Open online courses for teachers’ professional development

Bibas Thapa*

Introduction

As stated in the Oxford online dictionary, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are freely available, short courses, delivered online, on a suitable platform. MOOCs are currently one of the latest educational revolutions in education, making the rich resources around the world available at our fingertip. MOOCs therefore, represent an untapped potential for teacher professional development that may replace traditional educational courses Pope (2013), Evans & Myrick (2015). MOOCs allow free and unlimited access to the courses of our choice with lectures, videos, and reading materials followed by lively virtual interaction. Therefore, we may find comfort doing these courses. Moreover, these courses and the contents on are highly authentic as these courses are also offered by some of the prestigious universities in the world such as MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, Arizona, and many others.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how MOOCs can help teachers’ in their professional development and share my experience of attending and benefitting from these courses.

How MOOCs can help with teachers’ professional development?

Teacher professional development is the process of constantly enhancing professional skills, broadening academic knowledge and improving teaching ability. The 21st-century dynamics of the education systems emphasizes professional teacher quality due to the increased number of students with diversified needs and the changing teaching technology (Hennessy, Haßler & Hofmann, 2015; Ji & Cao, 2016). This, therefore, demands teachers and teacher educators to continually strengthen the professional competency. One of the key elements of teacher quality is the provision of adequate opportunities for personal growth and professional development through regular training (Avalos, 2011; Junaid & Maka, 2015). The traditional professional development courses where teachers go out of school to attend formal lectures, capacity building workshops, and in-service courses are only not sufficient to address this need. This is due to the costs associated with such professional development training such as time, training and coaching materials, equipment, and facilities, travel and university tuition and conference fees. There is need to have a more cost-effective way of training teachers and teacher educators for continued professional development. At present MOOCs are offered for free or at a nominal fee. EdX and Coursera are two prime examples of free courses available and to be modified and customized in different ways to meet the specific needs audience. A teacher, who wants to enhance his/her professional competency and be an ideal teacher, can opt for free MOOCs. Due its to flexibility, both in time and location, teachers can attend MOOCs courses during vacation and holidays rather than depending on training centers. So starting MOOCs is a better way of learning in a self-directed way.

My experience

Since 2013 I have been using MOOCs for my professional development as teaching is my profession. I have done more than 30 courses so far and been continuing learning at my own pace and convenience without disturbing my daily schedule.

Online courses have enormous flexibility. We can do the course at any time of the day, in our time as per our choice and requirement. For instance, we can study on our way to work, in leisure at our work, after working hours at home, while traveling in some other city, or with our learner watching the video together. We just need a working internet connection. I did the course on my break time and spending a some time daily in my leisure period. MOOCs use the digital tools through which I jump forward and back in the video sequence or watch individual sequences several times. My first course was five hours online course named English Grammar for the teachers from Cambridge University and I continued other courses too. When I decided to do a MOOC course, I presented myself with a chance to hold interactions and discussions with students worldwide. Forums, peer review, and real-time discussions are some core features of the majority of MOOC courses available today. In the discussion forum, we can ask questions, debate on issues, and find classmates who share similar goals. Due to the discussion forum, I got success in starting a mystery Skype session from my MOOCs classmate, where two classes from anywhere in the world Skype each other, taking it in turns to ask some interesting yes/no questions. It develops speaking skills with a confidence level of my learner. The course instructors also encourage to give constructive feedback on the works of the other students enrolled in the course. It helps to develop a sense of accomplishment and contributes to the concept of collective learning. The positive outcomes of a peer review component in my online course enhance my learning and develop writing and thinking skills. The process of undertaking a peer review helps me to become a stronger assessor of my work. In MOOCs, there is also a provision of grading. Students always know where they stand in their course because the grade in MOOCs is always available. We can retake the submission too if we want to improve our scores. In this era, where mere cramming of the subject isn’t enough, I learned listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in different ways with better learning results in about half the time as those in a traditional course. Due to MOOCs, I’m familiar with the student-centered methodology and started teaching using communicative methods and inductive methods with ICT. By focusing on innovation and latest trends being emerged in my field, MOOCs prepare me for the 21st-century workplace. Recently, I completed TESOL 150 hours course from Arizona State University and in the final Capstone Project, I learned by doing practice teaching and refining lesson plans and video-tape myself presenting the lesson. These activities bring me closer to an optimal learning experience. These are all the great reasons that teachers should go for MOOCs for professional development needs.

