Five ELT Trends to Watch in 2017

The new year is well underway, and many opportunities to innovate and improve our pedagogical practices abound! Below are five of the top trends that I predict will frame much of the discussion in the coming year around how to best educate the millions of people learning English worldwide.

1. Translanguaging
Much linguistic research points to the idea that languages are not tightly compartmentalized in the brain; in fact, learners access and use multiple languages in combination for many different purposes and contexts. Professor Ofelia García (2015) defines translanguaging as the process wherein learners can use their “full linguistic repertoire at any time,” without “regard or adherence to socially and politically defined boundaries of named languages.” Translanguaging in the classroom means that language teachers do more to bring in both (or all) languages of their students, rather than asking students to check their first language (L1) at the door. A more fluid approach to language instruction is essential to incorporating translanguaging pedagogy, but it’s definitely worth investigating.

2. Global Englishes
The vast majority of communication in English happening around the world only includes an L1 speaker of English about 25% of the time (Koch, 2017). This use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) is important for English language teacher education because, historically, much of English language education has taken the native speaker as the ideal in terms of proficiency and accent. Now, most English communication occurs between English learners of English who have different L1s. Koch argues that teacher educators must ask themselves if their focus on “inner circle” countries and their English usage adequately prepares global students to interact with people who are not from those countries but who are English users.

3. Online Teacher Education
Many professional development seminars and certificate programs are now offered solely online, which is much more convenient for working professionals and those who do not live in the same location as the teacher educators. TESOL International Association, for example, offers webinars on improving your grammar knowledge, incorporating pronunciation, and fundamentals of TESOL. TESOL members can access archived webinars for free, so if you missed one, you can find it in the TESOL Resource Center.

4. Social Media for Language Learning
Blogging, social media, fandom, tweeting—all of these represent excellent ways to promote authentic communication among 21st century learners. These learners were not meant to memorize information, claims Loyola (2014), but instead thrive on “creating, connecting, and collaborating.” Edutopia’s 10 Social Media Tips for Reaching World Language Learners is a must-read for English language teachers who want to incorporate this technology into their lessons.

5. Advocacy
Given current global conditions, many of the learners in English as a second language (ESL) contexts are newcomers—immigrants and refugees—who have come to a new country under great duress and who are often met with particularly trying social and economic conditions. As TESOL educators, we must continually ask ourselves what we are doing to ensure that the English learners in our classrooms, our schools, and our communities have access to a fair and appropriate education. An inspiring new book just came across my desk titled The Pedagogy of Teacher Activism: Four Portraits of Being and Becoming Teacher Activists. This book examines the social, political, and cultural aspects of educator-driven activism.  SupportEd also posted an insightful list of “10 Ways to Support English Learners in 2017.”

What else is trending in your TESOL context?  Let us know in the comments below!

About Kristen Lindahl

Kristen Lindahl

Kristen Lindahl holds a PhD in linguistics with a specialization in L2 teacher education from the University of Utah. She is currently assistant professor of bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches pre-service ESL/TESOL educators at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Dr. Lindahl has taught K–12 and college ESL, and actively pursues consulting and coaching teachers of English learners in public and English language schools around the globe.

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