Welcome to September Issue of ELT Choutari

Mentoring Special

Editorial: 

The Choutari Team is delighted to greet you with the September issue of ELT Choutari! This issue is focused on mentoring, which  has remained one of the core values of Choutari since its inception.  We began the Choutari Mentoring Project (CMP) as a new initiative  to enhance a collaborative learning environment among our readers seven months ago. We are excited to receive love and feedback from the students, teachers, and professionals in Nepal. The continual academic support from both the  international and local community of ELT/Applied Linguistic scholars has further encouraged us to develop other news projects in future. We are glad that many of our colleagues are enjoying the benefits of the mentoring project. We would like to thank you all who signed up and participated in this project. In the meantime, we have also received much feedback from those engaged currently in the mentoring relations. We are encouraged by your feedback and do look forward to making this project even more accessible and productive in the days to come.

The September issue of ELT Choutari was originally planned to be a forum to celebrate the mentoring relations and to formally recognize our mentors and mentees contributing to the project. However, based on the feedback we received, and with due respect to the contextual ramifications, we have decided to maintain confidentiality of the participating mentors and mentees. This has been an important learning experience from the critical mass of participants, and we are determined to move ahead with a giving spirit to our field.

This issue of ELT Choutari, however, has come out to be a special one for a special reason. We have posts from Choutari’s key personalities including founding members and past editors. We have an interview with two successful Nepali ELT mentors Ganga Ram Gautam, Reader at  Tribhuvan University, and Laxman Gnawali, PhD, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University, focused on mentoring. Their mentoring stories not only unveil mentoring culture in Nepal, but also present existing perception and attitude toward this in our context.

In the second reflective blog entitled “This is How Mentoring Worked for Me,” Bal Krishna Sharma shares his personal learning experiences from the mentoring activities — both as a mentee and as a mentor. Bal has included the names of his mentor (Elaina) and mentee (Tankia) in his story to give a real story that gives insight into how those relations are developed and sustained. Moreover, this sets a great example of how one individual can benefit from both roles.

Sajan Kumar’s take on mentoring is highly philosophical in third blog entry-“You are, therefore I am: Reciprocity, Metamorphosis, Mentorship and Beyond.” Here Sajan shares a model of mentoring that describes the mentoring process as a cyclical developmental and growth involving contemplation, meditation, mediation, and action — all converging into a transformative process. Sajan describes his mentoring journey stemming out of his intimate collaboration with his guru and the quality time he had with him during his stay at Kirtipur but then goes on to add a theoretical dimension arguing that the whole biosphere may act as the mentor for an explorer of self, such as Sajan himself. His conclusion is powerful: “One repays a teacher badly if one remains only a pupil”

Prem Phyak in the fourth blog post “Not a fix-it shop: Making mentoring productive”  is full of practical insights. Prem has offered some strategies that can be helpful to make mentoring more productive and goal-oriented. Drawing on his own experience working as a writing consultant/tutor for the Writing Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for two years, Prem’s post focuses on how to make mentoring more interactive, grounded/bottom-up, and collaborative rather than top-down and authoritative.

The fifth blog entry ‘Bal Ram Adhikari’s Sharing, Caring and Daring in Mentoring’ is a remarkable story of transformation whereby the writer finds himself as a deliverer of something that he had been longed for in the beginning of his teaching career. Adhikari’s experience paints a not-so-good-picture of mentoring in the context of Nepal, but is an eye opener. Having witnessed and been trampled by the “lopsided” practice of power, dominance, and authority, Adhikari’s writing is a call for an action toward a truer mentoring regime in Nepal’s ELT sector.

Finally, we have a photo blog that covers the news from Choutari’s monthly writing workshop facilitated by Hem Raj Kafle, one of founding editors of Choutari.

Here is the list of articles we have included for September Issue, especially focused on mentoring in ELT:

  1. ELT Chat with Nepali Mentors on Mentoring, by Praveen K Yadav  
  2. This is How Mentoring Worked for Me, by Bal Krishna Sharma
  3. You are, therefore I am, by Sajan Kumar
  4. Not a fix-it shop: Making mentoring productive, by Prem Phyak
  5.  Sharing, Caring and Daring in Mentoring, by Bal Ram Adhikari
  6. Choutari Writing Workshop #3: Photoblog, by Choutari Team

Together, these stories, coming straight out of the experiences of successful people in the field, serve as models to be built on. As can be seen, these stories reveal that mentoring is not about following prescriptive norms and rules — it is largely shaped by what goal, passion, philosophy and background that mentors and mentees share with each other. I believe that these stories are my stories, your stories, and everyone’s stories.

Uttam

Uttam Gaulee Editor, September 2014

P.S.: I would like to urge all our valued readers and contributors to please share these stories among your social network and leave comments.

Enjoy the readings!

NELTA CHOUTARI is ELT CHOUTARI Now

Welcome to August Issue of Choutari

Editorial:

Change is natural and inevitable. Change is necessary to cope with challenges, to embrace new opportunities, and to take any project to new heights.

In order to build on our success in more than a half decade, we have updated our network’s name, moving our blog to a new site within a domain of our own. Nelta Choutari is now ELT Choutari and its site is www.eltchoutari.com. As an informal, independent group of bloggers and facilitators, we continue to pursue the same goals of enhancing professional development in ELT, while we explore new avenues and make greater impact on the community.

What we had so far was a basic WordPress blog; with this site, we have the full range of functionalities that we can use as needed.

Some facts about our journey so far seem worth sharing with our readers and well-wishers. Over the half a decade, we have been positively overwhelmed by the wonderful engagement of 180,557 visits with around 500 posts and over 1100 comments as of July 31, 2014. We wanted to grow and promote such an engagement with a standard site.

Secondly, when we launched the blog in 2009, we gave it the name NeltaChoutari simply because the group was started by members of the organization NELTA and the group wanted to create an informal space similar to the public square in the countryside. This space belonged to the community, and it was characterized by freedom of expression, informal organization, lack of external supervision, welcoming acceptance of active contributors and understanding when any core member wanted to step aside, spirit of volunteerism, and a passion to give back to the community. However, as time went on, the informal group became bigger in scope and impact and more popular than we initially expected, and some confusion began about what the name meant: is it an official blog of NELTA (which it is not), or is it somehow an alternative space (it’s not that either), why is it not part of the NELTA if it bears such a name?Recently, after NELTA office launched its official blog (Nelta ELT Forum) we wanted to emphasize that Choutari is open, informal, and independent – while acknowledging the forum’s official status and a lack thereof with ours. We believe that informal and open spaces add tremendous value to any professional community. We don’t think that one is better than another, but we do think that an informal space adds a unique set of value.

