To all practitioners

Alan Pulverness



Who is he?

Alan Pulverness is a Co-Director of TransformELT, an independent consultancy specialising in English language education projects worldwide. He is also a Senior Consultant for NILE (Norwich Institute for Language Education). Alan has worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and teacher educator in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. He has acted as consultant for the British Council on capacity building, curriculum renewal and reader development projects in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Russia and teacher development and capacity building projects in Cuba, Algeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is co-author of a number of textbooks, including The TKT Course (2005; 2011) and the award-winning Macmillan Short Course Programme (1995).

Professional life

After his BA in Comparative Literature, French and Applied Linguistics at the University of East Anglia, Alan worked as an ELT teacher and teacher trainer for the Bell Educational Trust in Norwich and then, from its inception in 1995, for NILE, where he remains a tutor on the DELTA and  MAPDLE (Master's Programme in Professional Development in Language Education).

In 2017 he was one of the founding directors of TransformELT, together with co-directors Sarah Mount and Alan Mackenzie. Together, they have been able to draw on their own rich and varied experience in ELT, and have enlisted a wide network of specialist practitioners in the UK and overseas, which enables them to provide individuals and teams of consultants to fulfil highly specific project objectives in different parts of the world. The company is dedicated to devising and developing context-appropriate solutions aimed at achieving sustainable change in often challenging contexts. In a few short years TransformELT has gained an industry-wide reputation for effective support for educational innovation through research, curriculum design, materials development, institutional review, and professional development for teachers and trainers.

From 2000 to 2004 Alan edited IATEFL Conference Selections, and from 2002 to 2006 (with Claudia Ferradas) he co-chaired the British Council Oxford Conference on the Teaching of Literature. He was Joint Chief Examiner for the Cambridge Examination in English for Language Teachers (CEELT) and a Chief Moderator for the Cambridge COTE and ICELT teachers' schemes, as well as a CELTA and DELTA assessor and DELTA moderator. His work for TransformELT has included training school inspectors for the British Council and the Algerian Ministry of National Education (2017-2022); advising the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education on curriculum reform (2019-2020) (source); and acting as Online Content Editor for English Connects – Teaching English Africa (2021-2022).


His main interests are reading, theatre and cinema. His professional interests are drama and literature in ELT and intercultural awareness.

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Alan Pulverness

Recommended books

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Paulo Freire

1970. London: Penguin Books. (source)

The book that has inspired the turn towards critical pedagogy. Freire’s case for a dialogic approach to education, as opposed to what he called the ‘banking’ model (where knowledge is ‘deposited’), made me think deeply about the why and the how of teaching and learning.

Context and Culture in Language Teaching

Claire Kramsch

1993. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (source)

A book about teaching and learning languages, gaining insights from literature and cultural encounters in what Kramsch calls ‘third places’ (interlingual and intercultural spaces). Immensely readable, it weaves the author's ideas about language and learning together with a kind of professional autobiography.

The Lexical Approach

Michael Lewis

1993. Hove: Language Teaching Publications. (source)

A wonderfully disruptive book that challenged the prevailing centrality of grammatical form in ELT syllabus design with Lewis’s proposal that crucially, we should think about language as ‘grammaticalised lexis’ and not ‘lexicalised grammar’.

Textual Intervention

Rob Pope

1995. London: Routledge. (source)

Written by a university professor for a readership of university teachers and students of literature, Pope’s practical proposals for creative response activities (which he describes as ‘serious fun’) will be instantly recognisable to teachers at all levels. As the title suggests, the approach consists of inviting learners to put themselves in the writer’s shoes and experiment with every kind of choice facing the writer - playfully intervening and changing genre, plot, setting, character, language - in order to see the effects of their interventions, and in so doing to gain a deeper appreciation of the original text.

Understanding Language Teaching

B. Kumaravadivelu

2006. London: Routledge. (source)

In this highly original overview of language teaching methodology, Kumaravadivelu presents a comprehensive model, synthesising various progressive trends in thinking about ELT and reframing them in his own ‘post-method’ model. A hugely important book that has not received its due recognition.

Place in HLT

To Alan, humanism means respect for people as individuals with individual histories and ambitions, and hopes and fears and dreams, rather than as students or teacher trainees. It’s also being aware of who's in the room and where they've come from - what kind of beliefs, assumptions and values they bring with them and how that affects your choices and your strategies as an educator. It’s similar to creating materials and being aware of context. It's being aware of readership or usership, not assuming that you've got the answers, and approaching every project - and every learner - with the right questions. When it comes to assessment, humanism is giving learners opportunities, empowering them to make choices, and select the work that they would like to have assessed.

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