What are coursebooks to you? This question prompted plenty of discussion on our materials development course. We were given various metaphors to choose from – a springboard, a straitjacket, a recipe, a compass, etc. I opted for a crutch, as I felt it was something that supported the students learning (and my planning). Mind you, one coursebook I used recently felt more like a headwind. More specifically, a headwind while running on a sloping, pebbly beach in winter during a mild storm. I won’t name the book in question…!
What’s your staffroom like? Do you know what’s in all those cupboards and drawers? Is there dust collecting on most of the supplementary materials? What’s in that unlabelled ring binder?
I’m lucky to have worked in some really well-stocked staffrooms. I mean, the one in LTC Eastbourne had EVERYTHING – they were hoarders. Never had they thrown out a cassette tape(!), a freebie, a flashcard, a material produced in-house… it was a veritable ELT jungle. Despite the abundance of materials, I rarely explored the bookshelves and cupboards. The day I did… wow! Thirty minutes of rummaging saved me about 10 hours planning in the long run. It also resulted in me trialling ‘Teaching with Bear’, which wasn’t my finest hour. I can’t think why my intermediate adults didn’t take to it…
If I were inducting new staff I’d certainly schedule half an hour of staffroom rummaging. We don’t really make the most of the staffroom resources in my centre. We prepare almost everything on our computers, and search for supplementary materials online. Sure, it’s more convenient. It just that there’s a whole other wall of lesson inspiration just sitting there, and most of us have our backs to it!
So, yesterday I finally turned around. I was right, I knew I’d find something worthwhile. No ‘Teaching with Bear’ though…
This book by Jamie Keddie was mentioned during my MA module in Materials Development. It’s full of great tasks for making the most of images and sometimes building whole lessons around them. ‘Noun Marriages’ looks like a good task, might give it a go soon…
This ‘Top Tips for IELTS’ book is quite good too. It’s full of short tasks for practising different skills and strategies. It summaries key information about the course, and has quite a few of those tiny tips that really count for a lot of marks… (more…)
I’ve been thinking about the role of research in TEFL recently. This was prompted by Dr Paula Rebolledo’s closing plenary on Day 2 of the Teaching for Success online conference, titled ‘How could research inform EFL practice?’ You can watch it here. The talk reminded me of a few things I’ve read by Penny Ur, including this Guardian article in which she questions whether research is directly relevant to pedagogical issues.
Here’s a summary of points made in Paula’s plenary (I hope she doesn’t mind this blow by blow account but it was a really engaging talk):
- According to her poll, most attendees felt that experience informed their decision making above research (and other resources)
- Research is often inaccessible to teachers (i.e. restricted access journals, costly, etc)
- A lot of research is incomprehensible – it’s full of jargon and there are different discourses used among researchers and academics compared with teachers
- Research findings aren’t always relevant to teachers (mentioned by Ur and others)
- Teachers have different routes to research – engagement WITH research (i.e. reading it) or engagement IN research (doing it). NB: on the latter point – big up our Quircle!
- Some authors (e.g. Ellis, Ur) have suggested that ‘mediators’ may be useful in helping teachers access, understand and facilitate teacher engagement in research
- Huw Jarvis did a bit of self-promo in the chat box saying he was such a mediator. His site looks interesting
- There could be a power imbalance between teachers and researchers. Teachers are seen as being on the receiving end of knowledge. We should rethink this. Perhaps researchers need to better understand teaching, as many may have been out of the classroom for a long time and more used to observing
- Teachers may benefit from undertaking research or working with researchers in many ways, like these:
- The idea of ‘teacher as researcher’ needs to be a ‘bottom up, teacher-led enterprise’
- There are practical issues for teachers engaging in research – lack of time, the need for support from schools and society as a whole, etc.
Oh look, Se at TalkTEFL has been taking the Mickey out of our ‘Quality Circle’…
Sarah Smith and I will be chatting about our teacher-led development group (‘The Quircle’) at the British Council Teaching for Success online conference. We’re on the action research discussion panel on Wednesday 5th Oct. Come and share your ideas with us!
