Enhancing project-works in EFL class

Samira Idelcadi

Scene setting

Project work offers the possibility to enhance not only students’ language skills but also students’ life skills. In spite of its importance, it is often seen as an “extra- curricular” activity in EFL class and Most of the time, it is not monitored and rarely assessed. Project work however can help students acquire project management skills as well as language skills. This article offers a practical way of integrating project work in the EFL class. It discusses the importance of project work, ideas to help students in their projects and assessment of project works.

What is project work?

Project work is a dynamic way of motivating students to use the target language while working on topics of their interests. Project work allows for both language and content integration. It is student- centered, experiential and usually connected to real-life (Stoller, 2002). Moreover, working on projects strengthens students’ collaboration skills to carry out their projects and presentation skills, while presenting the work. Additionally, project work offers opportunity for “authentic integration” of the four skills studied. Moreover, conducting projects offers opportunities to hone students’ creativity, communication, and critical thinking. These are important life skills for students in this era.

Why is it important to integrate project work in class?

Project work can affect students’ learning in different ways:

  • Motivation: Project work increases students’ motivation to learn and willingness to participate in class activities.
  • Collaboration: Students learn how to collaborate together and work in teams. When projects are collaborative, students have ample time to learn from each other.
  • Project design, implementation and evaluation: Students learn how to plan, implement and evaluate projects; these skills will help them prepare for their academic life and future careers
  • Conflict –resolution: While working on class projects conflicts might arise. A group project is then the best opportunity to learn how to tolerate different viewpoints.
  • Voice and Autonomy: projects provide opportunities for students’ voice, choice and autonomous learning.
  • Creative / Critical thinking: Working on projects can help students acquire creative and critical thinking skills. Creativity can be enhanced as students tap on their talents and use their artistic skills to bring a beautiful touch to their final product.
  • Skill integration: Project-work is an opportunity for integrating of the four skills taught as well as boosting students’ life skills.

How to integrate projects in EFL class?

Project work could be easily integrated in the EFL class if projects are considered as part of learning process. Projects are not only an ‘extra activity’ or ‘filler’ at the end of a module or unit but it’s a process for honing both language skills and life skills. Projects could be planned at the beginning of a unit/module of work inviting students to work on a project at the end of unit, which culminates all the learning from the unit. For example, students may be told they will be making a poster about their favourite city, giving a presentation or making a video on the theme of the unit. In this way, students might pay more attention to the unit contents knowing that they will be required to work on a project at the end. They might start researching the topic of the unit. This will increase their motivation to learn because they will expect that they will be required to use what they learnt for their end of the unit project. Moreover, projects can be adapted to all levels and students are free to choose the presentation of their work. Lower level students can work on projects such as: make a short poster about my family tree, for intermediate or advanced they can work on projects such as: make a presentation on oil spill in the ocean.

How/when to plan project in EFL class?

Using different simplified project planning templates might help students plan their projects better. A template might include: (a) title of the project, (b) a short summary of the project (c) objectives (d) end product (e) presentation style (f) evaluation procedures. Project planning templates can vary depending on level, type of project (individual or collaborative) and familiarity of project work to students and time frame. Preparing a short presentation might necessitate less time than making a poster or a video and vice versa. If the time isn’t relevant and a frame is not set for the project, students might lose interest in the project. For instance, scheduling the project presentations during examinations isn’t a good idea as the students will be more preoccupied by their exams. So it should be avoided. Meanwhile, the project portfolios can also be considered as an alternative form of assessment.

Fried-Booth (1986), in their work ‘Project Work’ states three stages while planning projects:

  • Classroom planning
  • Conducting projects
  • Monitoring and Evaluating projects

On the other hand, Alan and Stoller (2005) provide a ten step procedure for project planning:

Step 1- The teacher and students decide on a project theme or idea.

Step 2- The teacher and students decide on the final product / outcomes of the project

Step 3- The students starts planning their project with the help of the teacher, they decide on different tasks and assign roles

Steps 4 – Students gather information, collect data, analyze, select and compile their work. They meet, discuss, negotiate and decide on a final work to be presented. They choose presenters and rehearse their presentations.

Step 5 – Students present their work

Step 6 – Students get feedback from their peers and self-assess their own work (using a simple grid). The teacher can also design a grid to evaluate students’ work.

Based on the work of Fried- Booth (1986), Alan and Stoller (2005) and also Ribe and Vidal (1993), students projects can be planned as follows:

Stages Activities
1. Classroom planning The teacher and students decide on the theme of their projects, which are related to their units/lessons. Or students might also choose their own themes. The teacher decides on language needs, life skills targeted and helps students develop them, while they plan their projects and decide on roles, responsibilities and divide tasks.
2. Conducting projects         Students carry out their projects, conduct research with clear role/task division. For instance, while a student is a ‘time-manager’ others may be ‘project-leader’ and can agree when to meet to discuss the project. Tasks can vary depending on students’ abilities. Some might be responsible for compiling the work and finalise the design. Others might think of possible ways to present their work. Meanwhile, some  can be assigned roles to document the process (taking pictures for e.g of the group work)
3. Project presentation The agreed final product dictates the possible forms of presentation. If it’s a video or presentation, each group can present their work and then get feedback from their peers/teacher. If it’s a poster, their projects can be displayed on the walls of the classroom and each group stands close to their poster and can talk about it. Or students can walk around and evaluate the posters.
4. Evaluating projects A-    Monitoring the work

To monitor students work, teacher can ask group representative or project leaders to update class on their projects, challenges being faced and any support required.

B-    Evaluation the project

Project evaluation can be done first through peer –evaluation (see template) and then through self- reflection, where students are invited to reflect on the whole process and share the learning. The teacher can also evaluate the group work and assign grades if it’s considered as a form of assessment

How to evaluate project works?

Rubrics are an easy way to evaluate projects, these can be either designed by the teacher and students on their own or adapt through rubistar.org. Project evaluation is as important as planning and presentation stage. Students will learn how to assess their work by self and peers. They will also learn how to reflect on their own work and learn from each other. The teacher will gain insights on students learning. Another important point about evaluation is that students can learn to set their own learning goals and then assess by self how far they have achieved them. For lower levels, a way of assessing learning can be as simple as asking students to draw a smiley face (J L ) to illustrate their project work experience. For higher levels, the teacher can use either a rubric or simply invite students to reflect on the learning process through reflection questions.

Sample self-reflection questions:

  1. What did you learn while working on this project?
  2. What did you learn while working in group?
  3. What difficulties have you encountered?
  4. If you want to make your project better? What would you change?

 

APPENDIXES

APPENDIX: A- Sample project planning template

Project title: 

Expected outcome/ product :  

Name of the group:

Students name :

Project date completion: 

Summary of our project
 

Steps / process / roles

Steps
Tasks: What will our group do?
Who is responsible? (name of student(s)
Date of completion
Step 1
     
Step 2
     
Step 3
     
Step 4
     
Step ….
     

Resources needed

 

 Mode of presentation

 

 APPENDIX: B Sample project evaluation rubrics

Sample rubric for project (peer) evaluation (group presentations)

C =  NEED MORE WORK B = Good A= Excellent
  C B A
Content The information is not clear at all.

There aren’t  enough  details about the topic

The information is not always clear

There  is only some details about the topic

The information is clear, concise

There are enough details about the topic.

Organization The audience can’t  follow

There is no introduction, and a conclusion

Poor  time management

The audience can follow most of the parts.

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Good  time management

The audience can easily follow

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Excellent time management

Presentation The presenter(s) do not keep eye contact; they only stick to notes/slides.

Use too many gestures/ move a lot

Do not speak clearly

Don’t look confident enough

The presenter(s) keep eye contact most of the time

Use natural gestures / sometimes move a lot.

Speak less clearly

Look  less confident

 

The presenter(s) keep eye contact

Use natural gestures

Speak clearly

Look confident

 

Team Work Very few group members participate / have a role

Group do not seem to get along well

Team members were not able to answer the questions of the audience

Few of  the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members  are able to answer some questions of the audience

All the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members are able to answer all audience questions

APPENDIX: C- Sample Rubric for Oral presentation (individual):

Student name: ……………………………………………………………

Category 4 3 2 1
Content Shows full understanding of the topic Shows a good understanding of the topic Shows a good understanding of parts of the topic Doesn’t  seem to understand the topic very well
Preparedness Student is completely prepared and has rehearsed Student seems pretty prepared but might have needed more rehearsals The student is somewhat prepared but it is clear that rehearsal was lacking Student does not seem prepared at all to present
Posture and eye contact Stands up straight, looks relaxed and confident, establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during presentation Stands up straight and establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during presentation Sometimes stands up straight and establishes eye contact Slouches and/ or does not look at people during the presentation
Speaks Clearly Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, and mispronounce no words Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, but mispronounces one word Speaks clearly and distinctly most (94-85%) of the time. Mispronounce no more than one word Often mumbles or cannot be understood or mispronounces more than one word
Stays on Topic Stays on topic all (100%) of the time Stays on topic most (99-90%) of the time Stays on topic some (89%-75%) of the time It was hard to tell what the topic was

Made through:  http://rubistar.4teachers.org

References:

Alan, B & Stoller, F. (2005). Maximising the benefits of project work in foreign language classrooms. Teaching English forum, 43(4). 10-21.

Fried-Booth, D. (1986). Project work. New York: Oxford University Press

Ribé, R., Vidal, N., & Macmillan Publishing Company. (1997). Project work: (Step by Step) Oxford: Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching

Stoller, F. (2002). Project Work : A means to promote language  and content. In J. Richards & W. Renandya (Eds), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice (Approaches and methods in language teaching, pp.107-120). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About the author: Samira Idelcadi is an ELT  supervisor in Tiznit Directorate (Morocco). She holds a Msc in Public services Policy and Management from Kings College London (2011). Her main interests are teacher professional learning, teacher leadership, educational change and educational policy.

