End of Academic year (nearly!) reflections

It’s that time of year again (already!). Actually, the term is not quite over – we still have three weeks of tutorials, mock presentations and final presentations/exam marking BUT “teaching proper” finished today (at time of starting to write! now also known as Friday 26th August!) – I had my final lesson with my lovely JFBE1a group (January Foundation Business and Economics – but I teach them AES – Academic English Skills – NOT Business and Economics, thankfully!). I’ve had them for 2.5 terms (not quite 3 as they didn’t become a group until after IELTS-based streaming in Week 4 of their first term here) and it’s been so lovely working with them. They are pre-Bachelor degree students so still youngsters really. We don’t necessarily keep our groups for all three terms – sometimes a group might have a different teacher each term, or one teacher for two terms and another for the third, or one for the first term and another for terms two and three – so I consider myself very lucky to have done so with this group! Our academic years, however, are four terms so I had two groups from the September cohort in the September term (first term of the year), who were also lovely (but seem a long time ago now!).

Aaaanyway, I know very well that I will be, shall we say, pressed for time the next few weeks (!) and then I’ll be on holiday (woohoo!) so thought I would get a head start on the old end of year reflection.

A lot seems to have happened this year!

  • My fixed term contract became open-ended (woohoo!), meaning for the first time in my life I now have job security, in as much as it is possible to in this day and age.
  • I did a full year of ADoSing this academic year (my two term ‘trial’ at the end of last academic year went well enough for me to continue in role – always good!) and have continued to thoroughly enjoy working on the ADoS team. I’m a lot more confident now than I was (it really helps having a manager who is very positive about my capabilities!) which also helps – if I recognise my strengths, I can build on them…
  • Recently I took the role of Joint Teacher Development Coordinator for our centre and so far have put out two bulletins, with another – final one for the term – due out next week – very excited about this role and what I can do to help teachers develop!
  • I completed my SFHEA application (yesterday! *also known as Thursday 25th August!) – it’s not ready to submit yet, I need to put it into the portfolio platform when they unveil the one they are changing to from Pebbledoodah, but I’ve done all the donkey work for it.
  • I received two recognition awards from the powers that be (as did the other ADoSes, of course) – one for “‘going the extra mile’ especially with the massive contribution to AES development (in February) and one, “an exceptional contribution award” (today – 26th July – may not still be today when I get round to publishing this :-p )
  • I discovered Mindfulness, and as well as transforming my own life with it, have started to experiment with it in the classroom with promising results thus far – something to build on! (But that’s another blog post, when time allows…)
  • I wrote a book chapter for Routledge Handbook of Materials Development (recently got the first draft feedback back, so it’s back on the “list of things to do” – eek!)
  • I’ve done multiple Futurelearn courses (Dyslexia and Foreign language learning, 2 x Mindfulness, Developing Professional Resilience – which is still in progress) – I love learning!

All in all, it’s been a very positive year despite the tragedy that marked the beginning of it (losing my beloved Alba horse to colic).

A couple of things I realised today (*at time of writing, possibly not at time of publishing!):

  • Some years ago now, I discovered that I didn’t get a CELTA pass A because one of my tutors thought I wasn’t resilient enough. Today I realised that I’m really glad they made that decision. Because, perhaps if success (Pass A) had come easy, I wouldn’t have been quite so determined in all my future endeavours in the profession.
  • I am as excited about the future now (and the possibilities that lie ahead with regards to teaching, ADoSing, TD coordinating) as I was at the end of my CELTA session on continuing professional development/making a career out of ELT.

Things I am looking forward to in the next academic year:

  • Using my role as TD coordinator to build up a culture that puts teacher wellbeing at the centre of teacher development (my current passion!) – already got some innovations in the pipeline (watch this space!)
  • Developing my ‘helping teachers’ skills in my ADoS role
  • Continuing to work with Mindfulness both in terms of myself and in terms of using it with students
  • Continuing to develop and grow as a teacher, try new things in my lessons and make them as beneficial as possible for my students
  • Finishing that darn book chapter! (Well, the next deadline is end of August so that might/should technically happen before the next academic year starts…)
  • Hopefully getting to IATEFL again (I’ve written a proposal but need to go through my institution’s selection process AND – if successful in that – IATEFL’s selection process.
  • Learning more!

(NB As you will have noticed, I have focused on the positive. This is because, thanks to the negativity bias, it would be all too easy to ignore the positive in favour of the negative. Being positive about what I have achieved does not mean the next step is to put my feet up and stop putting any effort in, it just means I will be starting the next chapter with a “can do, can learn” growth mindset rather than an “I’m rubbish, why bother?” fixed mindset. 🙂 )

If you have a September to August academic year, what have been your highlights? What are you looking forward to for next academic year?

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Workshop: Supporting our Chinese Learners – Tim Cooper

Earlier this year, in February (I know…I only managed to attend half, then had to teach, then had to catch the rest via a recording when I finally made time to!), I attended a fascinating TD session called Supporting our Chinese Learners by Tim Cooper who works for the university and who delivered this session of his especially for the ELTC. Here are my notes from it(/the recording).

