Why PPP is a political issue

This was supposed to be my precise yet partisan part 2 of the critical pedagogy debate but Freire has waited long enough and can wait a bit longer. Somehow a number of different ‘as I write’ (aka ‘place of enunciation’) factors are pushing me towards this post about politics and PPP instead. In no particular order:

  1. What some regard as the tragedy of Brexit is playing out as properly peculiar parliamentary farce;
  2. I have been seriously questioning my precarious part-time position as tutor on a certain teacher-training qualification as in itself a tragic and maybe also farcical attempt to push back against a PPP and focus on formS hegemony written into the very fabric of the qualification itself, as well as into the belief-systems of the majority of teachers taking it—to the point that I have now resigned from that position;
  3. With colleagues at SLB (an organisation which this blog in no way represents) I am launching a Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) course which in some ways is aimed precisely at destabilising that hegemony and, perhaps precipitously and some will claim pretentiously, looks to install a new one; and
  4. Being in a period of quite intense personal realignment (don’t worry, I’m still enough of a Derridean not to trouble you with the details) I have launched myself on a self-prescribed course of Thomas Pynchon, philosophy and psychoanalytic theory, some of which has caused me to seriously question my previous positions on, and penchants for, poststructuralist thought in the Butlerian and Foucauldian moulds—even to the point that I now believe significant parts of my doctoral thesis were built on something a wee bit fishy. This is not (and this will get my good friend Geoff Jordan’s goat) a turn towards a more traditional rationalist position. It’s more like a further nod in the direction of Lacan (via Žižek, Todd McGowan, Alenka Zupanćić and, maybe most decisively as far as Judith Butler’s concerned, Joan Copjec). I await the inevitable pelters.

But all I want to say about that is that decisive interventions retrospectively rewrite history, in much the same way that many of us in the ELT profession who pass from the ‘structure of the day’, PPP model we were suckled on by the initial cert, to something more dynamic and meaning-focused, begin to negatively reevaluate the entire history of our approach to teaching language, and understand why, maybe, our learners weren’t really learning what we were teaching them.

I will not rehearse the arguments here; there are much better accounts of this than I could manage. Nor do I want to go too deeply back into an analysis of the pedagogic part of the debate surrounding Jason Anderson’s defence of PPP, on which Geoff thought I was too equivocal and probably stepping on his toes; except to repeat, as unequivocally as I can, that Anderson, despite an illuminating historical review, presents no evidence whatsoever to justify PPP on a pedagogic level. In fact, not one of the studies he cites even mentions PPP (which is, after all, only a lesson-staging model, not a methodology). Looking beyond Anderson, even when scholars examine PPP explicitly, such as in a study by Jones and Carter about teaching discourse markers (DMs), short-term gains are about as much as can be pointed to:

[T]he use of a PPP framework can be considered more effective [than the III framework]* because it resulted in a greater ability of students to use the DMs in the short term but this was not sustained over time. Test results show a decrease in the number of target DMs used from immediate to delayed post-test and there were no statistically significant differences between the groups’ usage of target DMs at the delayed test stage […]

Critics who dismiss PPP are both right and wrong. Clearly, it did have at least a short-term impact upon learners’ ability to use the target items in this study and many of these learners felt that it was a useful framework because it offered them opportunities to practise them. It would therefore be premature to claim that it is a discredited framework, as some have suggested […] However, it is also clear that practice within a PPP framework was not always considered as helpful by students in this context. For example, [… in some cases] it was not viewed as skill building but time wasting.

(Jones and Carter 2014)

(*III = Illustration, Interaction and Induction. It may involve more implicit instruction than PPP but remains within the ‘structure of the day’, focus on formS approach.)

Going back to Anderson, when it comes to PPP as a matter of policy we could also say that he too is ‘both right and wrong’ (if we avoid the temptation to echo the words of physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who is said to have remarked of a young scholar’s paper that ‘it’s not even wrong’). Etymologically, of course, policy has the same root as politics, that is polis or the city state, or group of citizens, by and for whom strategies of decision-making are developed. So, does PPP have more political validity than pedagogical?

