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A lack of evidence is not my style

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Melanie Butler argues that learning styles are not the only problem. Most of British-style ELT needs a stronger evidence base

Howard Gardner is not a fan of ‘learning styles’. The Harvard professor of education confessed in 2013 that the tendency of many people to link the discredited theory to his own work on multiple intelligences drives him ‘to distraction’. Learners have different styles, he agrees, but the attempt to bunch them into neat groups is incoherent. Repeated empirical studies of the systematic use of the theory in the classroom have shown they make no measurable difference to learning outcomes.

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In for the Clil


A snapshot survey reveals teacher training providers in the UK and Ireland are benefiting from a growing number ofcountries jumping on the Clil bandwagon.

When the French need to invent a name for something, you know it’s a success. Content and language integrated learning, commonly known as Clil – or Emile by the French – has been taking European primary and secondary schools by storm. Many countries now require secondary schools to teach some subjects in a foreign language (the most common is English) and similar projects are also run at primary level.

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Not-so-easy listening?

Why is there so much variation in the performance of East Asian countries in the skills tested by Ielts?

And do the Chinese need to give up their attachment to traditional teaching in L1 in order to excel? Melanie Butler investigates

Jocelyn Wang, head of teacher development at China’s largest language school chain, New Oriental, recently gave a heartfelt defence of the Chinese system of English language training. At this year’s Iatefl conference, she showed video clips of expert Chinese teachers delivering lectures mostly in Mandarin while the students sat in rapt attention, occasionally taking notes.

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Do ELLs sink or swim in the mainstream?

New studies show that mainstreaming ELLs in the US does not have any one particular effect on their attainment at high school – outcomes can vary considerably.

Claudia Civinini looks at an important issue for educators and policy makers

To reclassify or not to reclassify? With more students than ever entering the US education system with limited English skills, this is the question keeping US policy makers and researchers busy.

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What’s the harm?

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by Claudia Civinini

With the debunking of any pseudoscientific theory and practice comes the inevitable question: what’s the harm? Even if learning styles are not backed by evidence, why shouldn’t teachers use them in their classroom if they believe they are effective?

Experts said that learning styles theory uses up time and resources that could be better allocated, and can sometimes become excuses for ineffective teaching or poor student behaviour.

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