Some statistics:

  • 1 in 5 students at the University of Sheffield are Chinese (!)
  • That’s 2/3 of the international student population
  • 150 nationalities are represented at the university, with the biggest representation being Chinese, mostly from the Eastern Seaboard area of China
  • China is the second largest economy and ÂŁ100 million per year comes from Chinese students

Then we moved on to some history:

  • The cultural revolution impacted students’ parents and grandparents. People were stopped from being doctors (for example) and relocated to work on the land.
  • For a period of time there was of course also the one child policy

A result of these things is that Chinese students are under a lot of pressure to succeed from parents and family.

The social system in China and how it influences Chinese students’ behaviour in the UK both in and out of class

  • The three main doctrines are Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism
  • Due to the one child policy (in a generation since 1979, most families have been affected by the one child policy, with its consequences of gender imbalance and female infanticide – with the two child policy being introduced in 2016), being an only child, they are used to getting what they want and need. Away from that support system, often they want help, they need help, but they don’t ask for help. Silence does not always mean everything is well: among male Chinese students, the self-harm/suicide rate is increasing.
  • “guanxi” –> it’s not what you know but who you know: Chinese students rarely operate in isolation, especially females. They tend towards groups of three – one who is the best at English, one who is the most confident overall and one friend. Being collectivist, they find it difficult to do things as a single person. “Friendship groups” (like described above) work better for them than 1-1 buddy systems with home students or things of that nature.
  • “Saving face” – with friends, class, family, town, is very important. It is possible to lose face forever and no one wants that! This translates into fear of making mistakes/getting it wrong.
  • Young men tend to be clueless, young women tend to be more resourceful, as, if you are a – much-coveted – boy, everything is done for you while if you are a girl, not so!

 Chinese Education.

The system looks like this:

  • Kindergarten
  • Primary School (7am – 5pm)
  • Middle School (7am – 7pm, meal, homework)
  • High School (as above)

It is geared towards acquisition of knowledge and is heavily test-based, and obviously involves very long hours (poor teachers too!)

  • Entry into higher education is by way of the Gaokao (and a big exam is taken at the end of this high school). You need a high score to get into a good university. (It is a massive thing, parents come to see their kids off on big coaches to the test centre, there are armed police guards etc!)
  • Education is test-focused not critical thinking-focused.
  • Children are tested once a week from primary school upwards, so children always know their position in the class – top, bottom, etc.
  • The final two years of Gaokao preparation = fats, facts, facts + regurgitation of said facts.
  • In some cases, parents send their kids abroad to avoid Gaokao.
  • The Chinese system (all that testing!) may seem brutal to us but it is reassuring to them because they know where they stand.
  • Critical thinking and plagiarism don’t exist. Teachers speak truth, students write down and regurgitate truth.

Impacts on how they learn here:

  • They are unsettled by a (relative) lack of exams/testing here
  • Failure is confusing – a. “How am I failing when I have paid 20k to be here?” and b. “I didn’t know I was doing badly”
  • Regular little tests can be reassuring e.g. there was a big seminar group, issues with student participation; the teacher introduced a little 5 min multiple choice test done at the start of the lesson relating to previous content and the students were happier and more engaged afterwards, having spent a bit of time in their comfort zone
  • The issue isn’t that plagiarism is complex, it just has no meaning as a concept. “It’s not your own work” is meaningless to them. The reason so many Chinese students get done for cheating and there is a lot of collusion/unfair means is that they don’t understand it. One of Tim’s colleagues said “We are also good at cheating” – a consequence of Gaokao being such a big thing is that it’s a case of any means to an end.

With all of the above in mind, given that we have so many Chinese students here, we need to gain an understanding of where we are with them – their feelings and experiences. We have a big job to do, to meet them in the middle.

In 2012, Tim and colleagues did some focus groups and surveys with little samples, with the following findings:

  • Students tend to seek advice from a friend in the first instance rather than officially.
  • A high proportion of students ignore official university/departmental email. Email never got the same kind of traction in China as it did in the West. Email confuses them with regards to levels of formality required, they are not used to using it as a media. Most students (and staff over there!) use Wechat most of the time. So, at a networking event at Nanjing university, Tim noticed there was a lack of business cards being exchanged and instead it was QR codes, connecting via touching phones and usually/often there was a dancing panda involved! (Very different from “Dear Dr Soandso, it was great to meet you…”!)
  • Wechat is very informal but is used as a means of conveying everything. Emojis are used a LOT e.g. Tim sends a message saying “Shall we meet and discuss x” and the response might be a mouse blowing kisses. That doesn’t mean the person is blowing kisses, just the mouse, the person is just saying yes, great.

What does this mean for us?

  • Emails need to be brief and get to the point as quickly as possible, and ideally include a picture where possible.
  • Use transparent language e.g. “the document you need to open a bank account” not “bank letter”
  • Think about using a Wechat group to tell them when you have sent something important. NB Wechat is monitored in China. So in communication terms, great, but increasingly problematic.

