Tag Archives: #AusELT

Perspectives on developing a ‘learning organisation’ approach to PD – Part 1

This is the first in a short series of blog posts inspired by Adrian Underhill’s workshop on Developing a ‘learning organisation’ approach to PD, which he delivered at various locations in Australia recently. To find out more about Adrian Underhill, read his recent interview in the English Australia Journal.

AparnaAbout the author:

Aparna Jacob is a first-time Director of Studies at an LTO in Sydney. She is passionate about professional development for teachers and is keen on developing a learning culture at her organisation. She holds an IDLTM amongst other industry-related qualifications.


 

At his workshop on Developing a Learning Organisation approach to PD, Adrian Underhill highlighted a few key ideas that set me thinking about impediments to systems thinking and sharing learning that most Language Teaching Organisations (LTO) would face. Below, I examine some of the ideas from the session in the context of the LTO I work for and look at a few possible solutions.

There is no ‘arrival at quality’. It is not a rest state that you gain and retain.

Quality is an ongoing and permanent journey, driven by the constant inquiring activity of the organisation.

Like most small-medium private ELICOS providers, our LTO operates largely as an “organic organisation” (Robbins, 2011, p.451) characterised by a centralised head, the CEO, from whom all budgetary decisions flow. Vertically, there are few management tiers and departmental structures are uniformly flat with wide spans of control. Typical of an organic organisation, everybody is expected to contribute to all operational aspects and overall there is a low level of formalisation and structures, procedures and practices are flexible. Yet, within this system, largely due to what Charles Handy refers to as the dominant “person culture” (in White, Hockley, Van der Horst Jansen, & Laughner, 2008, p.36), initiative and quick decision making are the norm and any change is quick to be implemented. Profit, rather than a unifying mission and vision, is the driving imperative on which most decisions are based. Daily fire-fighting takes precedence over “systems thinking”. The LTO’s lean processes do not prioritise intangibles such as reflection, learning and investing in individuals. In such an environment, the term “quality” remains a catch phrase, an ever-elusive and mysterious state that we are constantly striving to arrive at.

How can a team of committed managers with individual IQs above 120 . . . have a collective IQ of 63?

 Peter Senge

The Academic and Marketing/Sales departments are often the two main departments at most LTOs. Conflicting priorities often mean they are at loggerheads over every issue from student recruitment, attendance monitoring to agent involvement. In the absence of a clear goal, not only do departments find it difficult to work together but it’s also not unusual for team members to compete against their teammates, focusing only on individual KPIs rather than the common goal of the team.

Such an environment serves as a hothouse for Handy’s “Person Culture” typical of small organisations. Charismatic individuals, keenly focused on self-development thrive and become indispensible to the organisation. This in turn can also breed an unhealthy “Power Culture” where the person who has the CEO’s ear has authority and can establish their own direct line of communication irrespective of hierarchy. Learning, in such an individualistic environment is not shared to benefit the team or the organisation as a whole. Such an environment instead encourages “knowledge hoarding” where knowledge is gained and not shared so that one’s own agenda and status can be furthered rather than add to the learning of the organisation. Individual learning can be wasted unless harnessed at organisational level.

 

Systems Thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole.

Systems Thinking begins when we see the world through the eyes of another . . . and realise that our own perspective is just a point of view.

A systemic view of your school sees how everything is interconnected, healthily or unhealthily.

The various departments in the LTO are largely autonomous and solely responsible for their functions. For instance, marketing functions are only carried out by the marketing team and teachers are divorced from these activities completely.

This also means there is no real need to interact with the other departments thus resulting in departmental and knowledge silos and thereby the isolation of each department. The traditional dichotomy between the English teachers and Marketing Officers is evident at our LTO and the physical location of the two departments within the building contributes to this lack of interaction. The marketing department is located in the reception area so that the students have easy access to their Marketing Officers. Though teachers walk past the reception on their way to class, there is practically no interaction between the two departments.

