EFL Teachers and Their Pupils
Enhancing teachers' agency and engaging learners in the Global South
As the most popular candidate for the title of “world language”, good English language skills are valued in countries across the world. A team from the University of Warwick worked with the British Council and educators from across the Global South on a project enabling innovation by hundreds of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers in Latin America, India and Nepal. This has revolutionised English lessons for tens of thousands of children in countries in the Global South.
Many schools in the Global South lack the resources of schools in the UK and EFL teachers work long hours in front of large classes. Training and support are often lacking, resulting in many teachers and learners feeling demotivated, isolated and without access to adequate learning resources.
Dr Richard Smith, with Dr Annamaria Pinter and Professor Ema Ushioda, developed an approach called ‘Exploratory Action Research’ (EAR) which introduced several key concepts into schools, including:
Constructive ways for teachers to think about the problems they are facing
Jargon-free explanations of research that teachers can engage in
More autonomy for young learners, giving them active roles in the classroom
Engaging children in making decisions, allowing them to take ownership of their learning
The EAR approach encourages teachers to use a four step process to improve their EFL lessons based on a process of identifying and clarifying concerns, exploring the situation, planning and enacting possible solutions and then evaluating the success of the implemented measures. Following this process, lasting improvements can be made and incorporated into teaching practice.
Over 15,000 pupils in the Global South have benefited from improved English lessons thanks to EAR, with teachers in India, Nepal, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru taking on this approach. Resources based on the project have been used even further afield, in Argentina, China, Ecuador, Oman, Sierra Leone and Turkey. Across the globe, EFL teachers have reported a real improvement in their teaching, reporting that they felt more confident and better able to solve problems and deliver lessons as a result.
The four step EAR process has helped many become more empathetic in their approach to learning. Pupils too have shown greater engagement with the subject; having “lost their fear [of] English”, children of all ages worked harder, learnt more and co-operated better with their classmates. Now eagerly adopted by education ministries and teacher associations on four continents, Warwick’s impact will be present in EFL lessons the world over for years to come.