Comment on Scott Thornbury’s ‘S is for Student-centredness’

17 02 2013

mcneilmahon (18:42:13) :

For me, student-centredness is an attitude – an attitude to planning and teaching. A teacher who says ‘I’ve got to plan my lessons’ is not demonstrating as ‘student-centred’ an attitude as a teacher who says ‘I’ve got to plan my students’ lessons’. It might seem a tad facetious, but the simple switch in language use highlights the importance of having the students in the forefront (or should that be centre) of your mind when planning your / their lessons. And some may go even further and say ‘I’ve got to plan how my students are going to plan their lessons’.

The same goes for in the lesson too – are you making decisions as the lesson progresses based on their lesson and how its panning out, or your lesson? This student-centred attitude can ensure that even the most teacher-fronted stage of a lesson can be completely student-centred (exactly what these students need at this point, eliciting from them, them making notes, etc. everyone completely involved in what’s being discussed) and a completely student-fronted stage (all sitting in a circle discussing something, teacher on the sidelines monitoring) can involve very little student-centredness (only one or two students involved, teacher chosen topic, teacher led discussion, only teacher knows the aim of the stage).

Looking at student-centredness as an attitude therefore means you can have very student-centred lessons within Tyson’s context because the teacher has chosen topics they know the students need preparation in (even when the students themselves don’t) and as Carol highlights this is true across a whole range of approaches.


Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blogpost: Z is for Zero Uncertainty

1 08 2011 


Surely the amount of certainty students want to be left with depends on the type of text they are engaged with? Yes, with an airline announcement they want to be 100% certain which gate to go to, but they might not need to be 100% certain there was a ‘please’ before the ‘go to gate…’

And all those cackling Spaniards surely don’t understand any Almodovar film with zero uncertainty. The most important point I think you’re making is we need to be super clear why we are asking our students to listen to any text in the classroom (and the fact it’s on the next page of the course book is no justification at all) and then try our best to help them understand in a ‘real’ way – i.e. as closely as possible to the way they’d want to understand it in the ‘real’ world. A high percentage of task authenticity is the aim, not zero uncertainty.

So please do improve the listening sequence, but first of all by considering if listening to the gnome interview will motivate the students at all and then by deciding how would they engage with the text authentically. If text transcription helps them to develop their ability to do this then all well and good.

Scott Thornbury:

Hi Neil!

You write: “Surely the amount of certainty students want to be left with depends on the type of text they are engaged with?” Yes, that’s true to a certain extent. But I also think that – in the long run – the amount of certainty that the learners want to be left with should depend on them. If, for example, you and I are listening to the same (global) weather report, and you live in Argentina while I live in Spain, we will each have different needs, and hence different questions that we will want answered. And hence we will be listening more or less intensively to different parts of the text.

In the end, no coursebook task is going to satisfactorily predict the degree of certainty learners will need, nor the degree of uncertainty they will tolerate. It might be better if they didn’t include tasks at all, but just directed the teacher to ‘mediate the text to the extent that seems necessary’.