2017 (Or, how to set better goals!)

Happy new year, everybody! The first 10 days of 2017 seem to have flown by. For my first post this year, I’m going to write about resolutions and effective goal-setting.

On Sunday I delivered a workshop as part of the Teaching Listening course that forms part of this year’s EVO.

(To quote EVO and explain what it is:  Every year in January and February, the Electronic Village Online (a project of TESOL’s Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section) brings together English language educators from around the world to engage in free, collaborative, online professional development sessions. Last year, we had over 8,165 participants in 14 sessions.)

My session focused on helping learners become more autonomous listeners and the main task the participants will do this week is to set up an out-of-class listening scheme to use with their learners; considering, amongst other things, about what they want the learners to do, how they will introduce the different elements to the learners, how they will help learners to maintain their motivation. Of course, within my session, within the discussion on motivation, I talked about the importance of goal-setting and the features of an effective goal according to Dornyei and Ushioda (2012). Here is my slide which summarises these:


I always make New Year’s Resolutions. There is something magical about the beginning of a new year, and the potential it holds, that gets me really excited and I enjoy making my resolutions as a way of sizing up that potential and giving it some form. Usually, however, my resolutions are a bit fluffy and I forget about them fairly soon afterwards. This year, in order to help myself not to forget about them, I have copied them into a sticky note on my desktop so that I am reminded every day of the things that I set out to do. I also tried to make them more specific than usual, so that I can actually tell not only when I have achieved them but measure my progress along the way. It must have been preparing for the EVO workshop that subconsciously made me apply Dornyei and Ushioda’s (2012) principles for effective goals to my resolutions for 2017!

In the interests of gaining (extra) and maintaining motivation on the languages and ELT front, I’m going to communicate my resolutions relating to these areas here. Rather than just a list of goals, I am going walk you through the mental process I went through in making them, shaping them from a vague initial idea into something more specific, tangible and therefore achievable.

  • Learn Arabic. I started learning Arabic last year in around October, as I was going to be volunteering at a secondary academy here in Sheffield, working with a number of learners whose first language was Arabic. That fell through (2016 was one of those years?) and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, the Arabic fell to the wayside too. End of story? Evidently not. I didn’t stop wanting to learn Arabic but the related work situation had demotivated me somewhat so mentally it became easier to ignore both. 2017 seemed like the perfect way to reinvigorate it. First I reflected on why I want to learn some Arabic. Initially, it was instrumental motivation (the work situation). Theoretically, that is still potentially the case as ELT in the UK can often involve working with Arabic L1 students. But that vague possibility won’t in itself be enough to motivate me to study Arabic every day. What about enjoyment? Well, I enjoy learning languages (hence currently studying 11 of them, including Arabic) but why Arabic? I think it appeals because it is (to me) so different. It has an alphabet that doesn’t look like anything to me. Just as English has an alphabet that doesn’t look like anything to Arabic L1 speakers when they first encounter it. I am interested in the process of learning a language with a different alphabet. So, going back to my “Learn Arabic” goal, being as I am not a genius I am not going master Arabic in one year, not even nearly. So if I left my goal at that, I would be setting myself up for failure. I need to make it more realistic. How can I do that? Make it more specific. So my goal became: “Learn to read the Arabic alphabet and speak/write some basic words and phrases.” That seems entirely more realistic, it reflects my motivation for studying, progress will be measurable (by way of the number of letters and eventually words I can recognise and produce – which, by the way, there are more than you might think as they change a little depending on whether they are at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a word!), it is challenging (did you read what I just wrote in the last set of brackets?!). My completion date is 31/12/2017 but I do of course plan to monitor and decide if the goal should be developed before then. It will depend on my progress: there is room for extension!
  • Continue with other languages. Of course. That would be French, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, Romanian, Indonesian, Mandarin. Plus the newly added Dutch and Swedish. But for this resolution to make sense, what exactly am I going to do with them? What counts as “continue with”? I need some parameters. For the first five, this means Memrise plus as much reading, listening, speaking and writing as possible. I’ve found someone with whom I will be able to practice my Italian and French, possibly also some Spanish, and as for Polish there is always my sister’s husband to practice with, when I visit them. I’ve catalogued all my DVDs so that although I don’t have the cases for most of them, I know easily what I’ve got and what language(s) I can play them in. For the second five, I’m going to focus on Memrise and shift into using them when I’ve got a bit more vocabulary. (The cool thing is Polish used to be in that category but now it’s in the “I need to use it” category – that’s progress! The other cool thing is that in the series episode I was watching with my housemate today, there was a bit of Mandarin with English subtitles and I heard and understood three words without the subtitles! For me and Mandarin, that is exciting, believe me!) I have ear-marked particular courses on Memrise that I want to complete and obviously goal way-points will be in evident in the number of words/phrases learnt, number of days in a row studying consistently (or “streak” as they call it – for Polish currently 113!) and how well I do when reviewing stuff.
    This was a motivating way-point!

    This was a motivating way-point!

    As with Arabic, I will monitor my progress and adapt the goal/resolution as necessary. For example to make it include having a pop at watching or listening to something in one of the 5 ‘weak’ languages (or 6, counting Arabic!) if/when I feel it would be worth a go.

