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In-Company training versus In-School training

First of all, allow me to apologise for the long hiatus I have taken from this blogsite.
I have been blogging regularly, but for the website ETprofessional.com
and would now like to make up for my absence from my own website by re-blogging some of my previous posts published on ETprofessional.com

The first of which is a very personal account on my experience moving from teaching at a language school to doing in-company training.

Leadership - mentoring

Most CELTA courses briefly touch on the teaching of Business English and in-company teaching, but most CELTA centres are language schools where Teaching Practice is naturally conducted with students who are within the school compound.

The only time CELTA trainees get to have a taste of what it might be like to be an in-company trainer is when they actually get a job teaching in company. And the first day as a newly qualified teacher being surrounded by the piercing stares of men in ties and women in suits can be more intimating than being confronted by a difficult grammar question.

Along with my recent move from London to Munich, my teaching context also changed rather drastically, and I was taken out of a comfort zone that I had firmly established for myself over the 10 years of teaching in language schools in London.  I was now plunged into a world of in-company teaching. I hope that in sharing my experience, it will help pave the way for new in-company trainers who do not quite know what to expect.

Having taught years of Business English and trained Business English trainers in Cert IBET courses, on top of having dabbled in some in-company work in London during my early days as a teacher, I knew to expect logistical variation from my career shift. But ultimately, I had believed that the difference between a language classroom or a company meeting room was simply a matter of geography.

I soon found out that geography was no small matter. Geography can determine the facilities available to you. It can affect class atmostphere, rapport and motivation levels. Geography could affect attendance. But before I go into the differences, let me outline the nature of my two different teaching contexts.

My teaching contexts

The language school I worked for in London is a well-respected institution that has a steady flow of students registered to have classes for an intensive period of time. For General English students, this period could last from 2 weeks to a year. Class sizes go from 1 to 15. In our Executive Centre, many of the Business English students are subsidized by either their government or their company to work on their level of English, and usually would stay for a period of 2 weeks to 3-4 months.  Classes are smaller in the Executive Centre, and had a maximum of 6 clients, and lessons took place everyday. Each lesson would usually last for 2-3 hours, and some students might have 2 lessons a day.

As an in-company trainer in Germany, I would travel to different companies on different days of the week for lessons that are usually held in one of their company meeting rooms. A productive day would involve 2 or more classes taking place in the same company on the same day, which would essentially save me travelling time.  Classes are usually 90 minutes to 2 hours long, although on occasion, there would be intensive days of 6-10 hours, especially for courses dealing with specific soft skills such as Presentation English or Negotiations in English. Classes do not usually contain more than 6 students.

Perhaps saying that my move to in-company training was a culture-shock might be a bit of an exaggeration, but here are some of the things I quickly learnt about in-company training.

 

Diverse business group meeting

 

Facilities

 In a language school, one might be equipped with Interactive White Boards, CD players or some kind of multimedia player, and even computers. Wifi connection is often provided, and students often have access to the internet through 3G on their smartphones.

When teaching in company, be prepared for lessons with little more than a flip chart. Markers are usually provided, but bring your own just in case. White boards are not common, which means that any exercise which involves rubbing away parts of sentences or phrases will need to be rethought.

CD players and multimedia players are not always provided, so if you are relying on a listening activity or a video clip, make sure you have it on your iPad or laptop and bring it in yourself.

Many companies don’t allow visitors to have access to the company’s wifi due to security reasons. Some go to the extent of putting up firewalls so that you (or your students) do not have 3G access on your smartphones while in the building. In some cases, you could request to have a special password which might allow you access from certain terminals, but if you plan to show students a particular website, taking screen shots beforehand, and printing them, or pulling them up on your iPad might save you a lot of hassle.

shutterstock_69307333

 

Attitude and Motivation

Students could seem less motivated. It is likely that these students have not paid for these lessons, nor have they travelled a long way to get to their lessons. Some they might be in the dark as to why they have been sent for language training.

The fact that they are in their own home ground and within their own office building means that their mind would always be partially on that urgent reply they need to give their clients or that proposal they need to read and sign off before midday. You can’t blame them for not switching off completely because they are technically still at work.

