Let me say this right off the bat, the inspiration for writing a blogpost on a podcast I recently listened to comes from reading Rachel Tsateri’s highly practical summary-blogpost of Gabriel Diaz Maggioli’s conversation with Graham Stanley on Teacher Talk Radio.
The practice of articulating our thoughts on a topic and sharing it with others, in my opinion, is one of the most profound ways to consolidate our comprehension on the topic and boost multiple linguistic as well as non-linguistic sub-skills. I might be blowing my own trumpet here, but my learners often engage in similar activities, where they summarise, or get into a group discussion, or share their written or verbal perspectives on a specific piece of content.
In this post, I would like to share what I have gathered from listening and reading Dr Amol Padwad’s thoughts on teacher motivation, where he finely coalesces Daniel Pink’s theory of motivation and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with three broadly categorised stages of a teacher’s career; entry level, early stage and advanced career.
Dr. Padwad, who doesn’t really need an introduction, is a professor and director for Centre for English Language Education at Ambedkar University in Delhi.Here is a link to his complete bio. It was this episode of the TEFL Training Institute’s podcast, aired on 14th November, which led me to explore his work in the area of teacher motivation.
In his paper, Dr Padwad encourages readers to view teacher motivation as a dynamic phenomenon which is affected by various factors at different stages of a teacher’s career. Below, I have tried to pictorially represent an overly-simplified gist of his paper.
The part that caught my attention was when, during the podcast, Dr Padwad shares practical implications of his paper on writing CPD policies at schools. He affirms that there should be a shared understanding,collective development and periodic reviews of the CPD policies. Moreover, he advises against an overarching definition of CPD, as individual teachers have their own trajectory of development. What is essential is a clarity of roles and responsibilities for all involved. The trickiest part would be collaboratively designing a mechanism which allows teachers to demonstrate their progress or achievements that integrate with the schools’ goals and vision.
Here is some of Dr Padwad’s advice for organisations who genuinely intend to support their teachers’ professional development.
I can’t help but notice the seamless support and transition from one stage to another. Hopefully, the above table would guide us in designing our CPD policies at EngVictus in the near future.
“Actions speak louder than words.” Not sure if I totally agree with the statement though there is some truth in it, which I would like to explore in a teacher training context.
My first post in this series received a favourable comment from the Director of NILE and later Rachel; my blogpost writing inspiration, honoured me by mentioning my blogpost in one of her LinkedIn posts. I boasted about both the acts to my wife, who thinks I behave worse than kids when excited. These two small but highly empowering gestures(or actions) led me to ponder over the positive influence such actions by teachers/trainers/people you respect and/or admire can have on teacher trainees. What practical and tangible actions of mine would lead to a similar release of dopamine among my trainees?
Before I share some of my ideas on ‘Supportive Trainer Action’, let me highlight what I have learnt about Supportive Trainer Talk (STT). A succinct definition that I gathered from the course and reading others is ‘talk which intends to support a teacher’s construction of knowledge or thinking’.However thanks to Simon Smith and Martyn Clarke’s recorded interaction as a part of input in the unit, I find the following (paraphrased) description encapsulating the soul of STT better “a ‘talk’ when used as a tool, which is culturally and socially mediated, to help participants achieve a higher level of cognition could be termed as quality supportive trainer talk.”
If you would like to read more on the practical application of STT, you must read Rachel’s reflection on her STT, which has been published in the Teacher Trainer Journal 2022 ; you can read her blog right here.
