Cornell University

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Language Resource Center Speaker Series - Bill VanPatten

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Virtual Event

"Barriers to Innovation in Language Teaching"
Bill VanPatten

We have all heard about revolutions in language teaching - big leaps in thinking that offer insights and new methods for the classroom (e.g., The Direct Method, ALM, Communicative Language Teaching). Yet, such revolutions wither quickly and never really take root. It seems that innovation in language teaching is difficult if not impossible. Why is this? In this talk, I will first differentiate between what I call "real innovation" and "pseudo-innovation," suggesting that the vast majority of what people call innovation in language teaching is actually pseudo-innovation. I will then outline five interrelated barriers to real innovation: knowledge, personnel, institutionalized education, power, and time. Each barrier suggests radical reformation of how we view the profession, perhaps explaining why real innovation is so difficult. I will conclude with a discussion of what I call "incremental innovation," focusing on whether such a thing is possible in lieu of real innovation.

Bio: Bill VanPatten (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is an award-winning international scholar and teacher in the field of second language research, having published ten books, eight edited volumes, and almost 200 articles and book chapters. His most recent publications include Key Questions in Second Language Acquisition (Cambridge University Press) and The Nature of Language: A Brief Guide to What’s in Our Heads (ACTFL). He is also well known for his language teaching materials in Spanish and French. Currently, he is writing fiction full time and getting ready for his one-man show "ASFW (Almost Suitable for Work)" coming to a conference or event near you beginning 2021. Check him out at

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