Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer, manager and consultant

This is the first year that the annual IATEFL conference was run fully online. The main conference was run using the HopIn platform. I moderated some sessions, so my notes may not be as complete for those ones! Moderating also took me to a few sessions I wouldn’t ordinarily have attended – great for broadening my horizons 🙂

These are my summaries of the talks.

How to present at an international conference – Sandy Millin

You can find a summary and video of my talk here.

Plenary: Embedding a culture of empathy in English language teaching – Kieran Donaghy

Where Kieran’s interest in empathy comes from?

Kieran grew up in a multicultural close-knit community. He had to spend a little time in hospital as a child, lost confidence and came out with a stammer. He had a teacher who taught him to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star without a stammer – this really helped him. One of his first teaching jobs was with multicultural students. He came across Jill Hadfield’s Classroom Dynamics and Earl Stevick’s book, where he saw this:

success depends less on materials, techniques, and linguistic analysis, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom…

I have begun to suspect that the most important aspect of ‘what goes on’ is the presence or absence of harmony – it is the parts working with, or against, one another

Earl Stevick (1980: 4-6)

After this he lived and worked in different countries and learnt different languages.

However, he’s considered leaving the profession at some points due to low pay and poor working conditions. He because frustrated with not being as patient or empathetic with students as he could have been.

His children went to school somewhere with lenta educacion, slow education – where they work at their own pace, have projects, and there is a focus on values and inclusion.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.

Roman Krznaric (2014: x)

There are three parts to empathy highlighted here:

  • The cognitive part: stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, taking perspectives
  • The affective part: understanding their feelings and perspectives
  • Empathic concern: using that understanding to guide your actions

How do we develop empathy?

Children must experience empathy to learn to express it themselves.

Having said that, research shows that we can continue to develop empathy throughout our lives. With practice and by exercising it, we can become more empathetic [definitely something I’ve experienced myself!]

Experience, but not brilliance, improves empathy.

Carl Rogers (1975: 5-6)

The neurological foundations of empathy

Phineas Gage was a railway foreman in the 19th century. One day there was an accident, where a pole went through his brain. Amazingly he survived the accident. Before it, he was empathetic, but afterwards he was unable to judge what was socially appropriate. 100 years later, his brain was put through an MRI scanner to find what part of his brain was affected, identifying a specific part which was related to empathy.

In 1990, mirror neurons were discovered. A monkey’s neuron fired, even when it saw somebody performing an action rather than doing it themselves. (Here you can see Jade Blue’s fantastic drawings from throughout the talk)

However, there is no single empathy centre in the brain. There are 14 different, but interconnected brain regions. When we empathise with another person, this network is activated.

Why is empathy important in society?

It’s our genetic nature to have social connections with others – it’s important for both physical and social wellbeing.

Empathy becomes the thread that weaves an increasingly differentiated and individualised population into an integrated social tapestry, allowing the social organism to function as a whole.

Jeremy Rifkin (2009:26)

It is vital for a functioning democracy. We need to listen to each other’s perspectives for democracy to work.

When empathy wanes, democracy is diminished. The erosion of empathy robs us of our humanity, without which any sense of community, shared interests and shared fate is lost.

David Howe (2013: 201)

However, there appears to be a dramatic decline in empathy. This survey shows results with college students over time:

There is a range of possible reasons for this:

  • More people living alone and spending less time engaged in social and community activities that nurture empathy.
  • Increased use of technology and rise of social media.
  • Hypercompetitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success.

Why is empathy important in education?

Emotional intelligence goes hand-in-hand with moral development.

Schools have a central role in cultivating character by inculcating self-discipline and empathy, which in turn enable true commitment to civic and moral values. In doing so, it is not enough to lecture children about values; they have to practice them, which happens as children build the essential emotional and social skills. In this sense, emotional literacy goes hand in hand with education for character, for moral development, and for citizenship.

Daniel Goleman (1995: 286)

It’s essential for successful learning, to create quality relationships.

An extensive body of research suggests the importance of close, caring teacher-student relationships and high-quality peer relationships for students’ academic self-perceptions, school engagement, motivation, learning, and performance.

Furrer, Skinner and Pitzer (2014: 102)

To teach children, we must first reach them.

Mary Gordon (1994: 214?)

What are the characteristics of an empathic teacher?

These three characteristics are based on the work of Bridget Cooper (2011: 59-88):

  • Functional empathy
  • Fundamental empathy
  • Profound empathy

Functional empathy

What are the characteristics of it?

  • Group empathy and whole class relationships: understanding how the group works
  • Rules, fairness and manners
  • Mental groupings

Conclusions about functional empathy:

  • It’s absolutely essential in the classroom.
  • It provides cohesion and security, creates understanding and a positive group climate.
  • A teacher who only uses functional empathy does not cater to the needs of individual students who do not conform to the group stereotype.
  • It’s needed to create relationships, and can be observed in daily life.

Fundamental empathy

Characteristics of fundamental empathy:

  • Acceptance and openness – you can learn more about them
  • Giving sole attention
  • Listening and valuing individual students – hearing their perspectives
  • Being interested
  • Positive and affirmative – providing direct praise, this is especially important for students from minority backgrounds or SpLDs who may have received little praise elsewhere in the educational system
  • Enthusiasm

How is fundamental empathy communicated?

  • Clear facial expressions
  • Eye contact
  • Watching facial experessions to gauge responses
  • Gesture
  • Body language
  • Movement
  • Consider height and distance and how this affects relationships – physical closeness can promote emotional closeness [Keiran said this is only possible f2f – I disagree – consider a tiny lecturer far away, versus all equal on Zoom)
  • Language/Voice tone

Conclusions about functional empathy:

  • Fundamental empathy initiates the focused interactive relationships that support engagement, interaction and learning.
  • The active listening and interest of the empathic teacher begins this engagement with the other person.
  • The enthusiasm of these teachers begins to engage students at an emotional level in learning.