This lack of interaction or awareness of one another’s roles results in further disconnection between the two teams and even a lack of tolerance. Teachers often view trial students or agent visits to their classroom and an intrusion and interruption. Without an understanding of the various courses, teaching methodologies or classroom management techniques used in the classroom, marketing officers are unable to promote the schools products, services or teachers adequately. This then results in the marketing team focusing on superficial aspects of ELICOS products like “native teachers only” or “guaranteed IELTS results” without fully comprehending the complexity of the learning products. Teachers, on the other hand, lack the time or training to understand the cultural background of the students in their class and may choose to view them purely as learners rather than as fee paying customers.

Human capital is not just having smart people . . . It is having smart people who are connected up . . .

Recent changes at the LTO have necessitated a few frank discussions between the two departments particularly with regard to communication and identifying causes of miscommunication. Pressure from above to meet common targets has also had a unifying effect and this has forced the two teams to cooperate, understand one another’s viewpoints, compromise and arrive at solutions together. Progress is evident when meetings are solution-oriented rather than a discussion of hurdles in the way.

Involving teachers and marketers to collaborate on meaningful projects like looking at the nationality mix in a classroom and making decisions on student recruitment, or allowing marketers to sit in on classes to gain a deeper understanding of products they sell, can provide opportunities to recognise the contribution of the other team and bridge departmental silo-isation. A discussion at the Underhill workshop has also resulted in the idea of Marketing Officers sitting in on classes with a few key observation areas in mind and use their understanding from these observations to better promote the courses. A meet-and-greet for marketers and teachers will also be held in the following months where teachers will develop a better understanding of the cultural background, learning styles and expectations of certain student groups.

Learning becomes not just something that staff do for themselves or for the benefit of the clients . . . but something that everyone does for the flourishing of the system itself.

A small LTO like mine is keenly focused on short term goals and immediate gains rather than developing a sustainable long term approach that involves investing in their human capital. Knee-jerk reactions and seeking quick-fix solutions to problems is the norm and this often results in unforseen long-term costs being incurred by the company. Responding to daily crises takes precedence over Systems Thinking habits like reflecting on our actions and consequences, examining our mental models more deeply, and seeing how our structure affects our behaviour patterns. Such reflection is essential to all LTOs as it will reveal the learning opportunities that lie just below the surface of everything we already do and transform the organisation into a learning “hot-house”.

The first step towards this is harnessing in-house expertise and sharing this knowledge that has already been developed using the time and resources of the company. There are no “universal” solutions to “local” situations. Therefore we need to be guided by knowledge and experience from the people in the local situations . . .

We need to develop local knowledge that follows the contours of the setting and circumstances we are in.

Honest inter-departmental conversations about working towards our shared goal, once identified, are an excellent starting point. Clarity of where we want to be means we can recruit the right people who can join us on the journey and help us get there. Any failures encountered on the way would only be opportunities for further joint learning. This way the entire school and its activities transform into an adventure park for everyone’s learning.


 

References and further reading

NB: You can see the slides from see Adrian Underhill’s presentation by clicking here

Pickering, G. 1999. “The learning organisation: an idea whose time has come? ELT Management Number 27. Available from: http://lamsig.iatefl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2-Pickering-The-Learning-Organisation-2.pdf

Robbins, S.P. 2011. Organizational Behaviour. 6th ed. Pearson Australia.

White, R., Hockley, A., Van der Horst Jansen, J., & Laughner, M. 2008. From Teacher to Manager: Managing Language Teaching Organizations. Cambridge University Press.

 

This post by @aparnajacob

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the individuals, and not those of #AusELT in general or of English Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting ready for the #AusELT Article Discussion Group: Teaching pragmatics

MP900390078

Many thanks to everyone who voted on which article to talk about in the first #AusELT Article Discussion Group, which is scheduled to take place from 13-19 October on the #AusELT Facebook page. The results were very close but the most popular topic turned out be pragmatics, via the article Teaching pragmatics: An action research journey, written by a group of colleagues from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the complete article here – but first read this post, which will give you some orientation.

Background

The authors, all teachers and researchers at Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, have collaborated on a four-year project aimed at developing materials and methodology for teaching pragmatics to second language learners. Pragmatics focuses on language used in context, and the “norms”, or socially and culturally appropriate ways to use language. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences of when this has broken down, either as speakers of an L2, when speaking with an L2 user, or observing at a distance. I have my own anecdotes that I can share over a coffee or beer one day that made me terribly embarrassed and humbled, all over a socially and culturally inappropriate comment. So, that’s what the article’s about.

