The Practice of English Language Teaching Fifth Edition book review


Title: The Practice of English Language Teaching Fifth Edition

Author: Jeremy Harmer

Reviewed by: Alex Warren, Academic Director from British Study Centres, Bournemouth

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement 

It’s hard to believe that Jeremy Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching is now more than 30 years old, having been first published back in the dark ages of 1983. But just as the world of EFL has changed, morphed and developed in the intervening time, so too has The Practice of English Language Teaching, thus ensuring that it has never been a book to be left on the shelf gathering dust. It’s as relevant and insightful now as it was back then and this latest edition looks to further cement its legacy.

Last published in 2007, the new edition not only comes with a new, streamlined look, but has also been fully revised to reflect the latest developments in EFL. Although aimed primarily at those new to the world of EFL, it still has plenty to offer those teachers who might be feeling a little lost and are in need of some guidance, new ideas and inspiration. In essence it deconstructs teaching into easily manageable chunks and in this respect it acts as a great “go to” book for reference with the added bonus of there being plenty of great example activities throughout. As well as highlighting and showcasing teaching technique and methodologies clearly and effectively, the example activities are also linked to Pearson’s Global Scale of English (GSE) as well as CEFR level. It’s not an overstatement to say PELT covers a huge amount. It moves from a discussion of English as a world language (Unit 1), an introduction to Popular Methodology (Unit 4), Being Learners (Unit 5) and classroom management issues (Units 7-10)  through to the real meat of teaching language systems (Units 14-17) and language skills (Units 17-21) before finishing with Testing and Evaluation (Unit 22). There is also a section (Unit 11) dedicated to the use of technology in the classroom which has really come into its own since the last edition. Here it deals with the question of digital literacy as well as the more current ideas of blended learning, the flipped classrooms and SOLEs (11.4).

The biggest addition to this edition is the inclusion of video content courtesy of the Teachers at Work DVD. Authentically showcasing eight teachers from around the world, (UK, Turkey, Mexico,) teaching their classes, (including monolingual classes, teenagers, university students,) and it gives a real insight into EFL teaching for the inexperienced and uninitiated teacher. Essentially it gives the viewer the chance to observe classes and, as we all know, observations are a great source of ideas for development. To this end there are worksheets for each video as well as suggestions for more general observation activities within the book (ps vi-viii). In this respect, it is also a useful tool for awareness raising CPD training sessions and general teacher training. The DVD also includes interviews with the teachers reflecting on their classes as well as two documentaries – using L1 in the classroom and what teachers use in the classroom – which give further useful insights.

As already noted PELT is very comprehensive in its coverage, but if there is one negative it’s that by its very nature it means that the surface is barely scratched on many of the topics, acting instead to give a general introduction and to whet the appetite. However Harmer sensibly remedies this by suggesting further reading at the end of each unit for those whose interest is piqued by certain areas.

To sum up, as Harmer states in his introduction, the aim of the book is “to share the knowledge of how good teachers think and work around the world, so that we can all our help our students in the most appropriate ways possible to communicate as effectively as they can,” (p. x) and to this end the book should be viewed as a success. After all, how many publications get to have a 5th edition? It’s got to be doing something right?

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement 


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