Saturday, 23 June 2018

Learner-created visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension

This week I tried using an idea I'd read about a while ago by @seburnt Tyson Seburn: Learner-sourced visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension p.79-88 - in The Image in English Language Teaching (2017).

I felt it was a such a great idea to ask for a visual interpretation of a text in an attempt to fully engage with the text and, as Tyson Seburn puts it (page 87), "learners are not only involved in their own learning, but also in the co-construction of text comprehension." I am currently teaching on a Presessional course with MA students about to study on various art and design and fashion courses in September, so they are mostly all talented artists. Consequently, rather than asking the learners to source related images, I decided to ask them to create visual interpretations.

One of their next formative assessments involves choosing an art and design movement and giving a group presentation. I had set a reading text on Cubism as a homework task for them to check understanding of unknown vocabulary. The next morning, I put them into groups and gave the following instruction:

They worked together and produced the following visual interpretations:



They were engaged throughout, collaborated well and clearly enjoyed the task. Then I asked them to give mini- presentations to explain and expand on how their visuals connected to the text.

Their visual representations and subsequent explanations clarified that learning had clearly taken place and I think the task definitely promoted a deeper text engagement and supported both language learning and text comprehension.

This is definitely an approach I will use again and an idea I'll work on developing.

Friday, 20 April 2018

#IATEFL Day 4 Friday 13 April

Teacher Training in the 21st Century - Is CELTA still relevant? Claire Harrison

Claire Harrison started her session by stating her research  aim: to ensure CELTA remains fit for purpose now and in the future - a great aim and a great session.  

Changes to the CELTA syllabus:
Topic 4

Topic 5

Topic 1

(CELTA Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines 5th Edition)

12:05 You're Watching Them - Who's Watching You? Reflecting on Feedback Jo Gakonga

Another great session. Jo shared her research with us by example, using audio to reflect on practice - specifically recording herself giving a trainee feedback after teaching practice. Using a mobile phone to record yourself giving feedback and then when reflecting, Jo recommends listening once, listening again and transcribing. Her interactive session can be found on her website: ELT

12:50 That was the final session of the Brighton #IATEFL2018 conference. My first IATEFL conference, and what an amazing experience it was.

#IATEFL Day 3 Thursday 12 April

10:20 Video-based training and development for language teachers Steve Mann

Steve Mann set out his research aims: to map the current use of video and visual media in language teacher education and to build a community of practice among practitioners in teacher education in order to share good ideas and options.

This research includes interviews with over 40 teacher educators to elicit details of ways video practices support teacher education.

He referred to his book Reflective Practice, written with Steve Walsh, which takes a data-led, dialogic approach and the use of appropriate tools.  He also told us about video platforms to address concerns about privacy:

This project is mapping the use and sharing examples of the different ways in which video is being used in language teacher education and is now live on the Video in Language Teacher Education ViLTE website and YouTube channel.

11:05 Pronunciation in Action: reflections from two teacher trainers Nicola Meldrum & Mark McKinnon

Nicola and Mark told us how they went back into the classroom in response to hearing repeated issues around pronunciation.  They team taught on an A1 class deciding to help the learners decode rather than by grading the language.  They did this by listening and noticing, by picking up and responding to problems, and by focusing on decoding listening activities to provide a supportive listening cycle:
Meaning Form Sound (MFS) + Feedback Focused Planning (FFP)  + Supportive Listening Cycle (SC) = Fully Integrated Pronunciation (FIP)

They shared their results by including a video of a learner's very positive reflections on the course.

12:05 Forum on Effective & Personalised: the Holy Grail of CPD

Creating a culture of CPD, centre -wide, brand-wide, company-wide Oliver Beaumont & Duncan Jamieson

Using the analogy of a garden, Oliver and Ben look at the difference between CPD and creating a culture of CPD as in a growing community, and differentiating the two, by saying it's not so much about what, it's more about how.  They shared their provision of how as bottom-up, participant-driven CPD for teachers to collaborate, look at their current practice, input practical ideas on how to be better, reflect on practice and feedforward for follow-up action.

Are we really supporting new teachers? Alistair Roy

Alistair began by quoting figures that suggested the answer is a resounding 'No' - 91.7% of teachers have never been assigned an official mentor.

He suggested that it would be a good idea if mentoring was considered obligatory in EFL as it is for newly qualified teachers in the state sector.

