Tag Archives: ESL

#AusELT chat summary: Learner Autonomy, with Phil Benson (4 Sept, 2014)

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The #AusELT chat on learner autonomy on Thursday 4th September was once again lively, fast-paced and interesting. Phil Benson, Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University joined as guest moderator and supplied some pre-chat questions for people to think about beforehand. As the chat went on, it was clear that this was a subject that people often considered in their day-to-day teaching.

Phil Benson (@philbensonmq) started the chat with the first question, ‘What does “autonomy” mean to you, personally, in your own learning, teaching, or professional development?’ Several people answered with ideas about freedom to choose learning style and students not needing a teacher, book or other guiding influence in their learning. Others mentioned the possibility of making choices and decisions based on their own desired outcomes, as well as being responsible for their progress, which led to discussion of the role that perseverance plays in learning autonomy.

Motivation – the elephant in the room?

At the same time, @forstersensei asked the question ‘Is motivation the defining factor in learner autonomy?’ and this issue wove its way throughout the chat. @andrea_rivett raised the point that motivation is very important but that students need to learn how to be autonomous, an idea that many agree on. Phil Benson agreed that descriptions of motivation and autonomy include a lot of the same things. As @Penultimate_K said ‘I find you’re more likely to “push through” if your learning is self-determined.’ However, people agreed that learner autonomy might be something that needs to be taught or developed.

Phil Benson then asked whether ‘autonomy starts with being motivated but doesn’t end there?’ A brief flurry of discussion about whether motivation is in fact the starting point ensued, with @alicechik suggesting that imagination (the ability to imagine possibilities) was where it all started. Phil Benson explained that his model has ‘desire (motivation), ability, and freedom’ as three possible starting points and @alicechik suggested that motivation is perhaps the ‘externalised construct’, whereas desire is internalised. This led to discussion of the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, with @McIntyreShona and @MeredithMacAul1 mentioning the possibility to convert extrinsic to intrinsic motivators. @SophiaKhan4 added that the ‘right’ kind of experiences can help learners to become motivated, which @MeredithMacAul1 supported with her comment about learners setting goals, learning about resources and becoming more self-motivated. @TESOLatMQ then asked if that simply meant that students were ‘engaged’ in their learning, while Phil Benson agreed that motivation can be enhanced with ‘more ability or more freedom.’

Nature or Nurture?

@forstersensei then asked if the ability to learn autonomously is inherent or learnt, which @SophiaKhan4 answered by saying ‘Humans are creative, learning creatures [therefore] inherent’ while @andrea_rivett thought that it is rather learned through modelling and by doing. @Penultimate_K also chose inherent, since ‘from infancy we are motivated to reach out beyond ourselves and achieve goals.’ Phil Benson later agreed with this but lamented that students lose that motivation ‘either because of school or things just get harder to learn.’ @SophiaKhan4 raised the possibility that students are discouraged from being autonomous through ‘education’.

@forstersensei summed it up as ‘we could say all have the ability, but it must be taught/modelled at some stage.’ This became the main focus of conversation with @alicechik asking if autonomy is thus inauthentic if it has to be taught, which once more brought the teacher’s role back into the mix. Would it be so because it would be more the teachers’ concept of autonomy put into place, rather than the students’, thus possibly causing demotivation, as Paul Forster suggested and others agreed with. Doing what someone else wants you to do is not autonomy.

@SophiaKhan4, in a brief summary, grouped together Motivation, goals, goal setting and knowing yourself, adding that ‘autonomy is the default’ , while others mentioned that it is perhaps ‘culture specific’.

Phil Benson then commented ‘imagination, motivation, autonomy – I see these as things you can’t ‘teach’. It’s what do you do in a classroom to help them grow?’ The distinction between ‘teaching’ autonomy’ and ‘growing’ or developing it was seen as an important one because of the dangers of teachers treating it like just one more skill to teach. It was agreed that skills are associated with autonomy and that teachers need to shift focus to what we can do in a classroom to help students develop them.

The teachers’ role? What can we do to help?

The question of what strategies or activities can be used led Phil Benson to ask if the 10 strategies discussed here would help with ‘teaching autonomy.’ This was generally agreed but other strategies people liked were setting achievable targets and drawing on out-of-class experience, personalisation of content. This was an important point, according to many, who said that more needed to be done, not only by bringing materials into the classroom but also sending students out into society to complete tasks.

