54. Thinking Differently about Language Teaching


Thinking Differently about Language Teaching:

Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’

While at a flea market in Berlin on Easter Sunday, I learned of Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ – a set of cards containing a phrase or remark inspired to encourage lateral thinking.  I’m still awaiting delivery of an original card set, but in the meantime have been using a phone app of the same.

The reader may observe from earlier posts my recent enquiries into the use of teachers’ metaphors to both offer insight into teaching and learning and trigger further thought that might then influence our practice.  Continuing on from these explorations, I decided to use Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ as triggers for thoughts about teaching.  My title for this post – Thinking Differently about Language Teaching – was inspired by the title of Michael Swan’s (very interesting) book Thinking about Language Teaching.  

In deciding to venture into this exploration, I worried it might seem a bit hippy.  I’m somewhat of a cynic, and have mixed feelings about the ‘mystic’ world – too often rife with fraudsters.  However, I do appreciate the value of something that stimulates alternative perspectives and critical thinking on a topic, which is the purpose behind my using Eno’s cards in this way.

On this page I’m posting my first three ‘responses’ – hand-written, with the text from the (randomly) selected card in the centre (and above the image).  There’ll be more at a later date.


‘What is the Reality of the Situation?’




‘Cut a Vital Connection’




‘Use Unqualified People’




While doing this activity I’ve started to wonder how much my responses are re-affirming my existing beliefs about language teaching and how much they’re allowing me to open up to other ways of doing things in the classroom.  I hope the latter is at least partly true, but f not then at least the former is serving as a reminder of all the things I should be doing in the classroom.

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