#AusELT chat summary: “Professional development – that’s what I want!” (3rd July 2014)

What do we want imageWhat a lively chat about professional development! @cioccas posted some questions for us to think about before the chat and then structured the chat around these. This was a great idea because we could formulate some answers before the chat and this made it easier to post (copy and paste our pre-written ideas) and took the stress off us to constantly type (well, at least that’s what I did!) The questions and issues we discussed are below, and the main comments are summarised.


What do teachers want and expect from PD?

@andrea_rivett posted: “It should be relevant, interesting and get me to think about my own practice.” @Penultimate_K commented that newer teachers wanted direction and skills development and more experienced teachers wanted refinement and innovation. @KateRoss0901 reminded us that some teachers wanted traditional forms of PD such as post-graduate study, seminars and workshops. @sujava and @sophiakhan4 wondered whether all teachers wanted PD. @sujava mentioned that any PD should include a takeaway for use in the classroom as teachers are time poor.

What is PD?

@Penultimate_K reminded us that self-directed PD is often forgotten as a form of informal PD. @KateRoss0901 made the insightful comment that we encourage our students to be self-directed learners but don’t seem to follow this approach in our own PD. @andrea_rivett raised the question of a definition of PD. Is it formal, informal, online, F2F, written, spoken, individual, collaborative, paid, unpaid, teacher-directed, institution-directed? Does it result in a certificate / assessment / observation / some form of classroom practice? Is it private reflection? Who defines it and how do we motivate teachers to participate in it?

@cioccas said that teachers should choose what PD they wanted and that it should be differentiated. @sophiakhan4 recommended we all read Karen Benson and Phil Chappell’s contribution on PD in the English Australia Journal as it deals with a program for differentiated PD.

Expectations around PD

@sujava said that some teachers felt pressed for time and felt that PD was an imposition. @MeredithMacaul1 reminded us of teacher workload as obstacles to attending PD. @cherrymp asked if these things were excuses. @sujava mentioned that some people want to teach / do their job and then go home and @SophiaKhan4 asked if we had unrealistic expectations of teachers. Are people in other professions required / expected to do PD?

A few people mentioned that PD should be provided as part of the job and @aparnajacob said that people expected to be paid as part of PD. Personally, I would expect mandated PD to be paid but anything I was interested in I could pursue myself. It’s always worth putting in a proposal to management to have PD subsidized (e.g. travel and accommodation expenses). Online PD would save costs here but @cioccas has observed that online PD is not always accepted by managers.

What do managers want and expect from teacher PD?

@andrea_rivett said PD was everyone’s responsibility but teachers and managers could suggest, deliver and organise it. @michaelgriffin asked how we can encourage and support teachers to manage their own PD, seek opportunities for PD on their own and become independent learners. This is a question those in management and teacher development constantly grapple with.

 A PD budget

The conversation turned to how to allocate a PD budget. Some recommendations included:

  • any budget for group and individual PD should be aligned to organizational goals
  • teachers who were sponsored by their organisation to attend an event could come back to their campus / college and share what they learned
  • learning institutions could take turns in hosting PD to keep costs down
  • teachers can share delivery (reduced prep time) so a guest speaker is not needed (and therefore no payment required)
  • teachers can put in proposals for external PD conferences and if accepted their college could pay for them to go
  • get staff to deliver PD, everyone votes and the best presenter gets a PD allowance (to attend a conference etc.) with the aim always being to bring back and share the ‘learning’

 Sharing PD opportunities

The conversation then turned to how to share PD opportunities / advertise PD. Some ideas were:

  • Bulletin board, newsletter, group / email list
  • Scoop.It (online magazine), English Australia newsletter

@cioccas asked how information about PD opportunities was disseminated to teachers who weren’t connected and @KateRoss0901 commented that this could be approached from various angles (formal, informal, electronic, spoken, written), which would catch a wider audience. She also commented that employees had a responsibility to develop themselves.

Who participates in PD? Why / why not?

@hairychef asked the pertinent question: “Has the issue of low engagement in highly qualified staffrooms been addressed?” @sujava mentioned PLNs: Facebook, Pearltrees and Twitter and showing people how to sign up. @cioccas mentioned that she has seen little take up of this from teachers even after several attempts.