  • Do lots of CPD. Do not we all start our year with this resolution? And perhaps renew it if academic year and calendar year don’t coincide (i.e. northern hemisphere), or when feeling inspired at the beginning of a new term. At the moment, for me, this is a tricky one. The only work I’ve got at the moment is a bit of private tuition. I had been all excited about volunteering in an EAL setting but that fell through (as mentioned above – and don’t get me started on academy management organisational skills…) which was a bit of a bump to the motivation. Currently I am also tutoring on the EVO course, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, but that is obviously a very short term thing. An interesting one, though, as it combines my interest in teaching listening and my interest in tutoring teachers! So, it would be easy to let CPD slip. In order to avoid that, I need some specific goals, rather than the nebulous ‘do some CPD’. I will be doing two sessions on the Leeds Beckett M.A. ELT Multimedia and Independent Learning module again this semester and I hope also to deliver a version of my IATEFL talk at the ELTC (I do it free of charge in exchange for the opportunity to work on my workshop delivery skills!). IATEFL itself is another focal point for me, in terms of workshops, as, hopefully, will be doing another British Council TeachingEnglish – related webinar. Additionally, each week I want to watch at least one webinar and read something ELT-related. Finally, as my pet project, I want to make some EAP-related materials in advance of the pre-sessional summer school period. As a specific starting point, I want to make some materials to help students become better able to synthesise sources effectively (this inspired by memories of my colleagues and I feverishly looking for any such resources last summer and not finding quite what we were after!). This will require looking again at the demands/criteria that we were trying to help the students to meet, as these would be similar this year at ISS or, if it turns out that way, other pre-sessional courses, reading relevant chapters from EAP Essentials and other such EAP teaching bibles (de Chazal’s comes to mind, though I forget its name!) and of course the actual materials creation and subsequent editing. Keeping with the weekly timeframe, I will expect myself to make tangible progress each week, which I will monitor via a log.

When I went through the mental thought processes described above, I wasn’t doing it with Dornyei and Ushioda’s (2012) principles in mind, but it’s clear that subconsciously they had an influence. And so I should think, the amount of time I’ve devoted to studying motivation, within learner autonomy, and trying to get students started on their autonomous learning pathways! I think as teachers, if we are able to apply what we want students to do to our own learning (of languages, of teaching) and have a clear idea of how to get ourselves from A to B (A being hazy ideas of goals, B being effective goals), we will be better able to help our learners go through that process themselves in the context of their language learning (if they want to then apply it to their New Year’s Resolutions and other aspects of their life, that is up to them!) with the idea that they leave our classroom better able to map and follow their learning goals. There is no one size fits all goal solution but we can help students become better able to set, and by extension meet, their own objectives more effectively.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do share them in the comments – remember, communicating goals increases the motivation to achieve them! 😉

I hope 2017 is a fulfilling, successful and peaceful year for you all.



Dornyei, Z. and Ushioda, E. (2012) Teaching and Researching Motivation (Applied Linguistics in Action). Routledge.


British Council Webinar Series: Exploring Continuing Professional Development

The British Council TeachingEnglish (TEBC) Webinar series can be found on the TEBC website. This is the link to Paul’s webinar that took place on the 19th May 2016. This is a summary of that webinar.

TEBC summarises the webinar thus:

“He [Paul] talked about the British Council’s CPD framework for teachers and different factors that can influence successful continuing professional development. This webinar explored some of the ways we can focus on our continuing professional development (CPD). We looked specifically at the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers, the self-evaluation tool and resources on TeachingEnglish for professional development.”

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This is the quote that Paul Braddock starts us off with, one that is apparently much-used if you look on Google. However, it’s not as universally accepted as Paul thought before he read around it. The quote has been changed in the following way:

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According to Paul, Husbands (2013) argues that what makes the most different to pupils is teaching. All teachers can be better but it’s teaching that improves and develops. Focusing on teaching focuses on more on the need to work continuously to improve the quality of teaching across schools. This is where CPD becomes essential. Especially as teaching changes and the skills needed change over time. What was a good teacher ten years ago might not be a good teacher now. Teaching needs to be develop.

Paul moves on to look at the 7 things that influence positive professional development, based on a report by Walter and Briggs (2012). What 7 things make professional development a positive thing for you?

Professional Development that makes the most difference to teachers is:

  • concrete and classroom-based (looking at what teachers do in the classroom e.g. action research)
  • brings in expertise from outside the school (Potentially expensive but expense can be kept down by use of webinars, online conferences, social media e.g. blogs)
  • involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake (includes using tools to help you identify your areas for CPD and this is where frameworks come in)
  • enables them to work collaboratively with peers (physically within a context or with an online community of practice – requires time and space!)
  • provides opportunities for mentoring or coaching (again, offline or online includes being a mentor or a coach as well not just being mentored/coached)
  • is sustained over time (an action research cycle with the teacher him/herself as the focus)
  • is supported by school leadership (so the school recognises it’s important despite budget cuts etc.)

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In other words, investment in CPD is useful and worth money.

At this point, Paul introduces the British Council CPD framework:

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It is divided into 12 different aspects of professional practice:

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It is also colour coded by stages of development (Awareness, Understanding, Engagement, Integration). The BC was trying to address the misconception that CPD is linear. This is to be a tool that would more accurately reflect this. It is supposed to empower teachers by providing a framework for them to engage with CPD. Also to be used by groups of teachers for collaboration and cooperation. For more information about each professional practice see the document linked to above. He says it is designed to be flexible and teachers can change/adapt it to better fit their context. The process that you would go through is self-evaluation. The BC are currently developing a self-evaluation tool to help teachers decide which professional practice to focus on. At the integration level, this is where you’d then look at mentoring or coaching.

Next, Paul draws attention to the BC TeachingEnglish website. Within the Teacher Development tab, there is a section for Continuing Professional Development.

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Here, you can find resources linked to each of the professional practices in the CPD framework – articles, blog posts, webinar recordings etc. (Fab! Look forward to exploring this!) The idea is, once you identify areas for your own development, you can use this site as a starting point for research, to support you in your journey. Click on the picture above to visit the page. This is an example of access to outside expertise!

