Scholarship Circle “TEFLising EAP”

Today was the inaugural session of our new scholarship circle “TEFLising EAP”*. (You can read more about what a scholarship circle is and what it does here.) The idea behind this one is that EAP lessons can get a little dry – learning how to do things academically is not necessarily the most exciting thing in the world even if it is essential for would-be university students – and for the students’ sake (as well as our own!) it would be great to bring in more, let’s say ‘TEFL Tweaks’ – things that we used to do when we taught at language schools abroad (warmers, personalisation, fun activities etc!) and have got out of the habit of doing in the EAP context but that could actually be adapted for use here without losing the all-important lesson content.

The plan is to look at the lesson materials for the following week (all of the courses here except for the highest level one have a very structured week-by-week, lesson-by-lesson syllabus and materials) and share ideas for how to breathe some life into them. We shall be doing this between 12 and 13.00 on a Friday and all in all, we will be aiming, through some most excellent collaboration, to avoid this** happening in our EAP classrooms! ūüėČ

 

*not necessarily the official name!

**substitute ‘lesson’ for ‘lecture’!

Here are some of the ideas that came out of today’s session:

  1. For a listening and note-taking lesson: when you want students to work in pairs to use their notes to answer questions, make it impossible for them¬†not to¬†(or they won’t!) – you could do this by setting up the activity with clear stipulations i.e. one student to close their folder and one to read out the questions that they then work on together to answer. This avoids students getting buried in their folders, which is the tendency.
  2. For a citation and referencing lesson: students may be good students but may not be familiar with terminology that we take for granted, such as “semi-colon” or “bracket”. To ensure that you start the lesson with all students clear about the language you are going to use in teaching the lesson content, take that terminology (e.g. semi-colon, italics, brackets, et al etc) and use it as the basis for a backs-to-the-board game. This enables you to check that students know the terminology before you use it.
  3. A pronunciation warmer for working on minimal pairs: Minimal pairs phone numbers. Number the board vertically from 0-9 and give each number a word within which is a minimal pair sound. Here are the examples we had: 0-Annie, 1-any, 2-rise, 3-rice, 4-fool, 5-full, 6-light, 7-right, 8-sit, 9-seat. (Adapt it according to the sounds that your group of learners tend to struggle with) You read out your (invented) phone number by saying the word that corresponds with each number. So 989 would be sit seat sit. The students have to write down your phone number by deciding which word you have said and writing down the corresponding number. They can then do it in pairs. This gives them practice in both recognition and production of the minimal pairs.
  4. Do a speaking ladder at the start of the lesson based on the lesson content: It takes some time to do it, but the benefits range from giving the students (who have very long days at the college) an energy-levels boost, get them mingling, get them thinking/speaking in English and make them focus (as it generates a lot of noise, they have to listen very carefully to concentrate on “their noise”). It also gives them some bonus fluency practice.
  5. (This one was mine!) A warmer for a nominalisation lesson:¬†Make a grid of academic verbs, one verb per square. Put students in groups of three and give each group a grid, counters and dice (they can use a phone app and the change in their pockets if needs be!). The aim of the game is to “collect” as many squares as possible by turning the verbs into nouns. To do this, students roll the dice and move their counter the corresponding number of moves. If their square has not been claimed, they can claim it by giving the correct noun form. If they are correct, they draw their symbol on that square. They can move in any direction that gets them to an empty square (backwards, forwards, diagonally, vertically etc) in any combination. They continue until all squares have been claimed or the teacher calls a halt. The winner has the greatest number of squares when the game stops. You can then get the students to group the nouns they have made according to the different suffixes used to create nouns and then try to think of any more verbs–>nouns they know that work in the same way.
  6. Academic style:¬†When the activity requires students to edit sentences to make them more academic, here is a fun way to do it in groups. Write each sentence at the top of a blank piece of paper and make sure you have enough for each student in each group to have a different sentence. They write their edited sentence at the¬†bottom¬†of the sheet and fold it over to hide it. They then pass their paper to one student and take a sheet from another. Repeat this until all the students have written their edited version on each of the sentences going round in their group. At the end, as a group, they can look at all the different versions and collaborate to make a final “best version”, combining their ideas, and write that best version in their folder.
  7. Working with a text: take out ten key words, do a few rounds of backs to the board; once all words have been guessed and are on the board, get students to use them to predict the possible content of the text.
  8. Summary-writing tasks: get students to record it rather than write it for a change! Put them in pairs and give them time to make notes, discuss what they want to say and decide who will say what, then get them to record that. They can send you the recordings to listen to and give some feedback on.

