Black swans in ELT


Have you heard of the Black swan theory? According to its originator, Nassim Taleb, it means that when we keep seeing only white swans, we form an expectation bias – that all other swans we see will be white. And then, if we suddenly see a black swan, i.e. a rare and unpredictable event, our world is turned upside down. We look back and try to rationalise the change, but we can’t really because it was random and unpredictable. (Please note it’s a very simplistic version of only one part of the theory: Taleb wrote a whole book on that).

There are lots of uses for the theory in educational contexts: you can illustrate the necessity of risk management, or the importance of pivotal events in history, or our own subconscious biases. You can speak about the limitations of human knowledge and our scientific theories, which remain valid only until they are disproved by another ‘black swan’.

As you can see, I’ve found a lot of reading material, but none of the articles refer to English language teaching. So I’m wondering: do we have any black swans in our profession? Was it the advent of the communicative approach? Could anyone have predicted how we would focus for years on speaking and ‘fun’ at the expense of language development? It took us quite long to develop more balanced versions of it, and some haven’t quite got over it yet šŸ˜‰

Ideas, anyone?


One thought on “Black swans in ELT

  1. Pingback: What’s better than cure in education | Kate's Crate

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