Not only do they have trouble switching off mentally, getting them to switch off their devices might be a tough call too. Expect interruptions from ringing mobile phones and buzzing pagers. That student who is constantly glancing at his watch may have a meeting to rush to straight after the lesson. We even had a client who once attended an hour-long conference call during his lesson. And disciplining students regarding the right classroom etiquette might not be appropriate. That million-dollar contract may be more important than coming to grips with the Present Perfect Continuous.

 

Communication Skills rather than tenses

Conversely, some say that in-company learners can often be more motivated than General English in-school students if their learning is directly applied to the working environment around them. This would mean doing a more detailed Needs Analysis at the beginning of the course and finding out why and how they might need to use English. Avoid teaching language for the sake of teaching language, and focus on helping learners improve their ability to communicate.

Prepare lessons that are directly related to what they are doing at work. You can:

  • Adapt published ELT materials so that tasks are current and relevant to the learners.
  • Make use of authentic materials, e.g. news articles, case studies, infographics, TED talks, etc as a springboard to discussions, skills practice and language input.
  • Consider tailor-making your own role-plays and get your learners to contribute to creating their own scenarios to enable for more realistic simulations.

Remember that your in-company clients do not necessarily want to be treated like school kids. Games and role plays are great, and can be extremely motivating, but be aware that boring grammar gap fills and following coursebooks to the tee might be less tolerated.

Tailor your lessons to suit your students needs and make them relevant to their use of English.

Four Taylor mannequines.

 

Attendance

Attendance can be sporadic. You might have two students one week, and then two completely different students the week after. This might make revision and recycling of language extremely difficult but bear in mind that there are many factors that could affect your learners’ ability to attend:  company trips, important meetings, annual leave, the odd days off sick are all part and parcel of in company classes.

For the same reasons, students could have issues with being on time for classes. Despite this, in-company clients are not always tolerant of the class overrunning, and a teacher not keeping to the specified times. Understandably, if you have urgent work that needs to be attended to, or a lunch appointment with your manager, you might be less likely to leap for joy when your English teacher gives you an extra 10 minutes of class.

 

Homework

With all their daily responsibilities surrounding them, you might find some students less inclined to revise or do their homework. Some might even find the idea of homework reminiscent of their yawn-inducing rebellion-encouraging school years.  Several trainers have found that re-naming homework ‘action points’ or ‘tasks’ and ensuring that homework tasks continue to be interesting and relevant to the client’s work could help get around this tricky issue.

 

What ‘geography’ can also mean

Finding your way to the company could require some navigation skills, especially if you are new to the country you are teaching in. But thank goodness for transport and navigation apps on smartphones, because now, a person with no sense of direction like myself can somehow make my way there.

Once you get there, you might need a visitor’s pass in order to enter the building, and you often have to make known to reception the person you are here to see. Taking the above into consideration, ensure that you allow for travelling time and for the time it would take for you to be collected at reception.

Making use of a company meeting room as your classroom could mean last minute room changes, or even interruptions during a lesson due to confusion in room bookings.

It is quite common for in-company lessons to run for 90 minutes to an hour without a break, emulating a company meeting. If you are scheduled for two different 90-minute lessons, back-to-back, this could mean teaching three hours straight without a break for you. Don’t be shy about asking your second lot of students if it’s okay you have a five-minute break. And make sure you keep it to five minutes.

Unlike intensive courses where you see your students every day for a short period of time, most in-company courses occur once a week over a longer duration. I know a trainer who has been with the same group of students for more than 3 years! Although, this might mean that students could take several weeks before they warm up to you, this also means that you are able to truly get to know them and their area of work, and to shape their progress in a way that ensures that they are indeed making improvements to the way they are communicating in English at work.

Portrait of business people discussing a new strategy

 

Most importantly, try not to be intimidated by the piercing stares of the men and women in suits that are your students. Make sure you dress smartly and look professional, and remember: You might not be an expert in their field, but you are certainly the expert in dealing with language and communication issues. And with your expertise, you can help them do their job better.

