Love it or hate it, it’s difficult to get away from metalanguage and terminology in teacher training. I find metalanguage especially empowering for experienced instructors who’ve had very little formal training but that’s a topic for another post. It’s a good idea though to review terminology continually using interesting activities to reduce the cognitive load.
Sarah Priestly’s tweet from the TESOL Italy event jogged my memory about jeopardy which I’ve used frequently to review declarative and conceptual knowledge.
Have you ever seen Jeopardy? It’s a slightly addictive American TV quiz show where contestants select dollar amounts & categories from a board usually by saying something like “World capitals for 300”. Players are then presented with questions worded as statements which they must answer using the trademark formulaic phrase “What is _________”
Review conceptual information in a game show like format.
Flippity quiz show board with your questions & answers
Laptop & LCD projector
Flippity works through Google spreadsheets so you’ll need to have logged into your Google account.
Access this template. It’ll prompt you to make a copy – the template will get automatically saved in your Google Drive before it opens.
You will see a 6*5 table with existing questions and answers.
Change the categories (row 2) to your own.
Replace the questions and answers with your own. Ideally, a question at 600 should be more challenging than one at 100.
You can’t have more than 30 questions (6*5) but you can have fewer. Place an X in the category column or question cell you don’t want to use.
For Youtube videos, get the link from the share section below the video. Don’t use the link in the address bar: Ask your question?[[https://youtu.be/pFhSKPOF_lI]]
For Vocaroo audio clips, record your audio and insert the URL using this format. Ask your question?[[http://vocaroo.com/i/s1OEopSqfxQn]]
When your quiz board is ready:
Go to File and select Publish to the Web. Copy the URL
Scroll down and access the second worksheet ‘Get the URL here’
Paste the URL into the green cell
The Flippity link quiz will magically appear.
Here’s my quiz on ELT terminology. The questions and answers in this quiz are sourced from Thornbury, S. (2006). An A to Z of ELT. Macmillan.
Divide your participants into groups. Flippity lets you keep score within the app and allows flexibility in terms of number of groups.
Project the link so everyone can see it.
Groups choose a category and corresponding point denomination. Bring up the question – instead of getting just one group to answer, you could get all the groups to write down their answer before displaying it on the screen.
Award points to groups who got the answers right (the app will automatically increase the score by the denomination of the question)
While the display isn’t perfect on mobile devices, it’s manageable. You could have participants play against each other individually in small groups. All you’d need is one connected device per group and some way of sharing the URL (a shortened URL using goo.gl or a QR Code).
Coming back to Sarah’s tweet, I haven’t tried out Jeopardy Labs yet but it looks fairly straightforward and easy to use but I don’t think it allows for offline usage which would have given it a leg up over Flippity.
All the theories will start making sense only after some gruelling days out in the sticks.
Meena Sridharan is a teacher trainer who works extensively on large scale education projects in India. In this interview, we chatted about her experiences on the field and discussed some advice for developing teacher training skills.
1. Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up with a passion for English and history and all my degrees are in English Literature. There was a Linguistics and Phonology component in the course at University which I detested those days. It’s ironic that my work is only to do with English language teaching now.
During my post-graduate years, we had a mandatory social service requirement and I opted to teach English to bus conductors. I enjoyed that a lot, and one day, when I heard a couple of conductors speaking in English on a bus, felt really happy. To my uninformed teenage mind, this seemed to be a matter of course. It never occurred to me then that this was something I could do, and find rewarding, nor did it occur to me that I was actually listening to a demonstration of effective practice.
Many years later, I taught English language and conversation skills in Japan. There again, I just did it for fun, and to make enough money to put me through Japanese language school.
2. How did you get into teacher training?
It was by accident. I had been teaching for over fifteen years all across the country. After I came back from Japan, I diversified into teaching Japanese concurrently with English at some very reputed management schools. I dabbled in some French language teaching very desultorily as well.
