The CELTA Trainer’s Diary Part 3 – Inside the Mind of a Coursebook Writer

The first week of the CELTA often tends to be really hectic, both for the trainees and the main course tutor (MCT from here on).

For the CELTA trainee, it’s a case of information overload as they realize what it meant when they were warned in the pre-course interview that it was going to be an intense course.

For the MCT, it’s about ensuring that all the start-of-course administration is actually carried out and sent off, getting trainees acquainted with the format of the course, and writing up a timetable that fits in the necessary input sessions that will get them ready for their observed teaching practice which starts on the 3rd day of the course.

But what are these necessary input sessions?

What would you include when introducing the basics to teaching?

Should these basics be a representation of your fundamental beliefs to teaching?

I used to expose trainees to lots of demo lessons, giving them standard lesson shapes to emulate. This perhaps reflected an underlying fear that trainees would not yet be able to know how to respond to students appropriately, deal with language, and deliver a 40-minute lesson so soon into the course as these skills come with experience (and an accumulation of knowledge over time).

Demo lessons therefore act like little nicely packaged ready-to-go lesson shapes in the form of a situational presentation, a Present-Practice-Produce, a typical listening/receptive skills procedure, a Language from a Text, etc.

I have absolutely nothing against these traditional lesson shapes although they tend to be adapted and modified sometimes beyond the point of recognition especially when in a Business English (or ESP) or coursebook-less Task-Based Learning classroom. In fact, I do believe that they could act as a useful hook when trying to understand the principles of language teaching and seeing the logic of how lessons flow.

But perhaps the logic of that flow might be buried in and amongst the confusion and overload of information of Week 1, and a lack of belief in the trainees’ ability (both by the trainees and the trainers). Behaviourist-style ‘make sure you copy the following’ type demos seem safer and less demanding of the trainees.

But could this be part of the reason for the prevalent belief that there is a ‘CELTA method’ to teaching that fails to take into consideration the different sociocultural contexts of different teachers?

In an attempt to shift the focus from a ‘Just Copy Me’ demo, I went straight into Day 2 of the CELTA with a session called ‘Inside the Mind of a Coursebook Writer – PPP’.

The session saw me giving trainees pages from 3 different coursebooks, all containing variations of the Present-Practice-Produce, or Present-Controlled Practice-Freer Practice stages. In the style of a jigsaw reading, trainees explained the stages of the coursebook page they were given to their group mates, focusing on why the coursebook writer had chosen to shape the lesson in such a way.

Trainees were not told that all 3 pages contained a similar lesson shape.

But my trainees soon figured it out.

They also figured out that language was often presented in context, that the earlier practice stages were more controlled than the latter ones and discussed the justifications behind them. Some even noticed that the language presentation in 2 of the coursebooks chose an inductive guided discovery format as opposed to simply explaining the grammar rules, insightfully commenting that students would remember it better if they discovered the rules for themselves.

Trainees were then asked to look at the coursebooks that they were using for their teaching practice and to find an example of such a lesson shape. Most did this very quickly and were immediately able to spot the PPP format used to focus on both grammar and lexis. One trainee even cleverly noticed that sometimes the ‘practice’ stage came before the language focus stage, and when pushed for a justification, she said, ‘It is so that students are pushed to notice the grammar pattern!’ and then later, ‘This practice stage is actually a revision of the grammar they had previously learnt in a previous level!’

With some trust and belief in the trainees’ ability to use their logic and instincts, perhaps we can get them to not just emulate what we do, but to use this ability of understanding the rationale behind the ways a lesson can be staged and the principles they are based on, and adapt them to suit their future teaching contexts.

As Güven said in his post, it was not an easy task.

But the trainees certainly rose up to the challenge.

And although it was tiring, I hope in the long run, it was worth it.

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The CELTA Trainer’s Diary Part 2 – My trainee’s maxims of teaching

The story up till now…

I discovered that my CELTA trainee and experienced teacher Güven Çagdas was blogging about his CELTA experience. We decided that it would make a great archive if I blogged in parallel to him. In his first post, Güven blogged about his response to my foreign language lesson – a session that I have found crucial to helping trainees put themselves in the shoes of the learner and establishing the basic principles of teaching. (Click here for the lesson procedure and rationale of my foreign language lesson)

And here are the ‘maxims of teaching’ that this month’s trainees’ came up with.

1.    Be friendly, active and animated.

It encourages learners to be relaxed and feel at ease, thereby reducing their affective filter and enabling them to better make use of the learning opportunities.

2.    Invite learners to practise and to make mistakes

It’s almost impossible to learn a language if one is unwilling to be adventurous and make some mistakes. I often tell my learners, ‘Mistakes are good. If you don’t make mistakes, I don’t have a job!’

3.    Build your learners’ confidence

Echoing the first two points, it is important that the learner is not made to feel stupid or lost. Offer praise to the learner and make them feel good about themselves. But be careful because too much praise can render your kind words insincere and meaningless.

4.    Use body language, mime, visuals, realia, and ANYTHING that will help you convey meaning

Meaning is king and no amount of work on Form or Pronunciation is going to matter if meaning is not successfully conveyed. But meaning clarification does not have to be boring or teacher-centred. Get students involved in discovering the meaning to language.

5.    Keep the pace up

A slow pace can really bore the students and cause them to lose their intrinsic motivation to learn. However, going too quickly and not giving students time to think things through, to make notes and to formulate what they need to say could also be detrimental. It is a fine balance that the teacher has to manage.

Which brings me nicely to the next point.

6.    Allow time for students to think and to produce language.

7.    Use pair and group work as often as possible

Putting students in pairs or groups ensures that increases the opportunities for students to practise speaking, allows them to learn from each other, promotes authentic cross-classroom interaction, and avoids putting shy individuals on the spot in front of the entire class.

8.    Nominate students and do it randomly.

Nominating ensures that all students get a chance to participate, and not just the confident and louder ones. It also allows you to get a better idea of who really knows the answers and who does not. Nominating students in order of their seating arrangments often means that students can predict when their turn is about to come and be thinking about what they are going to say instead of listening to their classmates.