IATEFL Plenary – Susan Barduhn

Prof. Barduhn, who gave a talk about expatriate teachers, once said, ‘If English were a drug, expatriate teachers would be the dealers…’ In her talk entitled Language Dealing, she starts by looking into the definition of ‘the drug’. Are dealers necessarily drug takers themselves? Drugs can serve to imprison but are drugs necessarily bad? Could they not be medicine, which could serve as an anti-exploitation tool?

 

In Hawkins (1974) ‘I-thou’it’ triangle as spreaders of this drug, Prof Barduhn states that ‘I’ refers to the expatriate teacher, the ‘thou’ the students and other expat teachers, and explaining the ‘it’ as the fishing rod in the metaphor ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.

 

Quoting Johnston (1999) talking about the Expatriate Teacher as Postmodern Paladin, these teachers are fighters of a noble cause, not unlike the errant of the medieval knights. He suggest that ELT as a whole is a marginal occupation, expanding on the idea of postmodernity.

 

The original Paladins crossed the seas for adventures with spiritual (self-realisation) and earthly (material gain and acquisition of a good reputation) goals.

The knight errant are those who choose to work outside their own country and the wish to educate, to share knowledge, expertise and skils. It’s also characterised by the ‘restless traveller’, wandering the earth and never settling.

The knights knew what they believed in and why they were venturing forward, and knew that eventually they would go home.

 

So why do ELT teachers keep going to other countries and new ones too?

Are we cultural marginals and do we have an identity group?

Differentially perceptual groups and identity group, Prof Barduhn talks about perceptual groups as how others see you versus the identities given to you, before explaining cultural marginality and highlighting the fact that ELT teachers are often the non-dominant community in a dominant community.

The definition of an encapsulated marginal is one where there is no revognised reference group, conscious of self, troubled by ambiguity and never ‘at home’. The definition of a constructive marginal is one of a marginal reference group, conscious of choice, intrigued by complexity and never not ‘at home’.

Stated by respondent teachers in her research as reasons and motivation for going to live in each country, ‘travel’ , ‘love of teaching’ and ‘career advancement’ occurred frequently, but professional development was highlighted as one of the more common answers.

This challenges the theory that most ELT teachers living overseas are of the back packer variety.

Family was stated at the number one reason why people move back to their own country.

 

When examining the changes in attitude amongst the teachers living overseas, it was clear that most became most tolerant and understanding of their country of origin (and its culture), got involved in more teaching fields e.g. ESP, saw themselves as ambassadors for their own country, thought of the new culture as gradually becoming part of them, and saw their job as important (‘We teach future leaders, We make English more attainable for the masses’) and are happy living abroad.

 

But as Chinese becomes more in the globalising world, would those involved in teaching of Mandarin have the same attitudes and motivation? Are they also on medieval knights’ errants?

Going through her results, here are some findings regarding Chinese expat teachers:

‘I’m more critical of my country but love it more’

‘I have no power to change methodologies’, ‘I’ve become more student-centred, teacher as a guide instead of dictator, to guide learners to see the fun in Chinese and understand the similarities between English and Chinese.’

Growing towards an acceptance of Western values like tolerance, quality orientation, etc.

‘As long as China’s economy keeps growing, it’ll become important as a world language’

Very few non-native Chinese teach Chinese in the UK.

Expat teachers are the only way people can access Chinese culture.

Expat teachers might not have an influence on trends in teacher training but conversely teacher training trends would have an influence on expat teachers.

Belonging to teaching associations and getting conference updates were a common path towards professional development.

 

So what is the drug?

Could the phenomenon of expat teachers be considered a historical and cultural movement?

TESOl culture is seen to equate ‘diversity’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘respect’.

Could these also stand for Chinese language teaching culture?

 

So what are we dealing?

The answer might not be the same for everyone but teacher training needs to delve further in social and economic theory so that we are doing it with more awareness.

IATEFL Part 6 – Shelly Terrell on BYOT

In a talk entitled ‘Transforming Trends – a journey into the work of BYOT’, Shelly starts talking about the importance of allowing teachers and students to bring in their own tools so as to overcome the economic obstacles that might be faced by the school and the students.