First of all, Anderson notes that PPP is a matter of policy in the publishing industry, on the basis that it’s what learners really want:

Perhaps the strongest evidence of the preferences of English language learners does not come from research, but from their influence on materials design. The multimillion pound ELT publishing industry is consumer driven. Its most widely published and most popular titles are shaped partly by sales, but also by extensive consumer research, both into the preferences of learners in the case of self-study material, and also the preferences of teachers and learners for classroom-based materials. And what sales and consumer opinions reveal has been remarkably consistent; PPP has dominated the organisation of the majority of mainstream ELT coursebooks ever since Abbs and Freebairn used it for their Strategies series in the 1970s.

Anderson (2016), p. 17.

The absolutely crucial point missed by Anderson here—aside from the fact no evidence is offered to confirm that PPP is indeed what learners want—is that while the end users of ELT coursebooks (CBs) are students, the CBs themselves are already chosen as a matter of policy by schools (perhaps consulting the teacher and perhaps not), exam and national education boards, whose demands shape their content to a significant extent (see, for example, Şimşek & Dündar (2017), p. 971). The clear preference of the industry is precisely this one-size-fits-all approach and a focus on the development of easily measurable, granularised, declarative knowledge (i.e. knowledge of how to explicitly apply a rule, rather than the ability to spontaneously use the language).

In other words, taking us back to Žižek and his notion of the radical exteriority of belief, it doesn’t actually matter what students prefer, because the ELT industry does all the preferring for them. Students can happily (or not, in the case of Jones and Carter’s sample) get on with it, safe in the assumption that those subjects presumed to know—the teachers and institutions to whom they trust their education—well, actually know.

So maybe Anderson is so wrong that he actually gets it right. Or to put it another way, his ‘strongest evidence’ is so weak that it somehow leads us to the correct conclusion. I feel the same about his next point, which is about teacher training. PPP is popular among trainers on courses like the CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL because:

PPP has a number of advantages, especially important on more intensive (four weeks) courses:

1. It is a common sense, logical framework for skill training […]

2. It is familiar to the prior educational culture of many trainee teachers (including many from the UK, where such courses are popular), a significant influence in much initial teacher training.

3. The prescriptive structure of PPP serves as a useful scaffolding artefact, especially beneficial for such trainee teachers often experiencing high levels of stress and steep learning curves.

Anderson (2016), p. 17

If there’s one thing that an education in critical theory gives you, it’s to treat appeals to ‘common sense’ with extreme caution. But let’s leave that aside for now. Let’s imagine that having been given this nice, prescriptive, logical framework that apparently chimes so well with how we learnt things before, we can do a bit of teaching. What happens when we take the next step and try to get the Diploma, the DELTA or—the one I’ve been more involved with over the years—the Trinity Dip TESOL? Is the learning curve now less steep? No, I claim—because most of us have done little else but PPP in the intervening period. Not because it’s evidence-based, but because, again, the industry we’re in, in which both Cambridge and Trinity are central players, demands it. The whole justification for PPP (and more broadly, focus on formS) in fact follows a circular logic in which the possibility of doing anything else is heavily proscribed.

Looking at Trinity’s ‘must pass’ criteria for teaching practice in their Dip, the key one of the four is:

LD 12: There is clear evidence of language / skills development taking place.

Helen Rountree, a Dip candidate giving the kind of advice many Dip tutors do, translates this as ‘teach them something new’. But that isn’t exactly it. First we have to understand that ‘something’ as a language point in most cases (the ‘skills development’ option often boils down to this too, e.g. teaching discourse markers to improve spoken fluency). Then you have to be able to point to evidence that they learned that something new. And given that each lesson is restricted to 60 minutes, the path of least resistance to passing LD12 is to adopt a focus on formS approach in which a structure selected with scant reference to student needs (these don’t feature in the must-pass criteria) is presented, practised and, we hope, produced by at least a few of the students before the timer runs out.