TEBC also already offer out-of-the-box full courses such as Primary Essentials, TKT Essentials, Learning Technologies etc. These run for about 12 weeks, moderated or self-access. They are now thinking about how they can provide training that addresses aspects of the framework more closely. So, they have started to modularise the training, so by next April there will be the option of modules packaged into courses or individual modules you can follow (a module running for about 3hrs of study). This is so that you can bring in some training once you have identified which aspects within the framework that you want to develop.

From the 5th to 9th October, there will be an online conference run by TEBC too. (5th October is World Teacher Day!)

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This CPD-focused conference is being launched to coincide with World Teachers Day.  A date for our diaries! The picture above links to the link shown, for more information. This conference is free and aimed at teachers as well as teacher trainers. It will run from approx. 11 to approx. 4 UK time.

Paul also encourages us to investigate the following names in relation to CPD.

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I’ll stick my neck out here and add Sandy Millin to the list! Her blog has a lot of useful content for developing teachers and also exemplifies reflection/reflective practice.

Here are the links provided by Paul finally:

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NB: You can access the teacher educator framework from the English Agenda website, which is a sister website to TEBC.

It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into producing all these resources to help teachers develop – the frameworks, the accompanying resource curation on the TEBC website, the modularisation of the training courses that is to come. I certainly look forward to trying out a module without having to commit to a whole course.  The abundance of resources available online for teachers looking to develop never ceases to amaze me and this is no exception. Thank you to the British Council and TEBC for doing their part in enabling this – by no means a small part.

Between discussions in the Teacher Education circle at work and watching IATEFL talk recordings such as the one by Kirsten Holt (courtesy of Macmillan) and the one by Shirley Norton/Karen Chambers (also made possible by the British Council!), I have been doing a lot of thinking about these teaching frameworks including the British Council one, so watching this webinar was the next logical step. I’m currently working on a few ideas of my own as to how teachers can use the British Council framework to develop, which should hopefully complement what’s already out there, so watch this space! 

IATEFL 2016 Online: Stick or twist: the teacher to manager dilemma

I’m still enjoying working my way through IATEFL Online 2016 – isn’t it amazing how much quality content is housed in one place?! This session was presented by Shirley Norton and Karen Chambers who both work at the London School of English. You can watch the recording here.

Here is the abstract:

According to recent research, 53% of teachers drift into management unconsciously. This session aims to question why moving to management is considered a promotion and to argue that there are other avenues for teachers to pursue. In addition, it aims to look at the considerations teachers should make in order to make more informed decisions about their future career paths.

I don’t expect you to remember, don’t worry, but this ‘progression to management’ idea is something arose in the first  Teacher Education Circle  discussion. We agreed that not everyone wants to become a manager and that as teacher educators part of ‘our’ role is to help teachers who aren’t interested in management progress nevertheless. (I say ‘our’ – I think I’m more of an aspirant teacher educator than an actual teacher educator!) I’m also one of those pesky teachers who doesn’t want to become a manager but still wants career development. So, I’m keen to catch up with this session as it sounds like it may complement the Teacher Education Circle discussions that I’ve been lucky enough to participate in and provide more food for thought.

In fact, Shirley and Karen start by asking the audience who they are – are teachers who are thinking about becoming managers, teachers who want to develop without becoming managers or are they already managers. There seemed to be a fairly even distribution amongst these roles.

47% of managers drift into management, 35% don’t have any management training at all (possibly rather alarming!) With this in mind, the audience were asked to consider how much time/effort/money their place of work puts into teacher training vs. management training. Then, they were to think about the essential qualities of a good manager and the training needs of a new manager. Shirley and Karen canvassed teachers’ opinions at their schools and the result was this:

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The training needs that Shirley and Karen feel need to be addressed, that weren’t picked out by teachers, are:

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They suggest you won’t get a good manager if you don’t invest in them, i.e. ensuring that they have the skills they need to manage a team. If you want to turn a teacher into a manager, they need management skills.

Next to consider is ways a teacher can develop without going into management. If teachers don’t have that in your institution, you are likely to lose them. You need to give them something interesting, something different to do, to keep them engaged.


  • Materials development: updating existing materials, developing a course (tailored to teacher interest, what course would they like to make new lessons for)
  • Teacher training: actual teacher training (i.e. TESOL); peer teaching (teacher development sessions – teachers are given time in their schedule to prepare and are paid, not just expected to do it in their own time); external stuff (let teachers go to IATEFL, do talks etc: development doesn’t have to all be done in your institute, let them out!)
  • In quieter times, allow teachers to develop skills such as marketing by doing an intern in other departments within the institution
  • Let teachers go and come back. Give them an opportunity to take a low-level risk i.e. work abroad for a year – like a “Sabbatical” – and be able to return afterwards, so basically longer term unpaid leave.
  • If you are part of a franchise, use it – share skills via webinars etc.
  • Take teachers off the schedule, not on cover, not on photocopying duty, they are given a work area and a plan for a project from start to finish for something that will benefit the school, which they will work on with support. A teacher who is not teaching is expensive, but Shirley and Karen feel that it is more costly not to develop teachers, so there should be a budget for it.
  • If you are looking to improve something e.g. social programme, generally you would ask the students and teachers, but with this you get people from all different parts of the school and give them the autonomy to make changes.
  • Academic management roles

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The idea is to give teachers opportunities to develop in different areas and develop new skills.

Anyway, I recommend that you watch the recording to find out more about what Shirley and Karen have done in their school – it sounds really good!

