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What kind of language teacher are you? (Yes, one of those quiz things)

February 2, 2014

 1)   It’s your first day in a new job. You ask your manager about the syllabus and she hands you a coursebook. What do you do?

a. Smile to yourself – you’ve used this book before, so planning will be a piece of cake.

b. Go straight to the contents page at the beginning of the book, identify the language items you’ll be focusing on, and start looking for supplementary materials.

c. Sigh deeply and wonder if you made the right choice    accepting this job.


2)   How important is lesson planning?

a. Less important now you have a bit of experience. If you follow a book or have some worksheets, planning is really just a question of getting everything together and making sure you know the answers.

b. Very important. You need to know exactly what language you’re going to teach and how you’re going to teach it before you enter the class.

c. You always have a clear idea in your head of where the lesson could go, but you like to maintain an element of flexibility.


3)   How do you feel about teaching a course without a coursebook?

a. Why would anyone choose to do that when there are so many great coursebooks around?

b. As long as you had a detailed syllabus outlining what structures to focus on, you would probably manage OK.

c. You tend to use a lot of authentic materials anyway, so it wouldn’t make much difference.


4)   During a whole class discussion on the topic of work, one of your students says: “Women can’t be good managers, they aren’t enough smart.” What do you do?

a. Move swiftly on. There are some strong female members of the class who you know will want to turn this into a big debate.

b. Correct the student’s word order. If he wants to express opinions like that he needs to do it accurately.

 c. Make the student aware of the negative impact a comment like that would have on a large number of English speakers in the world, including you.


5)   What do you think of interactive whiteboards?

a. The best thing about them is that you can have the interactive whiteboard version of the coursebook up there. It makes instructions and feedback so much easier.

b. They can make your language presentations look really cool.

 c. They are like regular whiteboards, but with some additional features. You particularly like that you can save all boardwork and go back to it later.


6)   Why do you think your students come to your lessons?

a. Because they think you are funny and enjoy the classroom atmosphere you have created.

 b. Because they want to know how English works.

 c. You have discovered that they all have different reasons.


7)   What makes a successful learner?

 a. Someone who comes to class and participates fully in all the activities.

 b. Someone who shows they can use the language taught by passing the end of course test.

  c. Someone who has clear goals and uses the course to work towards them.


8)   Learning styles are…

a. …the reason why your lessons contain lots of moving about. It’s important to appeal to those kinaesthetic learners, after all.

b. …not worth bothering about. It’s the language that’s important. If you throw enough of is at the students then some of it will surely stick.

c. …wrongly used to ‘label’ learners. Each student will have their own strengths, weaknesses and preferences; this is what teachers should use to inform their teaching.


9)   As a teaching resource, “If I were a boy” by Beyonce is:

a. Not properly graded for classroom use.

b. Great for teaching the second conditional.

c. Worth using to encourage your students to share opinions on gender differences in relationships.


10)        What’s your starting point when planning your next lesson?

a. You start from wherever it was in the book that your last lesson finished at.

b. You consider how successful your last lesson was, recycle/consolidate if necessary, then move on to the next grammar point in the syllabus.

c. At the end of the last lesson you asked the students what they wanted to do next, so your next lesson is informed by whatever they said.


11) You had planned a Monday morning lesson on the topic of crime. Over the weekend, a child in the town where you work mysteriously vanishes. The story is all over the media and everyone is speculating about what could have happened. What do you do on the Monday morning?

a. Teach your crime lesson as planned.

b. Show a short clip/recording of the local news as a lead-in to your lesson.

c. Build a lesson out of the story, feeding in texts and video     clips where necessary, jigsaw-style.


12)        How should language students be assessed?

a. That’s up to the Director of Studies – you’re just a teacher.

b. On their ability to use the language that has been taught in the course.

c. On their ability to perform tasks that reflect their own goals.


13) What’s your idea of a ‘negotiated syllabus’?

 a. It’s about spending more or less time on certain units of the course, depending on how much the students are enjoying them.

 b. It involves giving the students a list of grammar items and  vocabulary areas, and asking them to pick the ones they want to study.

 c. It’s about getting the students to identify clear goals that they want to achieve, then working out what can be done on the course in order to achieve those goals.


