How Much of What You Know is Wrong?

How Much of What You Know is Wrong.JPG

How much time do you spend updating your knowledge? How many of your TEFL teaching beliefs are now outdated? New research is released daily, about language acquisition, linguistics, neuromyths that just won’t die. … how sure are you that what you know is really up to date?

One of the most important skills we need as teachers is the ability to critically reflect in the face of new evidence - and to actually keep up with new ideas.

The Speed of Knowledge

There are some bodies of knowledge that are fixed, where very few (if any) changes occur. Chess, for example, or music – the theory of each of these updates relatively slowly, as their fundamentals stay the same.

There are also fields of study that change almost daily - computing would be a good example.

Language learning and teaching are somewhere in the middle. I would argue that the speed at which this new knowledge is generated is getting faster, along with just about every other field of study.

So what can you do about it?

Learn – Unlearn – Re-learn

That’s the new paradigm. The ability to unlearn what you already have learned, and then re-learn from new evidence and data.

Simple, right?

Hell no.

If you don’t, though, you’ll fall increasingly out of touch. New teachers will enter the profession, with new methodologies and new TEFL teaching beliefs. You’ll be a fossil in 10 years.

So why don’t we all just stay up to date all the time? What’s stopping us? Three things:

  1. Time

  2. Motivation

  3. Ego

Let’s take a look at each of these.

  1. Time

This one is obvious. We’re all busy people, with more to do than we can ever get done. I recommend the productivity system ‘Getting Things Done’, (buy the book here), but you’re still going to be busy. The answer is simply to schedule time for professional development, and stick to your schedule. It's as easy and as difficult as that.

2. Motivation

I’m going to give you a pass on this one as you’re reading this blog, which is all about professional development. Clearly, you're already motivated, and a fantastic human being. :-)

3. Ego

This one is a killer. Ego gets in the way after you spend long enough studying or working in a field to be labelled an ‘expert’. Suddenly you have a reputation to defend, and a vested interest in being right. Your ego doesn’t allow you to have a free and frank discussion of new ideas anymore - there's too much at stake.

Suddenly you’re that annoying person that no-one likes to talk to about interesting new ideas because you’re a know-it-all.

So never stop asking questions, stay humble, and remember it’s OK to make mistakes.

Your Re-Learning Challenge!

So your new challenge is this – update your knowledge in one area, this week. To do:

  1. Think of a topic that you’re interested in, but haven’t read about in a while.

  2. Make a cup of tea.

  3. Do some research (start by browsing Google Scholar) and see what the most recent research is.

  4. Do some reading, follow some links, get lost down the internet rabbit hole.

  5. Take notes, tell a friend or colleague, and spread the word.

  6. Give yourself a pat on the back for being incredible.

  7. Have another cup of tea.

Which area of knowledge are you going to update? Let me know in the comments below!