Choutari continues to be dedicated to discuss, discover and deliver ELT related issues in particular and education in general–with even more energy and commitment. We encourage you to continue to contribute and benefit from the vibrant professional community on this platform.

Welcome to our new site—ELT CHOUTARI!

Here is the list of articles included for August Issue, especially focused on diversity in ELT:

  1. Diversity in English Language Classroom, by Balram Adhikari
  2. Diversity and Broader Goals of ELT, by Shyam Sharma
  3. Talking about Creative Consciousness in Teachers, Jeevan Karki
  4. Teacher Training: One of the Best Ways of Self-development, by Parista Rai
  5. Building a Community: What We Value: Reblog by Praveen, Umes & Uttam
  6. Choutari Writing Workshop #2: Photoblog, by Choutari Team

Finally, please update your bookmark and please share it among your social network. Please explore the pages from the top menu bar, and as usual, please like, share, and leave comments.

Happy Reading!

IMG_6861

Balram Adhikari

Editor for August Issue
(with Editorial Team)
ELT CHOUTARI

Welcome to the July Issue of Choutari, 2014

Editorial

Professional development is an ongoing learning process in which teachers engage voluntarily to learn how their language can be made effective in order to meet the learning needs of their students. It focuses specifically on how teachers construct their professional identities in ongoing interaction with learners, by reflecting on their actions for professional enhancement and adopting them to meet the learners’ expressed or implicit learning goals.

Reflections do not only summarize what happened, but also reflect on those experiences and report on what the authors have learned. Through reflection, language teachers share how to improve professional practice, discover what is working and what is not, and explore personal strengths and the areas of improvement. Hence, reflections are not only for action, but also are in and on action to ultimately help teachers develop their professionalism.

As continuity to the same ongoing professional development process through reflections, the July issue of Choutari includes a series of reflections on from this year’s examinations of School Leaving Certificate (SLC) and Teacher Service Commission (TSC), to other aspects of professional development such as mentoring, speakers’ club, writing and ELT.

First, Shyam Sharma expresses his deep concerns about the failed national exam of SLC in Nepal that annually labels a huge number of youth as failures. In his well-crafted piece, he argues that we are carrying SLC exams for too long for nothing. The title is obvious: Ditch it: SLC Exams but there is a lot more Mr. Sharma has to say on why SLC is “obsolete, misguided, and if you think about its purpose and effect, absurd.”

In the second post ‘How my mentor transformed me’, Priyanka Pandey shares her story of transformation from a hesitant soul to a confident teacher. Her story is extremely relevant for the useful insights for anyone in a mentoring relationship or seeking to be in one.

Likewise, Mabindra Regmi reflects on the ups and downs of his writing journey in the third entry ‘The Write Way’. Mr. Regmi’s rediscovery of his own writing not only shares useful insights on how writing can be continuously improved, but also how it can be a collaborative effort.

The fourth post is a compilation of reflections on written test of Teacher Service Commission (TSC), as told by the three successful candidates in the recent massive results. These High School English teachers’ experiences passing the national qualifying test conducted by Teacher Service Commission (TSC) is obviously useful for the incoming cohort of candidates.

“The club has made a tremendous impact on me, personally and professionally,” says a stellar writer. Wonder how? The secret is out in Umes Shrestha’s reflective piece titled Speakers’ Club for Professional Development.

The excitement brought about by the Choutari workshop is palpable in Krishna Prasad Khatiwada’s piece ‘Reflection on Choutari Workshop: Behind Academic Publishing-Why, How & What’. This reflection piece lists useful tips on finding publishing venues, to avoiding plagiarism, and overcoming procrastination.

Finally, the photo blog scribbled with texts brings alive the spirit of emerging writers participating in the academic publishing workshop organized by NeltaChoutari, and facilitated by Bal Krishna Sharma. Combining the sophisticated tools and successful tips, the participants felt equipped to produce academic writing with a fuller understanding of why, how, and what of the academic writing.

Here is the list of contents for convenient navigation:

  1. Ditch it: SLC Exams, by Shyam Sharma
  2. How my mentor transformed me, by Priyanka Pandey
  3. The Write Way, by Mabindra Regmi
  4. Reflections on written test of TSC, compiled by Choutari team
  5. Speakers’ Club for Professional Development, by Umes Shrestha
  6. Reflection on ‘Behind Academic Publishing’, by Krishna Prasad Khatiwada
  7. Choutari Workshop: Photo Blog, by Choutari team

—–

Now we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the contributors including the Choutari Team for their support and contribution and we expect more contributions of yours on Chouatri for the upcoming issues.

We always welcome your constructive feedback to make our publications more reader friendly in terms of the content and issues in ELT. Hence, we urge you to join the professional conversation on Choutari by posting comments or sharing among your circles via social media networks like facebook, twitter, google plus, pressing likes under the blog entries you have read.

Happy Reading!
Praveen and Umes
On behalf of Choutari Team

NeltaChoutari June 2014 Issue

June-Issue-2014

Towards Student Friendly Testing System

Editorial

Human life is full of tests. We test our blood pressure or temperature in order to make sure our body is functioning well. If the pressure or temperature is at a normal level, then we think that our life style is fine, whereas if any indicator is above or below an acceptable level, we go for treatment. Thus, testing helps us find out about a situation and work accordingly.