A friend was roping in large numbers of teachers and trainers for an assessment activity and I joined the crowd. That is where I interacted with a huge cross-section of ELT teachers and trainers, and was fascinated by the stories they were exchanging. This led to me thinking about revamping my technique, unlearning my previous teaching style, and taking a language teaching qualification.
The next step was a stint training a small bunch of teachers, and almost immediately after, a training program for the first in a series of large scale education projects. I got thrown in at the deep end, and learnt to swim the hard way.
3. What does teacher training involve and who do you generally train?
Teacher training is a very broad term and doesn’t reflect the more complex parameters of the job.
If you look at it superficially, it means delivering modules or specific training materials over a specific period to a group of teachers. This could mean skilling them up in various aspects of language, or customising the course to meet their specific, pre-determined needs. The length could vary from two weeks to two years. This is just the top layer. If you peeled away the veneer, you would find that it involves many more levels of skills and empathy.
I train teachers across levels – primary, secondary, tertiary, of all ages. Though the bulk of my work is with the government sector, I am involved with other organisations and schools where I train smaller cohorts of teachers. I like to keep in touch with classroom teaching, so there are instances where I might take on an assignment to just teach children. This comes as a refreshing break from training.
4. What do you enjoy most about working with government school teachers?
Their enthusiasm and passion, and their humility. They are not jaded. When you see the conditions in which some of them work, they are truly heroes. They are strong on theories about learner centred teaching and can spout Chomsky and Vygotsky at you, but when they find that some techniques can actually be made to work in the classroom, and succeed, there is a child-like wonder and transparency in their response.
There is no gainsaying the fact that some, I would say about 40% of them, are cynical and are in the job just for the financial security it offers. It can get very discouraging while observing such teachers. Nevertheless, the majority are enthusiastic, and handle their students with passion, and sensitivity. Their reactions and responses can be startlingly acute and quite liberal.
The challenges these people face in their classroom environments may seem almost insurmountable when viewed through the lens of an urban educationist. There is no consistent electricity supply in most states, and not very good Internet connectivity. Sometimes, when introducing digital tools and resources, I can feel the resignation emanating from them as I speak. Their technical skills vary from being very competent to not having even an e-mail ID or access to a computer.
I remember some years ago, before smart phones came to rule our lives, how a group of teachers from the far reaches of a rural district formed a motorbike pool and would take turns every weekend travelling about seventy-five kilometres to the nearest town and a cyber parlour to access the internet. They informed me through their very first e-mail sent from that location!
I have a great regard for the Head Teachers I meet. They are really outstanding but embattled men and mostly women, who are beset with problems of every nature and yet manage to sail through the day with ease. They deftly manage teachers, students, irate parents, authorities, and the constant flow of visitors and observers and keep smiling.
I have learnt a lot from just watching them at work.
5. What are the challenges of working in this context?
The challenges are numerous, and as I have said earlier, are outweighed largely by the motivation demonstrated by a majority of the teachers.
The lack of motivation and cynicism displayed by the nay-sayers is a major challenge. One has to keep the energy level up, and get them all involved. There are inherent challenges of mindset and societal norms. We have to work around these with some discernment and not hurt their sensibilities. (Grouping, for example, can be a big hurdle).
Sometimes it takes a couple of days of training to make them even start to rethink their attitudes, beginning with just having to get up off their chairs and stand in a circle for a simple ice-breaking activity. Resistance to change is the greatest roadblock. Convincing them to implement change is the consequent roadblock.
Lack of infrastructure and facilities are a given almost everywhere, but each new situation just adds to the experience and learning. It ceases to be a challenge once you know how to innovate.
6. How would you rate training vis-à-vis teaching?
This could be a topic for a thesis. Anyway, just to talk through the bare bones of the comparison:
Well, they both require the same basic qualities of energy, passion, motivation and stamina, and of course intensive preparation. However, many trainers tend to blur the lines between training and teaching. They tend to deviate into teaching, while trying to exemplify concepts.
