A Three Dimensional Approach to Professional Development of English Language Teachers in Nepal

Shikha Gurung

Shikha Gurung

Learning to be a teacher of English language in Nepal is a part of professional development of English teachers. The desire of becoming a better teacher is an important aspect of teaching profession. Calderhead and Shorrock (1997) acknowledged a question ‘What makes a good teacher?’ which intrigued and challenged philosophers, researchers and policy makers and teachers over many centuries. It generated diverse answers, varying in their nature and degree of specificity in different countries and across different periods in history.

In the context of Nepal where English language is one of the foreign languages taught in schools, every English language teacher has a challenge to establish himself or herself in the profession as he or she has to deal with the learners who speak one or more out of 125 indigenous languages in Nepal. English language teachers in Nepal have more challenges to move with the global circumstances, emergence of digital technologies in social life and integration of various technologies in instructional activities. Richards and Farrell (2005) defines professional development of a teacher as an examination of different dimensions of his or her practices. They suggest that teachers need necessary support to make them understand their professional values. Thus, teacher education must emphasise teachers’ knowledge and skills.

English teachers in Nepal can follow three ways such as reflective teaching, teacher networking and researching to develop their professional skills. Keeping teacher education at the centre, the teachers can generate their ideas and develop professional learning strategies themselves. Instead of highly relying on their teacher education, they can actually learn by doing, that is, they can reflect their own experiences on their jobs. Their experiences of teaching and learning process can be both the input and output. English teachers can record their teaching activities and review for the further teaching. Such reflective teaching of teachers can develop the habit of correcting own weakness and gradually improve their teaching skills. Here is more on reflection ….

Likewise, teacher networking helps them meet and socialise with people which provides them with opportunities of collaborating and sharing ideas with each other. Similarly, researching on their own experiences can support English teachers to identify own pedagogical issues, study about the issues and broaden their knowledge.

Reflective Teaching

According to Richards and Lockhart (1996), documentary analysis is one of the most practical approaches to the development of teachers that reflects their learning on their teaching. English teachers can make a diary about their daily teaching and examine their own teaching activities as well as the students’ classroom activities. This practical approach provides them with an opportunity of understanding their own teaching, analysing their teaching activities and improving their professional practices. This reflective approach to professional development of an English teacher can be the next strategy besides formal teacher training. Reflective teaching approach may be followed by writing report. English teachers in Nepal can prepare their reports by doing survey, peer observation and interview. English teachers can report about their English language teaching motivation, students’ learning attitude, learning behaviour and so on. Reflective teaching allows the teachers to work on their own weakness and strengths.

Teacher Networking

English teachers in Nepal can establish their professional network and share their ideas with each other to improve their teaching skills. For instance, Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) can be a platform for many English teachers in the country. English teachers can organise seminar, workshop, hot seat presentation, group meeting and so on for the better practice of ELT. Besides face-to-face meetings, they can also develop online learning community on social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, skype and so forth to share their problems and ideas. Such networks allow English teachers to exchange their understanding and experience of English language teaching. In course of time, English teachers can also attend national and international conferences where they can share their ideas. Kuti (2000) stated that network between the teachers provides them with opportunities of discussing their problems and sharing expertise across the world. McDonald and Klein (2003) claimed that professional network of English teachers helps them increase pedagogical skills and develop leadership in the profession.

Research

Teachers in their role are also researchers who consistently gather information throughout their everyday teaching and classroom activities, analyse the information and reflect on their instructional activities. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) advocated that teachers, besides formal training and workshops, can develop their professional skills through research activities in their field. From the research activities, they actually start learning as they have to study and understand their professional issues in depth. They gradually become proficient to investigate their teaching and learning issues and become professional. In the 1960s, educational research particularised fields such as classroom research, teacher research and action research in teaching and learning process. Classroom research emphasised the evidences relevant to instructional activities, teachers’ perceptions and classroom resources. MacKay (2009) claimed that research on their own classroom activities makes the teachers more efficient in their profession. It is relevant in helping teachers review previous researches, become aware of the challenges of doing research and understanding what goes on in the classroom setting.

 

Sikha Gurung is an MPhil scholar in English Language Education at Kathmandu University School of Education since 2016. Professionally, she is an English teacher at Kathmandu University High School, Chaukot and an English lecturer at K and K College, New Baneshwor. She likes exploring various issues of ELT and writing about them.


References

Calderhead, J. Shorrock, S.B. (1997). Understanding teacher education: Case studies in the professional development of beginning teachers. The Falmer Press, Taylor and Francis Inc.: London.