9.    Provide step-by-step support

Scaffold the language input and the difficulty of tasks so that learners are not thrown into the deep end too quickly. Whether it be drilling, or guided discovery, or controlled-to-freer practice, provide the support and slowly remove each supporting beam, while ensuring that the ‘+1’* is always provided.

  • See Krashen’s ‘i + 1’ theory.

10. Think also in terms of lexis and don’t get too obsessed with grammar.

Many trainees starting the Celta, especially those unfamiliar with English grammar rules, often feel overwhelmed by the amount of grammar they are expected to learn. Considering the amount of information overload, the intensiveness and the pressure experienced on a typical Celta course, this obsession with grammar can cause more unnecessary stress. Grammar can be learnt. But don’t forget that lexis is important too.

11. Monitor and take note of emergent language

Always ensure you have a notebook or scrap paper with you so you can take notes as you monitor. And remember not to get too drawn in to particular groups when monitoring and neglecting to listen to what is happening with the other groups as a result. Avoid making eye contact so that students are less tempted to draw you into their conversations. But be ready to support and help when asked.

12. Do not overwhelm students with too much language!

Too much input can make students feel lost, insecure and overwhelmed. Limit the language input and do not expect them to produce all of it successfully just because you have ‘covered’ the language points. Language learning is not linear.

I fully intend to print this out on A3 size paper and stick it up in my input room…and hold the trainees to these maxims they have come up with!

Meanwhile, did I mention that this is my 100th post?

The CELTA Trainer’s Diary – Part 1 and Using L1 in the Classroom

It must be fate.

Or coincidence.

Go TEAM GB!
Flickr.com/ELTpics : Photo by @SandyMillin

 

Coincidence number 1

Team GB wins their first gold at the Olympics today.

And they go on and win another.

Singapore wins their first medal today.

I win the TEFL.net Site of the Month today.

Today must be a very good day.

Vicky Loras and me with some of our lovely PLN in Paris for the BESIG Summer Symposium

Coincidence number 2

Blogger and experienced Turkish university English teacher Güven Çagdas has been blogging about his reflective practice online.

He gathers a following, some of whom are in my PLN.

Güven decides to come to International House London to do his CELTA.

Of the 5 different CELTA courses running at IH London at the moment,

Güven is allocated to mine.

Güven blogs about his Day 1 on his CELTA, Vicky Loras reads it and realizes the tutor he is talking about is me.

Vicky is in both our PLNs.

Vicky RTs the post with me in cc.

Coincidence number 3

Güven tells me he intends to blog daily about his CELTA experience.

I feel tremendously lucky to have a way of getting daily feedback on the teacher training I do (instead of having to wait till the end of the CELTA for course feedback).

I write a long comment on Güven’s post regarding the first day of his CELTA.

The comment gets lost in the ether and neither of us knows where it’s gone.

I realize that I could blog alongside Güven about the CELTA course I’m running.

And that this could be an amazing resource and archive of a trainee’s and a trainer’s diaries of the same CELTA course.

Güven agrees.

I post the lost comment as a blogpost here on my site.

.

And so here it is…my lost comment… (Do read Güven’s entry before reading this)

And the start of The CELTA Trainer’s Diaries – Part 1.

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Thank you, Güven, for journaling your experience on the CELTA.

This would no doubt be a invaluable resource for those who have done a CELTA, are doing a CELTA, or are thinking about doing the CELTA.

It’s amazing how the 30-minute Chinese lesson, in and amongst the 5 hours you spent with me on the first day of the CELTA, was the part you remembered most.

I suppose that it goes to show the fact that no matter how experienced we are, we must never forget what it feels like to be a language learner all over again.

As for the issue with the use of L1 in the classroom, I won’t go out of my way to avoid it. There are times when the use of L1 is either unavoidable or could actually be beneficial.

Although I know that some teachers feel that any amount of English in the classroom would mean extra exposure to the language, there is also an argument stating that L1 could be useful in the classroom.

In Vivian Cook’s Portraits of the L2 User, he gives some good reasons for the use of L1, including:

  1. Learners are going to translate it into their L1 anyway, even if you don’t.
  2. Telling learners off in L2 just doesn’t carry the same weight.
  3. Instructions, especially for lower level learners, are more effective when given in the L1.
  4. Using L1 for contrastive analysis e.g. comparing the tenses between two languages, can prove helpful.
  5. Using L1 for translation exercises can help learners develop a valuable skill that at some point of their career, they’ll need to use. They may not become professional translators but they might be asked to translate an email or an excerpt from English. We mustn’t be put off by the shadow cast by the Grammar Translation era. We are no longer talking about random meaningless translations here.
  6. Using L1 and L2 concurrently can help learners develop the skill of code-switching (i.e. switching between two languages when communicating). This is becoming a more and more common phenomenon we see amongst learners who speak English but share another language. What fun!

Sometimes the use of L1 could just be the sensible thing to do.

After all, why spend 20 minutes trying to explain and concept check the verb ‘happen’ to a group of Elementary learners when you can spend 2 seconds translating it and getting it across perfectly.

Evidently, many words or lexical chunks do not have a direct translation and these are the times I might concept check in English and give examples of usage instead.

Then there are times when the use of L1 helps the learner to get a feel of the phrase/sentence.

When getting learners to get their tongues around phrases like ‘It’s none of my business’ or ‘What has ~got to do with ~?’, I’ve found it helpful to get my multi-lingual classes to say the phrase in their own language (with the accompanying gestures) and then again in English, so that the emotions attached to the phrase is transferred to the English phrase.

I suppose, like most things in ELT, it’s all about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The BESIG Paris Summer Symposium 2012

The BESIG Paris Summer Symposium (in association with TESOL France) might have only been a day long, but it was certainly one of the best conferences I had ever attended.

It was well-organised. – From the moment the speakers’ proposals were accepted to the day of the conference, key information was disseminated in good time, queries were answered before they were even asked, and the speakers were even sent photos of the rooms that they would be presenting in.

