There is nothing so practical as a good theory
Many teachers feel that the 'theoretical' component of their teaching
courses or books on teaching has been useless to them, and that they have
got a lot more from 'practical' tips and ideas. I would like
to argue that the kinds of theory they have found useless are what I would
call 'bad' theory: theory that does not translate into practice. A good
theory does, or should, generate an enormous amount of practice, by providing
an idea which you can apply to lots of different classroom procedures.
Conversely, a practical 'recipe' is only one classroom procedure,
which may or may not work in itself but is a 'dead end' unless it gives
rise to some generalization (theory) which will enable you to create further
ideas. In other words, practical 'recipes' are in the long run less valuable
for practical teaching purposes than good theories. Hence the quotation
on which this talk is based. This talk will begin by giving some
preliminary definitions of 'theory' and 'practice' and then amplify on
and illustrate the claim 'there is
nothing so practical as a good theory' by examples drawn from my own
Penny Ur was educated at the universities of Oxford (MA),
Cambridge (PGCE) and Reading (MATEFL). She emigrated to Israel in
1967, where she still lives today. She is married with four children.
Penny Ur has thirty years' experience as an English teacher in primary
and secondary schools in Israel, and teaches also pre-and in-service courses
in English Language Teaching at Oranim School of Education, Haifa University.
Her particular interests are: practical aspects of foreign
teaching; and the professional knowledge and learning
of the language teacher. She has published a number of articles on the
above topics. Her books include Discussions that Work (1981), Grammar
Practice Activities (1988), Five Minute Activities (co-authored with Andrew
Wright) (1992), and A Course in Language Teaching (1996), all published
by Cambridge University Press. She is also editor of the Cambridge Handbooks
for Language Teachers series.