Here are some thoughts of mine after having watched the talk:

  • I think the key thing that institutions can give to teachers in order for development to happen is time. I think anybody would agree that when you already have 10 places to put every minute, it’s difficult to develop, not least because you are too tired to! This is one aspect of my current job that I feel very fortunate in – there are key times that are very busy (e.g. the weeks where you have 25 x 2000 word essays to look at and give feedback on) but generally there is time and opportunity built in for development, and funding available too, e.g. for speaking at conferences.
  • I like the diagram. I think, by and large, though, that the ideas are all quite top-down, in that they rely on being enabled by the powers-that-be at the institution in question. I suppose, thinking back to the point made about the likelihood of losing teachers if you don’t provide development opportunities, it also depends on how fussed the institution in question is about holding on to teachers: do they want to keep as many of their teachers as possible for as long as possible or is a high turnover not really an issue for them?
  • For some reason, the “Career Progression Wheel” diagram really makes me want to make something similar for bottom-up development options. It could be a fun project! <watch this space!>
  • One thing’s for sure, looking at the ‘Training needs of a new manager’ list just reconfirms that management does not even remotely appeal to me! Just as well I don’t feel short of other ways to develop… 🙂

Onestopenglish.com “Author of the Month”

Well, I hadn’t really thought of myself as an “ELT Author” until my editors at Onestopenglish asked me to complete a questionnaire. I feel like it’s still something I’m aspiring towards! Still, working with Onestopenglish has been a lucky start for me.

Rather than any kind of competition, the idea of the Author of the month page is to enable the users of the website to learn a bit more about the authors who write for it:

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I also hadn’t thought of myself as one of an “amazing team of expert authors” (I mean, while I can believe the others are experts, I wouldn’t put myself in the ‘expert’ bracket!), but there we are! I’m honoured to be included on the list as a result of the on-going (but nearly complete) work that I’m doing on Compass with my editors at Onestopenglish as a result of that Macmillan-sponsored ELTon I won a couple of years ago.

I had to answer the following questions:

  • Tell us a little about yourself
  • How would you describe yourself in five words?
  • How did you start your writing career?
  • Where’s the most interesting place you’ve taught?
  • What’s your proudest teaching moment?
  • What’s your most embarrassing teaching moment?
  • What’s your favourite joke?
  • What are your tips for becoming an ELT author?

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To find out my answers to the rest of the questions, you’ll have to visit the page (which you can access by clicking on the photo of it above)!

Thank you, Macmillan/Onestopenglish folk! 🙂

Happy Birthday, Blog…??

So, today this popped up in my comment notifications:

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Whoop whoop! Except…erm…

Seems like last year they sent me this message on the 1st May?! So, really, who knows. I published my first ever blog post on the 8th May 2011, so maybe I should make that my blog’s birthday? Either which way, I can’t believe how old my blog is getting. It’s seen a whole five IATEFL’s, for goodness sake! (Seems strange to think that I have too, come to it. It feels like no time since I won a scholarship to my first one in 2012. And yet…lifetimes too!)

Another year gone (più o meno anyway!) and like all its predecessors, it’s been fairly jam-packed! Being a teacher may be many things – dull is certainly not one of them.

Anyway, Happy (un?)Birthday, Blog! Here’s to another exciting year! 🙂


Networking Macmillan style (Or, my very delayed summary of Kirsten Holt’s webinar!)

I had intended to watch this webinar live, but it turned out that I was away at the time (Easter holiday!) so couldn’t. Thanks to the wonders of technology, and the fact that it is only 45 minutes long, I got to catch up with it during my lunch hour at work! I decided it was worth writing up as Networking is something all us professionals have to do at some point and Kirsten had some useful suggestions for how to do it better…)


When I think of networking, what immediately comes to mind are the ELT publisher networking events at IATEFL conference and, I will confess, a slight shudder runs through me. Being in a big room full of people I don’t know (or only know by sight/name e.g. the Scott Thornburys’ of this world) with the apparent purpose of making conversation is something that thoroughly daunts me. More specifically, the going up to people and starting up the conversation. (Does anyone else feel the same?!) When I think of networking, I think of something I ought to do but would rather avoid. When I think of networking, I think “it’s just not my thing”! So, my hope was that Kirsten Holt (who has taught, trained teachers, been a director of studies and currently works at Macmillan) would give me some ideas for getting over this dread.

First she talked about why.

Why indeed… 😉 

  • It can help you develop outside normal teaching day
  • You can share ideas, knowledge, best practice
  • Because a problem shared is a problem halved: for example, you can discuss what is going on in your classroom etc. with other professionals.
  • It gives you an outward facing ELT profile, enables other people to see your capabilities
  • It can help you develop business relationships (Kirsten has often applied for jobs having met the person in advance)
  • It’s interesting! (hear about opportunities that other people don’t know about)


Start small and develop as you go through. Can be nerve-wracking but is easy to get to grips with. Lots of events from ELT organisations and publishers. (hahaha!)

Go online!

For me, this is interesting! I had never thought of all my online activity as networking until IATEFL this year when I discussed the Cambridge event and my ‘fish-out-of-water’ feelings towards it with one of my old course mates from my M.A. at Leeds Met, and she suggested that I should play to my strengths by avoiding such events and continuing to do what I’m good at doing online e.g. connecting with people via my Blog and Twitter, for example. Kirsten’s suggestions in this area seem to build on that conversation, as far as I am concerned!

Kirsten suggests:

  • FB pages e.g. IATEFL and Macmillan, if someone says something interesting in a comment, send them a message on FB alluding to the comment and asking for more info about it.
  • LinkedIn, also groups like the ELT technologies that you can join. (More information about LinkedIn below)

You can push yourself beyond the norm, beyond your social group. That’s what’s useful about these online resources.

Of course, conferences and other such events put on by Teaching Associations, or events at work where guests also attend, are all potential opportunities for networking too.