How to find useful MOOCs for teachers?
The first step in finding useful content is to look at sites like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy to see what they offer. Don’t forget to look beyond courses specifically designed for teacher education or professional development, but also focus on subject area classes.

Udacity, on the other hand, offers many courses on specific topics that could be of use to a K-12 professionals either for continuing development or to adapt for their classroom use. For example:

  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Introduction to Physics
  • Introduction to Psychology…

Udemy offers courses in a variety of areas useful to educators such as:

  • Technology
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Social Science
  • Music

Additionally, Udemy offers an entire category of courses specifically for those interested in education. Likewise, the courses are designed to address the diverse needs of teacher and teacher educators. Many of them may, however, charge a nominal fee.

Conclusion

Despite being a fairly recent phenomenon, MOOCs have attracted wide interest from people around the world. MOOCs at present seem to be better serving the continuous professional development of teachers and all. Teachers can receive high-quality professional development from MOOCs. The motivating factors to learn in the MOOC were the peer review, interactions among the participants and the self-regulated schedule with flexible start and stop dates. MOOCs have the potential to develop digital skills to use open educational resource which may enhance the professional development of teachers. The participants are also awarded certificates of participation in the successful completion of the course. Although MOOCs provide the educational opportunities offered by prestigious universities, the lack of recognition and appropriate accreditation is still an issue. It would be wonderful, if there could be a way of recognition, validation, and accreditation of MOOC learning.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author: Mr. Bibas Thapa is an Ast. English language lecturer at Hetauda Campus, Hetauda and a life-member of NELTA. He is Microsoft innovative educator, expert  2019 -2020. He has done more than 30 MOOCs from reputed universities including TESOL 150 hrs. online course. He has presented papers in national and international conferences regarding MOOCs. His main interest is on using ICT in English education and teacher training.

[To cite this: Thapa, B. (2020, January 25). Open online courses for teachers’ professional development [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/moocs-for-teachers-professional-development/]

References: 

Avalos, B. (2011) Teacher Professional Development in Teaching and Teacher Education over Ten Years. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 10-20.

Cao, Y. A, Ji, Z. (2016). “A Prospective Study on the Application of MOOC in Teacher Professional Development in China.” Universal Journal of Educational Research 4.9.

Evans, S., & Myrick, J. G. (2015). How MOOC instructors’ view the pedagogy and purposes of massive open online coursesDistance Education, 36, 295-311.

Hennessy, S., Haßler, B., & Hofmann, R. (2015). Challenges and opportunities for teacher professional development in interactive use of technology in African schools. Technology, Pedagogy and Education 24 (5).

Junaid, M., & Maka, F. (2015). In- Service Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Synthesis Report.

Pope, J. (2013) Coursera to Offer MOOC Options Targeting Teacher Education. Community College Week. 25(21):1-10

How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure?

Ghanashyam Raj Kafle*

Scene setting

Teaching is not telling. However, sharing a teacher’s experience on classroom success and failure while ‘teaching reading’ could be of benefit to many fellow teachers. This article offers some examples of how we can use reading materials to encourage students’ active engagement with reading texts.

My experiences of using reading materials

As usual I used to ask my students to read passage from the lesson and answer the questions given there. While doing so, I would notice clear expressions of dislike of the task on their face, and their hands moved halfheartedly to work although verbally they did not express that. Sure, that the technique did not work, and I slightly changed it into briefly explaining them how reading would contribute to secure better marks/grades. The second technique too seemed no better than the first one. Therefore, I asked them to read the questions first to make sense of what the passage is about. This time I noticed involvement of more students.

