IATEFL 2016 What is this thing called Academic English Language Proficiency? (Dr Pamela Humphreys)

Pamela works in Australia at a University in Queensland, in the area of in-sessional support. She also has many years of pre-sessional experience.

The number of students studying in English language contexts has increased massively since 1975 (0.8m) – in 2012 it was 4.5m and rising. “All the known world has a second language for advanced education” (Brumfit). English language proficiency is a critical factor for academic performance according to Cho and Bridgeman.

Let’s start with communicative competence, term coined by Hymes in the 60s but it was the work of Canale and Swain in the 80s that gave us this framework. Conceptual frameworks in academic education draw on this framework. In Canale and Swain, grammatical competence is joined by discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence and strategic competence. Since then, the framework has undergone several iterations. Bachman takes strategic competence out, subdivides the competencies into organisational (grammatical and textual) and pragmatic competence (illocutionary and sociolinguistic).

What’s quite interesting is that despite the fact we have 30-40 years of knowledge of these competencies, we don’t know how they interact or the relative weightings, of importance. Pamela also wanted to find out how they interact with academic english proficiency.

Cummins came up with Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)  and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).

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He shows that the latter takes longer to develop and that there is little transference between the two. This was talking about children. Pamela wanted something similar for adults in higher education. A conceptual or theoretical model for Academic English Language Proficiency. She couldn’t find anything. Though there is a lot of information relating to academic discourse. We know a lot about it. EAP/ESP/ESAP, genre analysis, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and academic literacies.

“Academic writing is not a single undifferentiated mass but a variety of subject-specific literacies” (Hyland, 2002:352)

She found four models.

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Murray has a tripartite system. Academic literacy is not just study skills or socialisation but a plural literacies about social practice and making meaning, about identity and power. Professional literacies are what they need once the move into their working environment post-study. English language proficiency is something that can be cashed in to develop these other skills. Is there a threshold that students must surpass before they can develop these other literacies?

This vertical conception of academic literacy was criticised, of course. Harper, Prentice and Wilson include the same notions but with no threshold, they can be developed concurrently, not necessarily equally, but concurrently. They believe there is a core that can be used in all three contexts, everyday, professional and academic.

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O’Loughlin and Arkoudis (2012) take a different approach, dividing it into entry into higher education, time spent in education and the exit. The student lifecycle option. At entry they need a general academic communicative ability but as they go through their degree they need to develop more specific communicative language ability, specific to the discipline and by the time they graduate they need to have developed the language and skills necessary for their future trajectory.

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Mahboob in his Language Variation Model is talking about how language varies in different contexts with different uses.

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So he talks about the uses, the user and the mode. Uses can vary from the everyday to the specialised (including academic). Mode can vary from written to oral. Another dimension not shown is time. This gives rises to 8 different domains. Probably all of the last four apply to academic contexts.

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In terms of a summary, if we draw on all these frameworks, we know that language requires multiple competences, that there are varying contexts of use and proficiency should/can change over time. Pamela wanted to bring it all together to make one conceptual framework. (The frameworks we have looked at are conceptual not validated.)

She comes up with:

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She has three competences, three contexts of use (seen quite a lot in the academic frameworks) and they all intersect. She doesn’t think the lines are solid. The third aspect is proficiency, as we hope it will improve in the course of doing a degree.

It can show different levels of development:

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It can show change over time:

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So that is her conceptual framework. How can we use it? It can be used for key stakeholders in the industry who are not experts, people who don’t understand what language is about but need to. Could also be used with teachers and students. It could be used to help in curriculum development, to track what has been included. What you tick or want to tick will depend on your context e.g. pre-sessional may not include the professional tick. At least it would be a principled decision. With students, you could use it as means of finding out what students feel confident and less confident about.

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Of course language is very complex, so underlying this 3×3 is the complexity of what we have already see, so we can unpack this. So we as linguistics can unpack the different aspects involved in each square.

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Here are Pamela’s references:

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p.humphreys@griffith.edu.au

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IATEFL 2016: The LDT Toolkit (Damian Williams)

Damian starts by asking us what LDT stands for. It’s Language Development for Teachers. There are different ways for describing it. He chose this because it’s the same as the name of the specialism for Delta module 3. It also emphasises the developmental aspect.

