Several articles in Issue 88 of ETp consider the nature of teaching and what exactly English teachers are trying to achieve. Should we take the view that we are being paid simply to improve our students’ ability in English and nothing else, or are there other agendas, covert or overt, that also play an important role in our role as language teachers?

In our main feature, Eric Atkinson wonders about the correct measure of successful English teaching. Is it to produce fluent English speakers with near-native ability? If so, then many of us are certainly failing. If there is something else going on along the way – such as the teaching of other skills of educational value and the development of the students as people – then the fact that most of our students never get beyond an intermediate level in English should not be seen as a teaching failure.

Mandana Arfa Kaboodvand addresses an issue I have long hoped to see discussed in ETp – whether it is the English teacher’s remit to ‘save the world’, in terms of teaching students to be better citizens, more environmentally aware, more morally sound, etc. If so, whose values are we to promote, and what happens when they are at odds with those of the students’ culture? And why English teachers? Why not social science teachers or geography teachers?

Michael Morgan comes down firmly on the side of using language classes to introduce serious issues and to awaken the social consciences of our students. He finds Psi’s Gangnam Style video a useful device for discussion of materialism and superficiality in society.

And if the students are to be socially aware, why not the teachers, too? Tessa Woodward explains what she has learnt professionally from campaigning for an issue about which she feels very strongly. She exhorts other teachers to embrace a cause dear to their hearts and helps them to learn from the experience of trying to do something about it.

If you would like to add your voice to the discussion, there is now a comment facility under the articles on our website. Let us know what you think!

Other articles in this issue of ETp include:

  • Do something different with your coursebook 1: Rachael Roberts begins a new series offering innovative ideas for using and adapting coursebook material
  • Echo, echo, echo: Nicholas Northall challenges the idea that repeating back what students have said is always beneficial
  • From newsroom to classroom: Pat Winters Lauro uses skills learnt in the field of journalism to improve her students’ writing
  • Sounds problematic: Charles Jannuzi proposes a way to help students recognise and produce difficult sounds
  • Camera-ready: Peter Fullagar suggests fun ways of using the cameras on your students’ mobile phones
  • The value of video: Michael Reed looks at how videoing practice lessons can be used to improve their effectiveness as a teacher training tool.