Next, I asked them to look at the pictures and then tell who the people were, what they did, which of them they liked and disliked and so on. The students sounded interested and more engaging this time than ever before. Next day, I used yet another idea to read aloud only half of the story in a way the rest half was missing. The students sounded then curious to know the outcome of the story. That’s the reason why I think teaching reading is not just exposing students to reading materials. It calls for a simple trick and twist of teacher to make the old stuff feel like new.

In my successive lessons, I told the students to watch a favourite movie and narrate the story to the class next day. They were given free choice to tell the story in Nepali first and then in English. Everybody there and then wanted to tell/write the entire story of the movie and I had to remind them of the next class to stop. It was hard to resist them otherwise. It seemed to me that they each wanted to have their turn first in the class the next day because they had so many things to tell/write about the movie they watched. Here, the point I’m making is how we teachers set aside ten or so minutes in advance to slightly devise new twists and turns in the given reading passages/materials.

Discussion

We teachers have been working hard; there is no doubt. Is it not like we are filling a jar which takes in much water still never fills up? Certainly, there is a leakage in the rear. The earlier we discover and plug in the leakage, the better it is. Similarly, when a dress of latest fashion arrives in the market, people rush to buy it no matter what the price is despite already having many sets in their wardrobe. Similarly, people love eating out in restaurant or picnic although the food cooked at home is far more hygienic and cost effective. Yes, everywhere new taste is preferred and the same applies in teaching reading too!

Now it’s high time that we teachers tried out something new to give a twist in teaching reading. Traditional stereotypical methods of teaching reading wore down the students’ interest and passion in reading. When students sense that teachers are using the same old methods and techniques always, it no longer sustains their interest. Therefore, it is rewarding to set reading materials in a way to go beyond their prediction. Sometimes, splitting the story into several bits and then asking them to arrange in order of events works wonder to engage them in reading activities. Indeed, materials themselves are just the means, not the end.

Every time the teacher deals with the same reading stuff, it is advisable for one to change activities every ten minutes to avoid monotony of the students. Listen to Roy (2013) who proposes two approaches of reading: reading for message and reading for language. Using only one approach leads to incomplete reading. On the other hand, it runs the risk of overlooking the language aspect of the reading text. For instance, look at the sentences – ‘She asked him a question’. ‘She fired a question at him’. ‘She hurled a question toward him’. ‘She projected a missile of question at him’. Not all writers use the same way to say something. They complicate the meaning under the cover of vocabulary and structure challenge.

Similarly, an essay named ‘How should one read a book’ written by Woolf (1918) must be a sure shot answer to all those who still bump about reading. Earlier I wondered if this is even a question to ask. We’ve read several books and have had higher grades and degrees. The thing to realize at this point is that we teachers should present reading materials with a clear objective for the day; say for example, meaning into words such as, how much reading do you do with answers? Students may come up with answers like, I do quite a lot of reading, I don’t do much reading, I haven’t been able to do any reading these days. In doing so, we can arise the students’ interest in how meaning is expressed with words. Most likely, every single reading text emphasizes certain vocabulary and ordering of words to deliver meaning. That is to say reading many books, preparing for test, performing in the exam best is not the same as learning/discovering how to read a book. Therefore, a teacher should offer different reading items in their reading menu. I notice it refreshes students’ reading experience. Just as we develop distaste and dislike eating the same food, students too would feel the same while exposed to the same reading text.

In addition to message and meaning approach to reading, there is yet another milestone in readers’ journey to reading: reading for pleasure and reading under pressure. Students read newspaper and generally understand the message. They hear many things during the day and remember it without missing one bit. They watch a movie and can still narrate the story even after a year. But intriguingly, how is it possible that we read a text and can’t make sense of it immediately! So, it certainly speaks of a massive leakage in the rear of our reading jar. The leakage is nothing else but ‘pleasure’ and ‘pressure’ aspect of reading. When we read a newspaper, we have no pressure followed by. So, we read it with pleasure and the memory retains for long. Similarly, when we listen to people every day, there is no burden of sitting at the exam to answer the questions. The same applies to reading too.