As with many articles in TESOL and Applied Linguistics journals, it has more than one audience. As well as practicing teachers, it is also written for academic researchers, postgraduate and doctoral research students, teacher educators and teacher trainers. Let’s unpack the article a little so we can tease out some of the interesting activities and findings of these teacher researchers.

Article structure

  1. Orientation and background
  2. Methodology – three-stage process
    1. Stage one – teacher survey
    2. Stage two – developing materials
    3. Stage three – evaluating materials and methodology
  3. Report on Action Research projects that trialled the materials and methodologies
    1. 2010 – 14 undergrads in a Translation and Interpreting course, mostly Asian background, B2 level. Role plays with expert speakers in “face threatening” workplace situations.
    2. 2011 – 15 lower (A1 and A2) level students from refugee and migrant backgrounds (East Africa, SE Asia, Middle East, Pacific Islands). Semi-authentic role plays of invitations, using DCTs (simplified discourse tasks).
    3. 2012 – EAP students at pre-degree level (lower B2). Role playing “group project” meetings in university study settings
  4. Discussion of findings
  5. Implications for teaching and learning

This outline might help you read through the article more efficiently. I tend to look at sections of most interest first, and then read the whole article through. For example, you might want to read Section 4 first to see what they came up with, and then settle in for a more detailed reading.

Discussion focus

To focus on our discussion, before reading, have a think about this question:

How important is teaching pragmatics for your students? Think about the language backgrounds and the social and cultural backgrounds of your students. Use Figure 1 as a guide to pragmatic features.

We’ll start with this question in the Facebook group on Monday, and will feed in more questions throughout the week.

Thanks for reading!

This post by Phil Chappell (@TESOLatMQ)

Introducing the #AusELT Article Discussion Group

MP900387490We have a new, regular activity for AusELTers – an article discussion group. The idea is for us all to vote for our preferred article from the latest English Australia Journal, read it, and then join in a moderated discussion of the article. Authors will either join in on the discussion, or respond offline to points raised and questions asked, facilitated by the moderator. For the time being, the discussion will take place on the #AusELT Facebook page (although this may change in future) and the first discussion is slated for 13th-19th October. The articles are all relevant to many of the contexts in which AusELT folk practice. They are primary research articles, that is, the authors have devised and conducted their own research study and reported their findings. In addition, each article has been peer-reviewed, meaning that the editor has invited leading TESOL scholars to review and offer suggestions for improving earlier drafts. We have some excellent reviewers who, together with the authors, have ensured you receive the best quality research reports upon which you can make some decisions about your own teaching.

In order to assist those who are new to reading research articles, the moderator will orient you by providing a summary of the research design and the overall purpose of the research. The discussion will not only focus on how the article can inform your own teaching, but also on opportunities for further research in any form. It will hopefully spark ideas for improving the quality of life in many classrooms! Each article has an abstract for you to read; after all, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a research article by its title.

The complete articles are all open access, freely available online here. The chosen article will be made available as a pdf and available for download on this page.

Teaching Pragmatics: An action research journey

Heather Denny, Graeme Couper, Jenny Healy, Flora MacDonald, Annette Sachtleben & Annette Watkins (Auckland University of Technology)

Teachers are often seeking ways to more objectively evaluate new approaches in teaching methodology. One way of doing this is to carry out classroom-based action research which involves teachers researching their own classroom practice, ideally with collaborative support from more experienced researchers. This summary article will trace a collaborative action research journey involving a series of such projects undertaken to test the efficacy of using elicited recordings of native-speaker roleplay to teach the discourse and pragmatic norms of interaction in communities of practice relevant to learners. It will outline the action research processes of planning and re-planning involved at each stage of the journey undertaken from 2009 to 2012 with learners at a variety of proficiency levels. It will draw out common findings which can be of use to practising teachers, and briefly examine the professional development outcomes for the teachers involved and their colleagues, and the benefits for learners.

