Teacher Education Circle 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These were the top ten countries:

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

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

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

 

 

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ELTC: Vocabulary review workshop

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

Before

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

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

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

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

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

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

After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IATEFL 2016: The LDT Toolkit (Damian Williams)

Damian starts by asking us what LDT stands for. It’s Language Development for Teachers. There are different ways for describing it. He chose this because it’s the same as the name of the specialism for Delta module 3. It also emphasises the developmental aspect.

Teacher development is often split into teacher education for teaching teachers about teaching and teacher training. Teacher training is more about developing skills e.g. CELTA, Delta, Trinity, with a very practical element. Continuing professional development is everything else e.g. webinars, conferences etc. He feels that LDT overlaps between them, as it is learning knowledge but also developing skills.

He wanted to find some figures of what the numbers of NESTs and NNESTs around the world are.

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Bigger numbers now, of course.

A lot of conference talks are based around the private language sector when in actual fact it’s a very small proportion of the language teaching that goes on in the world today. Damian lived in Brazil for 10 years and one of the things he was doing there was running workshops for teachers, on behalf of publishers. It was a thing they did for their best customers. Most of the teachers came from state schools with very large classes. A lot of the feedback was “this is great, sounds brilliant, but my reality of 30-40 kids, this wouldn’t work”.

There are some key issues involved here.

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First of all, definitions. We should all just be called teachers regardless of where we are from (rather than NEST and NNEST etc.) Damian asked people to answer some questions via FB groups but it’s complex!

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Most English spoken in the world today is as a second or foreign language. TEFLEquity are trying to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in recruitment etc.

Language proficiency is the focus of this talk. Why? Firstly, there isn’t much about in terms of published materials that does it already. Here are a few examples that do:

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Most TT courses focus on methodology and skills, where there is a language component it tends to be language awareness and looking at language as a system as opposed to practical uses. There is a lack of time on these courses, as there is a lot to do and get through. Building a language component into that would take too much time. Cullen (1994) quotes Berrry (1990) quotes lots of Polish teachers saying that their main use of English was in their classroom with their students, so they don’t get to practice English much outside the classroom. The demands of CLT adds even more pressure. Most teachers that Cullen spoke to wanted it. He says this in his article:

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Initial considerations

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  • Is this a GE course for general improvement or an ESP course specifically related to teaching? Damian opted for the latter.
  • What proportion of a course should it be? Damian wants to build it into the other components of the course.
  • How to incorporate experience? Damian heard a lot of “this is great but it wouldn’t work in my situation”  – how to deal with that?

Cullen sets out four approaches to LDT.

  1. ‘ignore’ it – do all the other development through the medium of English
  2. include an LDT component (does take a lot of time)
  3. link methodology and language work – using English as a medium of instruction but an add-on where you start to analyse the language used as well.
  4. make LDT central – give language lessons as you would normal but also demonstrate practice.

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Next, we try some activities within this approach. E.g. look at statements about error correction and agree/disagree with them. Some of the language is highlighted:

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Focus on the highlighted expressions.

  • Look at the expressions highlighted in yellow. Which have a positive or negative meaning? Which mean a large/small quantity?
  • Look at the expressions highlighted in green. For each one decide Does it have a positive/negative meaning? What other part of the text does it refer to? What do you think it means?

Next, Damian ‘sets up an activity’. Work in pairs. Each pair has a set of pictures that are the same but different. Pairs should describe their pictures to each other and find ten differences. Don’t show your partner your picture. Damian gives the instructions. Then we should answer questions about the demonstration.

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The next activity is mini-bingo. Students write down one-word answers for themselves in the boxes and, comparing their answers in pairs, get a bingo each time theirs is the same as their partners. We are asked to practice eliciting feedback from a student who has done this activity. The first time A is going to be the teacher finding out the answers from B the student. A’s are given an extra instruction with B’s looking away!

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

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

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So this is partly an experiential approach, using Kolb’s cycle. We learn by doing and reflecting on what we have done. The CELTA is like a driving test, but says you are safe to be let loose on the classroom, it’s then through the years spent in the classroom that you really learn. Many teachers have many years of classroom experience, what we are doing is feeding into that experience within the circle. Teachers try things out, take them into the classroom and use them, then reflect on them.

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As Kirsten Holt said in her session yesterday:

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Other ideas for activities:

  • keeping logs/reflective journals e.g:

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  • Try out keywords/key phrases in class e.g. I need you to do x rather than Do x
  • Categorising phrases for different aspects of the lesson
  • Technique ‘bingo’ during observations
  • Encourage forums/online discussions helps with the idea of building confidence through sharing experiences
  • Matching phrases used in class to a list of techniques

This is all very kind of initial, Damian’s initial thoughts, but thinks there is a lot of scope for it.

 

IATEFL 2016 The N-Factor: follow-up workshop to Silvana Richardson’s Plenary talk

Now it’s time for Silvana’s Day 2 Plenary follow-up workshop. As you would expect, there is a good turnout!

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A little reminder from the day 2 plenary!

Silvana starts by welcoming us and telling us that as it is a workshop, we are going to be doing most of the work. She plans to recap the main points of the plenary, ask us some questions, and hopefully explore some future directions.

Rather than writing up her recap here, I encourage you to take a look at my full write-up of her wonderful session here.

Silvana gave us the following questions:

  1. Why did you come to this workshop?
  2. What struck you most about yesterday’s plenary?
  3. What questions/comments would you like to ask me?

Then once we had discussed in small groups, we had to hand questions in to Silvana.