Coming back to dopamine release , applying the principles of quality supportive talk, actions that are strategically implemented, which are socially as well as culturally mediated, to boost teacher trainees’ confidence and probably lead to a positive ripple effect among other trainees could be termed as ‘Supportive Trainer Action’. Here are some of my practical suggestions on ‘Supportive Trainer Action’:
Tagging teachers on my social media posts (work account) to highlight what I have learnt from them or share any outstanding work on a particular training day
Commenting on any (social media) posts of theirs (trainees) relevant to the course we are on
Appreciating teachers genuinely via the chat box or on the board (in a physical classroom setting)
Using leaderboards to regularly highlight the top scorers (assigning points for completing asynchronous tasks and bonus points for any outstanding work)
Writing a blogpost after every training to felicitate and to remind the achievements of the trainees as a group
I am quite convinced, as a trainer, I could do much more than restrict my support to talk. To leave with an overarching thought, a supportive trainer fosters learning for living and not just a certificate.
Have you experienced a difference in the effectiveness of your delivery of the same lesson facilitated the second time around? It could be an hour or a couple of days or months after your first delivery. From my experience, we are usually in a much better position when facilitating it the second time. Of course, the lesson might turn out worse than the first time due to other factors but I am assuming we would still be better placed delivering it as the second one than the first. There are some obvious reasons; we have experienced the challenges foreseen play out in reality, we have noticed what does or doesn’t excite the learners, we have an opportunity to avoid any mistakes made the first time and importantly we might have upgraded, however infinitesimally, our skills and/or knowledge in between those two lessons.
This isn’t restricted to delivering lessons. God forbid, if we had to redo our PRESETs, I am quite certain we would be in a much better position to absorb, critique and reflect on the course content and its delivery.This is one of my top reasons for writing these blogposts, as I go through the comment threads, the course material and the supplementary articles of the NILE TD course I recently completed. So, this comes as no surprise that an activity on the course which I understood as fun, information-exchanging and rapport-building might have been designed with a much deeper goal in mind or probably it is Alan Maley’s article that affords me a fresh pair of glasses to view the said activity. I will come back to the course activity shortly but first, let me share with you my understanding of the article.
I am referring to Maley’s 2019 adapted version of his own paper ‘The teacher’s sense of plausibility re-visited’ published in 2016. His aim behind writing the paper was ‘to give substance to Prabu’s (1987) concept of the “teacher’s sense of plausibility”. That is to say, explore the way teachers develop professionally and personally by building a personal theory of teaching action based upon their own accumulated experiences – and reflection on them (ibid.). In the paper, Maley reflects on his life; right from childhood, and the key influencers, divided into five strands ‘places, personalities, ideas, publication and critical moments’, that have directed his ‘own continuing development of a personal ‘theory’ of teaching’(ibid.). Let me give you a glimpse of what he is talking about.
As a consequence of the town Maley grew up in, his score on a crucial standardised test at age 11, his parents’ achievements as students and the help he received from the two headmasters between the age of 11 and 16, which in turn got him scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge universities, following were the beliefs (personal theory) he formed:
A profound distrust of and disrespect for standardised testing.
A belief that teachers can be agents of transformation.
A belief that, if you are reasonably intelligent, hard work will get you a long way.
Without some luck, it is difficult to succeed.
It was humbling to notice the evolution of Maley’s beliefs as he progressed in his career. It was in the late 70s, after two decades of teaching around the world, did he get convinced that the ‘best kind of teaching is responding to learners’ needs, not forcing a preconceived package on them. So teachers need to ‘get out of the light’ and let learners learn (ibid.). I take his constant reflection on his beliefs as a warning to not build a static personal theory of teaching.
To me, this is a compelling exercise to deep dive into our highly subjective journey influencing our understanding of the word ‘teaching’ and in turn ‘learning’. It could be a powerful tool to extract our deep-rooted beliefs. Thinking back to my PRESET, I can only imagine what reading this article, at the time, would have done to my teaching and learning notions, and how exchanging the influences leading up to our choices of pursuing teaching professionally with fellow trainees could have coloured my approach to TPs. I can’t help but reiterate one of Maley’s concluding thoughts, ‘Regular group sharing and discussion of individual senses of plausibility can be highly rewarding as part of a teacher training programme.’ (ibid.)