Profound empathy

Characteristics of profound empathy in teachers:

  • Act to create positive emotions and interactions, including before and after class
  • Understanding of self and others – teachers remember their own reactions and their own children’s reactions to teachers
  • Appreciation of all relationships
  • Breadth and depth of empathy – across a wide range of students
  • Act and take responsibility
  • Integrated and adaptive
  • Sense of self and others
  • Moral aspects – try to be good people, do the right thing and support others. This moral behaviour is mirrored by students.

Conclusions about profound empathy:

  • Profoundly empathic teachers are considerate, unselfish, caring, kind and pleasant
  • Their empathic and caring behaviour engenders similar behaviour in their students
  • Profound empathy helps to produce the ‘constant human dialogue’ necessary for learning to take place

Why is empathy particularly important in language education?

It’s necessary in all kinds of classrooms, but in language education communicative competence is key, with highly social and interpersonal classrooms.

In this (freely downloadable) book by Gkonou and Mercer (2016), their research showed English language teachers generally scored highly on emotional and social intelligence. One possible reason could be because many Engilsh teachers are bilingual, and research has shown that bilingualism also leads to higher empathy.

On page 8, they said that teachers pointed to four main characteristics of quality relationships with their pupils:

  • empathy (by far the most commonly mentioned)
  • respect
  • trust
  • responsiveness

As classrooms become ever more multicultural and multilingual, empathy becomes increasingly important.

Fostering empathy, which is a key component of EI [emotional intelligence] and SI [social intelligence], can mediate intercultural understanding, increase self-awareness and an awareness and appreciation of other cultures, and make learners open to others.

Gkonou and Mercer (2016: 8)

Confidence in classrooms in your own language and in a foreign language can be very different:

Empathic teaching is vital for students with a non-native language in large classes. Not least in terms of emotions, is the embarrassment of suddenly feeling inadequate after having been competent in school in their native country and finding communication impossible, because the whole curriculum is taught in this new, inaccessible language.

Bridget Cooper (2011: 182)

To boost self-confidence in students, teachers in EFL classrooms, need to have a deep sense of empathy.

It strikes me that empathy is especially relevant to language learning, with its focus on communication, cultural diversity and the centrality of social interactions.

Sarah Mercer (2016: 106)

Is there an empathy deficit in language education?

Language teachers are aware of a sense of empathy in language education and want to be and try to be empathic. One of the things they do is to act as role models to their students, but there are many factors which may make this more challenging.

  • Over-emphasis on curriculum, assessment and competition, leaving little time for empathy based activities
  • The exclusion of certain groups of people from coursebooks

A one-size-fits-all approach will bring some in, but it will exclude others. By not representing them on screen, it denies individuals’ experiences, life choices and entire belief systems. It perpetuates glossy, censored soundbits that ultimately all boil down to the same small set of approved personalities and safe stories. By catering so carefully for some, we ‘other’ many more, claiming their lives as somehow extreme. PARSNIPs means perpetuating an abstract hierarchy of experience – and this will ultimately have a negative real-world impact.

Amir Garmroudi (2018)

One initiative to counter this is Raise Up! Find out more.

  • Native speakerism (see Silvana Richardson’s IATEFL 2016 plenary)

For years students have been told that only ‘native speakers’ can teach them ‘correct’ English. but let’s have the courage to acknoeldge the fact that we’ve been lying to them all along. both ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’ can be equally good teachers, and our students can benefit from beign taught by the two groups.

Marek Kiczkowiak (2017) TEFL Equity Advocates
  • The undervaluing of teachers (see also Paula Rebolledo’s IATEFL 2019 plenary)
  • Long hours, low pay and precarity

More than ever before, teachers who want to have any kind of influence on the way that marketization and industrialization are shaping their working lives will need to do so collectively.

Philip Keer and Andrew Wickham (2016: 78)

One successful example of this kind of collective is the SLB Co-operative in Barcelona.

  • Poor mental health

This data was a survey of teachers in general, but it may be even worse for EFL teachers.

  • 31% of teachers said they had experienced a mental health problem in the past academic year.
  • 84% of teachers described themselves as ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’.
  • 74% of teachers have considered leaving the profession this year due to pressures on their health and wellbeing.

Keiran mentioned the work of Phil Longwell and the research he has done into mental health for EFL teachers, some of which you can find here.

  • Education reimagined and the new normal – we should consider people first, and technology second. Technology allows many affordances, and teaching online works well, but we should also remember what works best in face-to-face classrooms, particularly the importance of social interaction, which is more difficult to achieve online.

The question right now for educations should not be ‘what technology do I need to move my class online?’ The question should be ‘what am I doing to support my students (and my colleagues and my family)? Start there – not with tech but with compassion.

Audrey Watters (2020)

There are lots of articles about reimagining education, but often from technology companies or organisations like OECD and the World Economic Forum, or consultancy firms like McKinsey or banks like Credit Suisse. They see this as an opportunity for experimentation. These organisations may see online learning as incredibly successful, but Kieran reminds us that we should be critical of this.

An ‘education is broken, tech can fix it’ narrative can be traced back decades.

Ben Williamson (2020)

Potentially this might lead to more privatisation and fewer physical classrooms.

It’s a great moment…all the red tape that keeps things away is gone and people are looking for solutions that in the past they did not want to see … Real change takes place in deep crisis. You will not stop the momentum that will build.

The current wave of school closures offers an opportunity for experimentation and for envisioning new models of education.

