Demand High: What it really is

There has been a lot of hype around Demand High recently, such as this piece by Steve Brown and this one by Geoff Jordan and this one by Boccaperta Lingue.

What strikes me most about these posts is not the fact they are critical or supportive of the Demand High movement, but rather that they are by ELT professionals who I don’t think Scrivener and Underhill had in mind as the target audience of Demand High Teaching.

In his talk at the IH DoS conference Scrivener talks about how classroom teaching has become “ritualistic” and all about “managing tasks” rather than “managing learning.”

This notion was the basis of the first few days of the Delta course I did at IH Newcastle. In fact, I came across the idea of ritualistic practice well before coming across Demand High Teaching.

In case you aren’t in the know: Ritualistic Practice is when you deliver stages and lessons in a particular way because “that’s how it is done” rather than due to a principled understanding of what you are doing. For example: a teacher using ICQ’s after giving instructions because “that is what they taught us on CELTA.”

Delta-qualified practitioners are, in theory, reflective practitioners who understand the principles behind what they do in the classroom. For example: they call on drilling techniques with the aim of helping learners to develop their pronunciation of the target language while allowing for this practice to take place in a safe environment in the form of choral drills. In the second Demand High video, where Underhill looks at some practical techniques to use in the classroom, he also clearly understands the principles behind drilling, as he gets the learners to practise saying the target language in their heads before moving towards verbally producing it in chorus.

In a previous post I looked at the similarities between Delta and Demand High. After comparing the two as well as reading the recent posts in the blogosphere and watching Scrivener and Underhill’s videos, the thought occurred to me that the intended audience of Demand High and the actual audience are being mixed up.

If Demand High is similar to Delta, then Delta-qualified teachers are not the intended audience of the DH movement. In their videos and articles, Scrivener and Underhill opine on the current state of lessons and teaching in ELT. However, it is fairly obvious they are referring to Celta-qualified teachers – the ones who follow Ritualistic Practice rather than Principled Practice in the classroom. However, it is the Delta-qualified teachers who are the experienced and reflective ones – the ones who have something to share and often write blogs and publications; the Celta-qualified teachers are probably still getting to grips with teaching and might not yet be at the level of Reflective Practice where they actively read up on CPD issues.

If Demand High asks teachers to think about what they are doing in the classroom, why they are doing it and how they can make it better, then it is clearly talking directly to Celta-qualified teachers only, as Delta-qualified teachers should, in theory, already be doing this on a regular basis.

So where does the industry go with Demand High next?

3 thoughts on “Demand High: What it really is

  1. Interesting view Anthony. Now this prompts the question, why isn’t DH reaching its target audience then? If you’re right about this really not applying to Delta teachers and quite frankly this was apparent in the comments from ‘that’ community, then it would validate DH as a valid theory that needs to be pushed at CELTA level. But am I right in remembering that it’s often pushed as a possible area for the experimental practice assignment in Delta? So, now who did Scrivener and Underhill have in mind when they came up with DH? That’s the question we should perhaps ask them.


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