It was well-programmed. – Like many conference goers, I had become used to attending conferences where inevitably there would be talks that might make one feel like the opportunity cost was little high, to put it diplomatically. This conference had no such talks. Every single session I went to either gave me useful ideas to implement in my teaching or brought up certain issues that made me think. And from what I heard, the sessions that I was unable to attend due as they clashed with the sessions I went to were just as good (Eric Halvorsen, Vicky Loras, Michelle Hunter, Adrian Pilbeam, Nick Robinson, Ian McMaster & Deborah Capras: Sorry I couldn’t come to your sessions, but I have been hearing so many positive things about your sessions!) So kudos to the selection committee and to the presenters for that.

It was well-attended.– There were about 160 delegates at the conference venue attending the talks, but there were also some 70 delegates that had congregated in Argentina, Serbia, and Croatia, watching some of the talks simulcasted live into their conference rooms. On top of that, there were those who were watching the talks live from the comfort of their own homes through the Adobe Connect rooms. This meant that talks like mine which had the privilege of being simulcasted were able to engage not just the live audience in the room but also the audience in Argentina, Serbia, Croatis, and those online, involving them in the workshops and the discussions.

However, by well-attended, I’m not simply talking about the large numbers in the audience. I’m also talking about the ‘quality’ of the conference delegates. The BESIG Summer Symposium was attended by some of the most influential people in the TEFL industry, from the iconic Business English book writers and speakers like Evan Frendo, Pete Sharma, Marjorie Rosenberg, to the intercultural experts like Barry Tomalin and Adrian Pilbeam, to the online celebrities like Brad Patterson and Vicky Loras and the new generation of TEFL movers and shakers like Nick Robinson, Mike Hogan, and Bethany Cagnol (conference organizer and speaker).

Kudos to the BESIG committee…
– photo by Mike Hogan
…and the folks of TESOL France!
– photo by Mike Hogan

For me, this conference was also about finally getting to meet up with some of the Twitter PLNers and Twitteratti in person (Christina @RebuffetBroadus, Eric @ESHalvorsen, Sue @SueAnnan, Vicky Loras @vickyloras, Brad Patterson @Brad5Patterson, Mieke @mkofab, and Carolyn @kerrcarolyn) and they are as marvellous if not more than their online presence!

The BESIG and Twitter PLN combined!

On the 16th June, the day of the conference, I walked from the hotel to Télécom ParisTech, where the conference was held. After an efficient registration process by the friendly TESOL France volunteers and committee members, and some early morning coffee with members of the PLN, I then headed to my first session, Barry Tomalin’s Teaching International Culture in Business – The Framework Approach ©.

Adding his own take to a mix of the dimensions and frameworks of Hofstede, Trompenaars and Richard Lewis, Barry creates the RADAR profile that helps us to learn about ourselves, before comparing our styles to others. Following some effective explanations and relevant examples, Barry had the audience first measure their expectations of business relationships by reflecting upon the following dimensions:

1. Are you more quality driven or cost/finance driven?

2. Are you more risk embracing or risk averse?

3. Do you prefer close contact or distance?

4. Are you more relationship driven or task driven?

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We then measured our communication styles through the following:

1. Do you tend to be direct or indirect?

2. Do you often state your objectives before the reason or the background to a task before the objectives?

3. Do you tend to be formal or informal?

4. Are you more likely to be emotional or neutral?

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Our organisational styles were measured according to the following:

1. Do you prioritise efficiency or effectiveness more?

2. Are you more time tight or time loose?

3. Do you tend to prefer top down or delegation?

4. Do you prefer individual decisions or team decisions?

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Using framework provided by Barry, we marked out our answers to the above questions and then mapped it against the perceived styles of someone we work with, and considered the areas in which most gap was seen. Giving us the useful tip ‘Change 20% of your behaviour to get 80% of a change in the attitude towards you!’, Barry ended the session by encouraging us to think of a problem that we might have with another culture by going through the procedure he had taught us:

  • Identify your style;
  • Compare your style;
  • Empathise;
  • Manage your skills;
  • Reflect.

Judging from impressive attendance and the high levels of engagement, this session was certainly a resounding success. After a 15-minute coffee break, I managed to get a seat next to Christina Rebuffet-Broadus in one of the simulcasted talks, Pete SharmaApp-tivities for Business English’. Pete began by alerting us to several basic questions that we should ask ourselves about apps. Are they for the right platform? (Apple iPhone? Android? etc) Are they ELT apps or authentic apps? Do we need to pay for them? Is the app free-standing or does it need an internet connection to work?

Photo by Mike Hogan

He then went on to give us plenty of useful and exciting suggestions for teachers who own smart phones and iPads and would like to exploit their use more in the classroom. Here are some of them:

  • For listening practice, TED or BBC iPlayer.
  • For reading practice, newspaper apps can come in handy.
  • For pronunciation and familiarizing one with the IPE chart is Macmillan Sounds. The paid version comes with multiple activities for students.
  • Presentation tools like Brainshark or Prezi can be useful for the Business English Classroom
  • Prezi Viewer can help students to organise complex subjects like ‘culture’, ‘online learning’ or ‘the environment’.
  • Camera apps like Acrossair for geo-tagging, or Android apps like Google Goggles can provide information of one’s surroundings.
  • Screenchomp can turn our iPads into IWBs (Interactive White Boards)
  • Mindmapping software like Simple Mind can help our business clients with their tasks.
  • Fun and games like the British Council apps can motivate our learners.
  • Flashcode Reader reads QR codes. Using a QR code writer, a teacher can make treasure hunt clues, web quests, or simply send a students to an IELTS practice website.
  • Flashcard apps are widely available and can be used for vocab review

Pete’s book App-tivities is now in the labs of The Round, so we can go to www.theround/labs for a free sneak preview! Next up was Mike Hogan and Bethany Cagnol’s ‘Managing Your Brand as a Trainer’, where the freelancers and school owners in the audience were made to seriously think about their business plans and how much they invested in themselves and their brand. Asking the key question, ‘When people hear your name, what do they say? What does your brand say about you?’, Mike and Beth takes the audience through the different aspects of managing one’s brand, from professionalizing oneself by thinking about our niche markets and how we appear to our clients, to considering our online presence when a client or employer ‘Googles’ our name, to taking part in our clients’ conferences and courses/workshops, and even specialized training, so as to understand the environment our clients operate in.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Reflection clearly has a huge part to play when examining our brand. Amongst many other useful tips, the audience left the talk with the following questions resonating in their heads:

  • Are we able to present and negotiate our services with our clients?
  • Are we adapting to the changes in the market?
  • Are we investing in ways to boost the quality of what we offer?
  • Are we getting referred by our clients? If not, why not?