14)        Are you a ‘communicative’ language teacher?

a. Yes – you have lots of stages in your lessons that involve the students speaking to each other.

b. Yes – you always give your students the opportunity to practise the language that you’re focusing on.

 c. Yes – you tend to prioritise the communicative purpose of what your students are trying to convey over their linguistic accuracy.


15) What do you think of doing quizzes like this with your students?

 a. They don’t actually tell you anything, but they can be fun. You only really do them because they’re in the book.

 b. They are a good way of contextualising target language,  e.g. adverbs of frequency.

 c. If adapted effectively, they can promote reflective practice.




How did you do?

Mostly As

You are a ‘go-through-the-motions’ teacher. You plod through the coursebook without really stopping to think if the students are actually learning anything from it, or from you. You may be very popular with your students, and everyone has fun in your classes. But how much actual learning is going on? You assume that if you use materials that are provided or recommended, and if you do the sorts of activities you learned about on your initial training course, you will be an effective teacher. You need to realise that in order to teach, it is necessary to consider what the students need (and want) to learn. From this point you can start producing lessons that are more likely to instil learning.


Mostly Bs

You are a ‘language teacher’, but only in the most literal sense. You see language as a system of rules, and you see language teaching as a matter of conveying these rules to your students. For you, English is an academic subject, something to be studied and analysed. You probably enjoy studying languages yourself, and assume that your students are also interested in the technical aspects of language. However, there is a lot more to language than a bunch of rules, and your learners need to be aware of so much more than grammar rules and individual vocabulary items in order to use English in real-world contexts.


Mostly Cs

You might see yourself as a ‘Dogme teacher’, or a ‘Demand-high teacher’, or you might use some other term. Whatever you want to call yourself, just you go right ahead. You understand that what you are teaching is simply a tool to allow your learners to achieve various other goals in their lives. This means they need to have input on course content, and you need to be aware of their needs so you can react to them in the best way possible. Your job is to get your students to where they want to be, and that’s your main focus. Carry on.



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  1. Daljit Kaur permalink

    Thanks for this Steve. A nice relection activity for me on this rainy Sunday morning. I won’t tell you how I faired in your quiz. Enough to say that I thought a bit about some of my responses in light of the changes I’m dealing with at college e.g. Qs 10 &14.

    It would be interesting to compare my answers to Qs 6, 7 or 12 with those of my students!

    • Thank you – I enjoyed writing it. However, I realise that, having written it, I can’t actually do the quiz. I’m not sure how I would have answered some of these questions myself – not all Cs, I’m sure.

  2. Jen MacDougall permalink

    Always love a quiz. I just wonder if once we work out that the ‘best answer’ is C, do we just go down the liar, liar pants are on fire route. And aren’t we always wishing there was a D, or at least an ‘it depends’ choice? Ok, maybe that’s a bit of reflective practice too : )

    • Well, Jennifer, I never said it was a particularly well-designed quiz. But if you are thinking of option Ds then surely that is a good thing..?

    • I was thinking that I’d like a D option – not quite any of the above 😉

      • Hi Carol, and thanks for your comment. I had thought about more options and have a more elaborate points-scoring system (which would have probably pleased Jennifer) but it was going to get too complicated. So what would your D options be?

      • Yes, I want to know, too 🙂 Go on please Carol

  3. Reblogged this on Teacherpants and commented:
    I got mostly Cs ( a good thing in this case). I got one A ,for saying that I like to move around the classroom, and one B, for saying that I liked the way whiteboards made things look. All the others were Cs, so I guess I’m a dogme teacher.
    Nice article, and who doesn’t love an online quiz (speaking as a Buzzfeed addict)? Still, I wonder whether the focus is a little …. biased. I’m happy that the quiz validates what I consider to be my strengths as a teacher, but it does present teaching as a one-right-answer kind of activity. I’d be interested in seeing a counter-argument, perhaps from someone who got more As or Bs.

