Monthly Archives: July 2013

Valuing

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Image courtesy of Kimberly Kling

Quickly think of the mark you received on your grade 10 math midterm. Can’t think of it? Okay, another one. Think of a trendy piece of clothing you purchased in 1999. If you can think of one, how much did you pay for it?

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about value and worth. Yesterday, I read an interesting article about the the use of grades in education. I also read this thought provoking post found on Inside Higher Ed that talks about our worth as professionals. The argument here is that we should be compensated (ie. paid) according to our worth.

So what does it mean that something is of value or worth? Continue reading Valuing

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Blogging

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Image courtesy of Alexander Baxevanis

Note: This is in response to the post I did yesterday about the ELT Research Blog Carnival. Some of you asked about another option rather than blogging since some of you don’t blog. I wanted to respond to that and to provide some options. Also, I recently read a post by Rose Bard about her blogging experience. You can read it here. I also read a post by Vicky Loras about PD and blogging. You can read it here.

In January 2012, I made a resolution that I was going to start a blog as well as join Twitter as a way of sharing what I was learning and to learn from other ELT professionals. Knowing how successful resolutions tend to be, I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but I was at least willing to make an effort to try and make it work. I was pleasantly surprised (and still am) that so many people would be open to reading, commenting, and sharing what I wrote. I was also able to meet some amazing people who have added to my growth as a teacher. With the amount of information that was out there, I never expected to be noticed. All of that is great, but what does blogging do for me and for those I keep in touch with? Here are some reasons to blog as a teaching professional: Continue reading Blogging

Inviting

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Image courtesy of  Theis Kofoed Hjorth

For those who have been reading my posts over the past few weeks or following me on Twitter, you are probably aware that I am working on reading more academic journal articles in order to grow as a professional. In the course of sharing that in my posts and tweets, I have had some encouraging comments from others that they are also interested in reading  research articles and discussing it with one another. The idea of an article discussion group was mentioned by Phil Chappell where colleagues could get together and share what they have been reading. I wondered how that could work online with people getting together from all over the world. Here are some of the ideas I pondered and what I eventually settled on. Continue reading Inviting

Flipping

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Image courtesy of the San Jose Public Library

When I was a young boy growing up in British Columbia, we had an educational channel on TV called The Knowledge Network. One of the unique features at the time was that you could take distance classes from Athabasca University that used content being broadcast on The Knowledge Network as part of the lecture material for the course. I remember thinking as a kid that this was pretty cool.

Fast-forward to today and this is hardly groundbreaking. We can access material on-demand and on various platforms. We can even interact with one another using Skype or Google Hangouts, attend webinars, and tweet with professionals from around the world including renowned authors, professors, and other professionals.

So, where does this leave us? The latest trend is in the area of blended learning called flipping. Continue reading Flipping

Switching

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 Image courtesy of Kelly Sikkema

Not because I want to, but because I feel I need to, I am going to address that linguistic ‘Pandora’s Box’: the use of the student’s first language (L1) in the target language (TL) classroom. Yes, the proverbial ‘English only’ policy. I have yet to work in a place that does not emphatically endorse this rule. You can see it on the classroom wall, doors, and even in the school bathroom. I even had one place put the sign on the back of the toilet stall door (still not sure who you would be talking to in your L1 while sitting on ‘the throne’).

As you can probably figure out, I am not a big supporter of this policy. Something about it has always bothered me, and not just as a rule, but as a philosophy. So, as I have started to do more regularly, I decided to dip into the research pool to see what others have found out regarding this approach to language education. Continue reading Switching

Inquiring

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Image courtesy of Dr. Marcus Gossler

Yesterday, I missed another valuable #EAPChat on Twitter due to my mixed-up schedule at the moment. I really feel I missed out on the discussion, but, thanks to the work of Tyson Seburn, I can always catch up with the summaries. The discussion was instigated by three questions:

  1. Should EAP practitioners also be researchers?
  2. How much does research play into your practice?
  3. What are your favourite sources for research reading?

It wasn’t that long ago that I found myself on the outside of that conversation thinking, “That’s for academics. I’ll leave the research to those who are smarter and more experienced than I am.” Sadly, that is the case for many people. Journal articles are often stuffed full of research data, supporting evidence, and are written in a very academic (sometimes even a bit pretentious) manner. Is that bad? Sometimes. I think that there are certain authors who try really hard to make themselves sound intelligent which often alienates those who need to read the article. Most of the time, the information that is presented is there to show that things have been thought through in a manner that filters out the poor suppositions and misinterpreted data. Leaving all of the raw data in the article gives readers the chance to critically analyze the information for themselves.

This is all great and wonderful, but who has time to read all of these articles and where do you find them? Continue reading Inquiring

Mentoring

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Image courtesy of Christoph Rupprecht

Today marks the beginning of another week of TESL practicum observations for me. While I have enjoyed watching these new ESL teachers starting off their journey, I have to say I am a getting a bit tired. I realize that this is an important step for these trainees, but I feel like this is taking a whole lot more out of me than I had anticipated. It is funny considering that I’m not the one doing the lesson preparation and having to teach the class. I am not entirely sure why it takes so much of my energy, but I think I have a partial reason. I think it is because I care about helping them.

Long ago, I was in their shoes. I remember being that energetic, enthusiastic, nervous-to-the-core, rough-around-the-edges teacher in training. I distinctly remember the disaster of my first class and the not-so-interesting second class. But what I remember the most was the support I received from my TESL instructor, Gail Tiessen. I am so thankful for her. She was kind, firm, direct, and quick to help. Her comments kept me going, thinking, and improving. I am happy to still call her my mentor.

Yesterday, I was in church and the pastor was using the analogy of a pair of oxen being yoked together to work the fields. These oxen would not be able to finish the work on their own. Also, young oxen might not know what is expected of them without the support and guidance of the more experienced oxen by their side. The yoke isn’t there to punish them, or to say they can’t do it, it is there to give them support and guidance.

This analogy got me thinking about how we support and mentor those who don’t have the same amount of experience as ourselves. Continue reading Mentoring

Praising

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Image courtesy of  Evan Hahn

I was doing a practicum observation the other day and I asked the instructor what she would like me to focus on. She mentioned a couple of other items before mentioning how she gives feedback to the students. “I think I praise them too much,” she stated. It got me thinking, can we praise students “too much”?

Giving correction in the classroom is something that most teachers struggle with. How can we give students correction without making them feel discouraged? I find it interesting that we talk about give out too much correction, but we rarely discuss too much praise.

Continue reading Praising

Processing

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Image courtesy of Bill Bradford

A topic that has been on my mind a great deal lately is in the area of extroversion and introversion as it pertains to the language classroom. Confession time, I am a extrovert and I tend to dominate the conversation. I am also married to an introvert who is kind enough to gently let me know that I am talking too much. As a result, I have become more conscious of how myself as an extrovert affect those who are introverts, particularly those of whom are my students. Watching Susan Cain give her TED Talk was a pivotal moment for me as it started my consciously looking at how introverts are treated as language students.

Continue reading Processing

Standardizing

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Image courtesy of C. G. P. Grey

The other day, I came across an interesting article from Andrew Littlejohn called Language Teaching Materials and the (Very) Big Picture (2012). I have had the opportunity to read through some other articles by Littlejohn in the past and I was intrigued by what he had to say about material development since that is something I am working on presently.