Coming back to the course activity I referred to earlier. In unit 3.1 of the course, we were asked to chart our journey of teaching leading up to the present, and post it on a common thread. It was fascinating to read my fellow trainees’ posts; not so surprisingly most of us hadn’t started our careers as teachers. Observing the diversity in our paths and the influencers; from family members to opportunities, was a CPD in itself. I would love to take this activity to my next teaching education course and probably extract more mileage out of it by facilitating discussions on the participants’ personal histories of teaching or leading up to pursuing teaching. Here are some discussion questions that come to my mind:
1. Looking back to your initial days of teaching, what do you notice about yourself? Has anything changed? (INSET) / Looking back to your early childhood, what do you notice about your understanding of ‘teaching’? Has anything changed? (PRESET)
2. Are there any common patterns and/or distinct differences between your and your colleagues’ journeys?
3. What title would you give to each of your stepping stones?
4. What do you think is the purpose of this activity?
Would you like to add one? I’d love to read it.
It would be befitting to end with Maley’s concluding remark where he quotes Young’s comment in his study proposal (2016), ‘Very few previous studies in applied linguistics have addressed the synergy between the personal history of teachers and learners and the discourse of language learning in the classroom …
Maley, A. (2016) The teacher’s sense of plausibility re-visited, Indonesian JELT, Vol. 11, Number 1, pp 1-29
Maley, A. (2019) Introduction, ‘Developing expertise through experience: Ideas for continuing professional development, British Council,Part 1: 4-20 (You can download a copy via this link)
NILE TD (2022); Activity 3.1 Who and What have influenced your professional development?
Prabhu, NS. (1987) Second Language Pedagogy. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Young, R (2016 – ongoing project) History in Person: Moments of language teaching in the personal histories of teachers. Wuhan: Central China Normal University.
An effective way to master new knowledge is to articulate it in a way that others can comprehend. In this series of blogposts, I am going to try and articulate some of my top takeaways and queries from the recently completed Trainer Development course with NILE. In fact, this gives me a strong reason to revisit the course and see if I can notice something which I didn’t earlier.Though first, I must extend my humble gratitude to the British Council for offering this course as part of our professional development.
In this post, I am going to share:
my goals for the course,
my thoughts on unit 2 ‘How do teachers learn…’ and
my next endeavour or challenge.
Let me introduce my fellow trainees: we were 8 of us.
This probably was one of the highlights of the course. The diversity of our contexts helped expand my perspectives on the course topics.
I had three specific goals for the course;
Learn about how teachers learn;
Learn how to plan, design and evaluate a teacher education (TE) course;
Get a certificate of distinction, as I have never received one in my entire teaching career.
I believe stating the goals at the beginning helped me pursue them actively. I knew right from the start which of the two assignments I was going to opt for.
Unit 2 starts with a question I hadn’t thought about before.
What is the difference between teacher training (TT) and teacher development (TD)?
We were asked to read Penny Ur’s (1996) ‘Teacher training, teacher development‘ article before sharing our two bits on the question. Here are some ‘Over-simplified’ (ibid.) differences between the two.
I hadn’t considered the distinction before this, but if I could add, I would say, all TTs could form a part of TD, though TD may happen without a formal TT.To be honest, at the end of the day, TD is a highly subjective and personal journey. As a trainer, you may provide immaculate training but the development part rests within the trainee.
However, another trainee on the course countered well, ‘How can you develop something which you don’t have yet?’ So, technically speaking, you ought to be a (certified) teacher before any teacher development could take place; you can’t put the cart before the horse. True, though, I would still argue there are a few who come across as if they were born to be teachers hence TT for them is as good as developing their skills. I have encountered a couple of such great teachers myself.
What stood out for me in the article was Ur’s concluding para where she urges to not concern with“the difference(s) between the two, but rather their integration. We need to evolve a model which combines the best of both in order to design optimally effective professional courses, both initial and continuing” (ibid.).
What would such a course look like?