    • Hi Joanna,
      Thanks very much for doing the quiz, and for commenting. You’re right of course, it is totally biased, and the “right” answers become kind of obvious as it goes on. Perhaps I should have been less critical of the A and B teachers in the “how did you do?” section. I don’t want to come across as dogmatic (pardon the pun). On the contrary in fact, I would suggest that there are an awful lot of A and B-type teachers out there who think that their way of teaching is the only way. Option C is perhaps a rarely-considered alternative for them.
      I agree, an alternative quiz designed by someone who has a different viewpoint to me would be interesting to do…

  4. Jen MacDougall permalink

    oh no Steve – don’t want a complex scoring system – I like getting the answers right!

  5. Like I said on Twitter, I was afraid you’d ask me to elaborate on my need for the fourth option:
    d. Not quite any of the above.

    I can understand how it would get too complicated to think of a fourth choice for all of them and I won’t try to do that either, but I’ll try to explain briefly why sometimes my answer would have been ‘not quite any of the above’. Other times, I am happy to choose ‘c’ because, as Jennifer points out, that’s the ‘right’ answer 😉

    1. While I’m not a frequent user of a course book at the moment, I don’t think I’d regret my new job if I was handed one – as long as I wasn’t told I had to follow it completely and to a timescale. There are lots of usable bits in course books, some good conversation starters, phrases and useful language, etc. It would also give me an idea of the kind of things my manager is looking for and I can use this to justify what actually goes on in class.

    2. I’m happy with c.

    3. I’m happy without a course book, but I don’t think this necessarily means that I use a lot of authentic materials. I don’t really.

    4. Definitely c!

    5. I haven’t used an interactive whiteboard, but if I did/could, I would choose c.

    6. I think I need to choose d. here too. Learners do come because they enjoy the classes and the atmosphere. This is one of my priorities and many highlight this as being a motivational factor in continuing to learn English. They also all want to know more about English and be able to use it better and while they all have very different backgrounds, their reasons for coming are all quite similar.

    7. I’m a bit wary about clear goals in language learning. –

    8. c

    9. I just don’t want to use this! It’s a bit too much like a course book activity 🙂

    There are more questions than I remembered!! But now that I’ve started…

    10. I used to do it but I don’t generally ask learners at the end of a lesson what they want to do next. In the course of a lesson, I’ll note and highlight areas where we could do more focused work and will build these into my planning. I also used to have learners choose topics for future sessions but I found this too restrictive – because then the expectation is that the whole session is built around that topic and because, although learners might have thought it was a good idea to talk about Scottish politics one week, they are not necessarily in the mood the following week. (Scottish politics comes up quite naturally at the moment, anyway, eh?)

    11. I’d see if the learners wanted to talk about it.

    12. In my current context of Community Learning and Development, they should be developing the ability to assess their own learning.

    13. c, I think, while keeping in mind my wariness of clear goals.

    14. I try to prioritize according to what is important to my learners. For some this is fluent communication and they aren’t too bothered about accuracy. For others, accuracy is as important as fluency.

    15. c. I think a quiz like this with learners would be a good idea…. particularly if they get to add an option d! 😉

    • Thorough as always, Carol. I think C is still very OK according to what you’re saying because it is not an either or option in any way, just indicating a teacher who is aware of learner needs and can do what it takes to get them where they need to go. Perhaps I have misinterpreted it, but many people on my Facebook page where I posted this are saying stuff like “I’m Dogme” but unless I am wrong this is a narrow interpretation of what Steve is saying.

      Still, I rather enjoyed reading your answer 🙂

      • I did try to get away with just one line of comment 😉

        You’re right! They’re still all more or less in the C range. I’m just in a picky mood this week. But, also, even though I know this is a bit of fun, I get a bit uncomfortable with the implication that the way some teachers work is somehow ‘wrong’. People who use a course book happily and extensively don’t necessarily disregard their students’ learning. An interest in and focus on language doesn’t mean that they focus only on grammar rules and words. The people who commented on your Facebook page all said they got ‘c’ or that they were Dogme. What about the others who didn’t comment? Might some of them now feel inadequate or misunderstood. Might I be overreacting? Probably 😉

  6. Reblogged this on ELT inspired and commented:
    Quiz fun!

  7. Sorry Steve to be highjacking your post – Carol and I are having a grand conversation over here and thanks for not kicking us out !!!!!

