Book Review Scott Thornbury tesol

Book Review: “Scott Thornbury’s 30 Language Teaching Methods.”

Thornbury, S. (2017). Scott Thornbury’s 30 Language Teaching Methods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ISBN: 978-1-108-40849-3 (kindle), 978-1-108-40846-2 (paperback), 978-1-108-40848-6 (Google ebook), 978-1-108-40847-9 (Appleibook), 978-1-108-40850-9 (ebook)

US $13 (ebook), $14 (paperback)

140 pp.

While based on my post, “How to Write a Book Review for a Specific Journal,” this post will take a somewhat more casual approach, appropriate for a blog.


Many English language instructors take a circuitous route to their career. That was certainly the case for me, and most of us in academia have all sorts of interests other than the field in which we teach. I learned loads in my M.A. Philosophy program, but nothing that would prepare me for teaching English. So, when I found myself years into this career without the pedagogical knowledge required to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be, it was important for me that I honestly addressed my shortcomings. It was time to play catch up. In addition to going back to school, which I highly recommend, I also did some studying on my own, and that’s when I came across Scott Thornbury’s wonderful “30 Language Teaching Methods.”

The goal of academic writing is communication. The subject matter is often pretty difficult, so it’s important that the writer not add to that difficulty by making things harder than they need to be. The goal of the writer should not be to convince people they are smart by using overly long words and unnecessarily complicated jargon; but rather, the goal of the writer should be to explain complex things simply. Thornbury does this better than anyone else in the field. 

Thornbury begins by addressing the question, “Another book about methods? I thought methods were dead. I thought we were now in a post-method era?” (viii) While Thornbury believes this, in part, to be true, his problem is not with methods, as such, but rather, with the search for the one true method. The one that will displace all those who came before it and rest atop the summit as the champion. 

Thornbury has several reasons why teachers should continue the study of methodology. Firstly, new teachers need to begin somewhere. Thornnbury states, “One attraction of methods is that they offer coherent templates for generating classroom routines” (viii). Methods help answer such questions as, “Where do I start? What materials and activities should I use? In what order? To what end?” (viii). Secondly, a method which is particularly suitable to an instructor may work because it gives them confidence in what they are doing. They can start with this method as a guide, continually examining their teaching in light of their classroom, making the necessary adjustments. 

Thornbury chooses to group the methods together by similarity rather than giving a historical overview. This is to “counteract” the modernist narrative that the history of methods is, “one of uninterrupted progress from ‘darkness to light,’” that “methods ‘die’ and no longer have anything to offer us” (ix). 

Thornbury next gives an account of how he decided which methods to focus on in the book. He uses three criteria: (1) Their “strength of influence over time.” (2) “Their relative failure to gain wider acceptance, despite their intrinsic merits.” And (3) those which are “not classroom based” (ix).

This book is primarily intended for language teachers and particularly suited for those just getting started (or those, like me, who needed to play catchup). 


This book is divided into six principle sections: Natural Methods, Linguistic Methods, Communicative Methods, Visionaries, Self-study Methods, and a section which looks Beyond Methods. For each method in each section, Thornbury begins with a Background before going on to address the questions, How does it work? Does it work? And What’s in it for us?


The first section is about Natural Methods. By natural, Thornbury means those “methods that are loosely characterized as being ‘natural’-in the sense that they replicate, or aim to replicate-the process by which first languages are acquired, or by which second languages are picked up without any formal instruction (p.3). They include Total Immersion, The Natural Method/Approach, The Direct Method, The Oral Method, The Reading Method, The Audiolingual Method, and Total Physical Response.

The second section covers Linguistic Methods. Thornbury labels them as such because, “They are driven less by theories of learning than by theories of language” (p.30). Rather than attempt to simulate natural learning, these methods put an emphasis on the intellectual struggle of learning a language. These methods include Explication de Texte (text analysis), Text Memorization, Grammar-Translation, The Lexical Approach, Text-based Instruction, and The Comparative Method. 

Section three focuses on Communicative Methods. These methods shift their focus away from formal aspects of language to its communicative purpose. These include The Situational Approach, Communicative Language Teaching, Task-based Language Teaching, Competency-based Teaching, Whole Language Learning, Content-based Instruction, and Dogme ELT/Teaching Unplugged. 