Nicky Hockly’s “Modelling and ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ in teacher education” (2000: 54/2) article came close to answering that. She outlines some of the findings from Hunt’s (1996) experimentation with an extensive ‘Model-based approach’ to pre-service teacher training, where trainees receive input in the form of a 45-60 minute model lesson by the trainer. In other words, trainees experience model lessons as EFL learners, which is followed by some form of analysis.Later, trainees get to teach under the supervision of a tutor.
It doesn’t sound very different from what I experienced at CELTA but there is an acute difference; CELTA has a linear syllabus. It is based on the presupposition that ‘…through mastery of discrete aspects of skills and knowledge, teachers will improve their effectiveness in the classroom’ (Freeman, 1989: 39).It takes ‘a fragmented view of teaching.’ (ibid.) It is similar to the idea that to learn a language we need to memorise words and then bring them together with other memorised words with our knowledge of grammar rules.
While on the other hand, Hunt uses what he calls the ‘cyclic, holistic’ syllabus, (1996: 35). Here you are‘starting with a holistic, whole lesson approach and working down to a more atomistic, discrete item approach later in the course’ (ibid.). What he means is that trainees get to observe and experience a model lesson in its entirety and later they are asked to analyse what they observed and why a certain stage/activity was conducted the way it was, etc. Trainer follows it up with a discussion on the observations made by the trainees so that by the end of the session, trainees have collectively analysed and personally mediated take-aways.
Hunt highlights quite a few advantages of such an approach but there are two I completely agree with. Firstly, it views learning as
“…not a step-by-step building block activity-it is organic, a process that requires time for recycling and assimilation.”
‘A holistic, cyclic approach in [input] mirrors the reality of the ELT classroom.’
However, I would be curious to find out how genuinely were the trainees in Hunt’s experiments able to reflect on their experience as ‘EFL learners’?
Something else I found my PRESET falling short on was discussions on aspects that go ‘beyond and beneath’ the surface level of a classroom. I can’t help being reminded of Stevick’s profound insight, and what many experts have realised ‘that a major variable in successful learning lies in a zone beyond both the topic being learned and the teaching method employed, and that it has to do with the relationship with oneself and with others’ (Underhill 2013: 205). Have a look at Underhill’s version of a ‘fully functional teacher’ (ibid.)
Wouldn’t designing a teacher education course which
responds to Ur’s urge,
takes into account Stevick’s (and others’) profound insight,
caters to Underhill’s three domains of expertise and
has ‘whole person’ development as an overarching goal
be a challenge worth taking up? Or am I being too naive?
Penny, U. (1998) Distinctions & Dichotomies; Teacher Training Teacher Development, English Teaching Professional Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd (Issue 8, p21).
Hockly, N. (2000) ELT Journal Volume 54/2 April 2000, Oxford UniversityPress
Hunt, R. (1996) ‘Going round in circles: a cyclic, holistic approach to CTEFLA timetabling’. Priorities in Initial Teacher Training, Certificate Conference Report, UCLES.
Freeman, D. (1989) ‘Teacher training, development and decision making: a model of teaching and related strategies for language teacher education’. TESOL Quarterly 23/1: 27-45.
Underhill, A. (2013) Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 13: 205-207
Those were some of the words used to describe fluency (for this post, I shall stick to speaking fluency) in our last month’s COP meet while discussing Zoltán Dörnyei’s (2013: 161) chapter, ‘Communicative Language Teaching in the twenty-first century: the ‘Principled Communicative Approach’.
I’ll come back to Dörnyei shortly, but I would like to mention here that the first-ever ‘definition’ I had read about ‘fluency’ was by Scott Thornbury in his ‘An A-Z of ELT’ (2006: 2), ‘the ability to be communicative in real-life situations’ It is simple, to the point. However, complications arise when you try to quantify ‘the ability to be communicative’, which, to be honest, has led me to write this post.
