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Home2023 IssuesPhilip Kerr’s 30 Trends in ELT

Philip Kerr’s 30 Trends in ELT

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers: Pocket editions Cambridge University Press, 2022 ISBN: 978-1-00-907372-1

Following my review in this journal of David Crystal’s ‘50 Questions About English Usage’ from the same publisher (Issue 477), what a pleasure it was soon after to receive the title under review here. Similarly sized – just like your bright, shiny Kindle – it can be popped into either a large purse or a very small manbag; handy to have with you if you are once again, like myself, waiting for a plane. In fact, I managed to read at least five trends each time I was delayed in the lounge in Istanbul airport this past summer (Sunday evening is not a good time to fly from there, by the way).

As each trend is covered well in three concise pages, not to mention the shortlist of key resources, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get some serious review reading done both at the gate and on the plane. My problem was missing my plane; the Istanbul lounge makes no announcements, and I was occasionally a bit too engrossed in some of the trends, especially those that were either completely new to me, such as ‘Chatbox,’ and ‘Grit’ or recent hot topics like ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘Content and Language Integrated Learning’ (CLIL). More on these below.

As the author explains, his selection of trends for inclusion is inevitably subjective, and several – such as the Lexical Approach and Dogme – he’s excluded as they have already been widely discussed elsewhere in more depth. The thirty trends outlined in this title are divided into three categories: language, learning, and teaching. While it’s possible to read them in sequence, I enjoyed just dipping in and, as there were so many overlaps, occasionally working backwards.

Part A, ‘Rethinking language,’ looks at matters such as the relationship between English and other languages, along with the integration of English into the curriculum. As with all trends outlined, the first in this section on Pluralism explains what it is, why it is implemented as a pedagogical principle, then provides balanced issues for the reader to ponder. Also outlined here are English as a Lingua Franca, Interlingual Mediation, and English as a Medium of İnstruction. And before you ask, yes, there is a large degree of overlap both here and throughout, due to what the author admits are mostly loosely defined trends. Of particular resonance to this reviewer were the author’s comments on how CLIL appears to be more popular with parents and researchers than classroom teachers; those foot soldiers obliged to constantly juggle languages.

Part B, ‘Rethinking learning,’ is twice the length of the previous part, but much less thought-provoking. It looks at the growing interest in the kind of non-linguistic skills – ‘life skills’ – learners are told they need to be able to function in what is termed the ‘knowledge economy.’ Along with the author, I too have serious doubts about the need for many of the 21st Century Skills propounded by the World Bank and the OECD; institutions not famous for their knowledge of the global ELT context.

Regular readers of this column will have noticed my professional interest in the welfare of teachers. Wellbeing is the topic that opens Part C on ‘Rethinking teaching,’ and here – although the author admits to a degree of scepticism regarding the adoption of positive psychology in titles such as Mercer and Gregerson (2020) – he rightly concludes that ‘collective responses to both systemic and individual issues are usually more powerful than teachers trying to work alone’ (p68). I’ll second that! Part D is a single standalone trend labelled ‘Rethinking evidence.’

This is worth reading often, since for each trend where is the evidence? This title is very highly recommended; let me know what you think.

REFERENCES

  • Crystal, D. 50 Questions About English Usage. Cambridge University Press (2021) Mercer S, and Gregersen T. Teacher Wellbeing. Oxford University Press (2020).
Image courtesy of Library
Wayne Trotman
Wayne Trotman
Wayne is a teacher educator at Izmir Katip Celebi University in Izmir, Turkey. Wayne has been involved in language teaching both in the UK and overseas since 1981. He holds an MSc in TESOL from Aston University and a PhD in ELT and Applied Linguistics from the University of Warwick.
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