We teach our students and assess how much learning has been achieved. In order to do so, we take the help of tests. The tests help us assess the achievement of our students and ultimately our own achievements. It further helps us diagnose what worked well and what did not, and go for remedial measures after the diagnosis. Moreover, the test result serves basically two functions- forward looking and backward looking. However, in our context the test in the most cases serve only the forward looking function. In other words, we interpret the result of students and make decision of either promoting or failing them, and the role of test is over. Isn’t it necessary to explore the detailed causes of the failure? Isn’t there chance of fault in the curriculum itself or in the teaching methodology? But nobody seems to bother. We have rarely heard that School Leaving Certificate (SLC) board or universities doing needful to explore the causes of poor result and improving the tests. The authority seems like a machine to give a tag of either PASS or FAIL. Where is interaction? Where is research? Where is change? and when we do not look back after the result, we never get to correct the faults in the system and keep victimizing students.

Apart from this, major problems are seen in our test administration system. There is problem in the quality of tests. Be that the SLC or universities tests, the condition is rather pathetic. The English language test papers themselves contain deviated language forms- forget about other quality! We know that a test paper goes through a number of phases before going to examinees. After a test is constructed based on a specification grid, it is piloted. Then it is improved and finalized on the basis of feedback of the pilot. However, our test papers are so powerful, whatever faults they contain, they manage to escape from the grip of our skillful experts! If we compare our so-called standardized test with teacher made test, in the many respects, the latter stands out. Such poorly constructed paper-pencil test of few hours makes decision about a student’s life- a strong decision that determines career and future of the student. In this regard, the test is very serious and critical thing. However, it is taken very lightly in our context. A test of few hours is set randomly and marked impressionistically to make judgement about students’ life. Is the ability of students only what they can fill in the paper in few hours? If not, the test does not have right to make decision about anybody’s life. A test is supposed to test abilities, knowledge, understanding and attitudes of students. However, our test is testing something absurd. It is testing students’ memory (if not memory then cheating skill) and writing speed. This paper pencil test tests mostly students’  memory, calligraphy and writing speed. They are not meant for assessing students’ originality, innovation and creativity. In fact, it is stupid to talk about testing such abilities of students with a few hours memory- driven calligraphy marathon competition! It is this unscientific test that contributes to develop test anxiety in students. They dislike tests as tests are not doing any justice to them. Their actual abilities are never tested through tests. However, their quality is measured with reference to the certificate of such test in the outer world. In fact, this paper-pencil test is destroying the life of many making them mentally handicapped and how can we expect them to love tests.

The testing has gained a bad impression because of the faulty process. However, the situation is not as hopeless as it seems. We can do something to make tests worth practising and the subject teacher or expert can be a saviour here. The language teachers can devise students’ friendly test, which will be a modification of formative assessment. Our students’ now need to be assessed based on their classroom performance. Garcia and Pearson (1994) has termed such test as performance assessment. Students’ throughout the session/semester do a lot of things in classroom (at least in schools). They read and write plenty of things, get involved in classroom discussions, express their views, and work in peer or group to solve problems. This requires them to perform actual language skills and abilities. Besides that, they get involved in different co-curricular activities in or outside the institution. Moreover, teacher should assign them to do project works, mini-researches and different other tasks that involve language, abilities, knowledge, understanding and attitudes. Meanwhile, the ongoing internal tests/formative assessment will along. In such a way, whatsoever activities are performed by students in or outside the classroom, teachers need to keep record of  them in an individual portfolio. Based on such records, students’ actual assessment can be made, and such assessment is more valid and reliable than a paper-pencil test. This sort of assessment captures actual performance of students. In addition to that, it also encourages them to keep learning throughout the year, which makes students’ learning oriented not merely test-oriented. Furthermore, such assessment makes tests common to students and they no more get scared of tests. However, this kind of assessment demands individual record of students, which maximizes the work pressure of teachers. Therefore, the work pressure of teachers should be balanced.

The performance assessment can replace the traditional paper-pencil test in the days to come. However, at present, we can at least use it as a supplement to the paper-pencil test, which can minimize the dominance of memory- driven calligraphy marathon competition!

What is in this issue?

We have attempted to make this issue language testing special as we thought that it is necessary to create a discourse on language testing in order to change the face of present language testing system. So, let’s wonder, ponder, share and care about language testing in this issue. Besides making this issue a language testing special, we have invented a new genre, i.e. ‘interactive article’. The idea is to bring together the experts and readers to discuss and interact on a particular theme and to explore more among ourselves the unlimited possibilities.

One of the challenges of the thematic issue is to maintain variety. However, we have attempted to overcome this challenge by raising multiple issues within an issue. In the interactive article, we have brought forward a number issues of language testing in our context, which include multilingual competence testing, formative assessment, professionalism in testing, quality of test including testing listening and speaking in secondary level, faulty test construction process, and administration and validation. Similarly, in the next entry, Balram Adhikari shares his reflection on his own experiences of marking answer sheets of university. His thought-provoking article reveals the quality of students’ writing in university and compels us to ponder upon the impressionistic way of marking the answer sheets. Similarly, it also brings forward the issue of language versus content debate in marking the answer sheets. Not only have we raised the issues but also have attempted to offer some suggestions. Ashok Raj Khati and Manita Karki offer us alternative practice of language testing through classroom assessment based on a lecture delivered by a prominent scholar Prof. Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya. On the other hand, Umes Shrestha shares his ideas about the faulty system of paper-pencil test in our context and shares his practices of marking the answer sheets in a liberal way. Moreover, he also offers some alternatives to existing testing system. In the same way, in the next entry, on his research based article (Based on his Master’s Thesis), Bhupal Sin Bista explores that listening skill is neglected in teaching as well as testing in most of the cases in the secondary schools of our country. He further explores a distinct gap between teachers’ theoretical knowledge and its application in classroom. He then suggests ideas to teach and test listening skill effectively.  Last but not the least; we have attempted to add a bit black humour by depicting a part of scenario of language testing through pictorial.

Here is a list of contents included in this issue:

Now, I request you to share what you read and like, drop your comment to encourage writers and join the conversation by writing new entries in the upcoming issues of Choutari.

Lastly, I extend my sincere gratitude to Shyam Sharma and Balram Adhikari for their rigorous support and constructive feedback in every step to make this issue possible. Similarly, I am indebted to Praveen Kumar Yadav, Umes Shrestha and Ushakiran Wagle for their physical and moral support to materialize this issue!
Happy reading!