    Carol, you may be in a somewhat picky mood, I don’t know but had I had the liberty to rewrite the last category, I would have taken out any specific approaches or, rather, manifestos… May be I am the one being picky now…

    Sorry Steve – thanks for giving us our daily dose of thinking – yes your post is personal and possibly even biased but can’t see why it shouldn’t 🙂


    • Hi Carol and Marisa,
      Thank you for having such an interesting discussion here. I certainly wasn’t going to kick you out as you both have very valid things to say.
      You’re right, Marisa, I’m kind of regretting using “names” in my description of the Mostly Cs teacher. If people are doing this quiz and then using it to label themselves then I feel they may be missing the point. The idea was to encourage people to reflect a little on their attitude towards certain areas of their teaching, and to allow them to draw conclusions – not to “diagnose” them.
      This and Carol’s desire for option Ds indicates the limits of this kind of quiz. I recently did a “Which Big Bang theory character are you?” quiz on Facebook. Obviously I’m none of them, but maybe I’m more like one of them than the others. I’m not going to read anything much into it though, and in te same way I don’t think anyone should take this quiz too seriously or literally. I mean, I’ve never even made one of these things up before!
      I’m not saying there’s only one way to teach either. I am saying, though, that the most common/popular ways of teaching need to be examined critically. That’s all.

      • Thanks for response, Steve. If people read more into this quiz than what it is out there for, a teacher’s reflection and interest in how people perceive themselves, their problem 🙂

        Anything like this has its limitations but this does not reduce the value of your reflection and getting colleagues to reflect about their teaching and to re-examine their practices and values.

        On another level, mostly C’s could mean a very traditional teacher, indeed – anything in fact, which is the problem with such quizzes…

        All this is just for the sake of looking at your quiz as it is, a blog post, not proper applied linguistic research as some people seem to think!!!!

        But there IS an interesting research question that could be got out of this one



      • Thanks, Steve. It has been interesting to think about this. Of course, it’s good to encourage critical reflection on practice and encouraging people to justify their ways of working is a good thing. We’re all different. We’ll have our own particular ways we prefer to work. As you say, there’s not one way to teach, just as there’s not one way to learn a language, but the more we think about why we do what we do, the more likely we’ll be to get our students to where they want to be, whatever approach we take. So, thanks for this post. I always like to read something a bit different and it’s got me thinking 🙂

  8. Jennifer MacDougall permalink

    After watching the Panorama programme Educating North Korea on Monday eve, , I wondered how the English teachers there would/could respond to your quiz Steve. As you say context is everything… Jen

  9. Marisa, you’re right that this is just a blog post and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I did think it could maybe used as part of a training session, but it’s certainly not based on or designed to generate data for research purposes. If someone wants to develop it into something else then they are more than welcome to.
    If it is making people consider what they do and reflect on the value of this, then I’m happy with that.

  10. Ooooh love this type of quiz thing! An interesting outcome but it adds up so I would say it is quite accurate. It is as always dependent on whether the students are actually aware of what their goals are though!

  11. Meg permalink

    You may be right in valuing the “C” approach as the best, but a powerful institution can really stymie attempts at a more flexible and student-centered approach. And having a short-term contracts and low pay really gives many teachers little incentive or ability to fight the system. Based on my personal experience.

    • Hi Meg,
      You’re absolutely right, of course. It’s very difficult to adopt a principled and needs-driven approach to language teaching if your employer insists on you doing something else. I suppose the first question addresses that to some extent; do you do what’s expected or do you look for ways to do the best you can within the system? It isn’t easy though – I understand that very well, also from experience.

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