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Penny Ur

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 teaching experience.

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 language
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.