What is the ‘balanced approach‘ I hear you ask. Well the ‘balanced approach‘ was a philosophy of teaching that I proposed after research and writing up my dissertation on Dogme ELT for my MA at the University of Sussex. This approach to teaching suggested that the best method of incorporating Dogme ELT was including an eclectic range of modern teaching methods combined with more traditional structured forms teaching method. However, I haven’t fully explored or really considered what a ‘balanced approach‘ is.
Within my dissertation I considered a “Balanced Approach to teaching would offer EFL teachers the best of both worlds: the prospect of structured lessons or the opportunity to incorporate more exploratory or experimental teaching techniques, dependent upon classroom expectations” (page 55-56). Essentially, this form of teaching would incorporate a range of methods or techniques which is dependent upon classroom dynamics, as well as learner expectation and previous experience of language learning. Nevertheless, I am starting to question whether the above statement is really what I expect from a ‘balanced approach’. Since the previous ELTChat discussion on more experimental forms of teaching methods such as the Silent Way, TPR or Suggestopedia, I was chatting to other teachers about ‘striking a balance‘ between structured and experimental forms of teaching through personal choice and adapting them towards your teaching. Here are some quotes from the discussion:
As Jenny Ankenbauer suggests, a ‘balanced approach‘ might be considered vague with teachers being given the opportunity to claim their progress within teaching via this approach. Furthermore, due to the ambiguity of a ‘balanced approach‘, teachers may hide behind their claim. Granted, the approach to balance in the classroom is vague and is not without contention with other teachers. However, the suggestion to incorporate a method that is both immediate and personal to all parties in the classroom (both teacher and students in this case) is something that should be developed by all teachers. Rachael Roberts looks at personalising the ‘balanced approach‘ below.
Rachael considers that a approach which is personally developed, which I guess is reactive and student centred, is appropriate but this ‘personal approach‘ should be developed through informed decision making. Essentially, teachers should be striving to develop an approach that is both conducive for language learning while at the same time supports learner expectation. This key point of ‘learner expectation’ is something that Marjorie Rosenberg considers.
Marjorie considers that there is no one best method for all students or classes. Much of this has to do with learner expectation, the culture of learning as well as the perceived role of the teacher in the classroom. What Marjorie suggests from her own personal experience is to take the best out of all methods/approaches and adapting them appropriately for the classroom. During the ELTChat discussion, it was mentioned that ‘cherry picking’ methods or approaches were seen as best practice and would also provide a personal lesson for learners.
Suzanne Guerrero also echoed Marjorie. Suzanne suggested that a teacher could ‘assimilate the principles’ and then ‘adapt them’ to different teaching contexts. It appears that most teachers which participated during the ELTChat developed a ‘personal approach’ to teaching and it was also seen as best practice. This approach is available for teachers to develop as they see fit and can personalise their own teaching. It is related to the whole context and principle of humanising the classroom. From reviewing the latest ELTChat, I can see that a ‘balanced approach‘ is both limited in its focus: for example it either considers a structured form, less structured form or a combination of both forms of teaching in the classroom. It does not really consider the teacher, the learners, the context or culture of learning and the perceived role of the teacher. However developing and adapting lessons on a personal level is more open for teachers to develop as they see appropriate. However, I would consider this a ‘bespoke approach‘.
A ‘bespoke approach‘ to teaching would provide a different experience to any learner (or teacher). As teachers we are always striving to develop a curriculum which accommodates all forms of learners (or teachers). I remember teaching two different groups but at the same level but present at different times. The first group was very active in class whilst the second group was quite passive. Thus, I tried to stimulate the second group more using different techniques than I would with the first. Essentially, I was offering a bespoke English course for learners: accommodating learner requests, expectations and experience of language learning. I believe a ‘bespoke approach‘ would offer more opportunity for teachers to customise their lesson based on a number of factors, using appropriate teaching techniques as well as making informed decisions for learners, lessons, etc.
Nevertheless, do you think there is a difference between a ‘balanced approach’, a ‘personal approach’ and a ‘bespoke approach’? As teachers, are we spreading ourselves too thin when trying to incorporate various different teaching techniques or methods?