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


2 responses »

  1. I really like your blog this week Eliza. It reminded me of my TEFL course and how different it was to what I was expecting before I arrived. When I did my course, there were only eight trainees to one instructor. This meant the tutor’s attention was almost always focused on the group collectively. We were there for a total of 24 hours out of 48. Needless to say, it was intensive. We were told that by the end of the first day, in pairs, we would be delivering a TEFL lesson to the rest of the group (who would ‘act’ the level of a beginner in English). I didn’t think we’d be able to but we did it. By the end of the second day, we’d be delivering a solo lesson to the rest of the group. I did that too. I’d have to say I learnt more about teaching methods and conveying concepts in that one day than at any other point in my life. We learnt by doing. I know that if we’d been sat in a room, listening to the instructor tell us how to teach (like your ‘chalk and talk method/ jug and mug method’), I wouldn’t have been prepared enough to deliver a lesson in a week’s time, let alone only a few hours. The course gave me first hand experience about how to truly engage with students, even if they don’t speak your language.

    • Yes I absolutely agree with you Jay. Having dipped my toe in EFL teaching last semester I certainly got the impression that it was lively and very different from ‘traditional’ methods. I felt just the same being thrown into teaching a class very early on, but the surprise as you say was how prepared I felt for it after little training. Your last point on the importance of engaging students despite not speaking their language is also important, our lecturer did a great exercise one day in which she invited a Hungarian teacher, into the class to teach us the basics of Hungarian without using any English. It was a daunting exercise but interesting to see things from a beginner students perspective. Also the fact that we had learnt a few basic words of Hungarian after a short lesson served to demonstrate the effectiveness of truly engaging the students and usefulness of alternative techniques for example lots of pictures, exaggerated facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. All of which are often neglected to a certain extent in traditional methods such as chalk and talk and jug and mug.

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