I think we need to remember, as trainers, that we are teaching adults who come with a set of fossilised practices which you are going to be enhancing, changing or challenging. Their schemata will have to be consolidated by practice in the training room.
A teacher clarifies content and concepts to the student. She doesn’t need to explain the principles behind her technique, as they are implicit.
A trainer has to deal with teachers who come with a bank of knowledge and experience. Hence the trainer needs to respect that knowledge, but at the same time consciously articulate the principles of the technique or concepts. The trainer’s task is therefore far more demanding. You become an agent of change and that sets you at a disadvantage to begin with.
7. What professional development advice would you offer to Indian education professionals who aspire to facilitate teacher training in state or institutional contexts?
Read up on national and state level education policies and the curricula of various states.
Be familiar with their academic patterns.
Be prepared to feel frustrated and helpless.
Be prepared to relearn your so-painstakingly acquired academic knowledge and adapt to totally different contexts.
All the theories will start making sense only after some gruelling days out in the sticks.
Be excited about what you do always and never lose sight of the ultimate outcome. Motivation is contagious. If you have it, you infect your learners.
If you have questions for Meena, please put them into the comments section and I’ll pass them on to her.
Earlier this month I blogged about a teacher training project I’m currently contributing to. Last week, I returned to Aurangabad, a city in the middle of the western Indian state of Maharashtra to train government officials whose role in the project is to offer administrative and logistical support to the Teacher Activity Groups. This time round, a colleague and I were training at an old teacher development institute. As is often the case with government colleges, they have very elaborate but dated microphone systems for their lecterns but no way of connecting the existing speakers to a laptop if you want to show a video.
As we pondered over this conundrum, help was at hand. One of the staff at the institute simply stuck the mike under my colleague’s laptop and voila – we had the audio projected through the speakers.
I’m really amazed at this little example of frugal or juggad innovation or making the most of what you have. What would I have done if I hadn’t had help? I would have probably whinged & whined and cursed my karma. I would have wondered if it would be possible to pop out during the lunch break and buy a pair of speakers. I might have come up with ineffective alternatives like having 25 people crowd around a tiny laptop or perhaps had them view the video in batches.
I really value the time I spend on government education projects because of what it teaches me about scarcity and resourcefulness. I hope one day I’ll be able to develop a mindset of making the most of what I have.
Folks in my PLN have been asking me why I don’t seem to write anything about the teacher training projects I work on and whether it’s all top secret. For isn’t teacher training a potentially profound experience to reflect on?
I concur and I do reflect in a private learning journal. The briefing I’ve got is that I can discuss the work I do on these projects ‘in general’ but will need to avoid being ‘specific’ about anything, which sort of makes it challenging to craft anything insightful for public consumption.
The good news is that one of the projects I’m currently contributing to has a relatively public profile with lots of buzz on social media, so I thought I would share some ‘general’ information 😉
The projects are run by British Council India in partnership with Indian state governments and other institutional bodies. The focus is on improving teaching standards, learner experiences, and of course outcomes. The projects reach out to hundreds of thousands of teachers in state-run schools, and have an impact on the lives of millions of school going children from lower-income and rural families.
One of the projects I’m currently working on is called TEJAS. It’s a three year initiative in 9 districts of Maharashtra, India’s most industrialized state. The project focuses on developing Teacher Activity Groups (TAGs) which are semi-formal, localised teacher meetings supported by coordinators (who I trained). The TAGs will ultimately run autonomously, facilitated by the teachers themselves who’ll select from a range of curated resources to explore in each meeting.
In September, I taught a six day intensive teacher training program to a group of incredibly engaged and astute Master Trainers from across Maharashtra, which happens to be my home state. Over the next several months, these Master Trainers will go on to cascade this program to tens of thousands of teachers. One of my personal goals has been to model good practices which the Master Trainers will hopefully have observed and absorbed. I had close to 40 participants so one aspect that I inadvertently neglected was grouping. I tended to regroup participants only once a day (it’s extremely chaotic to do it more often when you have so many participants), and for the most part, I used run-of-the-mill grouping strategies. So, my sharp as a whip group helpfully pointed this out to me so I promised to rack my brain and write up a post.
