IATEFL 2016 (Macmillan Recording): Using teaching competences for professional development by Kirsten Holt

I missed Kirsten’s session at IATEFL 2016, but fortunately Macmillan recorded all their sessions and you can see hers here. She also has a padlet with her slides (you’ll need this as the recording doesn’t focus on the slides so they are affected by glare), links to the frameworks discussed and links to the results from the Survey Monkey activities that she did with the audience.

Kirsten starts by talking about the various teaching competence frameworks available at the moment: Eaquals (rigorously tested, 50 drafts), Cambridge English Teaching Framework (based on teacher training material e.g. competences required at different levels of development such as CELTA and Delta), British Council CPD Framework for Teachers (has 12 rings and you work your way in towards the centre; not just for English Language Teaching but other disciplines, from primary up through university level). Having discussed the differences, she also point out that all the frameworks have something in common: none of them are not linear. They allow for a jagged profile, with more expertise in some areas than others, depending on your experience and the areas of competence.

Next the audience are treated to a little history lesson: In 2006, the EU Commission targeted all the ministries to say they wanted Europe’s 6 million teachers to have the essential competences required to be effective in the classroom. Member states were to revise and strengthen the professional profile of all teaching professions. This extended way beyond ELT, of course. (This is a potted version – for the full version, watch the talk!)

So now, we have all the frameworks, what do we do with them? What do we use them for?

The first activity Kirsten asks the audience to do is to answer the question “Which of these statements apply to teaching frameworks?”

A series of competences can be used to …

  1. define a particular role

  2. build a teaching framework

  3. analyse teacher profiles

  4. determine teachers’ pay

  5. support teachers’ professional learning

I suppose the answer *could* be all of the above? Although I’m unclear exactly what is meant by “teaching framework” – is that the same as a “teaching competence framework”, as in the competences are used to make these frameworks? 

Kirsten then asks the audience to “hold that thought” so to speak, they will come back to this question again later having done some more activities.

The next activity is to come up with a definition for “a competence”, maximum of 20 words. What would yours be?

Next, Kirsten takes the room back to 2001. She was at Oxford House College, a teacher training college (CELTA, Delta, DipTESOL etc), with lots going on, a good place for teachers to come and brush up their skills and progress. The staffroom was a hub. You could chuck out a problem and there was someone in the staffroom who could help, or at least try to. They also did observations, new teachers had mentors, teachers were observed in first year of teaching and way beyond, there were also 5 minute observations just to get a snapshot of the classroom. There were also weekly plans, accurate records of work, TD session adverts, records of who had done what session when. And in Kirsten’s office, she would try to amalgamate all this information, to decide what to do in the TD plan, who to send to conferences, what to do with the teachers etc. She explains that the E-grid help with that. You input how confident you are in various areas, you then can get your mentor/director of studies to do the same thing for you. This should help to identify areas for development.

This gave rise to a discussion of the meaning of ‘a competence’ (returning to the definition activity) and how it has changed over time.

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She emphasises that a competence is not static. It’s not something you tick off and forget about. (At this point the audience are invited to change their answer to the first activity if they would like to…) Kirsten says that competences are designed not to determine teacher pay but to encourage teacher development – at least, the pay factor, if it is a factor, shouldn’t be the be all and end all. It’s not just a case of generating a snapshot of a teacher’s career but a continuous way to look at that career.

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It’s about setting objectives and then working on achieving them, working out where you are, where you want to be and how to get there. She shows a progression of stages a teacher can go through in developing an aspect of their practice. (I suggest you watch the recording to see her talk through this!)

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The different colours reflect the phases that the stages fit into: development, engagement, integration. Kirsten uses a lovely analogy with planting seedlings (that again I recommend you watch!) to explain these. These stages and phases match up with the Eaquals Framework.

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The next question is what do we DO with these frameworks? How do we make them work? The first thing to consider is the fact that they aren’t linear. (Like the jumping fish in Kirsten’s slides!)

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Kirsten puts forward an experiential cycle process that teachers can use to develop:

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She also gives us some top tips for fully engaging in that process. (I won’t list them here, I will let you watch the talk to find out!!) Next she, she asks the audience to brainstorm activities that could demonstrate traversing a competence and gives some ideas of her own:

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She emphasises that we learn from reflecting on experience.

You also need to watch the recording to see the activity where she gives an activity and the room has to categorise it according to whether it is Phase 1, 2 or 3.

She finishes with this lovely quote from Dr Seuss:

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As she says, appropriately enough at the end of a very engaging talk, ultimately for development to happen, you have to engage.

A few of my thoughts relating to this talk:

  • This was the next talk I watched after Stick or twist: the teacher to manager dilemma  which approached teacher development from an institutional perspective i.e. what schools can do to help teachers develop. The ideas put forward by Shirley Norton and Karen Chambers in this talk were wide-ranging, including activities not specifically teaching-related. Kirsten’s talk, on the other hand is very much focused on what teachers can do to develop their practice, to move between levels of competence – although I think the process she puts forward could of course also be applied to development more broadly. So, two talks that are focused on helping teachers develop, but from very different perspectives. I was interested to watch Kirsten’s talk, in light of my response to the Stick or Twist talk, which, in a nutshell, was “That all sounds really cool but what about the things that teachers can do by themselves?” Kirsten’s talk gave one very useful answer to that question. I think it could be part of a bigger ‘answer’, though, perhaps. As I said at the end of the Stick or Twist talk write-up, watch this space!
  • The first thing I just had to do after watching Kirsten’s talk was try the e-grid profiler. I was going to talk about that experience here but actually I think it needs a whole other blog post! In a nutshell, it felt a bit like the equal opps form boxes at times – i.e. it triggered the whole “But I don’t know which box I fit innnn!” response! Nevertheless, looking at the Eaquals Framework document itself, one thing I really like about it is that it acknowledges both knowledge and skills. Another framework of interest to me and that I need to keep in mind as I work in an EAP context, is the BALEAP competency framework for teachers of EAP , (the logo for BALEAP is also featured on Kirsten’s slide of different teaching frameworks) which requires different knowledge and skills, more specific to the University EAP context. Of course, plenty of the content in the general frameworks is equally applicable to EAP. 
  • I did a lot of reading into experiential learning when I was doing my M.A., as I used the principles to inform the materials I made for my materials development module assessment. Applying the principles to teacher development makes perfect sense to me. Kirsten’s approach feels very directed towards teacher performance in the classroom though, i.e. focused on skill development with knowledge development being a means to that end (and if you didn’t go any further than learning about something, then you remain in phase 1). I question (and would be interested in your thoughts!), is that knowledge wasted unless it is directly applied in the classroom? As teachers, can development include learning about things that relate to our profession without there necessarily being a ‘doing in the classroom’ factor as the end goal/point? What I mean is, I would say that it can also work the other way round – i.e. you can read simply because you are interested in something, or something catches your eye, and then what you read ends up informing your practice but not because you were specifically looking to follow the process that Kirsten lays out. I’m not sure if that makes sense? Either which way, I think Kirsten’s approach is definitely a very useful tool for teachers who are looking for a concrete way to develop a specific aspect of their practice. 
  • I love that Dr Seuss quote! It sums up how I feel about CPD and it’s what makes CPD interesting, exciting, enjoyable and something I want to keep doing – and ultimately something I’d like to help other teachers do too. 

2 thoughts on “IATEFL 2016 (Macmillan Recording): Using teaching competences for professional development by Kirsten Holt

  1. Pingback: British Council Webinar Series “Teaching for Success” – Lizzie Pinard

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