The market study: An integrated approach

Prakriti Khanal

Scene setting:

Integrated curriculum or approach in teaching learning has been a buzz word and more and more schools are opting this approach. This article is an attempt of such applied method on the basis of my direct observation while working as a teacher in Rato Bangala School Lalitpur, Nepal. Therefore, it is an account of how teaching learning activities are organized in chronological order as integrated curriculum approach is applied in the classroom.

An integrated approach: What and why

Curriculum is mostly presented in a very direct and isolated form in most of the textbooks in schools. But many themes in those course books are interrelated and over lapping. When the contents are treated in isolation, the application becomes complex for the young minds. Further, it makes students memorize what is learnt only as the chapters of the textbook. Learning does not take place in a holistic mode. Most of the times, the children are not able to relate how their learning applies in the real world. In response, the integrated curriculum model is an approach which is sensitive to the students’ needs. This model places an emphasis on advance content knowledge, which relies on higher order thinking skills, and focuses learning on major issues that cross several disciplines (Van Tassel-Baska, 1987). This approach adds the practical way of ensuring their learning which becomes more meaningful through participation applying many strategies and levels of application.

The market study can be taken as a long-term project, a socioeconomic activity, which is closely related to the daily activities of our lives. This can be the pivotal around which many other themes and objectives of curriculum across the subjects can be integrated. Researches show that students in integrated programmes achieve better (or equal to) academic result than students in discipline-based programmes (Drake and Reid, 2010). Likewise, an integrated project such as market study creates a platform for students to learn English as a foreign language by using it meaningfully in various contexts. In this connection, Gibbons (2002) states that “integrated program takes a functional approach to language and places its teaching focus on language as the medium of learning, rather than on language as something separate from content” (pp. 119)

How does market study foster learning across disciplines?

To begin with, children are encouraged to answer a simple question like; how does food come on our plate? A thinking process begins in the mind of children to create a hypothesis around the question that is put up. Their thinking will be validated only with a research; valid ideas and areas that need to reform. This is mainly around the social studies theme but in other subjects what would be the areas to work and what can be introduced in the periphery of making it a holistic learning. Day-to-day things are happening simultaneously in different subject areas and themes that work for their learning.

Children in Mathematics class start with gamification (hands-on-activity, learning in playful environment). The students are given only a kind of block to build houses. They get to work in groups and design a house. Soon they realise that they need other blocks to construct and they find their solution in exchanging what they have with what they need. Therefore, students are introduced to the initial stages of a barter system and the beginning of trade in ancient times and gradually they are introduced to the system of using money for the trade. Children are given fake currencies to play and they practice selling and buying in the classroom to be more acquainted with the process of setting up a real market. This allows them to practice the conversation style during the market set up and be familiar with the terms used during buying and selling. At the next level, the concept of loan, buying and selling, added surplus and the profit is given.

Children are introduced to informal and formal letter writing. For the formal letter writing students write to the school administration for a loan. As Market setting is the main epitome of all the activities, a three day market is set for students to run and take firsthand experience of buying and selling and earning profit. The loan is sanctioned by the school principal, then the activities begin. To plan out, what should be in the market the students’ are brainstormed about the fruits and vegetables that should be kept. But to study what is in demand and customers are willing to buy, students go in other classrooms and ask what is preferred with the help of tally marks they are able to see and visualize directly on what to buy in large numbers.

Next, the students are taken for farm a trip (e.g. Thimi farm in Bhaktapur Nepal) at the nearest locality from the school. They observe two essential things following the hypothesis of (a) how food comes to our plate and (b) potential seller of the market set up. They interview farmers and gain more knowledge about farming, sowing, planting harvesting and getting the products to the market. Students get to observe the plants; some as sapling, some while flowering and some ripe or ripening before prepared for the market. They get familiar with the tools used in the farm, the manure and fertilizer used and they observe the hard work it takes for the food to be produced before it is bought from the market and prepared at home.

During the trip, students are taken to a wholesale market, e.g. Kalimati fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Kathmandu. They get to learn that the fruit and vegetables items are priced and sold. They observe that vegetables are weighed in different ways, sometimes in digital weighing machine and sometimes in the taraju (a traditional tool for weighing) and they learn the usage of different weights from 200 gm to 5 kilogram. Then their next trip would be at the retail market and to the supermarket. They inquire about the vegetables and fruit available there. They come to conclude that vegetables are not only brought in from the wholesale market but from other districts surrounding the valley (e.g. Kavre, Dhadhing, Nuwakot, and so on); and in supermarket few fruits are brought in from other countries as well. They make their observations on the packaging and the difference of prices between the wholesale market, retail market and supermarket. By now, students know that they buy at the wholesale and sell at a school set up at the retail prices.

In language arts lesson, the students write a creative article on a farmer’s life. They write slogans and make posters for the advertisement for their market. Students practise writing invitations to their market and give it across the other students from different classes in the school as they are customers. Posters are made with the label names of the fruit and vegetables, and their cost. Students get started with the making of paper bags of different sizes to pack their goods like potatoes and peanuts of different weights. For this they recycle the old newspapers and make the bags. They sit through the weighing in turns and each child is busy with this hands-on-activity. Customers are encouraged to come with cloth bags and the whole event is to be environment friendly.

In Nepali language, students enrich their vocabulary related to farming and farming tools used in Nepali context and surrounding. Whereas stories on farmers and farming can make all inclusive approach while students write their story on farmer in English Language.

It all starts with a prompt that leads many areas and solutions regarding different activities that come along the planning with real life implications. This method of involving the students helps them in the divergent thinking. During the three main days of the market, they carry out a number of tasks from becoming bagger, messenger, seller, record keeper and so on. All these tasks are assigned in rotation, and therefore, these responsibilities automatically become the work learning station and enhances their personal learning.

Challenges and benefits

The pros and cons of using integrated learning should be given a thought before any teacher decides to apply it in the classroom: (a) it can be quite overwhelming as it becomes a fair with almost every day some hands-on-activity throughout the term, (b) other subjects can be overshadowed, (c) there is not enough time to teach thoroughly in isolation, (d) some teachers are reluctant to change their timings and implement something that does not make a big unit in their subject matter and (e) scheduling and agreeing on array of ideas can be a challenging task.

However, the benefits of teaching with the integrated curriculum model allows teachers to focus on the basic skills needed to be taught along with the subject matter/content. It allows a deeper understanding of the content to be absorbed into the students’ experiences. It encourages teachers to make connections among various curricular disciplines and address a variety of learning styles and uses of combined abilities.

This method intrinsically motivates students to succeed in real life skills. It creates instances for the students to build their skills and strengthen it. The experience in a real life scenario allows them to inculcate the hands-on-activities to one main theme and enjoy the success. For instance, the everyday cashiers take the earning to the class and add it all up for all three days. They calculate their total amount and subtract the loan and return it to the school administration. From the rest of the profit they celebrate a snacks party and buy books for a community library. The earning of the profit gives them a boost of confidence.

They make bar graphs from the sale of vegetables, are taught the use of calculations, reflect back on their activities for the last few days and write different articles. The write-ups enable the teachers to grasp what was the impact of the activities. Students share their experiences showing to what extent the actual learning was taking place. Here are some good examples of reflective pieces that our students wrote as extracted from the school magazine named ‘Cornice’ published in different times.

 Some unplanned observation made by the students

  1. “ We decided to distribute jobs for all of us in the market to run market smoothly: labeler, advertiser, messenger, supervisors, hawkers and cleaners…To make sure that everybody got to do most of the jobs. We did the rotation in each shift (Cornice 11-12)
  2. “We saw the weirdest vegetable plant and it was an onion flowering plant. It looked like a dandelion plant…the farmers work very hard to earn money. The farmers plough the fields first, then sow the seeds, water the plants and take good care of it… how a plate of food comes to our dining table.” Cornice 15-16
  3. “We asked the price of cucumber, and we found out that they try to take so much profit from us.” Cornice 14-15
  4. “Well, on the last day (of market) we had bumper sale. The prices were decreased on that day…then we counted the money. It was Rs.91, 115/-. We returned the loan we had taken from our principal madam. We now had Rs.31115/-left…” Cornice 14-15

Conclusion

To conclude, at the end of market study, students will be able to reflect on what they have done in each level through their active participation with the hands-on material. They will have rich experience of activities. Many researches now support that the process and activities take to deeper processing of the information and analysing rather than reproducing the information as in most of our schools. This approach allows students to be active in constructive conversation as a part of the process. It further enables them to enliven the event and develop their communication skills. At many levels, this helps to make it a holistic approach.

References:

Drake, S. M. & Reid, J. (2010). Integrated curriculum: Increasing relevance while

maintaining accountability. What Works? Research into practice. Toronto: Ontario

Ministry of Education.

Gibbons, P. (2002). Learning language, learning through language, and learning about language: developing an integrated curriculum. Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Ch. 7, pp. 118-139

Vantassel-Baska J. (2015) The Integrated Curriculum Model. In: Vidergor H.E., Harris C.R. (eds) Applied practice for educators of gifted and able Learners. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam,169-197.

The author:

Prakriti Khanal completed Bahelor of Arts from Sophia Girls College, Ajmer, Rajasthan in 1999. She worked as an English and Social Studies teacher at Rato Bangala School from 2009 to 2017. Her area of contribution focuses on running reading corner for the primary level students. She has conducted workshops with ECED.

Experiential learning experience of a preschool

Midesh Maharjan

We learned from our past experience that teaching language in isolation as a subject does not actually help learners understand meaning in context. This learning motivated us, while working in team of a pre-school in Kathmandu to design and implement integrated curriculum aiming to address the need of 3-6 years old children for their language as well as social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development. This article presents some examples of our successful lessons.

