A warm welcome to the last issue of 2021 and I hope things are getting better for you wherever you are teaching. Here in New Zealand after a year of normal teaching, we have just gone into lockdown and I find myself teaching online again. It seems a lot more straightforward this time, the learners are all used to using Zoom and know all their classmates, so the transition was easier. We are also fortunate in having good textbooks for our class which definitely help in terms of preparation and flow, and also allow those who miss a lesson to catch up.

One thing we are certain of now, however, is that the online experience, although better than nothing, is considerably less efficient than live teaching. On a very basic level, it is incredibly difficult to judge how your class is responding to something: eye-contact and body language are much harder to sense via a computer screen. Breakout rooms are fine for small group practice but they are not easy for the teacher to navigate between when trying to monitor. With any more than eight or nine in the class plus a shared screen to focus the attention on, things can get very hard to manage and I always feel there are minutes lost as I juggle to arrange things in the most useful way, to decide what to show, when to talk, how to correct and so on. I am sure the research into the efficiency of online learning has already started and I will be keen to see the results.

This issue will look in more detail at the application of research. Victoria University of Wellington is a world leader in Applied Linguistics so I was delighted to be offered a series of articles from their recent PhD students describing their working lives after they had finished, and particularly showing how they were able to apply their research to their teaching. Other articles look at important books which have influenced teaching, the role of classroom research and professional development and the evidence supporting error correction. All in all, I hope you will find that research is a vital cog in our process to improve learning.

Victoria is famous for its research into vocabulary learning and I have been grappling with my classes recently trying to find ways to increase their active vocabulary. They are at a level now where they have to start summarising and paraphrasing as well as articulating abstract ideas both orally and in written form. Without a large vocabulary, they can come unstuck very quickly. The theory that a word has to be used six to nine times for it to become part of one’s active vocabulary certainly seems to fit my current classes. We do a lot of memory training, collocation practice, word-building and brainstorming as ways of recycling the new words we learn and I am also very pleased with apps like Quizlet which have a phenomenal number of activities created by teachers all over the world.

Being in such a remote country as New Zealand means that everywhere is a long way away, so the English class can serve a great role by adding to students’ knowledge of the rest of the world, whether that is from a geographical, sociological or scientific perspective. As I have often said, it is good to learn something new while practising something a little older like the present perfect! Wherever you are teaching, I hope you and your students are making the most progress possible.

Our first issue of 2022 will be an exciting one since we are merging Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional into one new magazine which will be published six times a year – see pages 46–47 for more information. As ever, we will be looking for teachers from all over the world to contribute. Is it your turn yet?

Robert McLarty