Bite-size TD at the ELTC

Teacher development is a key part of working life at the ELTC and the team who are in charge of it this term recently rolled out a new initiative, “Bite-size TD”. The idea is to build up a collection of recordings done by teachers of short talks on a range of topics, that other teachers can watch when they have 15-20 minutes spare and fancy a bit of CPD.

I volunteered to do a whistle-stop tour of www.wordandphrase.info/academic which is a corpus tool. Without the /academic part of the web address, a general corpus of texts is analysed, with the academic part included, it analyses a corpus of academic texts from a range of disciplines. Both sites work in exactly the same way, so what I talked about today could equally be applied to the general version. My powerpoint was adapted from one that I used with my ESUS (English Skills for University Study, which has since undergone a few changes and been renamed) students last term, with the aim of introducing the site to them through the medium of guided discovery.

My talk worked in two ways: a) For teachers unfamiliar with the site, I suggested they use the pause button a bit and try to do the activities on the site as they went along, to understand better how it works. b) For teachers who were already familiar, and for the teachers in a) once they were familiar, it modelled my approach to introducing students to the site and provided some example activities that they could use with students.

I suggested that as well as using this approach in class with the students as an introduction, it’s useful to reinforce it by:

  • modelling use of it yourself in class if students ask you something about a word/phrase. (Particularly if you can project it)
  • using it in tutorials based on students’ written work, to guide error correction
  • encouraging students to use it before submitting a piece of work, to check their use of key language

Here is the powerpoint I used (click to download):

I’ll add the recording later if the link is a public one, but you should be able to follow what to do via the powerpoint, it’s step-by-step and the answers are included.

Do you use wordandphrase.info(/academic) with your students? How? Would love to hear about your approach/ideas for using it via the comments box below. 🙂

Happy weekend, all!

Advertisements

The Eaquals Framework for Language Teacher Training and Development and its companion the E-Grid

In Kirsten Holt’s IATEFL 2016 talk, (yes, 2016 – yes, this post has sat as a draft in my posts box for rather a while now! Better late than never…) she makes reference to the Eaquals Framework and its companion the e-grid. I was immediately curious so thought I would try the e-grid, which generates your ‘professional profile’. The profile produced is not saved on their website, it just creates a soft copy for you to keep on your computer.

After completing fields for name and address, and employer name and address, the next step was language proficiency:

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.53.47

You pick your level starting from 1.1 (studying the target language at tertiary level, achieved B1 proficiency in the target language) up to 3.2 (see picture above) My questions:

  • I have a degree in the target language, two actually, but I don’t have proven proficiency at C2 level as I have never done a proficiency test.
  • What is this “natural command” that differentiates between 3.1 and 3.2? How is it measured?
  • “has native speaker competence” = 3.2 but all levels below that focus on language proficiency only for people who have learned the language in such a way that certification and examination has been part of it i.e. not people who have grown up speaking it as their mother tongue. So there are 6 levels you can pick but if you are a “native speaker”(definitions and implications of which term are another can of worms) you are automatically assigned the highest level, level 6, aka 3.2…  Are all “native speakers” equally proficient? “Proficiency” can be defined as a high degree of skill or expertise. Do all “native speakers” have that to a uniform level – in this case 3.2? (NB later in the self-assessment language awareness is dealt with separately.)

My next ?? moment came in the teaching experience question:

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 12.01.42

I have no idea how many hours I have taught. Also:

  • What does it mean by documented?
  • What would happen for the teacher who meets the 3.2 criteria but happens never to have taught at C2 level? Or does lack of C2 level stop mattering after 4000 hours of experience?
  • What happens if you have between 2400 and 4000 hours of teaching experience including classes at C2 level?
  • What if your 2400 – 4000 hours of experience all happen to be in the same place?

I actually did keep a record of the hours I taught and to which class in my first year of teaching. Unfortunately, I have no idea where that document is. It was several computers ago and seems to have got lost in the mists of time… I probably don’t have squillions though, given I only started 7 years ago, spent one of those years doing my Delta and M.A. full-time so only taught once a week during the Delta and some part-time work later in my M.A., worked part-time between October 2015 and March 2016 and though full-time now, have a relatively small number of contact hours per week with my groups. (What do you do the rest of the time, I hear you ask? Well, there is also cover, Writing Advisory Service sessions and at certain points, megatons of marking – 2000 – 3000 word essays rather than 250 word essays… and – woohoo! – CPD!) Then, I’ve taught C1 but not C2. Am I a 2.2? A 3.1? Is x hours of teaching the same level of experience regardless of what development has taken place alongside them? In other words is it quantity over quality?