Jeevan Karki
jk.pravat85@yahoo.com
Editor
June Issue, 2014

invert me

 

Welcome to Choutari: May 2014

choutari-may-issue

Editorial

Welcoming New Year

with Another Series of Serendipity

Ushakiran, Praveen, and Umes

Whenever the New Year arrives, we renew the journey planner of our life; our life begins once again with great excitement that promises new success. The planner doesn’t discriminate what is doable and what is undo-able; it simply acts as a path setter. We follow the path, which guides, and what actually happens is serendipitous. Life is like that. Our professional life is not very different from that. It resonates our normal personal life.

The journey of NeltaChoutari has also been renewed recently with the arrival the Nepali New Year 2071. And yes for sure, we have resolutions for this year too. We don’t have a written planner, a chart or a calendar where we can make notes, but, we have a portable plan with organizing chart in our mind. This is our beacon for the year ahead. We are sure this planner will help us by directing our best efforts to make the Choutari able to gear up with its success. It will open newer avenues that will lead us to chart news horizons. Our journey is sure to be serendipitous. Be ready to become the surprisers. Choutari has set to serve such surprises, not at one time, but successively in the months to come.

Our success is based on your (you, the readers) effort and collaboration that come through your contribution of articles and your readership. Choutari team of editors will always be busy supplying you with substantial information along with materials but your participation is what makes a difference. We have planned to expand activities of Choutari by incorporating a variety of reading materials and resources important for your research work, paper writing and, of course, for classroom teaching. The benefits will be serendipitous.

The May 2014 Issue is serendipitous in real sense. This month we have come up again with a variety of blog entries, ranging from teaching grammar and vocabulary, and learned centered approach to teachers’ development through teachers’ club, and self-reflection of using YouTube and journal writing for developing fluency and writing in English. Besides, for this issue, we have a special blog entry on post-colonialism in Indian literature.

Here is the list of blog entries for this month:

  1. If Only, It Were True: The Problems with Grammar Teaching, by Pramod Kumar Sah
  2. Games for retaining Vocabulary, by Pema Kala Bhusal
  3. Learner-Centered Teaching: Some Considerations, by Guru Prasad Poudel
  4. Professional Development through English Teachers’ Club, by Shashi Kayastha
  5. YouTube: My Best Friend Forever, by Chandra Pd. Acharya
  6. My Journey of Journal Writing, by Santona Neupane
  7. Post-colonialism in Indian literature, by Prakash C. Balikai

Isn’t it an array of diverse ideas and experiences?  We hope you find these stuffs useful.

Now we invite you to join the conversation again by sharing your responses as comments under any posts, by liking and sharing them with your network, by contributing your own posts for future issues, and by encouraging other colleagues to do the same.

Happy serendipitous reading!

Choutari Team

—- Please note: Choutari Mentoring Program is ongoing. We would like to extend our utmost honor to two participating mentors and cordial thanks to three mentees currently engaged in the program. If you are interested in providing mentorship to emerging scholars or seek a mentor to grow, please click here.

Welcome to NeltaChoutari: April, 2014

choutari-april-issue

EDITORIAL

Laxmi Prasad Ojha

(With Umes and Praveen)

Dear valued readers,

Along with my fellow editors, I am honoured and delighted to present you the April issue of Choutari. Choutari has always been a true source of inspiration for many teachers ever since it was published in 2009. It has been catering the needs of thousands of teachers in many countries now. We are really inspired and encouraged to see support and appreciation of our valued readers.

Choutari was one of the first initiatives of its kind started by our senior editors. When blogging was not something many people knew, they gave a pleasant gift to the ELT community. It has seen tremendous growth in the past and the team will always try its best to bring you the most useful resources available. The government of Nepal has continuously been trying to improve the quality of education and teachers are the main agents to bring much needed changes. Teachers need to develop their professional skills if they really want to move in that direction. There are numerous ways to develop our professional skills and one of them is discussing, writing, and sharing ideas with fellow teachers. In this edition of Choutari, we have included essays on diverse issues ranging from beginning teacher’s reflection to in-service teacher training, from using portfolio in ELT classes to explaining research as hegemony, and from probing SLC exam to reflection on Interactive Language Fair of NELTA Conference. We have also reblogged an entry on Twitter summit which, we believe, will be of new of its kind to many of our enthusiastic readers. Here is the full list of ELT khuraks for the month of April:

  1. This Year’s SLC Exams: Melodrama Continues, by Praveen Kumar Yadav

  2. Exploring Challenges in In-Service Teacher Training in Nepal, by Rajan Poudel

  3. Research as Hegemony, by Krishna Khatiwada

  4. Need of Induction for Beginning Teachers, by Ramesh Chandra Bhandari

  5. Reflections on Presenting in Interactive Language Fair (ILF), by Jeevan, Dipesh and Praveen

  6. Twitter summit #Write4Pro by Shyam Sharma

  7. Using a Portfolio for ELL/ELT, by Adesh Bhetwal

We invite you to join the conversation again by sharing your responses as comments under any posts, by liking and sharing them with your network, by contributing your own posts for future issues, and by encouraging other colleagues to do the same. Please join the conversation by reading, and sharing your reflections as comments. This will help many readers get new ideas and help you develop skills to look at things critically and present yourself professionally. We also request you to let other people know about NeltaChoutari.

Happy reading !

laxmi-prasad

Laxmi Prashad Ojha
Editor, April issue
Email: laxmiojha99@gmail.com

—- Please note: Choutari Mentoring Program is ongoing. We would like to extend our utmost honor to two participating mentors and cordial thanks to three mentees currently engaged in the program. If you are interested in providing mentorship to emerging scholars or seek a mentor to grow, please click here.

Welcome to Nelta Choutari March Issue 2014

EDITORIAL

Umes Shrestha
(with Usha and Jeevan)

Dear Readers of Nelta Choutari Blog Magazine,
We took an extra week to publish this issue, but the time has been worth it!

As we present the ‘NELTA Conference special issue’, including an amazing set of blog posts based on the 19th International Conference, we are excited by many things. We have continued our tradition of the special issue after this important event for Nepal’s ELT community. We are also proud to see the emergence of new venues of professional conversation, most significantly the “official” blog started by NELTA (www.neltaeltforum.weebly.com). We see such development as the community’s dream coming true, because there should be more venues of professional conversation, some run by individual scholars, others by groups, some less structured and formal than others, and so on. We remain an independent community of bloggers who strive to publish the voice of other colleagues on top of ours, in the spirit of the Nepali way, building scholarship from the ground up.