Reading strategies in IELTS tests: Prevalence and impact on outcomes

James Chalmers & Ian Walkinshaw (Griffith University)

This pilot study explores whether and to what extent IELTS Academic Reading test-takers utilise expeditious reading strategies, and, where employed, their impact on test outcomes. In a partial replication of Weir, Hawkey, Green, and Devi’s (2009) exploration of the reading processes learners engage in when tackling IELTS Reading tasks, participants in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses underwent a mock IELTS Academic Reading test. They then completed a written retrospective protocol and a focus group discussion to probe their reading strategy use and tease out any underlying rationale. The analysis revealed that participants responded to time pressure, unfamiliar vocabulary and demands on working memory by employing a range of expeditious reading strategies which focused less on textual comprehension than on quickly locating correct answers. Their comprehension of texts often remained at the ‘local-literal’ level rather than the ‘global-interpretive’ level (Moore et al., 2012). Their test scores did not necessarily increase as a result. The findings, though preliminary, support further enquiry into test-taking strategies to understand the extent and the direction of impact on test scores.

Preparing learners for extensive reading through ‘reciprocal teaching strategies’

Karen Benson (Transfield Services – Welfare)

Studies on extensive reading report positive learner outcomes in reading, listening, speaking and writing, gains in motivation and expanded lexico-grammatical range (Day et al., 2011). With this in mind, two teachers at an English language college for adults in Sydney, Australia started to use graded readers in their classes. From the difficulties their students encountered they identified a significant gap in reading instruction in the General English (GE) syllabus at the college. A review of the syllabus highlighted that ‘reading’ was commonly taken from the coursebook and employed an intensive reading methodology. This was not preparing the students for successful extensive reading. To address this gap, a collaborative action research project was conducted to explore if and how the instructional technique ‘reciprocal teaching’ (Palincsar & Brown, 1984) designed to promote comprehension abilities in young L1 learners could be adapted and integrated in to the GE syllabus at the college.

So, without any more fanfare, please cast your vote! (NB: the poll options may appear in a jumbled order). Voting extended. Closes Monday October 6 at 5 pm DST

Your first moderator, Phil Chappell (@TESOLatMQ, Executive Editor of the English Australia Journal)

Poll results and Article for Download

The most favoured article is Teaching Pragmatics: An action research journey, written by a group of colleagues from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. Download the article at the link above, ore read it directly from the Journal website.

Discussion questions will be posted soon. Screenshot 2014-10-06 at 6.13.31 pm

Ed Tech: The Mouse that Roared? by Scott Thornbury

EAJ 28.2_CT_10 questions_Scott Thornbury IMAGE#AusELT is privileged and delighted to be able to welcome Scott Thornbury as our first Twitter chat guest of the Year of the Horse. One of Scott’s current research interests is the “ed tech” phenomenon that has dominated ELT in recent years, and exploring what this means in practical terms. He will be joining us on Thurs 6th Feb at 8.30pm Sydney time [click here to check the time elsewhere in the world] to discuss some of the questions he raises below – we’ll see you there for what promises to be a very thought-provoking discussion.

As long ago as 1966, Pit Corder warned that ‘the use of mechanical aids in the classroom is justified only if they can do something which the teacher unaided cannot do, or can do less effectively’ (1966, p. 69). Nevertheless, the craze for newer, better gadgetry has continued unabated, creating what one writer called ‘the caravan effect’: ‘a metaphor in which the travellers (technology enthusiasts) stop for a while to drink from the waterhole (the latest technology) until they have had their fill; then they move on to the next waterhole to drink again’ (Levy 2009, p. 779). Moreover, each innovation arrives garlanded with claims that are seldom if ever realised, such that the history of educational technology in the 20th century has been characterised as a continuous cycle of ‘hype, hope, and disappointment’ (Selwyn 2011, p. 59). Why is this? One reason (adduced by Selwyn) is that the power of technology is often enlisted in order to solve problems that are non-technological in nature, language learning being a prime example. If we accept the ecological view that language is a complex dynamic system, subject to multiple and interconnected influences, social, psychological and environmental, the idea that change can be effected by a quick technological fix is ingenuous, to say the least. The history of the social sciences is littered with the unintended consequences of such interventions. Beware of geeks bearing gifts!

In order to guard against the hype, any recommendation for integrating a learning technology into our current practice should be countered with Neil Postman’s oft-cited riposte: What is the problem for which this technology is the solution? To which might be added a second question, based on Pit Corder’s aforementioned warning: Can the technology do it better/more effectively than the teacher unaided?