The fourth section is called “Visionaries” and focuses on methods associated with a particular individual. These individuals, “had a unique, even mystical vision of teaching, often combined with a charismatic teaching style” (p.82). These are: Community Language Learning (or Counseling-learning), Suggestopedia, The Silent Way, and Crazy English and the Rassias Method.    

Section five focuses on Self-study Methods. These include: The Orientalists (self-taught polyglots with interests in comparative linguistics and Asian languages); Prendergast’s ‘Mastery System;’ Brand name Methods such as Assimil, Michel Thomas, and Pimsleur; Programmed Instruction: Duolingo; and Online Polygots. 

In the final section, Beyond Methods, which serves as the conclusion to the book, Thornbury covers Principled Eclecticism, in which teachers choose, “Those techniques which are consistent with a coherent theory of language learning” (p.125). This is in contrast with simple eclecticism, where more of an “anything goes” approach is adopted (p.125). Accordingly, teachers are to choose those methods which not only are in line with a language learning theory, but which fit the needs of their particular classroom. 

He ends with an explicit purpose statement for the book, “In the end, all methods are eclectic, in the sense that they borrow from, build on, and recycle aspects of other methods. Our understanding of how and why this happens, and how these same processes of appropriation and reconfiguration impact on our own teaching, is part of our ongoing professional development (p.126). 

For Thornbury, experienced teachers are to treat good methods as tools in a toolbox, taking them out for the right purpose and at the right time. And just like with tools, some will see more use than others.

Analysis and Recommendation

Experienced teachers need look no further than to the memory of the time before their very first class, a time composed of equal parts optimism and trepidation, to understand the importance of methods.

As one reads through the book, they get the feeling that they are reading a lot of good ideas, all of which are claiming to do too much. Second language acquisition is a complex and nuanced field, and Thornbury property views each method as part of the greater conversation on how to best teach language. For example, he describes the Reading Method, one not often used globally, as a “useful counterbalance to the almost obsessive focus on spoken fluency” (p.21). Thornbury always tries to see the good in each method. He takes into account issues like why they developed when they did, who developed them, and where they developed. However, he does give pointed criticisms of the more questions methods (if not still taking it a little too easy on them). He states that the claims of the Silent Way, “are largely anecdotal” (p.96), and of Community Language Learning (CLL), “Even in its heyday, CLL was seldom subject to exhaustive methods comparison studies, and most of the success its proponents claim for it is largely anecdotal (p.87).” That’s the nice, academic way of saying that their claims are unsubstantiated. But he also goes on to say of CLL that, “Stripped of its quasi-mystical rhetoric,” that it, “still has a lot to offer,” before highlighting some of its contributions to the field. 

This balanced approach is refreshing. For many of us, we started with an almost unwavering belief in the Communicative Method. The longer we taught, the more we saw a need for Focus on Form and the importance of pursuing a balance between fluency and accuracy. As we’ve continued to teach, we’ve read more, learned more, and taught more, ever fine tuning our techniques based on Second Language Acquisition Theory, who we are as teachers, who we are teaching, where we are teaching, and why we are teaching. This is the point of Thornbury’s book, and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. If you’ve already read it, why not read it again? You may benefit from a nice refresher in methods. I know I did.

I hope you found this recommendation helpful.

Enjoy teaching.

Paul T. Johnson

Academic Writing edtech Recommendations

Technology for Collaborative Academic Research (Discord, Zotero, and Google Drive)

Collaborative academic research can be an enriching and fruitful experience. Teaming up with colleagues your field can help you see issues from new and interesting perspectives and help in providing in-depth answers to difficult questions. But collaborative efforts come with their own set of questions like, “What was that article my colleague was talking about last week?” or “A few weeks ago you were saying something interesting about the methods section. What was that again?” Finding the answers to these sorts of questions may send one on a journey of scrolling through past emails (“Which email was that mentioned in again?”).

Not only are these efforts annoying and time-consuming, but disorganization can also jeopardize the very study itself! Good organization, transparent methods, instruments, and discussion are integral to scientific research. Luckily, these sorts of problems can be solved easily by using a few pieces of key technology. They take only a few minutes to set up but will save you and your team hours in the long run.


A Discord server I created for a study about group formation. Notice how the channels are set up using the IMRaD structure.