Other findings from 2012:

  • Students can be reluctant to provide undeferential feedback – will always nod and say yes to “Do you understand xyz?” or “Is everything ok?” It means “I respect your authority and am listening (but not  necessarily understanding)”. So you need to find subtle ways of checking understanding. (At least this is something we as language teachers are good at generally!)
  • They are used to being monitored/recorded but this causes worries for example if someone suggests counselling to them – they will worry that it will end up on their academic record (MSc in Engineering, with mental health issues!) so you need to explain otherwise.

2015-2016 findings:

  • 60% of a statistically valid sample experienced difficulty with the expectation of expressing their opinions in class
  • 46% experienced some difficulty in complying with university plagiarism regulations
  • 46% experienced difficulty in working with other students in groups
  • Most students were expecting a more British experience or a warmer welcome from home students

=> It’s hard for them to adjust to independent study requirements at university as vs. reliance on teachers and textbooks (there, each subject has THE textbook). However, most students within the course of their studies will have a successful journey and they will get it, and appreciate it (e.g. critical reading etc) – they just need time to understand the system.

Things to consider:

  • Need to manage expectations with regards to support: the majority come here after 4 years of undergrad in China, aged about 22. During that 4 years, they will have had 24/7 access to a “fudaoyuan” (personal tutor/coach) – these are recent graduates on the bottom rung, who are given a work phone, and told be on on call at any time and to check up on charges regularly. E.g. a student forgets the due date of an assignment, they can call their fudaoyuan up at 1am to ask them; a student who is considering suicide might tell their fudaoyuan as the first port of call; a student who thinks they are pregnant and are worried the family will disown them etc will also call their fudaoyuan. So this is very different to “not after 5pm or at weekends”  We need to explain to students how it works, tell them not to panic if we defer availability, we WILL deal with something and deferring is not personal.
  • With regards to students “always going around in groups” and “always speaking Chinese” – they are far from home, they gravitate towards people in the same boat and agents often even put them on the same flight etc (and remember how you coped when you went to work abroad, at least initially!).
  • Need to make sure students get information about contraception etc. sensitively – local NHS here worked out that a spike in number of abortions was a spike in Chinese girls and approached the university about it. There is a lack of sex education over there and when they come over here they are no longer being watched and this is a consequence of that. There was a campaign about this but it got dropped unfortunately.
  • Whatever students’ IELTS score is when they arrive, it can drop/their language level can regress through lack of use.
  • If they are doing something wrong, we need to meet them half way and help them learn how to do things appropriately here.

Focusing on adaptation and integration:

  • social activities based on drinking generally have limited appeal
  • culture shock an issue – prolonged feeling of being an outsider/visitor
  • buddying schemes can be beneficial but “friendship groups” may work better
  • need to keep in mind Chinese vs. Western views of health and the body e.g. access to warm water is paramount for female students of reproductive age (to them, losing warm fluid = must replace it with warm fluid!) and there needs to be sensitivity around health issues
  • silence does not equal all is well (as mentioned earlier)
  • students are used to being given homework, can feel lost without it
  • they are under enormous pressure to succeed, consequences of failure are enormous
  • remember, in China, teachers do learning to you, here you have to do it yourself = a big adjustment to make

You can watch a video of the students themselves speaking here.

Finally, and very interestingly, we were given a photographic tour of a Chinese university campus:

Nanjing University, a top 3 or 4 university which has recently expanded with a brand new campus and is very modern:

  • The old entrance in town has philosophical writing of a big figure of that town. You go through that entrance into a campus, a bubble, a safe place. (So students are baffled by Sheffield, they think Glossop Road/West Street is “on campus”
  • Learning takes place in lecture theatres
  • Self study areas consist of rows of desks and chairs – no sofas etc
  • In luxury residences, there are 4 girls to a room. The room has bunks and desks. A thin curtain on the bunk is the only privacy. (Non-luxury = a dorm)
  • Cooking facilities are not important, you go to the canteen which is huge and has lots of choice. HOWEVER hot water dispensers are VERY important! (Lots of machines for that)
  • It is normal/acceptable to fall asleep in the library

Tim concluded by saying that three years ago, getting a degree in the UK was “the biz”, but this is starting to decline. In the world rankings we have slipped behind Australia to third place. So, we need to do more! 75% of students said they were “satisfied” but their expectations are low, so we do need to do more to improve their experience (- or help them improve their experience?) (and our ranking!).

 

 

 

 

ELTC TD Session “Peer-assisted self-observation” (Will Nash)

On the 28th of November 2018 (which seems a long, long time ago already!), I attended a TD session delivered by Will Nash who is in charge of teacher training at the ELTC. The focus was something which sounds a little odd on first hearing – “peer-assisted self-observation”. A bit of a mouthful and, for me, I wasn’t clear about what exactly it meant/entailed so it’s just as well I attended the session!