Taking an audience poll, it was clear to everyone that the majority of us type, take and edit pictures, take videos, download apps, post things on the web, all using either their mobile devices or their computers/laptops and are familiar with using our own tools and devices.

Through a video, she exemplifies how she uses technology and mobile devices (smart phones, ipads, etc) to create stories, conduct a show and tell, make app commercials, and publish the students’ work.

‘Mobile Monday’ signifies a special day of the week that the students can bring in their own devices and use them in class. But beforehand, it is important to teach the students digital citizenship and learn about how they should act online. If students do not pass their digital citizenship, they do not get ‘Mobile Monday’.

At this point, Shelly gets the audience to take out their own devices and choose a picture to show and talk about in pairs/groups. With such activities, students get to know each other better and all this can lower the possibility of cyber bullying.

As an example of an individual activity, Shelly gets the students to start a Flickr account on which they would post a picture under themes like ‘In a Restaurant’ or ‘This is Art’. Students then add tags or a paragraph of a comment to their pictures.

In a version of ‘I Spy’ ,we then took super-closeup photos of objects around us and in a mingle activity, we walked around the room asking people to guess what shapes our objects were and what the photos were were of. Bruno Andrade showed me his photo of a glowing blue cylindrical shaped object, which turned out to be a close-up picture of his pen. In class, we could use the app ‘I Know Quiz’ to put up the photos students have taken.

In another group activity, Shelly uses Twiddla.com to pull up an online whiteboard to brainstorm to lists problems and solutions that teenagers face. In groups, students then picked one of the problems and create an imaginary app to solve the problem. They then go on to create a video advertisement for the app they have created.

You can also get students to download a particular app at home ahead of time and bring it to class with them. Ideas Sketch for mind mapping, Google drive and Evernote for sharing information amongst the class, and Twiddla for recordable whiteboard.

Shelly ends the talk with an inspirational quote by Jean Piaget saying,
‘The principal goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.’

Well said.

IATEFL Plenary – Deniz Kurtolu Eken

Greeted by PowerPoint slides featuring moving animation of dancing flowers and rainy islands, The audience were treated to other novelties like a strategically placed umbrella right next to the podium and a pair of pink-petal led shaped sunglasses worn by Dr Eken herself as she started her talk with the metaphoric title ‘The ELT Weather Forecast: Perceptions on Effectiveness and Teacher Motivation’.

Dr Eken then goes on to invite someone who’s having a birthday (Beyza), someone who got married in March (okay, that was us), and someone who is going to have a baby onto the stage and gave us all presents. (Great motivation to listen to the rent of the talk now!)

Quoting Humphreys (1996) on the power of the emotions that infuse the people, and not thoughts alone, Dr Eken emphasises that rainy wealthy could be seen as a welcomed blessing by the farmer but an unwelcomed disaster by holidaymakers.

After introducing us to her research framework and detailing the breakdown of her research respondents, Deniz shared some of the metaphors her respondents gave for their roles.
Here are some examples:
A plate spinner, a glorified secretary, a turtle in a race against the hare, a caged bird, one who’s trying to pluck an apple from a very high tree and never being able to, a kangaroo (which can never jump backwards, only forwards), slaves with no faces, an unused anchor on a lifeboat that is floating aimlessly in a vast ocean of ideas and theories, etc.

Moving on to perceptions of effectiveness,it was interesting to note that people felt that those in their context were doing better across the board than those at an average national level.

Rated lowest in terms of effectiveness in both ‘context’ and ‘country’ categories were ‘Academic Management’ and ‘Teacher Motivation’. Among seen as effective managers are those who are highly qualified and adaptable who can manage talent and different types of personality and those chosen because of their qualifications and not tenure.

The feedback given to managers are as follows:
Be there in need so that they are loyal employees.
Treat teachers as professionals not as skilled workers in need of constant supervision
Trust teachers more and interfere less. realise that teaching is a creative act, the results of which are not always quantifiable.
Please don’t let technology become the be all and end all of ELT because it is not. Language is firstly communication, but using technology all the time is making the students passive and uncomfortable.
Help teachers to develop and grow personally and professionally.
Communicate more and better. Smiling does not harm; be responsive and constructive; your positive attitude matters to us.
Do some normal teaching yourselves and not just cherry-picked courses.

