Welcome to the third quarterly issue (July-September) of ELT Choutari, 2019# Vol 11, Issue 92

Dear readers,

Greetings!

We are pleased to announce the third quarterly issue (July-September) of ELT Choutari, 2019 pertaining to the theme of best practices in teaching English. This issue of ELT Choutari features a variety of topics ranging from teaching strategies, teaching methodologies, writing skills, roles of speakers’ club in enhancing speaking ability and best practices in teaching ELT (English Language Teaching) in Nepal. The writings are based on the firsthand experiences of authors/teachers’ and thus the ideas can be directly transferable to our English teaching learning context.

Sharing our teaching learning experiences on professional platform is a part of the process of continuous professional development, which helps us to revenue current trends in teaching English and contribute to the field of language teaching. The more observation we make the better strategies we are likely to employ. The more we share, the better our classroom practices become. Furthermore, recapitalizing the sense and essence of contemporary pedagogy, we teachers in this era are supposed to share our best practices to renew our contents and pedagogy.

Needless to say, this issue of Choutari highlights how Nepali teachers’ best practices have energized their professionalism and contributed to the development of ELT. Effective teaching and learning are sharpened by sharing best practices among and between the practitioners. Writing and sharing our teaching-learning practices not only increases our visibility but also renews our content and pedagogical skills and knowledge. Thus, novice teachers, and students’ can be benefited exploring the new body of knowledge with practical solutions of the problems. Therefore, practices made in one context may empower the participants another context.

In nutshell, this 92nd issue of ELT Choutari offers a wide range of experiences, and opinions of scholars capturing best practices in ELT, which will benefit teacher educators, students, researchers to be specific and ELT in general.

The first post, ‘Reflection on my teaching journey’, an inspiring narrative shared by Laxman Gnawali replicates his personal practices made by himself in course of his teaching and learning endeavor. Having several experiences teaching from lower level to university graduates, the author hints some of the specific strategies to address the classroom problems.  For him, a participatory way of teaching is the best way to renovate teacher’s pedagogical capital.

Likewise, Binod Dhami in the second post ‘Language course and methodology: An innovation or a prescription? questions our teacher education whether methods should be prescribed in the post-modern era and to what extent are the language course and methodology innovative. There is a philosophical tune amalgamated in his narrative whether language course must be innovative to serve the purpose in 21st century.

Similarly, Gyanendra Yadav in the third post ‘Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language’ shares the experience of Speakers’ Club at Kathmandu University, School of Education. It sheds light on the ideas to empower speaking potentials among the learners at different levels.

Sagar Poudel in his personal narration in fourth post ‘My experiences of teaching writing in bachelor level classroom’ reflects his personal techniques employed in bachelor level students’ mentioning three stages of teaching writing metaphorically.

In the same way, in the fifth post Rishi Ram Paudyal entitled ‘Some of my techniques to teach speaking skills’, shares some of the best practices for warming up and teaching speaking based on his own experience.

Here are the five blog posts for this issue:

  1. Reflections on my teaching journey: Laxman Gnawali
  2. Language course and methodology: An Innovation or a prescription? by Binod Singh Dhami
  3. Speakers’ club for enhancing public speaking skills and English language, by Gyanendra Yadav
  4. Three techniques of teaching writing to college students: My experience, by Sagar Poudel
  5. Some of my techniques to teach speaking skills by Rishi Ram Paudyal

Finally, I would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Dr. Karna Rana, Jeevan Karki, Ashok Raj Khati, and Babita Sharma Chapagain, in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. We are equally indebted to all contributors of this issue.

If you enjoy reading the blog posts, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write your teaching-learning experiences and send us. We will give a space at Choutari. Our email is 2elt.choutari@gmail.com

Ganesh Kumar Bastola

Lead editor of the issue

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).

 

ELT conference culture and confusions in Nepal: A personal reflection

Pramod K. Sah

A conference is an occasion to bring together professionals to share their research and teaching practices, including day-to-day professional struggles and pleasures. It also provides opportunity to engage with fellow teachers’ and researchers’ experiences. Attending a conference supports continued professional development of ELT teachers. Borg (2015) lists several of such benefits; for example, a) giving participants a sense of achievements, b) allowing positive comparisons with ELT professionals from elsewhere, c) creating a belief in their own potential, d) enhancing their credibility in the eyes of colleagues, and e) reducing feelings of isolation. Similarly, IATEFL (2017) argues that it “provide[s] general support in helping teachers and other ELT professionals in their professional development, and to provide a platform where they can offer their views, exchange research, and teaching experiences and learn from each other in the field of professional development.” These are the basic norms of ELT conferences, but the question remains whether these promises are kept ‘true’ in all conferences. There is also very limited empirical knowledge on whether teachers and other professionals benefit from attending conferences.