Andrea Schliecher (2020)

We may have to work with students who have experienced COVID themselves or in their families, and whose learning has been affected by it. But teachers are dealing with this too. Teachers need the right conditions to be able to do this, and the physical classroom is a key part of this.

The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility.

bell hooks (1994: 207)

How can we develop empathy in the classroom?

  • Keep an empathy journal: reflect when you notice moments with teachers and students, with a diverse range of viewpoints
  • Drama and roleplay – but we must give students time to prepare, including empathy prompting questions, for example:
  • Reading fiction about people different from them, and from different backgrounds
  • Show films about people who are different from our learners, and about marginalised people, for example Ali’s story
  • Look at art and give perspective taking instructions
  • Use visible thinking routines:

Concluding thoughts

If we provided conditions which were conducive to empathy and allowed it to flourish, we would probably see happier teachers and students, and see more inclusive and more effective language learning.

Post-pandemic education will require huge amounts of empathy. Teachers need the right conditions to provide this empathy.

When reimagining post-pandemic education, let’s reimagine inclusivity, let’s reimagine entrenched underfunding and let’s reimagine teachers’ pay and conditions.

Coming back to the Earl Stevick quote from the beginning:

success depends less on materials, techniques, and linguistic analysis, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom…

I have begun to suspect that the most important aspect of ‘what goes on’ is the presence or absence of harmony – it is the parts working with, or against, one another

Earl Stevick (1980: 4-6)

Maybe the only way we can achieve this is through empathy.

Harry Kuchah-Kuchah mentioned at the end that teacher education tend to focus on the technical aspects of teaching, rather than the human aspects of it, and that Kieran drew attention to this.

Only connect: beyond the coursebook – seven types of connectivity – Jill Hadfield

[There were some slight technical issues at the start, so there was not as much.]

The title of the talk comes from a quote:

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

E.M. Forster: Howard’s End

In the novel there is a connection between the materialist, wordly Wilcoxes and the idealistic, artistic Schlegels. Jill used this to inspire her structure for the talk:

  • Connection between ideas reconciling viewpoints and world outlook (World)
  • Connection between people, across race, class, nations (Others)
  • A sence of wholeness: of life and the Self (Self)

World

We seem to be entering an increasingly antagonistic and divisive age. Why is society becoming more polarized?

Jill’s abstract was written before the pandemic. What has happened since? How has this affected us?

It’s increased social isolation, but paradoxically has made people realise the need for connection and given us the feeling of ‘all being in the same boat’. On the other hand, it has increased connection – Jill mentioned far more Zoom connections with friends and family, and I’ve found this too.

During the pandemic, Jill reread La Peste by Albert Camus and found this very timely quote:

Throughout the day the doctor was conscious that the slightly dazed feeling that came over him whenever he thought about the plague was growing more pronounced. Finally he realized that he was afraid! On two occasions he entered crowded cafes. Like Cottard he felt a need for firendly contacts, human warmth. A stupid instinct.

But once the town gates were shut, every one of us realized that all, the narrator included, were, so to speak, int he same boat, and each wold have to adapt himself to the new confitions of life. Thus, for example, a feeling nofmrally as individual as the ache of separation form those one loves suddenly became a feeling in which all shared alike.

World: connecting through celebrating our environment:

Problems

  • Often debate or discussion
  • Can be depressing as people feel powerless

Solutions

  • Find inspiring stories (like this), look at ELT Footprint
  • Celebrating the environment, like ‘Octopus’s Garden’:
  • Use the ‘I have a dream’ speech as a framework:

Find lots more activities in this free book from the British Council Teaching English website.

  • Take positive action, like the ‘Picker pals‘ initiative

World: Connecting through art, music and literature

Problem: we all have different tastes.

Solutions:

  • Secret thoughts of modern art 1:
    Show pictures of people, for example in cafes.
    Give out cut out speech bubbles.
    Students take the speech bubbles and walk around looking at the pictures.They should choose one and write in the speech bubbles the secret thoughts of the character they have chosen.
    Collect the bubbles and redistribute.
    Students stick the thought bubble on the picture they think it belongs to.
    Then they look round again and put their own bubbles on the character they intended it for, if misplaced.
    Follow up with a discussion on who they think the character is, why they are thinking that etc.
  • Secret thoughts of modern art 2:
    Number the pictures.
    Give each student a number.
    They should look at that picture and write who they think the person is, what they do, what kind of a person they are, what their dreams, hopes and fears are, why they are in the cafe and what they are thinking about.
    Put students in pairs.
    They should share informatin about their characters and then imagine a conversation between them.
  • Using music: film shots. Use music excerpts and they image the clips
  • Use short poems as frameworks for students to write their own poems:
  • Vary the short poem activity by giving students a ‘lucky dip slip’ of who the poem should be to and from

Others: Humour

Problems:

  • Humour can differ across cultures.
  • Jokes need to have universal appeal.

Laughing Matters by Peter Medgyes is excellent as the source of jokes which can work in the classroom [Amazon affiliate link / BEBC non-affiliate link], Jill told a story of passing it around a railway carriage when her husabnd was laughing at the book after the IATEFL after it was launched, and everybody in the carriage ending up laughing 🙂

Solutions:

  • Tell a joke and ask students to write a similar one for themselves.
  • Fishy stories (from Writing Games) – turn over a time card and say what you were doing at a particular time. If the other students agree, they can through away their picture card. But the pictures are a little crazy and funny, introducing humour.
  • Murder mystery (from Interaction OnlineAmazon affiliate link / BEBC non-affiliate link) – introducing crazy reasons why things might have happened, not just proastic ones

Others: intercultural communication

Problem:

  • Cultural differences can be a source of misunderstanding and even hostility.
  • How can we find ways of sharing and appreciating other cultures?