According to Will, the ELTC started experimenting with video observation since 2014. In fact, at IATEFL 2015, Will, and David Read who helps manages the technology side of things at the ELTC (in the sense of technology enhanced learning initiatives as vs. troubleshooting “my desktop has frozen” issues!) delivered a session based on these experiments with a focus on identifying suitable technology for use in video observation. (Their preferred set-up was the “Swivl” system which has a stand that holds a tablet or phone and a tracker with microphone that the speaker wears. The stand moves to focus on the location of the speaker and the microphone records what is being said. However, Will was at great pains to emphasise that peer-assisted self-observation can still happen without it and that other things are of much greater importance – as will be seen in the rest of this write-up!) Another ELTC development which connects nicely with peer-assisted self-observation here is the ELTC peer-development team. Hopefully the “how” of this will become clear as you read on…

Having given us some context for this talk, Will talked about different types of observation, asking us to make a list of types we were already familiar with. He then shared a list with us too. Between us all, here are the types that came up:

  • Qualification (i.e. observations as part of your CELTA/ Cert TESOL/Delta/Dip TESOL)
  • Annual (i.e. done by management for quality assurance)
  • Manager-led (e.g. surprise pop-ins, sweeps/walks)
  • Peer Observation (self-explanatory! Colleagues pop in to your class, observe and hopefully there is some discussion around it after and possibly also before)
  • Self-observation (by means of recording audio, visual, or both and analysing it subsequently)

Next we focused in on self-observation, starting with the question, “Why do it?”

Reasons include:

  • it is challenging, as people don’t generally like to watch themselves and especially don’t like to watch themselves make (perceived) mistakes
  • it is more “real” than a formal observation. In other words, you capture yourself teaching as you teach rather than it being based on the more artificial “display” teaching that tends to go with annual observations.
  • it comes from you rather than being imposed on you
  • it is “one of the most successful tools for lasting change in teacher development” (Petty, 2014)

All that said, then, why a “peer-assisted” version of it, particularly?

Well, apparently, the fact that it is self-organised positively impacts the rate of positive change in practice. “Self-organised” activity is when learners or teachers, in this case, get together in communities of practice. These communities of practice are valuable for lasting change. As we all have different levels of experience and have different amounts of knowledge about different things, there is the chance for informal mentoring and coaching to take place in the shape of interactions with people who are more “expert” than you are without them being your manager. This type of learning is a key part of change or transformation of practice. However, it needs to be real-time and embedded in your context to have maximum benefit. (For me, at this point, scholarship circles also came to mind as another example of “self-organised” CPD for teachers by teachers!)

This table is a really interesting summary of how much skill transfer arises from different types of developmental experience:

Of course, it is clear how peer-assisted self-observation ticks the “real time, job-embedded coaching and mentoring in the context of planning learning goals, implementing strategies and evaluating progress” box which yields the highest transfer.

So, it’s a great idea – what tech do I need?

  • A recording device: could just be audio, could just be visual, could be both – depending on your focus. (Of course it needs enough memory and battery to capture the amount of footage you require.)
  • A suitable location for that device to capture what is needed (i.e. where in the classroom will you put it?)
  • Somewhere to store the footage after you remove it from the recording device
  • Software to watch/listen to the footage, exploit it and potentially share it (in the case of peer-assisted)

The ELTC, as mentioned earlier, favours the Swivl System, as it addresses issues with sound quality that often arise when a static recording device is used. (I.e. when you walk away from a static recording device, the sound quality becomes poorer, while with a Swivel, the quality is maintained by the tracker).

In terms of exploiting the footage, we were shown an app called VEO which was developed for teachers and medical students specifically for analysing practice. It works with android and OS and is currently available for free, with the usual scenario of limited features accessible this way. Examples of what you can use it for include tagging key moments, tagging engagement and tagging interaction as you watch back the footage. Of course, this process can be done equally as effectively using a pen and paper. Will was at pains to point out that you can get just as much out of the (peer-assisted) self observation process using the most basic equipment e.g. a tape recorder (capturing audio) and a pen&paper for the follow-up.

So what *is* important for this process to be effective, if not the latest technological gizmos?

For CPD to be effective, what is important is to start from the question of “what do teachers need to learn?”  Peer-assisted self-observation is no exception. So how to answer this question of what you need to learn? It can be answered by cycles of enquiry into practice. So, you start with evidence of what your students need to know, especially the struggling ones, and from there what you need to know in order to teach them that effectively. Then of course you need to check how you are doing this in the classroom and identify whether it is the most effective way or perhaps not. This usually involves somebody else watching you or in the case of peer-assisted self-observation, watching with you. Finally, if you make changes, you need to then check the impact they have had. Actually, having written this paragraph, this cycle is fairly similar to the one I put forward for use with TD frameworks! Peer-assisted self-observation would definitely fit into it very nicely. An additional useful resource that I didn’t know about when I did my talk, and so isn’t on my list, is Ed Talks whose tagline is “Interviews, discussions, and presentations from thought leaders, innovative educators, and inspirational learners”. Basically, on it there are lots of interesting 5 minute-ish videos that you can watch and learn from.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What will improve my teaching and student outcomes?
  • What is my assessment/curriculum/subject knowledge?
  • What is my pedagogical and professional knowledge?
  • Are my methods and techniques in the classroom effective?
  • Can I use an evidence-based enquiry?

To have a clearer answer to question no. 3, you could use the approach/cycle I put forward at IATEFLas part of the identification process. This would help with the first thing on the list of things that need to be in place for (peer-assisted) self-observation to work:

  • you need a clear focus on a purpose area
  • you need to discuss with peers (for peer-assisted) and course-leaders (so they are aware of your plans)
  • you need to book, check and prepare any technology you are planning to use
  • you need to avoid “display teaching”
  • you need to include or at least warn the learners about what you are doing and assure them that the footage won’t be used outside your institution (or, if you do plan to share it more widely, ensure you go through the permission processes required at your institution and in your country)

What can I observe?

