Published 14th March 2016
Krashen. Thornbury. Harmer.
If there are three names you need to get to know in this industry, it should be these three. While there are loads of influential names in the TEFL field, these three are arguably the most well-known of the lot. Chances are you are already familiar with their names from your TEFL course. Maybe you have even read one of their (many) books. But here, in a nutshell, let us look at why exactly they are household names.
Stephen Krashen is a linguist and educational researcher. He is most famous for his set of hypotheses which he has been developing and refining since the 1970s: the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis.
Basically, language cannot be learned, it needs to be acquired. What this means is that an explicit focus on language will help monitor output but cannot be responsible for learning. Learning comes about subconsciously through input, which needs to be a level above the learner’s ability level. A learner’s attitude towards the learning situation also plays a part in the learning process.
Scott Thornbury is a teacher trainer who has written many books on TEFL which are used by teacher trainers and trainees alike. He is well-known for introducing the teaching methodology of Dogme into popular thought and one of his most successful books is an activity book on the topic: Teaching Unplugged.
As you can guess, Dogme encourages materials-light teaching and urges teachers to rely less on their textbooks. Instead, teaching should originate from the learners, so that the language in lessons is appropriate in terms of both content and level for the learner. In other words, learners will be taught what they need when they need it.
Jeremy Harmer is a name you are likely to see on the front cover of any number of teaching methodology books in the EFL field. He is a teacher and a teacher trainer and presents regularly at international conferences. His book The Practice of English Language Teaching is often used as the basis of TEFL courses; he is also the author of the very popular How to… series.
Part of being a TEFL teacher is keeping up-to-date with teaching methods and theories of learning. While we may not have all the time in the world to do research ourselves, keeping an eye on articles and blogs by people such as Krashen, Thornbury and Harmer will help us keep abreast of EFL research. This will help our development as teachers and help us bring best practice into the classroom and our lessons.