kovacs, A. M. (2009). Early bilingualism enhances mechanisms of false belief reasoning. Developmental Science, 12, 48-54

Liedtke, W. W., and  Nelson., L. D. (1986). Concept formation and bilingualism. Alberta Journal of Educational Research 14: 225-32.

Myers-Scotton, C. (2006). Multiple Voices An Introduction to Bilingualism. Blackwell Publishing Australia. 

Pearl, E., & Lambert, W. E. (1962). The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs, 76, 1-23.


A BA in………Facebook studies


Students spend nearly 25 percent of their internet time on social networking websites (Jacobsen, & Forste, 2011). It is estimated that Facebook alone is responsible for one is seven minutes users spend online. Its one of the most popular sites, estimated to be worth between $75 billion and $100 billion. With one billion users 50% of which log on every day, or one in seven of the words total population, Facebook without a doubt is big business. But with 96% of students using facebook, is there really such a thing as the ‘facebook effect’ and if so does this have a positive or negative effect on a students education?

Wang, Chen, and Liang, (2011)  looked into the effect of social media for example Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, Twitter, MySpace or Linkedln (Martin, 2008) on college students and found mainly negative results.  Social media sites promote negative behaviors in teenage students for example procrastination, additionally they found that these students were more prone to getting involved with alcohol and drugs (Schill, 2011)

Research shows quantity of social media use has a negative effect on grades. Approximately two-thirds of students said they use electronic media during class, studying, or while completing homework (Jacobsen, & Forste, 2011).”This multitasking likely increases distraction, something prior research has shown to be detrimental to student performance’’. As social media sites, for example become more popular, they are ever more harmful manners of procrastination when students should be studying. Of a survey conducted on 102 students, 57% said that social media had resulted in them being less productive. 

Another study has looked at the effects of social media on grades shows students who use Facebook set aside less time to study and receive lower marks compared with students who don’t use these social networking sites (Kalpidou, Costin, & Morris, 2011). Also, college students who are part of the 500 million member social network receive much lower grade-point averages (GPAs) than those who don’t  (Karpinski and Duberstein, 2010).

Social media is also extremely addictive. University of Maryland students who were deprived of social media for 24 hours felt feeling of craving and withdrawal symptoms similar to alcohol or drug addiction.  Facebook addiction was said to be 350 times more addictive than cigarette addiction. So maybe its too late we have a population of addicts and social media has to either be pushed away and denied or be accepted and utilized in positive ways to benefit education.

Nevertheless other studies do not support such negative corellations between social media activity and students’ academic performance. Social media technologies have attracted the interest of individuals from higher education who require ‘manners of engaging and motivating their students to be more active learners’ (Hughes 2009). There is an interest in combining certain social media tools (such as blogs, microblogs, video-sharing sites, and social networking) with the learning process (Grosseck & Holotescu 2009; Rankin 2009; Ebner et al. 2010; Schroeder et al. 2010), particularly by faculty members with a plan of using the latest technology in education (Crook 2008).

 Another interesting ability of social media is to increase individuals cognitive flexibility. For example when people are updating their facebook status, instant-messaging friends, or answering text messages and emails, while they’re doing something else. Dr. Kuhl (2009) ‘said this multitasking, where people are stimulating new patterns of sequential processing, could reap the same benefits as bilingualism’. If this is not the case— then networking online is to some extent ‘acting as a brain innovator, promoting new paths of discovery and interactivity in the brain’.

Already we can see education seeping onto facebook and other form of social media, as without a doubt it is an invaluable way to reach students. For example this module has certainly motivated me personally to read more papers and engage with academic material, as we are being assessed on our blogs and receive comments from our peers and Jesse, which is just another form of social media. In my opinion knowing that my work is being published for all the online community to see (if they so care) motivates me to better myself through my work ever week. This in itself can certainly be one positive aspect of social media on education.

I came across a wonderful idea on TED created by Neha Gupta that harnesses social media for example Facebook and the fact that many people waste many hours on these sites to create something positive, to link them with students who want to be taught through skype. In my viewpoint as with many things in life social media can be both harmful and beneficial it all depends how you harness it. Without a doubt social media has great potential to enhance education by engaging, motivating and making students members of a global learning community.




Cock- a-doodle do or do not!?


Throughout primary and secondary school I was constantly told to stop doodling during classes as ‘I was not focusing on the lesson’! But the creative process of doodling has a potentially valuable place in education to aid our concentration, motivation and our process of understanding .

The word doodle first appeared in the early 17th century to mean ‘fool or simpleton’ supposedly taken from the low German ‘dudeltopf’ that meant fool. This led to the formation of the verb ‘to doodle’ that was used in the beginning of the 1800s that means “to make a fool of, to cheat or swindle”. The Oxford English dictionary defines doodling as scribbling or drawing idly or a meaningless scrawl. Or to dawdle or waist time.

So in spite of its negative connotations if teachers are constantly giving out to us for doodling why do we often feel the urge to carry on and does doodling have a role to play in aiding our learning, or is it really as the teachers believe directing our attention away from the task at hand?

Doodling  can be seen as a way for our minds to concentrate on the present moment when we begin to feel ourselves getting bored by a particular stimulus, or in intense information environments, so it grounds us in the present moment which prevents us from daydreaming. It allows our brain to work through understanding novel material in a different way. It also engages all four learning modalities at the same time visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and reading and writing along with the potential for an emotional experience required for  processing and comprehending material.

According to a recent study the act of doodling caused better concentration improved retrieval of past memories and  it focused the mind on the present task at hand. ‘The doodling group performed better on the monitoring task and recalled 29% more information on a surprise memory test. Unlike many dual task situations, doodling while working can be beneficial’ (Andrade,  2009).

Another study has looked at the effectiveness of doodling in helping novice computer programmers to understand the material they are learning, there results are in line with previous studies on the usefulness of ‘external memory aids’ on students remembering and understanding complex information (Davies, 1993, 1996, Hegarty and Steinhoff 1997).

 An article in “Science” highlighted the usefulness of drawing in science education as it’s inclusive to different individuals learning styles and inspired students to connect and investigate the material in a more consequential manner. Additionally learners did not just benefit from an improved understanding of ideas by drawing, but it allowed opportunities for innovative and divergent ways of thinking.

In terms of implementing and encouraging doodling in a classroom setting I found an interesting link to a site that shows how doodling can be used as an innovative strategy alongside classroom activities, to engage students in subjects such as mathemetics  Vi Hart’s Math Doodling. There are various videos that students can follow for example Binary Trees, Snakes + Graphs, and Infinity Elephants. These videos allow students to engage with the sometimes monotonous content of images and words in a syllabus in a novel way by allowing them to engage their visual thought processes to understand a particular concept.

Personally I do not believe that doodling should replace learning the core content of a particular subject and traditional forms of teaching for example writing, talking and reading, but implementing these strategies from time to time would be beneficial. Doodling can liven up the classroom setting and complement what students are learning. Allowing them to test their knowledge by engaging them with the content in a different way, and without a doubt encouraging improvement of students engagement, motivation, retention and understanding of the material can only be a good thing.