My talk was scheduled for the slot straight after lunch, so a few of us went to the nearby sandwich shop and I bought myself a ‘Skipper Sandwich’ with a chopped-up beef patty and fries between two chunks of bread, just to ensure that I would be as sleepy as my audience during my presentation.

Photo by Mike Hogan

As I often feel uncomfortable summarizing my own talks and presentations, let’s just simply say that my ‘Myths and Controversies in BE Teaching’ was largely based on the discussions that were had on the Devil’s Advocate interview here on chiasuanchong.com (see I’m trying to manage my brand! Mike and Beth would be so proud!). Polls were conducted both with the ‘studio audience’ and those watching from Argentina, Serbia and Croatia, and those at home, and we were able to get some very interesting discussions going. Thanks for participating, everyone!

The video of the talk will be up on besig.org soon! Another talk that was also simulcasted was Evan Frendo’s ‘Using Corpora in Materials Development’. Introducing the Hong Kong Corpus of Spoken English and the Enronsent Corpus for written corporate communication, Evan encourages us to get Wordsmith Tools, a concordancing tool that will enable us to analyse the corpora data using word lists and frequency lists. Keyword lists can also be another useful tool for ESP teachers as it helps us to find words that are significantly more frequent in a corpus when compared to another corpus. Demonstrating some possible uses of the corpora, Evan shows us the common collocates used when discussing a CNC machine, something guaranteed to be quite foreign to the lay person, highlighting the usefulness of a corpora to help us teachers become more familiar with the language our students’ need.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

But using the corpora is not just for ESP teachers. The answer to the question “What is the difference between ‘going forward’ and ‘looking forward’?” can be found by simply looking up examples of use in the corpus data, therefore avoiding precarious situations that might arise from teachers guessing the use of certain lexis by using their instinct. Evan then ends his talk with an optimistic ‘Isn’t this what we do as Business English teachers? We analyse the language, and then we teach it.’ If only all BE teachers were this conscientious, Evan… Just before the closing plenary, Divya Brochier and Brad Patterson provided the audience with an interesting and useful way of encouraging speaking in the classroom with their presentation ‘Using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Boost Conversation Classes’.

Photo by Chia Suan Chong

Illustrating the fact that some students are simply not very motivated to talk through a hilarious roleplay with Brad and Rakesh Bhanot playing bored business students (Bravo for that French accent! It was so real I almost forgot that you both weren’t French!), Divya and Brad that goes on to show us how the use of the Six Thinking Hats could solve this problem.

The White Hat: Unbiased fact

The Green Hat: Creativity and Growth

The Red Hat: Emotions

The Black Hat: Problems. The Devil’s Advocate.

The Yellow Hat: Optimism and solutions.

The Blue Hat: Organisation

So the next time your student says something to the tune of ‘I don’t know’ when you ask them to comment on Global Warming or some topic in a reading text, try move around the six hats instead: What are the facts? (White) How do you feel about it? (Red) What are some of the problems with this? (Black) What are some of the advantages/benefits? (Yellow) How can we move forward from here? (Green) How would you summarise what’s been said? (Blue)

The fantastic conference then came to an end with David Crystal’s closing plenary ‘Language and the Internet’. David sets the tongue-in-cheek tone of the plenary by asking if we were addicted to the Internet and whether we check our emails when we wake up at night to go to the toilet? Surveying the audience with the questions, ‘How many of you here blog?’, ‘How many of you here tweet?’, and ‘How many of you here are tweeting right now?’ (I had my hand up to all three questions), David jokes about the fact that there now exists Twitter Scores that indicate how many people are tweeting in your talk. Clearly, the more people who tweet, the more important you must be!

How many of you tweet?
– photo by Mike Hogan

What was known as Computer Mediated Communication in the 1990s no longer seems to be an appropriate term as the distinction between phones and computers blur. We now talk about Electronic Digital Communication. In fact, the mobilization of the internet means that by 2020, 80% of access to the internet will be through mobile phones.

While adults criticize text messaging and text speak as the way young people are harming our language through abbreviations, David Crystal debunks this myth, stating that text messages are NOT full of abbreviations as only 10% of texts are abbreviated, and we are now seeing abbreviations die away in text-messaging perhaps due to the fact that the novelty has worn out. (One Twitterer tweeted as a response to this, saying that this could be due to the dominance of predictive texts…but I’m not sure if this applies to smartphone users).

Interestingly, using ‘U’ for ‘you’ and ‘c’ for ‘see’ have been around for at least two centuries, and the very parents that criticize today’s teenagers for abbreviating were probably just as guilty doing the same with acronyms like ‘SWALK’ (Sealed with a loving kiss) at the back of envelopes. More interestingly, the earlier one gets their mobile phone, the better a speller one turns out to be. Text messaging is upping our literacy and not harming it.

Photo by Mike Hogan

Defining the difference between electronic communication and the spoken language, David Crystal highlights that electronic communication features successive feedback as opposed to simultaneous feedback. But we can be rest assured that there has not been many changes to the lexicogrammar of our language even with the advance of the internet. Perhaps the most noticeable change is in orthography, i.e. spelling and punctuation, but even so, this is a marginal feature.

Moving on to Twitter, David shows how the move from asking ‘What are you doing now?’ to ‘What’s happening?’ has made tweets less introverted and less about ‘I’ and more about ‘they’. Twitter is now used for business and for reporting on the things that are happening around us.

Ending his talk with a bit on blogging, David entertains the audience with a little skit on ‘blue bottles’, demonstrating how the internet and blogging has led to the start of many romantic relationships between the online users who share a common interest. The one and a half hours flew by with David Crystal telling anecdote after anecdote that the audience could engage with and relate to, and making his points loud and clear, all without the help of any slides or notes. It was certainly an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable presentation, and a great way to end the BESIG Summer Symposium.

