Hello, ESPers worldwide!
What does it mean to take risks as an ESP practitioner? Is such risk-taking a sign of expertise? This TESOL Blog post is inspired by an article in the area of professional communication that I first read several years ago. The contents of that article are applicable to our work as teachers in a classroom or as trainers in a company:
Candlin, S. (2002). Taking risks: An indicator of expertise? Research on Language and Social Interaction, 15(2), 173–193.
Sally Candlin (spouse of Christopher Candlin, by the way) focuses on expertise in summarizing the contents of her article above:
In this article, I analyzed and discussed the discourse of a nurse who does not take risks and compared it with that of the nurse with greater member resources who takes risks – in the framing of the activity and in the topic management – so that comprehensively coherent discourse, rich in assessment data, can be produced. The nurse, who can be identified as an expert, achieves this comprehensive coherence by coauthoring the discourse of a professional activity with the patient…
Candlin then quotes Benner (1984, pp. 31–32) to clarify the concept of expertise:
The expert performer no longer relies on an analytic principle (rule, guideline, maxim) to connect his or her understanding of the situation to an appropriate action. The expert nurse, with an enormous background of experience now has an intuitive grasp of each situation and zeroes in on the accurate region of the problem without wasteful consideration of a large range of unfruitful alternative diagnoses and solutions.
How does all of the above apply to the workplace of an ESPer? Think about “time.” It is in the present moment that we have the capacity to act and to create. (Those are leadership themes, by the way.) Experts are focused on the moment and on realizing a vision/goal (which is another leadership theme). We take action to create our vision: successful learning experiences for our students. If something is not working well in the classroom, we sense it and change it. All of this happens very quickly and intuitively when we are experts.
Ito (in a TED Talk I mentioned in a previous TESOL Blog post) touches upon what we are doing as experts when he talks about the “power of pull”:
One of my favorite principles is the power of pull, which is the idea of pulling resources from the network as you need them rather than stocking them in the center and controlling everything….So I think the good news is that even though the world is extremely complex, what you need to do is very simple. I think it’s about stopping this notion that you need to plan everything, you need to stock everything, and you need to be so prepared, and focus on being connected, always learning, fully aware, and super present. So I don’t like the word “futurist.” I think we should be now-ists…
I think this is what experts do very quickly; i.e., they make the connections (mentally) and pull together what they need (physically) in order to create in that moment. In connection with this focus on creativity, a 2013 plenary speech of Richards comes to mind:
Creativity depends upon the ability to analyse and evaluate situations and to identify novel ways of responding to them. This in turn depends upon a number of different abilities and levels of thinking.
According to Richards, creative teachers are knowledgeable and much more; e.g., creative teachers are risk takers, reflective, etc. In view of the above, it seems that creativity and expertise overlap.
I would encourage us all to be reflective practitioners (Schön, 1983) and in that role to consider what we do in the classroom and why, with the intention to build up our expertise as ESPers! As reflective experts, we should strive to have a good impact on our professional environments worldwide!
How are you building up your own expertise as an ESPer? Let us all know!
All the best,
Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York, NY: Basic Books.