I’ve been working as a director of a preschool located in Kathmandu since 2017. During my work in the school, I always encourage the school family to apply integrated approach to teaching preschoolers. Similarly, I encourage them to let preschoolers learn through their own experience. While doing so, we focus more on students’ language development, both Nepali and English. Our experiential integrated learning environment provides students with wider opportunities to use the language freely and in context. Here are some sample lessons practiced in my preschool:

Sample Thematic Unit 1

In the month of June, we start with our thematic unit- Plants. Students learn about the paddy plant from sowing to harvesting throughout this unit. We follow the following steps in the whole process:

  1. Growing seedlings: The school team work in the field and get the seedlings ready beforehand. Seedlings are prepared in a separate nursery area and children are told that the seedlings grow around two months before they are transplanted in another wet field. Children observe the adults working in the field and keep a journal about this step in their separate journal book. Then they draw and colour pictures based on their observation.
  2. Preparation of beds: Tilling is done and the field is ready before preschoolers go there to work. In this step students, under adult supervision, use tools to smooth the wet beds. During the whole process, conversation takes place a lot (among students and between students and teachers) about the tools, e.g. names of the tools and how to use them and also about the process of bed preparation. Back in the classroom students write their journal “Ropai” explaining about the tools, measurement they’ve made, amount of seeds used, etc. and their experiences as well as feelings.
  3. Transplantation: Transplantation is the process of transferring seedlings from seedbeds to the wet field. All the teachers and students together transplant the seedlings in the field on the Paddy Plantation Day which falls on 15th of Ashad (tentatively last of June) according to Nepali calendar. They sing the traditional folk songs while planting. These songs are practiced in the classroom before the plantation day.
  4. Field Maintenance: Students observe school staff maintaining the field that generally includes managing water and nutrients that the plants require and separating the weeds from the plants to help them grow better.
  5. Harvesting: School team including the students together collect the mature rice crops from the field. Harvesting activity generally includes cutting the mature crops, stacking, threshing, cleaning and hauling. Children learn how carefully rice is protected from getting damaged so that the quantity of good quality rice is maximized.

In each step, students keep their journal and teachers discuss on the process on a regular basis. After the whole process, they will have beaten rice prepared from the plants they sowed and celebrate their success eating the beaten rice with curry together as snacks.

Sample Thematic Unit 2

Community Study: we take our students to visit different places around the school. This includes visiting local vegetable market, visiting a temple and interviewing of senior people about the history of the place. Every time they have a trip, children draw a map that tells them how one reach from the school to the visiting destination; this helps them learn drawing and mapping skills. They make tally marks on the way to the destination, they count vehicles and back in the school they prepare the pictograph of the vehicles they see. This helps them understand mathematical concept of chart and graphs. They draw the picture of the temple they visit and back in the preschool they make the model of temple in group. This helps them develop fine motor skills, spatial skills, ratio and proportion, and creative arts. During the interview with senior people of the communities, students make notes (write words or short sentence or draw relevant pictures). This helps them develop the listening skill, communicating skills and moreover they learn about the history of the place they live in. In addition to this, as students have better knowledge of the places in their surrounding, they develop stronger feeling about their community. On top of it, communication is the central during the whole process, as there is always a pre-trip as well as post trip discussions and also students talk among themselves during the trip itself.

Sample Thematic Unit 3

Students are taken on a day trip to the zoo under the of ‘Animals’. They have a pre-trip discussion about the animals they love, wild and domestic animals and about the animals that can fly, crawl, walk, run, etc. On the trip, they draw the picture of the animals they see and make short notes. Back in the school, they have a month long activities based on what they observe during the trip. The activities includes counting the animals, adding them, subtracting them, animal  model making, colouring their model, writing about the animals, uses of animals, categorizing them, etc. and all these activities are very interactive in nature.

We teach our students important life skills such as communication, problem solving, critical thinking and decision making through various interactive activities as mentioned above. Also we use appropriate stories and songs that are related to our theme. For instance children watch the video of children song ‘Let’s go to the zoo’ and practice singing themselves while we are dealing with animal theme. Similarly, we read aloud to them ‘The Little Island’ or ‘The Ant Cities’ while we are dealing with the theme of community. Thus, providing the preschoolers with wider opportunities to get exposure to English and Nepali language inside and outside the classroom. And this the crux of our integrated curriculum.

Conclusion

Integrated lessons in our preschool are designed in a way that facilitates learning both languages- English and Nepali by using them meaningfully in various contexts. The lessons we have developed are more process oriented, where children learn language by experiencing it while being engaged in various tasks related to different subject areas. Although English is used as a medium of instruction to teach senior preschoolers, children’s mother tongue is always preferred a language of transaction when we need to explain concepts of various disciplines.

About the Author:

Midesh Maharjan has been working as a teacher educator in Rato Bangala Foundation for 15 years. At present he is also a director at Innovative Preschool, Kritipur. He is a graduate of Primary Teachers Training Programme (PTTP) from Rato Bangala Foundation and Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) from Kathmadnu University in 2005.

Reflections on my teaching journey: Laxman Gnawali

Laxman Gnawali, PhD

I started my teaching career not by choice but by necessity. Hailing from a lower middle-class subsistence farmer’s family, I saw very few options to get the resources I needed to pursue higher education. With six younger siblings waiting for me back in my home village in the western hill district of Gulmi, my parents had it hard enough without me adding to their burden. In this context, I had managed to get my school-level education from a free Sanskrit school, in Ridi, Gulmi.

Back then, higher education was seen as a waste of time and money; families of that generation believed a better alternative was to go to India to find ‘good’ jobs there. However, the zeal was in me, and after finishing my schooling in Ridi, I landed in Butwal to attend Intermediate of Education (I Ed) at Butwal Multiple Campus. The fact that I had done my schooling in Sanskrit did not prevent me from dreaming to major in English.

You could say that I was naïve, not realizing that I belonged to a class that could not afford higher education. It sounds crazy now. But as they say, “Man proposes and God disposes,” so I got a scholarship from the Campus, enabling me to take the next steps on my path.

When I was in my second year I Ed, I ran out of money. I badly needed a job. I heard from one of my classmates that an education officer from Palpa district was looking for an English teacher for a school in a village called Masyam. The offer looked good to me, so I went to Masyam, Palpa.

Due to financial limitations of the school and my qualifications, I was given a primary teacher’s position but I had to teach students of grades eight to ten. To teach English in the secondary level with just an incomplete intermediate level of education was a real challenge, to say the least. But I did not give up.

In the beginning I simply did not know how to teach! To start with, I lacked even basic English skills. I couldn’t even speak the language. I could only read from the book and translate it to the students. I regularly came across words which were difficult for which I did not know the meanings. I remember, one day I was planning to teach a conversation that included a phrase mind your head. I knew what the word mind meant and what head meant but mind your head did not make any sense to me. I asked around but did not get any definite answer so I travelled to Palpa district headquarters, seeking an answer but I only met people just like me, so I came back without the meaning. The dictionary did not help either. It only gave the meaning of mind and head separately. It didn’t address British idioms. It was only after several years that I was able to find out what mind your head meant – it means “pay attention, don’t hit your head!”.

I confronted other stumbling blocks in my teaching career. In several instances, I did not always have the right answers to the questions given in the book. However, I learnt that being a teacher wasn’t just about being knowledgeable. I later found out that my students in Masyam School had reported to senior teachers that I was a ‘great’ teacher, because I was humble, always trying to help and trying to be friendly. This kind of motivated me to teach.

While my work at Masyam School greatly encouraged me in seriously thinking about a teaching career, I also knew that I was not going to teach there forever. I had firm plans for further education. Indeed, after a year of teaching at Masyam and attending college just to participate in the exams, I completed my Intermediate in Education.

Immediately after the results were published, I learnt that the very same Butwal Campus was launching a new Bachelor of Arts program. The program offered English major along with History and other subjects. I quickly enrolled myself in the program without thinking. However, financial problems reared its ugly head again. I didn’t have a current income source or adequate savings.

I asked Hari Mainali, one of my classmates and the then Principal of Butwal Elite English School, if his school needed an English teacher. And, because I was always regular, did my homework, interacted with the teachers, tried my best to learn, he was already impressed with me! At once I was appointed as an English teacher in his private school.

Butwal Elite English School was an interesting environment; everybody spoke English, teachers and students alike. While I had not developed that level of spoken proficiency, I had to try because that was the rule. I did try, worked hard, soon enough, I was an insider among the teaching staff. As a beginning teacher, the school had given me classes only in nursery, kindergarten and Grade one. However, I took this as a very good opportunity for me to start learning from the beginning.

Looking back now, I realize that I’d made numerous mistakes, not just with language but in the very way I taught. For example, I would get students to shout the names of fruits, vegetables etc. that I was teaching. It was the method I used to make them memorize words. I also made them copy everything from the books. I remember one instance of my pedagogy, which was after I was entrusted with grades two and three as well. I asked Grade three students to write an essay. To ensure that everyone wrote an essay on the given topic, I provided them with a model essay and every student was expected to reproduce the same essay! Most students did. I did this every time I taught them to write essays. Simply put, this was not teaching at all, but that was all I knew then.

And so time passed as I gradually got into the groove. And, the mistakes I made didn’t stop me from making a good impression among my seniors. And so, it came to be that the following year, I was promoted! Actually, the management asked me to start teaching in the higher classes.

This upward growth helped me iron out my shortcomings and learn new things as well. For example, I found out that independent reading was an exercise that immensely helped students. So, I had them read short stories and poems. And those who read more had better writing. It was then that I knew the value of extensive, independent reading.

The years passed and I continued teaching. Even then, not as a career but as a job in which I was just barely proficient. Whenever I moved from one place to another for my next level of studies, I taught in nearby schools. It was a convenient and always available option. However, when I was doing my MA in English Literature Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, the classes were run in the day time, so I could not study and work simultaneously. I decided to work outside of Kathmandu, in a public school and maintain my study without attending classes – I had to survive first.

I got a position in Dedithumka High School in Kavre district to teach English from grades six to 10. Lucky me, my students were curious and supportive. I experimented whatever I knew; I organized short skits, conversations, sometimes creative writing tasks etc. I taught grammar to the best of my knowledge in contextual ways. Students were happy but I was the one who was happier here. Finally, I was slowly learning the tricks of teaching.

