IATEFL 2016 Learner Sourced Visuals: A higher level text’s best friend (Tyson Seburn)

Tyson is from the University of Toronto where he teaches on an EAP programme where students take a bunch of courses leading into their undergrad courses. This is the context for this talk but the things discussed in the talk can be adapted depending on your learners.

Images can be impactful for learners to help them understand what’s happening in the text. Tyson is going to demonstrate this to us.

We look at a common phrase: stop to smell the flowers.

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What does literally mean? We actually stopped to smell the flowers as vs. slowing down life. This illustrates the meaning of the word literally. So if you have already taught the meaning behind the phrase “stop to smell the flowers”, then you can use that to get at the meaning of another word in the text, in this case “literally” through using a visual.

Higher level texts contain challenging concepts for students that they can’t fully grasp. What tends to happen is that students have a very surface level understanding of the vocabulary in a text. When they put the words together to understand the concepts behind the words, they flounder a little bit. In EAP programmes, students tend to be faced with text only, often several pages that are quite dense, and they have to remember things from earlier in a text as they proceed. It can be a bit overwhelming. Main and supporting points may get lost as they read the text as they can’t visualise what was happening. So if you ask them about these, they won’t be able to explain. There are also cultural references embedded in the text that students may miss. A visual can helpfully demonstrate these to the student.

We all use visuals to a certain degree but even in EAP classes we want students to recognise different parts of the text in a different way. We want students to be able to look for a visual that represents a concept in the text so that they better understand the concept and can explain it to others, as this backs up their own understanding and comprehension.

The visualiser role:

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Students¬†might find a chart, make a timeline, find a photo, a political cartoon, something that represents something in the text. Something that helps their understanding and would be easy to explain to another person. So they need to find or create two distinctly different graphics. This is to avoid the default to Google images. Could be two visuals for the same concept or for different concepts. Because it’s an EAP programme, for digital literacy skills they should keep a record of where the graphic came from. They also need to be able to explain how it relates to the concept in the text. In a subsequent group discussion about the text, the student will introduce a graphic, where they found it and how it relates to the concept. They also have to produce a handout/google doc with the images, a short description of why it’s useful and some references.

Task 1

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What might learners find confusing? Phrasal verb “to be off”, “den door”, “smugly”… If we look at a vocabulary level rather than an argument which doesn’t exist here, you are probably starting to visualise what is happening in the text but if a student lacks the vocabulary, that becomes difficult, they lose the meaning of the text. A picture can help.

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Lou being super-smug! ūüôā

This picture illustrates what is going on in the text, illuminating the meaning of the text:

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So what we’ve got here is a simplistic text but the same concepts will apply to more complex texts as we will see.

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Looking at the above statements, “Disneyfication” won’t be in a dictionary, it’s a made up word. What characteristics do you think of for Disney? Goofy, princesses, light-hearted, cheery. What visuals might be useful to get the students to realise?

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You can see, the above is not disneyfied, but this is:

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Taking a character that is rough around the edges and disneyfies it!

Again, if we watched a video of Family Guy, we can see its violent/rough.

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But in one episode, they turn into disney characters and they sing about how lovely it is to eat pie. So in a disneyfication process, you go from something realistic and gritty to something tht is whitewashed a little bit, happier, more cheerful, not the real thing. Whatever the real thing was becomes more cheerful than it actually is.

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Considerations for students:

  • Does the visual represent¬†what is in the text, the aspect or feeling in it? Not just “apple”.
  • What concept in the text does the visual help explain? Does it help explain or is it just lip service?
  • Does it elaborate beyond vocabulary? (In a lower level text you might just do vocabulary but you might look for concepts rather than just words)
  • Where does the visual come from? Important skill for students when sourcing images is to know the source and reference it correctly.

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With the above example, Tyson wanted the students to find things that represent this. But learners are not automatically good at this (e.g. they might just find two flags one of which is for Quebec and one for Canada), the more feedback given, the better visuals they can find:

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Here is another example text:

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This demonstrates the value of public spaces in a city and why they might be useful. We want to illuminate why they might be useful.

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The righthand pic shows this better than the left-hand pic. It shows that businesses near public spaces will benefit from them.

We look at a further example:

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What types of visuals would work for this? A google map might help to show what is situated on that street and where it is. An image of cyclists protesting against the bike lane reversal, shows opposition. A political cartoon can illustrate the emotional side of Toronto in relation to this issue. VS a street sign or just a bike lane in a random city doesn’t work. You can’t just pick random visuals, you have to dig a little deeper.

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Important considerations:

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Each of these things are separate lessons but when we pull them all together this role becomes more key for students when they are reading a particular text.

Tyson then went on to show us more examples of visuals that students had found to illuminate elements of different texts, before bringing this very interesting talk to a close.

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IATEFL 2016 What makes an outstanding ELT coursebook? The publisher’s perspective (Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton)

The final talk I’m attending today is by Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton, who teach at Leeds Beckett University and University of Leicester respectively. They have been involved in materials development for about 20 years, from a theoretical academic perspective for a long time, and more recently worked on the Navigate series, which was a wonderful opportunity to see things from another more practical perspective. They did a talk last year about expertise in writing, where they asked writers and editors what constitutes expertise in course book writing but predominantly responses from writers. At the end, an editor said it was a shame that the sample was so skewed. This talk is to put that right!

Apparently the voices of editors are very rare in the literature.

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Heather and Julie are interested in redressing that so that expertise can be shared. Another reason to do this is because practitioners, teachers and researchers understand a bit more about how course books are produced. Understanding this helps to understand why materials are the way they are and understand the pressures that are faced in producing a multiple level series of course books in a short space of time. They’ve noticed in recent years at IATEFL that that seems to be a goal, for example with SIGs like MaW SIG and groups like ELT Teacher2Writer. They are all trying to help people understand how to write materials and get foot in the door. Heather and Julie hope to contribute to this process.

