Teacher Academy vs INSETT


Here is a very interesting introduction into a point-based online system for the professional development of teachers within one school. John Meehan describes how the the online website is organised into several PD tracks and each teacher is free to select ‘courses’ (which are more like tasks – e.g. read an educational book or try out a new activity) and earn a certain number of credits for them. There is a set number you need to collect during the academic year, and here’s the most interesting part: to get the credit, you don’t only have to submit a ‘deliverable’, or evidence of having done it, but also write a reflective blog post about it on the school website. Administrators look through the posts on a weekly basis and showcase best practice examples. This is a very useful, self-regulating (almost) CPD model with a lot of communication between teachers – really worth looking into!

P.S. The scheme is called the igKnight Academy – do the creators see themselves on a crusade against ‘one-size-fits-none’ INSETT, I wonder? 🙂 Still, it’s an excellent effort to make CPD better for everyone.

The best motivator in the world


To build on the topic of ‘fun versus knowledge’, here is a worthwhile read about motivation by Adam Boxer. Ideas and examples from research are digested in a clear and logical overview which brings the reader to a very important conclusion: if you want students to be interested in your subject, help them become competent in it.

P.S. Compare it to Carl Hendrik’s post about ‘the dark side’ of motivational gambits in the classroom (I linked to it here): very similar thoughts!

Cooking vocabulary activities


Here is a very new article on the Oxford University Press ELT blog by Nick Michelioudakis, and its main message is: don’t stop at just giving students the knowledge (a nice counterpoint to the article in my previous post, isn’t it?). When you are ‘cooking’ a lesson, think how you can tweak an activity to add a bit of ‘flavour’ to it, says Nick, and I’m all for it – provided the activity is related to the learning objective, of course. The author also mentions the IKEA effect, the incongruity effect and other reasons why the tweaks work for learners, and invites everyone to his webinar in the middle of August. I hope I can make it, it sounds like fun!

Creative or doing the real work


A great polemical post by Tom Boulter: what are we risking after creativity in teaching became all the rage? Because the term is so vague, it’s too easy to misinterpret and create lessons that result in very little learning.

The author builds on the story of a playpump which was installed to encourage learning through creativity but was quickly forgotten as useless. He extends the metaphor to remind the readers: sometimes it should be the real pump, not a playpump, to do the actual work in the classroom.

Compare this to the notion of ‘seductive details’, or to another opinion post I linked to before (Whatever happened to direct instruction)  – it’s great how many educationalists are voting against mindless fun in the classroom. What do you think, does it seem a bit too extreme?

Key principles of an online course


Here is a great article by Jim Henry and Jeff Meadows about the best practices in online teaching: mostly asynchronous, but still useful. In fact, a lot of the principles apply to classroom teaching as well, and I really like how the authors are expressing them: e.g., “content is a verb” (meaning that a lot of the learning should be done by doing); or “technology is a vehicle” (it’s just a tool to help with the process of learning). The authors also talk about the sense of community, ongoing improvement and adjustment of the course and thoughtful little ‘extras’, and cite a lot of references that promise interesting reading.

I wish I had the time to create my own online course now!

Learners in teacher training


You know of course about Nick Bilbrough’s Hands Up charity project? (If not, it’s a cool initiative where EFL teachers connect to classrooms and learners in Syria and Palestine via Zoom and do storytelling and language learning activities with them, and you can read all about it on his blog.)  What got me particularly interested today is the post about engaging students in a teacher training session. It’s an account about a real training situation, and Nick saw a lot of benefits in it: the trainer can demo an activity, and the teachers don’t have to pretend to be lower-level learners, or use all the language they have, and so real language learning can actually happen in the training room – and the trainees can simply observe, reflect and develop their teaching.

The idea of involving students in teacher training is not new, but these examples are really rare!

A fix for notebook junkies


I’m travelling now, and every time I go past a bookshop I can’t resist the attraction. But it’s not books I’m after – I’m looking at all kinds of cool diaries and notebooks and trying to convince myself that I don’t need another planner right now.

That’s probably why this post by Charity Preston seems so exciting to me – I’ve found a kin soul who likes to make good notes, but she goes much further and creates adjustable templates. Check out the whole process there and enjoy the cool pictures: it seems much easier than one would think, and allows you to adjust the cover, layout and number of pages to your liking.

Anyone else who likes to keep good records? Or at least have a nice place to store them 🙂

Thoughts about ultralearning


Scott Young writes about this method of learning that is ‘aggressive’ and self-directed (there is a new book coming out, and his posts are advertising it – not that it reduces the value of the ideas in any way). His research shows that difficulty, direct practice and opportunity for retrieval are what can make learning more effective.

Ok, then if this is applied to more or less traditional ELT, what have we got? The communicative approach gives at least some direct practice e.g. in role-playing games and simulations – check. Opportunities for retrieval practice are there provided the teacher does review activities, mini-tests and so on. So — not always. And desirable difficulty is a big pain point, isn’t it?

Receptive strategies for language learning


Here is a very enjoyable read by Andreia Zakime from WhatisELT.  She writes about top-down and bottom-up processing in reading, and I love her take on the Ukrainian and Russian linguistic landscape (she is staying in Ukraine at the moment). She analyses her own experience as a beginner reader, combines it with her teaching and teacher training skills and gives an excellent overview of the two strategies and how they can be used in the classroom to develop both receptive skills. Really nice!