After my Masters, I returned to my own village in Gulmi to teach English to Grade 11 students. Again this upward mobility gave me opportunities to try out new approaches. I could confidently practise what I had learnt with my new students. As with all things, it worked with some, didn’t work with others but overall, the feedback from my students showed that my lessons were well received.

My teaching life underwent a rapid change when I was appointed as a lecturer at Kathmandu University (KU) a year later, in 1993. I had moved to the capital for better opportunities. Newly married, and full of aspirations, I was looking for a proper university position to teach. I learnt through an acquaintance that KU, in its nascent stage then, was looking for an English teacher for its School of Science. I applied and was called to give a trial class. Prof. Abhi Subedi, my former teacher in my MA, observed my test lesson and decided to have faith in me. I was in.

Once in, I went through many experiments, some with pleasure, and more with frustrations. After all, I was somebody who had attended a Sanskrit school for his high school education, someone who had never, as a learner, been exposed to a proper English-speaking environment and well delivered lessons. And now I was trying to teach English to science students who had come from private English medium schools. Their English, particularly spoken, was far better than mine. At times I thought of quitting, I actually tried quitting, but somehow, I held on.

One incident particularly illustrates how much I yet had to learn: I was teaching Romeo and Juliet, a play by Shakespeare. We could have practised the conversations in the play, we could have even presented the drama itself. But instead, I tried to teach the play simply by explaining every line of the play, page after page! Only now I can imagine how traumatic my lessons must have been for my students. There were signs that they were not paying attention, and sometimes I could see clearly that they did not enjoy the lesson. I even took it as a discipline issue. It took a long time for me to understand that the problem was not in them but in me, my teaching process, my teaching, my methodology. I was attempting to teach a drama by explaining line by line, for the whole 60 minute class, every class, three days a week. Had I been the students, I would have quit, but fortunately, my students stayed in class.

Time did remain the same. I moved on, and I seemed to change my pedagogy as illustrated by the forthcoming example. After a couple of years, I had to teach The Day of the Triffids, a sci-fi piece, and Siddhartha, a spiritual novel. This time, while I still used the explanation technique, I made it more interactive. We would discuss the events, linking the elements in the stories to our own lives. Instead of reading and explaining every line, the class became an interaction session between me and the students. Perhaps, this change was responsible for a pleasant surprise I got later in the year. In the students’ magazine, I was voted the best teacher! Although I knew I was not the best teacher, it helped me realize that I was improving.

Later in 2002, after my second Masters from the UK with a scholarship from the A. S. Hornby Educational Trust , I was transferred to School of Education from School of Science because my UK degree specialized in Teacher Training for ELT. As we started the new semester, I felt at home, I clearly didn’t know why. Upon reflection now, I understand I had undergone two things. One, I had been exposed to an excellent teaching methodology at Marjon, Plymouth, with great faculties Tony Wright and Rod Bolitho. I had practised speaking English with native and non-native speakers during my stay there. I had returned with an improved know-how of English and pedagogy. Second, I was teaching postgraduate students how to teach English, something I had specialized in.

With my background and the teaching situation, I was in a good place. I had to demonstrate model lessons so I had to prepare at my best. I worked hard and I enjoyed. My lessons were well-received. I was established.

But the question remains ‘what exactly made my lessons better?’ By this time, I was on the other side of the continuum of teaching. I had stopped giving long lectures. When I had to explain something, I presented lecturettes, not lectures. My students read, shared, worked in groups, gave presentations, argued against each other, critiqued, and reviewed.

I knew that in higher education, particularly at the university level, we have adult students who will not enjoy listening to long lectures. They bring with them a lot of experiences, insights, and ideas. They will also want to participate in the discussions. I knew this so I helped them realize their potential. I feel that my haphazard teaching in early years, and successful experiments with PG diploma, Masters and M Phil level established me as a seasoned teacher. I have tried to exemplify what life has taught me — that a participatory way of teaching is the best way. My success inside the University has helped me to be invited to deliver sessions outside. Conference presentations at the NELTA and other forums in Nepal, as well as in several other countries in the world have become part and parcel of my life.

Like everyone, I too have my regrets and mistakes. I know I cannot travel back in time and undo them. From time to time, I remember the scenes of my lessons in Palpa, in Butwal, in my early years, my mistakes at the University.

However, it may have been that I had to make those mistakes to arrive where I am now.

About the author:

Dr. Laxman Gnawali is Professor of English Education at Kathmandu University School of Education, and Senior Vice President of NELTA.  He can be reached at lgnawali@gmail.com

Language course and methodology: An Innovation or a prescription?

Binod Singh Dhami

Introduction

I have been teaching ESL/EFL in different schools, colleges, and universities for about ten years. In this period, I mostly taught according to what was provided by schools; such as textbook, curriculum, and methodology mentioned in the syllabus. Particularly, schools prescribed the textbooks for my class, and I had to teach and was asked to get an excellent output from students. I did as per the school’s and college requirements, but I was not satisfied with my teaching. I felt like someone was choosing food for me. I wanted to quit teaching and do something different. At one point in time, I hated teaching the most, though teaching English was my dream job in my life. Later, I received teacher training courses and my identity shifted from teacher to teacher trainer. I got opportunities to facilitate training to English teachers from home and abroad. I designed training manuals, reviewed courses and made contextual changes, wrote and adapted materials to better deliver training. The responsibility of a course designer and course facilitator gave me immense pleasure in teaching and training. Recently, I am working as a teaching assistant and teaching English for Academic Purpose (EAP) courses at the University. When I look at my journey of ELT, an effective language teaching and effectiveness of my instruction resulted after I started to design ELT courses and implemented myself in the class. Autonomy is crucial for English teachers in selecting textbooks, methodology, and designing a course of study for their students. In this write-up, I walk through how autonomous Nepali English teachers are.

Prescription on course and methodology

Honestly speaking, teachers have been slaves as they are operated by someone else. The teachers never get a chance to discuss what they need in the classroom. The schools themselves in private schools and the government in government-aided schools prescribe books, and the teachers have to follow what they are asked to do. A few teachers get the expected outputs, but most of them fail. Somebody at the top level (i. e., expert) designs a course/textbook/curriculum for all the students in the nation, and the teachers are sent to classrooms with the course. The course/textbook designers neither consult concerned teachers nor do they go and study what the students need. They design the same course for all the locations from east to west and north to south without having proper knowledge of classroom contexts. Then, the problem comes when teachers use textbooks/courses in the class–the course books are prepared based on pedagogical philosophies or teaching methods. The teacher’s potentiality is spoiled through the activities mentioned in the books because teaching and learning are conducted according to the textbooks. In this respect, English teachers have been methodologically and organizationally slaves. Methodologically slaves in the sense that they teach English with the method that someone has developed for them, which may not be suitable for their classes. A technique/method that best works for one part of the world/classroom may not work or does not work at all for another part of the world/classroom. Therefore, it is the teacher who makes necessary changes in an established method and makes suitable for class, not the one out of the class (expert). Here, I am not questioning experts and established ELT methods, instead advocating for teacher autonomy. Similarly, teachers have been organizationally slaves because schools, colleges, and even the universities never discuss so that teachers know what they need. The organizations choose the textbooks and teachers are thrown in the classes. The question is, how do school administrations know what sort of books/courses a particular group of students need without consulting teachers and students.

Effective teaching and learning

English teachers should be given full autonomy to design, develop and disseminate ELT courses and materials for their classes. They are not only the implementers of what someone has designed but also course and method developers. Of course, all of the teachers cannot design the course for their students since they lack proper training and practice, but they must be trained in such a way that they can develop English language courses themselves or adapt textbooks and methodologies. Moreover, it is necessary to be satisfied with what is done in the classroom. How can teachers be happy and satisfied, if they cannot choose what they need in the classroom? Our students learn English from the early years of their schooling. At the end of the day, they cannot produce English. This is because the materials that they are exposed to are not appropriate to their level or/and interest. We have been teaching in the same way for years and years, and we say we are the experienced teachers. We never reflect on our teaching, for instance; how was my class? Did the textbook/materials, planning, and classroom management work today? Teachers find teaching boring because they are not given the responsibility to hand over all teaching and learning systems. Teachers should be trained to adapt to the materials/ textbooks. Textbook and method adaptation is a process in which the teachers evaluate textbooks and methods and do necessary changes according to what they need, and use in the classroom. All of the teachers must be trained so that they can adapt to the textbook, language course, and methods. Most importantly, teachers and students should be consulted while designing the curriculum, textbooks, and teaching methods. Similarly, teachers should also reflect on their teaching (content selection, content delivery, appropriacy of instructional activities) to contextualize teaching in the current classroom setting.

Conclusion

Unless teachers remain free from methodological and organizational slavery and they are given training, not only on how to teach but also on how to adapt teaching and teaching methods, it is difficult to see remarkable changes in students. Therefore, from an organization’s part, they should organize training for teachers on material contextualization, and teachers have to take a lead and produce teaching materials on their own without depending on the textbooks/language and methodology mentioned in them. Autonomy creates a win-win situation for teachers, students, and schools. So, let the teachers be their boss, don’t put them down.

Binod Singh Dhami is a teaching assistant at Minnesota State University, Mankato, USA. As a TESOL trainer, he served at TEFL International. He also produces YouTube videos on different aspects of teaching and learning that can be accessed on the YouTube Channel called ‘Global Online School.’ L2 writing, World Englishes, methodology and curriculum designing are his research interests.                           

Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language

Gyanendra Yadav

Abstract

These days, public speaking seems to be an essential soft skill for an individual which needs to be focused in school. Speakers’ club can be an effective way to develop such skill in students in addition to enhancing language proficiency. Based on a case study, in this paper, I attempt at sharing my experience of being an active participant in a speakers’ club and conducting it in the school for a couple of years. In the first section of the paper, first I introduce readers with the notion of speakers’ club; then, I briefly talk about how I collected data for the study. Next, I discuss the importance of speakers’ club in public speaking in general and language learning in particular as well as the challenges we faced to conduct it regularly. And finally, I present possible ways to minimize such challenges before moving to the conclusion at last.