Commonly mentioned teacher training and development opportunities appreciated by teachers are as follows:
In-service training an staff development
TT courses eg Celta or Delta
Opportunities to attend conferences and seminars
Post-Delta/Post-MA opportunities
SIGs, teacher forums
Collaborative research, action research
Developmental observations and feedback, peer observations
Educational/teacher exchange
English language development opportunities
Hosting a conference or an academic event
Sample lessons from teacher trainers

Ending her talk with another metaphor by Dr Eken’s sister: she sees herself as a partly cloudy sky with the sun shining from behind, suggesting an optimism when looking at her personal and professional life.

IATEFL Part 5 – Willy Cardoso on a dynamic ELT Curriculum

An introduction to Willy and his blog was followed by Willy taking us through the two types of lessons he has come across – the book lesson and the conversation lesson. He questions the falseness of the accuracy-fluency dichotomy that has been created, and might be even considered offensive due to the complexity of language and language learning.

Beginning his criticism of a ‘grammar mac nugget’ approach to a grammar syllabus, research has shown that language learning is non-linear and not unidirectional. When talking about curriculum, we tend focus on syllabus and scope of the content, but it is perhaps also important to look at the different views of language, including theories on comply systems and sociocultural theories.

Curriculum is often seen as a noun, and the focus thus on the product. Perhaps we could see it as a verb and a process.

‘While every course ends, the consequences of study are ongoing as they are social and subjective as well as intellectual’ (Pnar, 2011)

‘Educational institutions and the manner in which they are organised and controlled are integrally related to the ways in which specific people get access to economic and cultural resources and power’ (Apple, 2004)

But many coursebooks do not see the curriculum as an ongoing process. Here is perhaps an example of a global coursebook that exemplifies how language learning is often viewed.
They often claim:

‘The perfect balance of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation , and skills to get your students speaking English with confidence’ (New English File Intermediate)
How have the coursebooks found this supposed balance? And how have they made it ‘perfect’?

At other buzzword used in coursebooks to promote their curriculum is the word ‘motivating’ and ‘confidence’.
But does the things that motivate one student necessarily be the sAme that motivates another?
Does a confine Japanese English speaker display the same behaviour as a confident Brazilian English speaker?

Using an example text from a coursebook using the context of family but in fact focusing on a particular language point, sacrificing in-depth discussions on culture in favour of minute language point. The texts we bring to our classroom are a reflection of a reality, and are inevitably value-laden. Yet, many books choose to use language activities that generated unreal sentences and discussions e.g. Find someone who is meeting their brother/sister this weekend. Find someone who isn’t going on a family holiday this year.
Real life conversations flow from topic to topic, with one generating talk of another.
Real life conversations deal with taboo topics and global issues – things that sorts coursebooks do not deal with.

The teacher and coursebook often define and transmit the concept, the students then study and reproduce the desired concept. But we could consider a framework where teachers and students create concepts together, exploring the origin and nature of knowledge. But the curse of the negotiated syllabus is that students come up with topics that are the same as ones in the coursebooks, as that is what they are used to.

Instead, Willy suggests asking complex questions and allowing students to discuss them, allowing for the space for Open Space Technology. As a result, students start to create their own questions and formulate complex opinions.

‘In general, the way we structure the curriculum – the experiences that are included and the relationships that are or can be established among them – will shape the kinds of knowledge-in-action that students ddeavelop. At the beginning, their understanding of the conversational domain may be partial and incomplete, but it will grow as the conversation continues.’ (Arthur Applebee’s, 1996)

Willy ends his talk about trying to see language and language use/learning simplified into the four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and systems (lexis, grammar, phonology, discourse), but as a complex system to be explored.

IATEFL Part 4 – Luke Prodroumou on self-esteem

Luke Prodromou has Aretha Franklin’s Respect playing as the audience filters in.