Doff (1988) offers three tips to handle a text as fun material: i) give a brief introduction to the text ii) present some of the new words that will appear in the text iii) give one or two guiding questions. Similarly, Harmer (1991) gives three tips of how best to teach English to the non-native learners of English. The tips include i) training students to use textbook ii) training students to use communicative activities properly iii) training students to read for gist iv) training students to deal with unfamiliar vocabulary v) training students to use dictionaries.

 Conclusion

Teaching reading by using various materials such as stories, magazines, pictures, movies or reading passages should break away from the repetitive methods with the change of activities every ten minutes. The pressure (a ghost) of reading for test spoils the pleasure of reading the text and comprehend! Making connection of the reading text with everyday life, and prior to teaching asking a few leading questions serves as a stimulates their interest.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

*The author: Ghanashyam Raj Kafle is an English teacher and freelance translator. He also works in authoring and translating textbooks for Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) Sanothimi, Bhaktapur.

[To cite this: Kafle, G, R., (2020, January 25). How to convert reading into pleasure from pressure? [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/how-to-make-teaching-reading-pleasure-from-pressure/]

References

Doff, A. (1988). Teach English: A training course for teachers: teacher’s workbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers. London/New York.

Roy, S. (2013). The impact programme. India. Retrieved on January 20, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_ZeBr6bhyw

Woolf, V (1913). The critical reader. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.

Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills

Somy Paudyal*

I’m a student of ELT but also teach Nepali language to the foreigners in Nepal for the last four years. English is considered as a foreign language in Nepal, while Nepali (my native language) is a foreign language to my students. In my university, I study how to teach English as a foreign language to Nepali students, while I also teach Nepali to the foreign students! My students (those learning Nepali) share the similar background with Nepali students learning English- both learn a foreign language. In this backdrop, I thought of sharing my experience of collecting students’ feedback for improving my teaching skills, which could be a useful resource for EFL teachers and practitioners.

I consider myself as a very hardworking teacher, but I don’t know how my students perceive me. I would literally do anything to make my students learn language. I can recall times, where I had set myself off the limits, pushed myself too hard to design lessons to make my students learn in an easy way. For instance, once I went as far as transcribing a student’s spoken discourse in order to find out what kind of errors the student produced so that the errors could be diagnosed. However, sometimes when I would try too hard, I felt that the students didn’t care very much. Sometimes, when my students wouldn’t get the expected results, I would think them of not paying heed to my hard work, which would eventually make me sad.

Sometimes, we are tuned to listening to only our praises from students that we have a hard time thinking of our teaching methods in critical way. We may want to get periodical feedback from our students, but we ask the feedback in an authoritative way that they’re compelled to give some pleasing feedback because they fear to tell their real feelings. Therefore, it’s hard to elicit the true feelings and feedback from them. Hence, I wanted to try out collecting feedback in a logbook (a simple writing copy). For this, I made a commitment that I would step out from my comfort zone and be ready to get any feedback, both positive and negative. However, my students would often consider giving feedback as an assignment and wouldn’t show much interest in it. So, I formulated one or two short questions and asked them to keep their answers short.

At that time, I was teaching Nepali language to an American and a Danish student separately three days a week. So, I separated the first section of the logbook for American student and other section for the Danish to write their feeling and feedback with date at the top to track the progress. I tried out this strategy for a month to the American student and for two months to the Danish. After that, they took a break due to their other priorities.

I started with simple questions for both. Sometimes, I changed a bit depending upon the lessons. The questions were like ‘How was today?’ ‘What did you learn today?’ ‘How well do you remember the last lesson?’ In this way, there would be a question each day and the students could write their responses as short as they wished. Sometimes, they would elaborate and some other time, they would just write one-word answer. For instance, to the question, ‘How was today?’ the Danish wrote Very good. And the next day, she wrote her reflection as, Good. Helpful to chat over the new words. Also good to try to explain the movie. A good challenge. Also some words stick to my brain others not. When lot of new words other words go somewhere behind so good to practice use of your words.