Does that really mean they learned it? Has there been ‘uptake’ or ‘acquisition’; has it become part of their procedural knowledge? Would that even be possible within the 60 minute showcase? Trinity, it seems, doesn’t care. And so Rountree is quite right when she gives fellow candidates her first piece of advice on how to prepare for TP:

  • Familiarise yourself with B2-C1 textbooks and build up a bank of activities and lesson ideas for grammar points which are found at this level.


Now don’t get me wrong, a Dip-level lesson simply lifted from a coursebook and delivered without much attention to learner difficulties or emergent language is unlikely to get too high a mark. But first principles really have not advanced too much since the Cert. And, crucially, it is very difficult to depart too radically from the model. Following a TBLT approach, for example, simply leaves the teacher with too many conundrums. How can s/he describe the ‘something’ to be taught when the ‘something’ in TBLT is a task, not a specific structure? Will the 60 minutes be long enough to get the students close to an exit task and the chance to demonstrate that ‘language/skills development’ has taken place? Will the tutor be satisfied that elaborated input, with a focus on form approach to output, perhaps with little explicit teaching, has got the job done?

Probably not, because the efficacy of TBLT (and other approaches that privilege implicit learning and respect learners’ needs and readiness to learn) needs to be measured over the longer term, and with other kinds of assessment tool than the final P of PPP. The hypocrisy of qualifications like the Dip is that they require teachers to be aware of multiple methodologies and concepts like interlanguage or learnability, but for TP purposes teachers have little leeway to depart much from what they’re already used to. Just about the most radical thing you can do as a tutor, if you want your tutees to pass, is to encourage them to try a communicative version of the Test-Teach-Test approach or something like Dogme, but insofar as discrete language points still need to be anticipated and worked on, it is most often the pre-chosen grammar that dictates the communicative element of the class and not the other way around. And this, in my book, is about as clear a case of the tail wagging the dog as you can get.

In the end, it is not only students who have their believing done for them—it is also the teachers. And this is where PPP is most obviously political. Qualifications like the Dip raise awareness of other possibilities while in practical terms keep teachers deskilled and dependent on CBs. Or to put it another way, they raise the skill level only in terms of improving the deployment of CB-driven, top-down methodology, making it just a little more student-centred and responsive. The students may benefit slightly, but the industry that propels all this benefits a lot more, because not one of its assumptions gets challenged in a significant way. And so teachers acquire more freedom to choose, as long as they make the only choice that’s practically available.

Anderson, Penny Ur (whom Anderson cites) and others, in their defence of PPP and dismissal of its critics, seem to claim to be standing up for ordinary teachers whose choices are heavily limited in this way. What they don’t see is their implication in the very ideologies which already limit such choices. To paraphrase Marx on Feuerbach, too many ELT writers have hitherto only interpreted the industry, and badly. The point is to change it—or, as a minimal first step, at least to understand it.

References (with thanks to Tom Flaherty and Chris Jones)

Anderson, J. (2016). Why practice makes perfect sense: the past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education. ELTED 19, pp. 14-22.

Jones, C. and Carter, R. (2014). Teaching spoken discourse markers explicitly: a comparison of III and PPP. IJES 14, pp. 37-54.

Şimşek, M. & Dündar, E. (2017). Investigating EFL Coursebook Research in Turkey: Trends in Graduate Theses of the 2001-2013 Period. Educational Sciences: Theoretical Practice 17(3), pp. 969-1014

13 thoughts on “Why PPP is a political issue

  1. Hi Neil,

    Well it all comes right in the end with a splendid paraphrase, and there were some good linguistic flourishes and laughs along the way (I particularly liked Pauli’s quip about his student’s paper), but it was a bit of a bumpy ride – to borrow a cliché from Brexit besieged Britain.

