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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The visualiser role:

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

Task 1

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

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Lou being super-smug! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Considerations for students:

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

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

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Here is another example text:

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

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

We look at a further example:

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

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Important considerations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next we moved onto individual points.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Some finer points:

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Moving on to the editor’s role:

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

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

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

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

However, the conclusion is:

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

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

 

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

IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG Open Forum

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

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

The MaW SIG year

2015

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

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

The committee!

The committee!

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for TT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was some audience discussion:

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

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

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

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

@ditaphillips

Dita.phillips @british-study.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The changes made

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

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

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Teacher engagement during the project was mixed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How does it work in practice? The introductory tutorial:

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

Good resources:

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

A writing consultation:

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

david.jay@anglia.ac.uk

Twitter: @cambthink