What, then, are the problems that technology might solve? To answer this question, it’s useful to draw on the current state of research to remind ourselves as to the necessary conditions for learning a second language, which, for the purposes of the argument, I’ll frame as problems:

1. The input problem, i.e. how does the learner obtain sufficient (comprehensible) input?

2. The output problem, i.e. how is the learner provided with opportunities for (pushed) output?

3. The interaction problem, i.e. how does the learner engage in (scaffolded) interaction?

4. The feedback problem, i.e. how does the learner get optimal feedback at the point of need?

5. The motivation problem, i.e. what motivates the learner to make best use of these input, output, interaction and feedback opportunities?

To which might be added (because it’s debatable as to whether it’s necessary)

6. The data problem, i.e. how does the learner readily access useable information about the target language?

It’s my contention that technology (meaning here ‘digital technology’, and especially that which is available online) has made significant advances in terms of helping solve at least some of these problems, such as the input problem and especially the data problem, where it easily outperforms the unaided teacher. But it has some way to go in terms of the output, interaction and feedback problems, while the evidence with regard to motivation is inconclusive.

I would go further, though, and add that one of the unintended consequences of an uncritical commitment to educational technology might be the effective disempowering of teachers in the interests of servicing the neoliberal ‘knowledge economy’. As Lin (2013) warns: ‘Language teaching is increasingly prepackaged and delivered as if it were a standardised, marketable product […] This commodifying ideology of language teaching and learning has gradually penetrated into school practices, turning teachers into ‘service providers.’ The invisible consequence is that language learning and teaching has become a transaction of teachers passing on a marketable set of standardised knowledge items and skills to students.’ This commodification process is, of course, massively expedited by digital technologies.

Cover of The Mouse That Roared by Ray Jones (Piccolo) - unknown illustrator

Cover of The Mouse That Roared by Ray Jones (Piccolo) – unknown illustrator

In the early 19th century a group of English textile artisans aggressively resisted the threat to their jobs and lifestyles posed by the development of new technologies. They were known as Luddites. Ever since, the term has been used to disparage anyone who questions the assumption that technological innovation is always beneficial. But were the Luddites so wrong?

References:

Levy, M. 2009. Technologies in use for second language learning. The Modern Language Journal, Focus Issue: Technology in the Service of Language Learning.

Lin, A. 2013. Toward paradigmatic change in TESOL methodologies: Building plurilingual pedagogies from the ground up. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 3.

Pit Corder, S. 1966. The Visual Element in Language Teaching. London: Longman.

Selwyn, N. 2011, Education and Technology: Key Issues and Debates. London: Continuum.

“Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!” Gamification and Crabs – a guest post by Paul Driver

A decorator crab covered in borrowed bling. (Photo by q.phia)

A decorator crab covered in borrowed bling. (Photo by q.phia)

“Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!”

Gamification and Crabs

By Paul Driver

http://digitaldebris.info

Nobody seems to know what gamification is. I used to think it was a pretty straightforward case of appropriating certain elements associated with games and then applying them to systems that are not games. These typically include creating multiple levels (or levelling up in gaming jargon), adding points, leader boards, virtual badges and medals. The idea is that these things all work so well in games, so why not apply them to address real-world problems? Simple.

But as the popularity of the term has spread so its meaning has become similarly smeared. It is now often used to refer to anything from game-based learning, serious games and problem-based learning to company loyalty schemes and marketing gimmicks designed to increase “customer engagement” (in other words, spending).

While video games are increasingly being embraced as valid and practical learning tools, regardless of whether they were designed with that in mind, the practice of gamifiying education seems to have thrived on this ludic zeitgeist.

One prominent example, Class Dojo, which describes itself as “Behaviour Management Software”, claims that it can “improve behavior in class with just one click of a smartphone, laptop, or tablet” . It enables teachers to send instant customizable notifications such as “Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!”. Apparently, Generation Y is particularly responsive to such positive reinforcement.

So why is it then that so many people who appear to know an awful lot about games are so vocal in dismissing gamification as, at best, an over-hyped and misguided fad, and, at worst, an evil and manipulative strategy for getting people to do things they normally wouldn’t want to? Ian Bogost, award-winning author, theorist and game designer, has described gamification as “exploitationware” and “bullshit”.