    I’m pleased to hear that you’re questioning the wisdom of Butlerian and Foucauldian poststructuralist thought, but I’m afraid your argument still isn’t as clear or as forceful as it would be if you took my advice and made a clean break with all this Gallic-Germanic, courtly philosophical twaddle. Come on lad, stop chasing Das Ding, and focus instead on the demonstrable faults in Anderson’s logic, and on the very real (ontologically speaking!) effects of turning education into a business.

    With regard to Anderson, when it comes to “PPP as a matter of policy”, it takes someone still enthralled by philosophical obscurantism to suggest that he is “both right and wrong”; and that maybe he’s “so wrong that he actually gets it right”. Anderson is wrong, “y punto”. He’s wrong for the reasons you suggest – there’s no evidence to support his argument, and his reasoning is circular, hence fallacious.

    Likewise, all your well considered points about teacher education make the case that PPP has a clear political dimension which needs exposing (or “revealing” if you like, but not, for pity’s sake “deconstructing). I don’t think the question is whether or not PPP has any political “validity” (for whom?!), but I agree that PPP is deeply ideological – it illustrates the commodification of education. In this case, L2 teaching is reduced to a process whereby learners accumulate a sequence of reified linguistic items. The goal is not the acquisition of communicative competence, but rather the ability to pass a test which is administered and adjudicated by a computer.

    Just by the way, I think you’re wrong to say that PPP is “only a lesson-staging model”. In fact, it’s an approach to teaching where a synthetic syllabus is implemented by teachers who spend most of classroom time talking about the L2. Whatever the merits of PPP for subjects like geography or biology, it is not, so our argument goes, suitable for teaching an L2 where the distinction between declarative and procedural knowledge is crucial.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Geoff, I sincerely appreciate your comments, especially the ones that agree with mine! – and for the rest, I respect where you’re coming from more than you probably realise. There are just more things on heaven and earth, etc. Un abrazo compi.


  2. A barnstorming post and one that echoes with me having departed (or attempted to depart) from Focos on FormS, structure of the day in my Dip studies. The Dip will teach phonology, and you’ll get observed but it’s probably best to do a PGDip or Masters if you’re really interested in changing things up. Or, of course, a TBLT course with SLB :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks Marc. It’s true and I should have mentioned that the Trinity Dip raises your phonology game in a big way. It was the part of my Dip I enjoyed the most.

      Can I ask what happened when you tried to break from focus on formS in your TP?


    • That was a good listen Marc, thanks. They should’ve changed your name if you wanted to be truly anonymous, and made you talk through once of those voice-distorting things!


  3. Hi Neil,

    It’s difficult for me to buy the claim that PPP doesn’t speed up language acquisition because what I see at work suggests otherwise.

    I work in a language training department in company and we measure lots of data. We have several thousand learners a year who do level improving courses using an internally produced coursebook that is very similar to some business English coursebooks. We do work on encouraging learner autonomy and helping the learners try out various study strategies etc, but the coursebook itself primarily uses PPP. All employees’ speaking and writing skills are regularly tested with a standardized in company proficiency test. The learners who have completed a level improving course are re-tested. Test results suggest that the overwhelming majority of the learners achieve at least half a level improvement after each course, and over 50% achieve a full level improvement. One might question the quality of the testing, but I have reasons to believe it’s reliable. Also, the learners who aren’t attending classes progress significantly more slowly. I wish I could share more specific stats but unfortunately I’m not allowed to.

    Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that what we do is ideal – only that PPP is a kind of instruction that does speed up language acquisition, in my setting, according to the data we’ve got.

    Btw, I personally do not use the said coursebook – instead, I try to use authentic materials which I hope are representative of what the learners need to do at work. However, I’m in the minority – most of the teachers on our team feel happy about the coursebook, as they feel that their learners are achieving clear progress.

    I’m going to take the TBL course that you’ve created and hopefully produce some materials that the team might be willing to try out. However, I’m not getting my hopes too high because my previous attempt at introducing something novel in terms of methodology – namely, working on listening decoding – met with a wall of resistance, because the majority of the teachers found this too complicated.