The hour went by very quickly, it has to be said. Looking forward to more next Friday! ūüôā (I am planning to share the ideas here regularly but marking 30×3000 word essays [in chunks of 1 and 2000 words] is likely to get in the way somewhat! Hopefully I will catch up eventually though. )

 

British Council Webinar Series: Exploring Continuing Professional Development

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

TEBC summarises the webinar thus:

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

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

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

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

Professional Development that makes the most difference to teachers is:

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

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

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

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It is divided into 12 different aspects of professional practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the links provided by Paul finally:

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

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

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

#300

This is my 300th post.

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

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

Here are my top 10:

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

Pages

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

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

People

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

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What comes next?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

TD Sig Web Carnival: “Time is of the Essence!”

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Yesterday, I delivered a session as part of the TD (Teacher Development) SIG (Special Interest Group)’s Web Carnival. I was one of four speakers and the opening speaker for the event, both of which scenarios were new to me! My session, as you can see, was called Time is of the Essence¬†(the reason for which will become clear in due course…)

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This is the outline of the session I delivered. ‘Backwards time-travel’ may sound a little ambitious but in metaphorical terms it actually worked really well. I made sure to tell the attendees that their active participation would be required, and they delivered 110%! Before starting on our journey back in time, we established the definition of “turning point”:

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Then it was time to kick off!

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This is me now. An amazing likeness, don’t you agree? I’m currently working at Sheffield Uni, teaching on a General English evening course as well as delivering a workshop for my colleagues every so often. Alongside this, I am working on some¬†materials with Onestopenglish/Macmillan, will be doing a couple of workshops for the M.A. in ELT multimedia and independent learning module at Leeds Beckett¬†uni. Finally, I have got a book chapter coming out in a forthcoming IATEFL LT SIG book and recently had an article published in a peer review journal for the first time.

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At this point, it was the attendees’ turn to tell me about where¬†they¬†are now, and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener! Such a diverse crowd all doing really exciting things! And this continued throughout the session as at each development point on MY map, I asked them to share theirs. I think I overused the word “awesome” in response, because their responses really were!

Anyway,¬†I suppose you could say I am “Freelance”, ish. I suppose it all sounds pretty cool. *But*, I am just a normal human bean. Mmm beans. So how did I reach this point? And what about this magic turning point?

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International House, Palermo. (IHPA)

Most recently prior to Sheffield Uni, IHPA. It was a good place to develop. I did a couple of certificates (IHCYLT, IHTIT) , delivered some workshops (at work, online for IH World Organisation, online for IH Teachers online conference), was allowed to attend/speak at IATEFL each year, did a LOT of teaching. And, of course, I worked on my own little projects. You see, when I arrived at IHPA I had recently become an LA geek. Nothing to do with Los Angeles, everything to do with learner autonomy and all things related, especially metacognition and motivation. I did some classroom based research on it, trying to use all the theory I had absorbed and put it into practice with students. Thus, the following were born:

I collected feedback at the end of each term to find out what the students made of it all as a whole and it was positive by and large, making it all worthwhile.

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All this would feed into my book chapter for LT SIG. So was this my turning point? But wait…what about the materials stuff? And the journal article? So, what came before IHPA?

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My M.A. ELT/Delta!

An amazing, grueling, challenging, rewarding, exhilarating year. In the Delta portion, probably the key thing I learnt was how to reflect effectively and constructively on my practice. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff a lot of which you can see on this¬†blog! In the M.A. portion, you would think I learnt a bunch of theory. Well, yes. But I learnt a load of practical stuff too, through the assessment. I did a research project in the research module (with the assessment being the presentation and write up of the research), created materials for the materials development material, wrote a journal article (criteria styled on the ELTJ) for the methodology in context module, and made a website for the multimedia and independent learning module. The assessment was able to be linked with the materials development, so the website linked to the materials I made for that assessment. As it happens, I used the skills developed in building that website using WordPress to completely overhaul my blog, and also developed my voice (hence now I never shut up, where before I didn’t think I had anything to say!)