We remain inspired by the passion for promoting critical pedagogy, promoting local scholarship, incorporating the voices of local teachers, writing ourselves to value the voices of teachers on the ground across the country, and fostering creativity and innovation in the teaching of English… drawing on global scholarship for promoting local professional practice. We continue to explore new landscape, ask new questions, and try new ideas. Our strength lies in our ability to engage almost 3,000 visits to the site every month from more than 80 countries around the world, and in the achievements reflected in almost four hundred blog entries, a thousand comments, 1.53 lakh total views. Former and present editors and also the ELT community have put in a lot of hard work and dedication over the years. And we are driven to take Choutari to new heights every year, building on our strength in quantity and quality.

Now to focus on the theme of this special issue — The conference was held in two phases, first in Kathmandu and then in Hetauda, under the theme, ‘Authentic Assessment: A Paradigm Shift from Traditional to Alternative Assessment’ and it was attended by over 600 presenters and participants in Kathmandu, and by over 300 in Hetauda. It has become a tradition in this blog to dedicate an issue to the conference and to show our solidarity and respect to NELTA as an organization that we belong to, and to all English language teachers and professionals all over Nepal.

Let me start by sharing my personal reflection. Initially, the theme of the conference didn’t really create any interest in my mind. However, after attending the plenary sessions by Professor Stephen Stoynoff (US), Professor Keith Morrow (UK), and Professor Z.N. Patil (India), and pondering over what they presented and shared, I realized the gravity of the issues related with testing and assessment in our context.

For far too long, and for the worst, we have snubbed our learners and students based on the results of one-off examinations. We, both teachers and parents, have robbed them of their true potential and pushed them into the dark ‘You’re a failure’ zone. I have always thought that our assessment system had holes all over it, but now it seems to me that it is a total disaster. For years, the primary objective of our traditional assessment system has been about how to make students pass the tests (or how to make them fail the tests), instead of how to make them literate, proficient, and talented.

Our teachers may have changed with time, our students too – but the curriculum and assessment system has not changed at all. It is still ‘old’ and terribly traditional, and it constantly victimizes numerous learners and students. Out of fear and pressure, students study only to pass the test, unfortunately, not to be educated. And, as one of our writers has said on this blog, this is the tragedy!

So, this is what I’ve decided. The next time I enter the classroom, I will not judge any student based on their performance on the exams. This is one idea that I’m going to take from the conference into my classroom. And specifically, I will never hold any biased or indifferent attitude toward ‘low-scorers’ or ‘under-achievers’ because now I can understand and empathize with their struggles, motivation (or lack of it) and various external reasons which are somehow the spiraling repercussion of a very ‘poor’ assessment system.

I might have painted a very bleak picture of assessment and its objectives but it’s time to get real and it’s time to act. We must act, individually and collaboratively, and raise enough strength to wipe out the damaging consequences of one-off assessments, like the SLC exam. Prof. Stoynoff quoted Bob Dylan and said, “Times, They Are a-Changing” and indeed, the concept of assessment and its purpose is changing. The change, however, must be towards viewing assessment through sociocultural perspective and the change must be towards teachers and authorities taking more responsibility.

Having said that, here I present the blog entries of this special issue.

Besides the conference related posts, we have also included Gopal Prashad Bashyal’s experience of attending a BELTA Conference held in Dhaka of Bangladesh. Also adding some variety, former and current Choutari editors, Shyam Sharma and Uttam Gaulee,  have collaboratively written a reflection on a recent Choutari meeting. And, finally, to go along with the reports, reflections, and essays, we have also included a photo-highlight of both phases of Nelta conference.

Table of Contents

  1. Professor Stephen Stoynoff’s Keynote Speech: Ganga Ram Gautam
  2. Nelta Conference – Hetauda Phase: A Short Report: Narayan Prasad Tiwari
  3. Interactive Language Fair with Photo Feature: Laxman Gnawali
  4. What Does ‘Authentic’ Assessment Mean?: Mabindra Regmi
  5. A Presenter’s Reflection on Nelta Conference: Prema Bhusal
  6. A Report on plenary “Do We Still Need Dictionaries?” led by Dr. Elaine Higgleton: Suman Laudari
  7. Learning from the self and others: Gopal Prashad Bashyal
  8. What Are You Taking Into the Classroom? Conference Experience: Santona Neupane
  9. A Workshop on Language Testing and Assessment – A Reflection : Ganesh Datt Bhatta
  10. Before the Sun Rises – A Reflection on a Recent Choutari Meeting: Shyam Sharma & Uttam Gaulee
  11. Photo Highlights – 19th Nelta International Conference: Umes Shrestha

After going through the blog entries, please post your comments and feedback, and help us experience an enriched professional communication.

And, please don’t forget to join our new initiative – Choutari Mentorship Project. Some of our colleagues have already started benefiting from this project. We sincerely thank all participating mentors and mentees. You can also watch a short video by Uttam Gaulee explaining the purpose of this project here. This video was part of a presentation in the 19th International Conference of NELTA in Kathmandu.

As usual, please like us on our Facebook page, encourage writers by liking their posts, leave comments, share what you like on your network, and contribute your own blog posts for future issues.

umes

Umes Shrestha
Editor for March Issue
Email: umes.shrestha@gmail.com

Welcome to NeltaChoutari: February 2014

Editorial

Choutari Mentorship for Emerging Writers 

Uttam Gaulee

(with Praveen, Santona, and Sagun)

Along with my fellow editors for February, I am honored to greet our Choutari audience with the first issue on behalf of the expanded team of editors (added a new member again this month–see his bio below). When it comes to professional networking and contributing to a network, bigger is better! Let me start by saying that I am excited because I believe that our big new team will serve you even better ELT khurak in the days to come. Thank you for being here!

As you may have noticed, the quality of materials that we have been publishing has (naturally) varied, and this is because we have not yet implemented a rigorous enough peer-review mechanism. To be realistic, we won’t implement anything like what conventional journals do–and indeed, we don’t want to. A blogzine needs to remain flexible, as well as doable within the limits of the monthly cycles and our volunteer work. However, starting this month, we will be implementing some wonderful new ideas. And we need your support as writers and mentors (if you are able to the give a little time to help the Nepalese ELT community).