You could observe for subject knowledge, classroom assessment (i.e. in-class formative assessment), pedagogical methods/techniques, classroom management and interaction patterns. Apparently subject knowledge is a highly significant factor.

How can I observe?

  • The observation could be holistic e.g. getting an overall idea of your position in the room over the course of a lesson, whether students’ heads are up or down (you could use a speeded up mode to identify these kind of things, which can be interesting). Or, it could be specific, e.g. you could focus on the clarity of your instructions.
  • The observation could be audio only or it could be visual only (sound not recorded or sound turned down).
  • The observation could focus on content i.e. what you do, what the students do, or pedagogy i.e. how you do it.
  • You could do a critical incident analysis. NB this is not necessarily negative! This is critical as in important/highly significant. So you choose an incident that you consider important for whatever reason, which might last perhaps for a minute, and you do a deep analysis of that incident.
  • Learning instructional rounds (Oates, 2012) – so, teachers work in a group looking at each others’ recordings
  • Use these self-observation and lesson analysis forms to help you

How to work with a peer?

This can take place throughout the process: Before you do the observation, you can discuss what you are planning to do and how you are planning to do it. As well as being a useful way to clarify your plans in your own mind through talking them through with someone else, talking to that someone else can also provide useful moral support! Then, after you have recorded the lesson or part of a lesson, there are different ways you can work with your colleague(s): You could watch the recording together, at the same time (dual viewing) or you could view it separately and discuss it subsequently. You could watch in a group (i.e. “Learning instructional rounds”) or you could discuss it with someone who hasn’t watched it! What you are looking for and what you analyse is something you will have thought about and decided on in advance but it is also something flexible – for example identifying a critical incident and running with that instead or as well. You can look at the same recording in multiple ways.

What happens next?

Will suggests using it as part of a reflection and action cycle. So, the next stage might be to evaluate what you have watched and what you have learnt from that process. Having done that, you could do some learning in response to any gaps you have identified e.g. an online course, some reading (see the powerpoint that you can download at the end of the write up of my talk for more ideas for resources to use as part of this learning process) etc. You could also use it as the starting point for doing some action research, not forgetting that you can involve others in this too. You could do further recordings/observations. Finally, don’t forget you could also share the footage with colleagues for them to use (and, who knows, they might share theirs with you too!).

Finally, to come right back round to where this write-up started, for ELTC’ers hopefully now you can see how the PDS team could be helpful with this type of development? I’m sure they would be more than happy to help you plan your observation goals, watch footage with you and help you analyse it and help you make an action plan based on what you learn. You can also contact the TEL team for help with the tech side of things, the TD team may also be able to help (and/or all the useful resources curated on the portal!) and, of course, you can involve your line manager and programme leader(s).

Maybe having a go with this type of development could be another ELT New Years Resolution for you! Go on! 🙂

 

 

IATEFL Webinar: Mental Health Training for Employers within ELT

On the 7th July (I know, I know, catching up…) I attended Phil Longwell’s IATEFL webinar about Mental Health Training for Employers within ELT.

He started by talking about research that he did, which he presented at IATEFL earlier this year, from which key things that came out were

  • most people think it’s a bad idea to disclose mental health issues
  • there is fear of reaction in the countries/cultures in question
  • there is still a lot of stigma around mental health
  • a small number people think it is a good idea to disclose in order to draw on support and to challenge stigma

For Phil’s write-up of his research and findings, please click here.

Then we considered stress. Lots of factors can cause it, there are no universal reasons and it is contextual. In teaching, things that can contribute are:

  • workload
  • perfectionism
  • job insecurity
  • meeting deadlines
  • demanding parents
  • large class sizes
  • lack of support/appreciation
  • harassment/bullying

Phil’s mantra to combat perfectionism and related stress is: “Good enough is good enough.”

Burnout is a significant cause of stress. You may feel overwhelmed by workload and expectations, you may feel complete exhaustion and that you can’t go on. There are various signs of it e.g. moaning, groaning, complaining, change in behaviour, over motivation and enthusiasm, absenteeism, missing deadlines, days off, extended sick leave. Acting on automatic pilot, avoiding contact with others and avoiding eye contact. However, none of these individually is in itself a sign of burnout, if a number are occurring over a certain period of time, it may be indicated.

We also looked at depression, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, OCD, psychosis, panic disorder/panic attacks and schizophrenia. We had to identify each based on lists of symptoms. It was a thought-provoking exercise.

Many of these conditions will be hidden to a manager unless they are disclosed. They are “invisible” conditions. Drink, drugs and addictions can have an effect on these conditions. They may be used as coping mechanisms but can actually make things worse. For example, people smoke to relieve anxiety but it can make the anxiety worse.

Then we looked at the ALGEE model for helping people who are suffering from a mental health issue.