So I was basically able to develop the skills that would enable me to pursue a variety of opportunities. But that isn‚Äôt all‚Ķ for my dissertation project, I wrote some task-based learning materials (which I talked about at IATEFL the year before last ‚Äď that long already!) which on a whim I submitted for the ELTon¬†Macmillan new talent in writing award. Then I got shortlisted, which in itself amazed me. Then I won! Hence the earlier-mentioned materials writing‚ĶI am editing those materials to make them suitable for publication on Onestopenglish, and we are about half way there. Will miss it when it‚Äôs over!

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So that MUST be the turning point, right? Well, I would absolutely say it was. If you ask me what the turning point was, that would come to mind. But…let’s go back a bit further…

Why did I do that M.A. at that university?

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IATEFL 2012!

I went to IATEFL in 2012, my first ever IATEFL! Oh the excitement‚Ķ And you know how you get a goody bag at the beginning? Who doesn‚Äôt love a good goody bag?! So, the first night back at the hotel room, I‚Äôm going through my goody bag and find a leaflet for this M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met. So, 2012. Lizzie, at nearly 29 years old is feeling very old and under-qualified! I got into this ELT malarkey late, 26 and a bit years old. (Is/was it late? Lizzie thought so at the time‚Ķ) Lizzie had to make up time‚Ķ(hence the session title!) Lizzie had also just been rejected from a PGCE primary programme at Warwick University (thank the good Lord!) and was all ‚Äúnow what?‚ÄĚ and so my guardian angel sent me the leaflet. After IATEFL finished, I applied, got accepted and the rest was, as they say‚Ķ history!

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So THAT MUST HAVE BEEN THE TURNING POINT!!!! Again, absolutely yes. Except… ooops back up a bit… How did I come to attend IATEFL 2012?

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Cactus to conference scholarship! I remain indebted to them. But….how? Where was I? How did it happen?

Indonesia…

I worked in a couple of private language schools in Indonesia after graduating from my CELTA, as one does. I was feeling quite isolated so was on the internet a lot. I found a forum called I think Dave‚Äôs ESL forum or something (does anyone remember this? some of my attendees did and apparently it is still going!) and started a post on there. I can‚Äôt even remember about what, maybe about how to develop or something. Anyway, one of the respondents pointed me towards Twitter. And ELTchat. (Or did I find ELTchat after I found Twitter? I can‚Äôt really remember!) Anyway, the important thing is, I got on Twitter. Did ELTchats, summarized them (The dark beginnings of my blogging!) AND‚Ķone day‚Ķsaw a link to IATEFL scholarships. Didn‚Äôt really know much about IATEFL other than it’s an ELT conference, but it seemed to be a big deal, so I applied for several and won the Cactus one, much to my amazement.

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So was THAT the turning point? Getting on Twitter? Again, there is a valid argument for it!

But… why was I bothering with looking for ways to develop, in my isolation? I could done other things than looking for ELT forums etc!!

We had better rewind some more…

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My CELTA course!!!

The beginning of everything… But in particular the professional development session towards the end of the course, where we were made aware that you could make a career out of ELT and shown some possibilities, through our tutors’ stories and suggestions of what we could do to develop in future. (For example, that there exists this thing called the Delta that you can do after you have some more experience!) Honestly, I don’t actually remember many of the details of that session, but the important thing is it awakened in me a desire to develop and make a career out of ELT, it gave me that sense of possibility. And perhaps the awakening of that desire and sense of possibility was the biggest turning point of all?

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But all the other turning points were just as important for me! How to choose only one‚Ķ! As the attendees mapped backwards through their careers to date, sharing their stories as we went along, it was clear that they had plenty of turning points too…

I concluded the session with a bit of take-away…

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…warning the attendees that it might be a bit of a cheesy takeaway (but if from this drive thru it would be vegan cheese ūüėČ )

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Well, everything that has happened to me so far stems from this, so…

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Most of the attendees mentioned that discovering the online teaching world as key in their development. Of course, for me, if I hadn’t discovered Twitter, I wouldn’t have seen the Tweet advertising IATEFL scholarships, so wouldn’t have made it to Glasgow 2012, wouldn’t have found that leaflet…etc!