He talked about the fact that new teachers seem to like a mentor that has just a little more experience than them rather than a lot and a mentor that teaches in the same department. He suggested setting up a buddy system with weekly meetings built into schedules. He gave the following advice to managers:

What can managers do?

  • invest - not just economically
  • dedicate time and resources
  • support
  • understand
  • a good teacher is the best resource

Personalised Development Groups - a framework for collaborative, teacher-led CPD Josh Round & Andrew Gaskins

This session began by looking at the traditional approach to CPD: a one-size-fits-all, top-down, passive consumption with little follow up and the need to move away from this to a fresh approach to CPD that is less top-down and more personalised.

They told us about their initiative of setting up personalised development groups (PDGs). An idea to benefit schools and support teachers by finding a balance between autonomy and choice by providing a supportive framework for an action research cycle. Providing example research questions, ideas for observation tools and clear follow-through options.
 They evaluated the scheme by asking for feedback and shared results.
 Why they sometimes don't work so well: lack of structure, lack of follow through - absences/ sickness , contributions can be uneven
Successes: inspirational feedback presentations, new stronger relationships, ongoing conversations about teaching

Follow up seemed to be the key word in all three sessions.

Learner-Centred observations of teachers Christian Tiplady

Christian spoke about the aim to create a learner-centred approach when teaching but, when observing, asked the question, "How learner-centred are the criteria?". He highlighted the fact that the criteria for assessment do not match a learner-centred approach.  He suggested that by focusing on the behaviours of teachers when observing, we are reinforcing a teacher-focused approach and disconnecting from learner outcomes.

He conducted a case study and showed us how he had changed the usual observation template to make the criteria more learner-centred in liaison with the teacher and he shared the results. He remarked on how little literature there seems to be out there on this topic.

I think a refocus in observation practice on learning rather than on teaching sounds like an extremely beneficial move for both the teacher and the learner.

Developing Learner Independence through Online Platforms Russell Standard

Russell Standard started by telling us that his own language learning experience had inspired this talk. He spoke about learning platforms / VLEs and used Edmodo as an example to highlight the vast numbers who sign up - 70million users on Edmodo - but pointed out that these figures do not reflect active users. He talked about how easy it was to overload the content on a platform and suggested it was far better to have less content and fewer tools and to exploit what you have more effectively to keep users active.  

He suggested linking the lesson to the platform in the lesson plan to integrate the platform into the classroom saying the community feeling does not automatically happen and emphasised the need to build teaching and learning around a few technologies so that everything is related and integrated.    He said skilful integration helps focus on pedagogy and helps put the ELT back into technology.

Delivered with a passion, it was an engaging and inspiring last session of the day.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

#IATEFL2018 Day 2 Wednesday 11 April

10:20am Taming of the Feedback Shrew Angelos Bollas

Angelos Bollas began his session by setting up a scenario with an example of a trainee he had on a course who had had previous teaching experience and who presented themselves as knowing-it-all. They were making feedback sessions difficult both in the way they were giving feedback to the other trainees (and tutors) and in receiving feedback.  

Angelos said that if / when this occasion arises, a reaction can be that the tutor ends up feeling bullied and can also become defensive. 

He then offered practical ways for tutors to help trainees lower their defences and become receptive to feedback:

  • become less of a tutor and more of a mentor for experienced trainees
  • establish a colleague/ colleague relationship
  • remove the power relationship
  • consider the holistic experience
  • ensure methodology is routed in context to assist the trainee in making links
  • follow more descriptive rather than evaluative observation
He cited Malderez & Bodoczky (1999) and provided a list of the following references:

He finished his presentation by suggesting tutors adopt the following stance in reference to Jason Anderson's talk:

 We are not here to tell you how to teach.
                 We are here to help you gain the qualification.
                 You decide what you can apply to your context.

A great presentation offering a practical and supportive approach to both trainer and trainee.

11:05  Ms Holistic vs Mr McNugget Marisa Constantinides

Marisa used storytelling effectively to contextualise and highlight affordances and constraints when taking either of the two approaches to grammar teaching.  As in the story, a happily ever after outcome is possible by using a combination of both approaches as appropriate.

12:05 Make Critical Thinking Part of your Everyday Teacher Toolkit John Hughes

John Hughes suggests critical thinking needs to be embedded within everyday practice rather than a separate entity.  He gave practical examples of how critical thinking can be included in planning and delivery and how activities can be more motivating and foster learner independence.

He stressed the importance of ensuring students have the language they need for problem solving, giving opinions, etc. and he graded the language accordingly - *A1 **A2 ***B1  He also spoke about using both inductive (higher order) and deductive (lower order) approaches.

