New series: projects for real (1 of 15)

office-project

Project methodology in English language teaching is old news, you say? Well, yes and no: on the one hand, projects are a staple in the ELT classroom. On the other hand, we often focus on the outputs (poster, web page, time capsule…) and don’t teach the learners how to work on a project. Where is the timeline and the Gantt chart? The RAG update? The health check? The manager in me squirms at the lack of accountability and the risks involved, and the teacher knows all too well how often these learner projects fail or don’t reach the learning objectives. And just think about the lost possibilities: the students could have acquired very useful workplace skills if they had been given the right professional tools!

Luckily, there is some work being done in this area by more academic people than me, and here’s the first installment in the series: a great article by Kim Liegel which outlines the most important principles of managing a project in the classroom and offers excellent worksheets and checklists. There’s more to come.

My update

committeepic_blog

Well, the picture kind of says it all. As of 8 January 2020, I’m a committee member of the IATEFL Leadership and Management SIG! I could list one hundred reasons why it’s so important to me, but here are my top three:

  1. IATEFL is one of the biggest and certainly the most well-known international organisation in the field of English language teaching.
  2. LAMSIG is one of 16 IATEFL special interest groups and the closest to my heart: five years ago this SIG gave me, a very new and inexperienced academic manager, a scholarship to come to the 50th anniversary conference. It made me more confident, encouraged me to reflect and develop a more academic approach to my work, and to go out and meet more like-minded people. And now I have a chance to give something back.
  3. I’m one of the 10 committee members, and the other 9 are incredibly cool. I know most of them from before because I’ve been attending their talks, reading their articles, admiring them from a distance – and now we can actually work together!

So, there you go. This also means that my blogging schedule is moving from daily to weekly, but I promise I will continue to read and share the best bits of ELT goodness 🙂 Keep watching this space – and see you at the next IATEFL, maybe?

 

How to apologise for teaching

board-apology

What a great post by Larry Ferlazzo! I’m pretty sure most of us make similar errors of judgement in the classroom when we focus on ‘covering the book’, ‘meeting the deadline’, ‘doing the Present Perfect’ instead of teaching our students. But how often do we have the courage and humility to admit the error even to ourselves? Larry describes how he prepared a solid sequence on storytelling and what exactly in his view went wrong. And what particularly awed me – he found a way to apologise to the students and to set things straight.

I’ve read it somewhere that when a service provider deals with a complaint well, it can satisfy and even delight the customer, much more than in a neutral situation. It’s similar, isn’t it? I’m sure Larry’s students were absolutely delighted.

Surviving and thriving

cup-chamomile

What a trite thing to say – but it doesn’t become less important because it’s been said so many times. I was listening to this podcast and thinking: do we really know how to balance our life and work? So I came home and worked a bit more 🙂 And then I googled and found this great post by Terry Heick, where he lists ten principles of being a happy teacher, from being creative to knowing when to shut your door.

The teacher trainer in me has already cut up the principles into strips and handed out to a group of participants for jigsaw reading, it’s that good.

Work that room

battleship-room

Here is another gem from the Cult of Pedagogy about best practices for teacher trainers. The focus is on tech trainers and academic managers, but the advice will be useful for anyone who finds themselves in front of a room full of teachers 🙂 So – run a needs analysis if possible, or work the room, i.e. talk to the participants before the session; use ‘force multipliers’ (get teacher leaders on your side, have edCamp sessions to use the participants’ expertise, involve real learners); be as hands-on as possible; use teaching methods (formative assessment, differentiation etc.) and stay connected after the training session. You could say it’s just common sense, but how often do we really think of all this in time?

Avoiding analysis paralysis

laboratory-analysis

Here is a bit of consolation for trainers and teachers who sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed about collecting data they have collected to inform the course. The post is about e-learning, but can be easily applied to face-to-face as well.Perhaps a simpler pilot or a proof of concept would suffice, or even – God forbid – no needs analysis. I really like the idea of meeting the course participants and finding out about their needs informally, as well as building smaller-scale pilots first. What do you think, is it a dangerous idea, or it makes sense? 🙂

How trainers are chosen

business-training

I was researching criteria for evaluating training providers the other day and stumbled upon this little gem: a list of questions to ask a training organisation (compiled by a training organisation – take it with a grain of salt). It’s an incredibly comprehensive booklet covering such areas as quality management, learning pathways, previous experience and price policies.  How can it help English language teachers? Well, if you have a new corporate client or a very discerning private tutee, you might want to imagine them asking you these questions and prepare good answers – or think what else you might need to develop. It’s certainly made me think!