How Much of What You Know is Wrong?
Why you need to update your mental models.
How much time do you spend updating your knowledge? How many of your TEFL teaching beliefs are now outdated? New research is released daily about language acquisition, linguistics and neuromyths that just won’t die. … how sure are you that what you know is up to date?
One of the most crucial skills we need as teachers is the ability to reflect critically in the face of new evidence and keep up with new ideas.
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The Speed of Knowledge
Some bodies of knowledge are fixed, where very few (if any) changes occur. Chess, for example, or music — the theory of each of these updates relatively slowly, as their fundamentals stay the same.
Various fields of study change almost daily — computing would be a good example.
Language learning and teaching are somewhere in the middle. I would argue that the speed at which this new knowledge is generated is getting faster, along with just about every other field of study.
So what can you do about it?
Learn — Unlearn — Re-learn
That’s the new paradigm. The ability to unlearn what you already have learned and then re-learn from new evidence and data.
If you don’t, you’ll fall increasingly out of touch. New teachers will enter the profession with new methodologies and new TEFL teaching beliefs. You’ll be a fossil in 10 years.
So why don’t we all stay up to date all the time? What’s stopping us? Three things:
Let’s take a look at each of these.
This one is obvious. We’re all busy people with more to do than we can ever get done. I recommend the productivity system Getting Things Done, (buy the book here), but you’re still going to be busy. The answer is to schedule time for professional development and stick to your schedule. It’s as easy and as complicated as that.
As you read this newsletter about professional development, I’ll give you a pass on this one. You’re already motivated and a fantastic human being. :-)
This one is a killer. Ego gets in the way after you spend long enough studying or working in a field to be labelled an ‘expert’. Suddenly you have a reputation to defend and a vested interest in being right. Your ego doesn’t allow you to have a free and frank discussion of new ideas — there’s too much at stake.
Suddenly you’re that annoying person that no one likes to talk to about interesting new ideas because you’re a know-it-all.
So never stop asking questions, stay humble, and remember it’s OK to make mistakes.
Your Re-Learning Challenge!
So your new challenge is this — update your knowledge in one area this week. To do:
Think of a topic you’re interested in but haven’t read about in a while.
Make a cup of tea.
Do some research (start by browsing Google Scholar) and see what the most recent studies are.
Do some reading, follow some links, and get lost down the internet rabbit hole.
Take notes, tell a friend or colleague, and spread the word.
Pat yourself on the back for being incredible.
Have another cup of tea.
See you again in two weeks.
Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:
1. Learn how to plan better, faster and stress-free with my book Lesson Planning for Language Teachers (90 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
2. Develop calm students, a relaxed mind and a classroom full of learning with my book Essential Classroom Management (16 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
3. Improve your teaching in five minutes a day with my Reflective Teaching Practice Journal (4 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).