There was some discussion of the pros and cons of peer teaching, with Phil Benson explaining that ‘the point is in the process, not the assessment itself’. There was a sense that the amount of teacher scaffolding and direction necessary for the activity perhaps took away the effectiveness of it. @AgsBod explained that she found it difficult in ESL since students might not accept feedback from each other. Many agreed that students need to learn to listen to each other much more. David Block’s 1997 article,  ‘Learn by listening to language learners’, was cited and group work was suggested as a good way to encourage this skill. It was stated that giving feedback as constructive criticism is also a skill that people need to learn. As @SophiaKhan4 said, ‘[students] can learn from it and learn to focus on their own work in constructive, specific ways.’

In another thread, @andrea_rivett said that ‘being an active, autonomous learner is more productive than sitting there passively for hours’. However, @McIntyreShona raised the question of whether a non-autonomous learner is necessarily passive. @TESOLatMQ agreed that he has had very active students who were ‘over-reliant’ on teachers and other students. Phil Benson made the very good point that ‘active’ needed to be ‘more than what you can see on the outside. Mentally active…’

Final thoughts

Other points raised as the chat neared the end were the idea that ‘safety nets’ such as dictionaries, textbooks, teachers, etc. can be removed to encourage autonomy, while Paul Forster suggested that mobile devices could be brought in to do the same since students use them extensively outside the class to learn autonomously. @SophiaKhan4 said that this would depend on the learning context and @McIntyreShona mentioned time as a factor. @andrea_rivett felt that those traditional ‘tools’ could definitely discourage autonomy but Phil Benson asked whether dictionaries weren’t in fact good tools for autonomous learning. @Penultimate_K agreed that the potential for dependence on the traditional ed elements exists but the teachers’ role is to help students to ‘move beyond’ them.

Phil Benson asked how mobile devices are relevant to autonomy and several ideas were given, such as smartphone dictionaries, apps for learning, learning communities online, access to extensive materials for reading and research.

Winding down, Phil Benson asked ‘Autonomy can be defined as ‘the capacity to control one’s own learning’ with 98 characters to spare. What would you add?’ @alicechik added ‘over time and space with imagination and creativity.’ @Penultimate_K half jokingly threw in the term ‘heutagogy’ which our guest moderator liked. The hour ended with everyone saying how much they had enjoyed the fast paced chat full of ideas and learning.

Many thanks to Phil Benson for joining the chat and providing some thought provoking discussion throughout the hour.

Useful resources and reading

This post by @McIntyreShona

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

Are you ready to talk about learner autonomy?

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Our next Twitter chat will take place on Thursday 4th September at 8.30pm Sydney time (check here to see the time where you are) and will be on the zeitgeisty topic of ‘learner autonomy’. We are privileged to have this chat guest-moderated by Phil Benson, who is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, and has researched and published in the area of learner autonomy and informal language learning beyond the classroom for many years. Phil has put together a few questions to whet the appetite and we look forward to discussing them on Thursday. Enjoy!

 

 

Pre-chat thinking

1. What does ‘autonomy’ mean to you, personally, in your own learning, teaching, or professional development?

2. If you are interested in autonomy and another teacher isn’t interested in it at all, how do you think that would show up in your teaching?

3. In Autonomy in language teaching and learning: How to do it ‘here’, I listed 10 pedagogical strategies that I think contribute to learner autonomy in the classroom (NB: there’s a brief explanation of each on pp. 10-11 of the article):

  • encouraging student preparation
  • drawing on out-of-class experience
  • using ‘authentic’ materials and ‘real’ language
  • independent inquiry
  • involve students in task design
  • encouraging student-student interaction
  • peer teaching
  • encouraging divergent student outcomes
  • self- and peer-assessment
  • encourage reflection

So my questions are:

  • Which strategies have you used in your own teaching?
  • Which strategies could you use more?
  • Are there any strategies that you find problematic?
  • Any strategies to add?

4. Autonomy can be defined as ‘the capacity to control one’s own learning’ with 98 characters to spare. What would you add?

Pre-chat reading (optional!)

Benson, P. Autonomy in language teaching and learning: How to do it ‘here’.

Smith, R (2008). Learner autonomy. ELTJ, 62(4), 395-397.

Looking forward to discussing these questions and others relating to learner autonomy in Thursday’s chat!

“Professional development – that’s what I want!” – #AusELT chat summary, 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 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