ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

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See Washback


A school of psychology very popular in the Western world in the middle of the 20th century. It claims that learning occurs through the establishment of fixed responses to given external stimuli, and that to establish these responses or behaviours, they need to be constantly repeated and reinforced. Behaviourism had a strong influence on language teaching in the audio-lingual method. It lost credibility when it was understood that language was too varied to be learnt simply by reinforcement and repetition, and that repetition was not enough to ensure all learning.


Drilling, the avoidance of mistakes and of using the L1 in class are influences from behaviourism that can still be seen in English language teaching.

Further reading

Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. Harlow: Pearson.

Howatt, A.P.R. with Widdowson H.G. (2004). A history of English language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williams, M. and Burden, R. (1997) Psychology for Language Teachers: A Social Constructivist Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




This term from phonology refers to the place, i.e. the two lips, where certain sounds are produced. In English the bilabial sounds are /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/.


Bilabial sounds, such as /m/ and /b/ are usually among the speech sounds that babies first produce.

Further reading

Kelly, G. (2000). How To Teach Pronunciation. Harlow: Longman.

Ladefoged, P., Maddieson, I.(1996).The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell.

Marks, J. (2012). Delta Teacher Development: Pronunciation Book. Peaslake, Surrey: Delta.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Oxford: MacMillan.





Bloom's Taxonomy

This is a classification of affective and cognitive skills that is used to provide learning objectives. It was published by a committee of educators in the USA in 1956. Benjamin Bloom was the chair of this committee. The taxonomy of cognitive skills in particular has been very influential in curriculum and examination design. It was revised in 2000.


Bloom’s taxonomy identifies cognitive skills and divides them into two categories, as follows:

Higher order thinking skills (HOTS): creating, evaluating, analysing

Lower order thinking skills (LOTS): applying, understanding, remembering

Further reading

Airasian, P. W.; Cruikshank, K. A.; Mayer, R. E.;Pintrich, P. R.; Raths, J.; Wittrock, M. C. (2000) in Anderson, Lorin W.;Krathwohl, D. R., eds. A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Columbus, Ohio: Allyn and Bacon.

Bloom, B. S. et al. (1956) ‘Taxonomy of educational objectives’, Handbook I: Cognitive  domain, New York: Longman.

Coyle, D., Hood P., Marsh, D. (2010). CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning.            Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Unrau, N. J. (1997). Thoughtful teachers, thoughtful learners. Scarborough, Ontario, Pippin    Publishing.






See Top-down and Bottom-up

Buzz lecture or reading/buzzing (n/n.)

A way of encouraging participants to listen or read carefully and of checking their retention of input. In this technique the lecture or reading is paused from time to time and participants talk in twos or threes to summarise to each other what the lecturer has just said or the section of the article that they have just read. 

The students seemed to enjoy buzzing as it was much more active and fun than having to remain quiet throughout the lecture.