Solutions:

  • Experiences in common: all cultures have some common characteristics: festivals, special food, coming of age, houses, greetings, dancing. Begin with differences and find similarities:
    Construct a questionnaire to get the students in your class to find out about customs such as greetings, coming of age, in their different culture.
    They mingle, finding out about different customs.
    In small groups, they discuss what differences they found.
    Ask what similarities there are across the cultures, e.g. we all have a midwinter festival.
  • Create a country:
    As a follow up, put students in small groups of different nationalities. Tell them they live in an imaginary country that has characteristics of all their nationalities. Get them to make up a name for their country.
    Get them to a design a travel advert, brochure or guidebook entry, describing the higlights of their country, e.g. food, festivals, scenery, etc. Each highlight should share attributes of all their countries.

Others: group dynamics

Problem with communicative activities:

  • They often focus on differences between students as a means of generating speaking.

So we should focus on finding similarities rather than differences.

Solutions:

  • It can be very bonding to create something together. Start with a matching activity like the first image. Then they match things up themselves to create a poem, as in the second image.
  • Empathy activities: ask them to complete sentence stems and compare their answers:
    I like the colour…because…
    My favourite time of day is…
    When I was at school I used to…
    I sometimes worry about …
    People like me because…

Self: creating a vision

The self…or selves?

The postmodern view of identity is not as single and fixed but as multiple, complex and a ‘site of struggle’

Norton, 1994

Selves for language students:

  • L1 vs L2 self: how can we help our students to develop a sense of connectivity to the foreign language through creation of an L2 self?
  • Creating the ideal L2 self: imagine yourself in the future, you have studied (L2) and now you can speak it well. Imagine…
    How old ar you? What do you look like now? Where are you living? What job are you doing? What makes you happy about your life?
    How is (L2) useful to you now? Do you use it in your work? Do you use it to study? Do you have (L2) friends?
    Do you travel a lot?
    Imagine the situation that is most important to you. Where are you? …in an office, a meeting, with friends, in a university, in the foreign country…
    Imagine you are speaking (the L2) very well…how do you feel? What does this give you?

[I had to leave to moderate at this point.]

The flourishing school: cultivating wellbing for teachers and leaders – Kate Brierton and Christina Gkonou

[I moderated this session.]

Kate and Christina are co-authoring a book which will be published by Cambridge in March 2022 called Cultivating Teacher Wellbeing.

Cultivating wellbeing

Kate is a clinical psychologist. She rarely talks about mental health issues, but rather mostly about ‘balanced minds’ (Gilbert, 2010). When we’re suffering from poor wellbeing, we’re suffering from unbalanced minds.

Our brains weren’t designed for 21st century living. There are lots of pressures that can unbalance our minds. A typical pattern is that we tend to work harder and harder from a place of fear, afraid of failure, afraid that we’re not good enough in some way – it’s a vicious circle. Sometimes the harder we work, the more afraid we get.

Relationships are key to wellbeing, contrary to a possible feeling that we need to be fully autonomous and don’t need anybody else.

Compassion is fundamental to wellbeing and made up of five factors:

  • warmth
  • kindness
  • strength
  • courage
  • wisdom

Educators are often very good at giving this to everyone around themselves, but do we do this things for ourselves. Often we give too much to others, but not to ourselves.

Wellbeing for managers

  • Put on your own oxygen mask first! Without having balanced minds ourselves, we can’t support other people.
  • Many stresses and strains on leaders and managers
  • How balanced do you feel your mind is on a rate of 0 (you can flow with life and don’t feel overwhelmed) to 10 (very overwhelmed, anxious, stressed)? If the score is above 5, you really need to focus on your own self-compassion and self-care.
  • Self-compassion: support yourself in the same way that you would to a good friend. Be warm, be kind, ask how you can help. Quite often we’re quite critical to ourselves when we’re struggling. How can I help myself today?
  • Self-care: sleep, food, exercise

Key components of a supportive school culture

Courageous challenge: knowing when we need to challenge, not just accept.

Servant leadership

As a servant leader, your role is to serve the people who you lead and the students in your organisation. These are characteristics you can employ:

  • Empowerment of the people around you: training, resources, showing and telling staff that you believe in them (this can instil a tremendous amount of confidence in people)
  • Standing back: you believe in people, and accept other ideas – letting people take a risk and feel safe enough to do that
  • Humility: for Kate, this is the quality to focus on. The humility to admit when you get things wrong, and to be open to feedback to the people in your team. If you’re open to feedback, other memebres of your team will be too: you’re a role model.
  • Accountability: people need and like to be held accountable – everybody wants to do their job well. But in a positive and constructive way
  • Authenticity: this is the basis of relationships. if you’re authentic, people will trust you. Though it can be a challenge if you’re asked to do things you may not want to.
  • Courage: feeds into all of the areas above.
  • Acceptance of the human condition: people are human, we don’t need to be perfect, we all need relationships, we’re shaped by what’s around us, we don’t always get it right, but it’s the will to do it well that counts.

Teacher wellbeing

Why is this important?

  • Teachers lead busy lives, and need to balance a number of personal and professional commitments (Day and Gu, 2010)
  • They are the central hub in the classroom – they decide what’s happening throughout.
  • They influence students’ learning and psychologies > emotional contagion (Frenzel and Stephens, 2013; Williams, Mercer and Ryan, 2015). It works the other way too – students can influence teachers’ feelings.

What challenges do teachers face?

  • Excessive workload/demands
  • Interpersonal relationships – with colleagues, students, parents
  • A lack of support from other teachers or management
  • A lack of autonomy and control – they have to follow particular syllabus or content
  • Their professional role or identity – where is their career taking them?
  • Disengaged students, students misbehaving
  • Salaries and often precarious contracts
  • A pandemic!