Here’s a fascinating interview David Crystal himself by the BESIG Online Team.

The Presentation Award winners
– photo by Mike Hogan

All that is left is to congratulate the winners of the BESIG first-time presenters’ Award Vicky Loras, Eric Halvorsen, and Luke Thompson and Andy Johnson, and it’s off to the nearest restaurant for some escargots and frog legs!

(For more photos of the BESIG Paris Summer Symposium by Mike Hogan, go here)

ELF 5 Part 2 – Teacher Education

The gorgeous view from the conference centre at Bogaziçi University

The elective sessions  at ELF5 are grouped into blocks of 2/3 speakers, each with about 30 minutes to present their research.

For the first elective session of the day, I chose 3 sessions on Teacher Education and ELF.

First up was Marie-Luise Pitzl’s talk – Preparing teachers for an ELF future: What we CAN tell them. Having read quite a few articles by Marie-Luise Pitzl, I found myself quite star-struck to sitting in front of her.

Quoting Dewey (2007), Pitzl reminds us that we can no longer regard language norms as fixed, pre-determined, and tied to a particular geographical or cultural centre, and that teachers should adopt a different approach to ELT, reassessing the way we select materials, methods, and approaches to testing, and promoting a pluralistic approach to competence and a flexible view of language.

On one hand, you have a global phenomenon,

And on the other, local contexts and local conditions.

And it is thus important to raise awareness amongst teachers and teacher trainees of this sociolinguistic reality and its teaching implications.

Marie-Luise Pitzl

Here, Pitzl outlines the ELF component of here teacher training course.

Aims

  1. Familiarising sts with core concepts (ENL, ESL, EFL, World Englishes, ELF, lang variation, variety, speech community)
  2. Intro some descriptive ELF findings and linking them to ELF local contexts.
  3. Raising awareness of what an ELF perspective might mean for ELT – shifting perspectives
  4. Giving sts the opportunity to try out diff cooperative teaching methods.
  5. Triggering reflective processes (on predominant NS models, own experience, own ideals, goals and standards discrepancies, challenges)

Course schedule

  1. Into and organizational matters
  2. The roles of English today – past and present developments, models for international English
  3. World English : Basic notions
  4. The ownership of English : From ENL, ESL, EFL, to ELF
  5. ELF description 1: Phonological characteristics – Intelligibility, the Lingua Franca Core and suggestions for teaching
  6. ELF Description 2: Lexico-grammatical characteristics: Processes of language variation and change (Jigsaw method)
  7. Implications for the conceptualization of ELF – variety
  8. Implications for ELT – Teaching ELF?
  9. ELF Pragmatics and Basic notions
  10. ELF Pragmatics : Negotiation of meaning and strategies for achieving understanding
  11. ELF Pragmatics: Correctness, effectiveness and multilingual repertoires
  12. ELF Pragmatics: Idioms, metaphors and metaphorical awareness
  13. ELF, teacher identity and communities of practice.

Activities used include Jigsaw activity (lexicogrammar, Interviews (teacher identity), Roleplays, etc.

Next up was Lili Cavalheiro on Bringing New ELT Policies and ELF to Teaching Training Courses.

 

Lili Cavalheiro

Aims for teaching ELF

  • To challenge the appropriateness of the NS model
  • Reconsider the inner circle as no longer providing the only adequate cultural content and the need to include materials from one’s own source culture
  • Critically analyse the cultural content and reflect on one’s own culture in relation to that of others as a crucial exercise.

While emphasizing the NNS teachers’ advantage of sharing common cultures and common goals with their learners, Cavalheiro reiterates Tim McNamara’s point made at the opening plenary about the inappropriacy of CEF descriptors, giving the following example:

C2 – Appreciates fully the sociolinguistics and sociocultural implications of language used by NSs and can react accordingly.

She then goes on to remind us of Seidlhofer (2011) paper on CEF’s lack of differentiation between the study of modern languages and EFL and ELF.

Still referencing Seidlhofer (2011), Cavalheiro then suggests that on a macro-level, teacher training courses should not only look at the nature of language and communication through language awareness, but also through communication strategies, intercultural communication, and sociolinguistics.

On a micro-level, we should take our teacher trainees’ context into consideration and develop a curriculum that fits into a more general framework of communication.

Last but not least, we should help trainees develop critical thinking of materials, and help them with not just what materials are being used, but how they are used.

The third presenter was Lucilla Lopriore speaking about ELF and Early Language Learning: Multi-lingualism, Language Policies and teacher Education

Lucilla Lopriore

 

Early introduction of English to YLs mean plurilingualism. This means that classrooms will no longer be monolingual.

Parents want a NS teacher because they think it means their kids would pick up the ‘right’ pronunciation.

Multilingualism in Europe

The primary classroom population in Europe is mainly multilingual and multicultural.

The realities of early language learning implementation vary widely due to variety of factors:

  • National language policies
  • The assumption that earlier is better
  • Parental pressure
  • New media (access to foreign lang through the internet)
  • NNS teachers
  • Emerging new literacies

(Hoffman 2000, Edelenbos et al 2006 etc)

She appropriately draws the 3 sessions to a close with a quote from Henry Widdowson (2012):

The first step is to raise awareness of teachers that there is an alternative way of thinking about the subject they teach, based on an understanding of English as a lingua franca. We need to overhaul our descriptive systems and deconstruct our established concepts…and this involves quite a radical re-thinking about the relationship between what we know about the language and what we do with it…between the teaching and learning of the language as a subject.’

Devil’s Advocate vs Marjorie Rosenberg on Learning Styles

This series is inspired by a conversation between Mike Hogan and myself about examining the controversies in ELT. We wanted to consider the different positions taken by different members of the industry. However, to do so, we’d need a debate, a disagreement of sorts. And it became apparent that we either tend to agree with members of our PLN (flying creatures of the same feathers and all that), or would keep an open mind and be fairly polite and supportive of one another (that is why we tweet and blog). Seeing that, the only way to get a real debate going was to actively play Devil’s Advocate (DA).