Once you’ve finished doing the self-assessment, you can export the results as a PDF, bearing in mind it will not be saved on the website itself. You can also export the results in e-grid format, which you could later re-upload to the website and edit. So, having used the E-grid, it was time to look at the framework itself. On the website, the main aims are set out as follows:

to help practising teachers to assess and reflect on their own language teaching competences, and set their own goals for further development

 

to help managers to identify training needs and plan professional development programmes for practising teachers

to encourage teachers to continue their professional development on their own and with the support of their institutions

to help document the design of public training courses for practising teachers

 

to serve as a tool for evaluating and accrediting teacher training courses.

There is then a link to the framework, a 42 page document, which you can download and peruse at your leisure. The framework divides teacher development into 3 phases, and assumes that teachers can be in different phases of development for different skill areas. The phases don’t map to seniority of position. There are five main areas each with different sub-sections. Each of these key areas is broken down into “knowledge of” and “skills”, so theory and practice. I am assuming that the 1.1 – 3.2 in the e-grid relate to the three developmental stages in this framework, although on the E-grid webpage, it says descriptors cover six developmental stages.

Have you used this framework to help you develop? Have you used it to help other teachers develop? How did you do it? Please share your ideas with me and others by using the comments box below – you are also very welcome to use it for answering any of the questions I have raised in this post or just any related thoughts! I will share my ideas for using it in a later post. Meanwhile, don’t forget to have a look at Kirstin’s ideas as disseminated at IATEFL 2016.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

A series of competences can be used to …

  1. define a particular role

  2. build a teaching framework

  3. analyse teacher profiles

  4. determine teachers’ pay

  5. support teachers’ professional learning

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.21.47

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.27.50

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.28.57

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.31.58

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.23.46

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.34.24

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.42.34

She emphasises that we learn from reflecting on experience.

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

She finishes with this lovely quote from Dr Seuss:

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 15.48.25

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

A few of my thoughts relating to this talk:

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

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:

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 14.22.36

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 14.24.07

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.

Ideas:

  • 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

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 14.36.35

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… 🙂

Teacher Education Circle 4

For the more astute amongst you, you will notice that I have gone straight from TE Circle 1 and TE Circle 2 to TE Circle 4. This was deliberate rather than a slip – I sadly missed TE Circle 3 because I (not so sadly!) had already gone off on Easter holiday when it happened (it had been supposed to happen a couple of weeks earlier than it did but was delayed due to illness). This post is, as ever, slightly delayed – TE Circle 4 actually took place on Thursday 21st April 2016. Somehow it now seems to be already May. Not sure how that happened…!

I arrived a little late because I was teaching a class when it started – fortunately that class took place in the same general location as the meeting so I was able to get to it swiftly after. Normally I am a good twenty minutes away (door to door, using the bike) over on a different site. Nevertheless, it was a interesting meeting so I’m glad I was able to make some of it!

Work has continued apace on the “Teaching Advisory Service (TAS)” – an idea thought of and developed during and in between TE Circles. It is now ready to be trialled, which is rather exciting! Teachers will have the possibility to do various developmental activities, facilitated by a mentor. So, for example, a teacher could simply observe a colleague for 10-30 minutes and the mentor would facilitate by covering their class for the duration of this. Other options include:

  • team-teaching with a mentor
  • finding materials with a mentor
  • bouncing ideas for lesson plans/observations off a mentor
  • being observed by a mentor, with positive feedback/skill development in mind
  • discussion of classroom issues, teaching methods or personal goals with a mentor

Everything done within this service would be confidential rather than part of a management-led formal process. The trialling process will take place during the rest of this term and then it will be evaluated and tweaked, based on feedback from participants in the trial (mentors and teachers alike) to then be rolled out fully next academic year – if it is successful. It will be interesting to see what happens. I quite fancy the team-teaching option, personally. Team teaching is not something I’ve done a lot of. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done any since my first job in Lampung, where it was part of the induction process.