Here are some creative grouping techniques I know and use.
Adjectives: Go around the room labelling Ss using positive adjectives. I love to use ‘intelligent’, ‘creative’, ‘innovative’, ‘brilliant’ etc. Then ask all the intelligent people to get together and so on. When everyone’s settled, ask “So where are the intelligent people?” Ss love answering this question. If you have a sporting group, you can be cheeky and use adjectives like ‘beautiful’ and ‘sexy’.
Content-derived words: Ask Ss to think back to preceding sessions or the previous day’s content and suggest a number of words (preferably nouns) they think are important. Use these to label groups instead of adjectives.
Task or content sections: If you have a longer task and plan to turn it into a jigsaw activity or if it’s designed to be split between groups, use content headings as group names. For example, you have 6 teacher profiles that you would like the Ss to analyze. Go around the room labelling Ss using these names, Joann, Ayesha, Paul, Ayokode, Nazir and Ruth. Then get all the Ruths together etc. Instruct that group to then only focus on Ruth’s profile. This could be a little bit boring if your task sections are labelled 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C but it lends itself well to tasks which involve analysing different categories such as types of games.
Stress patterns: Involves a bit of work. If you have 30 Ss, you’ll need 30 different words with each set of 5 conforming to a stress pattern if you’d like to form 6 groups. For example, one set might have words such as ‘account’, ‘hotel’, ‘discuss’, ‘collapse’, ‘police’ and ‘behaved’ all of which have two syllables with the stress falling on the second syllable. Each set must have a different stress pattern. Distribute cutouts with these words and then ask Ss to find their group members who have words with the same stress pattern.
Animal sounds: I don’t particularly like this one but a lot of people enjoy it. Write out the names of animals on chits of paper. If you want 6 groups, you’ll need six different animals. Popular ones include cats, dogs, sheep etc. But, it’s always fun to throw in a googly as we say in India – cockroach or ostrich and see what happens. Distribute the chits to the Ss and tell them that they must find their group members within 20 seconds but they’re only allowed to make the sound of the animal they’ve been given.
Line-up game: Do you know this warmer? Get Ss into two lines and then give them a series of challenges to complete. Order yourself according to birthday, height, shoe size, etc. When you’ve completed the warmer, divide Ss based on where they’re standing. Voila, you’ll have new groups.
On-screen group creator: I love the instant group creator from Tripitco, but ever since it became a paid app, I’ve really been missing its cheerful efficiency. The free instant classroom from superteachertools comes close though. You sign up for an instant classroom (just takes a few seconds). Create your class (enter your Ss’ names). Then all you need to do is to decide how many groups you want and the tool will randomly generate groups and display names on screen. You can also use the same tool to generate a classroom seating arrangement. But, it’s old school face the teacher in rows type seating. The only drawback with instant classroom is that it requires an Internet connection to use. Here’s another free site that supports similar features.
Celebrity names: Go around the room labelling people using the names of great educators, scientists, contemporary thinkers & domain experts, or just for fun, figures from popular culture.
Adjective + Noun: Ask an S what her favourite colour (pink) is. Write this on the board. Ask another S what her favourite vegetable is (pumpkin). You have a group name – Pink Pumpkin. Repeat until you have as many group names as you need. You can do this with all sorts of combinations such as adjectives that describe emotions (bubbly) plus animals (elephants) etc. I usually use this as a fun naming technique rather than a grouping technique so I don’t necessarily have people move into new groups after coming up with all the new group names. I learnt this technique from Usha Venkatachalam.