This prompted the question from @cioccas: “How to encourage and support teachers to manage their own PD, seek opportunities for PD on their own and become independent learners?” @cioccas suggested a series of teacher-led PD sessions, which are starting to take off where she works. @sophiakhan4 mentioned the benefit of having models to inspire and show others what is achievable. She met her models through social media. A few people commented that managers should model best practice.

NB: If interested, you can

What is the role of teachers in their own PD?

 Some suggestions included:

  • to think about what they are interested in vs what they “need” to improve in
  • to run a PD session each – nothing too fancy (30 mins)
  • to do PD in pairs
  • to have active roles in Professional Organisations

Explore here for more ideas on:

What is the role of managers in teacher PD?

 Some suggestions included that managers should:

  • give PD presenting opportunities and responsibilities to teachers
  • have active roles in Professional Organisations
  • model good learning and development (mentoring)
  • use / allocate mentors to promote enthusiasm and commitment

Engagement and feeling valued

The conversation turned to teachers not feeling engaged because they didn’t feel valued and two points were raised. Firstly, do teachers not feel valued because of low self-esteem? Secondly, is the issue here industry baseline standards? Should entry to TEFL be like entry to medicine with the same standards? Would this make teachers more engaged in PD? @hairychef suggested ongoing demand-high teacher training. @KateRoss0901 mentioned that teachers may feel that remuneration didn’t warrant further investment in their careers. @cherrymp suggested we keep working on it that change will come.

On that hopeful note the chat was wrapped up at 9.30pm and we were all left with ideas for moving forward with PD in our centres. I suggest we try some of these ideas and report back from time to time on the AusELT Facebook page.

This post by @sujava


Professional Development – that’s what I want!

The next #AusELT Twitter chat will take place on Thurs 3rd July at 8.30pm Sydney time (click here to see the time where you are). #AusELT stalwart Lesley Cioccarelli has kindly volunteered to manage and moderate this one, on a topic which is close to her heart: professional development. In this pre-chat post she shares some questions and resources to get you in the mood :) 

What do we want image It seems that everyone wants more Professional Development (PD), teachers and managers alike. But do we want the same things, and do we want them in the same timeframes, formats, etc.?

These are some of the questions we could discuss in the chat:

  • What do teachers want and expect from PD?
  • What do managers want and expect from teacher PD?
  • What is the role of teachers in their own PD?
  • What is the role of managers in teacher PD?
  • What do each of these groups think the role of the other is?
  • What happens when these are NOT compatible?

We are all trying to teach, encourage and nurture independent learning skills in our students. So how well are the teachers doing in their own independent learning? In a conversation with a highly respected teacher educator recently, where I was lamenting the reluctance of some teachers to seek their own learning opportunities, even when they were offered to them on a plate, she commented:

I think some people only think PD is relevant if it directly answers a current and immediate problem for them. They do not see it as an opportunity to broaden horizons, or think differently or even just connect with others. What can you do?”

So what can we do? My next question:

  • How do we (as managers or teaching colleagues) encourage and support teachers to manage their own PD, to seek opportunities for PD on their own, to become independent learners?

I would love to discuss how we can encourage teachers to share, reflect on, and discuss their learning, both in their workplace and beyond, but I think that might be a topic of another discussion.  :)

I realise that discussing this on #AusELT is a bit like preaching to the converted, but I think that through sharing experiences and ideas on these issues and more, we can maybe brainstorm some solutions for the benefit of us all.

Some resources to think about

These are mostly related to the role of the manager (or principal) and all come from school sectors, but I think there are ideas we can borrow.