Who’s affected by low wellbeing?

  • All teachers are likely to be affected.
  • Some teachers are immune to stressors, while others are more vulnerable (Hiver, 2017)

How does can wellbeing affect teachers at different career points?

  • Newly qualified teachers: high rates of attrition (Guarino, Santibanez and Daley, 2006; UNESCO Institute for statistics, 2016)
  • Mid-career teachers: longer term, chronic stress and burnout (Kyriacou, 2001; Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter, 2001)
  • Leaders/managers: managing their own and others’ wellbeing (Bristow, Ireson and Coleman, 2007; Leithwood, Steinbach and Jantzi, 2002)

Within language education

Wellbeing has only started being discussed relatively recently, for example in Kate and Christina’s upcoming book, and Teacher Wellbeing by Mercer and Gregersen (2020) (Amazon affiliate link).

Areas focussed on so far include:

  • Emotions (focus on anxiety)
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Burnout

Taking a whole school approach

  • Improving wellbeing requires a whole school cultural change.
  • Educational managers influence teachers and other staff influence students.
  • Compassion among members of school community.
  • Don’t forget about self-compassion!

What can teachers do to improve their wellbeing? How can managers help?

Focussing on the teacher:

  • Increasing teacher self-awareness > the ‘self-critic’
  • Being reflective – this tends to be informal and happening e.g. on the bus, between classes
  • Being personally and professional effective and efficient, for example time management skills
  • Journalling and/or action research projects – focussing on an area they find particularly challenging

Focussing on teachers working together:

  • Encouraging teachers to ask for help
  • Peer dialogue
  • Sharing good practice
  • Encouraging caring and healthy relationships with colleagues – co-teaching, peer reviews of teaching, sharing of good practice
  • Making a list of people they could ask for help, not just colleagues but from people outside the profession [there’s an ELT Playbook 1 task which could frame that for you if it helps]

Focussing on relationships with the students:

  • Building and maintaining a strong and supportive relationship with students (Gkonou and Mercer, 2017)
  • Classroom management techniques: One activity might be to make a list of classroom management techniques they find in methodology books. Reflect on which strategies they use, and which they don’t use yet, then reflect on how they could use them.
  • Encouraging teachers to be effective communicators, both verbally (for example, humour), and non-verbal (eye contact, gestures) (Gregersen and MacIntyre, 2017)

The future is plurilingual. Let’s make teaching qualifications plurilingual too – Ben Beaumont

Ben is the head of Teacher Education at Trinity College.

Ben says that monolingualiam is the past with regards to education. Trinity aim to help learners to meet their goals as well as possible, and therefore to ensure that teacher training meets teachers’ needs.

Terminology

Multilingual: “the knowledge of a number of languages, or the co-existence of different languages in society” (CEFR, CoE 2001) – identifying languages as separate languages, which you might switch between

Plurilingual: The ability to apply a ‘communicative competence’ of languages, developed through knowledge and experiences (CEFR, CoE 2001) – not just being perfect at multiple languages

Translingual: Using all one’s language resources to interact across a variety of ‘languages’ with the concept of language being an artificial construct. (Canagarajah, 2013) – actually we have different types of ways to communicate, but all of us have a different resource, rather than necessarily having separate languages

The talk will focus on plurilingualism and how we can support teacher’s with working on communicative competence.

Teaching and learning reflecting understanding of language use

Some areas where our use of language is now longer monolingual in the real world:

  1. Consider our context and not demand a monolingual (e.g. English-only) environment, unless there is a clear reason for this.
  2. Allow learners to use their L1/Lx when there is not a specific English language learning point, e.g. conducting initial research for a presentation (Garcia et al., 2017 researched this and found teachers do this)
  3. Use direct translations, where helpful, to build awareness of literal and pragmatic equivalence between languages (Cook 2010)
  4. Encourage notetaking in one language and reporting back in another, teaching realistic life skills (Anderson 2017)

Why do we have English only? Assessing discrete skills is fine, but if we’re assessing communicative competences, then it may note be.

Teachers CPD needs

Traditionally there has been a dichotomy in qualifications between teachers who have English as an additional language (and may have a lower English language level)/state sector and those who have English as a first language.

Questions about these:

  • ELT-focussed or general pedagogical learning outcomes? State sector often more general.
  • Content decided by a central assessment organisation (like Trinity or Cambridge) or a state authority?
  • Assignments assessed in one language (e.g. English) only or different languages? State sector ones are more likely to be assessed bilingually.
  • Qualifications requiring a minimum B2/C1 level of English? Of about 1.5 million English teachers worldwide, probably about 1 million have a language level below C1, and many of them below B2, so cannot access these qualifications.

Iterative training and certification, relevant to the context, is needed.

  • Professional routes vary greatly after an initial teaching qualification.
  • what is decided as being helpful in one context, may not be in another.
  • Teachers and centre managers know their own / their teachers’ needs.

and their students’ needs.

The Certificate for Practising teachers (CertPT) overview

This is new in-service qualification to support teachers relevant to their local gontext.

trinitycollege.com/certPT

It’s a level 6 qualification, equating to a final year undergraduate qualification. Initial qualifications generally site around level 5 (CELTA/CertTESOL). It looks at specialist TESOL professional development.

There are four tasks, all of which are context-specific:

The criteria to assess these assignments on should be different depending on the context e.g. for a high school teachers, versus a business English trainer. So Trinity take a step back to say trainees provide the criteria and show whether they can evaluate work, rather than it being evaluated against Trinity criteria. They aren’t assessing whether a particular use of grammar can used in a particular way for example, they’re looking at whether pedagogical outcomes are achieved. There is also a language contextualisation too: English, Spanish, Mandarin, and they’re hoping to add more languages as it grows.