If you want to know about our group but can’t attend the webinar, check out the latest issue (106) of English Teaching Professional.
Some teachers have clear direction when it comes to development. Others, like me, have always been a little bit lost. I found that once I finished my initial teacher training there wasn’t much support or guidance when it came to improving my skills, subject knowledge or knowledge of the industry. There was the odd teacher training session or peer observation, plus the occasional chat with a colleague, but for the most part I just had to get on with things. So, I did.
Taking control of your own development is the best thing you can do. Moreover, it’s easier than you think – it just takes a bit of interest and a bit of drive. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started. They’re mostly aimed at teachers fresh off a CELTA looking for inspiration, but some will be useful whatever your experience.
Documenting your progress
It’s said that for development to be successful it needs to be documented. Try these things to help:
- Keep a teaching journal
Record your thoughts and reflections on lessons – things that went well, things that didn’t, things to improve on, useful things you’ve read, self-evaluation tasks you’ve tried, etc. It will be a good thing to look back on, and might help you gather your thoughts.
- Start a blog
A ‘web log’ – it can be like a journal/diary anyway. The difference is that other people can see it. You can get feedback from others, useful tips and ideas. I started this one on wordpress.com. It only took me 10 minutes to set up and it’s free. I’ve motivated my colleague to do the same so you can see one that’s just starting out here. Please comment and keep him reflecting 🙂
- Add teacher development aims to your plans
This is a practical tip for lesson evaluation. At the end of a lesson, write down two things that went well, and two you could have improved on. Our CELTA YLX tutor called these ‘Glows and Grows’. Try and work on the points to improve in the next lesson. Writing these down somewhere is a great way to evaluate your progress. If you’re me, it’s also a great way to notice how many times you’ve had to focus on GIVING BETTER INSTRUCTIONS! AAARGH! (note: had a formal obs yesterday – guess what came up?!).
A framework of reference
- British Council Continuing Professional Development Framework
It’s useful to have a bit of guidance when it comes to professional development. Download this free document from the British Council. It’s a CPD framework highlighting various stages of development and key professional practices. It might help you recognise the areas you need to focus on. (more…)
It’s a pleasure to introduce this guest post from Phil Wade. He shares some useful advice for teachers thinking of undertaking distance study.
I did my first TEFL course with i-to-i about 18 years ago and as a follow-up, I took a distance course. At that time, it was by mail so they sent me some books and tasks and I sent them back in a rather heavy envelope.
10 years later I started hearing about MOOCs and the Khan academy and looked into online TEFL MAs. It was tough as the idea of ‘distance study’ seemed to vary a lot between universities. There were some with residentials and others with weekend attendance but bolstered by ‘online modules’. This started changing so I jumped at the chance of taking what came to be called a ‘fully online course’. After that, I took the DELTA module 3 online, some LearnDash MOOCs, participated in the EVO sessions, completed 2 online coaching courses and recently started a fully online postgrad. I also moved to the other side of the screen, teaching online for a bit and tutoring the Cert iBET course.
I have learned a lot from studying online, and for a teacher who cannot relocate for a month or a year just to study it provides me access to the best of PD from my laptop. However, it does not suit everyone. Many classmates have fallen for one reason or another. The ‘motivation’ issue is not to be underestimated and the workload too. I’d like to share some questions you can ask yourself to see if distance study is for you. (more…)
In her latest guest post, Nicky Salmon talks about the importance of reflecting on your teaching practice.
A very important part of any pre- or in-service teacher training course, is REFLECTION.
On a CELTA or Trinity TESOL course this will mostly be reflecting ON your practice, which means you will look back at the lesson you have just taught to reflect on
-what went well or not so well,
-reasons for these,
-what you can use again or change for next time.
Your ability to reflect on your planning and teaching is an assessed part of the course but many people find the whole process very difficult.
It might be because you have never reflected formally before.
It might be because you just don’t know what to prioritise in your reflection.
It might be because you just don’t know what language to use as you reflect. (more…)