Of course, before I could share my two cents, I had to do my due diligence. Thanks to James Chamberlain (one of our community members), I ventured on the herculean task of reading through Scott’s ‘F is for Fluency’ post and the 94 comments that ensued. Someone would have mined a bitcoin faster than me reading through those 94 stimulating thoughts.
One of the comments that resonated with me was Carol Goodey’s, “For me, fluency means that they don’t have to think. They don’t consciously think about which article they need or how to form the tense they want. They just speak and convey their message, and whatever ‘errors’ they make don’t get in the way.” I could relate to this more because that’s what I notice myself doing (or not doing 🤓) when I am involved in a ‘fluent’ conversation with my in-laws in Thai.
I also enjoyed reading Eion Higgins’ comment, where he highlights the etymology of the word ‘fluent’, which comes from the Latin ‘fluentem’, from the verb ‘fluere’ meaning “to flow”. In other words, a ‘fluent’ speaker’s speech ‘flows’.
Going back to the complication of quantifying ‘fluency’, Scott in his response to one of the comments, simplified it well when he highlighted Chambers 1997 research summary suggesting that the significant factors determining ‘fluency’ are:
the frequency of pauses rather than the length
the length of run (the number of syllables between pauses)
the place of the pauses in an utterance
the transfer (or not) of pausing pattern from L1 to L2.
However, it was, once again, Scott who brought home the idea of language being a social construct when he responded politely to a rather aggressive comment. Scott wrote,
“…, I think I agree that fluency is not some internalised attribute of the mind but is an interpersonal phenomenon, in which mutual familiarity (with each other’s idiomaticity) may play an important part…”
To my mind, ‘fluency’ in real-life communication would involve a listener. Hence, I see a strong relationship between fluency and comprehension. From my experience, I could easily gauge if my Thai is ‘flowing’ by observing the strain my in-laws are under while trying to comprehend me. I could crudely quantify ‘fluency’ as ‘the higher the strain on the listener, the lower the speaker’s fluency and vice versa.’
James articulated it better,
“Fluency is best measured by the interlocutor’s effort needed to comprehend what is being said; the lesser their effort to comprehend the greater the fluency.”
He went on to shed further light on Scott’ idea of ‘mutual familiarity’. He believes, and I completely agree, that the relationship between the speaker and the listener would play a significant role. For example, siblings in their communication might come across as extremely fluent to each other than to an outsider or an observer. Ironically, I am much more fluent in Thai while communicating with my in-laws than with my wife 🤣
Ruthie Iida (another community member) clarified the concept further by comparing speaking fluency with driving fluency,
‘… the ones who move and weave in and out of traffic really skilfully without even trying or look like they are not even trying, that’s like driving fluency…and they are in harmony with the rest of the roads.”
Love the analogy, Ruth. 😎
How do we develop learners’ speaking fluency?
Coming back to Dörnyei, he categorises fluency under ‘skills learning theory’ and outlines three stages that could lead to the achievement of ‘fluency’.
Interestingly, Dörnyei draws a parallel between the above stages and an infamous methodology. Can you guess which one? PPPerhaps you need a hint. 😜
Here are some of my classroom practices and principles to develop speaking fluency.
engage in small talk at the beginning of a lesson
plan and implement fluency focused activities (avoid correcting grammatical inaccuracies at the end)
prime learners by providing a structure for speaking and the essential language required for an activity
provide time for planning
do task repetition (nothing beats this activity in building fluency)
take care of affective factors before anything else (an anxious and/or an insecure learner would never be able to speak fluently)
create affordances for intrinsic motivation (autonomy, competence and relatedness)
know that fluency comes before accuracy
The way I see it, a fluent and meaningful speaker is much more desirable than an accurate and dysfluent one; listeners are much more accommodative to the former.
Just before I end this, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Scott, for the ‘F is for Fluency’ post, and the rest of the contributors to the post, because without them this post would have felt incomplete.
Arnold. J. and Murphey, T. (2013) Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 10: 161-171
Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT; A Dictionary of Terms and Concepts, Macmillian Books for Teachers