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.

Welcome to the latest Issue of Choutari: Professional Development through Self- reflection

reflective-thinking

Dear valued readers,

The process of teaching learning does not finish after delivering a lesson or course, whereas the learning point for a teacher and teacher educator starts after that. In the cyclical process of teaching learning, teachers need to make a self inquiry at the end of the class or day and look forward to refine their practices. We as a teacher need to look back and ask ourselves, what went well in our class and what didn’t. Why a particular thing worked and why the other thing didn’t, and what could have been done. This process of self- inquiry and critical thinking is termed as reflection.

Reflection is a powerful tool for our professional development. Templer, 2004, as cited in Harmer (2007) states that reflection is like ‘holding up mirrors to our own practice’, which make us more conscious what is beneath the surface. In other words, it is being critical and reflective to our own practice, which eventually refines our skills as a teacher and helps us understand the process of teaching- learning better.The process of teaching and learning begins with planning, followed by implementation or action and further followed by reflection. The reflection gives us input in the planning for the next cycle. The cycle of teaching learning process becomes incomplete without practice of reflection. If we do not reflect into our practice, we stop learning and eventually stop growing because we fail to realize what is not working and we tend to continue the wrong process or practice. Richards (1990) considers reflection a major component of teachers’ development. He urges that self-inquiry and critical thinking can help teachers move from a level, where they may be guided largely by impulse, intuition, or routine, to a level where their actions are guided by reflection and critical thinking. Reflection develops the practice of self- inquiry and critical thinking in us. Therefore, our actions are less likely to be guided only by a sudden desire and routine, whereas they will be more rationale.

Pre-service or in- service training or workshop is one way of our professional development but in the continuous journey of professional development, the best of all is the self- inquiry through reflection. In the words of Confucius, it is the best way to learn. In his three methods of learning he places reflection at first stating,

“The first, by reflection, which is the noblest;

second, by imitation, which is the easiest, and

third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Therefore, being reflective to our own action not only helps us understand the process better but also refines our professional skills and expertise.

The inception of ELT Choutari is also the outcome of the reflective thinking. Likewise, most of the writings on the magazine are based on the reflection. We strongly believe that this practice should continue, which helps develop the culture of reflection. Therefore, we request our readers to reflect on their actions and write about their thoughts. We will give them space at Choutari.

This issue is also a full package of reflection. Karna Rana reflects on his route to learning English language. He believes that English has been given much more importance than required, which results our weaker competence in content knowledge and life skills. Therefore, we should not finish our valuable time only worrying about a language.

Society of Translators Nepal recently organized the first ever conference in Nepal. In this context, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has talked to Bal Ram Adhikari (Vice- president of the Society, Translator and Faculty, Department of English, TU). The talk not only reflects back to the conference but also explores deeply the relation of translation in ELT pedagogy.

To encourage the teachers to reflect on their practices, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked five teachers from East to West to express their views in the context of English language teaching. In this interactive post, they reflect on their practices in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.

In the series of the reflective thinking and writing, we present another very special and powerful reflection of Sujit Wasti. In the truly unique and thought provoking post, he brings together nature, society, and education in a unique way.

In another post, Lal Bahadur Bohora (who is pursuing his M. Phil in ELE from Kathmandu University) shares his preliminary findings of a research on the area of teachers’ perspectives on the prescribed English syllabus of Tribhuvan University and pedagogical practices at tertiary level in far west region.

Finally, to continue with the Photography Project, the Choutari editor Jeevan Karki shares the photos he clicked during his visits around the country on the theme of ‘People at Work’. This is the third Photography Project at Choutari.

Here is the list of the posts in this issue:

  1. Children Taught Me English Language: Karna Bahadur Rana
  2. Translation should be Used as a Technique not a Method in ELT: Bal Ram Adhikari
  3. Peripheral Classrooms: Reflection of English Teachers in Nepal: Ashok Raj Khati
  4. Are We at the Verge of Collapse?: Sujit Wasti
  5. ELT at tertiary level: perspectives from far west Nepal: Lal Bahadur Bohara
  6. Photography Project III: People at Work: Jeevan Karki

Lastly, I extend my special thanks to Ashok Raj Khati for his continuous support to materialize this issue. Similarly, I would like to thank Shyam Sharma for his support and encouragement in the publication of this issue.

Enjoy reading with reflection and share your thoughts in the comment boxes.

Jeevan Karki- head shot

Jeevan Karki  Editor of the Issue

References:

Richards, J.C. (1990). The Language Teaching Matrix. UK. Cambridge University press.

Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. UK: Pearson.