Key part of networking: Preparation

Do your research – about the online group (is it right for you, does it match what you want form it) or the event you are planning to attend; plan what you will say to the people you introduce yourself to. Think about the type of people and companies you’d like to  make contact with and do some research. If there is someone you really want to meet, search for them on LinkedIn or for profiles on company websites. It doesn’t work all the time – people might not have their picture up there for example. However, if you’ve seen their face you know who you are looking for and can say, “Hi. You’re blabla” etc. (Hence the earlier point re avoiding dog and flower type profile pictures!)

Make business cards that stand out

(There was I thinking I was doing well by actually having a business card – not to mention, remembering to take them with me to whichever event! Turns out there’s a whole other layer of things to consider!)

  • shape
  • something unsual (Top Trumps style, Bitesize with a bite taken out out…)
  • extra thick

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  • Personalised touch: e.g. editing the card based on what was being talked about at the event.
  • Don’t let the other side of the card go to waste. (E.g. Macmillan have a quote on one side and details on the other)

Vistaprint and Moo are apparently good – you can play around with the design online.


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Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. It’s basically a glorified CV online. It’s also a good idea to adapt it depending where you are headed to so that it is relevant to the areas you are planning to network about. On LinkedIn you can also access groups such as ELT Technologies.  (Hint from me: If you go to your ‘My Groups’ which you can find under ‘Interests’, and go to ‘Discover’ it will show you a ream of groups based on those your contacts are members of. You can then request to join them!) Avoid profile pictures of flowers or dogs!

This year Kirsten is talking a lot about developing teachers so her profile shows what she has done in that area.

Another thing to consider: does it showcase your talents? Use it for self-promotion. Do you have any testimonials? Look at Kirsten’s profile on LinkedIn for an example of this.


If you are catching someone in a brief break between sessions, bear in mind they may be after a comfort break or tea, so keep it snappy (90 seconds to 2 mins tops – if people want to follow up on you later, they will – on LinkedIn etc). What you do, who you work with, what’s your teaching situation. Say what you want to do. “Hi Im Kirsten I work as a publisher in teacher development, I’m interested in teachers who will help me with reviewing material” is the example Kirsten gives. Also try and give a sense of who you are. It’s sharing your personality as much as sharing your life. If you can, have a one-liner, can make you stand out. Practice with your friends and family. Even on your own. Do a little recording of yourself and play it back. Or use a mirror. Kirsten discovered how much she used her hands and now keeps them more contained!

Be aware of how the other person is reacting. If they look bored/disinterested, stop! Don’t waste time talking to people who aren’t interested. Thank them for their time and leave it there. Move on to someone else. Not everybody will be your friend, that’s fine. Don’t take it personally, it’s not meant personally!

General Tips

  • Kirsten says volunteering is good if you find networking daunting. Setting up, marshalling, helping people register – it’s a great way to meet people without taking too much on yourself. Can create more ‘natural’ ways of networking.
  • Show up early – before everyone arrives – there are fewer people to deal with. If you arrive very early and the speaker is setting up, allow them to set up, leave them be, meet other people. If you meet people early on, you might be more memorable.
  • Introduce yourself to the organiser (the person you corresponded with in order to attend the event etc.) and they can introduce you to other people if they have the time. This could help you get going.
  • Have a special number in mind, particularly for larger events like conferences. E.g for the first time maybe 10 people. And then when you achieve it, reward yourself. Or if you are at a talk, the two people next to you is even enough. It’s your special number. Your personal number of how many people you’d like to meet.
  • Be engaged. As you are meeting people, think about your handshake. It stays with you if someone doesn’t have a very good one! Firm and dry is good… And look at the person as you meet them. Show that you are interested. Don’t nod at EVERYTHING but show that you are listening. Building this rapport helps you develop the relationship further. Just as you would with your students, but this time with business contacts.
  • Don’t assume! Think about what you are saying and who you are saying it to. E.g. If you are meeting someone, don’t assume it’s their first time at the event just because it is yours. Or if a person is in work or out of work. “How’s work going?” could be a nonstarter… Wait to hear them describe their job before asking this question. Of course next time you meet them, you could refer back to what they say.
  • Don’t say “do you remember me?”. Think how many students you meet in a term. Teachers. Teacher trainers. People at conferences. People in your personal life. Hundreds of people. So it can be a difficult question to be put on the spot with. In a sea of faces it’s hard to stand out. So if you know the person, remind them how you know each other “I was at x with you, a, b and c were also there, we did y”. A clue is very helpful!
  • Be interested not interesting. Ask the other person questions, don’t just talk about yourself. At the same time, be thinking about what you can offer this person and what you want from them. Remember that they might know another 10 people, one of whom might be the person you really need to speak to.
  • Use your time wisely. If it’s not working with a person you are speaking to, don’t give your card out willy nilly, only give it to appropriate people.
  • Be very specific about who you are, what you do and what you are looking for.
  • Take notes. On the back of their business card is a good place – something to remember them for, something from the conversation. It takes seconds. E.g. “Met at x event, date, interested in y”

What happens after you network?

Log your contacts so that you can remember them. Connect with them on LinkedIn straight away. There is a 48hr window. Don’t let cards sit in the draw in your office or in your conference bag. Make a little contact. I met you at event x and it was interesting to talk about y. You mentioned z and I’d really like to hear more about that. It’s a way to open a conversation and remind them who you are after the event. If it is a large event like IATEFL, up to a week is fine. Once you’ve made contact, don’t bombard them. Don’t send hundreds of emails. A little bit of contact is a follow-up, don’t move into the area of stalking!

Kirsten finishes by saying networking is not a competition, not about numbers, quality is more important than quantity. It’s about using your contacts wisely and having enjoyable conversations with people, sharing ideas and knowledge. (See, this actually sounds more like fun! Maybe this is what I need to remember next time I find myself at an ELT publisher event or similar so that I can enjoy it instead of feeling slightly queasy…)

Thank you, Macmillan and Kirsten! If you are interested in this topic, then I would highly recommend watching the complete webinar here  on the Macmillan Website, it’s freely available and Kirsten is a good speaker, so why not?! Oh, and do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn! 😉 )



Have you heard of TEFLEquity Advocates?