    • Pedigo, M. (2004). Differentiating Professional Development: The Principal’s Role. Melbourne, Hawker Brownlow Education. I love this little book! It has many practical ideas in the ‘Action Steps’ boxes in each section. It’s quite cheap, but unfortunately is not available as a download that I can find. You can view sample pages on the publishers website. There’s also a review here.
    •  Johnson, J. (2011). Differentiating Learning for Teachers. Connected Principals (blog). Extract: “After attending Lyn’s session (*), I started to wonder: Why have they become complacent? Why are they not continuing their own professional learning? Have we given teachers an environment in which they have had an opportunity to continue to grow as professionals? Have we given them the autonomy to expand their knowledge/skills and take risk in the classroom?
    • *Hilt, L. (2011). Differentiated Learning: It’s Not Just for Students! Reform Symposium RSCON3 2011. (Recording). This is the session referred to above. In her session, Lyn talks about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and experiential learning for teachers. Also checkout her slides and list of resources referenced in the talk here.
    • Hunzicker, J. (2010). Characteristics of effective professional development: A checklist. Extract: “Effective professional development engages teachers in learning opportunities that are supportive, job-embedded, instructionally-focused, collaborative, and ongoing.” NB: The checklist on page 13, customised to your environment, might be useful for both managers and teachers alike.
    •  Jayaram, K., Moffit, A. & Scott, D. (2012). Breaking the habit of ineffective professional development for teachers. McKinsey on Society (blog). More focused on the manager (or school/college) providing the PD for teacher, but has some useful ideas.

Hope to ‘see’ you next week for the chat – looking forward to sharing ideas with you then!

This post by Lesley Cioccarelli (@cioccas)

#AusELT summary – Psuedoscience and Neuromyths 1/5/14 with Russell Mayne @ebefl

Russell Mayne announced himself as the new pin up boy of ESL at the recent IATEFL conference with his attempted burning at the stake of pseudoscience (PS) and neuromyths that pervade/populate (circle the verb that best applies to you) our industry. Are these theories really zombies that refuse to die and erode our professional standards or mere harmless half-truths such as gum taking ten years to digest (more on that later!). Can these theories instead potentially promote a form of curiosity that could be beneficial for teachers and students?

Before reading further get a better understanding of the issue by watching Russel’s entertaining talk at IATEFL ‘A guide to pseudo-science in English language teaching’and reading his recent article ‘Tales of the Undead’ at ELTJAM. The #AusELT chat on this topic traversed such things as Suggestopedia, urban myths, the potential harm of PS,  waste of resources, nasal learners, zodiac textbooks, the divorcing of VAKS from multisensory input and exorcism (I bet you’re sorry you missed this one).

So let’s look at what went down.  A core part of the chat looked at the potential or lack of harm PS can have on ESL. On one side there was the opinion that yes it does cause harm supported by a slide from Russel Mayne’s presentation. @SophiaKhan4 noted that “some people put a lot of time/effort into e.g. A Suggestopedia lesson. Should this be happening in this century?”

















While on the other side some participants believed that the harm was not apparent.  In particular @michaelegriffin wasn’t “convinced as @ebefl that the harm is so great or so clear.” @trylingual noted that writers who support PSs must influence trainees but also went onto to raise the point of urban myths and their lack of harm.












The discussion then moved towards the weak acceptance of PS and that it could be used as a form of content to generate discussion. @michaelegriffin said he uses things like horoscopes and learner style surveys and that he was not “indoctrinating folks into it”. @trylingual saw this as “a weak acceptance of PSs for a purpose”.

The conversation then moved towards VAKS. A division was made by @michaelgriffin that “potential problems come when we try to teach based on VAKS, LS or MI”.  @Sophia Khan believed that “variety/change of pace is just good, and ps human cognition inevitably draws on ALL available resources. “  Also others agreed about keeping activities varied.


Russell Mayne @ebefl got out of bed at this point and noted:











@chimponobo made the point that PS could have a positive washback on the classroom with more varied activities being used. Russell Mayne @ebefl responded to this by saying “it could. But is there another way to get this positive feedback without the magical thinking??”

The discussion then moved towards waste of resources and @SophiaKhan4 said “would hard-up teachers be better off spending their pd budget on other things?” @Chimponbo responded by not remembering seeing much money being spent on these types of resources. An odour based curriculum was briefly broached which you can read more about in the links.  At this point @MichaelChesnut2 provided a formula “opportunity costs in teaching: A vs B vs C in teaching & time/effort.”

@Sophia Khan made the point why are we even bothering with PS. While @sujava believed “Alt methods, any methods – the more you know the more tools you have up your sleeve when needed.”