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Because they are Good Things. And if I hadn’t…well you know the story already! Be warned: they are addictive!

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If I had acted according to my confidence in my ability to succeed, then a lot of what I have done I wouldn’t have dared to embark on in the first place! (I never in a million years thought I would win an ELTon, for example!) We (attendees and I) agreed that people often fail because they don’t try in the first place. And often that not trying in the first place stems from thinking “I’m not good enough, that’s for people who are better than I am”. But if there is one thing I have learnt, it’s that you only get “good enough” by jumping in in the first place.

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Turning points may not advertise themselves to you as such. It’s often only looking backwards that we realise that such or such an event or situation was a turning point for us. Hence the importance of saying yes! (Even if saying yes all the time can make you awfully busy! ūüėČ Seriously, who knew the start of 2016 would be so jam-packed!!)

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What you learn needs to be part and parcel of your professional life, weaving it’s way through, not something separate, on the side. For example, if I hadn’t tried to put the theories that struck me on the M.A. into action, my projects wouldn’t have happened and thus neither would my LT SIG book chapter. Not only that, but learner autonomy/metacognition/motivation etc wouldn’t have become part of my teaching, which would have been a shame from the students’ point of view!

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Life is short. Be where you want to be. If you aren’t, then keep udging towards where you want to be. Right now, I am very happy. I am where I want to be and I can highly recommend it! ūüôā

Thanks to the TD Sig for this opportunity and to all the attendees for making it such a fun, interactive session to deliver.

 

 

My ELT Book Challenge (Update 1)

About a week ago or so ago, I invited you all to join me in an ELT Book Challenge. Judging by the number of comments it attracted (much more than I had expected), I’m not alone in looking at my collection of ELT books and thinking “I really should open you more” …!

It’s been a bit of a juggle this week (and will continue to be for a while!), as I had already borrowed two ELT theory books from the staffroom library: Garton, S. and Graves, K. (2014)¬†International Perspectives on Materials in ELT¬† published by Palgrave Macmillan, and Roberts, J. (1998)¬†Language Teacher Education¬†published by Arnold. I chose the former because it’s come out since I did my M.A. ELT and read All The Books about materials development, which I continue to be interested in, and the latter after being inspired by the Teacher Education Scholarship Circle. However, in order to fulfil my aim to pick up also one of my¬†own¬†books, I decided to continue with Eggins, S. and Slade, D. (1997)¬†Analysing Casual Conversation¬†published by Equinox, which I’ve been meaning to read for ages – since I dipped into it for my LSA4 speaking skills essay, in fact!

Pleasingly, my choice of books spans not only a large time range (1997 to 2014) but a nice spread of topics – materials development, teacher education and spoken language analysis. I say “pleasingly” as it feeds my hunger¬†for variety!

In terms of materials development, so far I have read the introduction of the book, Materials in ELT: Current Issues, which, as you would expect, situates the book,¬†and the first chapter, The ELT Textbook,¬†which was by Jack Richards and opens Part 1 – Global and Local Materials. (This is an edited book, so each chapter is by a different author and on a different topic, making it nice and easy to dip in and out of!) Richards looks at the role of the textbook in language teaching, making reference to McGrath’s (2002) metaphors for describing teacher relationships with textbooks and exploring issues such authenticity and representation (this is something I explored in my research module, as I looked at phonological representation in that well-known course book series¬†Cutting Edge), as well as the process of choosing a textbook, distinguishing between analysis and evaluation (including pre-, during and post-use), and, briefly, adapting it. This was quite a general chapter, and for me was a useful revision of aspects of materials use that I studied in the academic year 2012-2013. I imagine those who are doing the course now would probably find it a good starting point, as it is brief and general, and would be able to use the bibliography to go into greater depth on the various elements explored.