Anxiety attacks/panic attacks are most likely to occur at work. The reason they occur is that something persuades the amygdala in the brain that there is danger. Therefore, if possible, somebody who is having one needs to get away from the trigger. If somebody has one, you need to help encourage them to gain control of their breathing again. They can last for a long time. You don’t need to be a doctor/medical professional to help someone. Just being there and trying to help them realise that the threat isn’t there.

Institutions can help support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees in a variety of ways:

“A beginner’s guide to being mental: An A-Z from Anxiety to Zero F*ks given” is a book by Natasha Devon that Phil recommends.

He finished with a quotation from his research:

He also provided us with some mental health resources and his references:

 

Thank you Phil, it was a really interesting and interactive webinar.

I work in an environment that can be very stressful and demanding at certain times – key assessment periods and so on – but fortunately it is also a very supportive environment which to me has made a lot of difference. I think having supportive colleagues is extremely helpful when it comes to mental health. I also think ELT in general has an added layer of complication when it comes to jobs and mental health, in that for many people it involves moving abroad and integrating into a new place and culture, learning a new language etc. Dealing with all of those pressures, wonderful though they can be, is a massive extra load on top of the actual work aspect of it all. For myself, I find that my mental health is better now that I am back home, much as I enjoyed working abroad. I have a much better support network outside work (which I think is important) and I can pursue the hobbies that I love (running and cycling) in the countryside that I love, which is something that I struggled to do while abroad as I was afraid to cycle and lived in cities so running (my kind of running) was very limited. As such, I think it is really positive that mental health/wellbeing is being discussed more openly within ELT. I hope it continues to be the case so that progress can keep being made in this area.

To close, here is a useful set of resources about mental health in ELT from Sandy Millin.

Edit: Half an hour or after I published this post, an email came round from “Juice” – they are the Sheffield uni health and wellbeing lot  – which amongst other things reminded us about the new staff resources for mental health which were launched in May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. Quite a comprehensive resource! It’s not for nothing that I feel grateful to work here.

IATEFL 2018 Forum – effective and personalised: the holy grail of CPD

1. How do you create a culture of CPD?

by Oliver Beaumont from Regent Oxford and Duncan Jamieson from OISE

They see CPD like a big beautiful garden. For greta things to happen, you need the right conditions. Important to focus not only on what you are doing but also on how.

Conditions needed: engage, energise, empower

Engage

What nutrients do you need to engage your teachers in CPD?

The vision, sharing the purpose of thea ctivity. Why is it happening at this time, how does it fit in with teachers’ career path and the vision of the school? Relevance need sto be clear. The environment – set up the conditions of the room so that it is conudicive to CPD, with posters that reflect the methodology in use and flipcharts from previous sessions. Make it a priority, ringfence time. How can you replicate that in your school? Not doing it after hours or in a lunchtime.

Energise

Give teachers a level of autonomy not only in how they deveop but what they develop as well. A level of choice in where they are going to go with it. This gives them ownership over it, making it more likely that they will invest in it and make an effort. Collaboration – try to foster it as much as possible.

Empower

It’s a grand word but purposefully so. Often the part that is missed. It starts with follow up – meaningful action following whatever CPD so that development doesn’t stop at the end of the workshop. Feedforward – looking to the future and looking to help the teacher to develop, coaching them to be better.  Impact – reflect on the impact not just of the training session or peer obs but on the implementation and how it affects learning etc.

Transfer of learning into practice – if you add feedback and coaching into a session with theory and demonstration and practice, transfer increases dramatically.

Three examples of activities

  • Flash training
  • Personalised peer obs
  • Academic flair development programme

Focus not on what but how, this is how to put EEE into practice.

Flash training

Inspired by flash mob – short period of time, full of energy, memorable. Good for busy times. A simple way to do a CPD exercise that doesn’t need a lot of time. You only need 20 minutes.

  • Look at a current practice. (How do you…? How often do you…?) Input some fresh ideas – a few practical ideas or resources
  • Action (What will you do this week with what came up in the session)

The following week for 10 minutes you have reflection – they can reflect on how it went, they can invite a peer in to observe for the specific period where they are doing something and focus on that particular point.

Personalised peer observations

Trying to move away from the lottery element where you go in not knowing what you are going to see, maybe see some good ideas maybe not, maybe put them into practice maybe not.

Decide on a personal focus (what is it that you want to develop in your teaching); construct an observation tool that targets this element; go and observe a lesson using that tool; reflect with peer and design an action plan. (E.g. swap and be observed using the tool you made)

Academic flair development programme

The opportunity to explore beyond a single session:

Progress theory – not just driving for the end goal but when workers (teachers in this case) can see progress, small steps of progress:

Exploring psychology in language learning and teaching – Marion Williams, Sarah Mercer, and Stephen Ryan

If you are looking to create a culture of CPD, focus on the nutrients, focus on the conditions, and amazing things will grow from there.

2. Are we really supporting new teachers?

Alistair Roy, manager of a BC teaching centre just outside Madrid.

Why this topic?

