The Problem of Access to “Theory” – a Comment

Photo by Iddo Epstein

I just read Willy Cardoso’s post “Do we need theory? Who’s generating it?

Cardoso ends his post on teachers’ apparent aversion to theory by saying “In true TEFL fashion, discuss in pairs”. So that’s what I’m doing…

The statement “The apparent aversion to theory is perhaps because it is given, imported, external to teachers’ contexts.” Makes a lot of sense to me and is probably the heart of the matter. True to form though, I would actually like to point out a more mundane aspect, the one of access.

Once you graduate from university, you know longer have access to university libraries. It doesn’t matter that a great many articles or papers are online now, you still need to be affiliated to a university to get an access code to read them.

Subscribing to professional magazines with serious, referenced articles is quite expensive (especially with shipping!) and I know a lot of teachers wouldn’t do that. Here we do not get any school funding for such subscriptions. Access to one magazine is not like a library’s shelf (real or virtual). Personally, I’m lucky to have academic minded parents whose birthday gift for the past few years has been a membership to TESOL or IATEFL but beyond that my current magazine of choice is the EL Magazine by ASCD which is very readable and approachable for a busy teacher and is inexpensive, even with shipping to Israel!

When I was a new teacher, eons ago, we had a coordinator who gathered all staff once a month to gives us a condensed update of researches and theories. On one hand that was interesting. On the other hand, we all resented it. It took place in the EVENINGS, on our own time, requiring babysitters and the like. We all had our eye on the clock.

Perhaps teachers’ attitudes to theory have nothing to do with such mundane things. But if anyone endeavors to try and change attitudes, the raw materials have to be made more accessible!                                                 


5 thoughts on “The Problem of Access to “Theory” – a Comment”

  1. Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Naomi (not for the first time). In my experience, teachers aren’t anti theory, but they do feel it is something removed from their daily life- and a lot of that is probably down to lack of access, as you say.
    I am very conscious that when I put links to articles on my blog, many people probably won’t be able to follow up the links.
    Considering that no-one is paid to write these articles, or to peer review them, I think it’s wrong that most of the journals are set at prices which only institutions can afford.
    (That said, the ELT Journal is an excellent source, and quite reasonable for online access, including the archive.)

  2. I agree with Rachael. Paying $35 to access an article written in incomprehensible academic parlance is ridiculous and does not give much of an incentive to teachers in the field to become better familiarised with recent theories.

  3. Thank you also for pointing out Willy’s original post that prompted this post. Now that we’ve discussed in pairs (or small groups) as per his request, we can report back to class 🙂

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