I’m personally often positive about attending conferences and, therefore, I try attending at least one international conference every year. Luckily enough, I have already attended (and going to attend) a number of national and international conferences in 2019. While I’m in Nepal (at the time of writing) for some academic purposes, I also got opportunities to attend two major conferences of Nepal: ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’ and ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’. I’m sharing what I have recently experienced at both conferences via-a-via my experiences of different international conferences like TESOL International Convention and AAAL Conference in the USA, IATEFL in the UK, Language Planning and Policy Conference and ACLA in Canada. The purpose of this piece is to critically review the overall effectiveness of these conferences, which may help the concerned organizers and attendees to effectively organize and get benefitted from ELT conferences in future. The areas of improvement of these conferences that I discuss are by no means, meant to demotivate the academic spirit to put up these conferences in the low-resource context.

The first conference, ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’, was organized by the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University (TU). This conference was able to gather professionals from different parts of Nepal, including a handful number of participants from abroad. One of the keynote speakers was an internationally recognized professor, Gary Barkhuizen, based in the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who has excellent contributions in the field of narrative inquiry, in particular. Other keynote and plenary speakers included locally renowned professors of ELT. Interestingly, the conference looked exciting with the presence of enthusiastic graduate-level students from TU, some of whom were always rushing from one session to another. The second conference was the ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’ held at Solidarity International School, Hetauda, which was attended by a large number of English language teachers from all over the country, including a very few international delegates. All keynote and plenary speakers at this conference were ELT scholars and professionals from Nepal.

The first point I would like to discuss is the central theme of conferences and keynotes/plenaries. Most conferences announce their central theme every year, which basically invites delegates to bring discussions around that theme and extend the debate forward. It’s often the case that, at least, keynote/plenary speakers discuss major arguments related to the themes in relation to their empirical research/theoretical underpinnings. In this regard, the ‘National NELTA Conference 2019’ had theme ‘Transformation in ELT Methods: Addressing 21st Century Classroom Contexts’, which indicated that the conference envisioned to bring together discussions on effective ways of addressing the issues of ELT, prominent in this millennium. However, I struggled to find any talks, including keynotes/plenaries focusing on the theme. In fact, in my search for the term ‘transformation/transform’ and ’21st century’ in the program schedule, the former appeared only twice, and the latter appeared once. In this regard, the topic of one keynote talk, i.e., ELT in Post-Method Era, sounded enthusiastic as I anticipated some critical discussions of different teaching methodologies that can have significant relevance to the Nepalese context, but the talk was merely limited to listing all ELT methods often found in ELT books. The talk also included different microstrategies of teaching English that Kumaravadivelu (1994) suggested about 25 years ago, but the presentation neither made a clear reference to Kumaravadivelu nor there was any critical discussion appropriating those microstrategies to the characteristics of 21st century ELT in Nepal. In fact, there was no element of ‘transformation’ in the talk, at all. Uniquely, the same professor was there as a keynote at both conferences with the same topic, without almost no alteration. The ‘2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference’ had one keynote talk, which nevertheless tried to align with the central theme of ‘Policies, Practice, and Possibilities in ELT’. In this particular keynote, the speaker showed some ‘possibilities’ of ELT through ‘narrative inquiry’ as a new practice.

Further, I was expecting some critical discussions on different issues in relation to the Nepalese context under the light of existing literature of Nepal, but hardly anyone made a reference to research in Nepal. For example, in one plenary at the NELTA conference, the speaker tried to critically review the phenomenon of English-medium instruction (EMI) in Nepal. I particularly liked the points that the speaker made against the uncritical promotion of EMI, but the speaker didn’t make any reference to research on EMI in Nepal. There has recently been some research on EMI in Nepal—available in the forms of journal articles, chapters, and dissertations—suggesting some unique findings. However, the speaker only cited a couple of studies on EMI from other South Asian countries, not any from Nepal. The speaker also made claims, which aren’t valid. For example, the speaker claimed EMI policy as “illegal” in Nepal, which is not true. The National Curriculum of Nepal (2008), stating the medium of instruction as Nepali, or English, or both Nepali and English, gives a clear legal background for EMI in Nepal. There can, nevertheless, be an argument that EMI is illogical/ineffective, but again such argument needs to be put forward in reference to research.