As for Teacher Education, I am still on part one (in my defence, it goes up to page 61!), which looks at theories of learning and teacher education and is titled thus. This is an interesting read, as it revisits the theories of learning that I looked at as part of my Delta and M.A., but relates them to teacher education. So, there is a little¬†bit of revision but also adds something new. So, it considers the behaviourist approach, where trainees are expected to follow a particular model of teaching, with no deviation, so that learning to teach is an exercise in imitation; the humanistic approach where change is enabled rather than directed by other people, giving the trainee more control; the constructivist approach, which draws on Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and draws on a trainee/learner’s¬†existent knowledge and experience, so they are no longer a blank slate but somebody who brings something of value to the table; and finally a socialisation approach, where as well as the trainee’s own experience and background, influences on the trainee are also taken into consideration e.g. the school, the community, the education policies in play etc. According to the contents, the author is going to conclude that a social constructivist approach is the best, but I have not yet read the conclusion (that is the point I have reached!) so I am not sure exactly what reasons he will put forward. (Though, I could probably guess at some of it, as when I was studying, I, too, became a big fan of this approach in language teaching!)

Finally, as far as Conversation Analysis goes, I’ve read chapter 1, called Making meanings in every day talk, in which the authors demonstrate that language is “used as a resource to negotiate social identity and interpersonal relations”, giving examples of conversation and showing how we can begin to guess at the type of speaker (gender, class etc.) based on the language they use. Apparently what’s special about casual conversation is that it seems trivial and yet is anything but trivial. It is carefully constructed even though that careful construction is achieved without the speakers thinking about or being aware of that construction. ¬†Casual conversation is different from transactional or pragmatic conversation (e.g. buying something) in a variety of ways, including length (casual conversation tends to be longer), formality (casual conversation is generally¬†more informal) and use of humour (casual conversation uses humour). In the second chapter, which I have only just started, the authors start to discuss the different approaches to analysing conversation, which are sociological, sociolinguistic, logico-philosophical, structural-functional, critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis. As I have only just started, I can’t tell you the difference between them all for now, but I assume I will have a better understanding of this by the end of the chapter.

As is usual at the beginning of a project, excitement and motivation were sufficient to allow me to not only do the theoretical reading but also use one of my more practical/methodological books. I had planned to use two, but ran out of time and cut my use of the second one, though I think it will fit nicely into next lesson.

The first book I used was part of the Delta Publishing Teacher Development series: Morrison, B. and Navarro, D.¬†The Autonomy Approach.¬†This is a book that I discovered at IATEFl last year, and was delighted because it reflected and extended the approach I had been using with my learners in Palermo, in terms of helping them become more autonomous. The great thing about this series of books is that they combine theory and practical ideas for implementing it. In my case, I had gathered a lot of the theory during my M.A. and set about trying to implement it once I returned to teaching. I’m quite glad I didn’t discover this book until after I had tried to do that, as it was a really interesting and rewarding process to go through, but would nevertheless recommend this book to anybody with an interest in learner autonomy and its development (which surely should be most, if not all, of us!).

I chose an activity for reviewing resources, as I have been encouraging my learners to choose different activities each week to try. This activity can be found on page 67 of the book. The heart of the activity is a set of questions that encourage reflection on the use of a set of student-chosen resources. In my case, it was student-chosen activities rather than resources, but there is some overlap, as the activity tends to specify the use of a given resource. I decided to do it as a speaking ladder activity, as I wanted it to be reasonably fast-paced and I wanted the students to talk to as many classmates as possible. Why? Well, students had chosen different activities to try, so hearing about what classmates have tried could sow seeds of interest and inspiration for future weeks. I did the activity at the start of the lesson, and it certainly lifted the energy levels in the room, ready for the rest of the lesson. There was potential for chaos, as the questions didn’t explicitly ask students to tell each other WHAT activity/resource was under discussion (the activity assumes sustained discussion with the same group of people) but students are not stupid, and indeed they quickly explained their activities to their partner¬†before launching into the discussion of the particular question at hand. There were enough questions that they spoke to some people twice, so then there was familiarity with partner’s activity and a bit more depth was gone into via the additional question.

The second book I chose to use (but didn’t get round to using) was The company words keep, another Delta Publishing special. However, as I didn’t get on to using it, I will save it for a future post!

Have any of you started the challenge yet? Have you blogged about it? If so, either link to your blog post below, or use the comments to share your thoughts on what you have read or tried. I look forward to seeing what you have all been up to! ūüôā Not sure when my next update will be – hope to strike a balance between too often and not often enough, though!