They have been collecting data since January this year, some of which before the MAWSIG day and have continued since and have x hours of interview data, which is a lot. They have learnt a lot from the process of interviewing people. They’ve interviewed 21 editors and publishers this year, some in focus groups and some in individual interviews. This happened over Skype. They’ve spoken to a variety of different kinds of publishers and editors both in-house and freelance, with various experience, and designers as well. So lots of different perspectives. It’s been interesting to understand more about the process of how course books are developed in this way. They have a lot of rich data even though it’s a small-scale study really. They thank all the respondents as it has been both useful and very enjoyable.

They are going to highlight some of the main themes and give their interpretations and comments on this. Then we are going to be asked for our opinions. As it is a workshop, there will be a few discussions as well. We are will look at the four research questions one by one, discuss them and hear about what Heather and and Julie found out.

Research Questions

  1. Coursebooks are now said to be more publisher-led than author-led. Why is this and what impact does it have on the end product?

  2. What makes an outstanding coursebook? Please give examples.

  3. What is the editor’s role in creating outstanding ELT coursebooks?

  4. If you planned to launch a new global coursebook series, what would you look for in an inital sample from a prospective writer? What skills do writers need to produce outstanding materials and how can these skills be developed?

Deliberately broad, in order to get people talking about it. The main question very broad – what makes an outstanding course book. They also tried to get at this idea of the course book being more publisher-led, in the development and instigation of ideas. They wanted to know why this was and how it affects the product at the end of the day. They were also interested in the editors role and in what publishers are looking for when writers send in a sample, what makes them take on a writer and what makes the reject? And finally what skills are needed, how can the skills be developed?

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These are some snippets from the data as an overview. We need to discuss them. Some are direct quotes and some are paraphrasing.

Following the discussion, we are asked for any comments we have on the quotes. The broadness of the questions allowed Heather and Julie to explore and then drill down into areas of interest.

Next we moved onto individual points.

Here are some of the things that people said in response to question 1:

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An audience member felt there was an element of truth in the digital uncertainty comment – there has been. For example the one laptop per child policy that got dropped.

Julie says a lot of people talked about the impact of technology but also about that course books are more market led than publisher led. A long time ago, teh author was more instrumental in the conceptualisation of the series than now and there are various reasons for that. Firstly, digital makes the projects huge, for example 450 people. Trying to manage that, including getting information about what is wanted by the market, what has to happen in house (Design, production, a range of editors, techie people, marketers etc). There is also huge time pressure to get all the levels out at the same time if possible, so if you have a six-level course that is a huge undertaking, maybe you have to split into two years. You also need to meet consumers’ needs in order for the book to sell. Some publishers draw on massive corpora that they have collected and use them to inform the materials. So it has to be publisher led as the publisher has the information. The impact should be positive in terms of people feeling their needs have been met. A problem might be that it lacks freshness as people asked what they want are unlikely to ask for too much change, they might want something very similar, leading to that “vanilla anodyne effect”. With some courses it might be¬†possible to have the necessary local expertise in terms of authors, producing something for a clear target audience, which might be very positive. It might feel like the author’s role is downgraded as the publisher is trying to take on so many other views.

There is a tension or balancing act to try to innovate within particular constraints.

 

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An audience member suggested it should be user-friendly, easy to use. Another suggested it should be open to adaptation. Two closely related points, as Heather says. The person who said the quote in the orange speech bubble was talking about imposing methodologies on people in different cultures, whereas some people discuss it as including teacher training within the materials. It depends how its done, how its introduced, is it imposed or not. It’s a very complex issue.

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Heather said the first point was no surprise. It’s important to meet all kinds of different needs e.g. SEN. Will the students be able to relate to the materials? Then, the second point, the teacher needs to be able to pick a course book up, walk into class and teach from it, knowing it would be reliable and they wouldn’t have to spend a long time planning. However, teachers may also want to do more with the materials, adapt them, use some bits but not others. The tricky thing is catering for both types of teachers. Of course we also need to know that the course book is accurate, answers all correct. Then there needs to be a sound theoretical basis, which can be a range of things from being based on corpora, to the methodology used etc. The architecture is about the flow and shape of lessons and units, how they are built. People talked about the personality of the course book, based on the type of methodology, the look and design, the author voice, the kind of texts you are using. Some people also talked about it being aspirational for teachers, they may feel they are becoming a more communicative teacher by following those materials, for example.

Some finer points:

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Moving on to the editor’s role:

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Heather and Julie were interested in what the editors bring to the course books and found that some of the points were contradictory as the editor plays a tricky role and has to handle complex situations. They thought it was a nice way to look at it, to think of the editor as a bridge between the people involved in the process.

We are reminded that there are different types of editor, e.g publishing and commissioning, development/content, copy editors for the nitty gritty and there is also the free-lance/in-house editor split.

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As well as coordinating, feeding back information. Also sticking up for the author to the publisher and vice versa, so the critical bridge role. They might do some research post publication and realise that certain things have been omitted and produce pdfs to go online to address that issue. A crucial role is giving feedback on drafts, which involves being quite diplomatic, it is a complex relationship between author and editor. The editor has to represent different teachers to the author as the author can’t have experience of teaching in evert different contexts but the editor can do research into different contexts and feed that back. Often they have been teachers themselves too. They have to be devil’s advocate/critical friend, which is quite a challenging/daunting role (imagine doing it for Michael Swan’s grammar!). Authors are going through all kinds of things in real life – so, knowing when to send a bunch of flowers is important too.

We ran out of time for the remaining question/rest of the slides but are invited to email Heather and Julie to get them.

However, the conclusion is:

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The editor is instrumental in controlling quality in course books and sometimes we forget what a useful process it is. We often talk about how difficult it is to receive feedback but the end product is going to be better for that. Heather and Julie are calling for more transparency and communication about the process.

They agree with Tomlinson on the following and would love to be involved in the process! This sort of research could be really important to feedback into future products.

 

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It was a really interesting talk and it’s a shame we didn’t get on to the final question!

IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG Open Forum

Rachael Roberts starts by welcoming us to this open forum by explaining about MaW SIG. It is for everybody!

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She’ll tell us about what has happened this year and plans for the future, which will be followed by a financial report and a talk by the scholarship winner. This will be followed by the raffle and some nibbles.