The main purpose of this post is to share some information about a grass roots organisation that I have only recently become fully aware of: TEFLEquity Advocates. The second part of the post highlights a few other related links you might also like to look at.

TEFLEquity Advocates

Hands up if you know about it? Hands up if you knew about it before Silvana Richardson took IATEFL by storm with her fantastic day 2 plenary session? Hands up if you were like me – only vaguely aware of it before IATEFL?

TEFLEquity Advocates is 2 years old. It was set up in April 2014 with the purpose of fighting the discrimination that persists in ELT hiring practices. The about page of their website stresses that it is not only for “non-native speakers” and encourages “native speakers” to get involved as well. Silly labels that we are currently stuck with aside (for an explanation of why they are ridiculous, have a look at this post of mine!), basically what’s important is that it is for EVERYBODY who works in ELT. And if you are reading my blog, that probably means YOU too.

Even though, as I mentioned, I was vaguely aware of TEFLEquity Advocates before IATEFL, I hadn’t realised quite how extensive their website is. (It’s fantastic!) I figure that if I wasn’t aware, then there are probably others out there who now know about TEFL Equity, due to the prominence at IATEFL enjoyed by the issues that it treats, but don’t know about it and all the wonderful resources you can find on the website. Hence this post.


TEFLEquity Advocates has a whole section dedicated to useful resources:  You can find such gems as a reading list of academic papers relating to “NEST and NNEST” issues, complete with hyperlinks to help you access these; a list of blogs that also focus on these issues, again complete with hyperlinks; a list of anti-discrimination statements made by various organisations and finally a list of Facebook groups that you could join, in which these issues are discussed.

Get Involved

It also has a section dedicated to suggestions for ways for YOU to get involved, including joining a list of current supporters (on my list right now!), links to a couple of surveys that you could complete which would contribute to the website founders’ research on the issues it treats, and a badge that you can add to your blog or website. It looks like this:


Put this on your blog or website and link it back to the TEFLEquity Advocates website, please!

Can you see mine, to the top right-hand side of my website?

The Blog

In the Blog section you can read a number of inspiring stories written by teachers (both “NNEST” and “NEST”) who have succeeded against the odds, blog posts written by the website curators (most recently, a post that questions what comes next after Silvana Richardson’s IATEFL 2016 plenary ) and, finally, a “Talk to the Experts” section, which contains a list of links to a wide range of interviews conducted by TEFL Equity Advocates. The list is broken down by background and contains categories such as Academic Directors/Recruiters, ELT Professionals, Teacher Trainers, Linguists/Scholars and more.

The Hall of Fame

This section contains an A-Z of schools, recruitment agencies and listing websites that DON’T discriminate. Hopefully this will be an ever-growing list, so if you think any school/recruitment agency or listing website is missing from it, there is a contact form you can use to get in touch.


TEFLEquity Advocates regularly host webinars on a wide range of “NNEST”/”NEST”- related topics and issues. In this section of the website, you can find a list of links to past webinars together with information for how to join forthcoming webinars. (I have been invited to give a webinar later this year, which invitation I was delighted to accept, so watch this space!)

Activities and Lesson Plans

In the final section of the TEFL Equity Advocates website, you can find lesson resources, whose aim is (and I quote) “to raise awareness of ELF and World Englishes, NNEST discrimination, qualities of good English teachers in general and egalitarian hiring policies.” These are divided into plans intended for use in ESL and EFL classrooms and for use in teacher training.  If you have any lesson materials that would fit in either category, the website welcomes you to get in touch by using the contact form.

Hands up if you were aware that the TEFLEquity website contained such a lot of useful, interesting material? I wasn’t, until I got home from IATEFL and went to have a look at it! I encourage you to do the same. Read a few articles, watch a webinar, and, of course, get involved in any way that you can. The more of us who do, the better! The website already contains loads of great content, but, across the board, TEFLEquity Advocates welcome your contribution, be it by doing a webinar, writing a blog post, sharing a lesson plan or any number of other options. There is no shortage of opportunity to get involved.

Other things to have a look at

(I wouldn’t usually plug my own posts like this, but this is an important topic and these talks and discussions were so worthwhile, that I feel justified in doing so!)

Ignorance and silence are our biggest enemies, so let’s raise awareness and NOT stop talking about the issues until they become historical rather than current.

New horizons, challenges and professional development

I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks! And guess what? I didn’t do any work. At ALL! It was bliss. Days and days of spending time with my gorgeous horse – isn’t she lovely?!


Now, however, it may be the weekend (by the time this blog post is finished, nearly the end of it!) but the holiday is distinctly over and I am hard at work in preparation mode:

On Monday I will be starting full-time work in the University of Sheffield International College‘s English department, which is staffed by the University’s ELTC (English Language Teaching Centre) where I have been working (on a summer school and then on part-time evening classes) since last June. I actually did two weeks’ worth of cover work at USIC last term, so the set-up isn’t brand new to me, which is nice! Not only do I know the building a little (including how best to get there on my bike – no small bonus given that I am directionally challenged!), and how the teaching works, but also a fair number of my colleagues I know from summer schools and from doing the cover work. The type of teaching (EAP skills-based) is also familiar from summer schools. The result? I can look forward to the challenges without worrying too much about the ‘being new overload’ that usually goes with starting a new job!

Since September, while working at the ELTC part-time, I have been milking the ELTC teacher development programme for all I’m worth – attending scholarship circles and workshops, delivering workshops and so on. Now, I’m also getting excited about the developmental opportunities that lie in the challenges I will face in my new job.