Richards, J.C. & Farrell, T.S.C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Richards, J.C. & Lockhart, C. (1996). Reflective teaching in second language classrooms.    Cambridge University Press: New York.

Kuti, Z. (2000). ELTeCS: English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme a network for developing your expertise and a forum for sharing views. Pilgrims Ltd: Budapest, Hungary.

McKay, S. (2009). Second language classroom research. In A. Burns & J.C. Richards (eds.) The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education. New York: Cambridge.

Post-PhD Ramblings: What Is There to Remember?

Hem Raj Kafle

Hem Raj Kafle

I was a bit concerned when my friend Shyam advised me to write about my PhD experiences for this month’s Choutari. Would it be worth a read? But, then, I remembered reading Philip Guo’s PhD Grind with my exhausted, empty mind post-defense. This little book, an account of a computer scientist’s six-year engagement in Stanford University PhD, had nearly inspired a memoir of my own six years in Kathmandu University.

I remember reading a line from the acknowledgements page of a graduate thesis written for an American university. The author, with a visible sigh of relief, writes something like this: I thank my wife [Name] for not eloping with someone while I remained either engrossed in the writing or absent for library or field work. This is perhaps an ‘extreme’ feeling for a culture like ours, where you do not need to fear polygamy or elopement to result from such a pious mission as the PhD. But how you miss the family joy, and remain apprehensive of having become a nuisance to your own dear ones!

I began one of my post-PhD talks with this quote I happened to read on Facebook, “Long time ago, people who sacrificed their sleep, family, food, laughter and other joys of life were called saints. Now they are called PhD students.” Someone asked me right away how I had grown through that supposed phase of sainthood. I said I had come out of a very ungenerous conviction that my own family was the biggest hurdle to my growth and that I sometimes felt like dumping everything away and starting the life of an ascetic. This is another extreme feeling one could ever speak to an eager audience.

Yet, I do not aim to present a very personal experience, which might rather take the form of a grumble than a celebration of success. This is the real danger of post-defense rambling. I would rather love to foreground the aspect of learning and personal growth. People think PhD must have made me wiser. I have no desire to deny this. I take this opportunity to share what I consider worth sharing from my six-year engagement.

 PhD is an adventure marked with meeting many people – interested, disinterested, uninterested – and talking about your research. It is an anxious journey from the known to the unknown and back to the known. In such a process, I travelled to India five times. I presented papers at four international conferences. A couple of these travels were planned for meeting with Prof. Raman, my Supervisor from BITS-Pilani Goa. I travelled alone, with friends, with my better-half. Each travel involved some confusion, some excitement, some irritation, but gave enough impetus for further work.

I spoke to international audiences half a dozen times, a different work and perspective in each presentation while rhetorical theories, Nepalese history and newspaper editorials featured in each discussion. Inside Nepal, I would explore possibility of integrating rhetoric in English teaching and present in NELTA conferences, and grasp any aspect of editorial discourse and present in the conferences of Literary Association of Nepal. In the process, I collected dozens of books in Nepali. I would in fact pick up anything from Kathmandu streets if it spoke of media, movement, contemporary politics, and any stuff from the internet that had a key ‘editorial’, ‘rhetoric’ or ‘fantasy theme criticism.’

In the university, I taught English and communication skills integrating elements of classical rhetoric wherever possible. I made and taught syllabi for the courses in media studies and communication ensuring the inclusion of some useful aspects of rhetoric and discourse. I encouraged undergraduates to take up projects in rhetorical studies, and got about a dozen reports produced on representational themes.

I spent hours downloading YouTube video lectures on communication, rhetoric, discourse, and critical discourse analysis. I spent hours on Facebook gossiping with friends about my progress, crafting statuses and posting notes. I ran at least five blogs, writing, editing and publishing diverse contents. I wrote poems, essays, memoirs and newspaper articles. When I look back at the bulk of the dissertation, its accompanying raw materials, the blog entries and the collection of poems and essays in English and Nepali, I feel that the six years with PhD were my life’s most creative period.

PhD is a phase that comes to your life only when you choose to bring it because you must. Once it comes and you enter a process, it shakes your life to the core. What you have to learn and practice does not necessarily come from your earlier learning, nor from your regular work. Circumstances teach you how to put aside all the previous pomp and baggage. I name this a compulsion of “ruthless submission of adult arrogance to childish ignorance.”