The MaW SIG year

2015

Rachael tells us that MaW SIG are very keen to foster links with associates in various countries to set up more meet-ups. There were meet-ups in Oxford and Berlin. There was also an online meet up, the MaW Online Festival.

A sad thing happened in that Hans Mol passed away in November, he was in charge of publications and was a founding member of the SIG.

The committee!

The committee!

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

In 2015, MaW SIG also brought out their first e-book, a collection of the blog posts on their website plus two bonus articles not on the blog. There is a new post out on the blog today, written by Kieran Donaghy, giving advice about setting up an ELT materials website.

In February this year, there was the annual face-to-face conference in London, at the Stables of Macmillan. This was organised largely by Kirsten. (Read more about it here!)

Looking ahead

Working in cooperation with BESIG, there will be a conference in Munich from 4-9 November 2016, which is a BESIG conference with a materials writing thread. Proposals don’t have to be only about business material writing, so anything that could be used by Business English writers would be great. So, for example, writing video scripts. Not specifically BE but still useful!

There is also the  website, which has the blog. On Social Media, Karen White does a fantastic job of keeping the Facebook Page, a closed Facebook group for members and LinkedIn as well as Twitter. There will be a suggestions page added to the website, as they are keen to hear from members about what they would like the SIG to be doing/not doing. So please do use this page.

This year they also did their first scholarship in collaboration with OUP, in materials writing. A challenging task was set: writing a piece of material that dealt with the theme of the environment in a fresh and interesting way. Moundir Al Amrani won the scholarship!

He tells us he is very excited happy to be here and to have won the scholarship. He had started to think he wasn’t cut out for this but the scholarship has given him fresh enthusiasm for materials writing. He is from Morocco, a teacher and materials writer. He has won the lesson share competition on Onestopenglish.com twice, back to back. After which, he won the scholarship.

He shows us where Morocco is, its flag and tells us a bit about what he does. EAP, ESP, BE and GE teaching, as well as content courses in the humanities and literature at University. He is also a novice teacher trainer and a materials writer. He writes worksheets, multi-skill lesson plans, vocabulary and grammar activities, course books, teacher notes and a book to meet the specific needs of his students.

Why does he do this? Because it is his passion. He wants to be productive and learn. There is a saying that goes if you love what you do, then you never have to work a day in your life. He loves what he does, his career. He wants to be a better teacher, write better teaching materials, give back to the teaching community and be part of ELT innovation and development. He finishes by thanking MaW SIG and OUP for the scholarship once again.

OUP representative Emma takes the opportunity to say that if you are interested in sending materials for the OUP blog, please do, she also looks after a newsletter about teaching adults that goes out to 28000 teachers globally and they are always looking for people to submit materials/articles/thoughts on any aspects of teaching adults.

Lewis Lansford¬†tells us about the running of his pub in York. There’s always the point where you have to talk about the budget and it’s the low point of the meeting. Now he is going to be that guy, presenting the budget. This is his bid to sugarcoat the process, discharge the obligation and not make us feel “oh no”.

Budget comes from the Latin “Bulga” (pouch or knapsack). It entered English with the French meaning (bag), but by the end of the 16th century included contents as well as bag. 1733 was the first finance connection.

2014-2015 accounts. It took him a while to work out where the money was but in Sept 2014, there was ¬£5,502 profit, earnt not spent. Events and subs produced ¬£8,387, then expenses ¬£5,592. Anyway, the surplus at the end of the year was ¬£2,911. September opening reserve was ¬£8,413, and the closing reserve is ¬£8,731. (Not really sure what it all means!! But it’s there!) And thank you to Macmillan for sponsoring the conference in February as that helped the budget!

 

On that note it was time for the raffle, eating and talking!

 

IATEFL 2016 The N-Factor: follow-up workshop to Silvana Richardson’s Plenary talk

Now it’s time for Silvana’s Day 2 Plenary follow-up workshop. As you would expect, there is a good turnout!

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A little reminder from the day 2 plenary!

Silvana starts by welcoming us and telling us that as it is a workshop, we are going to be doing most of the work. She plans to recap the main points of the plenary, ask us some questions, and hopefully explore some future directions.

Rather than writing up her recap here, I encourage you to take a look at my full write-up of her wonderful session here.

Silvana gave us the following questions:

  1. Why did you come to this workshop?
  2. What struck you most about yesterday’s plenary?
  3. What questions/comments would you like to ask me?

Then once we had discussed in small groups, we had to hand questions in to Silvana.

Question 1: One question that seems to recur is the question of terminology – what can we do to improve on NEST and NNEST?

Audience 1: Why not just say I’m an <country adjective> English speaker. One of his students wrote “I like speaking English with an Italian accent”. So that is what we aim for, a confident English speaker who is proud of his/her background and identity. Audience 2: I think there is a difference between being a speaker and being a teacher. Penny Ur speaks about highly proficient users of English. Becoming a native speaker is not am ambition that can be achieved. Audience 3: Why would we want to? Silvana: I’m a native speaker of Spanish, sorry. Audience 4: If we wan to do away with the discriminatory side of things, let’s have “I’m a teacher of English”. Why come up with something that will go against us? “I’m a qualified and experienced teacher of English. And I’m proud to be Hungarian and give a Hungarian English model to my students”. ¬†Audience 5: We should let our students know who we are and that we have worked hard to become proficient at the language. Audience 6: What’s really important is to be a good teacher. That you use the language you have, whatever the level, in the right way with the students. Teaching is about the student talking time. Silvana: What we are teaching is English. For me, being competent and highly proficient is important. If I am teaching, and I am A2 level, then I should want to go on and improve that. Marek: For too long, there has been an obsession with native-like proficiency. It’s unfair to ask for C2 level all the time, we can’t turn a teacher down because they have slightly lower proficiency. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t improve. Silvana: It’s about subject knowledge isn’t it. Audience 7: It’s very difficult for us to be respected by society because we allow ourselves to be considered great teachers with an A2 level and it’s ok. If we were doctors and had a superficial knowledge of the human body…? Marek: Proficiency is not the only aspect. For example don’t require people to be proficient in methodology, they can’t be after a 4 week course. Audience 8: I was just wondering..I will always be proud of being an NNS but the time it would bug me would be if someone doesn’t want to employ me because of it. I don’t have a problem with being referred to as such, but if someone says we don’t employ NNS, then I have a problem. Audience: The solution in my opinion is rooted in the perception on the clients side, on the learners’ side of what the NNS has to bring to the table. Let me ask you a question. Do you know what the Fair list is? An award giving to organisations where there is gender equality for example at conferences. Maybe we could have one for NS-NNS equality.