Just to give you a sense about what happens in Choutari before the sun rises every beginning of the month, both the editors and the respective authors generally engage in a conversation for reviewing and editing process. More than half of the entries published here required not only substantial feedback and comments but also guidance on proper language pitch and cohesion. The team has been providing such supports to the contributors by connecting them with the team members and the experts beyond the team.

The concept of supporting the emerging writers to bring an impact in the long run was further refined when I joined the team and pitched my idea. To put it in another way, behind the monthly issues of the blogzine ‘NeltaChoutari’ is a great community, and that community is characterized by intellectually invigorating discussions, collaborative work for collecting and producing quality materials, and efforts to support and mentor emerging writers in the Nepalese ELT community.  It led to the new initiative Choutari Mentorship Project (CMP), which I would like to formally announce through this editorial. The links to mentor and mentee survey forms are provided at the footnote section of this blog post. Thank you in advance for your response.

The CMP is an attempt to make the process of mentoring more organized, more broad-based, and more productive. From our own experience, we editors have realised that the concept is very powerful and could help support the larger audience toward improving their writing skills (specifically) and engagement in professional conversation through networking (more generally). The project is also an attempt to make visible what goes behind among a friendly and informal group of active and productive scholars. We are directed by a strong belief that having a mentor tremendously increases possibilities of ‘growing’ as a successful writer. Thus, we are developing a simple mechanism for tapping into the expertise and encouragement of a more experienced colleague for anyone who wants to contribute to Choutari.

Going through the process mentioned above, I along with my fellow editors for February have come up with a variety of good materials for this month. In the light of her own personal upbringing as a female in Nepalese society and then in the academia, Sweta Baniya discusses the social constructions of gender and gender roles. In her post, titled “Gender through Socio-behavioural and Academic Perspective,” she presents gender identity through social and intellectual lenses. She also appeals the audience to share their views and thoughts about gender and gender role particularly in the context of ELT and their professions in general.

In the second entry, Using Corpora in English Language Teaching, Hima Rawal argues that using corpora could be one of the most efficient ways to teach language. Inviting English language teachers, textbook writers and researchers to use corpora to add value to their works, she presents some of the most prevalent corpora in the field of ELT, briefly discussing how to use them in the ELT classroom.

Based on the personal experience, the third entry (Storytelling for Learning Language with Fun) by our colleague Santona Neupane argues that we should tap into the power of storytelling to improve and develop language skills and creative thinking while making lessons fun and engaging for our students.

The fourth blog entry contributed by Pramod Kumar Sah is a continuity and response to highly thought-provoking ideas presented by Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma and Shyam Sharma in the post titled Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up written last month. The entry had presented a broad and powerful proposal for reinvention of Nepalese ELT from the ground up. Shah’s entry takes their ideas one step further by situating them in the context of classroom, textbooks, and such other specifics of ELT practice in Nepal today.

The fifth entry titled Five Books That ‘Changed’ My Life is our Choutari colleague Umes Shrestha’s unique initiative for Choutari to offer the audience not only a list of inspirational books but also how they contributed in changing someone’s life. For the same, Hem Raj Kafle shares with the readers how the five books that he read have shaped his writing and added value to his life and career.  It is an insightful account of his personal journey growing as a scholar, a writer, and a critical thinker.

In the final entry, An Access Teacher’s Reflection on ELT Training, Mandira Adhikari, a teacher from Microscholarship English Access project implemented by NELTA in partnership with the US Department of State/US Embassy Kathmandu reflects on a two-day training and how the series of training sessions delivered have been effective for her classroom.

As usual, here is the full list of ELT khuraks for the month of February:

  1. Gender through Socio-behavioural and Academic Perspectives, by Sweta Baniya
  2. Using Corpora in English Language Teaching, by Hima Rawal
  3. Storytelling for Learning Language with Fun, by Santona Neupane
  4. Need of Evolution: Continuing the Discourse-to-Practice for Local ELT Practices in Nepal, by Pramod Kumar Sah
  5. Five Books That ‘Changed’ My Life, by Hem Raj Kafle
  6. An Access Teacher’s Reflection on ELT Training, by Mandira Adhikari

We invite you to join the conversation again by sharing your responses as comments under any posts, by liking and sharing them with your network, by contributing your own posts for future issues, and by encouraging other colleagues to do the same.

Uttam Gaulee

Editor

– – – – – –

If you’d like to be a part of the Choutari Mentoring Project, please take the survey(s) below.

Mentors: If you would like to help out other writers, please share a few things about that interest through this survey.

Writers: If you’d like to be connected to experienced mentors for improving your blog posts for Choutari, please let us know a few things through this survey.

Nelta Choutari: Fifth Anniversary Issue 2014

Editorial

Choutari Editors

It is said that five years is a century in internet time! But this is not always true in every country and context. Due to never-ending political gridlock, our society is not making the type of progress that the discourse of the internet assumes. We have slightly better bandwidth for internet access itself today than we had five years ago; but we don’t have better environments for academic and professional progress today than we did when monarchy was replaced by an interim constitution toward the transition to full democracy.

However–and this is a big however–we are also defined by who we envision we can be, who we strive to be, where we want to reach in another five or ten years. In spite of the hurdles in our social, political, and economic lives, we should do what we can to connect more members of our community, to engage them, and to provide opportunities for professional development. Accordingly, at Choutari, we are trying our best to engage our community in professional discourse here at home and around the world. We believe that if we desire, we can turn our conversations into useful resource for our professional work and our professional development.

Those of us who are running NeltaChoutari are optimistic. We believe that in spite of all the challenges in our society, we can and should give back our best to our profession and community. We want to serve as a bridge between a generation of scholars and teachers who have built our professional community from scratch. We also want to be a vehicle of transformation by creating a venue where the ideas and experiences of our professional colleagues across the country can be shared. We are dedicated to the idea that small acts for helping to transmit knowledge, skills and resources between scholarship and classrooms, trainings and publications, and conversations offline and online can make a huge impact in our field.

