My general teaching principles

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It is difficult to summarise years of teaching experience, literature reading, and theoretical development into a single answer. Richards, in The Language Teaching Matrix (1990) states that “...teaching is a dynamic process....effective teaching is always evolving throughout one's teaching career.” I do believe that this is quite true as my own approach to teaching has developed and evolved dramatically over the years.

My students' age groups range between 19 and 22 years old and are from both sexes. Occasionally, we get a few older students and those would be in their first years of employment, resulting of course, in mixed ability students, with different goals and objectives to learn English. These students are admitted to the course based in their performance on a heavily-loaded grammar; vocabulary and reading placement test. The test does not include a written or an oral component. It is internally designed and administrated and the results of which are nonnegotiable and final. Usually, the students fall into one of three levels; (Elementary, Pre-Intermediate or intermediate). These levels are respectively called (English 1, 2 and 3). We use the New Headway course book by John & Liz Soars, OUP, 2000. At the moment I am teaching in level 2 (Pre-Intermediate), but the norm is that each passing semester, teachers are assigned to teach in different levels, depending on various factors such as; intake at the beginning of the semester, etc.

My principles are drawn from my experience, observation and reflections of my own as well as those of other colleagues, in addition to reading about them, having training courses etc. At first, my principals were formed from my own experience, although, now I realize that my personal experience represents only one way of becoming an effective language teacher.

First and foremost, I am an analytical teacher and I try to sell this to my students. Instead of taking what teachers say for granted, I motivate and encourage my students to use their own judgements about language learning and to ask questions whenever they feel uncertain about something. I believe that this will raise their conscious and awareness of the language in addition to their general understanding. This is grounded in literature by the term “discovery learning”, where students have to notice and work out the rules themselves in an inductive manner, rather than a deductive one. Another point in favour for this approach is that it helps develop a learner's capacity for autonomous learning. Dörnyei, and Csizér mention in (1999) teachers should increase a learner's linguistic self-confidence and promote their autonomy not only by encouraging self correction of writing; but also by allowing students to select topics to speak/write/read about in class/self-assign homework etc.

I also believe that social interactions promote authentic language use. I try to promote co-operative learning using pairs and group-work as often as possible, where the lessons are based around learners. I believe that learners learn better when they feel that they are at the centre-stage, rather than dominated or inhibited by teachers. This is grounded in ELT methodology by the TBL approach, in particular, its weaker form, given the nature of the students. This is a rational for authentic language use to solve or negotiate meanings in order to reach a specific goal. This belief is also motivated by an understanding that students perceive, process, and store information differently in response to a need, and that they “get” ideas by wrestling with the application of those ideas (Bransford et al., 1999, p. 139). Learners also, learn better when they decide on their own levels of participations and involvements. Another point is that it promotes a healthier, stress-free and a much more live classroom atmosphere, and more communication and interaction among them. Crook and Schmidt (1991) mentioned that to promoting student's motivation level could be achieved by varying the activities, tasks, and materials. I achieve this by combining desired outcomes with light activities and games and by being all the while conscious of their needs. Although in recognising their needs, I sometimes have to abandon my plans altogether and venture into new territories, but the outcomes are almost always appreciated.

I belief in holistic teaching, this means that I try to engage as many aspects of people as possible.

At the beginning of each and every semester I administer a needs-analysis - through questionnaires, interviews in addition to my own classroom observations, in order to find out as much information about my students as possible. Learners are unique in terms of motivation, attitudes, and preferred learning-styles. Therefore, this information helps me in deciding on proper approaches and in choosing the right material for my classes and to help learners expand their repertoire of learning strategies. I try to mediate and integrate these believes with the syllabus demands. There is absolutely no point in challenging students with difficult tasks - they might switch off altogether - “we should teach within a reasonable challenge” as mentioned by Prabho in his procedural syllabus. Tikunoff (1985) stated that “classroom tasks very according to three types of demands they make on learners: response mode demands; interactional mode demands and task complexity demands”.

Teaching should be firmly rooted in the cognitive faculty. That should be a reason for teaching within a context (e.g. no pointing in learning vocabulary for example, without a context. The context would be the ground to find meaning). In order to raise students' awareness of the importance of context I introduce different texts to them, and ask them to determine where it would likely to have occurred. Another point is, I ask them to make changes to a text, in terms of; field (purpose), tenor (relationships between participants), and mode (spoken or written) as stated in Michael Halliday's systemic functional Linguistics.

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