Favourites: On sheets of paper, in large print, write out things that people might choose as a favourite (colours, day of the week, city, food etc.) You’ll need as many as the number of groups you want to form. Stick these on the walls of the classroom. When you’re ready to group Ss, signpost the stick-ups and ask Ss to select their favourite thing by running up to the sheet of paper and placing their hand on it. Only six people (or whatever number you want in each group) are allowed to be touching a label at the same time. You may want to ICQ this rule. Tell Ss that if anyone takes their hand off the sheet of paper, a new person is allowed to sneak in and claim a place in that group. I have seen some peers also place the sheets of paper on the floor and ask Ss to stand on it. However, I avoid activities where Ss have to stand on pieces of paper particularly if they have writing on it because in Indian culture, writing is considered a divine gift and placing your feet on any kind of writing dishonours the goddess of learning. But, if it works for you culturally, I can see how the jostling to stand on small sheet of paper could potentially be fun.
Cards: You’ll need one deck of playing cards if you want to form four groups. You’ll need two decks if you want to form more than four. If you want to form four groups, you need to have to have as many cards as you have Ss with the cards drawn evenly from each suit. For example, if you have 12 Ss, you’ll need 3 hearts, 3 spades, 3 clubs and 3 diamonds. Shuffle the cards and distribute them to Ps. Ask them to find their group members – people who have the same suit as them, so all the hearts get together etc. If you want to form more than four groups, combine 2 decks, and select cards that have the same value (all Kings, 2s, 7s etc). You’ll need as many cards of each value as you’d like participants in each group. For example, if you’re going to have 6 Ss in each group, you’ll need 6 Kings. Shuffle and distribute the cards. Ask Ss to find their group members.
Synonyms: In the same vein as stress patterns, select and distribute sets of words which are synonyms and have Ss find their group members.
+ some crowd-sourced suggestions:
From Sandy Milin:
Minimal pairs: Use minimal pairs of phonemes which Ss have trouble differentiating. For example, for Arabic speakers you might use bin/pin or just b/p.
Jigsaw cards: Cut up cards with words on to make a kind of jigsaw, so Ss only have e.g. quarter of a word. They have to find all the other bits.
From Kate Lloyd:
Commonalities: Find someone who is wearing the same colour trousers, shoes or top as you. (I sometimes use a variant of this – find someone who has the same height as you or has a different height than you).
From Ravi Manohar:
Proverbs: You’ll need half the number of proverbs as there are Ss. Have each proverb printed on two slips of paper – with each slip having just one half of the proverb, (E.g. – “A stitch in time…” on one slip and “… saves nine.” on another slip.) Get each student to draw a slip from a box. When everyone has a slip, ask them to find their partners. If there is a need for three in a group, throw in another set of slips, these would have complete sentences that explain each proverb. (For our sample proverb, the third slip would have this sentence printed: “If you sort out a problem immediately, it may save extra work later.”) The student with a complete meaning sentence looks for two others whose slips together would form a proverb. These three would form a group.
A useful tip while grouping is to draw the classroom arrangement on the side of your board with the configuration of groups. This eliminates the need for vague pointing (group 1 over there).
Do you use any creative grouping techniques that I can add to this list?
Have you taught materials that included a section at the beginning of a unit or module that looked like this?
By the end of this session, you will have:
considered perceptions towards developing reading skills
explored the different sub-skills involved in reading
considered how you can best develop and practise reading skills with your learners.
How do you tackle learning outcomes? Be honest. Do you signpost them on the board? Do you make your learners read them silently or aloud? Or perhaps you skip them entirely. I’m often guilty of all three. And yet there is evidence that getting learners to explore outcomes explicitly may enable them to better anticipate lesson content, be focused, and retain information more effectively. I also like the idea that they promote a sense of transparency in the learning contract between the instructor and his or her students.
I’m currently facilitating a six day teacher training course for the BC’s English Partnerships initiative and my participants (who are Master Trainers) and I are trying out different activities for exploring learning outcomes that they in turn could use when they train teachers across the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
1. Underline all nouns
Pre: Ask Ss to individually read the learning outcomes for the module and underline all the nouns. Pair share to see if they identified the same nouns as their partner. Poll to identify which key words Ss consider important.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Now that they have experienced the module, would they want to add any nouns to the learning outcomes?
