The Centre for Global Englishes welcomed Andrew Blair from the University of Sussex on 4 February 2015 for a research seminar entitled:
Rethinking competence: goals for lingua franca pedagogy and teacher education
competence noun [C or U]: the ability to do something well.
– Her competence as a teacher is unquestionable.
– He reached a reasonable level of competence in his English.
(Cambridge Dictionaries Online – British English; accessed 28.1.15)
Recent thinking on language, and particularly on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), challenges constructs such as competence (linguistic, communicative or intercultural), and therefore also both pedagogical aims and teacher education assumptions. Standards and models are neat and convenient for language teachers and learners, but language learning goals and use are messy, infinitely variable and context-dependent. If the definition of competence needs to be rethought for language learners or users, what are the implications for the competence of teachers? Is the term ‘competence’ itself adequate, carrying as it does the baggage of linguistic theories of acquisition, nativeness and abstract knowledge of a system? Which alternative terms are preferable – ‘skill’, ‘ability’, ‘proficiency’, ‘awareness’? – they are all loaded in one sense or another.
This talk draws in part on findings from a continuing broader study of English language teacher development and identity, within the context of postgraduate education in the UK, but with reference to diverse pedagogical settings. It also raises questions concerning the impact of ELF research and related ideas on experienced language teachers. The focus is on their responses to proposals for rethinking such central concepts as competence (both learner/user and teacher), in relation to their own professional development and beliefs. How they can be encouraged to overcome potential scepticism, and reconcile the perceived conflict in their practice between standard language models and variable lingua franca goals, is key to the acceptance of more appropriate, ‘ELF-aware’ forms of pedagogy and teacher education. The extent to which teachers engage with these ideas will strongly affect any potential for a reimagined basis for ELT, and language teaching and learning more widely.