This means they need multilingual support for teacher development. The rating scale for the qualification is freely available in all of these languages. They want to demonstrate best practice with how they provide support, for example bilingual information – theory in Spanish, practice (application) in English for example, to show how teachers could do this in the classroom.

You could do a CertPT in a range of different areas. For example:

It’s possible to do it in different areas, because they’re assessing pedagogical skills not language skills. The transcript will explain which type of CertPT they did.

Washback effect

The aim of all of this is to have a ‘washback effect’ to reflect the needs of teachers as learners.

  • Having bilingual/plurilingual trainers
  • Promoting the value of languages other than English int he ELT classroom
  • Establishing plurilingual environments as the norm: ‘one of the bsic skills that all Europeans require’ (EC 2003: 3)
  • Recruiting bilnigual/plurilingual internal and external assessors
  • Helping to remove and English-first-langauge dominance in ‘traditional ELT’ environments

References

Teaching and learning English in immersive worlds: GUINEVERE project – Letizia Cinganotto and Heike Philp

[I moderated this session.]

The project is a way of learning English in a virtual environment, funded by the EU.

The European background

In the 2018 EU report on improving the effectiveness of language learning, there is a strong focus on digital literacy and mentioning CLIL.

The European Council recommendation in 2019 also recommends CLIL, as well as using digital technologies, game-based learning, and different platforms.

Methodologies for language learning and CLIL which can be effective in interactive worlds (IW):

  • task-based learning
  • project-based learning
  • phenomenon based learning (which has come out of Finland)

Language learning interactive worlds

Engage the body:

  • movement in the environment
  • interaction and control of objects
  • rapid feedback
  • SEL: social emotional learning – they are involved emotionally with the game

Collaborative virtual environments involve:

  • multi-participant
  • integrated skills (text, audio, video)
  • embodied avatars, reducing the affective filter

The Italian background

Letizia uses Edmondo, an open sim which is for teachers and students in Italy. Heike is the consultant.

There is an English village specifically dedicated to learning English.

I wonder who invented the term ‘social distancing’? Seems totally wrong to me. It’s ‘physical distancing’ we need to be practising. We need social solidarity, not distancing, at this time.

David Crystal

Some Italian teachers used Edmondo to recreate social environments to recreate virtually the physical classroom during the pandemic.

Previous EU funded projects

They are all connected to language learning at a distance in real time.

  • Lancelot: in a virtual classroom in 2005, like Zoom or MS teams
  • Avalon
  • Camelot
  • Guinevere

Heike hopes that by about 2025 virtual worlds for language learning will be normal, as those growing up now playing Minecraft or Fortnite, and those working on VR may normalise this more.

Guinevere ran from 2017-2019. It stands for Games Used IN Engaging Virtual Environments for Realtime Language Education. You can see version of the project here.

Second Life and OpenSim support Voice-over IP, allowing real-time voice interaction.

Outcomes and deliverables

They introduced teachers to Minecraft and OpenSim for a week, then after that teachers could choose one or the other. 23 chose OpenSim, 2 chose Minecraft. There were lots of different games they created during the Guinevere project: board games, role play games. mazes, rollercoasters in Minecraft. Show and tell worked well as an activity too.

They introduced the theory of game design:

  • Categorising of games
  • Global simulations
  • Guidelines for language teachers

They demonstrated best practice in games:

  • App development
  • Gamification database
  • Games production for field testing
  • Video games/Minecraft and language learning

A teacher training course was also introduced to show how to build a game within the environment.

  • Self-study course
  • Teacher-led course
  • Pilot test
  • Field testing

Heike gave us a tour of OpenSim and it’s pretty beautiful:

I also liked Heike’s fairy avatar!

It’s also possible to go to a ‘dressing room’ to put on the correct costumes to match your role play, or choose different characters to find an avatar to suit you.

You need a good graphics card, and teachers and students need basic technical skills, but many people already have these through playing video games.

A creative approach to learning and teaching spelling – Philip Haines

[I joined this session 15 minutes in]

A five-step approach to helping students with spelling:

Every strategy is personal. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t understand it. Different strategies might work for different people. Strategies have to be something which is well known.

Examples of strategies

If you have a spacial thought process, try this (with v. whit):

One activity you can use is matching words to shapes, for example colours to each shape.

‘business’ – can you count from one to two? First one, and then two ‘s’.

conscious ‘iou’ – order of the letters in the alphabet

light – consonants in the order of the alphabet

position / possible – ‘one position, but two possibilities’ was the sentence Philip used to remember which had 1 or 2 ‘s’.

responses (responces) – strategy: say the sound /s/ /s/ /s/ to remind himself it’s not a ‘c’

forty (fourty) – counting letters can help: ‘forty-five, not forty-six’ is his reminder = there are five letters in forty. He can also say ‘U are not forty’ as a sentence that reminds him.

parallel (paralell) – there are parallel lines in the word parallel – you can extend the two Ls n the middle to make them

balloon – you can turn the ‘o’ into balloons and extend them into the strings for the Ls:

bed – looks like a ‘bed’

dog – can also be a picture:

extension (not extention):

visible (not visable): two eyes for the dots

tomorrow (not tomorow): sets of words with the same rhyme and the same spelling pattern e.g. tomorrow, borrow, sorrow – if they know how to spell one of these words, they can use this to spell the others. should – could – would and enough-tough – rough and weight – freight – either are other sets. You could also make a sentence ‘The weight of the freight is eight kilos.’

catalog (the American spelling):

Say it as it sounds:

  • friend: break it down: fri-end. end is at the end
  • Wednesday: sound out the spelling: wed-nes-day. What is the best day to have your wedding?
  • know: I K-now, my K-nee hearts
  • available: a-vai-la-ble
  • foreign: fo-ray-i-gn
  • measure: may-ah-su-ray

Active approaches to teaching Shakespeare in the EFL classroom – Conny Loder

[I moderated this session.]

