The Difference Between TEFL Theory and TEFL Practice

TEFL Theory vs TEFL Practice

Do you have enough time to teach well?
Photo by: Kaja Kozłowska

We know how to teach a great class, we all know our TEFL theory, so why don’t we make every class a great class?

Why, if I walk in a school on a busy weekend, do I see a lot of really mediocre TEFL practice?

Some are OK, but most classes are teachers just trying to survive. It’s not pretty.


·         It’s not a lack of knowledge. Everyone has done their TEFL, and participates in professional development.

·         It’s not a lack of motivation. Teachers don’t deliberately say ‘screw it, I’m going to deliberately teach a crap class to Class X tomorrow’ just because I can.

·         It’s not a lack of ability. If a teacher is scheduled for an observation, suddenly they’re able to pull their thumb out and deliver a good (if not great) class.

So What’s Happening?

Simply put, it’s a lack of time.

Enough time is essential for:

  • Class administration
  • Planning
  • Professional development
  • Extra-curricular activities

More than anything though, there has to be enough time for creativity. A mind under constant pressure isn’t a creative mind. It’s a mind that looks for shortcuts and a mind that doesn’t take risks with new material. A mind like that isn’t motivated.

If you give a teacher enough time to engage in professional development, and then enough time to explore those ideas in their lessons, you’ll get a motivated, creative teacher who takes risks and delivers high quality lessons.

Sure, teachers have to learn how to be productive with their time. However, there is a limit to how efficient and streamlined we can be with our time. The rest has to be an institutional decision to build that time into our schedule.

What do you think the perfect ratio is of teaching time to preparation time is?

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  • Malachy Scullion

    Hear hear David,

    I truly wish we had less admin and more time to be creative with our materials and planning.

    If only!!!

    • David Weller

      I know! You won’t be surprised to hear that this post really nearly turned into a rant when I was writing it.