I was then lucky in my next posting, to Italy, to arrive at a time of experimentation and change. I worked closely with Donn Byrne and our Italian colleagues to found a teachers’ association (Lingua e Nuova DidatticaLEND) which promoted the new ideas coming out of the Communicative movement which was gathering pace at the time.
From there I went to Paris, where I stayed for over six years. Again this was a time favourable to change. I was fortunate to have had a fairly free hand and was able to run workshops all over the country and to bring innovative professionals in to present new and experimental ideas. This was the time of the so-called designer methods: The Silent Way, Suggestopoedia, Community Language Learning, Total Physical Response, Psychodrama and so on. It also coincided with the first flowering of ELT publishing. So I was again fortunate to get in on the ground level with books offering new ideas, especially in the field of drama, creativity and so on. I also had the great good fortune to work with one of the most creative individuals I have ever met – Alan Duff, with whom I coauthored many books at this time.
So I think the answer to your question is that I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, when new and challenging ideas were at the centre of English Language Teaching and of Applied Linguistics.
I would not say that I have had to redefine creativity. (It is one of the most complex human phenomena to define anyway). But I have had to think about it a lot in connection with my own writing and practice. (See below question 6.)I am concerned about different aspects of creativity: how we can help our learners become more creative; how we as teachers can become more creative as individuals; how we can extend the range of creative inputs we use in our classrooms – particularly by incorporating more aesthetic elements, like music, art, literature and drama; how we can develop more creative processes into our teaching; and so on.
I believe that the need to develop more creative teachers has radical implications for teacher training. Currently, we tend to try to prepare teachers for predictable circumstances in the classroom. But classrooms are not predictable. We need to offer trainee (and in-service) teachers opportunities to handle the unpredictable elements in the process. Improvisation and spontaneity will be the keywords for this kind of training, and both flow from and back into creativity.
You have lived and worked in many parts of the world. What would you say ELT is evolving towards?
~ the lemming-like love affair with technology. We continue as a profession to be deluded by the ‘newtoy’ effect. There is a tendency to accept blindly any new piece of emerging technology. This is not to say that technology is somehow ‘wrong’ or even ‘evil’. But it is a plea that we should treat technology as just one of the many resources we have available. It is to learn to ask the right question: What technology is appropriate to solve this pedagogical problem? Currently there is a tendency to ask the wrong question: Here is a lovely new gadget. What shall I use it for?
~ the trend toward the academification of teacher education. In my view, the over-emphasis especially on the PhD as a qualification for teaching and a passport to promotion is misguided. We need to recognize the essential difference between research and teaching, and to reward teachers for being good teachers, rather than as researchers.
~ the commodification of ELT. By this I mean the stranglehold of testing, of curricular frameworks (like the CEF), the packaging of materials as total solutions, the elimination of teachers as active stakeholders…
These tendencies are enough to drive anyone to despair. But hope springs eternal.
You have written and published many stories. Which is your favourite?
What are your current projects?
~ Alan Maley & Tamas Kiss. Creativity in Language Teaching: From inspiration to implementation. Palgrave Macmillan. We have tried to start from the theories of creativity in general and to move to ways they have been realized in education, applied linguistics, methodology and materials development. We then explored what the qualities of a creative teacher are and how to develop them. We have offered some frameworks for implementing these ideas, and reviewed research, as well as recommending future research directions.
~ Alan Maley & Nik Peachey (eds). Integrating Global Issues in the creative English language classroom: With reference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The British Council.
~ Brian Tomlinson & Alan Maley. Authenticity. Cambridge Scholars. This is a selection of papers on various aspects of authenticity given at a MATSDA conference in Liverpool in 2016.
~ Alan Maley. 50 Creative activities for language teachers (provisional title) in the Cambridge University Press pocketbook series, edited by Scott Thornbury. This is just what it says on the label – a set of creative activities for teachers to draw on as appropriate to their needs.
It is highly unlikely that, aged 80 now, I shall ever write another book on ELT. But I have projects to publish both poetry, short stories and memoirs for as long as I have the energy and enthusiasm to do it.
This interview was originally published in Teachers’Centre AEXALEVI Forum, Issue XXVI / August 2017. Reposted here with permission from the Teachers’Centre AEXALEVI .