The following debate took place as an Instant-Messaging Chat on Skype. The statements of here are of the DA and in no way represent my beliefs about teaching. This is merely a tool to spark a dialogue between you, the reader, and all those involved in this project. You can find previous instalments of DA here.

So the seventh victim on the hot seat is Marjorie Rosenberg.

Marjorie Rosenberg has been teaching English in Austria since 1981. She has worked in a variety of settings in adult education and currently teaches at the University of Graz as well as working with corporate clients and doing teacher training.

Her interest in making business English fun and accessible to a large group of learners prompted her to write the photocopiable business English activity book Communicative Business Activities which is now available on English 360 http://learn.english360.com. She has also written In Business, two Business Advantage Personal Study Books and is a regular contributor to Professional English Online, Cambridge University Press.

Marjorie’s work with NLP brought her into contact with different models of learning styles and she is currently working on Spotlight on Styles, Delta, which is due out some time in Autumn this year.

Marjorie is the coordinator of the IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group.

 

Chia:  Hi Marjorie, it is such an honour to have you on the DA hotseat today!

Marjorie:  Good to be here.

Chia:  I hear that you are quite the NLP expert and that you have a book coming out soon about learning styles?

Marjorie:  Right. I did my Master Practitioner and Trainer’s Training in NLP with Robert Dilts in Santa Cruz, California where it all started.

Chia:  Wow…that’s impressive! I know we talk a lot about learning styles in our teaching and even in teacher training, but could you give us an overview as to what we are talking about here?

Marjorie:  Sure, NLP and learning styles are actually two separate things. In NLP we look at what has been called ‘representational styles’ meaning how we ‘re-present’ the world to ourselves. These are basically the visual, auditory and kinesthetic modes. …

They also include gustatory and olfactory which are more important in some cultures than in others. That’s why it is sometimes called the VAKgo model. …

These representational systems are used in NLP to help us establish rapport and have some idea of ‘how’ another person perceives the world but certainly NOT what they are thinking.

Does the use of colours indicate a visual learning style?
ELTpics: Picture by @acliltoclimb

Chia:  But learning styles are often considered part of NLP, aren’t they? Could you perhaps give a quick definition of NLP just so our readers could understand the subject at hand and see the difference between the two?

Marjorie:  Learning styles are a much broader field as they include the sensory modalities of the VAK model but they also go on to include cognitive processing which deals with how we think and process information – either globally or analytically) as well as the models which deal with our behavior.

These models include our preferred style of learning something new for example. One way to look at this is a model I use, which is divided into four parts depending on how we perceive and then organise the information we have received. This is based on research done by David Kolb and Anton Gregorc but reworked by April Bowie in the US.

To explain the four types in Bowie’s model, I usually give an example of instruction manuals: some people write them, some use them constantly, some have no idea where they have put them as they just push the buttons till something works and others just need to know someone who has read the manual and can explain it to them. These are four distinct styles.

Chia: That, I am assuming is the general definition of learning styles. What about NLP?

Marjorie:  I realised I didn’t answer your question. NLP began as a short-term therapy and then quickly moved into the business world as a communication model and eventually into the classroom. …

NLP makes use of the representational systems as I mentioned, but in order to improve communication, not necessarily to teach someone something new.

Chia:  Okay, for the purpose of today’s DA debate, let us focus on learning styles then, shall we?

Marjorie:  No problem.

Learning styles were around before NLP but I actually learned about them in an NLP for teachers’ course.

Michael Grinder, whose brother John was one of the founders of NLP, runs classes for teachers where his aim is to help educators find out how their students perceive, store and recall the information they receive. Michael says that school success is actually based more on where we have information stored, rather than what specifically we have learned.

What he means with this is that once we have received information, we need to have access to it and if we are auditory for example, we remember best what we hear or say but if we got the information in visual form we may not be able to access it easily.  This is a bit like a computer, data is useless unless we know where we have saved it.

Is the cat an audio learner? Or is the seat in front of Underhill’s IPA chart simply warm and comfy? Is it even a real cat?
ELTPics: Picture by @Senicko

Chia:  Surely that must depend on the type and nature of the information at hand? If we are trying to learn about the geographical location of Sao Paulo, it clearly would be easier to use a visual way of teaching than an auditory way?

Conversely, if one is trying to get their learners to produce the phonological chunking of a text and the correct placement of the tonic nucleus, it would be easier to drill and do it the auditory way?

Marjorie:  That depends on your style and how well you have learned to adapt. Michael also talks about teaching – which is teaching to all styles in the VAK model – and ‘re-teaching’ which means breaking down a lesson into one of the three (VAK) modes in order to make it accessible to someone whose primary system is not the one which was addressed in the original presentation.

An auditory learner may still need to say the places on the map aloud whereas the visual learner probably just needs to look at the map. And the kinesthetic learner may actually need to draw a map or move bits around to really understand it.

Chia:  But saying the places on the map out loud isn’t exactly going to help the learner know its geographical position though…and draw a map and moving bits around just to figure out that Sao Paulo is in Brazil seems like an awful waste of time…

Is there a non-visual way of learning this?
ELTpics: Picture by @SandyMillin

Marjorie:  It may seem like a waste of time to someone who understood it right away but for someone who didn’t, this may be the only way to really learn the material.

A few years ago we helped out the son of friends of ours who couldn’t learn English vocabulary. He did the usual, writing a list and trying to remember the words but as a kinesthetic learner it didn’t help him. I suggested he write the words on flashcards and move them around. He immediately started tearing up pieces of paper, played with the words, his English grades improved and in the end, he went on to study English.  His parents were also surprised at this fairly simple solution.  Another young person recently told me that she doesn’t like having to learn everything from books and would really prefer it if someone would just read everything to her. I have known her since she was four, she’s now 22 and has always been auditory.

Chia:  But are we really either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners? Aren’t most of us just a mix of all of the above?

Marjorie:  To some extent, we are a mix.  But the latest brain research is actually showing that we are born with one stronger tendency. We learn to adapt but tend to go back to our strong channel in stress situations. It could be that ‘stress’ is the important word here, when we are relaxed we have access to all our channels but when faced with an exam or answering a question, it is exactly then that we need to tend to rely on our strongest channel.