He then asks what each of letters mean.
R for respect and rapport.
E is for esteem and evaluate (positive evaluation).
S is for self, special.
P for principles and practice, patience.
E is for empathy and emotion -feeling that you deserve the respect.
C is for competence and building the feeling in the learner that they can do it.
T is for technique and how the teacher does things in the classroom.

Prodromou then goes on to read excerpts from Robert Frost’s the Road Not Taken before starting to examine the turning points in our professional lives – our self-esteem moments.

After sharing with our partners moments that changed our lives, moments that made us feel good, and emphasises the fact that one of the things that make us (and our students feel good) is when our names are remembered.

What is self-esteem?
A basic definition is a high regard for oneself, a good opinion of oneself.
But more appropriately, self-esteem is
A feeling that you are as important as other people and that you deserve respect and to be treated well.

Self-esteem can be seen on the levels of competence and worthiness.

On the level of worthiness, he gives the example of Hamlet, one who had issues with self-esteem and beliefs that he is not worthy. ‘I could accuse me of such things that it were better that my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious…what should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?’

In contrast, ‘Yet today, many years later, for my living I sweep the streets or clean out the toilets of the fat hotels. why? Because I constantly failed my exams’ – Brian Patten shows a low self-esteem to do with competence.

The audience then watches a scene from Kes directed by Ken Loach where Kespar tells the story about his hawk, and we identify self-esteem moments in the lesson.

With personal examples, Prodroumou talks about how he used cards to nominate students so they don’t feel intimidated by the forest of hands (of their other classmates) going up and about how he paired the best student with the difficult student (the flower and the bud).

Group work and collaborative production of tasks and written work could make less confident students feel included and proud of the being part of the end product.

Emphasising that labelling (students) is more suitable for jam jars, Prodroumou encourages us not to judge students but to offer them opportunities to participate and to learn.

IATEFL Part 3 – Isil Boy on MLearning

Isil Boy’s session starts with her asking the basic question – what is Mobile Learning? We can learn anywhere anytime…even in the toilet!

Showing us a slide of early men using slates to carve on, Isil asks us what the difference is between a slate and an iPad. Aside from the price (laughter from audience), connectivism is what makes a difference.

She goes on to highlight the illusion of mobile learning: e.g. Using tablets only in the classroom. Are schools using tablets because other schools are using it, or is it to truly enable mobile learning? Are iPads merely a substitute for a paper dictionary? Are we using tablets for the sake of using them?

The apps as classified by the SAMR model (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) could transform education. But remember that the tablets are not transforming education, you are.
Does this mean that we teachers become the performers and the magicians with the help of technology? Or should we be handing over to students and letting them perform the magic instead?

How then can we integrate mLearning into teaching?
Dropping hardware into a classroom and dipping teachers into training does not work.
So, if you have a principal who says to you ‘I’ve bought the tablets! What should we do now?’, what would you do?

5 Tips for integrating tablets into your classroom
1. Define our objectives
2. Provide on-going training
3. Teach kids how to stay safe online
4. Establish a protocol for parents
5. Set some rules to switch tablets off

Isil then moves on to asking the audience what their dream app might be.
Do we know how to search for apps?
There are search engines for apps e.g. Quixey and App Crawl which we can use.

As a framework for teaching with apps, one can categorise apps into Searching, Bookmarking, Organising, Creating, and Sharing.
An example of an app that helps with Organising is U-Pad lite that helps the user to complete and sign forms.
Educreations help turn your iPad into a recordable whiteboard with voice recording.
Isil also recommends Edmodo for Organising information and sharing them with students.
Storykit is another free app that allows us to add text, voice and create digital stories with our students.

But why are we using these apps? According to the affective context model, if we can learn things whenever we need it, it becomes more effective. With the help of mLearning, we can learn anytime and anywhere we want. We don’t need to convince students to use the iPads and push the information on them. We are instead pulling the information that they have found out from them.

The conclusion Isil the draws is that schools should develop a technology plan, create a policy for tablet use, and have primary control over the downloading and syncing of apps. Teachers should be involved in the decision-making process and students should be allowed to keep the tablets and take them home, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having tablets in the classroom.

Isil ends the presentation to the packed room with a useful link to her blog isilboy.com.

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