Key words: public speaking, speakers’ club, language development, social skill

Background

When I was doing my Masters, I attended a  Speakers’ Club in 2013, which was organized by senior English language teaching scholars at Kathmandu University. The speakers delivered wonderful speeches; in fact, they were so inspiring and motivating for me.  The programme encouraged to take part as a speaker in the next Speakers’ club. In the following programme, I was one of the featured speakers speaking on The person who shaped my life. It appeared to be an easy and interesting for me as I had written an essay on the same topic. I prepared as much as I could but I felt nervous to speak in front of mass. Actually, that was the first time I had ever participated in any speech competition. I shared how a teacher transformed me from an average student to a teacher. The participants were found to have touched by my story and some of them praised my speech at the end. I do not recall exactly who got the prize on that particular day but I cannot forget the way the toastmaster and other judges analysed and gave their feedback on my speech. This proved to be bedrock for my passion I developed in public speaking. Then onwards, I became one of the regular speakers of speaker’s club. It has been more than five years, but I still love to be part of it.

After years of practice, I realized that I have significantly improved my public speaking skill which has been an asset for me as a teacher. As a regular participant, it worked as a platform for me where I got familiar with the ingredients successful speeches and practised them in my own speeches. I was able to grab best speaker awards a number of times. I was so influenced that I introduced this concept in my school as well. Some students were found interested and they successfully conducted it throughout academic year. After one year, they became so confident that one of the students from my school took part in KU Speakers’ Club and was able to raise the best speaker award from the hand of ELT scholars doing masters and M. Phil. Similarly, the other students also followed him and gave influencing speeches and were successful getting award several times. Despite the fact that we could not run it regularly every year; many students were found to be benefited from this club and have developed themselves as powerful speakers.

Reflecting upon my experience as a participant in KU and coordinator of Speakers’ Club in my school, I realized that Speakers Club can be used as an effective means of developing public speaking and language proficiency. Thus, in this article I attempt at exploring the use of Speakers’ Club in the EFL context of Nepal.

Notion of speakers’ club

Speakers’ Club can be simply defined as a platform for language learners to develop their public speaking skills. Like an international toastmaster, it is a club one delivers and observes each other’s speeches. Participating in such club gives students an opportunity  for practising their public speaking skills and their language skills. First time, speakers’ club was introduced by a group of ELT scholars of KUSOED and it became so famous that many of us implemented it in our respective schools and college. I was one of them to take this program in school level.

The notion of speakers’ club was guided by the International Toastmaster which aims at developing public-speaking and oral communication (Sun, 2008, as cited in Hsu, 2012). While implementing this at my school, we modified some of the rules to make it suitable for school children. First, we became little flexible about the time in the beginning as students often ran out of ideas in the middle and could not speak for four minutes. Likewise, we paid little attention to grammatical errors  so that they would speak freely without stress . Moreover, we created a post: highlighter, whose job was to give compliment  on only positive aspects of the speech. This was found to be encouraging for students to take part in the club.

Besides these changes, the main notion of feature and impromptu speakers remained the same like in toastmaster. Thus like in toastmaster club, we also have two kinds of speakers in a session: four feature speakers and four impromptu speakers (see agenda sheet in Appendix 1). The feature speakers are given a topic of speech and they are supposed to speak for four minutes, not less than three and more than four. But the impromptu speakers, as the word suggests, are provided the topics for their speech on the spot and they have to speak for at least two minutes. This is found to be challenging for speakers as they are only informed about theme but the topics are unknown to them. Besides speakers, we have  toastmaster,  grammar checker,  fidget counter,  highlighter, and  timekeeper. The toastmaster  selects topic and theme of the speech and conducts  session effectively. Sometimes, guest speakers are called to deliver mock speech and their experience of public speaking and  sometimes we watch famous speech by professional speakers. Speakers’ club can also be significant for language learners in enhancing their speaking skills. In relation to speaking skill, Ur (1991) emphasized the importance of small talk that advanced or academic students need to develop ability to speak at length which can be developed through short lecture or talk. Likewise, Harmer (2007) takes student’s presentation as an activity for developing speaking skill by giving talk on a particular topic. It seems that when learners take part in speakers’ club, they get ample opportunity to deliver and hear many speeches and harness their skills by collaborating and learning from each other.

The case study

This program was introduced in our schools’ academic calendar and was conducted twice a month. Basically students from grade eight and nine participated in the program. In the beginning, the students were hesitant; I had to guide them in selecting title, themes and word for the day for speech. Sometimes, I had to play the role of grammarian and check their grammatical errors as they could do on their own. But slowly and gradually, they not only improved their speech but also learned to organize the event themselves with little support from teachers. Now, they seem to have become independent; they can organize the program on their own. After successful implication of Speakers’ Club for two years, last year the school introduced Nepali Speakers’ Club as well.

The respondents for the present study were M. Phil graduates and my students who had been actively taking part in Speakers Club. They were selected purposefully so that I can get the required information for the study. I used interview and FGD as data collection strategies and my own reflective notes. The participants were given pseudo-names to maintain confidentiality in the study. First, I interviewed three respondents using interview guideline (see Appendix 2), however, it was used just as a guideline to cover the emergent issues. It mainly covered three aspects: participants’ experience, challenges in conducting speakers’ club, and their learning as speakers and language learners. Similarly, I also conducted an FGD with my students focusing on the same aspects. Their interviewed were transcribed and finally I developed different theme for analysis and interpretation. These themes have been presented and discussed in detail in the following section.

Importance of Speakers’ Club

All the respondents expressed that Speakers’ Club has been beneficial for them in enhancing public speaking as well as other skills. Regarding importance, Bimala argued, “I have not found anyone who express speakers’ club is not beneficial or uninteresting”. All the respondents agree that they have benefited from speakers’ club in many different ways which was also reported by Yu-Chih (2008). Their responses can be presented and discussed under three major sub-themes: Building confidence, enhancing public speaking skills and developing language.         

Building Confidence in speakers  

Most participants expressed that they developed confidence as a result of participating in speakers’ club. Building confidence appears to be a common phrase in almost every respondent’s   answer when they were asked to express the benefits of speakers’ club. In the process of sharing her experience as a speaker, Bimala mentioned that earlier she had habit of looking at ground while giving speech and she would become nervous when she looked at her audience. In her own words, she put “I learned to be normal” by thinking audience as nobody and herself to be superior to them. Similarly, Rajan emphasized that hesitation or fear of speaking is one of the main problems which he overcame by giving speech in speakers’ club. He believed that through practice one can decreases their hesitation and can become better speaker. This seems to be supported by students in the FGD and by other study (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Most students agree that after long practice, they felt confident while giving speech in mass.

Improving public speaking skills

Enhancing public speaking was found to be the main expectation of each respondent. However the way they express their development as speakers vary from one to another. First, Sunil opined that he adored being part of speakers’ club. According to him, speakers’ club is “a platform for learners where they can practice and develop their skills to deliver effective speech in the mass”. Furthermore, he shared that he learned to use quotation and personal stories in his speech which made him winner twice. But he believed that winning is not final goal; rather speaking is an opportunity to explore their ability and a process to collect required information on particular topic which can be used to influence our audience. So, he seems to have connected speaking skills to personal and professional development as well. This seems to be in line with Yu-Chih (2008) who states that through such club students improve their proficiency in public speaking and other various skills.

Next, the respondents of FGD view public speaking a way to develop research skills. They expressed that speakers club gave them opportunity to research on different new topics. As a result they developed habit of collecting information from different sources to prepare and give speech. Their understanding was found to be in line with Iberri-Shea (2009) who states that “public speaking tasks require students to conduct research and develop support for their arguments” (p.23). Likewise, Rajan articulated that he became conscious about his errors yet it did not decrease his fluency. He expressed to have learned to maintain both accuracy and fluency even after being aware of his error.

Above all, the participants were able to learn to present themselves as speaker, use anecdote and quotation, research on different topics and developed as speakers. By the same token, Al-Tamimi (2014) argues that “public speaking such as speakers club has been proved as a suitable pedagogical activity for ESL/EFL students to develop their speaking competence” (p.66). They can better relate their stories with the context, make inferences from observation and experience, and derive conclusion effectively. These skills can be important in real life situation besides learning language and public speaking. In this line Thornbury (2005) states that for language learners, the experience of presenting ourselves in front of class and giving talk can be an effective way of preparing for real life speaking.

Opportunity to practice target language

In response to my question regarding language development, they believed to have developed their speaking skill and improve their grammar. First, a respondent in FGD put that learning English or any other language is not limited to book; it can be learnt better by speaking. He belied that the more one speaks the more they develop speaking skill. In the same line, Sunil also echoed this respondent when he stated that speaking, as a productive skill, needs practice; so the more we speak the more we develop speaking proficiency. He also added that such practice can have positive impact on writing as well since speech can be turned writing.

Next, Rajan and Bimala expressed that speakers could improve their grammar by focusing on the comments given by grammarian in the speakers club. They believed that speakers club can be used as platform to reflect on our error in order to minimize them and become better speaker. In this line, Ur (1991) states that developing leaners’ ability to express through speech is an important factor in language course.

Thus, delivering speech in speakers club seems to provide EFL learners immense opportunity of using language to influence people. They learn to use their communicative competence – “knowing when and how to say what to who” (Hymes, 1971, as cited in Larseen Freeman, 2000) in their speech to influence people. Thus, such meaningful discourse can help EFL learners acquire language subconsciously just like in natural setting (Krashen, 1982).