Question 2: The NN teacher’s voice is an incredibly powerful source of quality exposure in low resource environments, how can we encourage this to be valued?

Audience: students will value a NNS more because they can see them as a model of what they could aspire to, so they can relate to it. A “we could do that too” thing. Marek: Haven’t found a single study that supports that a majority of students prefer native speakers. Good English was important. Audience 2: I think proficiency is an issue here. We are trying to do away with the native speaker as an idea but we need to put something in place of that, so that students have something better to strive for. We can’t improve anyone if we don’t know what we are trying to get at. I’m not saying we can agree on one particular standard but there should still be something up there. Our students would like to see that they improve and know what we expect from them. Audience 3: I’m troubled that we are still talking in terms of dichotomies. As Silvana said, we have to do it together. It’s not dispensing with the idea of NS-NNS, it’s actually being equal and that equality to be placed on the basis of qualification and competence which includes language competence. But language competence doesn’t mean native modelling. Audience 4: I guess what we are facing here is a social issue. We are talking about equality. It’s a social change. And it will not come from textbooks or top-down, probably as social change ¬†generally doesn’t. It will come from us. I agree with our Hungarian friend, it’s about unity. It’s us uniting and joining together, joining strengths.

What are we going to do about this?

(NB: Again, deliberate use of extra large font above!) 

More discussion questions:

  • What changes would you like to see?

Silvana says we need awareness, advocacy and activism. What are you going to do in your context to make this change? To make change, it happens with small steps. So we need to start looking at what step one is. What possible first steps could you, your school, your teaching association take? We are asked to listen supportively.

She invites us to share ideas for change. Various audience members share the following:

  • ¬†I might be in the minority here because I’m English. My point is, I teach ESOL here in the UK. I’m fully qualified, I’m doing a Masters at the moment. My problem is I am lumped in with the people who go abroad, with no qualifications, to get summer jobs. It’s not just a problem overseas, we’re having similar problems here. The government doesn’t want to pay us. I don’t know how to change that other than doing the best job I can. My manager is Polish, I have a French colleague, both fully qualified. They’re getting jobs here and not being discriminated again so it’s kind of we need to change it not just for the rest of the world but also in ESEs so that people recognise the jobs we do.
  • I used to be a teacher in a secondary school. I had to do a 4 year degree then an M.A. in teacher education. That is what you need in Ireland. With a 4 week course to become qualified, it gives the impression of not being a real profession.
  • I think all of us can chip away at the prejudices. But it can be top down too, I’d like to see other institutions getting involved like TESOL France. These organisations are powerful in their countries and can send a powerful message.
  • I’m going to set up a blog aimed at learners about what they should look for in their teachers. So that they can see that no matter whether they are native or non native, what is important.
  • I think if you work from the grassroots, you engage in local association of English teachers, that would be a good thing to do. If there isn’t an association, make one. We should be focusing on the professionalism of a teacher not their origin.

There are so many questions here, and we have only just started. The conversation will continue at Marek’s TEFLEquity blog.

IATEFL 2016 I’m a non-native English speaker teacher – hear me roar! (Dita Phillips)

Dita starts by telling us what her talk is NOT about – statistics, definitions, discrimination etc.

Then she tells us about Martina who was incredulous that it was possible to be Czech and teach English in Oxford.

Dita started learning English when she was 6 years old. She did her CELTA in Czech Republic, with British and Polish tutors. It was great for the NNS to have Polish tutors but it was never discussed, which was a real missed opportunity. Would have been good to talk about teachers as role models. She was one of the first NNS teachers in the first school that hired her, as it was new for them to recruit NNS. When she got to Oxford, applying for jobs, a number of schools told her yes your qualifications and experiences are good but we don’t hire NNS but finally she did get a job at a school with a different policy.

She was very nervous to start with, about student reactions. She was asked to teach an exam class and the students were a bit rowdy and she eventually said they should listen because this is what worked for her, and then the rest of the lesson was a Q and A about how she had done, it – they wanted to know. This was her eureka moment and she feels all NNS teachers deserve this experience.

As a teacher trainer, Dita thinks that for those who are still waiting for that eureka moment it should be provided vicariously – through teacher training. Of course she tries to be a role model to trainees on her course. If you can’t be that yourself, you might have a colleague you could invite. Other options: you could go online – show them the NNEST of the Month Blog etc.

Barbara is another teacher that Dita met on a similar course to Martina, and she said she would be disappointed if her teacher in Oxford wasn’t an NS, not realising that Dita wasn’t. Is it because they’ve been told so many times that NS are better, that they have come to believe it? The dilemma – should she tell them or hide it, that she is an NNS? Teachers have developed lots of coping mechanisms – Dita knows, she has tried them all. But these days she is more relaxed about it. But one thing she sees as her responsibility as a trainer is that the discussion about native and non-native needs to be raised. On a mixed CELTA course that is not difficult to do, it comes up naturally for example in a language awareness session. The discussion of ELF can help steer towards it to. There is a BBC I-Player 30 minute Word of Mouth about English as a Lingua Franca, Dita will play 15 mins of it and it really gets participants talking.

Maria’s quote is about fear regarding not sounding like a native speaker despite being C2 – i.e. a fear of inadequacy. There isn’t a lot of research into teachers’ attained level vs their perception of their level. Whatever they think impacts their professional self-esteem and confidence. Language development should be part of developmental courses however language proficiency is only one element of proficiency, it’s also about knowing how to teach.