He gave examples of activities from Cengage coursebooks: Life, Infocus and finished by saying: "Let critical thinking lead to creative thinking."

14:15 Forum on CPD for Teacher Trainers

Professional development for teacher trainers: a neglected area? Teti Dragas

Teti referred to a lot of relevant literature with the aim of addressing this neglected area to encourage discussion and facilitate change. Some of the literature referred to was: Julian Edge, Donald Schon (1983), Bax (1997) and Dewy.

She concluded by suggesting that teacher trainers need to
explore and start talking to each other because we are the developers in our field.

Teacher Development: What about trainer development? Sinead Laffan 

This session was a practical response. Sinead Laffan told us about a closed group on Facebook that she had created with three Trinity Cert TESOL trainers who had decided to support each other online by addressing individual areas of concern and working collaboratively to consider how they could perform better.

Sinead closed her session by saying that coping and being capable is hard, and unnecessary if we can find time to be present for each other.

16:45 Empowering teacher trainers towards equity Diane Hoggins

Diane Hoggins began her talk by quoting that 50% of CELTA trainees are now classified as non-native speakers.  Her session aimed to raise awareness of this fact to all trainees and to empower those from other language backgrounds by examining teachers' beliefs and exploring varieties of English - specifically English as a Lingua Franca.  She shared activities she had put together to address these issues:
  • teachers' beliefs
  • ELF
  • NESTs & NNESTs
  • Employment

#IATEFL2018 Day 1 Tuesday 10 April

The opening plenary was What is SLA Research Good for, Anyway? by Lourdes Ortega presenting the benefits of Second Language Research - recommended viewing. The Oxford gallery at the Hilton Hotel was absolutely packed.

 10:40am Values and Short Films in Language Teaching Kieran Donaghy

Kieran Donaghy's session focused on exploiting silent film to encourage students to reflect and discuss ideas. Taking a learner-centred approach ensures that values are explored not imposed. We brainstormed different kinds of values and Kieran suggested using a series of generic follow-up activities. We tried it out by watching Alike and discussing the following questions:
  • What values are illustrated in this film?
  • Which values are important to you?
  • Why might these values be important to someone else?
  • Are these values important in society? Why?
Kieran pointed out that these generic activities could work equally well with audio and text-based video (Julio Diaz) or video with audio and visuals and used example clips from short films on his website FilmEnglish

He finished the session with ideas on how to encourage students to create their own media by challenging them to reflect the following values in a 1-minute video:

What is beauty?

11:55am Forum on CELTA

Novice Teachers' Reflections of CELTA six months into teaching Natalie Donohue

Natalie presented her findings in a case study carried out post CELTA on a group of novice teachers as they transition from initial teacher training to working in ELT.  Six months down the line, key concerns included:
  • unexpected situations - e.g.having to teach children
  • in-service support - considered vital
  • context-specific issues
  • teacher's beliefs
  • teaching childre

What impact does CELTA have on experienced teachers' classroom practices? Jason Anderson 

Jason Anderson began by presenting key statistics to highlight the rise and projected continued rise in the number of candidates applying for CELTA courses who have 1year + prior teaching experience and who self identify as non-native.

He cited his article Anderson, J. (2016) Initial teacher training courses and non-native speaker teachers ELT Journal 70/3 261-274.

He questioned these candidates as to why they were doing this course and quoted a typical response as:
 "This is proof that I'm a capable effective English language teacher."

He provided summary recommendations that included:
  • an alternative approach -  a more developmental approach to TP
  • providing the opportunity for critical  discussion
  • key discourse on ELF
  • the need to use experienced NNESTs as a resource
  • include an input session on using L1 effectively
  • raising awareness of all course participants of discrimination towards NNESTs
He specified the need to clearly explain at the beginning of the course that your mandate is ONLY to help candidates to get the qualification. He also highlighted the value of trying to get feedback post-CELTA.

14:10pm Your Exits are here, here and here Shaun Wilden

15:55 Queering your pedagogy: teachers' queries out of the closet Giovanni Licata

This session raised awareness and suggested a way forward by highlighting the need for specific training to address teachers' attitudes towards LGBTQ themes, and the need to acknowledge all sexual identities. This session also emphasised the need for published materials for teachers to use in the classroom to promote inclusivity.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Monday 9 April #LTSIG Pre-Conference Event #IATEFL2018

Blogging about the conference has to be reflective for me as I found it hard, or actually impossible, to keep up even with posting tweets. 

