Chunks, exams and teachers

If language were all chunks, we could never say anything new, but the chunks help us to say anything at all (including the new). Listening to a learner trying to assemble component parts to express something often needs patience and at lower levels may also involve powers of interpretation on the part of the listener, so chunks have a role to play as sometimes a chunk would allow that thought to be expressed faster (and probably in a more instantly recognisable form). If the files that one occasionally comes across on the net with 500 IELTS compositions in them really are memorised by some language learners in order to get the points they need, would those learners not then be able to write better ? Perhaps not brilliantly, but if you had that many prefabricated phrases and pre formed thoughts lined up and ready to roll, would they not potentially be ready for use in what could be a criteria meeting composition ? But you need to have a sense of the whole as well or you get my all time favourite homework near miss line of ‘I am writing to enquire as to why I would like to borrow £50,000’. But surely if you have read and learnt all 500 you must be at a level that allows you to scan what you have written for coherence as well ? Or must you ?

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Exams and learning

Is teaching getting people to do things or telling them about things ? Or if you can get them to do the right things, can you get them to realise things without telling them anything ? How do you work out what it is they need to know before they are in a position to realise something ? And where does development fit into that ?

Does developing the body of knowledge you need to pass the Module One exam count as development ? It feels very different from the development in classroom practice you hope someone goes through in Module Two, but then that should also be bolstered by the research for background assignments, so there is further development in the theoretical knowledge underpinning what a teacher does. What do you develop in Three ? Your understanding of some further areas, of how to write on a slightly larger scale, of how to pull conclusions out of a mass of data.This morning I read …

For about five years I taught psychology – including learning theory, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and comparative psychology. One of my main reasons for leaving teaching was that I wanted to put what I knew into practice. That might seem odd, but it’s a great deal odder to find yourself in a classroom writing ‘Piaget believed learning should be exploratory’ onto a board while students obediently copy it down.

I was reading him because I think if I read more about learning and therefore understood it at a greater depth, I could design better courses to help people learn how to teach language more effectively – one too many loop in there for comfort.

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Reading and Delta Module Two

What – ways to make sure you can access and use what you read.

Who for – it started from me trying to find things to suggest to people doing Delta Module One and wanting to ‘study’ for the Paper Two Task Four, but I think it would work well for Module Two research and for people planning to do intensives (and wanting a preparation plan).

You need to read, but what ? How ? And how can you process it / remember it ?

For Delta Module Two (while you are doing it if you are on a part time course, or as preparation if you are going to do an intensive), start using Evernote (why that one ? you could probably achieve the same ends with other services, it is creating and building a personal system that matters, not which tool you do it with – if you have done something similar with a different system, perhaps you could comment here or link to it). Continue reading Reading and Delta Module Two

Becoming a tutor

I am often asked what a person needs to do if they want to be a Delta  tutor. This is the answer.

Technicalities
You don’t have to be a CELTA tutor to become a Delta tutor (I did it the other way round, completing Delta tutor training on the 1999-2000 part time course here in Istanbul and then doing the same for CELTA in the spring of 2006, though I haven’t CELTAed or ICELTed lately). The processes for CELTA, ICELT and Delta are separate (though not dissimilar).

You have to be nominated as a tutor in training by a centre (you pay the centre and go through the training process, which is not unlike doing Delta itself in that you put together a portfolio of work for Cambridge) and Cambridge look at your CV and approve the nomination (so the centre can go on and train you) or don’t. So you should work out what you need on your CV to make yourself an attractive option to Cambridge and to the centre where you want to train (and then usually work). Continue reading Becoming a tutor

Dewey Experience and Education

One of the catalysts for writing in here was reading Dewey. I read him on a beach, so while it left me with a sense of ‘wow, he said lots of things I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to quite put into words’ it was only a sense. The idea of this is to go back to him and write some of it down to try and see where I can make connections.
The quotes are from the Kindle version of his 1938 book Experience and Education.

It is the business of an intelligent theory of education to ascertain the causes for the conflicts that exist and then instead of taking one side or the other, to indicate a plan of operations proceeding from a level deeper and more inclusive than is represented by the practices and ideas of the contending parties. … not a compromise .. nor an eclectic combination … new modes of practice …
And that’s just in his preface.
And it resonates because there are so many arguments that seem to have been pushed to ends of a spectrum in ELT (tech as means or end or distraction, materials as supporting framework or obstacle) and the arguments seem good in that people are talking about what they do and why they do it, but not so good in that there is often a feel of someone wanting to win (or convert others) as opposed to wanting to learn from the dialogue. Dewey seems to have encapsulated the idea of the helix in what he says – not going round and round, but moving on to new understanding, but then if I’ve understood David White, perhaps going round does push us further on, we just don’t always see it. Continue reading Dewey Experience and Education

Learners and lexical phrases

The teaching tip in short
If the course book has a group of functional frames / phrases (agreeing / disagreeing / giving an opinion etc) that learners are supposed to go on and use in a communicative activity, type the phrases out. When you have done the stages that help them work out meaning / form / use, give a set cut up into individual phrases to each learner. Then as they go on to the speaking stage of the sequence where you hope they will use them, they should try to get rid of as many as they can as they speak, discarding cards as they use a phrase. This works best when there is a more controlled stage of practice before something more natural (because you can use the game like cards system in the controlled step), but can still work in an otherwise genuinely communicative discussion.

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Writing an LSA background assignment

When people start Module Two they want to see examples of background assignments and lessons. It is hard to explain why lots of examples is not a good idea, but writing a background that can serve as a sample has helped me begin to understand why in ways I hadn’t envisaged. Only begin though. I need to read more about genres and communities and social processes. It has also made me see other areas I should focus on soon in terms of reading / research.

Writing the background
I liked …
I liked reading to write, haven’t had to do that in ages. Kept reading things that I wanted to pursue, but were slightly off the topic, the two most persistent of which were ..

  • Feedback – feedback is fundamental to Delta and though some of what I read was specifically about feedback on language and language development, some was on students in general or in higher education (note to self: start in Hyland 2003 for this) and would apply to teachers doing any Module. Whether they read it at all, whether they can react to it / understand it / know what to do next even if they do understand it. How we can make it so that there is a chance of all of / any of those things happening. Can I find research / ideas to help me work out how we should be doing it or how it is most effective ? Much of what we are doing now has evolved in the face of demand / practical contexts / experience and it works, but if I looked at it more systematically could it work better ?  add some science to our craft ? Continue reading Writing an LSA background assignment