    • Hi Olya,

      Many thanks for this. The thing is, I don’t think I make the claim that PPP doesn’t speed up language learning, nor would I question that “the learners who aren’t attending [your] classes progress significantly more slowly”. I accept the findings of all the studies showing that instructed SLA is faster/more effective than no instruction. And without being able to see the coursebook you teach, the teachers you work with and how they implement it—and perhaps crucially, the testing system they use—I have no reason to doubt what you are saying.

      (I’m also not sure about what sense of “levels” you are applying—I’d only say here that if it’s something like CEFR, I have seen lots of situations where learners pass the end of year test, advance to the next level, then come the new term you have a group of people whose abilities fall far short of the CEFR descriptors (which are supposed to be based on competences not knowledge of certain structures). I am more and more convinced that we should be measuring progress less in terms of traditional levels and more in terms of ability to successfully complete needful tasks).

      I do in fact say that PPP delivered *better* will benefit learners (albeit slightly) more than PPP delivered by novices – if learners are to be taught via PPP, I’d much rather see this done by (say) Dip-qualified tutors who know how to engage and listen to students, have a variety of correction techniques, who can provide rich input and work with what emerges, and who can integrate focused pronunciation work, etc.

      What I am casting doubt on is whether PPP (and focus on formS) is *the most* effective way to speed up language learning—and specifically the development of implicit, procedural knowledge—over the longer term. Apart from the studies that are starting to show (when implicit knowledge is tested) more favourable results for implicit instruction (e.g. Kang, Sok & Han 2018), my own experience in public education in Scotland and Central America, and private education in Spain, where I’ve seen both PPP and more Dogme/TBLT models in action, tells me that PPP is less effective, but of course a big factor is how skilled the teachers applying these different models are.

      So my main point is to ask why it is so difficult to depart from PPP/focus on formS in teaching practice on qualifications like the Dip, why this insistence on one or two language points as the main objective rather than a communicative goal related to needs, why this barrier to letting teachers develop their skills (not just their knowledge) in those areas, over series of lessons and not just 60-minute showcases. My conclusion is that it’s because it doesn’t suit the industry, not because it doesn’t suit the students.

      I’m looking forward to working with you on our course. And I totally hear you about the ‘wall of resistance’ you meet when you try to innovate. Don’t blame those teachers—they’re a product of the industry they work in. Maybe if your institution could invest more in their development in these areas, and support them over a longer term, it would be a different story. And then maybe your students would be doing even better than they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for an entertaining blog post. I agree too that PPP is a (partly) political issue, and we share this common concern of its impact, and reflection on a political level. The interesting thing about our disagreements is that it essentially comes done to one key assertion – as you put it above – that I present “no evidence whatsoever to justify PPP on a pedagogic level. In fact, not one of the studies he cites even mentions PPP”. As we’ve discussed elsewhere (my blog), this is because the literature prefers to discuss what Long (e.g. 2015) calls Focus on FormS (FoFS) versus Focus on Form. Meta-analyses in the literature have found that “Focus on Form and Focus on Forms interventions result in equivalent and large effects” (Norris and Ortega, 2000, p.417; also see Spada and Tomita, 2010). I agree, PPP is not equivalent to FoFS, but it’s the closest that the literature gets to discussing PPP, thus if we want to ask the question: What does the research evidence say about PPP?, this is the best we’ve got. Sheen’s (2003) ELT Journal piece on FoFS very clearly describes a PPP structure. Michael Long also very clearly equates FoFS with PPP when he notes: “synthetic, focus-on-forms instruction is delivered, e.g., through a traditional present-practice-produce (sic) (PPP) approach” (2015, p. 348). Are you disagreeing with Long?