However, learning styles are NOT an excuse. We still have to put up with whatever is done in the classroom, we just have to find the best way for ourselves to deal with it.

A classroom that is always ready to deal with different learning styles
ELTpics: Picture by @mrsdkreb

Chia:  You use the phrase ‘put up with whatever is done in the classroom’, which seems to suggest that most teachers are not very attentive to their students’ learning styles. Do you think most teachers do not take this into consideration?

Marjorie:  I think a lot of teachers don’t have the time to try and accommodate all the students they have. When a teacher has a group of 20 – 30 students, it just isn’t possible to do activities in three different ways. And most of us tend to teach in the way we learn.

I co-train with a friend who is auditory – kinesthetic (motoric) and I am visual and kinesthetic but emotional. We once started a training session and there was no flip chart, which didn’t bother her at all, but I insisted we find one. She goes running at lunch and I find someone who I can talk to who I like.

Chia:  I can see the benefit applying our knowledge of different learning styles and varying our lessons so that most of the students feel motivated and catered for. But don’t you think it is a bit essentialist and categorical to say ‘You are visual’ and ‘You are kinaesthetic of the emotional sort’? Surely, everyone reacts and learns well when what they are presented information they can connect emotionally too and can discuss that with a partner?

Marjorie:  Not everyone connects emotionally to material, this is also dependent on type. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do a book on learning styles. The idea is to give teachers more insight as to the different styles in their classroom and expand their repertoire to try out activities aimed at specific styles. As a non-auditory type, I don’t do a lot with listening comprehensions I have to admit, even though I used my guitar for years in class. But CDs were not at the top of my list of teaching tools.  Pictures and photos were, however!

Chia:  I don’t think I’m a visual learner at all, considering the fact that I tend to think in words rather than pictures, I can never remember faces and I always dream in black and white or sepia tone. But I see the words, rather than hear them. And although mindmaps don’t work for me, I often have a photographic memory of lists and paragraphs with words. So I’m visual only when it comes to words. Does that make me a visual learner or not? It’s all so ambiguous!

Could memorising all this be a turn-on for some? Am I just weird? Or plain nerdy?
ELTpics: Picture by @acliltoclimb

Marjorie:  This still sounds visual to me.  However, you may be an analytic learner as well rather than a global one, which would mean that the individual words are more memorable than a picture. VAK is only part of the mix – we have to look at the whole picture. …

Having said that, however, I never analyse my students unless they are having problems learning something and ask for advice. Then it may help them to suggest that they approach a task in a different way and that just may do the trick.  However, using a variety of tasks taking these different styles into account or allowing groups to organise themselves when it comes to completing a task gives them the chance to make us of their individual strengths.

Chia:  That’s interesting that you say that because on the CELTA course, one of the criteria states that trainees have to show an awareness of different learning styles in their assignment ‘Focus on the Learner’. This means that most CELTA tutors deliver an obligatory input session on learning styles, coupled with multiple intelligences and the different kinds of motivation, just to fulfil the criteria. But CELTA trainees never seem to know what to do with this information, and neither do the tutors, to be honest. The end message, of course, is always ‘VARY YOUR LESSON AND METHODS’ but that message can be delivered without mentioning learning styles at all. Do you agree?

Are cuisenaire rods for the visual or the kinaesthetic learner? How can we better connect emotionally with the rods?
ELTpics: picture by Scott Thornbury

Marjorie:  Yes, I do agree. It would be good to actually teach the background of VAK which means that teachers can determine the input and output of the information but not the storage.  That is up to the individual.

Then if someone is more global and needs the big picture or more analytic and prefers details, that also makes a difference in how they learn/remember information, for example.

Then we can look at David Kolb’s model of those who perceive concretely but reflect on the information or need to actively experiment with it and those who prefer abstract concepts and then reflect on it or experiment with it – these are the four styles April Bowie worked with which I mentioned earlier.

Chia:  …or we can also talk about learners with more organic learning styles and those who prefer systematic approaches, couldn’t we? There are just so many…

What then should we teach on CELTA training courses, if any of these models…?

Marjorie:  Good question. I am concentrating in the book on the VAK, global-analytic and the model of the four styles April researched. In my opinion, these are the models which come up most often and include academic research. I haven’t touched multiple intelligences as they are more talents for me although some of the categories overlap with the other models. …

Visual-spatial, for example, is similar to visual but the standard visual model does not include the spatial aspect. This means that although I recognise a house on a street I still get lost because my spatial orientation is not very acute.

Chia:  My spatial orientation is terrible! Ask anyone who knows me! I could walk into a shop on the high street and by the time I walk out of it, I would have no clue which side I came from!

My teachers should have done more spatial orienteering with me when I was at school. I blame them!
ELTpics: Picture by @Raquel_EFL

Marjorie:  I understand as I have the same problem. However, to sum up some of this discussion, I would say that what is important for me in the whole learning style debate is that it is important for teachers to recognise their own preferred modes and to be able to stretch out of them from time to time in order to reach more of their learners. We also need to be tolerant of someone who does something in a different way. We criticise students who mouth words while reading, for example, but auditory learners may actually need to do this.

Since I began working with styles I find my students to be fascinating as I observe the way they do things when left to their own devices. There is a jigsaw puzzle game with phrases on it in one of the photocopiable books. I gave out the game to two groups – one read the phrases aloud and put the puzzle together based on the phrases which matched and the other group simply looked for the pieces which went together and looked at the phrases at the end. That was really interesting to watch!

Chia:  I love doing tests that help me know my learning styles, etc. But a lot of the time, these tests are so obvious to the people answering them that I wonder if they are really testing my learning style, or what I THINK my learning style is and reaffirming my assumptions about myself…in a placebo effect sort of way? Also, doesn’t categorising people and letting them think they are a visual or auditory learner close them off to other ways of learning? I know people who would say stubbornly, ‘That just won’t work for me because I’m not auditory!’ before even trying things out.