PhD makes you develop a passion for listening and making others listen. My own main temptation was to talk if someone was there to put up with me. Dr. Adhikari, my supervisor from Nepal, would spend hours with me listening and talking things. Each time after I parted from him, I felt reinvigorated. A lot of new ideas would surge up and I would ramble a dozen pages forward no matter whether they made it to the dissertation or not. Then I would talk with my wife about my current epiphanies and progresses. I would explain to anyone my project if they showed a little curiosity to know how I was faring.

There is greater pressure in the share of a scholar in English. You have the burden of the virtue of not committing grammatical and stylistic errors. Most often, you are others’ guru and friend so far as teaching these vital aspects of dissertation is considered your own pious, universal responsibility. You are your own guru and enemy. You know how to tutor yourself, and at the same time keep on accumulating pressure in the name of ensuring quality.

I would take to my undergraduate and graduate classes any theory, method, tips on writing or speaking. That’s how the concept would matter to others and get registered and matured as valuable knowledge for myself. I must have scribbled the largest number of junks during the formative years. The junks were the most original things about my learning and experiences. They still look dearer than the 351-page ‘final’ dissertation.

PhD gave me many good things, especially the readings that were useful to life if not to the dissertation and degree. The materials wait to be revisited, helped to mature and brought to their actual discourse community. They continue to claim to have been the degree’s legitimate offspring.

I understand that the product of PhD (dissertation/thesis) is specific for a small discourse community. Not many people will and have to understand the work. Parts of it may come to a wider network of readers only if the writer opts to work beyond the degree either into a book or a journal article if only he or she is in or joins a university teaching position.

Once your work is brought to the public, every literate person appears to believe and may sometimes brag that they could have done as good or even better if they had thought about doing what you have done. But you are the only person who did it. The work is unique. And you are your own reader. Your supervisor has read it, plus a few people in the evaluation committee. Except for five or six persons, the product may have only a very small audience in the future. I am sure not more than half a dozen people have read my thesis. I only hope some people will read part of it if they happen to work on an identical topic. Else, as far as the saying of many goes, it will remain proudly at a corner accumulating dust – for ages.

What do you find out, or develop out of half-a-dozen years’ straining? Perhaps, you create knowledge, or a perspective. Or you have uttered a popular idea in a more interesting and philosophical way. Someone else can give equal scholarly hue and worth to similar task later. But for the moment yours has got qualified, it is the only work on earth that can claim novelty if it is novel.

Nevertheless, the dissertation is not out to change the world, neither the degree it brings, but you are. You are at least expected to initiate some kind of change.

The people from your scholarly network may read you and try to make a difference. You have not closed the lid for new perspectives. You cannot do so. You only transfer one perspective to your community and hint at new avenues of reflection. If one PhD ended all possibilities, we would have been mugging up stale thoughts and moth-eaten books and none would ever think of sweating for three to six years.

The hard-bound black book is only a signifier that a section of the work in continuum has taken a tangible shape. Every dissertation is in the making. It is just a beginning. A ‘finalized’ work has several other works ingrained in it. Only some curious and profoundly informed scholar can interpret the text and nourish its discursive embryo into one or more useful births later. The continuum exists. A scholar in discourse lives in this continuum.

The author: Dr. Kafle is an assistant professor and coordinator at humanities and management unit, school of engineering, Kathmandu University Nepal.

 

 

How can effectiveness of In-Service Teacher Training be maximized?

invert me

JEEVAN KARKI

…..opportunities for in-service training are crucial to the long-term development of teachers as well as for the long- term success of the programs in which they work…”

–Richards (2005)

In-service teacher training (ISTT) is essential for teachers to enhance their professional skills and update themselves with the latest trends in pedagogy. In order to serve the purpose, government of Nepal formally established National Council for Educational Development (NCED) in 1993 under the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The NCED is an apex body responsible for human resource development in Education, especially in pedagogy. One of the major activities of NCED is to provide ISTT to in-service teachers in different phases for their professional development.

Every year, ISTT programs are conducted to in-service teachers across the country through NCED itself or Lead Resource Centers (LRC) and Resource Centers (RC) based in district levels. However, it is reportedly argued that the effectiveness and impact of such trainings in the classroom remains yet to be capitalized on. For this interactive article, I have made attempts to bring views and opinions of the concerned stakeholders including Dr Anjana Bhattarai, Head of English Education, Central Department of Tribhuvan University (TU), Dr Laxman Gnawali, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University (KU) School of Education, training expert from NCED, teacher educators, and Resource Persons and teachers.