The teacher education circle

Yesterday I attended the Teacher Education scholarship circle. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but this was how it was described in the circular email: “It is aimed at anyone interested in training and development of teachers to share some development ideas and training methods.” ¬†I joined this circle because I am interested in the area of teacher education, and becoming a CELTA trainer is on my long-term list of things to do, so I figured that whatever shape the circle took, I would learn something. In the post linked to above, I promised a write-up, so here it is!

Earlier in the day yesterday, a few hours before the meeting, an email went round saying that ¬†“The first theme for discussion will be ‘Teacher Training v Teacher Development’ – what’s the difference?”. 10 of us turned up. This difference was one of the topics treated in the IH tutor training course I did that started around this time last year. I spent the bike ride into work pondering the difference, initially feeling it as one of those things where you know it is different but pinning it down is more difficult. On my bike ride I came up with:

  • training is finite, development is infinite.
  • training is done to you, you do development.
  • training is a short burst of something with a very specific goal, development is more of a journey.

10 of us turned up at the circle and we split into two groups of 5 to discuss the difference, followed by “half-assed dribble feedback” (or was it “drivel”? One of the teachers, who is a teacher trainer, was saying that he dislikes the whole putting people i.e. students or trainees, into groups to see what they come up with and then doing some “half-assed dribble/drivel feedback” where nothing is really added. Though we all seemed to agree that as part of a test-teach-test kind of approach/task-based approach, it can work really well, provided the teacher/trainer does add value in subsequent stages. Certainly, in our case, for example, a more senior member of the group did provide some of the definitions from the literature in the follow-up discussion.)

Here are some of the distinctions that were discussed:

  • training has a structure imposed by a course/syllabus (so something external), development is structured by the individual (but has the danger of lacking any structure and becoming unwieldy)
  • the motivation for training tends to be extrinsic (a qualification, a work requirement, a better salary) while the motivation for development tends to be intrinsic (to learn!)
  • that there can be overlap: a workshop could be training for the receivers and developmental for the deliverer.
  • being trained feels different to being developed.

This last one I found interesting. Up until that point, I hadn’t thought about development as being something that somebody else does to you (as evidenced by my bike ride thoughts). Perhaps it’s just semantics though, as of course the concept of being helped to develop is something with which I am fortunate enough to be very familiar!

Something else that came up in discussion, particularly in reference to “scholarship time” (hours that are timetabled and paid, specifically for development): the difficulty of knowing what to do with that time. It is only for full-time members of staff, so this is not something I have to had to grapple with personally (yet! I live in hope!), but it was very interesting to hear from people who do. It was put forward that it can be daunting to face this time and know what to do with it, in terms of “I want to develop but I’m not sure what to do or where to start”. It was recognised that not everybody wants to aim towards management (i.e. follow that linear route) ¬†– which is certainly the case for me, no thanks! – but that in terms of salary, if you don’t go up that ladder, then you cannot earn more, because of how the pay structure works. Somebody mentioned that the question that is uppermost in their minds when doing something is “why am I doing this?” and described for example the situation of needing to do a particular qualification in order to stay in a job. The idea of a mentoring system was also suggested, where more experienced teachers would be available to help less experienced teachers approach their development.

There are several things that interested me within the discussion described in the above paragraph.

