Thursday, 8 March 2018

#CELTAchat Summary Monday 5 March by Amy Blanchard

Many thanks to Amy Blanchard @admiralamy for the following #CELTAchat summary.

CELTA Chat 5th March 2018: Alternatives to Coursebooks in TP

Participants: Cathy Bowden @Cathyofnusle, Fiona Price @fionaljp, Darren Bell @bellinguist, Giovanni Licata @GioLic1976, Amy Blanchard @admiralwamy


The need for an alternative

It was quickly agreed that despite problems with coursebooks (out of date or boring materials, prescriptive lexical sets, a repetitive formula of text-based presentations), trainees need to know how to work with coursebooks, and this is an important skill to focus on during CELTA courses.  Giovanni emphasised that he encourages trainees to adapt the coursebook from the word go. Amy includes an input session that evaluates coursebook practice activities and teaches trainees how to adapt them to make them more relevant/engaging/useful.
However, we all agreed that it would be useful to consider alternatives to coursebooks. Cathy and Amy shared a similar approach; following the coursebook until week 3 and then encouraging trainees to make their own materials/find more suitable materials, based around the language presented in the coursebook. Thus, the coursebook is still responsible for setting the syllabus, a fact that Amy finds unsatisfactory at times.

Needs analysis and moving away from a CB based syllabus

Fiona suggested that trainees do a needs analysis with the TP students - they can get to know sts and think about needs so syllabus is needs based not CB based. Some worry was expressed that this would create more work for trainees, when they are already under so much pressure, though Giovanni countered that sometimes coursebooks can create work for them. “If you focus their attention on the learners and their identity as learners rather than the teaching, you can really remove some of the pressure”. Fiona added that trainees would need guidance but the tutors could provide TP points based on needs analysis to show as example / model for reflection. Darren talked of his experience on a course where the trainees had time early on in the course to speak to the learners about the lesson and to get their feedback. The self-evaluation was as much about the learners as it was the teacher, which could feed into a needs analysis. It was then pointed out that needs analysis/course planning is not part of the Celta syllabus - more a Delta level skill, though Fiona made the point that trainers need to promote the right message i.e teaching the learners not the course book. The FOTL assignment requires a needs analysis, so it was suggested that could be tied in with preparing for that assignment, though on some courses by the time trainees have done that assignment, they've changed to the other group of students. Fiona suggested after completing the FoL assignment they could have an input session to share ideas to inform TP content for the next level (with tutor guidance). She suggested aiming for a 50/50 or even 60/40 CB- based/needs analysis- based approach to TP points make it more workable.

Authentic Materials

Cathy raised another problem with coursebooks – if TP students attend a few courses, they will have already completed the units in the coursebooks. She told us about a solution they’re working on: “So we've batted about the idea of creating our own packs of 'starting point' materials, less a finished product than coursebooks, which could be combined more flexibly and where candidates have to create tasks around the material. Just an idea so far”.
Cathy said that on her courses she used to ask trainees to create a lesson using authentic material for first round of TP in week 3. “It was interesting and gave room for strong candidates to show ability but was v demanding too. They had pretty much a free rein and they tended to be skills lessons…I liked it but colleagues felt it was too hard for weaker candidates, and we abandoned it. They had a point”. Giovanni follows this approach for TPs 7, 8 and 9. He added that trainees usually cope very well. He checks that the text they choose is "suitable" and that's all. But he believes that for them to succeed there needs to be a focus on the use of authentic materials right from the beginning. Fiona helps with this by using authentic material for reading skills input to highlight sub skills and provide a model for assignment.


An unplugged approach to teacher training

Anthony Gaughan @anthonygaughan wasn’t involved with the chat but has talked about his ‘unplugged’ approach to teacher training here:

There was some support for an input session that focussed on dealing with emergent language, though Amy expressed concern that it may be asking too much from trainees. “No doubt it would help make them more effective teachers... but there's nothing in the CELTA criteria about emergent language, is there? Not til Delta?” Giovanni pointed out that it’s part of monitoring, which is something we expect trainees to do. He suggested demonstrating it as a technique in some of the grammar seminars. On courses with free TP teaching slots, Amy has done some of the teaching and encouraged trainees to get involved during the freer practice parts, to practice really listening to students, noting down things they said that they'd help with etc. This is useful practice, but wasn’t as effective as she had hoped.  However, this practice was supported by the following responses:

Here is a link to the Wakelet transcript of the  #CELTAchat

Thursday, 8 February 2018

#CELTAchat Summary 05/02/2018: 7 ideas to Clarify, Support and Encourage Reflective Practice

The topic of this month's #CELTAchat was Reflective Practice and the participants were: 
@bellinguist, @fionaljp, @ GioLic1976, @RobertTaylorELT, @SophiaKhan4, @SproulBreana @Cathyofnusle

This is a summary of our #CELTAchat where we came up with 7 possible ideas for clarifying, supporting and encouraging reflective practice.