Question 1: One question that seems to recur is the question of terminology – what can we do to improve on NEST and NNEST?

Audience 1: Why not just say I’m an <country adjective> English speaker. One of his students wrote “I like speaking English with an Italian accent”. So that is what we aim for, a confident English speaker who is proud of his/her background and identity. Audience 2: I think there is a difference between being a speaker and being a teacher. Penny Ur speaks about highly proficient users of English. Becoming a native speaker is not am ambition that can be achieved. Audience 3: Why would we want to? Silvana: I’m a native speaker of Spanish, sorry. Audience 4: If we wan to do away with the discriminatory side of things, let’s have “I’m a teacher of English”. Why come up with something that will go against us? “I’m a qualified and experienced teacher of English. And I’m proud to be Hungarian and give a Hungarian English model to my students”.  Audience 5: We should let our students know who we are and that we have worked hard to become proficient at the language. Audience 6: What’s really important is to be a good teacher. That you use the language you have, whatever the level, in the right way with the students. Teaching is about the student talking time. Silvana: What we are teaching is English. For me, being competent and highly proficient is important. If I am teaching, and I am A2 level, then I should want to go on and improve that. Marek: For too long, there has been an obsession with native-like proficiency. It’s unfair to ask for C2 level all the time, we can’t turn a teacher down because they have slightly lower proficiency. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t improve. Silvana: It’s about subject knowledge isn’t it. Audience 7: It’s very difficult for us to be respected by society because we allow ourselves to be considered great teachers with an A2 level and it’s ok. If we were doctors and had a superficial knowledge of the human body…? Marek: Proficiency is not the only aspect. For example don’t require people to be proficient in methodology, they can’t be after a 4 week course. Audience 8: I was just wondering..I will always be proud of being an NNS but the time it would bug me would be if someone doesn’t want to employ me because of it. I don’t have a problem with being referred to as such, but if someone says we don’t employ NNS, then I have a problem. Audience: The solution in my opinion is rooted in the perception on the clients side, on the learners’ side of what the NNS has to bring to the table. Let me ask you a question. Do you know what the Fair list is? An award giving to organisations where there is gender equality for example at conferences. Maybe we could have one for NS-NNS equality.

Question 2: The NN teacher’s voice is an incredibly powerful source of quality exposure in low resource environments, how can we encourage this to be valued?

Audience: students will value a NNS more because they can see them as a model of what they could aspire to, so they can relate to it. A “we could do that too” thing. Marek: Haven’t found a single study that supports that a majority of students prefer native speakers. Good English was important. Audience 2: I think proficiency is an issue here. We are trying to do away with the native speaker as an idea but we need to put something in place of that, so that students have something better to strive for. We can’t improve anyone if we don’t know what we are trying to get at. I’m not saying we can agree on one particular standard but there should still be something up there. Our students would like to see that they improve and know what we expect from them. Audience 3: I’m troubled that we are still talking in terms of dichotomies. As Silvana said, we have to do it together. It’s not dispensing with the idea of NS-NNS, it’s actually being equal and that equality to be placed on the basis of qualification and competence which includes language competence. But language competence doesn’t mean native modelling. Audience 4: I guess what we are facing here is a social issue. We are talking about equality. It’s a social change. And it will not come from textbooks or top-down, probably as social change  generally doesn’t. It will come from us. I agree with our Hungarian friend, it’s about unity. It’s us uniting and joining together, joining strengths.

What are we going to do about this?

(NB: Again, deliberate use of extra large font above!) 

More discussion questions:

  • What changes would you like to see?

Silvana says we need awareness, advocacy and activism. What are you going to do in your context to make this change? To make change, it happens with small steps. So we need to start looking at what step one is. What possible first steps could you, your school, your teaching association take? We are asked to listen supportively.

She invites us to share ideas for change. Various audience members share the following:

  •  I might be in the minority here because I’m English. My point is, I teach ESOL here in the UK. I’m fully qualified, I’m doing a Masters at the moment. My problem is I am lumped in with the people who go abroad, with no qualifications, to get summer jobs. It’s not just a problem overseas, we’re having similar problems here. The government doesn’t want to pay us. I don’t know how to change that other than doing the best job I can. My manager is Polish, I have a French colleague, both fully qualified. They’re getting jobs here and not being discriminated again so it’s kind of we need to change it not just for the rest of the world but also in ESEs so that people recognise the jobs we do.
  • I used to be a teacher in a secondary school. I had to do a 4 year degree then an M.A. in teacher education. That is what you need in Ireland. With a 4 week course to become qualified, it gives the impression of not being a real profession.
  • I think all of us can chip away at the prejudices. But it can be top down too, I’d like to see other institutions getting involved like TESOL France. These organisations are powerful in their countries and can send a powerful message.
  • I’m going to set up a blog aimed at learners about what they should look for in their teachers. So that they can see that no matter whether they are native or non native, what is important.
  • I think if you work from the grassroots, you engage in local association of English teachers, that would be a good thing to do. If there isn’t an association, make one. We should be focusing on the professionalism of a teacher not their origin.

There are so many questions here, and we have only just started. The conversation will continue at Marek’s TEFLEquity blog.

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

 

Teacher Education Circle (2)

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

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

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

So, 4 approaches:

  • behaviourist
  • humanistic
  • constructivist
  • socialisation

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

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

Wallace offers 3 “Models of Professional Education”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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! 🙂 Not sure when my next update will be – hope to strike a balance between too often and not often enough, though!