For example:

  • apparently getting students to do their independent learning work is an issue. This self-study works on the basis that for every hour of class time, students need to do an hour in their own time. In this time, they have to complete various tasks which relate to the work done in class. They often need to have done certain tasks before a class in order to gain the most benefit from it. Being the learner autonomy geek that I am, this automatically looks like just the kind of challenge that is right up my street! We’ve been sent a journal article on Flipped Learning/Team-Based Learning which suggests a seven-step procedure to prepare learners for this kind of approach, so I plan to adapt that and then, in addition, apply my own principles for enabling the kind of independence the approach requires.
  • WAS, or the Writing Advisory Service, is a one-to-one service offered by the ELTC which gives students the opportunity to bring a sample of writing to show to a tutor and receive guidance on how to improve it – in terms of structure, organisation, vocabulary, referencing etc – as well as signposting to useful resources that they can use to continue this improvement beyond the end of the appointment. It is not a proof-reading service. A small number of these WAS appointments will be included in my timetabled hours. I have completed an online induction for this, which involved watching a sample annotated session, with annotations focused on what the tutor was doing throughout the session, and then a second longer sample, with no annotations, with accompanying questions to answer. While time-consuming, it was very useful to watch these samples as I feel I now have a much better idea of how to negotiate a WAS appointment as a tutor! The challenge here is to implement what I have learnt from the induction hours! This one-to-one writing coaching is something that I haven’t done before but I do have some experience helping students with academic writing from my two summer schools, so that should help. Equally, doing these WAS appointments and getting better at them will hopefully help me come summer school time.
  • EAP! On the plus side, I have two summers of EAP under my belt now (and of course the two weeks of cover work I did at USIC last term) so I’m not starting from scratch by any means. Nevertheless, I’ve also just had two terms of General English courses so I need to get back into the swing of EAP. A change is as good as a rest, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to this form of teaching again.
  • Dare I say it, work-life balance… I’ve enjoyed having one of those for the last 10 months, since starting at Sheffield University with the summer school and continuing from there, and I hope this will continue to be the case. I plan to keep up my ultra-running training (am currently preparing for a 30 mile event in August!), get out on my bike as much as I can, try and play my clarinet from time to time (!), keep the garden in hand and – who knows – do some language study (Italian, French, German, Polish) once in a while too…? Not to mention some relaxation occasionally! At least the days are now getting longer and brighter, always helps. Hurrah for Spring! 🙂
  • IATEFL – I’m speaking at IATEFL again this year, on the topic of learner autonomy and academic listening, and look forward to all the learning that will take place there too. I think my attention will mainly be divided between EAP-focused sessions, teacher training-focused sessions and materials development-focused sessions.

Exciting times ahead – watch this space!


This is my 300th post.

A little under 5 years ago, on the 8th of May 2011, I took my first faltering step into the world of blogging with my response to the first goal in the 30 Goals Challenge for teachers Be a beam. It has been viewed by a staggering 44 people! 😉 Probably mostly the kindly souls I had discovered on Twitter not long before I started blogging (from where the idea came from, for me) taking pity on me haha! Opening it and reading it this morning wasn’t as cringeworthy as I had expected, in fact 5 years down the line, those beliefs remain intact, as do the ones I expressed in What do you believe about learning? (aka Goal no. 3) which has turned out to be my least-read post with a whole 15 views. I actually quite fancy writing another response to the ‘What do you believe about learning?‘ goal, to include everything I’ve learnt about learning since that time. (Yet another idea to join the backlog of 40 drafts including this one…)

At the other end of the spectrum, my most-viewed post, with 13,287 views, is My top ten resources for teaching IELTS – not the one I would have said if asked to guess! I would have guessed one that weighs in with around half that many, Thirty things to enhance your teaching, as that was the post that won me the British Council blog of the month award for the first time, in 2013 and it’s also older than the IELTS one, so has had longer to accrue views. Then again, the IELTS one is easier to stumble across when hunting for IELTS resources and I suppose there are enough teachers out there who are interested in finding IELTS resources for their classes!  

Here are my top 10:

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There are more than ten links listed because some of them are pages…


My website pages (i.e. all the tabs apart from what are now “About Lizzie” and “Reflections” which is the actual blog element) only came into being mostly between April and June 2013, with a couple more added in early 2014. They were the result of learning a bit more about WordPress as a site builder in my Multimedia and Independent Learning module at Leeds Met/Beckett, which led to overhauling my little blog site into something more closely resembling what it is today. The most-viewed page other than the home page/landing page is my Materials page where I have collected examples of materials I have made, for other teachers to use. It’s definitely due an update! Again, not what I would have guessed! I would have guessed my M.A. ELT/Delta page, where all my Delta and M.A.-related posts are gathered and what my blog seems to be most strongly associated with! My favourite page, though, is my Learner Autonomy page, which is also well overdue an update! This is because it brings together all my posts relating to my learner autonomy projects, learner autonomy-related materials and to write-ups of learner autonomy-themed talks that I have delivered and attended.

One statistic that I stumbled across today was that of numbers of posts in each of my categories. It’s funny I hadn’t really noticed it before, given the numbers are displayed on my site alongside each category – I just hadn’t paid them much attention…  However, it’s the Conferences category that grabbed my attention this morning: 71 posts! Most recently added to last Saturday, at the Materials Writing SIG conference down in London. That means 71 conference sessions either attended or delivered (both are included in the same category). How lucky I am! 🙂


Last but not least, indeed most important I would say… what about the people? By people, I mean readers. You. There are currently 869 of you who receive an email every time I publish something (poor things… :-p ). Between you, you have made 1,523 comments! Thank you ! 🙂 This blog would be pretty pointless without you, you help make it what it is. Cheesy (vegan cheese, naturally :-p ) but true!

