Published 19th December 2017

Elicitation is one of those words that you will hear all the time when you are doing a TEFL course. It’s something you just cannot get away from and it will form a big part of your assessment.

[If you’re not sure what elicitation is, it’s when you extract language from your students rather than spoon-feeding them.]

You are more than likely going to hear your TEFL trainer tell you (and other trainees) at some point:

“You didn’t elicit enough.”

“You could’ve elicited better.”

“Do you know what eliciting means?”

Eliciting is not something that comes naturally to most of us. It takes time to get used to the concept of eliciting and experience to get the hang of the techniques of elicitation. However, there are a few key points you can bear in mind to make your eliciting more effective.

DO: be subtle

Elicitation in the classroom should feel natural. Your students should not feel that they are playing guessing games every lesson. Elicitation should happen throughout the lesson, and not just for single vocabulary items. Elicit ideas and opinions as well and do it often so your students become comfortable with contributing to the lesson in this way.

DO: check comprehension after eliciting

If your students are able to give you what you are trying to elicit, then you may think your job is done and you can move on. Remember, though, that just because one student volunteers the answer, doesn’t mean the rest of the class know the answer, nor does it mean that they know the correct meaning of the word. It pays to spend a few minutes making sure everyone is on the same page with the language in question.

DON’T: try to elicit everything

The reason we elicit is to draw out knowledge from our students, to find out what they know. It is natural for our students not to know everything we are trying to teach them, so it’s logical that we cannot elicit everything. Be selective about the language you choose to elicit. Use elicitation sparingly and appropriately.

DO: quit while you’re ahead

It is tempting to play an endless game of guess-the-word with your students, but eliciting is utilised to make your lessons more interactive. Sometimes your students may just not understand what you are getting at, or they may simply not know the language. Giving infinite clues about a word is not going to result in a 100% successful elicitation rate. There’s no need to flog a dead horse. If they don’t know, move on.

DON’T: dismiss other answers

We usually elicit for one specific language item or a particular idea. This does not mean that there aren’t other answers to your elicitation that are correct. Your students may offer answers which fit your description but which you aren’t looking for. Don’t dismiss those answers with a “no”. Agree that those are possible answers but that there are other ones which fit the brief too.

Elicitation can be a very effective teaching technique. Can be, if it is done properly. If you already use elicitation techniques in your lessons, well done. Now make sure you are using it appropriately.