#CELTAchat by Fiona Price

Links included in #CELTAchat 

Rethinking reflection in initial teacher training by Dan Baines - a guest blogger on Sandy Millin's blog

Live chatting in TP observation by Fiona Price

Doing Reflective Practice: a data-led way forward by Steve Walsh and Steve Mann

Storify for detail

Summary by Fiona Price 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Meeting top-down TD halfway – #CELTAchat: an example of a bottom-up initiative

This blog post is based on a 100-word proposal for TD Success Stories From Around the World for the TDSIG Web Carnival on 24 February 2018

It was submitted using the given brief:
  • A description of local context and what TD looks like there
  • A narrative account of TD initiative
  • How this could inspire and inform elsewhere
  • How PLN contributes to success

TD for CELTA teacher trainers is provided by Cambridge Assessment English via Fronter.  It takes a top-down, prescriptive approach to successfully achieve its objective for standardisation.

Also for the purpose of standardisation, all CELTA courses are externally assessed* initiating dialogues between external assessors, trainees and course tutors, which can be extremely valuable for personal, course and centre development. This establishes a connection from top-down to bottom-up development but is fairly isolated and generally confined within the boundaries of Cambridge, the specific course and the course centre provider.

Working together on a CELTA course in Rome while sharing ideas and discussing developmental issues around delivering initial teacher training, we thought how wonderful it would be to connect with other like-minded trainers to share ideas and discuss TD on a much wider, open platform.
We looked to technology to deliver something completely different to the top-down provision of Fronter and external assessment and came up with the idea of creating a #hashtag group on Twitter and calling it #CELTAchat.

Meeting top-down TD halfway, #CELTAchat is an example of a bottom-up initiative.

#CELTAchat provides TD in a collaborative, global space on Twitter, taking a descriptive approach with online monthly chats based on elected topics, summarised into blog posts.

@fionaljp ” I love being a freelance teacher trainer as it really gives me the opportunity to reflect on how I do things by seeing how others approach various aspects of training in a variety of different contexts. While working with Giovanni and Darren in Rome, we came up with the exciting idea of creating #CELTAchat and extending this experience by sharing ideas and discussing TD in teacher training online where trainers could potentially collaborate globally.”

                                                                         @GioLic1976 “Although I've been a resident trainer in Rome for the last 5 years, I make it a point to work at a different CELTA center every summer. I find that this has really helped me develop as a teacher trainer as you get to observe how things are done in different contexts. Darren and Fiona first came into my CELTA world in Rome a couple of years ago. It was soon clear to me that we had a long story of collaboration to write! It was probably one of our end-of-course espresso breaks that did it. We all agreed that more bottom-up CPD opportunities were needed for trainers and Fiona (our technology mentor) had the answer! “

@bellinguist “I became a freelance trainer to learn how other centres and trainers approached the different aspects of the CELTA course and to extend my knowledge. Now, with #CELTAchat, I can do exactly this on a monthly basis as well as exchange good practice with so many other tutors. Giovanni, Fiona and I would often chat and exchange ideas during our breaks or at the end of the day, and we decided to open up the dialogue using social media as the platform for our discussions.”

#CELTAchat was informed and inspired by #ELTchat and in turn could potentially inform and inspire any group wishing to take the initiative for bottom-up TD.  

#CELTAchat is on the first Monday of the month from 7-8pm GMT/ 8-9pm CET on Twitter and then goes into asynchronous mode for 24 hours for those trainers that can't make the live chat. Topics are suggested on the monthly Padlet that gets posted a week or so before, then trainers vote & (hopefully) join in the chat on the specific chosen topic for that month.

Any group of teachers could potentially create a specific #group on Twitter for teacher-generated, bottom-up, personalised TD.  #groups can set their own perimeters and boundaries in terms of participants and time and be as open or closed as required providing flexibility.  In terms of #CELTAchat, we have a global audience of participants from all over the world.  The chats are not exclusively for CELTA teacher trainers - all trainers are welcome and we are lucky to have both CELTA teacher trainers as followers and Trinity CertTESOL trainers followers too.

The success of #CELTAchat, and any #group, is dependent upon its PLN to generate monthly chats on a range of topics, sharing ideas and best practice because as a bottom-up, online initiative it is teacher-led.

As #CELTAchat is online using Twitter as the platform, participation encourages successful development of digital literacies, for example:
  • Using social media for TD - e.g. Using Twitter
  • Using Tweetdeck or Tweetchat to follow #groups more easily - you need to sign up for Twitter first
  • Understanding how hashtags work
  • Following threads in #chats
  • Sharing links
  • Volunteering to write summaries of chats
  • Blogging - summaries are written up on the CELTAchat blog

So, how does it work?

If you or your colleagues are teacher trainers and you haven’t got a Twitter account - sign up.  Put #CELTAchat in the search box in the top right-hand corner and write a Tweet to say hello - don’t forget to include #CELTAchat so we can see your tweet. Follow #CELTAchat and the participants in the chat.

Just like initial teacher training courses, participating in #CELTAchat is experiential, so just join in and give it a go!

If you want to create your own #group for TD, basically follow the same advice and all the best!

TD - Teacher Development
PLN - Personal Learning Network

*a situation currently undergoing change     

                                                                                                                                     By Fiona Price