John Fanselow



After two years in Nigeria as a Peace Corps Volunteer fron 1961 to 1963, two years in Somalia as a Contractor’s Overseas Representative from Teachers College, Columbia University for the Peace Corps in Somalia from 1966 to 1968 and one year in French speaking Africa as an in-service trainer for the Peace Corps, I was invited to train Peace Corps Volunteers bound for Africa who were being trained at Columbia University, Teachers College. While working in the training programs, I completed my Ph.D. at Columbia University, Teachers College in New York City, where I was then invited to join the faculty.


My main interest has been observation and analysis of interactions, both inside and outside of classrooms. My publications reflect this interest. “Beyond Rashomon” and “Let’s see,” two of my seminal articles in the TESOL Quarterly, have been reprinted in many anthologies. In addition “Let’s see” was awarded the Malkemes Prize from New York University for the best article of the year for relating ideas to practice. “Beyond Rashomon” was the basis of my book Breaking Rules (Longman, 1987) and “Let’s See” was the basis of Contrasting Conversations (Longman, 1992).


In addition to teaching and writing, I have been active professionally. I have been second vice president and president of TESOL and president of New York TESOL. I started an off-campus M.A. Program in Tokyo for Columbia University, Teachers College in 1987. Try the Opposite (SIMUL, 1992) grew out of my work with teachers in Japan.


When I became Professor Emeritus in 1996 at Teachers College in New York, my students established a scholarship fund in my name to encourage “Fanslovian” ideas and practices among MA students in TESOL at the college and in the off-campus program in Tokyo. After I became Professor Emeritus, I was invited to become president of a private tertiary institution in New Zealand. After nine years there, I have returned to Japan where I am a visiting professor at Kanda University of International Studies.


In 2005, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia University, Teachers College. The Award included these remarks from the president of Columbia University, Teachers College:


“John, your passion for teaching English as a second language was shaped by your early experience at a teacher training college in Nigeria, where you taught students who grew up without paper or pencils in their homes. You have written that these students had a thirst for learning that was “more intense by ten” than your own up until that point. You have returned the intensity of these students and paid homage to their hopes through your own pioneering achievements in the world of Teaching English to Speakers of Other languages, or TESOL.”


My latest interest is online learning. I am teaching courses with International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). This group is republishing all of my books starting in January 2013.




 Articles by John Fanselow


  Articles by John Fanselow  
  A Lesson in Observation  
  Beyond Rashomon  
  “Let’s See”: Contrasting Conversations About Teaching  Part 1
  “Let’s See”: Contrasting Conversations About Teaching Part 2
  Postcard Realities  
  Smile, You’re On Candid Camera  
  “It’s Too Damn Tight” – Media in ESOL Classrooms  
  The Treatment of Error in Oral Work  
  Try the Opposite Prefaces ii-xii  
  XX Rules for Student Centered Learning  
  Articles on John Fanselow’s Ideas  
  Transcripts for Reflective Teaching – Heather Thomas  



 Books by John Fanselow


Try the Opposite (Book Surge Publishing)
John Fanselow suggests that, if we carefully examine what we habitually do in our classes and then try to do the opposite, we may stumble upon some interesting new ways of proceeding. There are many other heuristics worth trying. For example: Withhold Information, Reverse the order. , Combine randomly, etc. Fanselow’s point, which is worth thinking about, is that if we never try an alternative way of doing things, we never know what might have happened! Heuristics are a handy way of trying new ways of doing things. Alan Maley Trytheopposite  


Breaking Rules (Create Space),
“In a groundbreaking work, Breaking Rules (1987), John F. Fanselow suggested that one way of developing is to break our own rules and see what happens. If we normally teach one way, in other words, we should try teaching in the opposite way and see what effect it has. If we normally move around the class all the time, perhaps we should see what happens if we spend the whole lesson sitting in the same place. The results may be surprising but will never be less than interesting. . . . We need to have confidence and enthusiasm for investigation and discovery.” (Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching, 4th Edition, 2007, Longman) Breakingrules  


Contrasting Conversations (Prentice Hall)
Contrasting Conversations raises important issues in the areas of teaching and supervision. In his unique style, John Fanselow challenges assumptions, questions universal teaching truths, and entertains us at the same time. No matter what your starting point – teacher, supervisor, teacher-in-training – you will no doubt discover something different about your teaching and something different about yourself. Contrastingconversations