Let’s start by organizing the very conversation itself by using Discord, a free instant messaging and voice chatting social media platform.

Why Discord?

What makes platforms like Discord so powerful is that you can create different message threads for different topics. For example, most scientific articles follow the IMRaD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion), so why not structure your Discord channels in this way? This one feature alone makes it worth using Discord. Look at those channels!

As you can tell from the above screenshot, we are doing a mixed-methods study that has a lot of different layers. We don’t want to be talking about our quantitative survey instrument and our qualitative thematic coding in the same email thread. That would be awful. So instead, we just click on a channel to find information or message on that topic. More than one study going at a time? Just make more Discord server (group) and switch between them using the dropdown menu in the top left. Honestly, this sort of organization is incredible.

Discord is about building communities of people who share the same interest. Find a server about one of your research interests or make your own. Some journals, like Ludic Language Pedagogy, even have their own Discord server where you can talk about the sort of ideas the journal covers, makes contacts, and get help with your research.


Slack – Slack is a similar platform which focuses on business. Discord focuses on the gaming community, but they are essentially the same thing.

Choose either of these great offerings and you will be happy you did.


Zotero reference software.

Zotero is a free reference management software.

Why Zotero?

Gone are the days of finishing a paper only to have to grab your most recent copy of the MLA or APA handbook and painstakingly make the bibliographic section. It is now done with the click of a mouse. That’s right, simply click “add/edit bibliography” in your Zotero extension and you are done. It auto populates a bibliography based on your citations and your chosen citation style. Done!

Use the extension to cite as you go. When you make your first citation in a paper, it will ask you which style you are using. After that, just click “add/edit citation” and select your source.

You may be thinking, “But the real annoying part is putting all of the info into the refence software in the first place,” but it’s not true! Databases, including Web of Science and SCOPUS have features that allow you to export article meta-data directly into your reference software!

You can also create a shared library with your collaborates. That way all of your sources are in the same spot, everyone has access to them, and it’s easy to work on the same Google Doc together.

I prefer Zotero to its competitors because of how easily it integrates with Google Docs, and because it’s free, I can recommend it to my students. If I’m using the same software as them, I can easily answer their questions about it (I require the students in my Advanced Academic Writing class to use Zotero).


EndNote – Made by Clarivate, the same analytics company that runs the Web of Science database. This is the top-end of reference software. You can purchase it at their website, or you may have access to it through your institution.

Mendeley – Mendeley is another great, free alternative.

You really can’t go wrong with any of these choices. Pick the one that suits you the best and set aside your cumbersome citation manuals.

Google Drive

I am biased. I have been Google everything since 2006. And, much like with other companies, the more of their products you use, the better each one becomes.

Google Drive is Google’s cloud computing offering. In addition to storage, it includes their version of many of the products offered in Microsoft Office.

Why Google Drive?

Their word processor, Google Docs, is a much needed, paired down version of Microsoft Word. It has considerably less features, and yet, somehow, it has all of the features you want. Less features make it easier to find what you’re looking for, and it’s “suggestion” mode is quickly catching up with Word’s “track changes” feature. Word is still king when it comes to graphs and charts though. But if you prefer using Google Docs, simply export the chart and graphs you make in Word and upload them to your Google Doc.

It is easy to share document privileges with others. Simply click on the blue “Share” button in the top right corner and change access from “restricted” to “Anyone with the link can” be a “Viewer,” “Commentor,” or “Editor.” Add people or groups by either adding their emails in the top box or by copying the link and sharing it with them (you can also share folders).The “Share” feature makes it easy to share templates with students and collaborators.

And don’t forget that Zotero has an great extension for Google Docs.

Another product that helps make collaboration easy is Google sheets. This is their version of Microsoft Excel. Create great literature review matrices and share with collaborates the same way you do with Docs.

I’m going to sneak in one more Google recommendation.

Co-presenting at a conference? Use Google Slides to create, share, and present. It’s not as nice as PowerPoint, and is fairly limited in terms of themes, graphs and charts, but it is a clean and simple presentation tool.

If you’re interested in learning more about using Google Drive in you classes, you can read my review of Google Workspace for Education in the TESOL Journal.

Also keep in mind that Google is not an education company and nothing is truly free. You pay for their products by letting them mine your data and sell it. The privacy setting are different when using Google’s Workspace for Education though, with more student protections in place.