@trylingual drew attention to Mike Smith on the #AusELT Facebook page who talked about teacher enthusiasm (for PSs). Mike Smith said “Bottom line is, teachers are more successful and effective if they are passionate and enthusiastic. The same is true of learners, and we can all relate to inspirational teachers in our past.” Following this some articles were shared on teachers doing research papers on PS. Also the “baloney detection kit” was mentioned (see links at the end of the article). Also @ebefl was asked to provide the best evidence against PS. @ebefl noted there is not much criticism in the EFL literature of NLP except Thornbury 2001 (see links at the end of the article).

An appropriate way to end the chat is how @michaelegriffin was inspired:












So Pseudo Science friend or foe? Where do you stand on this issue?


Post written by Damien Herlihy, @chimponobo


Glossary of Acronyms/Terms

Nasal Learners – Learners who acquire languages more effectively through the use of the olfactory system.

Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) – A half-baked mix of communication, personal development and psychotherapy that has risen into some language learning classrooms.

Pseudo-Science (PS) – Science that is not based on research such as ‘the world is round’ and ‘global warming’.

Suggestopedia -  Suggest a whole lot of stuff and get it adopted as an alternative teaching method.

VAKS – Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic & Sensory













#AusELT chat summary: Management issues, with Andy Hockley (5 June, 2014)

© Aparna Jacob

© Aparna Jacob

Our one-hour chat on ‘management issues’ was certainly fast and furious. Many interesting issues were touched on, some that we surely need to come back to in more detail another time! Aparna Jacob has done a wonderful job with the summary on Storify – click here to see what we talked about, and feel free to keep the conversation going by commenting below or on the #AusELT Facebook page. Many thanks to Aparna and to everyone who attended the chat. And special thanks, of course, to Andy Hockley as our expert moderator.

PS: If you’d like to know more about Andy, check out his blog, From Teacher to Manager, or follow him on Twitter.

This post by @sophiakhan4

Upcoming #AusELT Twitter chat: Management Issues, with Andy Hockley

andyhockleyIn response to recent interest in discussing ‘management issues’, we’ve invited honorary #AusELTer Andy Hockley (@adhockley) to join us as a guest moderator in our next Twitter chat, which will take place on Thurs 5th June at 8.30pm Sydney time (to check the time where you are, click here).

Andy is the lead trainer on the IDLTM (International Diploma in Language Teaching Management), and he frequently delivers workshops, conference talks and other trainings on the subject of ELT management. He is also the co-author of From teacher to manager: Managing language teaching organisations (CUP, 2009) and Managing education in the digital age: Choosing, setting up, and running online courses (The Round, 2014), and a long-standing committee member of the IATEFL Leadership and Management Special Interest Group (LAMSIG).

Whatever type of academic manager – or ‘managee’ – you are,  please come along to share your experiences, ideas and tips, and to get constructive advice on problems you may be facing right now.

Some questions that might get you thinking:

  • What do you regard as the key skills of an academic manager?
  • What do you wish you had known before you took on a management role?
  • Are there any issues that particularly affect us in Australia? How can these be addressed?

These are just a few ideas – feel free to bring your own questions to the chat or post them below. And see you on Thursday!


This post by @sophiakhan4





The future of educational technology – is resistance futile? #AusELT chat with Scott Thornbury, part 4

Recently Lindsay Clandfield wrote about ‘Six Cool Tropes in ELT Edtech’. One trope he didn’t mention is that of inevitability, or, to paraphrase Neil Selwyn (2014″32), the notion that the transformation of education by technology is “an inevitable process that is beyond challenge or change.” This sense that resistance to ‘ELT edtech’ is futile was apparent in the #AusELT chat with @thornburyscott. For example:

Similarly, @johnpfordresher asked: “if tech pervades our world, and our Ss world, is it our responsibility to help them communicate in that world?” @eslkazzyb replied that “new written genres and modes of discourse have arisen due to tech” and so we should be using tech in teaching.

One simple factor that @sujava reminded us of are the apparent cost efficiencies which can be achieved through educational technology: she is learning Italian online because a face-to-face course would be too expensive. @thornburyscott replied that cost is indeed a a factor and that, in the end, the learner will decide, “But all things being equal many learners will still hanker for f2f communication where their own needs, interests are met.”