They were asked:

“The government of Nepal offers in-service training to teachers but there is not much visible improvement in the pedagogy in classroom. What can be the causes behind it and how can the in-service teacher training be made highly effective and productive?

DR ANJANA BHATTARAI  | Head of English Education, Central Department, TU, Nepal

anjanabhattaraiIn my perspective one of the most important factors contributing for ineffective in-service teacher training is the attitude of teachers. Most teachers (not all because few are active and work hard) do not feel such training as an opportunity for their professional development, whereas they feel it as a chance to earn extra money. It is a tragedy that we are yet unable to make them feel the importance of it. Therefore, teachers need to change their attitude and apply the skills learnt in training in their classroom. I think a possible solution for this problem can be a good head teacher. If a head teacher has positive attitude towards training and encourages his teachers to apply new ideas in classroom, teachers cannot afford to be reluctant to transfer the skills in the classrooms.

Weak monitoring system is yet another factor for this problem. Despite having Resource Persons (RP) and supervisors, the government is unable to make monitoring effective. Classroom inspection and supervision are not taken seriously. The RPs do not observe classes minutely and offer constructive feedback to teachers, whereas they meet teachers (in some cases they meet in paper only), ask how they are doing and teachers obviously say they are doing wonderful. How can this ensure teachers are transferring the skills in their classes?

The next contributing factor is existence of impunity. We do not have strong and effective mechanism to reward those who are doing well and penalize irresponsible ones. This eventually discourages the teachers who are willing to do something.

I think there is some problem in our parents too. Parents need to visit schools, show their interests in the activities of school and raise question behind weak performance of their children.

To sum up, if we can change the attitude of teachers, make our monitoring system efficient, encourage parents to raise questions in schools and make provision of reward and punishment, the impact of training can be better than now.

Dr Laxman Gyanwali | Associate Professor (ELT) | School of Education Kathmandu University

 

nelta-conference-16A few classroom visits in Nepal can tell us how ineffective the impact of the government-run in-service training has been. When I ask my graduate students why such a wastage of resources, they say the training does not directly link to the real classrooms, ignores local contexts, and does not address trainees’ mental constructs,  their needs and expectations. I fully agree with them. However, for me the main culprits for the ineffective teacher training are the trainers. You may ask why.  No trainer has been trained to be a teacher trainer. Each of them has a degree on pedagogy not on andragogy. They do not have a faintest idea of adult learning. Because the trainers in the government system have a permanent position, they do not bother for their own development. And they pass on their attitude to the teachers who they train.

There is only one solution to rectify this situation. Let’s set requirements for the entry as well as for the promotion for teacher trainers. They need to have a degree on training and andragogy and they also need to undergo periodic CPD, just as the teachers do. For me, training is as effective as the trainer involved in it. 

Balram Adhikari | translator, and a lecturer at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Kathmandu

1924893_829718523720484_26654504_nThe in-service teachers should count themselves fortunate for getting the opportunity to learn and to teach at the same time.  Also, they should be gratitude to the concerned authority for providing them with such opportunity. However, it is a sad fact that take away from the training session is less and its translation into the actual classroom teaching is even lesser. There could be multitude of causes behind this ranging from training policy to classroom pedagogy. Since the limited space prevents me from digging depth into the issue, I point out two areas of training drawing on my own experience of teacher and teacher educator both. The first is attitudes. It is not uncommon to hear in the training the participant teachers saying, “It only works here in the training hall, not in our schools”.  Most participants have this ‘it doesn’t work’ attitude.  First, the training should aim at inculcating positive attitudes in teachers. Only the positive beginning can lead us to the positive ending. Here I am reminded of Thomas Friedman’s famous saying, “If it is not happening, it is because you are not doing it”. 

Second is the nature of training itself.  Training should be based on target demands needs. By its very nature, training implies equipping a specific group of teachers with specific skills, strategies, knowledge and resources to help them address specific problems in a specific teaching-learning context. That is, everything is specific in teacher training. Only specific training packages can address specific teaching-learning problems. The specificity in training calls for involvement the target teachers in framing the training package.

 Parshu Ram Tiwari | NCED Trainer of English

ParashuramNCED conducts many in-service teacher trainings out of them TPD is the nationwide training program. These trainings actually implemented by Educational Training Centres (ETC), LRCs and RCs under the guideline developed by NCED. Except TPD, other several training programs like CAS training, MLE training, MGML training, training for the teachers using English as MoI etc.

It is not fact that there is zero transfer of teacher training in classroom. Some teachers who are devoted to their profession have brought newness and innovations in their classrooms due to knowledge and skilled learned in training. However, effectiveness in classroom hasn’t been noticed as the training expects.