Our readers don’t need to be told that blogging is a powerful means of professional development. We believe that Choutari is perhaps the first and the most popular blog in the country; but our mission is to promote blogging and other emerging modes of professional conversations among individuals and groups who are seeking to share their voices. We are also eager to help promote the professional activities–training and conferences, local events and conversations, and other professional updates–across the country. We encourage our colleagues to share any professional updates through Choutari.

Choutari is also a place for mentorship. We do not just accept and reject submissions when our colleagues want to share their ideas through Choutari; we try to provide resources/guidelines (please see “join the conversation” tab), and we try our best to help the writers on a one-to-one basis through a review process as best as we can.

With the expansion of our team, we are truly excited and eager to serve the community even better than we have done so far. But for our efforts to be most fruitful, we need your support through promotion, contribution, and feedback.

Let us start another wonderful year together. Happy New Year, 2014 to all our readers, contributors, and well-wishers!!!

Here is a list of this special issue’s khuraks:

We urge you to join us again by sharing your responses as comments under any posts, by liking and sharing them, by contributing your own posts for future issues, and by encouraging other colleagues to do the same. 

Happy New Year 2014!

A Journey from Information to Transformation in ELT Professionalism

Bal Ram Adhikari

When we think about the beginning of a new year, we’re referring to the cycle of seasons changing for that many times on a particular calendar (in this case, the Gregorian calendar). In that sense, the marker of 2014 is a mere social construct. However, we do make milestones with passing years in our collective consciousness. At this blog magazine, as we bid farewell to the year 2013 and welcome the year 2014, we hope to invite many more of our professional colleagues under the shade of a tree that is growing taller and bigger and its platform widening farther. We invite you to a platform where we will strive to connect the global and local realities in ELT, to bring about positive changes in ourselves and in our field! As we make this leap, I would like to relate Choutari’s vision with relevant scholarship in our field. 

Expressing his discontent with the conventional trend of Applied Linguistics and thus appealing for transformation in the field, Pennycook (2004) proposed four types of responsibility on the part of the Applied Linguistic practitioners. They are ethical, political, intellectual, and social and cultural. In the paper entitled Restructuring Applied Linguistics for the Welfare of the Society (2012), we (Sajan Kumar and I) proposed the addition of the creative responsibility to Pennycook’s list. To escape these responsibilities is to fall into the trap of academic hypocrisies is the crux of Pennycook’s argument. The appealing element in Pennycook’s argument is his call for the transformation in the field without which one cannot fulfill the above mentioned professional responsibilities. We, teachers are supposed to bear all of these responsibilities and also many more. This calls for transformation, probably the most sought for and cherished concept in all fields, variously known as energy and transformation (Krishnamurti, 1972), quantum leap (Osho, 2001) in the field of philosophy, paradigm shift (Kuhn, 1962), New Physics (Capra, 1975) in the field of science.  Likewise, the field of language pedagogy is replete with such terms as the postmethod condition (Kumaravadivelu, 1994), innovation (Markeee, 1997), culture specific-pedagogy and so on to mean transformation. Whatever the terms employed, the essence underlying them is the call for revisiting the field in question and showing a live response to everyday practice in order to bring out the positive change. I’d like to relate the thread of transformation to Nepalese ELT and to extend the thread to the long-term goal of our Choutari.

Our goal is transformation. The appeal for transformation lies at the heart of all post-realities (i.e. poststructuralism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, postcommunism,  postmethod pedagogy and so on).  I believe that the craving for transformation in various academic disciplines has its origin in the notion of the paradigm shift as hypothesized by American philosopher and historian of science Thomas S. Kuhn in his seminal work The Structures of Scientific Revolutions (1962), and the Derridan notion of deconstruction (1967). The post-realities   bubbled to the surface most vigorously in the 1990s. We can speculate on a multitude of causes.  I leave them untouched here for the constraint of the space and the nature of this writing.  However, I cannot help mentioning the dismantling of Berlin Wall on 9th of November, 1989, and the collapse of the USSR in 1991. These two vital political events opened the window to the free world, “one where every human being would be free to realize his or her potential” (Friedman, 2006, p. 607).  These events were coincided with the end of the Panchayat era resulting in the re-establishment of democracy in Nepal in 1990. English language teaching as a globally booming profession could not remain untouched from these changes and new realities in academic and political fields at home and abroad.  The 1990s is also remarkable for the booming of ‘the dot.com market’,  to use Friedman’s term, that revolutionized the field of ELT in many respects. The field of ELT was in a desperate search for alternatives in its theories, principles, methodologies, resources and assessment.  Such a search is evident in Pennycook’s (1990) Towards a critical applied linguistics for the 1990s, Phillipson’s (1992) Linguistic imperialism, Kumaravadivelu’s (1994) Postmethod condition, to mention only a few. These post-thoughts entered the English teachers’ courses. The hope was to bring about transformation in the existing theory and practice. The existing ELT courses in Nepal too were restructured to introduce these critical and alternative perspectives to Nepalese English teaching.  Transformation in the profession echoed in the academic air blowing within and across the Tribhuvan University premises. The courses and coursebooks appeared bearing such transformation-loaded titles as New Generation English, Expanding Horizons in English, Advanced ELT, New Directions in Applied Linguistics, New Paradigm, Reading Beyond the Borders, Across Languages and Cultures and many others. Some changes in the perspective on the profession are hazily perceptible in the distance. However, to believe that transformation would be on the way on its own after introducing recent information available in the field is but our naivety.  There can be no quantum leap from information to transformation. The journey is long and on the way lie knowledge, wisdom and discretion, and application.

Though related, information and knowledge are not identical. Information is just an object that can be collected from multiple sources.  In our case, we are working with borrowed information from ELT books and articles produced in different contexts and for different purposes. No harm is there in the accumulation of information. Access to information is prerequisite for knowledge. However, such borrowed information has to be balanced against the information that has emerged from the regional/national and local experiences.  All courses prescribed to prospective teachers in Nepal are flooded with the imported information devoid of local contexts.  Courses like English Grammar for Teachers, i.e. a course on pedagogical grammar for English teachers, contain no trace of anything from the Nepalese context. It gives the impression that Tribhuvan University in its many decades of teaching English has not yet produced any expertise in the field of pedagogical grammar.  Or, it can also suggest that whatever the teacher educators have produced out of their decades of teaching experience and years of research in the field is either ignored or does not deserve to be transferred to the next generation. Several embarrassing examples can be put forward in the case of other courses too.