Despite this sense of inevitability about educational technology, @Elkysmith suggested that, in the ELT world, we are currently at an unsophisticated stage, characterised by “a lot of Ts tinkering away in their own classrooms while publishers push [the same old mediocre stuff via] LMSs.” @kathywa29798411 said “That’s what it feels like to me, keep waiting for it to calm down and reduce impossible choice of what to use.” @elkysmith also stated that there’s a tendency for people in ELT to just wait for a transformation to happen to them rather than taking a risk and doing something innovative.

With the sense that ‘resistance is futile’ comes a range of concerns about the impacts of educational technology. @gwendaatkinson raised the issue of work-life balance, suggesting that there could potentially be no boundaries between personal life and work life. @thornburyscott asked us to consider who pays for the hidden environmental costs resulting from the inevitable obsolescence and wastage of technology. On the other hand,

Finally, the chat turned to predicting the future of educational technology in ELT. @sturubinstein thought that, apart from a few language schools still handing out photocopied pages of English Grammar in use, in five years “BYOD (bring your own device) will be common.” 

@thornburyscott stirred us up with the well-known quote about teachers who teach like computers being replaced by computers’, which was followed by this:

And that seems a fitting place to wrap up this epic summary of the #AusELT chat with Scott Thornbury!

(this part of the summary by @elkysmith)


#AusELT chat summary: Using L1 in the classroom (6/3/14)

#98957410 / gettyimages.com
The March #AusELT chat was about using L1 in the classroom and was skillfully moderated by @forstersensei and @SophiaKhan4.

Currently, there is much emphasis on the communicative learning and task-based approaches to language teaching, which both encourage students to communicate in English the majority of the time. These approaches saw a big move away from the grammar translation method of the 1960s, which some of us, at some point, might have been subjected to in school. However, more recently there has been a shift, or at least discussion, on the use of translation in our communicative classrooms and how it might be useful. This is not a regression towards grammar translation but rather a question of using students’ L1 at certain points in the lesson to aid communication and learning.

This is also a hot topic among English language teachers. Some believe that allowing students to use their L1 in the classroom in certain learning situations, such as translating difficult concepts or arranging and organising activities, can improve the flow of a lesson and increase students’ confidence in using English. On the other hand, some teachers are totally against any language apart from English being used in the classroom. The biggest reason for this is that they are faced with multilingual classes, and while translating and preparing activities in their L1 may work for some of the students, others will be left out if they are the sole speaker of their L1 in the class.

During this #AusELT chat, there were lots of suggestions for how teachers can use students’ L1 to aid learning but also some cautions about making sure that L1 use is appropriate and monitored closely by the teacher. The question of English Only policies in English language schools was brought up and there was serious opposition to the idea of teachers having to monitor and enforce these kinds of policies, as well as reasons why allowing students to use their L1 outside the classroom could be seen as a positive thing.

L1 in the classroom

The chat started with @forstersensei’s question: Is it ok for sts to use L1 in the classroom in an Australasian context? Why/why not?

There were mixed responses to this, with @Penultimate_K saying that ‘it’s unreasonable to expect them to exclude their L1 if they use it to access learning’, although the point was made by some that using L1 to help with learning doesn’t work as well when the class is mostly multilingual.

@SophiaKhan4 thought that in multilingual classes, the ‘use of L1 can make sts with other mother tongues feel excluded’. Controlling student use of L1 in the classroom was thought to be difficult for teachers and some suggestions for helping with this were mixing nationalities on tables in multilingual classes (@Penultimate_K), and @forstersensei has used a demonstration to multilingual classes of ‘how uncomfortable it is for others when L1 is used’ by teaching part of a lesson totally in L1.