Teacher development is often split into teacher education for teaching teachers about teaching and teacher training. Teacher training is more about developing skills e.g. CELTA, Delta, Trinity, with a very practical element. Continuing professional development is everything else e.g. webinars, conferences etc. He feels that LDT overlaps between them, as it is learning knowledge but also developing skills.

He wanted to find some figures of what the numbers of NESTs and NNESTs around the world are.

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Bigger numbers now, of course.

A lot of conference talks are based around the private language sector when in actual fact it’s a very small proportion of the language teaching that goes on in the world today. Damian lived in Brazil for 10 years and one of the things he was doing there was running workshops for teachers, on behalf of publishers. It was a thing they did for their best customers. Most of the teachers came from state schools with very large classes. A lot of the feedback was “this is great, sounds brilliant, but my reality of 30-40 kids, this wouldn’t work”.

There are some key issues involved here.

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First of all, definitions. We should all just be called teachers regardless of where we are from (rather than NEST and NNEST etc.) Damian asked people to answer some questions via FB groups but it’s complex!

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Most English spoken in the world today is as a second or foreign language. TEFLEquity are trying to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in recruitment etc.

Language proficiency is the focus of this talk. Why? Firstly, there isn’t much about in terms of published materials that does it already. Here are a few examples that do:

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Most TT courses focus on methodology and skills, where there is a language component it tends to be language awareness and looking at language as a system as opposed to practical uses. There is a lack of time on these courses, as there is a lot to do and get through. Building a language component into that would take too much time. Cullen (1994) quotes Berrry (1990) quotes lots of Polish teachers saying that their main use of English was in their classroom with their students, so they don’t get to practice English much outside the classroom. The demands of CLT adds even more pressure. Most teachers that Cullen spoke to wanted it. He says this in his article:

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Initial considerations

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  • Is this a GE course for general improvement or an ESP course specifically related to teaching? Damian opted for the latter.
  • What proportion of a course should it be? Damian wants to build it into the other components of the course.
  • How to incorporate experience? Damian heard a lot of “this is great but it wouldn’t work in my situation”  – how to deal with that?

Cullen sets out four approaches to LDT.

  1. ‘ignore’ it – do all the other development through the medium of English
  2. include an LDT component (does take a lot of time)
  3. link methodology and language work – using English as a medium of instruction but an add-on where you start to analyse the language used as well.
  4. make LDT central – give language lessons as you would normal but also demonstrate practice.

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Next, we try some activities within this approach. E.g. look at statements about error correction and agree/disagree with them. Some of the language is highlighted:

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Focus on the highlighted expressions.

  • Look at the expressions highlighted in yellow. Which have a positive or negative meaning? Which mean a large/small quantity?
  • Look at the expressions highlighted in green. For each one decide Does it have a positive/negative meaning? What other part of the text does it refer to? What do you think it means?

Next, Damian ‘sets up an activity’. Work in pairs. Each pair has a set of pictures that are the same but different. Pairs should describe their pictures to each other and find ten differences. Don’t show your partner your picture. Damian gives the instructions. Then we should answer questions about the demonstration.

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The next activity is mini-bingo. Students write down one-word answers for themselves in the boxes and, comparing their answers in pairs, get a bingo each time theirs is the same as their partners. We are asked to practice eliciting feedback from a student who has done this activity. The first time A is going to be the teacher finding out the answers from B the student. A’s are given an extra instruction with B’s looking away!

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Next, roles are changed and B’s get a different instruction.

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If we’re doing this in an LDT classroom, there are then some reflective questions.

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So this is partly an experiential approach, using Kolb’s cycle. We learn by doing and reflecting on what we have done. The CELTA is like a driving test, but says you are safe to be let loose on the classroom, it’s then through the years spent in the classroom that you really learn. Many teachers have many years of classroom experience, what we are doing is feeding into that experience within the circle. Teachers try things out, take them into the classroom and use them, then reflect on them.

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As Kirsten Holt said in her session yesterday:

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Other ideas for activities:

  • keeping logs/reflective journals e.g:

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  • Try out keywords/key phrases in class e.g. I need you to do x rather than Do x
  • Categorising phrases for different aspects of the lesson
  • Technique ‘bingo’ during observations
  • Encourage forums/online discussions helps with the idea of building confidence through sharing experiences
  • Matching phrases used in class to a list of techniques

This is all very kind of initial, Damian’s initial thoughts, but thinks there is a lot of scope for it.

