Conference Paper Should we listen to students who demand “native-speaker” teachers?

Paper presented at the fourth combined conference of the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA), the Applied Linguistics Association of New Zealand (ALANZ) and the Association for Language Testing and Assessment of Australia and New Zealand (ALTAANZ), The University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.
This presentation identifies an unresolved professional conflict experienced by two teacher-researchers. On the one hand, the two teacher-researchers stand as ardent critics of “native-speaker” models of English language education and the various inequalities they sustain (see Rivers & Ross, 2014). However, in recognizing the principled importance of “freedom of choice” the two teacher-researchers also seek to empower students by encouraging their active participation in the educational process and decentralizing powers traditionally assigned to the teacher and/or the institution (see Rivers, 2014). Therefore, when confronted with the question shown in the title of this presentation a professional conflict arises. Qualitative data collected from 124 undergraduate students at a Japanese national university will be shared in support of this presentation and discussion. These students were asked to provide a written response to the question; is it important to be taught by a “native-speaker” English teacher? Although over 95% of the respondents affirmed the perceived importance of having a “native-speaker” English teacher, the textual responses gathered were diverse. In addition to exploring the textual responses collected, this presentation asks whether the preference for a “native-speaker” English teacher is a valid one giving consideration to the observation that the “most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities” (Bloom, 1987: 249). Implications for learning and living within a multilingual world will also be explored and referenced in relation to appropriate language models.

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