27 terms

Decentralised teaching

This set describes my teaching approach - decentralised teaching.
What is decentralised teaching?
Decentralised teaching is about
- (re-)connecting with learners
- improving learning
Can you be more specific?
Like Thornbury (2000) I believe that the use of coursebooks can inhibit learning. They create distance between us and the learners.

I believe that excessive coursebook use (centralisation) contributes to the deskilling of teachers.

I believe that learners learn better when they are in control of the learning process (decentralisation).
How do I do decentralised teaching?
You (re-)connect with learners by
devolving power, responsibility and
What does this mean?
It means that learners construct meaning; they are active in their own learning
Are there any specific mechanisms or processes involved in decentralised teaching?
Yes, a negotiated syllabus (see Nunan 1988) and priming
What do you mean by 'priming'?
Learner expectations are sticky - and resistant to change; learners aren't used to being in control of the learning process!

You need a period of priming to a) to change learner expectations, and b) to encourage learners to take charge of their own learning
What's the point of doing decentralised teaching?
This will improve learning and
engagement, and your teaching will get
better (upskilling)
Does decentralised teaching
involve more work?
Yes, it does - but it's ten times as

Want to teach
Headway for the rest of your life?
How does this compare to other
teaching approaches?
Decentralised teaching is different from other approaches in that it:

i) operates on all three levels: micro, meso and macro

ii) operates from a clear conceptual base (Centralisation - Decentralisation)

iii) is flexible - YOU decide how much power you want to devolve
Here are distinctions between
decentralised teaching and other
approaches: 1) Task-based learning
Mainly based on single tasks, or cycles of tasks

TBL can still operate as a top-down teaching approach - do learners have input on task choice and design?
2) Dogme/ Teaching Unplugged
Based to a large extent on Leo Van Lier's
ethnography of the language learning classroom (Van Lier 1988) .

Difficult to scale up, and therefore hard to apply in some contexts (e.g. EAP, ESP)
3) Learner Autonomy
Based on different understandings of the concept of

There are definitional problems with this concept.
Can you explain more about the
different levels decentralised teaching
operates on?
Micro - Giving learners more control and responsibility in class

Meso - Giving learners more control over the curriculum

Macro - Forming grassroots, non-hierarchical
institutions that help teachers e.g. Berlin Language Worker GAS
What problem is decentralised
teaching responding to?
It's responding to the problems
inherent in (over-) centralised systems
Can you give some examples of
decentralised systems?
Wikipedia, the Linux operating system, Bitcoin.

In a decentralised system, end-users are responsible for maintaining,
improving and propagating the system
What makes decentralised systems work well?
Decentralised systems have, in theory, access to better information.

Decentralised systems operate on the principle of subsidiarity - problems should be solved at the lowest capable level of solving them (key principle of EU, see Article 5 of Treaty on European Union)
What advantages do decentralised
systems have over centralised systems?
At their best, decentralised systems are more responsive to local needs, more efficient and more resilient (e.g. local heating systems)
How does this relate to language
I believe language teaching is
over-centralised in four areas:
Physical centralisation
In the classroom, learners
typically sit in rows
facing the teacher (authority figure)
Instructional centralisation
The teacher decides what is important, chooses the coursebook and class activities;
there is little opportunity for peer-learning or 'peeragogy'
Curricular centralisation
Curriculum is designed and
implemented from top to bottom, learners have little or no input
Institutional centralisation
As teachers we belong to hierarchical organisations who do not represent our
interests accurately (they have insufficient information or are unwilling to change)
Does this teaching approach actually work?
I've been doing
decentralised teaching since October 2013 and been through five
syllabuses so far.

It works.
How do I start decentralised teaching?
Just dive in and start doing it!
i) Decide to do it
ii) Set a priming period
iii) Decentralise your classroom and curriculum
(Re-) connect with your learners

decentralised teaching and learning Google+ community
Connected. Heather on flickr. CC license 2.0.


Resistance. Julien Sanine on flickr. CC license 2.0.


Rising sea levels. go_greener_oz on flickr. CC license 2.0


Second Bridge. Professor Bop on flickr. CC license 2.0.


Connecting people. Bowen chin on flickr. CC license 2.0.


So many questions. Orin Zebest on flickr. CC license 2.0


Rewards merchandise. Starbright31 on flickr. CC license 2.0.