Teachers as Workers

The topic of Teachers as Workers came about a few years ago and after a period of stillness, it seems it has returned to the fore. Initially, the website was spruced up and there’s been a couple of blog posts connected to the topic, including Geoff Jordan’s recent one5mz_m06fc9g-roman-mager.jpg

Everyone writing about this topic at the moment is raising valid points about:

  • Working conditions for teachers
  • The rate of pay in the ELT industry
  • The lack of action on the part of supranational organizations

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Praising Good Vocabulary

In a previous post I spoke about the importance of Positive Reinforcement in the language classroom. It’s important that teachers show learners what language they are using correctly and praise them for it.usterdf7yey-moritz-schmidt

My justification for this is because we as teachers know what language is correct and incorrect, but that doesn’t mean learners know. In fact, as long as they have executed a successful communicative act, then they have achieved the desired goal: they’ve communicated a message.

Language is a wide topic and showing examples of good language use could range from grammar through lexis to pronunciation. Today, I’d like to focus only on vocabulary.  Continue reading

The Basics of Course Planning

As the new academic year comes closer, many of you will be starting to plan your upcoming courses. Educational courses are usually governed by the basic principles of Curriculum Design and language courses are no exception. These principles included, among other things, the following:startup-593327_1280

  • Course goals
  • Course objectives
  • Course materials

However, for many in the English Language Teaching world course design isn’t an integral part of planning and preparation, though it probably should be. Most language teachers simply receive a coursebook from the school and are told to teach it over the course of the year.

The teacher who takes the coursebook and divides it up according to each month of the academic year has already taken a significant step in the right direction. However, this can be taken a little further.

How should a simple language course be laid out? What are course aims? Where does a coursebook fit into a course syllabus? These are some of the questions this post will try to address, so keep reading…  Continue reading

When the Learners Take Over

I can’t remember if it was Jim Scrivener in Learning Teaching or Jeremy Harmer in the Practice of English Language Teaching who said what is important in a lesson isn’t what the teacher does but what the learners do. Either way, it’s a recurring theme in ELT pedagogy, with other notable authors of language methodology referring to the notion of creating an environment which is conducive to learning.team-1480072_1280

In fact, this concept of creating a learning environment in which there are ample opportunities for learning to take place was something I didn’t quite grasp when I first started teaching. However, a few years into the job I came to understand that what is important isn’t what I do, but what my learners do. They are, after all, the ones doing the learning.

It wasn’t until I had finished the Delta that I realised it really is all about the learners. I remember one of my Delta tutors talking about how in a pre-service training course he overheard a trainer describing a committed and excellent teacher is one who runs around the classroom and the school, so much so their clothes stick to them from the ensuing perspiration. Of course, my tutor was quick to point out that if anyone should be sweating from a lesson, it should be the learners – they should leave the room having been pushed to their learning limits.

While that sounds all nice and dandy, it is hard to put into practice. How do you design a lesson which really maximizes learner engagement, so much so that it pretty much removes the teacher from the equation? How do you pass on the learning to the learners to the point that the teacher plays nothing more than a supporting role?

Well, this week I got the opportunity to do just that. Keep reading to find out more… Continue reading

Lesson Aims in Dogme ELT

I was first introduced to the concept of Dogme ELT a few years ago. It was a very foreign concept to me at the time, but its attractive promise of an Materials Light approach was invigorating. This was at a time when I wanted to make lessons more Learner Centred and I wanted to spend less time on Lesson Planning in order to spend more time on the learners and on my Professional Development.

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Source: Scott Thornbury’s blog

As you can probably imagine, Dogme seemed to offer all of that and more. Its only requirement was a group of learners and a knowledgeable teacher. Although since then I have learnt far more about the English language then I could have ever thought possible, at the time I felt confident in my understanding of the mechanics of English linguistics.

After purchasing the seminal piece on the topic, Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, I immersed myself into the world of dogme-esque ideas, activities and approaches.

Since then I have completed further training, including a course in Advanced Methodology, a Teacher Training certificate, and the Cambridge Delta, all of which has led me to re-evaluate my beliefs and principles about teaching and learning.

As a result, I have found myself coming back to Dogme, with varying results. However, I think this time I have come to a principled conclusion about going materials light. Continue reading

Observing a Real Lesson

There has been plenty of debate in English Language Teaching about the value of observations. Some of the key questions that have come out of the discussion so far have been:correcting-1351629_1280

  • Is the purpose of an observation to develop teachers or check standards?
  • Does a good observer need a plan to understand what is going on in the lesson?
  • Why do schools require written formal plans when this doesn’t happen on a day-to-day basis?

In this episode of The TEFL Show Marek Kiczkowiak and myself got into an extended debate on the subject of preparation, planning and formal observations. In the show, I emphasised how I had always had observations which were focussed entirely on Professional Development and resulted in professional development goals. I also pointed out that I saw the value of formal written lesson plans mainly because this gave the observer a greater deal of insight into the planned intentions of the teacher, which can later be compared with what actually happened during the lesson.

However, this week I had the opportunity to be observed by the Assistant Programme Manager who was quite happy to see a real lesson i.e. no formal written plan, no pre-meeting going over the stages, aims and intended outcomes, just simply watch and observe the lesson.

It has been quite an experience and has made me question how observations are currently executed. Keep reading to find out more… Continue reading

Big Data in Education: Is it now all about the Small Data?

Big Data has been a bit of buzz word for a few years now. As a tool for collecting and processing information en masse, Big Data is supposed to be the solution to marketing problems. By using computers to processes information at a level and rate humans simply cannot, computers can provide companies with detailed information about ourselves, including where we shop, what we search for on the internet and our all our Facebook likes. library-1269924_640

It sounds great if you’re the director of a big corporation looking to make the company’s marketing strategy more effective. But it has ramifications beyond the corporate sector. Some in edtech realised Big Data could be applied to education and jumped on the band wagon. By collecting lots of information about learners and getting a computer to process it, the end result might turn out, thanks to Big Data, to be greatly insightful to the learning institution.

So, has it turned out like that? In short, not quite. Keep reading to find out more… Continue reading