 

IATEFL 2016 Demanding higher in EAP – silently (Michelle Hunter)

Michelle Hunter’s talk is about demanding higher in ELT – silently! She asks us how we have been getting on so far with the conference. This is a talk, she feels like it is more a case of talking between us all rather than death by powerpoint. The belief system she is growing within herself is that we are all equals despite being diverse and so it’s let’s share ideas!

She is a firm believer in silence although she is not always very good at it. She has experienced the power of being silent in the classroom and hopes higher level thinking goes on in that quiet space. She will explain what she means by silence – does not mean The Silent Way, but a silence that is full of attention and generative listening. Silence with a purpose. She got her ideas from a person called Nancy Klein who demonstrates her belief system in the way she communicates. NK has been around for 25-30 years now.

She used silence to demand higher of her students, by not jumping in and offering an answer but giving students more time to think for themselves. She is going to tell us how she learnt to do that. She is also going to share some examples from her teaching context (in Germany at one of the universities).

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This applies even more so to doing things in another language. Michelle noticed in the world of academic English that it is less about perfecting your English and more about learning how to think academically. (This was on a 6 week pre-sessional) Students need to be able to be critical, evaluate, think at the higher order levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, have rigorous and coherent arguments and come up with really good, strong ideas. How do you come up with an idea if you can’t sit and think about it quietly? Or with a teacher to sit and listen to those ideas and help you further them? So Michelle has a group of people who need to think rigorously in a second language and she wants them to do that by pushing them further.

Michelle discovered that lots of people have looked into giving people more time to think, it has been around for quite a while as a concept, and wondered why we don’t do it more often. In a lesson observation, Michelle held silence for 20 seconds possibly longer. She did some further research into the topic and discovered that Stahl changed the word from wait time to thinking time. Then in Scott Thornbury’s A-Z blog, there is a post on silence which deals with 7 different writers, one of whom looked at the pros and cons of silence. Silence can be activating is one that caught her eye.

Michelle shows us Nancy Kline and asks us to substitute ‘teaching’ for ‘coaching’. She says ‘Equate coaching (teaching) with generative attention not just input’. ‘For coaches (teachers) to create the conditions for independent thinking….they first of all have to be interested…in where the client will go next in their thinking.’ Michelle has shared her video on the website that we can access on http://www.demandhighsilently.com

The basis of Michelle’s silence in the EAP classroom, and her ability to do think time rather than jump in, breaks into ten components.

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Attention is probably the most valuable thing we can give to another human being. Totally focused, uninterrupted, non-judgemental with generative listening. Through that attention, a brain can work and function, knowing it’s not going to be interrupted and come up with great ideas. Somehow your brain knows that I am curious, interested etc. If you wait, you can see the cogs turning and the thinking happening, so that someone can come up with their own answer to a question.

Ease is an important element in the classroom. If you create ease, then there is a safe place to work in and the brain doesn’t get frozen by emotion.

Appreciation (example of a teacher who was reported as spending ten minutes telling each child how special they are, in a special needs classroom). 3-1 is great. 5-1 is better. 13-1 is overkill. In terms of positive to negative feedback. So give positive feedback more often than negative feedback. Neuro pathways open up when you feel appreciated. So your brain works better. Not empty praise, but appreciation. E.g. thank you for coming.

Michelle wanted to test out something more concrete in her classroom. She tried out Thinking Rounds in Class. You use it in the opening and closing of a class. Sit in a circle and the stipulation is, everybody has a chance to speak, about a question asked at the beginning. E.g. Share something about something positive that  happened to you last week. This sets up an atmosphere of positivity in the room, which opens up the brain and that creates a more constructive working environment. The feedback from this process was very positive – that everyone got a chance to speak and knows they wouldn’t be interrupted and could finish their thought to the end. A form of equality. The closing round was one round to say what went well and then the appreciation round (Saying what you appreciate about the person next to them in the round). One group did it really well, one group was a bit giggly. To round off the whole process was a writing exercise – how you see a thinking environment and what do you think it could bring you. (The lesson on the thinking environment will be on the website)

Michelle was aiming to adapt what she learnt about coaching to use in her teaching. She hopes we can find something useful in what she has shared, some elements to take away. She finished by introducing herself!! She lives and works in Germany, has done some pre-sessionals at Bristol University.

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! 🙂

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.