2. Underline all verbs
Pre: Ask Ss to individually read the learning outcomes for the module and underline all the verbs. Pair share to see if they identified the same verbs as their partner. Take whole class feedback on what sort of activities they might do based on the verbs they underlined.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Now that they have experienced the module, would they want to change any of the verbs in the learning outcomes?
Pre: Ask Ss to read the learning outcomes for the module and rank the objectives (1, 2, 3) from most important to least important. Group share to check if they prioritized objectives in a similar way. Poll to find out which objective was ranked as most important.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Now that they have experienced the module, would they want to change the ranking they had assigned to the learning outcomes?
4. Familiarity index
Pre: Draw a horizontal line on the board. On one side, write “not familiar”, on the other side, “very familiar”, and in the middle “familiar”. Ask Ss to draw this scale or index under the section on learning outcomes. Ask them to number the outcomes and place them on the scale based on how familiar they are with the contents of the outcomes. Check my doodle at the end of this post.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Now that they have experienced the module, would it make sense for them to change where they placed the outcomes on the index?
5. Phases of the moon
Pre: On the board, draw three phases of the moon (three empty circles; shade a crescent into the first, a half moon into the second and a nearly full moon into the last). Label them ‘challenging’, ‘moderate’ or ‘easy’ from crescent to full moon. Ask Ss to read the outcomes and decide how easy or difficult it might be to apply that outcome (in the classroom in the case of teacher training). They should draw the phase of the moon per the key on the board next to the outcome. Check my doodle at the end of this post.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Now that they have experienced the module, are they in a position to see application of these outcomes as somewhat easier? Have them shade in their circles as appropriate.
Pre: Ask Ss to read the outcomes individually and predict what might be covered in the lesson. Pair share to check predictions.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Were their predictions correct? Were there any additional concepts, skills or items that got covered? Which ones weren’t included?
7. Smiley face & Flowery face
Pre: Draw a smiley face on the board. Next to it, draw a flower (ensure that it looks like an empty circle with some petals around it). Ask Ss to read the outcomes and draw a smiley face next to the outcome if they think they already know what might be covered under this outcome. If they don’t know or are unsure, ask them to draw a flower. Pair share.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes. Can they now turn their flowers into smiley faces? Is there anyone who had assigned a smiley face to an outcome but realized that there much more than what they had anticipated? Do they want to turn their smiley faces into flowers? Check my doodle at the end of this post.
8. Hide ’em
Pre: Write the title of the session on the whiteboard. Ask Ss to hide the outcomes with a piece of paper and then slide sideways to only reveal the initial verbs. Have them guess what the outcomes might be and share with a partner. Take the paper off. Were their guesses accurate?
Post: Ask Ss to revisit outcomes and check to see if the outcomes were met through the activities and tasks done in the session.
9. Secret mission
Pre: Ask Ss to read the learning outcomes and label them A, B, C etc. Have them choose one outcome that appeals to them. Tell them that this will be their secret mission. They need to check to see if the outcome is being met through the activities and tasks that will be conducted during the session. You can have them signal this through different ways: raise their hand after an activity has been completed and let the class know OR run up to the board and place a mark in a designated space OR use coloured flags if you have some OR any other technique that you think is appropriate and won’t distract the class.
Post: Ask Ss to revisit the learning outcomes. Did they see themselves or their peers completing their secret missions for any of the activities?
Pre: Write the outcomes on the whiteboard or a flipchart and gap out key words. Ask Ss to work with a partner to find the missing words. You might choose to check answers now or wait till after the session.
Post: If you chose to wait till the end of the session, ask Ss to revisit the learning outcomes and check the outcomes for themselves – they’ll probably be able to easily validate their earlier responses. Let them check with you or their peers for any that they’re unsure about.
11. On a scale of 1 – 5
Pre: This technique works well for concepts like ICT where you can ask questions around what teachers have implemented in their classrooms. On the whiteboard, write the numbers 1 to 5 in a row. Draw an arrow under them and label one “Never” and five “Regularly” Ask participants to read the outcomes and think about whether they have used what this outcome is talking about in their own classrooms. Have them write a number between 1 and 5 next to the outcome. Pair share.
