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

The Role of Academic Management

Academic Management is a broad term and it can have various shades of meaning depending on the context you are in. In English Language Teaching, it usually refers to the positions of Academic Director, Director of Studies as well as Senior Teacher and Assistant Director of Studies.

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This of course varies from school to school. In one school, a Senior Teacher may partake in key academic decisions, such as syllabus design or choosing a coursebook. In another school, a Senior Teacher might be nothing more than someone whose job is to ensure the teaching staff are completing their admin duties in a timely manner.

The exact role and responsibility of an Academic Manager will always vary from school to school. However, it is arguable that there are overarching features that all such managerial roles have in common. What are these features? How do they apply to management in ELT? Keep reading to find out… Continue reading

When the DoS comes in…

In most schools, the Director of Studies will pay regular visits to classrooms to see how things are going. Short visits are often termed pop-ins and longer visits observations. 

As pointed out in an ELT Chat summary, there are many different forms of observing, from peer and self observations to developmental and appraisal observations. The exact nature of pop-ins will vary from institute to institute, but the general idea is to get a quick snapshot of the lesson, the learners and the teacher. 2635694952_8aeb635f80_o

In short, what both pop-ins and observations have in common is that someone else – usually the DoS – comes to the classroom to see part of a normal lesson. Except, do teachers and students behave their usual self during observations?

Continue reading

Conferences, Content and Criticisms

The conference season is well under way. It kick started with the American Association for Applied Linguistics in Toronto, quickly followed by TESOL Canada. TESOL Greece has had its conferences in both the north and south of the country and IATEFL is next up on the list along with TESL Toronto.

Image courtesy of Matthew Noble (@newbieCELTA)
Image courtesy of Matthew Noble (@newbieCELTA)

All of these conferences, and many more, are spread across the globe. The cost of attending alone is significant, never mind the additional cost of flights, hotels and food.

Given that salaries in the industry are generally low, with most being at the local rate rather than at an international one, it comes as no surprise that most teachers struggle to raise the funds needed to attend conferences.

This brings it down to the schools and institutes to support teachers financially when attending conferences. However, most schools simply refuse to do this. Why? Is there truly nothing in conferences for them? Continue reading to find out… Continue reading

Observations and Feedback

In the current series, various aspects of fulfilling a managerial role in ELT will be looked at. This particular post will consider observations, including how to observe, what to look out for and how to give feedback.ELT image

Each school will have its own procedures to follow with regards to observations. There is probably no universally agreed procedure, as many approaches are very effective, despite being very different from each other. However, there are a number of approaches which can most certainly be recommended against, largely due to their ineffectiveness.

Continue reading

Management and Managing ELT

Many go into ELT with the aim of taking advantage of the unique mixture of gainful employment and the opportunity to travel, see new and exciting cultures and possibly even learn a new language. Of those a significant number do indeed leave the industryELT image to go on to different things in their home countries. However, there are those who, happy enough with the job, simply remain in English Language Teaching.

As they progress in their careers, they often move from teaching to other areas. For example, they might move towards materials writing. A number of materials writers I have met began as Newly Qualified Teachers straight off the CELTA and slowly moved more and more away from in-class teaching to materials development.

Others take their first step on the career ladder in ELT management and go into an initial role as a member of the Senior Academic Staff. The first rung is usually a Senior Teacher position, involving a mixture of teaching, senior academic duties as well as observations and INSET sessions.

Having been in a senior academic position, I have learnt a lot and it has been a great learning curve, with a mixture of theoretical input and on-the-job training.

This post is the first in a new series of thematically related posts which will centre around ELT Management. The main aim is to show what Senior Academic Staff positions involve, provide some tips on how to avoid catastrophe, and organise a space where a dialogue can take place in which others share their experiences in ELT management.