Google Drive is simple, elegant, incredibly user friendly, and the “share” feature makes collaboration easy.


Microsoft Office – The original, high-powered suite of office tools.

Libreoffice – Apache’s open-source alternative to proprietary office suites.


These are my top picks for tech that will help your collaborative academic research go smoothly. You can get started with my recommendations or choose from one of the great alternatives. Either way, I hope your research goes well.

Paul T. Johnson

A Brief Introduction philosophy

A Brief Introduction to Western Philosophy: Explaining our experiences, justifying our beliefs.


There are three main branches of Western Philosophy: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Moral Philosophy. Let’s look at one interesting problem posed in each.

Problem 1: Metaphysics – Persistence

Metaphysics is the study of being or existence. Commonly asked questions include:

  • What is existence?
  • What kinds of things are there? (e.g. material vs immaterial; particulars vs. universals)?
  • Does god exist?
  • How can we explain persistence?

Theseus is traveling on his ship from point A to point B. He encounters some difficult weather and is forced to replace every single part of his boat. The question is, “Is the boat at the end the same boat which began the journey?”

If yes, there must be some immaterial form or substance that the boat possesses or it must be an immaterial “bundle” of properties rather than one thing. If not, why not? It’s tempting to say that it is different because all of the pieces were changed, however, the human body completely replaces itself every 7-10 years, but we’re the same people even though all of our cells have been replaced. . . .right?

Problem 2: Epistemology – Justified True Belief

Are there cows in the field? Prove it! Photo: Mike van Schoonderwalt.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Common questions include:

  • What is knowledge?
  • When I say that I “know something,” what does that mean?
  • Are there limits to what we can know?
  • How do our answers to these questions affect our answers to other questions?

You are driving into a new town, see cows in a field, and make the judgment, “There are cows in that field.” This belief is true and you are justified in believing it, after all, you are perceiving cows in the field. You are in possession of justified, true belief (JTB), what many consider to be knowledge. Congratulations, you know nothing!

For, unbenounced to you, you are perceiving cardboard cut-outs of cows with real cows standing behind each one. You have JTB, but you don’t have knowledge.

This funny yet powerful counter-example shows us that knowledge doesn’t equal JTB. But if knowledge isn’t JTB, what is it? When we say that we “know” something, what are we claiming?

Problem 3: Moral Philosophy – Actions

Photo: Pixabay

Common questions in Moral Philosophy include:

  • Which actions are morally blameworthy, neutral, or praiseworthy?
  • What is “happiness?”
  • How can one acquire the virtues?
  • What does it mean for humans to “flourish?”

Let’s look at the question of which actions we should take?

  • Utilitarianism says we should take actions that bring the most amount of pleasure to the most amount of people while causing the least amount of pain to the least amount of people.
  • Deontology says we should follow a strict set of rules.
  • Virtue Ethics says that we should make choices in line with what a virtuous person would do (e.g. someone who is courageous, loving, compassionate, etc.).


It is not my intention in this piece to attempt any answers. I hope you enjoy the process of discovering them!

Paul T Johnson

Any of these topics interest you and want to learn more? Here are some places you can start:

Book: William Lawhead, “The Journey of Discovery.”

YouTube: “Philosophies for Life: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living”

Why start anywhere else? Plato’s “Euthyphro”

Academic Writing reviews

How to Write a Book Review for a Specific Journal

Book reviews are important for their academic communities and a great publishing opportunity for early career researchers. Some journals accept unsolicited reviews and others do not. Some journals have submission guidelines for book reviews and others do not. For more about this process, I recommend reading this “Essay on writing academic books reviews” from Inside Higher Ed.

What I want to do in this ipblog post is take a more in depth look at how to write a book review for a specific journal. Besides consulting the requirements the journal may have available, there are many further steps authors can take. 

In order to show how the process works, I’ll take you through the steps I am doing now to get a book review published in a journal I want to get published in. I am an EFL instructor who focuses in EdTech, so I would like to publish in the journal Language Teaching & Technology. It’s a great journal and a valuable resource for anyone working in the field. It does not accept unsolicited reviews, and does not list guidelines for book review submissions on it’s website. Instead, one is instructed to contact the author about writing book reviews.

