IATEFL 2018: Safe Speaking Environments – What? Why? How?

Zoltan Dornyei

In our first post from IATEFL 2018, we’re sharing the talk from Professor of Psycholinguistics, Zoltán Dörnyei, on what exactly Safe Speaking Environments are and why you should care.

The talk looks at creating a psychological environment in the classroom which might make students’ lives easier.  Zoltán says that in order to facilitate speaking in the language classroom, we need to:

  • Create suitable conditions in accordance with the main tenets of group dynamics, and
  • Apply the principles of safe speaking environments


What conditions need to be in place so we can start implementing a safe speaking environment?

Zoltán talks about group cohesiveness being a very important attribute, which determines the productivity of the group, and the degree of members’ engagement with the group.

He looks at eight different factors that promote group cohesiveness, including cooperation, competition and teachers’ leadership styles.

Zoltán goes on to discuss group norms – the rules and regulations that govern classroom life, as well as unproductive norms.  Three critical classroom norms he presents are:

1. The norm of mediocrity

2. The norm of tolerance

3. The norm of effort and perseverance

Watch the full video below to learn more about group dynamics and to see Zoltán share the five principles of a safe speaking environment:

See more recordings and articles from IATEFL.

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