Suggestions for TT:

  • Provide role models – trainers, guest speakers, online
  • Create discussion
  • Focus on language development including what they know
  • Focus on teaching pronunciation
  • Connect peers

A C2 level teacher shouldn’t be going around saying they are no good. Positive role models and awareness of NNS who can and do would help this issue.

Dita gives an example of the second point: a video of Gordon Strachan is used with no preparation. A tricky listening but they could understand what was said. Would you use it with students? Jargon, background noise, accent etc and then Dita likes to point out, ok, indeed it has, and YOU UNDERSTOOD IT! Something to be proud of…

Another example given is Sonia, who thinks she can’t teach pronunciation because she is not a native speaker. Pron is linked to language proficiency but the last thing that identifies people as NNS. E.g. Sonia’s English was amazing but she had a hint of an accent, and thus couldn’t bring herself to work on pronunciation in class. Dita wants teachers who leave her course not to think they can’t do something for such a reason.

Dita shows us a video of an NNS teacher speaking confidently about teaching pronunciation having done a pronunciation course and recommending this. NNS teachers tend to know all the theory but might shy away from doing it in the classroom, so it’s useful to provide positive experiences and engaging materials. Hopefully they can take this and use it in their classrooms. It doesn’t matter what material you use but two things should come out of it: teachers should go away knowing where to find such activities easily and having had a good time. That is the major thing to help them overcome that fear in the classroom.

Dita’s course receives positive feedback regarding collaboration between NS and NNS, so that both can appreciate each others’ strengths. So it is a good idea to have mixed CELTA courses, Erasmus programmes and show trainees where to go online for support, to discuss these issues. E.g. TaW SIG, TEFLEquity, NNES in TESOL Interest Section.

For a comprehensive reading list visit: www.multilingually.wordpress.com

There was some audience discussion:

Audience: terms NNEST and NST are propagating the problem. We should use “preferred language”, “competent language”, “proficiency”. Dita: A valid point, I agree. There is a transitional stage where we have to work out how to talk about these issues and not perpetuate it.

Audience: Where does the native speaker label come from? I got a job as a native speaker because I have an Australian passport but I don’t speak English as my first language. Dita: Where does it come from? I guess from Chomsky!

Audience: Any suggestions for helping trainees to distinguish between accent and pronunciation, in that pronunciation matters and accent doesn’t matter, as teachers? Dita: accent perception depends on where you are e.g. a glaswegian in Birmingham wold be perceived as having an accent.

Audience: It depends on your perception of yourself. To start with I hid it but now I have relaxed about it. Dita: And that’s the kind of attitude I would like people on my courses to go out with.

@ditaphillips

Dita.phillips @british-study.com

 

IATEFL 2016 Moving EAP students to metacognition and autonomy (Michelle Tamala)

Michelle has been involved in English language intensive courses for overseas students for about 20 years. She is a regular speaker at learner autonomy events.

This talk is a narrative. She is going to tell us about a journey she has embarked on, originally started as an idea for some action research. With research, once you start… Michelle has come up with more questions than answers.

Students: upper intermediate level, university pathway college in Australia, trying to get their English to move up by .5 of an IELTS band in ten weeks, learning academic skills as they go through. Autonomy is a strong theme in Australian schooling from primary to university, seen as being important. Michelle’s belief is that if we can get ss to use indirect learning strategies (metacognitive) to decide what cognitive strategies to use, when completing a task, they will be more effective and successful learners. Students will move from being taught to actually learning. Requires a big shift for them and for how teachers approach their teaching. Michelle wants to move away from practising for an exam to actual learning.

The starting point for the research was a student survey on student learning – to complement the other surveys that have to complete at the end of a ten week course. She wanted to find out if students at different levels were more less reliant on their teachers to inform what she needed to do.

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In terms of self-assessment, students mostly thought they had improved. Superficial results but a place to start. In terms of problem area identification, the lower level students were teacher reliant, the post-grad students were more able to work it out themselves. One teacher has been quoted as saying “I know what my students need, I tell them what to do”…needs a bit of re-education.

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Michelle’s plan was to get both the teachers and students involved in her action research, through learner journals and through take up of change/meetings/reflective writing for the teachers. Students had two major writing tasks – short report and longer problem/solution essay. She did a learning survey in week 2 and 9, students are invited to join a closed class FB page (generally successful and sought after by ss). The students fed back that they didn’t understand the purpose of the report, they had trouble writing questions…because the task was designed to give them autonomy as to what went into the report and they had to reflect on it on a weekly basis in their journal. Michelle created an FB page for discussion and sharing of ideas among teachers and wanted meetings to focus more on task design, learning strategies and indirect metacognitive strategies used in daily classwork (rather than just administrative stuff).

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The changes made

Another survey showed the following positive changes between early on in the course and late on in the course.

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Their journal entries relating to the various aspects of Michelle’s project also showed positive feedback:

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Teacher engagement during the project was mixed:

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In terms of future directions, Michelle is looking to build on what has been done so far…

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The product to process is because most teachers favoured a product approach due to time limitations but Michelle wants to explore alternatives.

IATEFL 2016 How to optimise EAP tutorial time: introducing the 20-minute fix

David Jay is from Anglia Ruskin University and will talk about EAP tutorial time.

In this 20 minutes, David is going to tell us a story. A story of the last 5 years and insights from that, which will be followed by a ten-minute discussion for adapting the ideas to our context.

The story begins in 2011, when David was asked to look after the in-sessional support service which at that time was a drop-in service that took place 2 hours per week. Any students who needed help with Academic English and skills were welcome, including undergrad and postgrad students from three different faculties.

It tended to go wrong in two different ways. A load of students would arrive at once, all wanting help, from a range of backgrounds and with a range of needs. Meaningful support was difficult to offer. Otherwise, one student would turn up with an essay and ask him to proofread it. He felt he was ending up marking their work but the input was superficial as only surface errors would be dealt with in the time available. It was also too teacher-centred.

The first change was to make it appointment-based with one appointment per week limit. Where possible, work would be sent in advance (with a maximum of 500 words at least 24hrs in advance of the appointment). Student feedback was positive. Not a very original system, he says. (And indeed, yes, we have something similar at Sheffield Uni ELTC!) 