Another unacceptable claim, made by one of the panelists in the panel on EMI in the 2nd Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference, that there is no research conducted on EMI proved the research ignorance of some of the invited scholars. This problem was seen in almost all the talks I attended. There was another professor presenting on the use of L1 in ELT classrooms at the NELTA conference, who didn’t cite any research from Nepal. This time, as it was a concurrent session, I had an opportunity to ask a question and I, in fact, asked why the speaker didn’t cite any research from Nepal. Not surprisingly, the speaker also mentioned that there is no such research undertaken in Nepal. With frustration, I told the speaker that I myself have published a study on the use L1, among some other scholars, and the speaker really needed to at least ‘google’, which will direct to available published research. I think such unacademic practices can be checked during the proposal screening process that proposals not making references to research should be declined. Of course, the conferences will also have to provide a relevant rubric for successful proposals.

There were some other instances of keynote/plenary speakers giving very illogical/unacademic answers to the questions. For example, one plenary speaker presented his/her action research on a given teaching activity that he designed and experimented. S/he claimed that the students developed “confidence” as a process of learner autonomy and hence, the success of the activity. One audience, who was another professor of TU, was seriously concerned about the “validity” of the research findings that how he would believe that the students developed confidence. He specifically asked how the confidence was measured as the presenter hadn’t mentioned research design and data analysis in the presentation. The plenary speaker answered, “I looked at my students’ faces, and I knew they were confident.” I couldn’t believe that the speaker didn’t mention any point of his/her data analysis and, instead, gave such an illogical/unacademic answer. But, unexpectedly enough, there was a huge round of applause from the mass, which made me really confused about what just happened. I couldn’t understand why there was such appreciating applause at that kind of answer. Perhaps the speaker was a well-known ELT expert and the audience—the majority of them were university students—had just “wowed” at the answer without deeply thinking about it.  Similarly, there were lots of “गफ” (bluffs), which also consisted “mocking” of English accent/use of school-level English language teachers with low English proficiency that was not only unacademic but also in-humanizing. As experts, we’re meant to discuss how we can come up with solutions to overcome weaknesses of English language teachers in Nepal and we can also check our own practices in teacher education programs at the university, instead of making fun of poor teachers at academic gatherings. For instance, while presenting research findings, another plenary speaker often made fun of the teacher participants who didn’t have the technical/practical knowledge on “teaching writing”, which also received lots of laughter and claps from some audience.

There were some other less significant issues that looked bizarre to me. First, the management of both conferences lacked mobilization of volunteers and clear plans. While TU conference had mobilized some graduate students as volunteers who tried to take up their responsibility seriously, NELTA conference had school children as volunteers who were not really able to understand the conference situation. The conferences should try looking for volunteers from the conference attendees, which I think will be more effective. Moreover, the catering service was another area to pay high attention as due to long queue it was affecting the preceding and the following sessions. Similarly, I often saw one of organizing committee members at the TU conference requesting attendees to join on-going sessions as it seemed the majority of attendees weren’t going to sessions. Although it’s true that many attendees like to connect with fellow attendees, but not at the cost of on-going sessions. Attending sessions and engaging in discussion, I think, should be the first priority, which I found missing at both conferences. Keeping track of session-time was another big area of improvement, which really influenced the schedule of different sessions. Most keynote/ plenary speakers seemed to take so much of extra time, which eventually influenced the timing of the following sessions. As a result, I missed several sessions that I was interested to attend.

Finally, the conference culture is not new in Nepal but, for me, its effectiveness is really an issue. The organizers, first, have to move beyond the ideology of making some limited people happy and re-think of people who could best support English language teachers with new ideas during the conference. We don’t need repetition of ideas and experts at the conference. International conferences don’t really invite the same scholars every year. I think there are several Nepali scholars working in different countries, doing excellent works, who can be invited to these conferences. We also really need to think about maintaining diversity in experts who are invited, meaning the representation of race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Second, we need to peer review proposals, otherwise, there is danger of unintellectual/illogical/inhuman discussions. The local national conferences should also be a means of promoting/up-lifting local scholarship. This reflection is a kind message to many of us, who tend to fall into the (mal)practices discussed above, to bring in intellectual and critical discussions instead of repeating old ideas/knowledge and mocking the less-knowledgeable others. Third, the conference organizers really need to plan the conference in terms of employing volunteers, not only for on-site needs but also for the peer-review process. Most importantly, we should start teaching what “conference” really means to our university students, so they can utilize most from attending conferences. They need to be prepared to problematize and question ideas being presented rather than uncritically accepting everything and clapping, shouting, and hooting as we do in cinema theaters.