English Only Policies

The conundrum of whether or not to allow students to use their L1 in class contrasted to the overwhelming consensus about the controversial issue of ‘English Only’ policies in schools when the next question was raised: How do we feel about insisting on an “English only” policy in class/at school? Responses were very much against forcing students to speak English outside of the classroom:

I am very much against it – especially when they are in the school but not in class.’ and ‘Don’t get me started: fines, red cards, other humiliations like singing in front of the class’ (@Penultimate_K)

‘Don’t feel right doing this with adults. In my class it can be my decision but at school??’ (@SophiaKhan4)

‘And break time could be when ss talk about what they’ve learned in L1?’ (@thesmylers)

After some more discussion of whether or not teachers should ‘police’ English Only policies in their schools, the chat moved on to the usefulness of L1 in the classroom. Most teachers seemed happy for students to use L1 in class in certain situations. For example, @cioccas said that she is ‘happy for Ss to use L1 in class if it helps them with something that they can’t quite grasp with my explanation in Eng’, and @SophiaKhan4 thought ‘we need a better, deeper discussion of the issue with sts’ and that we need to ‘talk to Ss about when and how L1 is of benefit in L2 acquisition #evidence-based #respectful’. @cioccas took this a step further by relating the responses she got from her students when she asked them about using their L1 during lessons

Tips for L1 use in class

The next question for discussion was: Assuming we can somehow abolish “English only” on school premises – any practical ideas for encouraging (not policing) L1 in class? Participants responded with lots of useful tips:

‘in multilingual class I get Ss 2 teach each other 5 things in L1. Then the explain what they are saying in Eng. FUN’ (@forstersensei)

If S uses L1 to get help with something from another S, I often ask them to then try to explain in English, so I can clarify’ (@cioccas)

‘Supply lexical items to SS who are having difficulty understanding’ (@Penultimate_K)

‘I believe @breathyvowel is fond of having SS do pairwork in L1 the first time before shifting to English’ (@michaelegriffin)

‘Having Ss explain to you what they are talking about when you hear L1 makes them explain in L2…they feel like teachers’ (@forstersensei)

Recommended reading and useful sites

http://www.amazon.com/Linguistic-Imperialism-Oxford-Applied-Linguistics/dp/0194371468 – explores English as an international language, and how and why it has become so dominant

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Translation-Language-Teaching-Applied-Linguistics/dp/0194424758 – ‘A groundbreaking reconsideration of translation in English language teaching, this book is a survey and critical assessment of arguments for and against translation in different teaching contexts.’ (from amazon.com Book Description)

http://itdi.pro/blog/2013/06/03/breaking-rules-scott/- Scott Thornbury’s experience of teaching using translation

http://www.alienteachers.com/1/post/2012/06/at-what-point-if-ever-is-it-right-to-implement-an-english-only-classroom.html – for a blogger’s question about whether they should change to an English Only classroom with lots of good ideas in the comments

http://breathyvowel.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/asking-students-to-assess-your-l2-output/ – interesting article on a teacher’s experience with getting his students to assess his L2 (Korean) with the idea of encouraging students to give each other feedback on their L2 (English) in class

http://keltchat.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/keltchat-summary-l1-use-in-the-language-classroom-7th-october-7th-2012/ – #KELTChat summary on using L1 in the classroom

http://shaunwilden.com/%E2%80%9Ccan-translation-and-translation-tools-facilitate-language-learning-and-how-can-it-be-used-to-best-effect-a-summary-of-eltchat-120111/ – #ELTChat summary on translation with lots of positive ideas for using L1 in the classroom

http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/E-USIA/forum/acrobat/P6.pdf – article on some research conducted on using L1 in the classroom

http://throwingbacktokens.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/losing-it-at-school-bridging-reflective-inquiry-and-nonviolent-communication/ – one teacher’s reflection on L1 use in the classroom

http://isabelavillasboas.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/l1-in-the-l2-classroom-from-a-sin-to-a-possibility/ – blog post about reasons for changing from no L1 in class to judicious use of L1

http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_ryan_ideas_in_all_languages_not_just_english?utm_source=l.facebook.com&share=1ac5ad4b0&utm_content=roadrunner-rrshorturl&awesm=on.ted.com_c08VT&utm_medium=on.ted.com-none&utm_campaign= – a TED talk on how we should be more accepting of the native languages of our students

www.speechyard.com – uses Google Translate to translate individual words in the subtitles of movies and TV shows

This summary by @thesmylers