In TE Circle 4, we also discussed a framework and some slides that had been brought back from IATEFL talks relating to them. One of these was a British Council framework for CPD:

IMG_1579

IMG_1580

One of the talks was the Cambridge English Signature Event (Observations and Reflections – Tensions between best practice and reality), available to watch on the IATEFL 2016 online page and on my list (that I am steadily working my way through) of post-IATEFL catching up to be done!

We discussed other frameworks we were aware of, for example the BALEAP one which is specifically aimed at teachers of EAP (see here). This brought up the issue of how the frameworks are used and how teacher educators can help teachers use them. There is the question of whether teachers are institutionally obliged to use them, whether there is assessment of that. So, for example, in the research part of the university there is a framework that researchers get judged against and in order to get funding they  have to demonstrate that they are worth that funding according to that framework. A sort of quality assurance. We are accredited to BALEAP and British Council so we are inspected by them, according to their frameworks. Then, apparently there is a framework that will be brought into use by universities for teaching staff but what is yet unknown is how they will be used. It could turn into an OFSTED for universities potentially. Perhaps helping teachers to use the frameworks (rather than have the frameworks used on them so to speak) is something the Teaching Advisory Service could also do.

The question of reflection also came up, in relation to the above talk. It was suggested that if reflection is required then it needs to be taught/trained as it doesn’t come naturally to everybody. Indeed, some people are actively opposed to doing it.

In my opinion one of the issue that arises with requiring it is that it is difficult to do at the drop of a hat and some things take longer to reflect on effectively than others. I think requiring it to be done within a certain time frame and with a particular outcome, e.g. as part of a training course between teaching a lesson and getting feedback on it, makes it another box to tick/hoop to jump through, and so there is a shift from genuine reflection/evaluation to something more contrived to produce the desired outcome. Yet, is this a problem? You learn how to reflect and evaluate by doing it, then perhaps once you have finished with the hoops, it can shift back towards being something more genuine and developmental. Then, every so often (e.g. with formal observations), you (may) have to prove that you can still do it! So maybe, then, in training courses, rather than getting rid of the reflective element, there needs to be more focus on how to reflect effectively, and on helping people learn how that is for them (as everyone’s process is a bit different) rather than treating it as a box ticking exercise where if you don’t do x, y or z in your post-lesson reflection you will fail that teaching practice. Otherwise you might end up trying to get square pegs into round holes.

During the TE circle I was asked who I think of as my audience when I write reflectively on this blog. Magnificent as ever when put on the spot I responded with the greatly insightful…”errrm my readers?”  Thinking about it, I don’t write with a particular audience in mind, other than “people who are interested in ELT, from whatever perspective” – teachers, teacher trainers, DoS’s, publishers, whoever you are you, whatever you do, you are welcome to read what I write of course! I figure that just as I enjoy other peoples’ blog posts, there are people out there who get something out of reading mine!

My blog is busier some days than others. During IATEFL it is particularly busy, of course – in April I had 6,293 visitors and 12, 940 views. This is where they were from:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 13.00.08

These were the top ten countries:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 13.00.24

Less anonymously, I know Sandy Millin reads my blog posts (she comments on them and shares them) as do Rachel Daw and Naomi Epstein. (Hi guys! 🙂 ) To give a collective term to these three and others, my PLN (personal learning network) aka the people I interact with online via Twitter, my blog and their blogs. Some people read some posts, some people read other posts. 884 poor sods get an email every time I publish something! Audience aside, I think the act of communicating something to someone else, in speaking or in writing, but particularly in writing, requires a deeper processing of that something than keeping it to yourself/just thinking about it. It forces you to make those thoughts more coherent. I’m really glad that the folk on Twitter/#ELTChat encouraged me to start blogging moreorless 5 years ago now, happy to have been part of an online teaching community for that long and long may it continue.

Back to TE Circle, our attention was drawn to a free sample chapter from Jack Richards’ book Key issues in Language Teaching, published by Cambridge. It was the chapter on professional development. On my to-do list still is a review of this book and the Cambridge Bookshelf app as they let me have a free copy in exchange for doing that. Fortunately they have been patient and their patience is soon to be rewarded! Watch this space…

The circle came to an end, and as usual I felt privileged to be able to take part in the discussion and learnt a lot from it, but also felt rather out of my depth as everyone else there was about a gazillion times more experience than me(!). I hope I can attend the next one and look forward to seeing what happens with the advisory service. You can be sure that if I do manage to try out the team teaching thing, there will be a blog post in it!