But before doing that, I want to understand the writing conventions the journal uses for book reviews, and practice by doing a review of one of my favorite language teaching books, Scott Thornburry’s “30 Language Teaching Methods.” Now, this is a very famous book, written in 2017, by a very famous author, so many reviews have already been published of it, and a journal wouldn’t be interested in my review at this point. But, I learned a lot from this book, and I think readers of the ipblog will find this book incredibly helpful (if they haven’t read it already).

Many book reviews on the ipblog will follow the conventions used by Language Teaching & Technology. I would like to get good at writing reviews in this style, as it’s important to use the academic writing conventions in one’s field.  Also, when I email the editor to offer my services as a reviewer, I would like it to read something like, “I am interested in reviewing book X. You can see my review work here (link to a review on the ipblog).” I’d like the editor to think something like, “This sort or review is exactly the kind of review that we usually publish. I should use this person as a reviewer.” With that being said, let’s look into the steps it takes to write a review for a specific journal. 

I read and analyzed the following five review articles from Language Teaching & Technology for (1) wordcount and (2) overall structure. You can click on the article title to view the article. Here’s what I found:

Review 1

Wolfe, A. (2021). Review of Technology and the psychology of second language learners and users. Language Learning & Technology, 25(1), 36-39. doi:10125/73421

Wordcount: 2,206

  1. Introduction:
    1. Opens with succinct summary
    2. Establishes relevance
    3. Describes content
    4. Target audience
  2. Outline
  3. Summary of sections (Each section begins with a one sentence summary and is followed by content of chapter):
    1. Summary of part 1
    2. Summary of part 2
    3. Summary of part 3
    4. Summary of part 4
    5. Summary of part 5
    6. Summary of part 6
    7. Summary of part 7, which is the conclusion of the book.
  4. Pros and Cons
  5. Relevance to readers of the journal
  6. Conclusion

Review 2

Quinlan, J. D. (2021). Review of Teaching language online: A guide to designing, developing, and delivering online, blended, and filled language courses. Language Learning & Technology, 25(2), 46-49. doi:10125/73431

Wordcount: 1,876

  1. Introduction:
    1. Succinct summary
    2. Content and uniqueness of book
  2. Outline
    1. Target audience
  3. Summary and analysis of chapters (one sentence summary then details)
    1. Summary and analysis of chapter 1
    2. Summary and analysis of chapter 2
    3. Summary and analysis of chapter 3
    4. Summary and analysis of chapter 4
    5. Summary and analysis of chapter 5
    6. Summary and analysis of conclusion
      1. Intent and relevance of book
  4. Recommendation

Review 3

Tuzcu, A. (2021). Review of Creating effective blended language learning courses: A research-based guide from planning to evaluation. Language Learning & Technology, 25(2), 42-45. doi:10125/73430

Wordcount: 2,320

  1. Introduction
    1. Establishes relevance
    2. Succinct, one sentence summary
  2. Outline
    1. Pros
  3. Summaries:
    1. Part 1 summary: Chapter 1
    2. Part 2 summary
      1. Chapter 3 summary
      2. Chapter 4 summary
    3. Part 3 summary
      1. Chapter 5 summary
      2. Chapter 6 summary
      3. Chapter 7 summary
      4. Chapter 8 summary, which is the final chapter of the book
  4. Recommendation

Review 4

Suga, K. (2021). Review of Language teaching with video-based technology: Creativity and CALL teacher education. Language Learning & Technology, 25(2), 50-54. doi:10125/73432

Wordcount: 2,194

  1. Establishes relevance
  2. Summary of book
  3. Explains important concept
  4. Aim of book
  5. Target audience
  6. Outline
  7. Summary of chapters:
    1. Summary of chapter 1
    2. Summary of chapter 2
    3. Summary of chapter 3
    4. Summary of chapter 4
    5. Summary of chapter 5
    6. Summary and analysis of chapter 6, which is the final chapter of the book
  8. Pros
  9. Cons
  10. Recommendation

Review 5

Guedez, L. A. (2021). Review of Disruptive technologies and the language classroom: A complex systems theory approach. Language Learning & Technology, 25(1), 40-43. doi:10125/73422

Wordcount: 2,044

  1. Introduction and summary
    1. Establishes relevance
    2. Recommendation
  2. Outline
    1. Definitions of important terms
    2. Aims of the book
  3. Chapter summaries
    1. Chapter 2 summary
    2. Chapter 3 summary
    3. Chapter 4 summary
    4. Chapter 5 summary
      1. Recommendation
    5. Chapter 6 summary
    6. Chapter 7 summary
  4. Analysis, target-audience, recommendation

Analysis of Reviews

One can see that they are similar, but there is room for style and difference. Now that we have a general idea of what reviews look like in Language Teaching & Technology, let’s do our outline for Scott Thornbury’s “30 Language Teaching Methods.”