Most teacher educators have hardly produced any knowledge to communicate their experience and expertise. They seem to be contented with the accumulation of information from the ‘authentic sources’ and many professors have earned their professorships and wasted their students lives, a  sad fact I’d call it, by confining themselves to the information stage. Information is only a raw material for knowledge and the process of knowing.  It’s the means not the goal. Its function is to inform the seeker of something. Information is not experiential nor is it truly existential. It is only a map for the journey, not the journey itself. Unless the seeker embarks on the journey, s/he is in no way to ‘know’ the actual path and in no way to feel the pain and pleasure of journey. Information becomes knowledge only when it enters the conscious realm of the subject (knower/seeker and doer).  My being in the university as a student for one decade and as a teacher educator for seven years as well, and my formal/ information discourse with the scholars give me the impression that many of the university teachers are swayed by the false notion that the accumulation of a wealth of information will necessarily lead them to transformation i.e. the goal desired or the destination aimed at.    The Choutari team is and should be aware of this misconception. However, we are not denying the value of information collection and generation. For this, the two types of information are made available at this platform:  information generated by the practitioners, and information that we signpost the readers via the resources of the month. Our prime focus is on the generation of information rooted in our existential and experiential zones. The Choutari has served as an ever-flattening platform for the signposting and accumulation of information on teaching and learning English at home and around the globe. A word of warning, never should we be contented with the information available in the Tree that stands high at the centre of the Choutari.  The visitors to this platform have to climb the Tree itself  to  taste and test the information according to their desires and needs. The information that we have produced at and via this platform is likely to turn into knowledge only when it is humanized, only when it enters the experiential and existential zones of the seeker.

Knowledge functions in the realm of logic. Logic is syntax and the most preferred property in grammatical  and mathematical analysis. Each language classroom has its own rhetoric and silence too. The rhetoric of the classroom often struggles to move away from the syntax imposed from the ready-made methods, techniques, and conventional expectations of experts or supervisors. Thus I think it would be naïve of us to expect the teachers to stick to certain methods, techniques, and the steps mentioned in their lesson plans and follow them mechanically. It is because of this, many well-documented lesson plans or well-articulated methods fail in the ELT classrooms. The undue inclination to logic might mar creativity and liberty in the teaching learning process. Logic can be cunning. It can prove something  theoretically sound and appealing which might be pragmatically harmful. The taboo of the mother tongue use in English classes as promoted by private schools in Nepal can be a case in point. Practically, the strategic use of the mother tongue or the use of translation as one of the several techniques in the English class has more benefits than harms. Communicative competence is another myth that has been ‘Holy Writ’ for we information-collecting ‘intellectuals’. We are hardly aware of the fact that all the models of communicative competence proposed so far suffer the poverty of knowledge component (Adhikari, 2013). Hence, the Choutari aims at awakening the ELT practitioners to such theoretical taboos and myths that have stood as barriers to successful teaching in their specific contexts. We want them to experiment with their own strategies and share their experience with their fellow beings. Failure of certain methods or techniques borrowed from outside does not mean that we have failed. This means now we need to turn inward for our own sight which we call insight and intuition. It means it is also the time to “move from intellect to intuition, from the head to the heart” (Osho, 2001, p. 98) in our teaching.

The Choutari platform welcomes informal writing, spontaneous and ‘non-academic writing’ from ELT practitioners, for we value intuition and insight of those who are directly facing challenges in the actual field of ELT.  When out-tuition (teaching from outside) fails, we need to turn to intuition. The mystic teacher Osho, once university professor of philosophy, has brilliantly put it as ” You know the word tuition– tuition comes from outside, somebody teaches you, the tutor. Intuition means  something that arises within your being; it is your potential, that’s why it is called intuition (2001, p.13).   Learning by intuition is a lifelong process. It’s integral to our professional development too. Intuition ruptures the body of knowledge that we have accumulated in the formal setting and paves a way to the process of knowing. The Choutari as always welcomes the insights from the practitioners and share their insights with each other. However, someone’s intuition is mere information when it is communicated with others. We can inform others of our intuition but cannot transfer and infuse into them. Intuition is all experiential and existential at the individual level. It calls for self-reflection, inward journey in our professional life and also the ability to distance our mind from the pile of information gathered from multiple sources.  The fusion of knowledge with intuition and insight bears the flower of wisdom and discretion.  Then only we can go for application.

I believe that such a theoretically informed and intuitively aware application of theories, methods, techniques and activities might bring about  transformation in our professional life. This journey from information to transformation, though looks a seemingly longer one, might usher us in the landscape of post-method pedagogy as envisioned by Kumaravadivelu.

In passing,

Let the branches of the bodhi tree

Planted at heart of NELTA Choutari

Spread farther and wider, and rise higher and higher

Let all the wayfarers of ELT come and rest

Under its cool canopy with novel zeal and vigor.

May they move from the mere accumulation of information

To the higher goal of transformation.

Happy New Year, 2014

References

Adhikari, B. R. (2013). Restructuring communicative competence from the perspective of translation competence. A paper presented at 34th annual conference of LSN, Nepal Academy.

Capra, F. (1976). The Tao of physics. London: Flamingo.

Friedman, T. L (2006). The world is flat. England: Penguin.

Krishnamurti, J. (1972). Tradition and revolution. India: KFI.

Kumar, S. & Adhikari, B. R. (2013). Where does applied linguistics truly lie in the architecture of Nepalese Academy: Restructuring the discipline for the welfare of the society. A paper presented at the opening seminar of Nepalese Association for Applied Linguistics, Kirtipur.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition:(E) merging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. Tesol Quarterly28(1), 27-48.

Markee, N. (1997). Managing curricular innovation. Cambridge: CUP.

Osho (2001).  Intuition: Knowing beyond logic. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Pennycook, A. (2004). Critical applied linguistics. In Davies, A. &  C. Elder(2004) The handbook of applied linguistics. Blackwell: Australia.

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