Conny’s website is www.shakespeareexcusion.com.

Prejudices against using Shakespeare

  • Too boring: topic and themes. My students rean’t interesting in Shakepeare.
    No! Murder, love, sex, magic, genrational conflicts, witchcraft, betrayal = universal
  • Linguistic complexity
    No! Iambic pentameter is the natural rhythm is English
    Complexity of vocabulary: a good, critical edition pre-empts vocabulary problems
  • Non-availability of adapted editions
    No! New Cambridge School and Globe editions exist
  • Time-consuming lesson-preparation
    Only if you run a whole play, but you can do a 20-minute workshop
    Numerous resource books exist
    Online materials too

Aims

  • Take away the barrier of desk-bound study – allowing for the text to be used in a dynamic way.
  • Allow for individual access to the text by our learners.
  • All activities have been tried and test – you can see the video at the end of my notes.

But first: a pre-Shakespeare activity

This gets them on their feet. They should mime what ‘it’ is, without saying it (though there’s always somebody who will relate it to sex or violence!)

A: Have you got it?

B: What?

A: It!

B: Ah, it! Yes.

Decode Iambic pentameter

Use a modern example: ‘I wish I were down in the pub instead.’ – 10 beats = iambic pentameter

Shakespearean examples:

  • If music be the food of love, play on. (TN)
  • Think not I love him, though I ask for him. (AYLI)
  • A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. (R3)

10 beats = iambic

But there are exampes outside the norm, show that something is not right – there is a conflict, and something is happening with the character:

  • To be or not to be: that is the question. (H)

11 beats = not iambic = conflict > if you can decode the text, you can decode the character.

Decode specific scenes

‘Shared lines’ can help you to decode a scene and what emotions/motivation characters undergo.

Macbeth: Macbeth just murdered Duncan. He stumbles into his wife. It’s the middle of the night. How do both characters feel? Which atmosphere prevails? Are both in a hurry?

Lear: King Lear just heard that his older daughters love beyond words He now asks Cordelia how she can top her older sisters. She can’t and remains silent. Lear is shocked. But since Cordelia is his favourite daughter, do you think he will give her another chance to explain herself and win his love?

Here you can see how those shared lines work in the plays themselves:

They can read it in a fast pace and that creates the atmosphere. Or they can use the beats and pause after each and that intreprets it in a different way – finishing the 10 beats in each line. Learners can decide how they want to present the conflict by choosing the pace to use.

Decoding longer speeches

For example, a Hamlet soliloquy. Walk the line means the learners get the text as a printout. While they read aloud, they walk. There are three progressions, changing what they do each time they read:

  1. Every punctuation mark, change of direction in walking.
  2. Every end of a line, change of direction in walking.
  3. At the end of each thought, change of direction in walking.

The effect: learners own the text and ‘think’ like their charactesr while literally walking in their shoes.

She showed us this video of the activities in action (worth watching to see how much the students got into the performances):

They had about 15 minutes of going through the text to look at unfamiliar language, then they were on their own. They were low-level learners – I think this is fantastic!

Scaffolding and assessing undergraduate Trinity Certificate students’ reflective writing – Helen Thompson and Alice Oxholm

Context

  • Intensive teaching practice module on various BA course (20 crediets of 120 credits/year) e.g. BA Education Studies, BA English, BA English language
  • Typically 30 final year students each year, doing TP at the same time
  • Assess students’ writing using university and professional body (Trinity Cert) criteria – meaning potentially more of a focus on academic writing and referencing than on a standard Cert
  • Some students who were successful in TP, but struggled with reflective writing – this had an impact on university assessment and the class of their degree.

Learner teachers’ issues with reflective writing

Previous journal format:

  • Post-lesson themed summaries: draw on experience, observer feedback and background reading – for each of the 6 lessons. There was a specific focus for each summary section, e.g. lesson planning, relationship with students.

Here’s an example:

They felt it was quite depersonalised, quite general, with good academic writing and referencing, but they weren’t seeing the voice of the teacher. They wanted to encourage teachers to include their own voice. This means changes in the way they assess.

Trinity Cert Unit 1 is a teaching portfolio. They assess the observation journal as part of the university course. TP documents are lesson plans etc, and are submitted to Trinity. They then encourage teachers to draw on both of those to create their reflective journal.

Changes to assessment criteria and journal

They had to be clearer about what to assess and how teachers would demonstrate that.

These were the criteria. The QAA overseas higher education in the UK. Level 6 is final year undergraduate. TCL is the Trinity criteria:

They then had to decide what students needed to do to get 40% (a university pass) and then higher grades. They decided to work on the idea of levels of reflection:

  • Descriptive reflective: a bottom level pass would be to describe something that happened and say how they did it.
  • Comparative reflection would be what they could do differently and where they could find out more.
  • Critical reflection would be applying that to learners: did this help my learners? Where’s my evidence?

They encouraged trainees to draw on a range of different books, Trinity resources, coursebooks, and teachers books.

Here’s an example:

They tried to make the criteria as measurable and transparent as possible, including what sort of things they need to write about. The aim was to be as explicit as possible about what they needed to do. They then used the criteria as prompts in the journal pro-forma and as part of sessions when they were teaching.