Outline for Review of Thornbury’s “30 Language Teaching Methods”

Thornbury, S. (2017). Scott Thornbury’s 30 Language Teaching Methods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wordcount: (approx) 2,000

  1. Introduction
    1. Establish relevance
    2. Succinct summary
    3. Explanation of Thornbury’s view on methods
    4. Target audience
  2. Outline
    1. General outline
    2. Explanation of section and chapter structure
  3. Summary of sections (Each section begins with a one sentence summary and is followed by content of section).
    1. Summary of part 1 – Natural methods
    2. Summary of part 2 – Linguistic methods
    3. Summary of part 3 – Communicative methods
    4. Summary of part 4 – Visionaries
    5. Summary of part 5 – Self-study methods
    6. Summary of part 6 – Beyond methods
  4. Analysis and recommendation

Concluding Thoughts

As I write, the outline may change and morph to better fit the review. However, as long as I follow this general pattern of wordcount and structure, I know that the review will be within the academic writing conventions of my field.

You can read my complete review here: Book Review: “Scott Thornbury’s 30 Language Teaching Methods.”

I hope you’ve found this analysis helpful for whatever field you are working in. 

Paul T. Johnson


A Review of Elsevier’s Certified Peer Reviewer Course

Many academics are interested in becoming peer reviewers for academic journals but may not know what the process entails or what is expected of them. This can be especially true for early career researchers. 

My advisor recently recommended that I must start peer reviewing articles for academic journals. Not only is peer review a great way to give back to the community, and is an important part of CV development, but it gives you an insider view into how journals operate and what they are looking for in an article.

Peer review is integral to scientific progress, so when I got my first article for review in my email, I knew that in order to do the best possible work, I would have to first learn how to review an article, and then how to best write the review. Just as one needs to learn the academic conventions for writing articles, those wanting to write high quality peer reviews must learn the academic conventions for analyzing and writing peer reviews.

As part of their Researcher Academy, Elesevier, an information, analytics, and publishing company, offers a free Certified Peer Reviewer Course. This ip blog post seeks to answer the question, “Is it worth it?”

The course consists of an introduction, four modules, and an assessment:


The biggest problem with the course is production. In particular, the audio needs to be re-recorded for most, if not all, of the lectures. It sounds as if recorded at home, with poor equipment and little to no mixing or mastering. There are odd things like video 3.3 coming up first, and the videos being inconsistently labeled. For example, modules one and three start with videos 1.1 and 3.1, but modules two and four start with 2.0 and 4.0. This leaves one clicking around different areas of the site trying to make sure they’ve found all of the videos. While none of this affects the content, this lack in production makes one ask the question, “If you’re going to do it, why not do it right?” 

But we are not here for the production value, we’re here for the content. 

There is a lot of overlapping content. The lecturers don’t seem to have talked with one another or looked into eachothers’ content. While the content that overlaps is the most important, i.e. “be cordial, timely, professional, etc.,” the series could be better planned and orchestrated to eliminate overlap.

However, the content in general is excellent. In particular, video 3.1 How to write a helpful peer review, is great. And if you’re only going to watch one video, I recommend it be this one. In it, Zoe Mullan, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Global Health, goes through general considerations, checklists and guidelines, overall structure, and a section by section analysis (this last part is particularly helpful). I downloaded the slides from the lecture (which you can do for most of the videos), and referred to it while writing my review.

After watching the videos, there is an easy multiple-choice test (with unlimited attempts allowed per question, so don’t have any test anxiety about it). Upon completion of the assessment with a score of 100%, you’re given a digital certificate of completion.