There are some inhibiting factors to the transfer of teacher training, which are as below:

  • Especially roaster trainers in RC level are not efficient to conduct training.
  • In ETCs and RCs, there are not well equipped training hall to use modern technology for delivering training.
  • Teachers demand general needs, not academic and pedagogical needs. Very few teachers demand technical needs but they are not addressed properly.
  • District education office puts the training program in low priority.
  • Teachers have no dedication, motivation and willingness to implement training skill and knowledge in the classroom and they are reluctant to change their traditional ways of teaching with modern ones.
  • Training has not been linked with teachers’ career path.
  • No provision of follow-up support mechanism
  • No support and encouragement from school (Head teacher and SMC) to teacher for implementing training in classroom.
  • No rewarding system to those teachers who teaches using methods and techniques learned in training.

Suggestions

  • Training needs to be conducted only in LRCs and ETCs.
  • Training program needs to be well monitored and supervised.
  • Incentive for teachers who complete training successfully and transfer it effectively in the classroom.
  • Training needs to be linked with the promotion and upgrading
  • Training centers need to be equipped with modern technology and resources.
  • Follow up and support mechanism need to be developed.
  • School must support the teachers to transfer training skill in classroom by providing resources and making the classroom environment conducive.
  • Teachers need to develop collaborative learning and sharing culture among teachers.

 Govinda Prasad Chaulagain | Resource Person, District Education OfficeSolukhumbu

GovindaAs a resource person, I see there are a couple of reasons why in-service teacher training is not helping to improve the pedagogy in classroom. First of all, the student-teacher ratio in some school is very high. In few schools there are up to 120 students in a single class! Therefore, it is quite challenging to make classroom interactive. When a teacher tries to do something new in group/peers classroom goes out of control and hence they return to old method. Besides, teachers also have to teach more than usual number of periods because of lack of teachers. Therefore, they are not encouraged to try something new because of more work load.

Lack of materials and resources is another problem. Schools do not have even basic things to develop teaching-learning materials. Similarly, in some schools, there are not even reference materials for teachers. So they are compelled to depend on textbooks fully. The textbooks are clutch, a survival kit and everything for them.

There is also problem with permanent teachers working for long. They are comparatively more inactive than temporary or contract teachers in terms of transferring skills in the classroom. Not only that sometimes, they manage to skip trainings too.

I think there is problem in the present Teachers Professional Development (TPD) modality for in-service teachers. There is a top-down approach in designing training package. The trainers design training package that does not correlate with the actual needs of teachers. On the other hand, teachers themselves also cannot spell out what are their actual needs and always talk about the same issues like large classroom, unavailability of resources and materials and so on.

Finally, to make our in-service training highly effective, we should not forget to address the issues raised above.

 Ashok Raj Khati  | Training Specialist at REED  Nepal, & adjunct faculty  at Gramin Aadharsha Multiple Campus, Kathmandu

AshokFirst of all, I am quite convinced that in-service teacher-training programs can never be ineffective because they definitely provide some visions and frames for teaching. A trained teacher approaches to the students with some sort of framework, philosophy and guidelines; he or she could deal with students even on the way or on a bus far better than untrained ones.

However, to what extent the effectiveness of a particular teacher-training program becomes visible inside the classroom is an important aspect. It is true that some teacher training programs are more effective than others. They are primarily so because of positive attitude and motivational orientation of participants and facilitators toward professional learning. There are always a few people who assume that their qualification and experience could be adequate to teach in a specific context. This tendency does not produce effective training outcomes.

In addition, if teachers’ socio-cultural contexts and interests are encapsulated in teacher training programs, they are likely to be more effective. In recent years, new trends in teacher training programs such as in-school support, collaborative approach, researching and conferencing have been proved successful in mitigating the specific challenges faced by teachers in Nepali contexts. Similar type of training modality for years creates monotony on the part of teachers and they find training as a form of ‘ritual’ in their career.