    Interestingly, Ellis in a recent paper co-written with Shaofeng Li and Yan Zhu, present a study (Li et al., 2016) that compares focused TBLT with an explicit instruction followed by ‘task’ (the task used might be disputed by Long as an example of a true task, but would fall very clearly under the gamut of Production within PPP); the authors call this latter Task-supported Language Teaching, but they admit on p. 224 that it’s essentially PPP without the middle P, and, importantly, it’s undisputedly FoFS, and an example of teaching to a synthetic grammatical syllabus, that Long has long argued is less effective than FoF. The study is a high quality RCT (randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in experimental investigation), with a good sample size, and conducted in secondary classrooms, one of the contexts where I argue that PPP may be inevitable (Anderson, 2016, 2017), given the curricular constraints found in almost all secondary contexts around the world from high- to low-income countries. Most importantly, it finds a much larger (and very statistically significant) long-term effect size for the two PP groups (Cohen’s d used: 12.43/10.57*) than for the focused TBLT groups (6.90/5.03*). Unless you want to argue that controlled practice would reduce this impact, it essentially supports PPP over TBLT**. The authors admit these findings and then try to hedge the implications, but they are very clear in their data – that explicit instruction followed by production leads to more learning than TBLT in this particular context (and we must never forget the question of context – a different one may reverse these findings).

    My argument has always been that we do not have enough evidence to ‘cull’ PPP, as Long has tried to do for many decades now, and, I argue alongside Widdowson (2003) that we should seek to understand it (in socio-political and curricular contexts), and try to support teachers in improving its efficacy. My argument is still that. However, the Li et al. (2015) paper strongly suggests that, in certain contexts, it may even be more effective than focused TBLT, meaning, according to the very data that Rod Ellis, a long-term advocate of TBLT, presents, that perhaps I didn’t go far enough.

    * the two different figures are for with feedback (first) and without it (second) in both pairs.
    ** in my 2016 paper I argue that controlled practice (the middle ‘P’) may be justified because it plays an important formative assessment role.

    Anderson, J. (2016). Why practice makes perfect sense: the past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education. ELTED 19, 14–22. http://www.elted.net/uploads/7/3/1/6/7316005/3_vol.19_anderson.pdf
    Anderson, J. (2017). A potted history of PPP with the help of ELT Journal. ELT Journal, 71/2, 218-227.
    Long, M. (2015). Second Language Acquisition and Task-based Language Teaching. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
    Norris, J. M. & Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50/3, 417-528.
    Spada, N. & Tomita, Y. (2010). Interaction between type of instruction and type of language feature: A meta-analysis. Language Learning 60/2, 263-308.
    Sheen, R. (2003). Focus on form – A myth in the making? ELT Journal 57/3, 225-233.
    Li, S., Ellis, R. & Zhu, Y. (2016). Task-Based Versus Task-Supported Language Instruction: An Experimental Study. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 36, 205-229.
    Widdowson, H. (2003). Defining Issues in English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


    • Hi Jason and thanks for your comment. I have to say that I don’t see in your writing—maybe you can correct me here—any ‘concern [for the] impact [of PPP], and reflection on a political level’ – all I see is a kind of circular justification for PPP at the level of policy – students want it (do they?), teacher trainers love it, people in poor countries need it. This is the central disagreement as far as my post’s concerned, not the pedagogical one, which we’ve been over again and again on various platforms and on which we are now just talking past each other. I do not disagree with Long, I simply note the “e.g.” in the statement you cite, which you seem to gloss over completely – I have consistently argued that PPP is just one (albeit privileged) model for implementing focus on formS in the classroom. (To say that one thing can be delivered by another is not to equate them at all. My mail is delivered by a postie; my mail does not equate to a postie.)

      I would simply expect that someone defending PPP might point to evidence that explicitly supports it, such as the Jones and Carter article (there are others), rather than to evidence that leaves everyone making certain assumptions.