Challenges in conducting speakers’ club

From the interview and FGD, I found three main challenges in conducting speakers’ club successfully. First, they expressed that most students were hesitant to participate in speakers’ club. Bimala and Sunil mentioned that some appeared to be unaware of the benefits that speakers club can offer and therefore they were not interested in being part of it. Similarly, Rajan added that some participants were even found to have fear of speaking in public as it might reveal their mistakes. Rajan was in line with Ur (2005) who mentions being worried about committing mistake and fearful of criticism or losing face as common problems in speaking activities.

Next, it appears to be challenging to run this program smoothly. Time management because of busy schedule was expressed to be a major cause for irregularity in speakers’ club both in KU and in my school. In addition, toastmasters’ inability of selecting suitable topic and conducting program was also viewed as one of the reasons for discontinuity in the program. Third and most importantly, most participants argue that voting system had negative impact provided that some speakers could get more vote because of their popularity. They mentioned particular session in which the deserving candidates did not win even after giving better speech; instead a popular friend was selected as winner.

Ways forward

Having shared the above challenges, I present some possible solutions offered by the respondents in order to overcome them. First, managing suitable schedule and time can minimize a number of issues mentioned above. As suggested by Bimala, it would be better to manage routine in a way so that maximum students can participate. Next, Rajan suggested that guest speakers can be called to deliver speech, especially inspirational speeches. This might make demotivated participants realize the benefit of public speaking and motivate them to take part in the club. And they can be the in charge of their leaning (Iberri-Shea, 2009). Finally, voting system can be modified giving fifty percent right to the judges and fifty percent to the participants. This can minimize the biasness so that deserving candidate will have better possibility to be winner.

Conclusion

Speakers’ club is proved to be an effective platform for me and my students. This seems to be beneficial in EFL context as it builds confidence in speakers, enhances their public speaking skills, and develops language proficiency. Running this program smoothly for long period of time appears to be challenging if the participants are not enthusiastic and hesitate to participate. This can be minimized by planning, preparing and conducting the program properly. Effective time management and inspiring speeches by guest speakers can lead to better participation.

References

Al-Tamimi, N. O. M. (2014). Public speaking instruction: Abridge to improve English speaking competence and reducing communication apprehension. International Journal2(4), 45-68.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Hsu, T. C. (2012). Enhancing college students’ global awareness through

campus Toastmasters clubs. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 1(1), 21-34.

Iberri-Shea, G. (2009). Using Public Speaking Tasks in English Language Teaching. In English Teaching Forum, 47(2), p. 18-23.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching (2nd edition.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press.

Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. London: Pearson Longman.

Ur, P. (2005). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yu-Chih, S. (2008). The Toastmasters approach: An innovative way to teach public speaking to EFL learners in Taiwan. RELC Journal39(1), 113-130.

 

Contributor

Gyanendra Kumar Yadav is a research scholar at Kathmandu University and teaches English language at different colleges in Lalitpur. He is pursuing his M. Phil. in English Language Education from Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published several journal articles and presented papers in NELTA conferences. His areas of interest include teaching English through literature, teachers’ professional development, and critical pedagogy.

Appendixes

Appendix 1

Speakers’ Club-KU (Season 7, Session 1)

4th Floor, Building C, KUSOED Hattiban

10 September 2017

Topic for Featured Speakers: Introduction

Theme for the Impromptu Speakers: Teaching profession

 

 

Word For the day: Passion

  • Toastmaster: Gyanendra Yadav
  • Grammarian: CB Khatri
  • Highlighter: Raju Shrestha
  • Time Keeper: Anupama Manadhar
  • Ah counter: Sharmila Parajuli
  • Fidget counter: Kausalya Khadka
  • Tech-support: Manuka Adhikari
  • Prize Sponsor: Regent school

 

Featured Speakers Impromptu Speakers
  1. Damodar Poudel
  1. Sudip Neupane
  1. Ishwar Koirala
  1. Keshab Prasai
  1. Jhaggu Gahatraj
  1. Deepak Regmi
  1. Yogendra Ruwali
  1. Birat Chaulagain

 

Best featured Speaker Best Impromptu Speaker
 

 

Appendix 2

Guideline for interview (speakers’ club)

Experience sharing

  1. Have you taken part in speakers club?
  2. Would you like to share you experience of being part of speakers’ club?

Importance of speakers’ club

  1. Do you find any benefits in participating in Speaker’s club?
  2. Can you share any concrete changes that you notice after participating?
    1. In Public speaking
    2. In Language development /as EFL learners

Challenges and ways to overcome them

  1. It is found difficult to continue the program for long. What is your view regarding it?
  2. What other challenges do you find?
  3. What can be done to overcome such challenges?

Three techniques of teaching writing to college students: my experience

Sagar Poudel

Introduction

Perhaps, it was the month of December 2018. One of our classes in B.Ed. first year grouped into another section as the students were high in number in the former section. Then, I was asked to take class in the new section. The next day, I went to the classroom taking my laptop and few materials. I had few short videos and slides related to the subject matter that I was going to introduce in the classroom. In the very beginning, I asked few things to the students regarding their previous classes and the topics that they studied in earlier section. At the same time one of the students said, “Sir, we need notes”. Then I asked, “What notes?” Then again another student said that I need to write note of each and every topic on the board. Then I said, “If I have to give you notes, then what do you do from your side?” There was silence for few seconds. Then the students admitted that they cannot write themselves as they are very weak in writing. I leaned on the lecture desk, spoke nothing and thought for a while.

It was my first lesson for them. A question came into my mind continuously, why the students demanded written note in my first class before I started the lesson. Again I began to wonder how they were taught in their previous lessons. How did they practice writing in the past? Then I asked them to attend my classes at least for a month and assured them that if they were not satisfied with my strategies for teaching writing, the campus would address their problem immediately. After that, I started my lesson through PowerPoint presentation where I played few videos related to the topic to be introduced that day. I could notice that few of my students were enjoying the videos and my delivery but few of them were not happy as they were not given written note on the board. I asked my students to have patience and assured them that they would become independent writers if they followed my instructions well.

As I came out from the classroom, their words ‘we need written notes…’ were buzzing in my mind. It was obvious that they got the habit of copying notes from the board which must be the reason why the students had no interest in trying to write themselves. Although copying and memorizing notes for examination must be easy for them but that would certainly not help students develop their creativity and become independent writers. I always learned from my teaching experience that the learners require ample opportunities to explore by exercising to write themselves and it is teacher’s responsibility to give an appropriate environment. I always remember one Nepali proverb “Machha khana matrai hoina, machha marna pani sikaunu parchha.” which means we should teach a man how to fish instead of just teaching him to eat fish. Keeping this proverb in my mind, I started dealing with these students differently. That evening, I planned something different for that classroom.

My techniques of teaching writing

First technique: come near to me

It was my second day in that class; however, it was the first day of my intervention of a new technique. That day, I used brainstorming technique to encourage my students to come up with some ideas and write a short story. As I asked them some questions to stimulate ideas for writing many of them were too shy to respond. Then, I wrote few sentences on the board which was the starting of a story. Meantime some of them were ready to copy out from the board but I requested them not to copy but write similar expression changing the major words i.e. content words of my writing. I had also given few content words in a box and asked them to replace content words of my writing. Most of them did but again few of them were still confused. I told the students who already completed their task to help other students too. On that very day, I asked the students come near to me but did not let them stand on my foot i.e. copying my exact sentences. My students practiced writing in this way for five days and I also gave them few tasks as their home assignment to be done regularly. I was not very strict about their assignment; rather I encouraged them to write whatever came in their mind related to the topic. In this way in the beginning, I brought them near to me/my writing.

Second technique: hold my hand

During the third week of my intervention, I tried out another technique to deal with the writing of my students. I asked them to recall the story they all had read in my previous lesson. I then wrote some points that represented important events of the story that but did not write the whole story or the summary. Then I asked my students to write just two paragraphs including the given points in them and adding few ideas from the text. Few of them hesitated to start writing and few of them said that it was difficult to write two paragraphs themselves. I asked them to write what they know and how much they can without worrying about the correctness of the sentences. As I went through their writing, I found that some of my students did not write anything at all while some of them created good pieces adding very good points and joining the given sentences in the sequences. Thus, I did similar activities for a week and I could notice changes in their writing. Many of my students improved and developed confidence in writing. I felt that, I was somehow able to make them walk holding my hand in the journey of writing.

Third technique: walk now

‘Walk Now’ is another technique that I used in my writing lesson. It was the last week of my intervention period. Now, I wanted to make my students walk themselves or in other words I wanted to make my students to write freely and independently. To make this happen, I read aloud an interesting piece of writing, e.g. a story and asked my students to jot down striking and important ideas or points they find in the text. I read the text twice or even thrice giving emphasis on the important points with specific sentence structure or events and guided them to elaborate those points and write at least one page. The one page writing could be a summary of the text or they were free to modify the text and rewrite it or if the text was a story, they could give it a different ending.

The next day almost all the students who were present in the previous day wrote one page and even those students who struggled a lot in writing were improving rapidly. They began to talk about their assignments and write summary of the previous lesson. It was encouraging to see my students making progress in writing.

After a month of intervention, I gathered students’ response about my writing lessons. Most of them admitted that copying notes and memorizing could probably help them pass the examination but that did not help them build confidence in writing.  One of my students said, “Sir, now at least we started writing ourselves and if we go on following these writing strategies, we can write easily on any topic. You made us to write rather than expect and wait for your notes”. I realized that my students at least started to walk themselves, although they were not ready to run in their journey of writing.

From that very day I continued teaching same class and the students were happy with me. However, I used to give note if I felt that the concept were somehow new and challenging. In other cases, my students of that very class started writing and exploring their ideas themselves rather than depending on the teachers even for the simple topic, issue or concept.