 

References

CDC (Curriculum Development Centre). (2008). Primary education curriculum. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Government of Nepal.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: (E)merging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 28(1), 27-48.

IATEFL (2017). IATEFL’s mission, goals and practices. Available at:https://members.iatefl.org/downloads/member_info/IATEFL_mission_goals_practices.pdf

Borg, S. (2015). The benefits of attending ELT conferences, ELT Journal, 69(1), 35–46.

The author:

Pramod K. Sah is PhD Candidate and Killam Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He has earned an M.Ed. in English Language Teaching from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and an MA in TESOL with Applied Linguistics from the University of Central Lancashire, UK. His work is driven by the core values of social justice indexes, for example, class and ethnicity, in English language education policies and practices in low- and middle-income polities, often drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s critical social theories. His research works can be accessed at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pramod_Sah5

My reflection on second ELT and applied linguistics conference in Nepal

Somy Paudyal

I attended NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher’s Association) conference last year which was my first experience of attending a conference in my life. I learned a lot regarding English language teaching in the conference. I remember one presentation where a teacher shared her experience of telling stories to her students by the use of wheel cycle and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, English language teachers are so motivated.’ I felt energized and encouraged at the end of the three-day conference. After a year, when I first heard of second English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics Conference that was going to be held in TU, I could feel the flutter in my chest out of happiness.

The image of the first day of the conference is still fresh in my mind. It was February ninth, Saturday and it was raining heavily. The weather was chilly, the clouds gloomy; nevertheless, I could see smiling faces of the people around me who, like me, had come to get something out of the conference. I also saw expats coming to the university arena, some on tourist buses while some on the back of the motorbikes with raincoats on. The program was delayed by half an hour or so due to the weather as many failed to arrive on time. However, by lunch time, the rain had stopped and all could bask outside in the lovely sun.

Regarding the events on the first day, I remember cultural dances, plenary sessions and there were nine concurrent sessions going on at the same time. I was enthralled and had a hard time choosing which session to attend to as all of them seemed really interesting. However, I do remember one of the very first workshops I went to. It was Jeevan Karki’s workshop on academic writing where I learnt a lot about how we can choose a good topic, brainstorm ideas and give a proper shape to our writing. The highlight for me that day, however, was panel discussion on the topic: English Medium of Instruction: Assumptions, Policies and Practices. Dr Jay Raj Awasthi, Dr Lava Deo Awasti and Mr Dinesh Thapa did a really good job on raising some burning issues regarding the medium of instruction for effective learning. The insightful discussions compelled the audience to think about those serious issues. There was equally good wrapping up of the program with some cultural programs.

The next day, however, was a sunny day and everybody seemed to enjoy basking in the sun in the little break they got. The spirit of the conference did not die out but instead was more enlivened with Sanjeev Uprety being a keynote speaker who gave the message on how literature can indeed be used as ELT resource and he also talked about discourse. For me, the hero of the second day was V.S. Rai. His talk inspired me and I became a fan of him. In my opinion, he gave us an important message on how we should rethink our methods and policies of using one language over others in our teaching and how that can lead to dying language like Tulung. It was a great insight for me. The concurrent sessions went on. There were interaction sessions and panel discussions with some interesting cultural shows in-between. A drama at the end was like icing on the cake to wrap up that day. I went home fulfilled with lots of ideas and things to think of.

The final day was as exciting as the first day of the conference for me.  I was so much inspired by the speech of Dr Jay Raj Awasthi , the  keynote speaker who is the guru of gurus how he explained about the trajectories of ELT and Applied linguistics in Nepal. He told us about ‘Post-modern method’ and added that we, as teachers should not only adhere to western method but should also research in one’s local context about the appropriate method to teach. I got to see wonderful presentation of Dr Laxman Gyawali on teachers’ readiness to learn and their practices of EFL writing in Nepali Secondary Classrooms. In addition to that I got to see wonderful presentations in the concurrent sessions. One of the presenters was Guru Prasad Poudel who talked a lot about teacher’s identity. Finally, I got to see Ganga Ram Gautam’s plenary session on Fostering Learner Autonomy in Large ELT Class.

The highlights for me of this conference were: getting to meet international and national scholars, networking and this conference opened the door to opportunities for new ELT practitioners like me to get exposure to a lot of new content. I have heartfelt gratitude toward Dr Prem Phyak and his team for organizing the conference for us. I have gathered the experiences that I am going to remember all in my life.

The Author:

Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.

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.

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