David settled on 20 minutes as a good length of time for tutorial as it provides enough time for 1-1 consultation, in terms of diagnosing problems and giving clear guidance. Crucially, it’s not long enough for it to end up being proofreading. He structured it as follows:

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How does it work in practice? The introductory tutorial:

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The length of time and focus on identifying resources that will be used encourages autonomy.

Good resources:

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Another resource: www.griffith.edu.au/englishhelp

A writing consultation:

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David thinks that 20 minutes is the right length of time as the sessions help develop learner confidence and practical training in personal agency which will help with future using office hours effectively. For tutors, it is enough time for diagnosis and support but maintains focus on autonomy. For other stakeholders, it optimises service uptake.

david.jay@anglia.ac.uk

Twitter: @cambthink

IATEFL 2016 Ten great educators and their legacy (Alan Maley)

This one intrigued me! Who will be the ten chosen ‘great educators’ and what IS their legacy?

Alan says he only has 30 minutes but has two days’ worth to say. Perhaps won’t be able to say all of it…

He kicks off with a poem by that well-known poet Anon. It may not matter. Very nice.

Why bother with the past? It gives us some perspective on the present, it brings humility and recognition, it is a reminder of what we may have forgotten, it gives courage and comfort, it gives inspiration for the future.

Alan thinks there are two major views of education.

Education as instruction, characterised by its being directive, using controlled prescribed input, this leads to predicted intake (what we teach is what is learnt), places emphasis on language system (i.e. here, English), teaches the subject matter, focus is on technique and assessment is heavy.

Education as ecology: it is responsive, the input is flexible, the emphasis is on language use, it teaches the person rather than the subject.

Dewey: education is about people, helping them fulfil their potential

Rudolph Steiner: the child is the centre of education, there should be a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual activity.

Montessori: each child born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than a ‘blank slate’ waiting to be written on. Adapt the environment to suit the children not the other way around. Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed (i.e. don’t get in the way).

A S Neil: happiness is the goal of education. Hate breeds hate and love breeds love.

Ashton-Warner: Start from where the child is. No need to plan, trust in the organic process with the kids.

Paulo Freire: Marxist revolutionary in Brazil mainly involved in literacy programmes, believed in the link between literacy and freedom. Very against the banking system of education. (You bank knowledge and pay it back in tests) You can’t tell people what they need to know, you need a dialogic process.

David Horsburgh: Vertical classrooms. Taught practical things. Boys were taught embroidery, girls were taught motor mechanics. His teachers were not ‘trained’ because he didn’t want to have to retrain them. Competition, rewards and tests are all negative factors. A wide curriculum is important.

John Holt: School is a very negative influence on children. Teaching gets in the way of desire to learn and creativity. Against institutionalised education. Schools are full of fear, confusion and boredom. The true test of intelligence is not how much you know how to do but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.

Dorothy Heathcote: Drama should be at the heart of education. The curriculum should be evolved as you go along, with what the children bring to it.

Ken Robinson: Education should foster diversity but instead it’s getting narrower and narrower.

So what are schools for then? Custodial care (keeping them off the streets), social conformity (making sure they don’t rock the boat), sorting kids into categories (who passed, who failed), education (teaching them? helping them learn?). Education is only a minor part of school life!

Summary of the great educators’ beliefs:

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These are the common features of these educators’ beliefs and what they are advocating. How do they match up with the current ethos?

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No match at all. So you have a complete mismatch between the educators that everybody bows down to and the actual practice taking place. If we go on in this way, we are going to have problems because we are condemning future generations of kids to failure and there’s too much failure around at the moment as it is. We need to create a groundswell of opinion which will favour change – not just more of the same. Not necessarily revolutionary change, you can make small changes too.

 

 

IATEFL 2016 You tell me! Practical ideas for student-led tasks in ESAP (Anne Heaton)

Well, I had been planning to go to the ELTJ debate about teacher training, after lunch, but then my interview slot with IATEFL Online clashed with the start so instead I am attending Anne Heaton’s talk on student-led tasks in ESAP. Anne is Associate Director of Pre-sessional English Courses¬†at Coventry University.

Anne starts by talking about the general to specific continuum. You could use this activity in an EGAP class to get students used to the idea. Start with some gaps in the chart for the students to fill in:

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Thinking more specifically about general to specific¬†in my subject¬†we are going to take “EAP” as our subject. We are going to look at the same activity.

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The best way to do it is using post-it notes which they can then freely move around. This means you can add in different layers/categories to the spectrum/chart. We tried it out:

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These are the principles of the tasks we are looking at today:

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Where Ann works, there are 8 intakes a year and within that 1000 student enrolments. They have two large pre-sessionals, one pre-September and one pre-January. Students have a wide variety of destination subjects (60). As there are so many students, tutors with a wide range of experience end up working there at busy times. Until 2014, the courses were EGAP institution generic courses. There is an even split between postgrads and undergrads. The majority are from China, followed by Middle East. BA in International Business is the biggest subject and B.A. in Business-related subjects make up the majority of students. Same with the post-grads.

Ann outlined the differences between EGAP and ESAP:

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It is set up as a dichotomy but the two co-exist in reality. In 2014 they decided to make a move towards an ESAP approach. Not to lose the EGAP but to sit ESAP alongside it. Difficulties included establishing collaboration with subject specialists but information is needed from them as we aren’t experts; dealing with ‘odd’ subjects; deciding how to group students when there is a mix of undergrad and postgrads; managing the issue of teachers feeling underprepared to teach.

They have re-named it EIMS (English in my subject) to emphasise it is language not content. This is a typical timetable:

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They use a parallel structure so that the same task type or skill will be introduced across all EIMS groups but it will be tailored content-wise to the specific subject. As much as possible, they get students to generate the ideas, students positioned as experts in their subject. Students can tailor an activity to their specific interests.

