To all practitioners

Alan Maley



Who is he?

Alan Maley has been in the field of TESOL for nearly 60 years. After postgraduate training at the University of Leeds under Peter Strevens in the early 1960s, he worked as an English Language Officer with the British Council for over 25 years.

Professional life

During his time with the British Council from 1962 to 1988, Alan served as an English Language Officer in Yugoslavia, Ghana, Italy, France, and China, and as Regional Director in South India (Madras, now Chennai). From 1988 to 1993 he was Director-General of the Bell Educational Trust in Cambridge then from 1993 to 1998, a Senior Fellow in the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore. From 1998 to 2003 he was Director of the graduate programme at Assumption University, Bangkok.

He is currently a freelance consultant, and was Series Editor for the Oxford University Press Resource Books for Teachers series. He was a co-founder of The Extensive Reading Foundation, and of The C group: Creativity for Change in Language Education. He is a past-president of IATEFL, and was given the ELTons Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.


In connection with HLT it is, perhaps, Alan’s personal and professional interest in creativity over the years that is of particular relevance. He is the author and series editor of many key titles, especially resource books which give teachers practical ideas of what to do in class to engage and interest students. His many books and edited serie illustrate progressive and significant developments in teaching and learning since the early 1960s.

Alan Maley

Recommended books

The Inner Game of Tennis

Timothy Gallwey

1975, Basingstoke: Pan Books. (source)

Not much to do with tennis - but everything to do with how we can live more fully.

Teaching Languages: A Way and Ways

Earl W. Stevick

1980, Rowley MA: Newbury House. (source)

A wise book introducing and reflecting on innovative methodologies.

How Children Fail

John Holt

1982, Boston MA: Merloyd Lawrence Books. (source)

A devastating critique of the mis-education in current vogue.

Bird by Bird

Ann Lamott

1994, New York NY: Pantheon Books. (source)

A wonderful book about being a creative writer.

Lost in Translation

Eva Hoffman

1998, London: Vintage. (source)

A moving account of how the writer lost her mother tongue (Polish) and acquired a new language (English). Perceptive reflections on language and the person.

Out of our Minds: Learning to be creative

Ken Robinson

2001, North Mankato, MN: Capstone. (source)

A highly critical perspective on current educational practices and ways to become more creative.

Respite for Teachers: Reflection and Renewal in the Teaching Life

Christine Pearson Casanave, Miguel Sosa

2007, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press. (source)

A critical view of current educational practices and ways to deal with them. Highly recommended.

A Book of Silence

Sara Maitland

2008, London: Granta Books. (source)

One person's search for silence in a noisy world - and why silence is importance.

Place in HLT

Alan Maley's name has, for decade after decade, been almost synonymous with humanism in language teaching. Whether as a teacher, speaker, author, or leader, he has stood out through his wisdom, through his way of relating to others, and above all, through his commitment to his beliefs about teaching and learning.

Alan first came to prominence during his posting to the then republic of Yugoslavia, where he struck up productive relationships with other expat practitioners posted there, among them Alan Duff, with whom he went on to co-writ some very influential books for teachers such as The Mind's Eye (also with Françoise Grellet), Drama Techniques and The Inward Ear. Like so many of his publications, the focus was on fostering creativity in language classrooms and on encouraging teachers to look beyond the limits imposed by textbooks, and curriculum and examination requirements, in order to motivate learners to express themselves and to enjoy learning. This has become something of a crusade for him over many years, aimed at benignly undermining the conventions of orthodox methodologies and the hegemony of exam boards and 'mainstream' publishing houses by placing learning and learners at the center of the educational process. He has done this through countless articles in most major ELT journals and through his always engaging presentations at conferences and other professional events.

Alan has held teaching posts and senior positions with the British Council in a number of countries, including France, Italy, Ghana, China and India. After leaving the Council he worked in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. In the UK, he was also Director General of the Bell Educational Trust for five years in the 1980s. In all of these places, we won the respect of local colleagues and left his mark on the ELT community. But on these travels, he was also constantly picking up ideas through engagement with fellow professionals and others, something which is evident in the creative work which is so close to his heart. In his poems and stories, as well as in his talks and interactions with others, there is a rich vein of intercultural awareness and deep respect for the people he has encountered and worked with. He has always enjoyed working closely with others, and many of his publications are co-authored.

He has always tried to use the influence that these posts have given him to inspire others, to further the cause of humanism in language teaching, of environmental concerns, and of creativity. This was particularly evident during and after his term as President of IATEFL, and his subsequent commitment to the Global Issues Special Interest Group and to the fostering of the C Group and, more recently, the Worlds into Words creative writing group. His Place in HLT Digital is a testament to this career-long commitment to humanism.

— Rod Bolitho
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