Post:Ask participants to revisit the learning outcomes. Now that they’ve experienced the session, can they change any of the numbers they assigned to the outcome?
12. Disappearing sentences
Pre: À la Scott Thornbury, also called progressive deletion or vanishing words. Write the outcomes on the whiteboard. Ask Ss to read and commit the sentences to memory. Ask them point out key words in the outcomes. Erase these and ask Ss to recall the sentences and tell their partners. Erase some more and repeat procedure etc.
Post: Write up the words that were left on the board before you completely erased the outcomes. Ask Ss to use these as clues to recall the outcomes.
I used to use these a lot when I was working with a corporate. It was a good way of keeping Ss engaged when most of the Ss hadn’t arrived for the lesson. This technique requires a bit of preparation and photocopying unless you plan and include it in your printed materials or maybe you have just a couple of outcomes so you can write it up on the board or on a flipchart. Fair warning: cryptograms can take up a lot of time depending on your Ss’ level.
I usually use Discovery’s Puzzle Maker to create cryptograms. Copy-paste the sentences you want to encrypt. Choose to encrypt in the form of numbers, Greek letters or normal letters. Then, select letters you want to give away as clues (I usually give away half the vowels and less frequent letters like V and Z). Create the cryptogram, print or copy on to a slide.
Do you have any other ideas I could add to this list?
The opening keynote address to TEC15 was by Rod Bolitho who is the academic director of the Norwich Institute of Language Education (NILE) and was the co-editor of a recent publication from the British Council titled CPD – Lessons from India.
Bolitho stated that there were essentially two curriculum issues when it came to teacher education: subject knowledge and pedagogical know-how. He suggested that the definition of subject matter knowledge in ELT is all too often knowledge about language, instead of language. His specific examples alluded to teachers in India who could quote from Shakespeare but without the ability to speak the language, as well from the former Soviet Union, where immersion in philology produces teachers who are well versed in the structure and meta-language of English with barely any communicative proficiency.
Bolitho underscored the criticality of English teacher education by suggesting that the scope of English teachers is far more than meets the eye because the status of English in the curriculum is perceived as tantamount to literacy in the mother tongue. English provides a window on to the world and teachers, therefore have to take responsibility for cross-curricular dimensions.
He went to state that in the face of disruptive changes we are experiencing, learning takes place beyond the boundaries of the classroom and the teacher cannot set these constraints any longer. They are required to think both outside and inside the box if the box is their classroom. As a result, CPD is a multidimensional enterprise struggling in the face of institutional management styles that seek to maintain control.
Attrition rates are apparently startling and in Australia, 50% of young teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. Bolitho then remarked that the qualifications ladder is set up such that it takes the best teachers out of the classroom and into administrative roles. This really struck a chord with me – because I’ve struggled with how I’ve been disincentivised from spending more time in the classroom as I’ve progressed in my career.
He then revisited the issue of quality – extorting the audience to question everything. I was elated to hear him mention the dodginess of Multiple Intelligences and how we’ve all subscribed to it without thinking it through critically. He concluded by telling us that his goal was to infect everyone with the quality bug.
Some of his questions to teacher-educators and trainers included:
How do you take care of your own professional development?
How do you relate to your students?
What part does student feedback play in your teaching/training?
How often do you share ideas with colleagues?
What steps can you take to combat isolation and stagnation?
His questions to providers included:
How do you vet the quality of entrants to initial teacher education courses?
How do you select teacher educator/trainers?
Is there coherence between the values and beliefs underlying your course and the way the curriculum is designed and delivered?
Is your curriculum up to date and fit for purpose?
Is there a clear connection between theory and practice in your programme?
How are assessment standards set and maintained?
How do you provide for CPD for your educators/trainers?
What internal provision do you have evaluating quality?