Our next task was:

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Different reporting verbs can be used to indicate the writer’s stance in relation to what is being quoted. Agreement and disagreement are introduced and continued differently. In the ESAP classroom students would have looked at a similar activity in their EGAP lessons and might do something like this in relation to their own subject to practice it and make it more motivating. All the teacher has to do is find a contentious view within the specific subject and it can generate a lot of discussion. The teacher can also get the student to come up with the view as well. It works well set as homework so that students have time to think about it. Students within a subject will come from different backgrounds. Students can be allowed to put forward their own views or from the literature. They write it on a piece of paper, teacher collects them all and redistributes so that students respond to the view using reporting verbs.

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One thing that they are looking to do more now from this year is to look at different genres of academic writing. The pre-sessional course focuses almost exclusively on essays because they occur in all disciplines and are the most frequent genre overall. Most EAP lecturers tend to come from a background where they are familiar with essays. Therefore they are easier to teach and to test. But Ann wants to move to a wider genre focus. The approach is to use the students as “chief investigator in their discipline” (De Chazal).

This is what students will have to do:

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Students can look in the British Council writing for a purpose website to find out more and there are activities to help them. They are also encouraged to use corpus tools to help inform themselves, such as Sketch Engine, where searches can be narrowed by text type:

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Student feedback has been positive so far.

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IATEFL 2016 Tackling Native Speakerism (Marek Kiczkowiak, Burcu Akyol, Christopher Graham, Josh Round)

After this morning’s plenary, I couldn’t resist coming to this session to see the discussion continue. This time it’s a panel of speakers rather than Silvana holding the fort alone, and I have to say I am surprised that there aren’t more people here!

Marek introduced the session, telling us that there will be about half an hour the panel talking and then the discussion will open to the floor. He of course alluded to this morning’s plenary and what a difficult act it is to follow.

(Edit: It was tricky keeping up with everything, so please use the comments to let me know if you think I’ve made a mistake/missed something!)

The panel are:

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The plan is:

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We start by looking at a job ad from TEFL.com. As Silvana mentioned, such ads are common. Depending on where you are in the world, between 72 and 88% of ads request native speakers.

What is Native Speakerism? It was coined Adrian Holliday in 2005. Like other isms, it’s a kind of discrimination/prejudice/bias. Teachers are classified on the basis of their mother tongue. Those who fit the native speaker description get a better deal, those who don’t will often struggle. In Japan,¬†Houghton and Rivers¬†pointed out that Holliday’s definition was limited as it also affects Native Speakers there, in that they can only lead conversation classes so development is limited.

It influences professional opportunities, recruitment policies, teacher training, SLA research with its monolingual bias where the native speaker is the ideal model. However, it can be tackled in various ways, which is what this session is going to look at. For example, proactive research that doesn’t separate NS and NNS into two different species and rather than identifying problems offers solution. There will also be reference to examples of bottom-up action, top-down action and how to be involved and committed to this.

Burcu Akyol

She started learning English at Middle School. Her whole learning experience took place in Turkey. She wants to tell us about IATEFL 2009 in Cardiff, her first experience. Her presentation had been rejected by another organisation due to not being a native speaker. Teachers want to listen to native speakers, she was told. After that bitter experience, she expected few people in her session at IATEFL and was then shocked to have around 60 people in her room. This was a big turning point for her, in terms of of her perception of herself as a Turkish English teacher. Things are changing. Turkish presenters may not be turned down but they may have fewer audience members. As Silvana pointed out this morning, over 80% of English teachers are NNS. So we need to talk about this discrimination issue more openly.

In Turkey learning English is considered very important. Policy makers decided to employ a large number of NS teachers to teach alongside NNS teachers. There have been similar attempts in other countries: to import NS teachers to cure ‘the problem’. However, after 2011 there was no more said regarding that policy announcement. Fortunately. Policy makers need to support NNS language development and teaching skills. This will produce more permanent results than employing 40,000 NS.

It’s not about being NS or NNS, it’s about being qualified. Both have strengths and weaknesses, things found easier and more difficult. We need to free ourselves from our prejudices and stereotypes, leave aside prejudices to really talk about education.

Christopher Graham

He is lucky because when he qualified as a teacher, with a British passport as a NS there were lots of opportunities. It was great. Someone said to him, why has he got involved with this TEFL Advocacy movement because he thinks EVERYONE should have these opportunities. His interest comes from reflecting on his own personal luck. The plenary this morning was a significant moment. The issue has now gone mainstream. It has been around for a long time, some of the research is quite old, but now we are talking about it. Trouble is, talking doesn’t get things done, we need to start DOING something.

One thing that Christopher has done is write about it. He found a bunch of people like Marek, offered them some questions to answer and had some incredible viewing figures. He also had nasty hate mail such as “You are betraying your tribe”. (Wow…) However, the point is, we can all write, blog, Facebook, to get the message out there. 96% of the teachers Christopher works with are NNS teachers teaching in their own countries. He asked for a university posters to be taken down, with “Native Speaker” above his picture. Amongst certain communities there is a perception that “Native Speaker” is something special. A lot of bilingual and NNSTs can be their own worst enemies. So Christopher has started bringing this up as a topic. Some people think he is just trying to flatter/win brownie points. But then they also see the possibility of being valued. So he spends time talking about what NNS bring to the party. It is tremendously important to do this. To sow seeds.

He also thinks its important to say he does have sympathy with the small private school owner working somewhere with the 20 year long USP of the Native Speaker. It’s like telling McDonalds to go vegan. Change will be a slow process to go through… He is not pretending that bilingual speakers (and monolingual!) need language support has part of professional development. It is a question of going out there and doing something. If it makes one teacher feel more positive about looking for employment, then that’s already something!

Josh Round

Josh has been a DoS for 10 years, in London. UK-centric context. As a DoS of course he is a recruiter. It’s about having a fair and equal process. The starting point is having an Equals Ops policy and a mission statement. Inclusiveness would be a good word to have in a mission statement – applies to staffing as well as students. If there is an HR department (unusual), they can help, otherwise it comes down to the DoS. Instead of having shortlisting filters that look at L1 and country of origin, look at the competencies needed for your teaching team. Pedagogical skills, language proficiency, behaviours. These become your recruitment criteria. The process has to be quite systematic. Needs a system that minimises bias and has a balance of perspectives.