He has been teaching for 12 years, has worked for 6 dfferent schools and had 12 different posts. A lot of change, a lot of coming and going has been seen. Out of those 12 posts, only in 1 of them has there been a proper mentor and mentoring process. 26 – the number of people he has “mentored” in his career apparently. In one year he remembers having 7 mentees at one time, which is basically impossible. In Sept 2017, he started his latest role of manager. He had no mentor or induction. He got a phonecall on Friday and was told to start on Monday. He also had to deal with two brand new teachers when he was also brand new. When he asked other centres for help, he got checklists with things like “Do you have an ID card?” to use with the teachers. Not mentoring. He has since spoken to 24 different teachers about this issue, to show the teacher’s point of view of mentoring.

Do you remember your first day in your current job? Was it overwhelming? Yes. Most common doubts: How do the computers work? Do we use course books? What? Where? What is the assessment policy? Is there an acceptable behaviour policy? Where are the toilets? etc.

Do you remember your first day as a teacher? In addition to all the above the fact that you have never taught a class alone in your life.

Scraps of paper were planted in the audience. Think of them as info, questions, doubts etc teachers have on first day of work. They had to try and hit him with them. 6 hit. So imagine 6 things stuck beyond day 1. The rest: the pieces of missed information.

On one occasion he gave a checklist to a T and most of the answers were I don’t know. Information overload had occurred.

Were you assigned a mentor? What should a mentor be?

  • a carer
  • a teacher (a leader)
  • a friend
  • not a soldier but a colleague
  • same level as you

A person who guides and supports by building trust and modelling behaviour

In one role, in a regular school, his induction programme lasted for the whole first year. He had an actual real mentor. Was one of the best things that happened to him ever. The mentor was in the same department, had a weekly 45 minute meeting built into the schedule. He was observed 9 times in the one academic year. Had the chance to observe 4 peers. He had a structured training programme provided and a training record that he could take with. He was given a bi-annual appraisal.

In the next role, a private language school. There was…none of the above. He was given in-house training from unskilled owners (never done a CELTA). He was given a contract and “the talk”. Then told to go teach FCE and Advanced. He didn’t know what they were.

91,7% of the people he spoke to have never been given a mentor.

What makes a good mentor?

  • good communicator
  • well organised
  • approachable
  • available
  • honest but fair
  • diplomatic
  • understanding
  • objective

What should a good mentor do?

  • make time
  • share experience
  • set a journey
  • be curious
  • be inquisitive
  • help the mentee self-assess
  • share
  • reflect

What can managers do?

  • invest – not just economically
  • dedicate time and resources (give teacher and mentor time to talk together)
  • support
  • understand (don’t forget what it’s like to be there)
  • a good teacher is your best resource (if you don’t keep them, you’ve got nothing)

After 5 years, 91% of teachers who have a good mentor stay in the profession. That falls to 71% if they don’t have a mentor. Quite a distinctive difference. Highlights the importance of a good, structured mentoring programme.

3. Personalised Development Groups: A framework for collaborative, teacher-led CPD

Josh Round and Andy Gaskins

Personalised Development Groups is shortened to PDGs.

  • Research underpinning approach
  • What are PDGs and how to do they work?
  • Evaluation – how personalised and effective are they?

Traditional approaches are one size fits all, the focus is decided by the manager or trainer (top down), easy for participants to consume passively, probably not much follow up, minimal impact on practice.

There is a lot of research available now on the importance of CPD and its impact on improving student outcomes. Need to make this clear to the teaching team, is not just a tick box thing.

E.g. of research

(Josh highlighted the highlighted words.)

Need to move away from transmission of knowledge and skills to something more collaborative. reflective development, creating learning communities.

A fresh approach to CPD

They wanted something less top-down. They would always have a person at the front talking, who gets more out of it as they had to prepare it. They wanted everyone to get more out of it. It was always Friday lunchtime and then it was the weekend all was forgotten.

Instead: less topdown and fragmentary and more personalised.

PDGs

Pathways – broad areas of interest for groups to work on (some their ideas, some from the teachers – areas that would benefit the school or teachers were looking for more support or to refresh their practice) e.g.

Running the sessions: a balance between freedom to take ownership and support/structure to make it more beneficial.

6-8 teachers pr group, given a framework (the action research cycle) but left to the group to decide how to do this. Everyone gets involved.

Action research – qualitative and descriptive, observing what’s going on in the class, reflecting on that, implementing some kind of change.

  1. question (not easy, some groups took a few weeks to get going – useful to give prompts to help them get started, possible ideas to explore for each of the pathways.)
  2. Small change (take ideas into the classroom, doesn’t have to be huge, very narrow, very focused – decide what to do)
  3. implement (do what you have decided to do, be transparent about it, tell your learners what you are doing)
  4. observe (questionnaires, observations, interviews, teacher diary – simple things)
  5. reflect (talk about what you’ve done in your group, think about what to do next)
  6. repeat

How did it work? How was it received? (Evaluation)

They started doing this in Sept 2015, now in the 6th cycle, it’s been established, got going, has become a norm. They have done some staff surveys after the first cycle and at the end of last year.

  • 83% of t’s and 96% agreed it was effective
  • space and time to explore something they are interested in
  • take away practice ideas and experiment in teaching practice
  • In the first round a lower number thought it helped them discover new resources but in the last round 100% agreed.
  • High rates also for agreeing about it making a more reflective teacher and improve confidence/skills

Why do they sometimes not work so well?