Other high-profile members of the gaming community like Jane McGonigal, world-renowned designer of alternate reality games and best-selling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, has distanced herself from the concept. In a 2012 NYT article she states,

“I don’t think anybody should make games to try to motivate somebody to do something they don’t want to do. If the game is not about a goal you’re intrinsically motivated by, it won’t work.”

The problem is, many of gamification’s leading proponents often produce substantial amounts of evidence to support that it works. Student grades and behaviour have been shown to improve, absenteeism has demonstrably decreased. On the surface, rewarding learners with points and badges might sound like a very pragmatic and efficient way to get them to do what we want, but is this just a short term solution? What happens when the rewards are removed? What happens when the learner is already motivated to learn or complete a task? As McGraw (1978) notes,

“Incentives will have a detrimental effect on performance when two conditions are met: first, when the task is interesting enough for subjects that the offer of incentives is a superfluous source of motivation; second, when the solution to the task is open-ended enough that the steps leading to a solution are not immediately obvious.”

Personally, I find it hard to get past the awkwardly glued-on suffix “ify”, which implies that the characteristics borrowed from games are mere adornments, designed to deviate attention or disguise something that has fundamentally remained unchanged. I’m reminded of the decorator crab, an otherwise unremarkable crustacean that sticks sedentary plants and other colourful animals to its shell in order to conceal its presence.

Similarly, although gamification may be an efficient way to produce better-behaved students who perform better in standardised tests, is it also concealing more fundamental problems with the ways we educate people? Is it being used to dress up and disguise anachronistic systems of ideas of what school and learning should be? How might gamification be used instead to challenge the status quo? Also, are teachers qualified to design gamified systems? Is it ethical to haphazardly apply operant conditioning techniques and half-understood game mechanics?

Perhaps these are some of the questions we can discuss at the next #AusELT chat?

Further reading:

The #AusELT chat with Paul Driver is on Thursday October 3, 2013, 8:30pm AEST.

#AusELT Twitter chat summary: Task-based Learning (1st Aug 2013)

This is a summary of the #AusELT Twitter chat that took place on the 1/8/13, 8.30pm AEST. The topic of discussion was task-based learning (TBL) and the chat was moderated by @ElkySmith. The transcript is available on Storify here. If you’re keen to find out more about #AusELT, please join the discussion on the first Thursday of every month and/or join the #AusELT Facebook page. Looking forward to seeing you there soon and sharing ideas.

Jigsaw_peopleSmllWhat is Task-based learning?

There are a number of different definitions of TBL but this was the general consensus of the chat. Task-based learning can be one lesson or a series of lessons which focus on an authentic ‘real-world’ task which can be chosen to suit the needs, interests and goals of the students. Although TBL is not based on practising a particular language point, some language can be given to the students prior to the task (however, there are differing opinions regarding this). Required functional language however often emerges through the task and is clarified as necessary but the focus remains on a common outcome – the task which is presented individually or collaboratively at the end of the lesson (or series of lessons). As with all classroom learning environments, setting clear goals/aims, instructions and roles are important for students and for the task to be successful. Assessment of the task was only briefly discussed and the use of linguistic features is one aspect to consider.

How about project-based learning?

@ELTExperiences brought up project-based learning (PBL) and how it can be well-suited to younger learners. In PBL, students can be quite autonomous leading up to presenting their final project. Although topics/themes may be decided by the teacher, the final outcome of the project may not be known until it is presented.

The teacher’s role in TBL

In regards to planning for TBL, @andrea_rivett suggested planning backwards and considering the task to achieved and @SophiaKhan4 suggested that teacher-made materials could be reduced by using authentic materials related to the task. @SophiaKhan4 also stated that textbooks don’t always provide suitable tasks for the students as they are made for a global audience and aren’t specific enough for the students. As a result, in teachers incorporating TBL need to deal with different needs but as @Eslkazzyb suggested, it isn’t necessarily more work. This was supported by @kathywa29798411 who thinks that the language produced by the students could be predicted by the teacher.