Activities and resources to scaffold reflection and reflective writing

Overall changes:

  • Recurring themes across the lessons, rather than a separate theme for each one. 3 key themes: lesson planning, design and use of learning materials, classroom teaching skills.
  • Signalling to look back and forward: making it explicit that they should refer to previous and later lessons. For example:
    Which aspects of your lesson planning ar eimproving? How exactly?
    What helped you to improve?
    Which aspects of your planning do you intend to work on next?
  • Prompts needed to be explicit. These included referring back to tutor feedback, post-lesson reflective comments, find examples of practice, resources to develop practice.

After three TPs (halfway through), they did this activity:

  • They then had to draw on what they’d read to create an overview.

They wanted to scaffold reflection before teaching practice started. Here’s an example of one task they did before beginning the journalling:

They did this individually, then compared what they’d realised. They were all connected to the criteria.

They also had online resources, like this:

There were also introduction screencasts with reflection questions for each of the three main areas. There were also screencasts about practicalities like what to expect from observations, how to do lesson planning etc. which reduced repetition for the tutors.

In their teaching teams, after TP2, they had to identify particular aspects in their TP groups:

Here’s an example of what they produced:

Impact

They all passed the course. The external examiner mentioned that it positively impacted on student achievement. There was an overall improvement in reflective writing though variation remains.

There was positive feedback about the use of screencasts from the trainees too.

Here’s an example of the journal with the new criteria, with highlighted sections showing how it’s a more personal reflection, with sources added to support her thinking:

References

Frame the fragment: enhancing students’ critical thinking – Nanna Freeman and Wypkje van der Heide

[I moderated this session.]

Both of them started out with teaching business English and business communication at The Hague university, but now teach a lot more explicitly about critical thinking.

Research: chapter, key findings

Wypkje went to a film festival at the university, and was asked to introduce ‘Margin Call’. She used to think film and busienss English couldn’t go together, but realised at this point that it did. They were using documentaries and asking students to write about it, but they weren’t happy with how the students were demonstrating critical thinking skills.

They started to investigate their course, film education, and critical thinking education. Their research showed:

  • Documentaries engage the student audience.
  • First-year International Business students tend to see the selected documentaries as the truth, not a construction that is being manipulated by editing etc.
  • Boundary crossing of school and cinema is complicated. Writing an essay was challenging!

How they apply key findings in teaching

Every 10 years or so, there’s a group in Netherlands that decides what needs to be demonstrated within the curriculum. They were told that within International Business, they had to demonstrate 3 levels of critical thinking, but not what these levels should be. This was a good opportunity for research and an overhaul in their curriculum.

Their tagline became ‘Thinking we do together’. They use this in their first and second year courses in 7-week modules:

  • Thinking in action 1 (first year – 90 minutes per week)
    Explicit teaching of argumentation (Toulmin, adapted), biases and fallacies
  • Thinking in action 2 (second year – 135 minutes per week)
    Introducing framing, Focus on students explaining reasoning

There is also integation of critical skills in other modules, for example a public speaking module.

This was based on research by Abrami et al. metastudy (2015), that instruction + infusion or instructions + immersion and dialogue + authentic materials + coaching leads to the best results with learning critical thinking.

Notably, the opportunity for dialogue (e.g. discussion) appears to improve the outcomes of CT skills acquision, especially when there are both whole-class teacher-led discussions and teacher-led group discussions. Similarly, the exposure of students to authentic or situation problems and examples seems to play an important role in promoting CT, particularly when applied problem solving and roleplaying methods are used.

Abrami et al. metastudy (2015: 302)

They start by asking students to recognise things in quite a structured way, with students becoming more autonomous over their time at the university.

Clips – an activity

Nanna and Wypkje asked us to listen to two scenes from the documentary Food, Inc. and to think of colours, sceneries or environments, feelings or whatever else might pop into your head. Mine…

  • Clip 1: industrial sounds, metal clanking
  • Clip 2: rural, calm, fields

Now we will watch the same clips to see whether what we imagined match up to what we see. [They did, pretty well!] How does the documentary maker frame these images with sound? What is their intention?

Afterwards, we discussed:

  • What if they used different sound?
  • What if the sound was flipped? With the clips the other way round
  • What if there were no sound?
  • What choices did the director make re: the sound and why did they make them?

Supporting claims with evidence

Here’s another example looking at why evidence might or might not work to support a claim, from Sherlock and from Friends:

#

The one from Sherlock:

The one from Friends:

The results

Students used to directly say what they saw in the documentaries, but now they are critically engaging with what they have seen. They used to assume that a documentary they were shown was just what they had to learn if a teacher showed it to them. Now they realise that everything is framed, and that they frame themselves too. They also have to write an essay and consider how they will frame their fragements.

Wypkje has written a chapter for a Routledge handbook, which is paid at the moment, but she may be able to share the chapter in a year or so.

She has also created an e-learning course which will be available in about a month called ‘How to teach critical thinking with film – an introduction’. This QR code or survey will allow you to sign up for updates about the course:

Module evaluations

This is what the students thought about the course:

Q & A

They aim to use freely available documentaries. They are also working with a ‘Movie Learning’ platform, where they can use clips to create courses. You have to be careful with licenses.

They’re building it up gradually, getting teachers on board.

Fiction clips work well too.

If you made it all the way down here, well done! You might also be interested in the talks from the MaWSIG PCE, day one, and day two. Watch this space for reflections on the conference as a whole.

Comments on: "IATEFL 2021: Day Three – Monday 21st June" (2)

  1. […] 8. Sandy Millin shared with us what 2019-2020 taught her about teacher training. You can (and should ) read her post here . Sandy has also written summaries of all the IATEFL 2021 talks she attended, which I found very useful. Special thanks for her notes on Martyn Clarke and Melissa Lamb’s talks which I missed! You can read them here: Day one, day two, day three. […]

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  2. […] Millin on her blog (Here’s Day 3, there are two more on […]

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