Bhupal Sin Bista | Faculty of English, Shree Phutung Higher Secondary School, Kathmandu

The government has envisioned the provision in-service teacher training for the community school teachers for the efficiency and efficacy of teaching methodology exploited while conducting classroom lessons. The considerable amount of national budget allocated in the education sector has been separated for this purpose. Every year such trainings are conducted in RCs, LRCs and educational training centers on need based. It should have resulted in the tremendous improvement in the educational sector of the nation by now but the reality is something beyond our imagination. That is to say, the in-service teacher training does not have tangible impact on the teacher’s educational pedagogy. There can be several factors behind it. Some of the factors that bring about this gap might subsume:

  • Lack of training needs assessment
  • Lack of expertise in training guidance
  • Lack of appropriateness of training content
  • Lack of instructional aids
  • Lack of persistent monitoring and supervision
  • Lack of stick and carrot approach
  • Lack of learning culture
  • Classroom dynamics
  • Physical facilities of the school
  • Classroom size
  • Lack of adjusting training with TPD, including career development

These are the crucial issues seen with regard to the transfer of teacher training inside the classroom teaching. To improve the existing scenario, such issues are to be addressed decently meeting the needs of the individual teacher and the school. Furthermore, teachers should be encouraged to do so with diminishing the digital divide via appropriate and feasible policy, strategy, guideline and programmes.

Sakun Joshi | Faculty of English, Shree Sitapaila Higher Secondary School, Sitapaila 

SakunEvery year, the government invests a good amount of budget to provide in-service and refresher training to in-service teacher aiming to increase educational quality of the nation. In spite of having such efforts, there is still not much visible improvement in the pedagogy in the classroom. Some prominent causes behind the present situation can be as follows:

  • Improper classroom size to perform different techniques in classroom.
  • The large number of pupil in the classroom is another problem, which makes difficulty to manage lesson and prepare sensible teaching aids and demonstrate them in classroom.
  • The administration of many community schools does not show interest towards innovative teaching and learning.
  • Sometimes teachers knowledge on the content is also a constrain to successful teaching learning
  • Lack of creativeness and professionalism among teachers due to insecurity of their job.
  • Lack of regular and continuous supervision from the monitoring body.

I think fulfillment of the following requirements can help bring improvement in the pedagogy in the classroom:   

  • Give proper concern towards the improvement of the physical condition of schools including availability of enough materials and references.
  • School administration should be enthusiastic towards bringing new technology in school.
  • Teachers should be given every opportunity to exercise their lesson as per their needs.
  • There should be provision of strict supervision following with reward and punishment to teachers.

The stakeholders highlighted on different causes and proposed ideas above to make ISST effective and productive. Here I urge our valued readers to please feel free to share if you have something to say on the issue. Please express your views in the comment box. 

How my mentor transformed me

Priyanka Pandey

I feel very fortunate for getting a mentor when I started my teaching career. My mentor was an experienced and skillful teacher who guided me, changed my perceptions regarding teaching profession, and later made me determined to be in the field of ELT.

The school I worked for (Tiny Seeds Pre-school, Kathmandu) had a system of assigning two teachers in one class; a grade teacher and an assistant teacher. I was selected to be her assistant but initially it was very stressful because I didn’t have any idea about “play-way” method. Being a student of Education, I knew how to make lesson plans in theory, but I didn’t have clear idea about how to make practical lesson plans and how to teach effectively in English medium. Continue reading »

Speakers’ Club for Professional Development

Umes Shrestha

As we wrapped up the June 20 session of our Speakers’ Club (KU), I remembered how a small dream that I always had turned into a magnificent reality. I had a dream of getting involved in a professional club like the Toastmasters but with English language teachers as its members. And in this article, I want to share the reasons why I wanted to set up the club and talk about how the club helped me in my journey of personal and professional development.

After joining KU’s M.Ed ELT program, I had this idea – the idea about setting up a speaking forum – in my head and luckily my professor Dr. Laxman Gnawali had also thought about it for some time. After spending some time with some seniors and my classmates brainstorming about how to set up such forum and discussing on its name and modality, on August 2013, we officially started with the first session of the Speaker’s Club. It had the participation of students of M.Ed. ELT and M.Phil. English Language Education as well as a number of faculty members. Continue reading »

Professional Development through English Teachers’ Club

Shashi Kayastha

Teacher development is a continuous process which includes teacher’s regular engagement, constant support and constructive feedback from peers and tutors, innovative platform, self initiated steps and committed dream. In the scenario of growing need for establishing professional communities of learning, English teachers’ club is one of the effective initiatives to collaboratively develop teachers. It is a platform for English teachers where they associate and network with other members of the same profession through collaborative engagement in capacity building activities. In this blog entry, I briefly introduce English teachers’ club, followed by its significance and finally highlight on the importance of joining such associations.