However, what a fantastic experience it was!

I travelled from London to Brighton arriving on Sunday afternoon ready for registration on Monday morning. 

Registration was at the Brighton Centre and the LTSIG Pre Conference Event was held a short walk away at the Old Ship Hotel.

10:30am The Potential for VR and AR in the Language Classroom  

The first talk was The Potential for VR and AR in the Language Classroom by Sarah Rogerson (Cambridge English Language Assessment).  It was useful to begin by clarifying the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality with examples that are already available right now:

Moving on to highlight the benefits, engagement is a key affordance. VR provides the opportunity to 'feel' the experience by entering a virtual world before gaining experience in the real world.  The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator. This VR experience can broaden cultural awareness or knowledge and offer a historical perspective. Google cardboard provides an affordable alternative to more expensive and more sophisticated headgear technology.

In terms of AR, there are lots of free apps that can be exploited in the classroom (see examples above) and new AR tools such as AR flashcards to bring learning to life.

The presentation highlighted specific areas where VR or AR could be exploited: teacher training, ESP, healthcare and test preparation.

In terms of test preparation, Sarah Rogerson told us that Cambridge Assessment English has been experimenting doing research into using immersive (VR) technology in the speaking tests using 360degree cameras and goggles (Google cardboard).

11:45am Gaining a New Perspective: The Future of VR in Teacher Training and materials Development

Paul Driver presented the next talk and began by posing questions:  What is it that differentiates VR? What makes it different? What makes it distinct?
He offered the following: situated learning, embodied interaction, active engagement, experiential learning, spacial affordance.  He cited some key research including Heidegger. He mentioned the negative view of "anti-social VR" with the potential for isolation wearing a headset but cited virtual field trips with Google Expeditions that offer a whole class experience with the teacher facilitating guided learning.

This led to deployment issues and the fact that price can be a challenge. Google cardboard was mentioned as an affordable alternative.

Moving on to teacher training, Paul Driver highlighted the fact that similarly 360 degree cameras can be purchased for £120-£150 and can provide the opportunity for: reflection in and on action, less intrusive observation as there is no need for observer in the classroom, the tutor can record the trainee's comments while rewatching,  tutor and trainee can compare what was noticed.

He told us how VR could be the starting point into the immersive 3D world and the possibility of embedding content by using tools such as ThingLink.

He finished by encouraging teachers / teacher trainers to try it out for themselves by creating a digital toolkit and suggested taking a playful attitude.

1:15 Augmented Reality for Language Training

Amaal Mohamed introduced us to Blippar. Blibbar is an AR tool that allows anyone to create augmented reality content, although no coding skills are necessary.  Amaal works in the education department of Blippar and she took us through the process of how to build AR content.

2:05 Back to the Future: From Virtual Worlds to Virtual Reality

Heike Philip started her session by using a quote from Picasso: 'Everything you can imagine is real'
She outlined a 10-year journey of 3D environments from virtual worlds to virtual reality from Second Life in 2008 to the present 2018 and suggested using 3D where 3D makes sense - for example in role play.  

She told us about the new film by Steven Speilberg Ready Player One.

Finally, she set up a vision-into-the-future workshop for participants to share ideas on how classrooms could be enriched by incorporating mixed reality activities.

3:20 The Reality of Virtual Reality

Jonathan Dykes led this session looking at VR from a business perspective. He highlighted the fact that there was a shrinking market for adult learners and offered two possible alternatives to address this fact: using technology to reach other markets, such as Net Languages, English Anyplace or by using technology to liven up in-school teaching. 

He asked whether we agreed that VR was destined to become ' the new platform' as suggested by Mark Zuckerberg in 2016. He broached the reality of a minimal impact in the classroom as yet and asked if it was worth creating our own materials or better to adapt what is currently out there for educational use.  He highlighted the low-end and high-end tools and the idea of Mixed Reality - bringing the physical and digital worlds together in a blended environment.

3:55 Integrating Virtual Reality into EFL Teaching

The final session of the day was presented by Raquel Ribiero. Raquel managed to bring everything together in a lively workshop that involved doing a quiz using Socrative while we downloaded Google Expeditions and experienced VR by having a go at going on 3D expeditions using Google cardboard headsets - an excellent end to an excellent day!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Getting ready for #iatefl2018


  • get train tickets ✔️
  • download EventMobi ✔️
  • add sessions
  • buy new iPad & apple pen! ✔️