      The Ellis, Li and Zhu paper you cite is interesting yet unsurprising. As you know, Long’s TBLT is not designed to facilitate the implementation of a structural syllabus. Your statement that “it essentially supports PPP over TBLT” is a bit of a reach again—really, it supports TSLT over TBLT for the teaching of a specific structure in a focus on formS approach. If no needs analysis was done and if the objective was not to teach a task but rather teach a structure, it says absolutely nothing about the efficacy of Long’s TBLT for the purposes for which it is designed. So maybe we do agree when you say ‘a different context may reverse these findings’—a context which does not depend on a structural syllabus and which therefore measures efficacy in another way.

      It seems to me that you see PPP (or maybe now TSLT) as the ideal way to deliver the structural syllabus to which we all seem to be in thrall. On that I don’t necessarily disagree. I do not say anywhere we should “cull” PPP; rather I (and others) want to challenge (as I’ve said, maybe precipitously) the thing it delivers, the focus on formS, “structure of the day” approach that seems to so suit the ELT industry, and so badly serve students. I am therefore calling out those institutions (like Trinity) which help maintain this way of teaching language as THE way; the teaching qualifications that open teachers to other possibilities while denying them the chance to seriously try them out. Is your contribution to the debate not essentially saying ‘we’re stuck with it, so let’s do the best we can’? Is PPP/Focus on formS really the only show in town?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Neil,
    You finish with two very pertinent questions. But please read the end of both my articles again, where I am very clearly arguing that PPP should not be the only show in town:
    “I am very much aware of its limitations, most importantly that it is only one of many lesson shapes necessary if we are to provide our learners with an appropriate combination of intensive and extensive skills work alongside both isolated and integrated form focus in a balanced curriculum.” (p.226 Anderson 2017)
    And please see p.17-18 of my ELTED article and p.225 of the ELT-J piece where I discuss the curricular reality of teaching and learning around the world, which is necessarily situated in the political contexts that create these curricula, as (often) national documents approved by governments. It is through national curriculum that governments exert their biggest influence on classroom practices.
    I work a lot as an in-service teacher educator in mainstream education (secondary and primary), mainly in low- and lower middle-income countries. My primary role is to support teachers working within complex constraints that they cannot change. Neither they, nor their line managers, can change the overambitions grammar curricula, nor the exams through which they are, so often, judged, and even dismissed. Discussing such contexts, Choi and Andon note of S. Korea, “… in comparison to the traditional teaching style that is common in the South Korean context, P-P-P is as radical as is pragmatically feasible in providing students with opportunities to use L2, something which is completely lacking in many English classes (Ibid.: 15).” I would say that this also holds largely true for secondary ELT in India, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Eritrea, China, Malawi, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Thailand, Ukraine and other countries where I have worked with secondary and primary teachers of English (over 20 in total). I have yet to work in a country where the EL syllabus is not synthetic, and where explicit grammar knowledge does not play a large part in the exams through which the learners must pass to gain access to further education. That is very much a socio-political reality. Within it, PPP is, simply put, a step on the way towards a more communicative curriculum, as it was indeed in it genesis at the dawn of CLT, not before it (as my ELT-J piece documents).
    Thanks again for posting my replies. I’ll leave the last word to you. 🙂


    • Thanks again for your contribution, Jason. And it’s very kind of you to leave the last word to me, but I think we both know that neither of us will have the last word in this ongoing debate!

      You want to advocate for other lesson shapes; I for other syllabus shapes.

      You claim the synthetic syllabus hegemony is just a reality that cannot be changed; I believe it’s more like a fantasy that’s very difficult to shift, but with resistance in the right areas, can begin to be dispelled. Ordinary workers have more power than you give them credit for. And let’s not forget that TBLT (at least in its procedural form) originated in Bangalore, not in Edinburgh, IH London or the British Council in Sarrià, Barcelona.

      Finally, you believe that PPP is a step on the way to a more communicative curriculum. I do not doubt that PPP is better than what happens or used to happen in many places. But I seriously doubt, under current conditions, that it’s a step on the way to anywhere except its own reification as the End of ELT History. The point, as with the resistance to the Fukuyama teleology, is to construct another, more compelling and more egalitarian narrative.


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