expert in the field of ESL education, David has been teaching for
International House Coimbra for many years and has received his DELTA
and MA in applied linguistics and TESOL.
blog TEFLGeek is a haven for teachers who are in search for tips and
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Let's welcome David who is here to share some of his insights:
have a really great blog that covers so much useful information for ESL
learners and teachers. How did it all start?
I'm a bit of a hoarder – I still have the file from my CELTA
over ten years ago – and I'm one of those people who keeps absolutely
everything in case it might come in handy at some point in the
So the blog was at least partly to put a lot of this kind of thing in
one place and to share all those lesson ideas and activities instead of
letting them gather dust on a shelf.
It's been sort of deliberately unfocused and all-inclusive, because I
guess that also partly reflects my approach to ELT (E
eaching) – I'm
interested in just about everything and I love trying out new ideas and
The blog lets me do that, but it also lets me get feedback and input
from other people on their own experiences or their opinions on my
2. How would you describe
your teaching style?
I wouldn't. I don't think any teachers' view of
their teaching style would be the same as that of an external observer
– maybe you should ask my students?
I think I have two over-riding principles in my classes – that the
students improve in some way from the lesson and that they have fun
My teaching style obviously changes depending on who I'm teaching,
their ages, abilities and their needs.
3. You have been writing
a lot about exams and proficiency tests, what bit of advice would you
give students on how to prepare for one?
Pure exam practice is
not an effective way of preparing for an exam.
If you only do exam practice, your task awareness will improve, but
your language level probably will not.
If you only have a limited amount of time in which to prepare, I would
say that 80% of your time is best spent on improving your vocabulary
and your language awareness – only 20% of your time
should be spent doing practice papers
I know this goes against what many learners who come into exam classes
want, but there is a growing body of research evidence that suggests it
doesn't help improve exam performance, and in my experience it is
rarely what learners need.
4. Many ESL learners who
want to study abroad have been facing this question:
What would you say is the biggest challenge for students taking the
TOEFL or IELTS exam, and how can they overcome it?
are two very, very different exams – while they might be used for the
same purposes they don't actually test many of the same things, so my
first bit of advice to learners would be:
1) To see which exam they need to do
2) And, given the choice, which exam they feel most comfortable with.
Once that's out of the way, I'd suggest that improving language
awareness and knowledge is the key: that is, after all what
both tests set out to assess and so if you aren't spending time
improving your vocabulary, reading articles on the internet, listening
to podcasts or working your way through a grammar revision book – you
are essentially wasting
5. What are some
recommended courses or programs for a student looking to expand beyond
General English learning?
Often, if a student has specialist English training needs, there will
be teachers and courses available to help them.
For example, if a Doctor or nurse wants to move to an English speaking
country, then they might be able to find an English for Medicine
course, either online or face-to-face.
The problem is obviously that there are a large range of possibilities
out there and I don't want to recommend anything that I don't have
direct experience of – I've spent my professional life working with
International House schools and I believe that they offer good quality
language tuition in a range of areas, but I can't really speak of
6. Are there any
techniques you use to teach besides direct instruction? And how have
these helped in keeping students stimulated?
I associate "direct instruction" with the more traditional transmission
of knowledge model, i.e. the teacher standing at the front and the
students listening and writing things down.
This does happen sometimes in my classes, but not very often and
usually more with young learners as a classroom management tool than
for a pedagogical choice.
What I try to do more would be similar to the "discovery learning"
model – I want students to notice language, manipulate it and
experiment with it.
Many of my classes follow an output-feedback
, where the students do something and then I can give
them pointers on how to do it differently next time (or not as the case
I asked my students the other day (a new class) how they wanted their
lessons to be and they all said they wanted to think
in them – students enjoy being
challenged and they don't mind failure as long as they learn from it.
7. What do you hope
students and teachers will take with them after reading your blog?
Something to think about.
Thanks David for taking
the time to
share all of this great information with our readers. We hope you will
be back in the future for another interview!