Published 1st September 2015

If you’ve done a TEFL course, you will be familiar with the numerous approaches, methods and techniques used in TEFL. While an approach focuses on the broader theory, a method describes the more practical aspects and a technique is the specific actions taken. It can all be a bit confusing, but if you haven’t done a TEFL course (or you have, but you’re still not sure what everybody’s talking about), here’s a crash course for you:

Though there are a number of different approaches out there, the most popular is that of Communicative Language Teaching. As can be guessed, Communicative Language Teaching focuses on communication and utilising activities in the classroom which promote communication. CLT is based on the assumption that language learning takes place through communication and in order for effective learning to take place; this communication should be authentic and meaningful.

More recently, Dogme became the new buzzword. It came about as a response to the overuse of materials in TEFL classrooms and it is materials light. Basically, Dogme suggests that your lesson should stem organically from the students and their conversations and needs will dictate the lesson. As you can imagine, it’s not the easiest to implement while still being a good lesson rather than just a fat chat, but definitely worth keeping in mind as it places the classroom in a more learner-centred framework.

Within these approaches, there are countless methods that have been used in TEFL classrooms over the years, from Grammar Translation (think Google Translate), the Audio-lingual Method (think Berlitz), the Silent Way (think Laurel and Hardy) and Total Physical Response (think Simon Says). Some of these approaches, it must be said, are a bit wacky but many are quite useful if you use them sparingly. In fact, the best teaching methods seem to be the more eclectic approach to teaching, which utilises different approaches and methodologies in one lesson.

Whichever theory you subscribe to, though, chances are you will structure your lessons according to a model like PPP – Presentation, Practice, Production. PPP is the building block of TEFL teaching and has become an integral part of TEFL training. In short, the teacher presents the target language in a context, like a reading text. Then, attention is drawn to the form and function of the language and learners manipulate the language in controlled exercises, like grammar exercises. Finally, the learners are encouraged to make use of the target language in a free context, such as a discussion.

This may seem like a lot of information, but there’s actually no need to try to get all the approaches and methodologies straight. As long as your lessons involve a language focus and communication, and as long as your students aren’t complaining or sleeping, you must be doing something right!