I love doing personality tests from these magazines…! Oh, have I let on that I am a bit of a bimbo…?
Photo from http://meggiecat.blogspot.co.uk/2004_08_01_archive.html

Marjorie:  I was just thinking about that. One possibility is to have students or learners observe themselves in relation to any learning style survey before actually ticking the answers. And, as I mentioned earlier, it is really important to remember that this info is most important in a stressful situation. I can listen to the radio in the car when I am not stressed but the minute I have to park, it goes off.  My partner, however, is auditory and the radio is on non-stop as it relaxes him. I collect photos – he collects CDs. But again, styles ARE NOT an excuse.  In order to be successful we all have to learn to accommodate to the world around us.

I would say that the goal of the teacher is to help a student (who is having problems) to learn how to stretch out of one mode if that is what is holding him / her back and learn to work in other ways which are necessary for the task at hand (looking at a map for example or learning chunks of language).

Chia:  And will your soon-to-be-published book be showing us teachers how to do that?

Marjorie:  That’s the plan.  The first section deals with the general information about styles, then there is a transition part with surveys, learning characteristics and learning tips and the middle part is full of activities for the different styles including ideas on adapting the activities to suit more than one style …

Chia:  That sounds brilliant! What’s it called and when can we expect it on the shelves?

Marjorie:  It is called Spotlight on Styles, being published by Delta and is about 3/4 done. Hopefully out in the late fall this year.

Chia:  I’ll definitely be looking forward to getting a copy!

Thanks so much for taking time to be subjected to the DA grilling today.

Will you still sign my copy despite me playing DA with you today? : )

Marjorie:  Thanks for asking me.  I hope that some of the ideas I presented will help teachers to work with types who are different than they are. It takes patience and tolerance but the end result is worth it. And yes, I will sign your copy, no problem.

Chia: Fantastic!

Hmmm…does my obsession with this picture make me a gustatory learner? Feed me and I will learn!
Photo by Chia Suan Chong. Food courtesy of http://www.highlife.ie

Epilogue: Marjorie’s views are her own and do not represent any organization she is associated with. Chia was mainly playing DA but did have some genuine doubts and queries about the topic in question. Marjorie hasn’t kicked Chia out of IATEFL BESIG yet, so that must mean that they are still due to have those few drinks together at the BESIG Summer Symposium in Paris in June.

My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 10 – Willy Cardoso on Sociocultural Perspectives to Teacher Training

Wednesday, 21st March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 2

If there was one session that I went to this IATEFL conference that really pushed me to think, if there was one session that I went to that made me want to stand up and cheer by the end of it, if there was one session that I went to that I think no one should have missed, it’s Willy Cardoso’s ‘Dialogue in Teacher Training: A Socio-Cultural Perspective’.

Exploring the way teachers learn to teach and the theories behind them, Willy reminds us that nearly everyone has ideas about what teaching should be like because we all have had experience of being a student at some point in our lives. It is such Apprentice of Observation (Lortie, 1975), alongside theories that show how cognitive development is mediated by social activity (Vygotsky), that clearly point towards the fact that learning (whether learning a language or learning to teach) is a dialogic experience, i.e. I cannot make sense of anything unless I am in co-existence with someone else.

Quoting the following, Willy demonstrates the connection between the socialization process, one’s cognitive processes, and the way they conceptualise teaching and what one does in the language classroom:

‘The socialization processes prospective teachers experience during practicum can have a powerful influence on their conceptions of language teaching and of what it means to be a language teacher.’ (Borg, 2006:57)

‘It is not that social activity influences cognition…but that social activity is the process through which human cognition is formed.’ (Lantolf & Johnson, 2007:878)

‘how external forms of social interaction become internalized psychological tools for thinking.’ (Johnson, 2011)

Teachers are learners themselves, and they should always be constant learners of teaching. Their epistemological stance is therefore important in determining what underpins their classroom practices and even the meta-language used to describe what they do. Take for example language like ‘The learner is slow’ or ‘the teacher is dynamic’. Such discourse has a history of usage in our field and it is vital that we examine what we mean when we use them, and how the acquisition of such discourse fits our social contexts.

Such is the discourse that we export to the rest of the world when we export our teaching methodologies and approaches through teacher training courses. Yet, teachers are clearly NOT contextually isolated technicians. They are not machines that copy techniques they have learnt in one context and apply them without regard for the appropriacy of such practices in a different culture or context.

So if we do agree that social processes and cultures could influence cognition, which in turn could influence the way we learn or expect to learn, surely, reflective practice is the key to continual professional development?

Surely, the deepening of knowledge and understanding of the applicability of the techniques and discourse we acquire can only take place through having space for reflection and examination of our beliefs?

Surely, reflective practice is itself learning how to teach?

If so, then, why do we spend hours upon hours on input and planning in teacher training courses?

How often do we expect our trainees to simply ‘copy and paste’ the techniques and discourse into their teaching practices (regardless of the contexts they will teach in)? Is that why we do demo lessons?

Why do we spend such little time on feedback and reflection?

Why is the feedback session to teaching practice lessons only 30 minutes long?

While Dogme is a way for us teachers to allow for more reflective practice and adapt content and structure to context, what about teacher training?

Do we build upon the prior experience of our trainees as learners and as people?

Do we allow space for them to adapt and reflect?

Are we training them to be technicians? Or reflective practitioners?

Encouraging us to use the following framework suggested by Borg (2006), Willy pushes us to ask the following questions as trainers:

  • What are the characteristics of trainee’s classroom practices during the training course?
  • What influences underlie these practices?
  • How do trainees’ exit mindset, pedagogical principles, and scientific concepts compare to those they entered with?

Without doubt, a session that has left us trainers breathless and inspired.

In the communicative era of teaching, we constantly preach a student-centred approach to teaching. We constantly preach that context is most important. We constantly preach that student talking time is what matters.

Hence, when it comes to teacher training, should we not push for a more trainee-centred approach?

Should we not focus our attention on ways our trainee teachers can adapt what we give them and shape it into what would suit different contexts while making it their own?

Should we not allow for more trainee talking time where they could engage in dialogue with not just their tutors, but their colleagues and their students, to help them make sense of their learning process and mediate their development?

Maybe it’s time for a communicative approach to teacher training.