If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, where does innovation lie in the context of the L2 classroom?

Within the relatively slow-changing scenario of general education, the ELT industry has been an exception, benefitting from SLA research, from classroom research, from very competent teacher training and development courses, and from the investment of related activities like specialized publishing and applied IT solutions. The very concept of English as a foreign, second or international language within the school curriculum has evolved along the years, leading to approaches like CLIL, for example.

Technology in its varied formats – from coursebooks to computers – have played an important role in both promoting and supporting innovation, or on the contrary, ratifying well-established classroom practice, methodological beliefs and views of teaching and learning. In fact, more often than not, coursebooks tend to have undue (and unintended) importance attributed to them. It is not uncommon for a coursebook to become the course syllabus instead of being a “map” with suggested paths or a resource bank. As for ‘technology’ in terms of equipment brought to the classroom, it is not always that the introduction of a new device is accompanied by a sound proposal for change in pedagogy.

Given the amount of decisions teachers need to make every day in each class they teach, it might be worth asking ourselves:

  1. Where does the pressure for innovation come from? From a real need to enhance pedagogic practice or from a need to keep up with the market or respond to customers` expectations?

  2. What kinds of innovation are bound to be more impactful and long lasting?

  3. How much impact on students` learning outcomes can be expected from the introduction of new technology, for example?

  4. Who decides what type of innovation is needed for each school context, and if so, when and how it is to be implemented?

  5. Who establishes the goals for innovation and the means to monitor and assess its efficacy?