English Teachers’ Club

Mutual problem solving and collaborative learning draw teachers into a community seeking for their development. Padwad and Dixit (2008) advocate the need of professional learning communities in the context of shifting teacher education from product-oriented mode to social constructivist, process-oriented mode of working. It motivates the teachers to strive for the continuous and ever innovative processes of “change and mend” sequence where they learn to collaborate, commit, construct and contribute in local level to the global scenario, and activities that involve professionals in open and dynamic discussion enhances professionalism.

Teachers association is an essential platform for the teachers that associates and network with English teachers in a community for continuous growth through different professional practices. In recent decades, such association or networking has been established as one of the effective means of professional development for the teachers across the world. Teachers’ club is one of such associations and it is a small professional community. The club might be formal and informal, but both of them primarily serve the purpose of a professional association. Compared to other like-minded communities, it is more focused on building on capacities of teachers for their professional growth.

English teachers’ club (ETC) is a network of like-minded English teachers who are seeking to enhance their capacity and collaboratively develop effective teaching methods for their career development. Further, it helps to establish better working relationships among colleagues and creates a forum for exploring new teaching ideas or addressing perceived (or unperceived) problems and concerns.

Significance

Unlike various governmental and non-governmental efforts to develop English teachers, English teachers’ club can be a creative way of identifying local issues and needs of English teachers and accordingly build strategies in sorting out them through collaborative approach. It emancipates teachers from territory of accumulating fixed knowledge of one-size-fits-all approach since it builds a kind of channel to exchange the ideas, innovate the  ways to surpass the issue related to the teaching, search out the genuine and contextual knowledge that is applicable in local context and situation. The teachers, who are engaged ‘teachers’ club’, get access of varieties of sources of knowledge within the community they connect and they can also put their efforts to build on contextual theories based on best practices. Besides, they enjoy sharing and caring of each individual of their community for collective improvement.

Legutke & Ditfurth (2009) elucidate that knowledge does not just develop by accumulating information but is shared, negotiated and constructed through experience in the communities of practice in which individual participates. The teachers’ club provides them a platform and opportunities for them to share their experiences and discuss among themselves.  Similarly, Hord (1997) points out regarding the benefits of any professional learning community that it helps to reduce loneliness of teachers, motivate them to be committed to the mission and goals and the teachers starts taking joint responsibility for the success of the student and ultimately gets the work satisfaction leading to higher morale etc.

Benefits of joining English Teachers’ Club

Socialization

The basic need of 21st century is to learn to live together with the acceptance of sociocultural, religious difference. The culture of socialization starts with the sense of oneness in difference and attitude of compassion, respect, and understanding. Teachers club is the society of teachers that socializes one for the convenient and the successful life in the planet of teaching. It brings out the teachers from the confined territory of the cultural and social constrains to the land of acculturation. Thus, associative team activities are the crucial one to administer the overall development of an individual’s sociocultural aspect. It is mainly significant to the language teacher since language teaching and learning is an interactive process. Richards and Burns (2009) emphasize the teachers’ collaboration as they say “teacher learning is not something that teacher need achieve on their own –it is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interaction with others”. They add that “teachers can come to better understand their own belief and knowledge as well as reshape these understanding through listening to the voices of others”. That means socialization incorporates the habit of listening to others, respecting the contrary views, collaboratively deciding, assisting, advising, participating etc. In the other words “engaging with other means accepting the difference” (Singh, 2002). Teachers in ETC joins for fulfilling this requirement .They co-work, co-think, co-coach, co-operate, collaborate with the common sets of goal and action. The co-operative nature in positive competitive environment expands the possibility of creation.

Language development

Teaching is an art; the art requires pedagogical knowledge, creativity and proficiency of content so that teacher can well manage the class, deliver the content, make the learning possible in any situations.  The basic prerequisite of language teacher is that they should be well versed in language skills. English teacher’s language skill basically refers to teachers’ proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. As it has already been underpinned in the theory of education that language skills can be developed through the active participation in interaction, peer teaching and correcting process, ETC arranges the suitable and convenient environment for the teachers to involve in different collaborative learning projects such as collaborative action research, team teaching peer observation. Teacher can plan and implement the need based activities for skill enhancement. Teachers can engage in their need analysis where the basic needs of the teachers regarding language skill are identified, and they collaboratively prepare feasible and effective action plan, and put them into practice. In the process teachers assesses one another’s improvement, they provide feedback. It also orients the teachers with a variety of language teaching skills and strategy.

I hereby exemplify some strategies we use to enhance the language skills:

Strategy 1

We mostly organize a reading theater in our mini club where the entire group is divided into three: reader group who perform reading different literary and non literary genres, audience group as the active listener who jots down some notes as per the understanding and share, analyst group who analyze the whole process of the reading and audience group. We take the assignment to read and write refection which is peer checked in the following week.

