Bad Trend (1) // About Pairwork: 2nd and final part

Continuing my response to the claim of many school and teachers here: ‘you don't talk to fellow students; you just talk to the teacher’, I can first say what I said in the 1st part – that it is a bad trend which will severely 'crash' your learning. All the evidence and research argues against this trend.

Trained TEFL teachers know that what matters is communication - that is, getting a message to the other person. In a good class, with an experienced teacher, this communication has to happen, and be maximised. When I was training teachers (at Monash University), if this communication didn't happen, the trainee teachers were marked down. If only very little communication happened, these teacher were failed.

But yes, students often feel talking to other students is ‘junk input’. That's why schools are responding with this bad trend. Students think ‘what can I learn from talking with other students?’ Well, for a start, you …

  1. learn talking: you learn fluency (since you don’t have a teacher interrupting you with correction),
  2. gain confidence,
  3. become accustomed to different accents and speaking mannerisms,
  4. find out about fellow students, and get to know them better.


So, in my classes, you’ll talk solidly, constantly, and regularly with fellow students, but in various ways – controlled and semi-controlled practice, and freer speaking, based on …


  • grammar pattern (e.g. ‘Have you ever ...’, ‘When did you last ...’),
  • speaking patterns (e.g. ‘divide it into good and bad’),
  • functions (e.g. ‘complaining’),
  • topic-based speaking (as in the real IELTS Speaking Test)


… all with guidelines and cues projected onto the screen to help you do it better and more accurately. You will change partners regularly while I patrol around taking notes, and then there is a feedback on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation issues at the end. This is how it is meant to be, in a good class with a properly-trained TEFL teacher. Click Teaching Method to find out more about my way of teaching.

Talking only to a teacher just stops all these benefits from happening, and is Bad Teaching Trend (1). So, when a teacher or school boasts about ‘you’ll talk only to the teacher’, think very carefully. It may sound cute, but is that really going to help you prepare for the IELTS Test?





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