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What comes next?

  • Other than clearing a stiff backlog of posts, which gets added to all the time, and updating the pages mentioned above, I think I want to add and backdate a Workshops category as I am doing a lot of workshops at the moment (both online and face to face) and it would be nice to group my write-ups of them in one place. In order to avoid overlap with the Conferences category, this new category would include only workshops that take place away from conferences.  I might include write-ups of workshops attended too, we’ll see.
  • You can also expect more posts relating to teacher development/education/training as this is an area of interest for me at the moment. (And there’s already a category ready for them to be filed into!)
  • Learner autonomy-related stuff goes without saying, of course!
  • A bunch more conference write-ups will, of course, be appearing during IATEFL in April.
  • Also, I would like to continue the conversation about the social side of language learning (see top ten list of blog posts above!) with David Petrie. We had planned to but haven’t quite got round to it yet. Must rectify that.

Aptly enough, given this milestone, this afternoon I am doing a session for my colleagues at the ELTC which is all about development and sharing ideas for developing as teachers. It is based on the online session I did for the TDSIG conference a few weeks ago and I think it could work really well as a face-to-face workshop – I guess this afternoon will tell! One thing for sure is that I will learn. From any participants who do attend and from the experience of delivering. (My workshop delivery goals have shifted from survival to refining and developing my technique – the same shift that happened in my teaching sometime after completing my CELTA, I suppose!)

Thank you all for visiting and reading posts on my blog over the years, it’s been great having you and I look forward to seeing more of you in time to come! 🙂





Teacher Education Circle (2)

This blog post has been waiting a LONG time to be written! The second meeting of the Teacher Education Circle was well before Christmas… Better late than never!

So, sometime before Christmas, there was the second meeting of the teacher education scholarship circle at the ELTC in the University of Sheffield. Prior to that, I had of course been reading Language Teacher Education by Jon Roberts, in particular the opening section in which different approaches to teacher education were explored. Here is my summary from my much-neglected ELT book challenge (yet another post waiting to be written…!) :

[…]it considers the behaviourist approach, where trainees are expected to follow a particular model of teaching, with no deviation, so that learning to teach is an exercise in imitation; the humanistic approach where change is enabled rather than directed by other people, giving the trainee more control; the constructivist approach, which draws on Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and draws on a trainee/learner’s existent knowledge and experience, so they are no longer a blank slate but somebody who brings something of value to the table; and finally a socialisation approach, where as well as the trainee’s own experience and background, influences on the trainee are also taken into consideration e.g. the school, the community, the education policies in play etc.

So, 4 approaches:

  • behaviourist
  • humanistic
  • constructivist
  • socialisation

Fast forward again to the Teacher Education Circle. We started by considering some approaches to teacher education (as planned at the end of the first meeting, hence my reading around the subject) and since that point I have been planning to compare my notes from the Jon Roberts book with the handouts from the circle. Finally, here goes!

The handouts were taken from Training Foreign Language Teachers. A Reflective Approach, published in 1991. The Jon Roberts book was published in 1998, so fairly close together in the great scheme of things. I haven’t read the book so this is what I have gleaned from the diagrams on the handout and our discussion. Feel free to jump in and disagree in the comments!

Wallace offers 3 “Models of Professional Education”:

  • the craft model
  • the applied science model
  • the reflective model

The craft model has a lot in common with the PPP approach to teaching grammar. You study with someone experienced, who instructs you and demonstrates how it is done, after which you practice a lot and in due course you become competent.

The applied science model starts from scientific knowledge, which is applied and refined by experts, then once refined it is passed on to student teachers, who practice it and in due course become competent. There is another loop in the diagram of “periodic up-dating in-service”, so presumably teachers receive more input from experts at various points which is then also practiced and also contributes to greater competence.

The reflective model draws on both received knowledge (content dictated by what is considered to be necessary for a member of the profession to be able to do) and experiential knowledge (also called “knowledge in action”, gained through experience) and there is a repeated cycle of practice and reflection which leads to professional competence.

We agreed that current training methods draw on a mixture of these. Take the CELTA for example. You study with an experienced practitioner, you receive input (based on current knowledge of how languages are taught and learnt, mediated by an experienced practitioner), you practice, you’re encouraged to reflect on your practice, and so on.

I would say the craft model and the applied science model both have elements of Roberts’s behaviourist approach in them, as the experienced practitioner provides the teaching model in the craft model and the embodiment in practice of the scientific knowledge in the applied science model, and the route to competence is likely to involve a good bit of imitation of those models. The reflective model, on the other hand, is more like the constructivist approach, in that previous knowledge/experience are acknowledged rather than the student teacher being an empty sheet of paper and reflection on experience is part of the learning process.

I suppose the humanistic approach could become an element in any of the models, if trainees are given more control over the learning process.

Based on the name of the book, we can guess which model Wallace champions!

After we had discussed these approaches, we started to develop a model for a teacher mentoring system at the ELTC (which we had come up with as an idea in the previous meeting). It was really interesting to be involved in this, to have input into the development of something new. Watch this space!

The next meeting is on the 18th Feb, so I have at least managed to write up the last one BEFORE the date of the next one! Win. Be interesting to see what comes up next. Meanwhile, I have recently read an article called “Writing for publication as a tool in teacher development” (Rathert, S. and Okan, Z. (2015), published in the ELTJ Vol. 69(4), pp.363-372) which was interesting, and have a set of three articles about getting into teacher training which I plan to read as soon as I finish preparing the session I will be doing at Leeds Beckett University tomorrow, for the Multimedia and Independent Learning module.

Never a shortage of things to do! (Or blog posts to write…I will keep chipping away at the backlog whenever I can…)