Examples of TBL

prosklisiSuggestions by @SophiaKhan4 for a General English class were: creating a tourist brochure/ad, planning a dinner party and giving a presentation. For EAP classes @MeredithMacAul1 suggested various problem-solving simulations such as ‘water shortage’ and ‘overpopulation’ and @AgsBod included listening to lectures, organising group projects and webquests.

Overall positives of TBL

  • Connect with learners’ interests and needs
  • Can be used with elementary level
  • Can be used for mixed class levels
  • Can be used in monolingual classes (plan in L1 and deliver in L2)
  • Can be used in General English, EAP and ESP contexts

Overall negatives of TBL

  • Dominant students may take over
  • Students may not understand the rationale for this type of task
  • Needs to be set up very carefully

Useful links

NB: Some of these links were suggested in the chat, and some on the #AusELT Facebook page – thanks to all contributors!

Summary by @andrea_rivett

#AusELT chat summary: Dealing with students as ‘clients’ (2nd May, 2013)

This month’s chat was a heartfelt one for those of us who have struggled to walk the line between what (paying) students want/expect and the pedagogical realities of what they need.  Many thanks to first-time summariser Andrea Rivett (@andrea_rivett) for disentangling the key points so neatly. The whole transcript is available on Andrea’s Storify here.

Vintage Balance ScaleThis is a summary of a #AusELT Twitter chat that took place on the 2nd May 2013, 8.30pm AEST. The discussion focused on dealing with students as ‘clients’ in various English language teaching contexts. If you’re keen to find out more about #AusELT, please join the discussion on the first Thursday of the month and join the #AusELT Facebook page. Looking forward to seeing you there soon… 🙂

Teaching contexts represented

The learning and teaching contexts represented in the chat were ELICOS, VET, private schools and schools. Participants were from Australia and Dubai.

Who are the ‘clients’?

It seems that the answer to this question depends on who is asked.  “T’s NEVER call sts “clients” – but to sales/ management they often are. This affects their expectations.” @SophiaKhan4

Other responses included parents, previous learning institutions, future learning institutions and agents.

The big issues in the student/client discussion were seen as:                  

  • Wanting/expecting individualized programmes
  • Different end goals
  • Varying motivational factors
  • What have students been promised (before arrival)?
  • Pressure/blame on teachers for not meeting demands
  • Entry level/needs not appropriate for timing of end goal
  • Financial and emotional investment
  • Lack of student input in regards to their own progress/goals (passive not active learners)
  • Management supporting students’ needs and not teachers’ needs
  • Outside pressures for students – parents, institutions, agents
  • Parents considering teachers as ‘employees’
  • In some cultures it is acceptable to demand and expect more from the teacher

Strategies?                    

A unified front

“…we do need to manage expectations btween ss/teachers/management” (@NailahRokic)

“…a clear consistent msg from managers & Ts from the start can preempt a lot of problems” (@SophiaKhan4)

“…the college must be consistent with reponse to pressure” (@Eslkazzby)

“Educating sales people, Ts and management about realistic expectations” (@Eslkazzby)Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right place

For the teacher

“We need to consider their previous learning experiences” (@andrea_rivett)

“Managing expectations and regular consistent academic counselling” (@Eslkazzby)

“Sometimes it’s the dynamic/pace in the class so I move students to another class at the same level” (@Eslkazzby)

“U should be able 2 identify & congratulate sts on their strengths & be specific on what needs work.” (@SophiaKhan4)

In regards to testing

“Don’t just accept offshore testing. Test again on arrival. Use speaking test to discuss goals.” (@Penultimate_K)

“We can’t be ruled by exit evals. I do evals every 3 mnths between tests 2 avoid risk of bias.” (@Eslkazzby)

For the learner

“In my experience, if Ts and mgmt can provide clear and specific reasons why, e.g. a student can’t level up, Ss are often satisfied …Ss need to know that professionals are tracking their progress carefully, rather than just letting them languish in wrong class.” (@ElkySmith)

This summary by @andrea_rivett

Update: Further reading

Article on The Conversation website by Geoff Sharock, Program Director at the University of Melbourne: ‘Students aren’t customers…or are they?‘ 9 May 2013. Spotted by Phil Chapell, @TESOLatMQ

Great blog post that will strike a chord with many: “I want to change my level” by Tyson Seburnt (@seburnt)