The next thing is this idea that students only want native speakers. In Josh’s experience that’s not true, as Silvana’s myth-debunking research showed. Students want and value other things i.e. having a great teacher (who could be native or non-native ¬†– and bad and good are present in both categories!). It is important to say that English proficiency has to be talked about. This is the difficult decision area. If you are open about your approach, at some point you need to make a judgement call on level of proficiency. “Native speaker competence required” should be moved away from, instead “competent user of English” – but what does it mean? This can be a difficult area for recruiters. Managers who do recruit NNS say that students will sometimes complain and that the most common complaint is accent and pronunciation. Of course NS teachers have some special accents too.. So what do we mean? And of course English is a world language which students will need to deal with in the real world. So let’s have different varieties on the team to expose students to.

Be ready to deal with complaints. They’ll come along. Have your strategies and deal with them in the same as any other. What do they want? What do they think they need to learn the language effectively? Then educate them. Also important to be transparent, celebrate the strengths of your team and that becomes your selling point. NNEST CAN be best. Be open in your process and if the best candidate is NNEST, then go for it. They can offer a lot, as has been discussed. On a team of teachers, you need diversity to offer different, complementary skill-sets. Recruiters who have positive experiences of this kind of recruitment should share it, get it out there. ¬†It’s about raising awareness.

Question/comment/story time

  • Teacher trainer in Egypt:¬†only NS working with bilingual teachers, gets lots of daft questions from middle management e.g. when should be give the children sandwiches? can you take this class because you are an NS. How to deal with this kind of situation in a positive, proactive way? What to say when put in that situation? Josh:¬†Suggest some kind of meeting or focus group with teachers and managers. Audience 1 (bilingual teacher): Josh’s idea is one, but also dealing with it in a natural way. “Sure I can do that but not because I am a native teacher but because I can handle the sandwiches or whatever.” So it’s not the fact of being born in a particular country that gives you skills, point that out gently. Audience 2: When it comes to the sandwiches, it’s a culture problem. Sandwiches is British therefore… Teacher trainer: wants to offer teachers sessions etc but it’s the middle management that are the real challenge as she has less access to them. Audience 3: If you really don’t think should be the one doing the sandwiches – “I could but I think soandso would be better doing it.”
  • (Audience) Teachers association perspective, South of Germany: a couple of years ago in first year as chair, uncomfortable with the fact that job adverts on the website were being accepted with NS speakers only. Didn’t know what to do about it, wasn’t until she came across Marek’s website that it’s illegal to do this, as goes against the charter of human rights. With this piece of ammunition, she felt she had the courage to say to potential employers that the adverts wouldn’t be accepted as it contravenes international law. The feedback was positive in terms of hadn’t thought of that before and were willing to change it to something acceptable e.g. proficient in English. Encourage your local association to do this, to disallow this kind of advert. Josh: a lot of influence may lie in management associations. Marek: native-like is a bit like a requirement for man-like strength and bravery. It is discriminatory. If you say C1/C2 level at least it is something that a bilingual teacher can attain, unlike “native-like”. A proficiency level is much fairer.
  • Audience: The idea is going against “native” as the norm. To get around it. According to the Fair List, if the two sexes are represented equally among the plenaries, then they get a tick. Would IATEFL 2016 get a tick if such a thing existed for NS-NNS? Marek: No and a half? Audience 2: feels she has been treated as a pseudo-native speaker, which is a whole other level of discrimination. Christopher Graham: It takes time. A lot of people don’t know about the EU law and that is a great stick. Audience 3: We need to move away from a yes-no tick. How can we create more a community and avoid the hate mail discussion. We need to be careful not to antagonise. Christopher: the haters were mostly Johns (re Silvana’s speech) – blokes of his age, mainly Brits living in South East Asia.
  • Teacher trainer in Oxford: Not much to be done about that kind of people but on CELTA courses where she is there are a mixture of NS and NNS, which is an opportunity to get groups to cooperate. I’m a Non-Native Speaker here me roar! Exec Room 7 11am.
  • Audience (bilingual speaker): two years ago at IATEFL giving a talk to an audience of teachers, about teaching unplugged. Live listening was mentioned, using the teacher as a source of listening to the learners. An NNS was angry because she didn’t feel that solved her problem. That mindset is problematic. That NNST do feel less than NS. It is an issue.
  • Audience (bilingual speaker): A key question is teacher development – it’s how we differentiate teachers. Most teachers in Brazil are B1/B2 tops and there is nothing being done to deal with that. When she was doing her CELTA, a key point of development for her was language proficiency, she was advised to do a language certificate. There is a myth that talking about a teacher’s language level is offensive but she doesn’t feel it is. Why don’t we actually talk about a proficiency level for teachers, what IS a good level of proficiency for English teachers in general (NS or NNS!) Marek: Agree, you can’t be a maths teacher without knowing maths and there are different levels of knowing maths. Same in English. However, important to remember that proficient speaker does not necessarily equate to proficient teacher. Of course if you are low-level, you need to improve it. But we need to avoid an obsession
  • Audience (Nepal): Nepal is multilingual, ethnically complex. In his class, the students come from 10 different language backgrounds. Students rejected a teacher because they couldn’t understand what she said. The problem was her accent was a native speaker accent. From his perspective, a level of proficiency is needed but who designs the test? How is he or she judged? If an NS develops a test, an NNS may not get the level but they may still be suited to teaching in a different country. For example, IELTS, a teacher may not get 7 but may be a good teacher in a particular context.

Wrap up (Marek )

There are lots of positives. TESOL International, TESOL France with public statements. Lots of websites are changing the way they are hiring teachers. EU Legislation helps but there is still the issue of “Native level of fluency”. There are also different levels of qualification required depending on language background. (E.g. a native speaker only required to have a Batchelor degree while a non-native speaker is required to have a Masters or a PhD!)

Ours is a strange profession, which accepts discrimination. What makes or breaks a teacher is passport and mother tongue. It is time to change that.

Visit the TEFLEquity website for more information.