In conclusion, the lack in production is made up for with exceptional content. After watching all of the videos, I felt confident and prepared to tackle my first peer review (something I did not feel before taking the course.). I believe it to have gone well and am happy with the result. If you’re wanting to get started in peer reviewing, or improve your reviews, I highly recommend the course. 

Paul T Johnson

A Brief Introduction

The Difference Between TESL, TEFL, and TESOL

The difference between teaching English as a second language (TESL) and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), which is what I do, is primarily in where one is teaching and in why the students are learning. 

For example, my grandmother taught TESL at Long Beach State University in Los Angeles, California. Her students were mostly people who had moved to the US and wanted to improve their English because they were most likely going to need it and use it everyday. I distinctly remember a phone call with her where I was asking for advice in motivating my English language students. She told me that a lack in student motivation was never a problem in her clases. For her students, English was immediately relevant. Being able to speak English would help them in their social, academic, and career lives. English would be their second language (or third, etc). 

I teach English at Woosong University in Daejeon, South Korea. My students are not learning English because they will use it on a daily basis; rather, they are learning it because it is the lingua franca. Learning it may not immediately help them in their career or social lives, but it will help them in their academic lives, and learning English can be an important step in becoming an active member of the global community. English’s place on the top of the language hierarchy is not without it’s controversy, but as things currently stand, learning English can be a crucial step in expanding one’s world. Because students may not have ample opportunities to practice in their daily lives, TEFL classes often focus on re-creating authentic linguistic environments. 

Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) encompasses both. I’m working towards my MSc TESOL at the University of St Andrews. My fellow students are from all over the globe and are working towards or furthering their careers in diverse countries and settings. An instructor teaching English as a foreign language in Japan and an instructor teaching a pre-sessional course  in the UK (a course which helps overseas students prepare for academic English use) are both working in TESOL.  As long as they’re teaching someone for whom English is not their first language, they are working in the field of TESOL. Both me and my grandmother would be TESOL instructors. 

And just as English is not the first language of most English speakers, most TESOL instructors have first learned English before teaching it. This offers them a unique perspective from those for whom English is their first language. They have already achieved what their students want, and have an insider understanding of the process. This should encourage TESOL instructors for whom English is their first language to learn a second language, so that they may better understand the process, in particular, that often terrifying feeling when a speaker of your target language asks you a question, and waits for your response.

30 July 2021 – Paul T Johnson

A Brief Introduction

A Brief Introduction Series

The ip blog is about edtech, language teaching, ethics, and games and gamification. So, I’ll be writing Brief Introductions to different issues in these fields. The aim is to write informative, educational, concise pieces, in 500 words or less.

Topics I’d like to cover will include Brief Introductions to:

  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
  • Making a Career in TEFL
  • Second Language Acquisition (SLA)
  • Games and Language Teaching
  • Gamification
  • EdTech
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Stoicism
  • Etc. 

I am also fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues who are much smarter than me, and I will try and convince some of them to contribute in fields in which they are experts. 

Let me know about any other issues you would like me to cover. 

I hope you enjoy this series.

Paul T Johnson


Why Tabletop English?

A good question for anyone trying to do something new is simply:


With all of the countless books, journals, magazines, conferences, and online resources available to today’s English instructors, why did I feel the need to make yet another thing, and attempt to justify yet another teaching technique? The answer is simple: Because I saw a need.

The need to provide students of English As A Foreign Language (EFL) with an interesting environment to practice speaking and interacting in English. I don’t think the “Foreign Language” aspect of EFL can be emphasized enough here. I teach in South Korea. It’s not like my students are going to walk out of class and immediately find themselves in situations where knowledge of the English language is super handy. In fact, one of the safest assumptions in all of EFL is that students almost never use English outside of class. This is especially pertinent in East Asian countries like Korea, Japan, and China. And yet many EFL students crave an engaging and lifelike environment in which to practice English. So, how can we provide EFL students with this kind of environment?

I believe that, for many instructors and students, using tabletop role-playing games for second language acquisition can meet this need.

Tabletop English seeks to provide resources for teachers and scholars who are interested in using tabletop roleplaying games for second language acquisition. With that in mind, here are the two goals of Tabletop English:

  • To provide language teachers with the needed resources to engage their students through tabletop roleplaying games.
  • To provide scholars interested in this field with a place to discover and share research.

5 July 2021 – Paul T Johnson

(originally posted 1 January 2020)