  • When I heard about “scholarship time”, my immediate reaction was, “Wow! That’s so cool! Having actual timetabled time for development stuff AND being paid for it!” And, as I mentioned here, I found the whole concept very teacher empowering. It didn’t occur to me to wonder what I would do with that time if I were a full-time member of staff. (I just¬†thought that I’d have more time for all the development things I am used to doing in my own time!) Now, I wonder if all those things would count/be acceptable use of the time. Or, if some would and some wouldn’t, which would/wouldn’t and why? So, for example, my current materials writing work with Macmillan, where I am editing my ELTon materials to make them suitable for publication on Onestopenglish; now finished but I’ve put in a lot of hours of my own time into my journal article and book chapter, both of which are due out soon-ish (the journal article I believe early next year and the book chapter when the publication process is completed!); participating in #eltchat and #eltchinwag (which are like scholarship circles in themselves, only with a regularly changing focus!); blogging (both this blog and the one I co-manage with Sandy, Independent English); writing my column for the IH journal (not anymore, of course, as I no longer work at IH!); the corpus linguistics MOOC run by Lancaster University (which I am currently studying on); reading ELT-related literature; reflecting on, and making materials for, my learner autonomy projects (I would have been thrilled to have some time allocated to that when I was at IH!); certificate training courses like the IH certificate in teaching YL and the IH Tutor Training certificate that I did while at IHPA. (Having time timetabled for those, rather than it filling up the majority of my free time for the duration, would have been amazing too!); preparing IATEFL talks/online conference talks or webinars; watching webinars and talks online… and so on.
  • As is clear from the above point, being unsure what to do next hasn’t really been a problem for me! However, looking back over my career thus far, I can see that I HAVE had mentors even though I have never participated in a mentoring scheme. My CELTA tutors Beth and Cilla: I stayed in touch with them after the end of my CELTA, and emailing them telling them about my teaching was a rudimentary form of reflection that would later become more developed in other ways (e.g. Delta, M.A., blogging), in that I would think about what I did and tell them, from time to time. And they would respond, which I would learn more from. My M.A. tutors Heather, Naeema and Ivor: while doing my Delta/M.A. ELT, I learnt *how* to develop. Obviously from the Delta it came through the PDA (Personal Development Assignment) and the EP (Experimental Practice) parts of Module 2. From the M.A., though, I learnt how to do research, how to write up research, how to present research, how to write materials, how to write a journal article. And these are all things I’ve since used and will continue to use. (They are also things that I think would be really invaluable as INSETT sessions, as well as the usual “how to teach pronunciation” and “how to use technology x” type sessions.) Of course all these tutors as much as anything have been a source of encouragement and support, which has been invaluable. However, colleagues can be an equally valuable resource in helping one to develop. Sandy Millin springs to mind here. I met her through Twitter and have learnt a huge amount from her. Seeing her develop has also provided inspiration for my own development. Currently we also collaborate over at Independent English, as mentioned earlier. Additionally, I suppose I have been very opportunistic – seen opportunities to use the skills¬†I mentioned above and gone for it. With the “there’s nothing to lose” mindset. I wonder if perhaps people are put off trying things because they think they aren’t/won’t be good enough? I think the learning and development comes through the trying, regardless of the outcome.
  • “Why am I doing this?” Well, I don’t want to be a manager (that may change but for now that is my feeling!), the teaching salary offered at the ELTC is plenty good enough for me (of course as a non-full-time teacher, the downside is lack of hours but hopefully they will grow in number!). I suppose partly it’s to make myself more employable (who doesn’t want some job security!) but a large part of it is also joy of learning and trying new things, cheesy as it sounds. I do really enjoy learning – reading, discussing, attending events like conferences, and challenging myself. It is also joy of creativity. Writing (materials or articles or blog posts) is an outlet for creativity for me, as is taking what I learn and finding ways to use it in the classroom then seeing what happens and building on that, all of which I love. As for attending and speaking at conferences: as well as all the learning, it’s so much fun! And all of this just¬†also happens to be developmental too – bonus! Be this all as it may, what struck me is that I hadn’t really questioned this before the teacher raised the “Why” question. I had just accepted it as an enjoyable interesting part of my teaching career. (Have you asked “why” before? What answers did you find?)

Next session (in a month’s time I think it was) we are going to look at different models of development, which sounds like it should be very interesting. Meanwhile, flitting through my mind is the question “Was I/am I being developed or Was I/am I developing?” and also the question “How can I help other teachers in their developmental journey?”, rather than taking it for granted that it’s as straightforward for everyone else as it has been for me. (Mind you, I do think I have been extraordinarily lucky every step of my career so far!) I suppose this blog has been one way of helping, for example all the Delta posts I have written – I wonder if I could do anything else with it in the vein of helping people develop. Mind you,¬†Sandy’s IH column would be a great place for anyone wanting development ideas, so maybe I could signpost my colleagues towards that, for starters. (And any of you out there looking for ideas, I suggest you have a look too!) I have actually thought of another possible way, but can’t go into that here and now. If the channel I am pursuing for it doesn’t work, then perhaps it will become a blog project too though! ūüôā

In conclusion, what a fascinating 45 minutes the circle was! (Although of course if you add on the bike ride and the length of time I’ve spent reflecting on what we spoke about since, 45 minutes is just the beginning…) Which also brings to mind my belief that a huge part of teacher development is motivation, and maintaining motivation. (Oh dear, don’t get me started on talking about motivation or this post will never end..!) Suffice to say, yesterday has certainly been a good injection of motivation for me. ¬†I’m looking forward to the next session and wondering what I will achieve in the mean time. For now, though,¬†editing ELTons materials beckons…

Scholarship Circles

In this post, I’m going to write about something that I had no knowledge of until I started working at Sheffield University this year: Scholarship Circles (SC). “Er, what is an SC?” I hear you say. (Well, at any rate, that was my first question when met with the term for the first time!) Don’t worry, just read on and all will become clear!