 

 

ELTC: Vocabulary review workshop

This is a very delayed write-up of a Vocabulary Review workshop that I did at the ELTC last term. It’s taken me this long because I have been reflecting on and off since, and now finally feel ready to publish it! It’s a reflective post divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ with the former focusing on my preparations and the latter focusing on what actually happened!

Before

Tomorrow I am going to be running a workshop for my colleagues at the ELTC. The focus is vocabulary review activities. This year, so far, I have already done two other workshops for them: one on helping learners become more autonomous (part of the training day at the start of term) and one whose aim was to encourage reflection on career turning points and glean ideas for further developmental possibilities. I’ve also done a practical workshop on blogging (both with learners and as a means of professional development), at Leeds Beckett University, on the Multimedia and Independent Learning module, as well as an online session also about career turning points for the recent TD SIG web carnival. Coming up, as well as tomorrow’s session on Vocabulary Review, I have another session with Leeds Beckett University, this time online, about developing learner autonomy, a British Council webinar also about learner autonomy tools/tips and my IATEFL presentation in April, which will form part of a forum on listening and focuses on helping learners become more autonomous listeners in an EAP pre-sessional context.

The reason I mention all these commitments is that (not so coincidentally!) I have recently(ish) been reflecting on my short, mid-term and longer term goals, now that I have achieved the long-term goal that I set out with after I finished my CELTA, which was to gain some experience and then in due course work at Sheffield University. Of course I also squeezed in my M.A. in ELT and my Delta in the interim, which was handy and part of the plan for getting university work. Teacher training is one of my areas of interest, so it follows logically that, if one of my goals is to become a teacher trainer, doing as many workshops as I can, in various contexts, would be a useful way of gaining experience and working on my techniques for working with teachers rather than students. Initially, I started doing workshops as a means of developing myself as a teacher, and I will admit the main personal goal early on was survival. Happily, as you can tell since I am sitting here writing this, I achieved that! Since then, goals have included sharing what I’ve learnt through my experimentation, becoming more confident in my delivering, including more interaction in my sessions and so on.

This vocabulary workshop, however, is the first one I will do since reading “A Practical Introduction to Teacher Training in ELT” written John Hughes and published by Pavillion, borrowed from the ELTC’s library.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 16.54.16

It is also the first workshop I have volunteered to do in response to topics requested by teachers via survey and shared with everybody by our professional development team. I did a workshop on Error Correction at IH Palermo, with the topic suggested by the DoS, as planning a workshop was one of the tasks for the Tutor in training certificate I did while at IH. It seemed logical that if I had to plan a workshop, I might as well deliver it! For that workshop, I had help from my DoS and from my ex-Delta module 1+2 tutor who shared some materials with me via email. I also had the memory of an error correction workshop I had done during Delta (hence contacting aforementioned tutor!), on which I based the workshop. Of course, this time, for the vocabulary workshop, I’ve done all the preparation unsupported, starting from scratch. I think I should do more sessions like these. I’ve already signed up to do one on pronunciation so hopefully I can use what I learn from doing this session in planning that one. I shall be team-teaching it with one of my colleagues, which also be interesting! 🙂

Hughes suggests thinking of a training session as a triangle shape, divided into three. The smallest part at the top of the triangle is “What?”, the next segment, which goes until half-way down the triangle is “Why?” and the rest of the triangle is “How?” So this is the structure I have applied to my vocabulary workshop. The “what” and “why” section will be taken care of via discussion of some quiz questions relating to the topic of vocabulary review (and by extension learning). The bulk of the session, the “how”, is going to be a game of bingo! I will ask groups to brainstorm a grid of 9 vocabulary review activities that they have used before and then I will share 9 activities of my own with them. I plan to do this by having them participate (briefly!) in each activity using Delta module 1-style terminology (particularly relating to Lexis) as the target vocabulary. If the activity corresponds with any on their grid (regardless of the name, as these activities tend to go by several names), then they get to tick it off and we’ll see if anyone gets Bingo! The remaining time will be used to allow groups to share any leftover activities on their grids. I have also prepared a handout summarising the activity procedures so that the teachers don’t need to make notes as well as participate.

