A Day in the Life of an EFL Teacher Educator

Dr. Laxman Gnawali

It was the second lesson on the EFL teaching methodology course for the M Ed in ELT Spring batch. In the first lesson, participants either shared or adopted a metaphor for a language classroom (Ha, 2014).  They compared the language classroom to a range of things: a bus, a family, a gardener, a stage, a farm and so on. The discussion on the metaphor somehow led to the idea that learners differ in several ways; we didn’t discuss what the differences were. We promised we would explore them in the second lesson. It was a thinking task for me as well as for the participants.

In the second lesson, I decided to use brainstorming as a technique to gather ideas on learner differences from the participants. Brainstorming would allow everyone to share their original ideas, and, it also would allow me to think on my feet. I would be able to think of a new idea as I listened to what the participants were sharing and add on to the discussion.

The Fish Bowl activity (Fish Bowl, 2014) is what I find best for brainstorming. It is not only useful as a way to get participants to share their ideas but also to demonstrate how they can use the same technique in their classrooms. So as usual, I set the participants in two concentric circles: six in the inner and the rest twelve in the outer circle. I gave them instructions how they would work. The participants in the inner circle would speak briefly discussing how the learners differed . Once each one had a chance, they could add to what they said or respond to others’ opinions. If someone from the outer circle felt like participating, they had to pat on the back of one of the inner circle members who would leave the seat. The newcomer then would share their ideas. This process would go one until everyone had been in the inner circle and done their part.

Today’s Fish Bowl activity was more lively and productive than before.  The participants tried to establish that the individual differences exist in the language classrooms (Hurd, 2006) and they manifest in different ways.  One participant talked about the differences in terms of learning aptitude and another said they have diverse learning styles. Someone mentioned the mother tongue backgrounds of the learners that the teacher had to deal with. The participants knew about these differences through different sources: either they had noticed or they had read about or they had heard from someone. As usual, I sat with my laptop to note down ideas generated during the discussion. After about 40 minutes, the group was quiet and I thanked the participants for the inputs, then I read out a summary ideas they had brought about.

In a nutshell, the participants had said learners differ in terms of: a. Learning  aptitude, b. cultural and linguistic background, c. attitude towards language learning, d. ethnicity, e. exposure to the target language, f. motivation for learning, g. interest in the target language h. gender, i. economic background, j. distance to the school, k. family background, l. learning aim, m. mental and physical health condition n. religion, o. learning style, p. personal manner, q. parents’ education, r. multiple intelligences.

There was nothing left for me to provide input on the issue. In fact, more ideas had been generated than I had planned to share in the lesson. So, the second half of the lesson was spent on finding how these participants differed in terms of multiple intelligences. They completed a multiple intelligences questionnaire and I explained the results. Most participants were in fact linguistically intelligent but a few others felt they had to walk an extra mile to be a good EFL teacher.

The class was over. We again had a thinking task for the next class: how to design a lesson that can cater to the diverse types of learners that we deal with in the EFL classrooms.


Ha, H. (2014) Metaphor and second language learning: The state of the field. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language 18(2).

Hurd, S. (2006). Individual learner differences and distance language learning: an overview. RTVU ELT Express, 12(4).

Fish Bowl .(2014). From http://www.learner.org/workshops/tml/workshop3/teaching2.html. Accessed on 28 November, 2014.

(Dr. Gnawali is the Associate Professor of Kathmandu Univesity. He also served as an Acting President of NELTA. )



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