On Demand High

Today, I’ve spent some time reading about Demand High ELT, a concept conceived by Adrian Underhill and Jim Scrivener and I feel the need to commend on it. By no means do I intend to undervalue the concept; I had, though, some objections that I would like to share here.

In the first page of Demand High ELT, the writers explain the rationale of the DH concept, as it had “gone to by June 2012.” They begin their presentation by asking a series of questions that form the basis of the DH concept. It is important, at this point, to stress that most of the questions are reasonable and, in my opinion, should be asked by every professional in our field. The only question with which I do not agree, though, is the very first one:

“Are our learners capable of more, much more?”

When thinking about this question, many more ones come to my mind, such as:

  • How does a teacher know whether a learner is capable of more?
  • Even if s/he does know intuitively, how can s/he prove it?
  • If s/he can prove it, how can s/he make the learner understand his/her potential?
  • What if the learner doesn’t want to make the extra step?
  • What will happen to students whose capabilities are limited?

To me, the notion of capability opposes the notion of education. Imagine a classroom with students of different capabilities. What should the teacher do? Push the weak students a little, the stronger a little more, and the strongest a lot?

Doesn’t this teacher transform the classroom into a hostile environment for students whose capabilities are not very high? And, what about students who do not like being pushed to produce more?

Being a student whose teachers kept saying “you can do more,” I must admit that having a teacher that expects more from you can be very flattering at first. However, if for any reason the student does not meet the teacher’s expectations, the results could be devastating. It is for this reason that I argue: let the students set the expectations; allow each student to express his/her needs and let them decide their limits. YL might not be able to set their limits or express needs, though. What one could do with them is to enter the classroom without expectations.

At some point, DH is a concept that I wish to explore more because I recognise that some of the activities and suggestions offered in Underhill’s and Scrivener’s blog are quite useful, but this will be the topic of a later post. For the time being, these are some initial thoughts of mine. Feel free to commend and offer your views.

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