  • absence or sickness
  • lack of structure
  • some members do not contribute much

Enthusiasm of early adopters can have a positive effect, that is what you hope for  to sway more reluctant ones.

At the end of the cycle, they do feedback presentations. So you (manager) finds out what has happened. Each group really wanted to tell/elaborate/share – each group gets 30 mins. Everybody gets to participate. Also promotes new, stronger work relationships and ongoing conversation about teaching.

Every second Friday at lunchtime, groups meet. But also in lessons, in the classroom, in your planning. It isn’t tidy, it’s a bit messy, needs getting used to. Teachers make two choices from range of pathways and you try and get people in first and second choice. Takes some time to get going and take off.

jround@stgiles.co.uk

 

IATEFL 2018 “No-one told me that!” Top tips for new trainers – Beth Davies and Nicholas Northall

Last session for the day was with my CELTA tutors from days of yore and it really was like a trip down memory lane as well as giving me plenty food for thought. 

This session is for people who have been trainers for one or two years.

Five main areas:

  • Transitioning from treacher to trainer
  • input sessions
  • spprt with lesson planning
  • obs and feedback
  • dealing wtih trainees

We started with a gap-fill to make us think about what new trainers need to do. (See handout for details.)

Next we ranked possible features of an input session from 1-10

A sample of the possible features given

Depends on the context and who the trainees are – whether CELTA or Delta. All have some importance.

Support with lesson planning

We discussed a list of reflective questions.

A sample of the questions

These questions are things to think about. E.g. look at the plan before the lesson rather than doing both at the same time. `

Board game

Then we played a board game with dice and counters, in which we had to say whether we agreed or disagreed with the statement in the square we landed on and why.

A sample of the statements on the game board

Role plays emphasising people skills

The role plays, our final activity, were very detailed, setting up a situation and giving us instructions. I’ve not got any pictorial evidence, but basically in pairs A was the trainer and B was the trainee (taking it in turns) and we role played discussions in which we had to deal with issues that might crop up during a course (in fact they have been harvested from various courses over the years!)

The goal was to think about what we would do in that situation, basically like looking at case studies. You need to be able to cope with various situations that come up.

It was a great session, very action-packed and thought-provoking.

Here is the handout we were given:

IATEFL 2018 Queering your pedagogy: teachers’ queries out of the closet – Giovanni Licata

Giovanni is head of TT at IH Rome Manzoni.

Task 1: We had to a look at a picture of his hand and discuss what we could tell about him from the photo. (He plays a guitar, is left-handed, is married, likes rings… maybe… we will see…) Task 2: Complete the statement “I have nothing against LGBT people but..” The reason for this slide is that sometimes we talk about queering pedagogy but are teachers really ready for this? The question is “Can I come out?” The answer appears to be “You can! But don’t be ostentatious!” He had a conversation with someone who had nothing against… but doesn’t see why we always have to talk about our partner etc etc. Yet she was doing the same thing… Enter…

Heteronormativity

“Heteronormativity consists of those structures, institutions, relations and actions that promote heterosexuality as natural, self-evident, desirable, privileged and necessary” Cameron and Kulick, 2003. E.g. There are lots of interviews asking straight actors what it’s like to play gay characters but not vice versa i.e. gay actors playing straight roles.

Two main things involved in teaching and LGBTQA+ teaching materials.

  1. Inclusive materials
  2. Teacher attitude

1999 – Thornbury stated that LGBT people are still in the coursebook closet. In 2013 not much had changed. Ten famous coursebooks: no reference to any sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Some books use the problem approach – lists gay families under issues alongside gun control, prostitution, child abuse…can we see the issue with this? There is also the “mentioning approach” e.g. mentioning uses of the word ‘partner’ and the “Inquiry approach” – let’s adopt a multisexual approach and problematise ALL sexualities.

Unpacking heteronormativity

We looked at a coursebook spread about “Getting married” from Headway. Giovanni had to teach this lesson last minute a couple of years ago. He started with “What’s missing? Talk to your partner” – Older people, same sex people etc.

Giovanni isn’t suggesting we ignore the approaches discussed so far, but wants to add “The GPS Approach” – help teachers get started.

He did a study on teachers’ attitudes towards LGBTQ themes in their classes. The findings were as follows:

Respondents welcomed both an inclusion and inquiry approach as long as they receive training and operate in safe environments.

A teacher with a CPE certificate felt they didn’t have the words to talk to a gay flat mate about it in a respectful way.

The cons they came up with:

 

could be dealt with:

  • in CPD training, by having a seminar on it (rather than the 1000th one on teaching vocab)
  • getting schools actively involved
  • getting publishers involved (!)

A simple task

  1. The others: a simple task – learners to go through their coursebooks and have a look at what’s missing. Then they design a course book page to include these “others”.

Here is a list of “the others” that a young class in Giovanni’s school came up with:

They made some excellent materials including people from their list of others. And no juniors or teens were harmed in the making of this lesson…even when queer themes came up. :-p

Why is all this important?

Morgan (2004) “there is no neutral space in schooling, no ways to insulate oneself from the social consequences of one’s activities” (p176)