New Educational Paradigms

Sugata Mitra guardian

Sugata Mitra’s article in the Guardian on Saturday was very interesting. If you have seen his TED talks (and they are well worth watching), you will know the kind of educational changes he is looking to make.

What struck me is how similar it is to what my collaborator Daniel E. and I are trying to do at Tohoku University. There is a common thread running through our reading, discussion, presentation, and computer classes. We call it ‘practical’, ‘industrial’, or ‘student-focused’ English. To be honest, we haven’t found the perfect descriptor yet 😉

All of the classes are built on the following principles:

1. content and participation are student-generated
2. the bulk of the teacher’s work happens outside the classroom in planning and preparation
3. teachers have a coaching rather than instructional role
4. students are active and spend most of their time using English in pairs or small groups
5. teachers have high expectations regarding student achievement

We’ve mainly been talking about extensive reading so far, but there are plans afoot for a guide to leading discussion classes, with online study and presentation to follow after that. For now, you can catch us at the Extensive Reading World Congress in Seoul in September, or at JALT National in Kobe in October.

Or, you know, leave a comment here if you like!


These sound like great ideas/goals to have for you class. A lesson will only be as good as the amount of time that you put into it. I feel that a lot of JTEs here have no time to prepare for classes and it’s the students that suffer.

1, 3 and 4 are great ways to have the students build confidence in their English (or L2) and lower the overall affective filter within the class. It’s so rewarding when you can see how a student begins to chance once they begin to grasp simple language fundamentals and are creating language by themselves. As opposed to a teacher giving them a sentence out of the textbook and just translating it for them.

Hi Andrew

Thanks! I think we push the students a lot but they see the benefit in the work we expect of them.

Ironically, we spend a lot of time not doing much in class. Like swans, all the action is happening out of sight 😉


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