I anticipate that timing is going to be tight, as I will only have an hour to play with. However, I recognise that we do not need to complete each activity, teachers just need to have a taster of it in order to make sense of how it works. As per the triangle, the “what” and “why” quiz should not take up too much time. If time does run out, then I’ll make a google doc and invite teachers to write a brief summary of the outstanding activities on their list. One of my goals is to maintain a good pace and really keep track of the timing. I suppose, in the circumstances, it is also going to be a good test of classroom management and instruction-giving! (The better these are, the better the timing will be!)

After

Well, the good news is that my colleagues responded positively to this workshop. I had 6 attendees and they all had plenty to contribute to the discussion element (!) as well as being willing to get involved in the game-playing element.

As I predicted, time WAS an issue. Or, was it less the timing that was an issue and more my confidence in managing the discussion element, which I allowed to take up too much time?They had a lot to say and I didn’t want to cut it too short! (Perhaps I should have had fewer discussion questions, though I think they were all useful…) Actually I just wish I had had a longer session to play with – in the event we started slightly late and some attendees had to leave early due to other commitments, and even that aside it wasn’t the longest time slot! That’s not an excuse though – I did know roughly how long I would have. Perhaps I should have included fewer activities to try out?

However, on the plus side, this time issue was mitigated by my carefully prepared hand-out which meant that although we couldn’t have a stab at playing all of the games, teachers did take away instructions for all of them so that content wasn’t lost. Perhaps it didn’t matter that there were left over activities. It just gave the teachers a greater take-away for future experimentation. Perhaps, then, what I needed to do was stop trying the activities at a given point when there was still enough time for a constructive closing. I think that is what really got lost, as we had to come to a halt rather abruptly as teachers had to leave to get to other things.

For me, another positive was that within the game playing, we were able to refer back to the discussion element and build on it. The games illustrated the points made through the discussion questions, making them that much clearer. I think this was important because it made the workshop more cohesive and less of a ‘discussion with a few activities tacked on’ which perhaps it was in danger of becoming, given its nature. It was intended to be a practical session, with lots of ideas for teachers to try out, rather than a theoretical session, but the discussion element allowed for the practical ideas to be rooted in theory. So even though my first thought at the end of the workshop was that I had let it go on for too long, I now feel that that wasn’t the issue, rather it was how I managed the remaining time.

I would say the main drawback was that although I identified time as a potential issue in my planning, and recognised that not every activity needed to be completed, I didn’t recognise that the teachers didn’t actually even need to do every activity, thanks to the hand-out I had prepared, and therefore wasn’t prepared in the session to stop going through my set of activities in time for a strong closing. This is something that will definitely be a consideration in future workshops.

At the end of the session, I felt disappointed that it hadn’t gone quite as I might have liked it to, but on reflection I think it had a lot of positives and, importantly, I learnt some useful things from how it did go:

  • hand-outs are really useful!
  • make a decision with regards to how long an activity should run for and be firmer in bringing it to a close, if needs be. (Alternatively, if it needs to go on longer than planned, revise plans for the timings for the rest of the session!)
  • recognise when all the material is not going to be got through and ensure that there is nevertheless time for a suitable closing element to wrap everything up
  • in planning, if there is clearly too much material, either cut it down or ensure that nothing will be lost from the session if all the material isn’t covered. (In other words plan so that no core material will be lost)

I think that’s a useful set of points for me to consider next time I plan and deliver a workshop! So, all in all, it was a successful learning and developmental experience for me in my quest to become a teacher trainer at some point! I look forward to building on it. 🙂

If you are interested, here is the powerpoint I used and here is my handout.

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.

IMG_20160416_122042

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.

IMG_20160416_122547

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!

IMG_20160416_122413

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:

IMG_20160416_122638

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:

IMG_20160416_123207

Initial considerations

IMG_20160416_123233

  • 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.

IMG_20160416_123621

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:

IMG_20160416_123909

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.

IMG_20160416_125017

IMG_20160416_125049

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!

IMG_20160416_125122

IMG_20160416_125337

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

IMG_20160416_125431

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

IMG_20160416_125554

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.

IMG_20160416_125640

As Kirsten Holt said in her session yesterday:

IMG_20160416_125802

Other ideas for activities:

  • keeping logs/reflective journals e.g:

IMG_20160416_125852

  • 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.