Conclusion

Writing is one of the most desirable skills of language. We need to make our students write something themselves rather than letting them to copy our note. If we give ready-made notes, they just copy out and read. But if the situation became slightly different than our note, students explore nothing because they have just ready-made answers for particular questions. My experience of one month teaching writing with my own techniques i.e. ‘Come Near to Me’, ‘Hold my Hand’ and ‘Now Walk’ became somehow successful in my writing lessons. So, to make our students walk themselves and make them able for fishing, i.e. to make them write themselves, I think we teachers need to create the environment to writ. We should avoid giving ready-made notes which, in my opinion, kills the learners’ creativity.

The author: Sagar Poudel is an MPhil in English language education from Kathmandu University. His areas of interest are Second Language Acquisition, Socio-linguistics, Academic Writing and ELT pedagogy and materials. He is currently working as lecturer and the head of English department at Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, Damauli Tanahun.

Some of my techniques to teach speaking skills

Rishi Ram Paudyal

Background and challenges

I teach English language to Bachelor level students. And it’s quite challenging to teach them because they come from the public schools of rural areas with negligible English proficiency. English teaching- learning experience is not only challenging for teachers but also sort of daunting task for many students’ for some reasons. Firstly, the students don’t have enough exposure to English language during their school life. Secondly, the prescribed textbooks for undergraduate students is way higher than their levels. Last but not least, there isn’t not appropriate place and environment for them to practice English. To overcome this challenge, I employ some techniques and strategies. Here I’m going to discuss few techniques that I use with my students.

Icebreaking and warming-up

When we enter into anything unknown, fear grips us and we may suffer from nervousness. Because English in my context is considered a ‘haau-guji’ (bugaboo) to my students. Therefore, my first role is to create a safe, comfortable, and friendly environment. For that I do various things in the class before starting my lessons. As we know, a teacher has many roles to play – sometimes I’m their friend; sometimes I am their facilitator; sometimes a companion to their academic journey; sometimes an instructor; sometimes a guide; sometimes a supporter, and other times a nurturer or a gardener. Let me illustrate below some of the activities I carried out.

Now let me discuss an activity that I do in class as a warm up or an ice break.

Once I was going to teach a lesson called ‘The Joys of Motherhood’, one of the lessons in compulsory English course in the first year of Bachelor level. On that day, I put on a different get-up.  Instead of wearing my usual checkered coat, I donned a black hoodie. When I entered the class, all of my students were staring at me surprisingly. Needless to say, my hoodie had succeeded in grabbing their attention. For a minute or so, I walked silently up and down the aisles holding my jacket. Then I came to the front and smiled at them maintaining eye contact. After that, I asked a question, “Do you know what it’s called?” Surprisingly, majority of my students’ couldn’t respond the right answer. It’s perhaps they were not getting the right word to say or because of their poor schooling background. Then I told them that it was a hood and wrote it on the whiteboard. Then I further told them that jacket with a hood is called a hoody and I wrote on the whiteboard again and they copied. I could see their faces beaming with new vocabulary. First of all, they learnt a new word ‘hood’ in an interesting way. After they learnt, I added one more new word ‘hoody’ to their mind which they received well.

After that I told them that ‘hood’ is not only a noun like the head cover of the jacket, it could also be a suffix to turn a word noun. Therefore, I wrote a word ‘mother’ on the whiteboard and I told them that ‘mother’ was a noun, whom they could see and touch. Then I added ‘hood’ with the ‘mother’ which became ‘motherhood’.

Here, I told them. “Look! now ‘mother’ became ‘motherhood’.” It’s still a noun but not like the previous one. You can’t see or touch ‘motherhood’. You can only imagine or think of it. Just to make sure they understood the meaning of the newly formed word I also translated it into Nepali (Maatrittwa). Those who were doubtful about the meaning of the newly formed term before were clear now and looked satisfied. Then I showed them, how they could form abstract noun adding ‘hood’ as a suffix. For instance, fatherhood, parenthood, womanhood, manhood, childhood, neighbourhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, girlhood, boyhood, and likelihood. After this was done, I encouraged them to search more words in their dictionaries or mobile phones that end with hood. This made the environment ripe i.e. ready for teaching and learning. Now I could begin the lesson with more elicitation from students. I could continue the lesson by engaging their attention and involving them.

Now I would like to share with you another techniques that I use to teach English language.

Use of pictures to tell stories

When the beginner or intermediate students’ can speak chunks of a sentence or a paragraph without looking at the written script, it’s a good achievement for them. They need support on how and where they could chunk. For this, I chose a video of a native speaker titled ‘’ Emmma Fierberg’s Account’’ and transcribed a paragraph. Then, I chunked the paragraph and sentences so that my students and I could do the reading without looking at the text. After this was completed, I gave them a task where they could chunk paragraphs and sentences to enhance their speaking skills. Here is the transcript of the video.

I wanted to test out for myself how waking up at 4:30 affected my productivity. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for one week, like a Navy SEAL. I’ve read a lot about how Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink wake up at 4:30 in the morning. Jocko famously says that discipline equals freedom. It is Friday, two days before I start this experiment. Normally, my alarm goes off five minutes before 8:00 a.m. Setting my alarm a full three and a half hours earlier is gonna be really scary. Will I survive? (Source Link: https://youtu.be/5Kp–rm7N2M)

To tell the above story, I made 14 cards out of two A-4 size papers. Then, I drew pictures so that I could tell the story looking at them and even without looking script on it after some practice. Furthermore, after practicing telling the story at the pictures repeatedly, I wouldn’t even need cards to tell the story. The pictures don’t need to have perfection. Rather, they would be just a means to achieve the goal. Therefore, I didn’t waste much time to draw them. And hence, the drawings don’t look funny to you. Here are the fourteen images drawn on the cards along with the script below them.

1) I wanted to

2) test out for myself

3) how waking up at 4:30

4) affected my productivity.

5) I woke up at 4:30 a.m.

6) for one week

                              7) like a Navy SEAL.

8) I’ve read a lot about

                    9) how Navy SEALs like Jocko Willink 

10) wake up at 4:30 in the morning.

11) Jocko famously says that discipline equals freedom.

12) It is Friday, two days before I start this experiment.

13) Normally, my alarm goes off five minutes before 8:00 a.m.

14) Setting my alarm a full three and a half hours earlier is gonna be really scary. Will I survive?

After showing the above examples, I divided the students into group and assigned them different texts to try to represent the texts through pictures so that they would be confident to try any other texts themselves.

I divided a text in the following way to give them to practice. Here are some samples.

A

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. She had put it aside, one cent and then another and then another, in her careful buying of meat and other food. Della counted it three times. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was nothing to do but fall on the bed and cry. So Della did it. (Source: The Gift of Magi by O.Henry)

B

While the lady of the home is slowly growing quieter, we can look at the home. Furnished rooms at a cost of $8 a week. There is little more to say about it.

In the hall below was a letter-box too small to hold a letter. There was an electric bell, but it could not make a sound. Also there was a name beside the door: “Mr. James Dillingham Young.” (Source: The Gift of Magi by O.Henry)

In the same way, I divided the story into eight other parts in the same way and assigned them to read the text and represent that through the pictures.

In a nutshell, I experience myself that the better images we produce the interesting our learning outcomes becomes. We can encourage our students’ to produce better thematic pictures/images then we can ask them to write a short story looking at the images. In doing so, the students’ get benefitted in two ways. The first thing is that they improve their drawing skills and also they develop story writing proficiency.

The author is a freelance writer and a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA).

 

My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

I adopted teaching as a profession some 18 years ago. My teaching career commenced from a private English medium school. It was after I completed proficiency certificate level examination. In this blog post, I am sharing my experiences from a novice teacher to a professional English teacher. The article explains that how I grow as a professional English teacher. It also depicts what different stages of my journey of teaching passed through.  

Teaching is my favorite profession. It is my passion too. I have been turning my passion into action teaching in different levels and schools. What I adore is standing in front of enthusiastic pupils and delivering something. This passion led me to adopt teaching as a profession. Before I started teaching, I had some exposure of English Grammar and language for the Level I had to teach. After I had completed the examination of intermediate level, I started teaching. I was selected as the teacher after my class observation. In order to perform well and mark good impression on the part of observers, I had gone through all the topics of grammar that I studied in high school level. Furthermore, I went through an English speaking course book to improve my speaking skill. The book incorporated various language functions, vocabularies used in daily conversation, class room language, Nepali –English translation and so on. When I read the book twice, it broadened my horizon of knowledge in using the English language.

After teaching in two private English medium schools for a year, I joined a government-aided school. It was the school where I had studied at lower secondary level. The school proved a turning point in my life both as a student and a teacher. It proved a turning point in my student life in the sense that I could make my foundation of English strong as a volunteer teacher from the U.S.A. taught us.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult to grasp what she uttered. She was the class teacher for a whole academic year. We, the students, were exposed to native tone in English in EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. Gradually I could get what she spoke. The way she pronounced English words or the way she delivered in the class helped me to grasp the native accent. Moreover, the school proved a turning point in my teaching career as I took my further study and teaching ahead simultaneously.  I completed my Bachelor’s Degree (B.Ed in English education) during my service there.

Then I attended training on ‘Interactive Radio Teaching’. All the trainee teachers had been given one set of radio to each. A live program would broadcast from 2:05 to 2:50 pm by Curriculum Development Centre. I had to teach English taking the radio set in the classroom to Grade five. It was a formal training in distant mode. All I had to do was to turn on the radio in the class and make the students listen to. And I had to repeat after the instructor on the radio so that students could understand what was delivered through the radio. The program particularly helped me to improve my pronunciation of English sounds and pedagogical skill.

Moreover, I attended micro-teaching (also called peer teaching) by the end of bachelor’s 3rd year. Later on, I had to teach the 10th graders for one and a half month as practice teaching. I got acquainted with practicality of communicative approach of teaching during this period. The course book that I studied in Bachelor’s level and the practice teaching I was involved in proved fruitful for my teaching. This practice teaching added some teaching techniques, skills and application of knowledge in me. During 45 days’ practice teaching I received feedback from my peers who taught English in other classes. Moreover, my classes were observed by the internal and external supervisors as the subject experts. Thus, the peers’, subject experts’ feedback made me more competent and confident to handle the class and deliver subject matter effectively. To be well prepared, I came to know that the teacher’s guide was helpful. I borrowed and went through it during this period. It has multiple benefits in teaching in a way it provides clear direction to teach English.