What?

This is a form of teacher development.

Up till now, for me, CPD has mostly meant either something I do myself, in my own time Рfor example, seeking out opportunities to be published (materials writing, article writing etc), blogging, reading ELT-related literature, using Twitter and so on Рor attending (and occasionally delivering) workshops at work. Of course it has also entailed being observed and being given feedback on that. IHPA had a good CPD programme, with regular workshops for teachers and encouragement to do things like write for the IH Journal and present at the IH teachers online conference. I was also lucky enough to be given leave in order to speak at IATEFL in the UK two years running.

Scholarship circles, however, rather than being either individually motivated projects or management-organised top-down fare, are teacher-led and collaborative. They can take many different forms, depending on teachers’ interests. It is not necessary for everybody to participate in the same circle at the same time (which is good because obviously that would be nigh on impossible with all the different timetables in place!). For example, you could have a reading circle, where members take turns to choose an article for the group to read, which is subsequently discussed by members together at an agreed time/location.

How?

At Sheffield University, full-time teachers have three hours timetabled as “scholarship time” i.e. time allocated for CPD. That is to say, not in addition to the full timetable, but timetabled teaching hours were reduced by three hours to allow for this. It should add up to 90 hours over the academic year, so some weeks you may do more than three hours, others less. That’s fine, as long as it is recorded and you can show that you have fulfilled the obligation over the course of the year, as it is paid working time. As I said, teachers have to keep a record of how they use this time (a log is provided for this), so that they can demonstrate to have used it fruitfully. This includes things such as attending the (optional) workshops that are scheduled on a regular basis, delivering such a workshop, participating in scholarship circles and also individual endeavours¬†such as working on a part-time PhD/Masters or doing a MOOC course. (I’m an hourly paid teacher currently, so I am not paid for “scholarship time”, BUT I may participate in as much of the CPD opportunities available as I care to, which is great!)

As far as Scholarship Circles go, anybody can set one up, on any area of interest. I have already mentioned the reading circle, which was set up jointly by two ELTC teachers, one of whom selected the article for the first meeting. Google docs is used as a way of organising the circles, so there is a document with a table¬†containing each circle, its coordinator and meeting time. It¬†can be edited by all teachers, so anybody can sign up for any circle or, indeed add a circle which others can sign up to. I have also signed up for a teacher education scholarship circle, which is for anybody who is interested in training teachers. The first meeting is tomorrow, so I can’t tell you anything about that yet! I am most excited about it, however.

Thoughts

What I like about scholarship circles is that they are teacher-led rather than being management-led like traditional CPD. It is up to teachers to decide what and when, according to their interests and availability. Obviously the reduction in teaching hours makes this kind of development a much more realistic prospect, both in terms of timetabling and motivation. The CPD programme as a whole seems to empower teachers, as it is up to teachers how they use their “scholarship time”, something that really appeals to me. It also recognises that everybody is at different places in their development and has different needs/interests, and enables these to be pursued rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

I really enjoyed the first meeting of the reading circle and volunteered to pick the article for the next session. Sessions are fortnightly to give time for article picking, sharing and reading. You can learn so much from the people you work with, just  by having time to do something like this Рbe it reading and discussing an article or any of the other circle focuses.

Over to you!

Have you ever participated in or organised a scholarship circle before? (Even if it didn’t go by that name!) If so, what did it entail? If you haven’t, do you think it would work in your workplace? Why?/Why not?

Really look forward to hearing about your experiences/thoughts on this. In exchange, I promise I’ll write about the first meeting of the teacher education circle! ūüôā

Circles! (Taken from commons.wikimedia.org)

Circles! (Taken from commons.wikimedia.org)