Strategy 2

Collecting different national and international talk show, lecture, interview videos and audios and assembling for the listening practice where we the watch and listen the videos and share, comment and rethink about the topic in the group. It proved to be interesting and useful for the gradual improvement listening as well as the enhancing creativity and criticality, which but for being in group would be once in a blue moon.

Building Confidence

No matter what qualification and degree I have, until I have the deep faith deep inside me that I can do, no where I perform the best. The sentence seems very negative but it is the reality. Student starts gossiping on your unusual movement and babbling talk, counts how often you scratch on your hair, caricatures your perplexed look. All the content you give goes in vain and the teaching becomes the daunting task “leaving us with such physical symptoms as sweating and shaking”(Fifield, 2006). Hence it is necessary to build up the confidence along with improving the skill so that one can better perform what he /she knows. As already discussed collaborative approach in the teachers club is helpful in getting language skills as well as professional skills. Ganwali (2011) explains, “The members of an association will have greater confidence in their activities if we learn what our colleagues elsewhere are doing in the context” (p.189). In my experience, constant working with the people of the same profession of with different qualification, practices and potentiality equip you with daring and exploratory attitude towards teaching.

Accountability

Accountability is a policy of holding schools and teachers responsible for students’ academic progress. Accountability is taking responsibility for your words and actions.

ETC assists to grow a socialized teacher with the content, confidence that is sure to be aware of duty to self, duty to other. One pre service teacher viewed “Working with other teachers collaboratively created a synergy that helped me to look at teaching in ways I hadn’t considered…I now examine student motivation, teaching strategies, and accountability differently.”(Cited in Bates, 2010, p.63), that’s how the teachers’ whole perspective can be changed by the co-working environment of teacher club. Loughran (2005) explains that a communal practice where others are esteemed provides better prospects to reframe situation and that helps to modify one’s thinking about practice.

Empowerment

Establishing teachers’ community or networking through ETC is one of the fundamental objectives. The club is a medium through which the teachers get empowered and have access to higher level due to peer support and sense of group spirit. Hence, awareness in empowerment triggers several opportunities for professional growth.  In other words, it brings teachers networking, and networking is the strength to combat and create. ETC collects English teachers under a single roof as the united force to combat with the individual to the global issues of teachers that horn out leadership quality governed with knowledge and conscience in teacher, consequently leading him/her to get better career opportunities and especial identity. It has the power to place the teachers in professional competency to policy making level. Since the teachers remain informed and oriented of the worlds system and affairs in teachers networking, and gain maximum exposure to the different ideas in the area of their profession.

To sum up, the concept of the teacher club is not entirely new since we are familiar with different book clubs, teacher study circle, collaborative study groups, teacher associations, networks and so on.  English teacher clubs might be a possible forum to improve teaching as well as other professional skills. In a nutshell, it is entirely beneficial to the teachers to grow professionally.

References

Bates, A. J.(2010).Book Clubs as professional development opportunities for pre service teacher candidates and practicing teachers:An Exploratory Study6,56–73.  New York: The New Educator.

Fifield, A.(2006). (Retrieved from http://www.teflcorp.com/articles/79-tefl-how-teachers-can-increase-confidence-in-class/248-building-teachers-confidence-in-the-classroom.htm .)

Gnawali, L. (2011). Promoting ELE in Nepal NELTA way. In L. Farrell, U.N. Singh &

R.A. Giri. (2011). English language education in south Asia: From policy to pedagogy. India: CambridgeUniversity press.

Hord, S.M.(1997). Professional learning communities: Communities of Continuous Inquiry and Improvement.Austin: SEDL.

Loughran, J (2005) Teacher professional development in changing conditions.In D. Beijaard, P. C.Meijer, G.M. Dershimer & H.Tillemaet Springer(Eds.). Netherlands: Springer.

Padwad, A.& Dixit, K.K. (2008).Impact of professional learning community participation on teachers’ thinking about Classroom Problems. Retrived from http://teslej.org/ej47/a10.html.

Richards,J.C.,& Burns,A.(Eds.).(2009).The Cambridge guide to second language teacher Education. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

Singh, A. (2002). Setting the site. In C. Doyle, W. Kennedy, A. Rose, &K. Ludloweds, Teacher training: A reflective perspective. New Delhi: Kaniska publication.

Shashi

Shashi Kayastha
M. Phil. ELE
Kathmandu University