Besides I grabbed an opportunity to attend short-term teacher training program which helped boost my performance. After having attended the training, I started teaching the students using learner centered approach. I also learnt how to teach grammar creating situation to the context. Furthermore, I learnt to teach the vocabularies more than just giving synonyms and translating. I grasped some techniques and ideas on how to motivate the students towards learning English too.

While teaching English in grade 10, I felt some difficulty to teach some poems. I consulted several practice books; went through questions and exercises in the textbook and made notes in diary. I could interpret the poems. However, I was not fully satisfied. I went through many hurdles at personal and professional level. On the one hand, I was only job holder in the family and the other I went through obstacles in teaching career too. As I had strong passion for reading from which I could get sheer satisfaction and joy, I pursued my higher study and completed my master’s degree. After the completion of teaching practice by the end and M.Ed. 2nd year, I was offered to teach in Grade XI and XII. I got a decent platform to consolidate the subject matter that I had learnt in campus and university level. In this teacher education program, I studied various course titles such as linguistics, phonetics, translation studies, grammar, semantics and pragmatics and so on. These courses made the foundation of language, linguistics and grammar stronger in me.

In the course of time, I joined a residential Military school in western Terai of Nepal. On the very first day, when the students had enrolled, the school organized an orientation program for the first batch. I had been assigned the responsibility to host the entire program. I did not have any difficulty to teach English and to speak in English. But I had never got the exposure of public speaking in English. I did not have much idea on how to conduct a program though I know what to speak.  The principal just gave me the program details. I went through it. It struck my mind. It was the first time I was going to host a formal program in English. I mustered courage, I made notes; prepared rough draft; read it. Then I consulted one of my friends in the telephone who had the experience of conducting such program. I was well- prepared to host the program. I hosted the program. I received good feedback. It shows speaking in English in EFL setting is not an easy task. Furthermore, these types of real life contexts are really instrumental to enrich the professional growth. Like me, many students hesitate to speak English in different situations. Therefore, positive attitude toward target language can definitely enhance learning of the language. It also indicates that the abstract knowledge (competence) is to be brought out (concretized) through performance. The competence of an individual has to be sharpened through performance.

After I had attended 23rd international Conference of NELTA, I received a congenial atmosphere to learn more. The key speakers from foreign universities, presenters belonging to the expert groups and practitioner groups gave wonderful sessions. I received many insights on various issues and topics in ELT (English language teaching). Likewise, a mentor, my principal, who usually assigns me to work on various responsibilities – proof-reading the articles, writing articles and editorial for school magazine, writing proposals and certificates in English, inspires me to improve my writing skill. It shows that attending conferences and collaborating with experienced teacher or mentor helps to grow professionally.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In other words, every problem has a solution. During my teaching career in the school where I have been teaching for 8 years, I taught several course books in English. Almost every year or sometimes after 2 or 3 years the course book are changed. Moreover, a teacher has to teach three/four course books in a class. The teachers have to work hard to perform well in the class. I am not the exception. I taught an English Course book which mainly dealt with English literature to the 4th to 7th graders for two years. In other genres of literature, I had no difficulty. But I felt difficulty to teach poetry. It doesn’t mean I was unable to teach poetry; I could teach poetry to the students; I could interpret the poem. But I was not satisfied myself. Later I found myself less interested in poetry. It shows that teachers’ area of interest matters a lot in teaching learning process.

It is said handwork pays. Working as a teacher, I teach 4 to 5 periods a day. Besides classroom teaching, the teachers have to conduct co-curriculum activities in the school. Not only this, the teachers are assigned various other tasks- writing proposals, reports, certificates for various purposes, and articles for annual magazine and so on. Among the four language skill writing carries comparatively a greater importance. In this connection, the words of Francis Bacon are worth-quoting ‘Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” This quote highlights the importance of writing. Furthermore, writing is considered to be more difficult than other skills of language. One has to read a lot to enhance writing skill.

To conclude, in the journey of my teaching, day-by-day I began to feel more excited and motivated. Moreover, I felt more confident and competent. It was possible because of the readings, working with mentors, peer observation, feedback from the experts and most importantly my passion for teaching, a positive attitude toward the English language; an internal motivation to perform better.

Through my journey from a novice teacher to a professional teacher, I come to a conclusion that it is not difficult and impossible to transform ourselves. One needs to have desire to grow and enhance the professionalism in the course of time. He/ she needs to update to adjust him/herself in the changing context in a regular basis. It is possible only if he/she is dedicated, inquisitive and studious.

The author:

Narendra Airi is an M.Ed. from Tribhuvan University and the head of English department at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya Teghari, Kailali.

TPD in community campus in Nepal: Importance and expectations

Nani Babu Ghimire

Background

Reflecting my experience of teaching in community campus in Sindhuli, I realized that very few teachers from community campuses have participated in professional development training or other aspects of teacher professional development. I am not aware if there are any training agencies active in providing professional development training for teachers of community campus. However, University Grants Commission (UGC) provides some grants for training, seminar, course refresher training, training on capacity development, etc. Few campuses apply for UGC grants to conduct small scale research and short-term academic training.

As a lecturer of a community campus of Nepal I feel that there is very important role of teacher professional development to improve teaching and learning activities of our community campuses. Professional development training is an opportunity for teachers to share their knowledge and develop new instructional practices. Teachers’ professional development (TPD) keeps academics up-to-date with the changing world and knowledge. Teacher agency is considered to be a core section of educational institutions, who can bring change in the performance of students as well as institutions. Teachers’ participation in all-round academic activities including their professional development training is expected to transform conventional practices of educational activities and produce dynamic graduates who can explore wider world across the border. Pokhrel and Behera (2016, P. 190) asserted “Teacher professional development is defined as a process of improving both the teacher’s academic standing as well as –acquisition of greater competence and efficiency in discharging her/his professional obligations in and outside the classroom”. Pennington (1990) considered that every teacher needs professional growth throughout their career. Gnawali (2008, P. 220) argues that continuous professional development of teachers is significant to enable them to understand classroom environment and changing pedagogies. Teachers can participate in various professional activities such as training, seminar, workshop, symposium, conference, teacher exchange, reflective practice, peer discussion, blog writing, researching, writing article, publishing, further study, online program, etc. Their participation in such programmes develops professionalism and strengthens their academic skills. Wajnryb (1992) emphasises teachers’ self-motivation in professional development activities increases their learning and becomes highly effective in their academic activities.

Importance of TPD for Teachers

Teachers’ professional development is significant aspect of teaching profession. It helps teachers develop various professional skills and knowledge Continuous professional development activities upgrade teachers’ teaching skills and help teachers survive in the profession. Their learned skills and ideas bring a kind of shift in classroom teaching and learning activities.  Teachers’ professional development, which has direct association with students’ learning, improves institutional performance, particularly academic achievement. They become creative as well as energetic through various exposures in TPD programme. They learn to understand the problems of students and they can address and handle students’ needs. TPD programme may encourage teachers to do researches in academic fields.

Teachers’ Expectation of TPD

As I mentioned above, I am unaware of university teacher professional development programmes where I have been teaching for many years. If I were one of them who develops university programmes, I would priorities professional development programmes for university teachers. I would say at least my campus could develop such programmes for faculties and administration staff for upgrading their skills and knowledge and for improving academic activities of the campus. Similar to Western universities, I have observed that my university needs to emphasise conferences, seminars, workshops, orientation and visiting programs. Academic activities particularly research and publication, which promote the university, would develop individual teacher’s professional personality and institution. I wish I would have such opportunities for participating and developing my academic knowledge and skills.

TPD in Community Campus

There is mixed perception about autonomy of institutions for the educational performance. Crossroad conversations in Nepal lead to criticisms against the current system of university management, a single body governance over all universities, which has spoilt educational quality. However, all the community campuses in the country are autonomous in their management as they rely on students’ fees similar to private colleges. Does this matter in educational achievement? Many may argue that autonomous institutions can develop better and perform outstanding like the ones which are totally privately managed. Why are the majority of community campuses not able to perform at the level of private colleges? There is always a strong financial support for community campuses from University Grants Commission although they are autonomous. Does this make any difference in academic performance? If so, why are they unable to demonstrate educational qualities in results and academic activities? These areas can subject to researches in Nepal.  Regarding TPD of the teachers of community campuses, I believe that teachers themselves need to understand their professional role and development of their professionalism, and they need to explore learning opportunities for their own career. . They need to be conscious and enthusiastic to take different training for their own professional development. However, there is always a greater role of institution to inspire teachers to find professional opportunities.

Conclusion

Qualification is of course a valid document to join an academy, but it is not all that can work throughout one’s professional life. With the changing context, an academy needs to upgrade own life skills for the place where he has been working and is going to work. An academic tutoring hundreds of students has a great role to change their lives whereas an institution has a greater role to all-round development of many youth generation and the country itself. Therefore, universities have to provide academics with options of professional development so that they can contribute to the development of institution and society.

References

Gnawali, L. (2008). Teacher development: What is it and who is responsible? Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2(1), 219-223.

Pennington, M. C. (1990). A professional development focus for the language teaching practicum. In J. C. Richards and D. Nunan (Eds.) Second language teacher education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pokhrel, T. R., and Behera, S. K. (2016), Expectations of Teachers from Teachers Professional Development Program in Nepal. American Journal of Educational Research, 4 (2), 190-194. doi: 10.12691/education-4-2-6

Wajnryb, R. (1992). Classroom observation tasks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The author:

Nani Babu Ghimire is a lecturer at Siddha Jyoti Education campus Sindhuli, (TU) Nepal. He is currently an MPhil scholar in English education at Tribhuvan University.

1 2 3 4 5 20