These comments were a way good feedback for me as I could know what they thought of my teaching. It also provided a way for the students to express their achievement and frustrations regarding language learning. This gave me a lot of insight about my teaching. I came to know that, in second language learning, we talk about exposure a lot. We say that if we give students a lot of exposure in the target language, he/she will learn better. But Danish student’s comment tells that there shouldn’t be a lot of exposure at once because too many words made her forget the former words. She emphasized the need of more practice with the new Nepali words.

Other day, responding to the question ‘How was today?’, the Danish wrote, Very good. I think we are doing so many different things know that I know I will lose something though. Love all the things we do but we could dwell more with the things. For my brain’s sake. Her English may not be highly comprehensible, but we can clearly understand what she is trying to say. Her feedback made me realise many things about my teaching methods. On that day, I had planned my lesson in this way:

  • Conversation for 30 minutes: she would explain a Danish cartoon in Nepali. The new words she learnt would be recorded and taught for the next 15 minutes,
  • Chat again for 30 minutes or so,
  • Read the passage and do comprehension questions for 45 minutes: read the passage I had designed in Nepali and attempt comprehension questions.

When I reflected on the lesson plan, I found that I had tried to incorporate a lot of contents in the lesson of that day. My intention to plan this way was to give a variety to her, so that she would not feel bored. However, after reading the comment I realized that though I spent a lot of time on lesson planning and designing activities, the student wasn’t benefited because the contents were overloaded.

Likewise, the feelings and the feedback from American student were also equally useful for me. One day, having asked, ‘how was today?’, he wrote, it was okay. I was tired so it made focusing difficult. This comment took out a lot of burden from me. I had tried to make him understand some Nepali words and he was simply not able to grab them. In this comment, he clearly wrote he was tired, so he couldn’t focus and that had nothing to do with my teaching strategy. And I was relieved to some extent.

From some of the excerpts from my feedback logbook and my reflection above, you must have already thought how such practice can help us to find out what’s working and what’s not in our classroom. This exploration can help us to plan, re-plan and review our teaching activities and strategies. Maintaining logbook worked well for me and I’m planning to develop this strategy in my classes in future too.

I think that feedback logbook can be used cautiously in large classes too. Firstly, we should encourage students to limit their writing from one phrase to few sentences. Or in place of writing in the logbook, sometimes we can simply ask them to write in a paper anonymously, fold and give that to us. This will build their confident to write freely and truly. Secondly, we can reduce the frequency in the large classes. Instead of doing daily, we can go for fortnightly, monthly or even bi-monthly. Moreover, it shouldn’t be assigned to them as a homework, they should be given chance to write voluntarily in the classroom.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this article in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

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

[To cite this: Paudyal, S. (2020, January 25). Collecting students’ feedback for enhancing my teaching skills [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/01/collecting-students-feedback-for-enhancing-my-teaching-skills/]

Place of English in the integrated curriculum for early grades (1-3) in Nepal

Ramesh Prasad Ghimire

Scene setting

 Schools, around the world, are gradually moving towards an integrated curriculum from a traditional subject-centered curriculum. Advocates of an integrated curriculum argue that it promotes holistic and meaningful learning that is linked to real life. In Nepal, an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) has been developed and being piloted in grade 1 in selected schools in this academic session. Though the idea of an integrated curriculum is not new, its systematic practice in Nepal is new and therefore the stakeholders of education need to be clear about its concept. Integrated curriculum is a relative concept and curriculum integration is always a matter of degree. This article tries to provide a brief picture of an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) in Nepal focusing mainly on the English subject area. It begins with brief background information about integrated curriculum. Next, it provides its theoretical concepts. After that there is a short synopsis of an English subject of an integrated curriculum. The article ends by providing a glimpse of the materials that have been developed based on integrated curriculum.

Key words: Integrated, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, themes, soft skills

 Background

In Nepal an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) has been developed and the curriculum of grade 1 is under piloting in 103 public schools in this academic year. The curriculum for grade 1 will be fully implemented in all the school of Nepal in the academic year 2077 (2020 AD) after the revision based on the feedback obtained from piloting. The integrated curriculum was developed as a refinement of traditional subject-centered curriculum. It is expected that the integrated curriculum counters the limitations of the subject-centered curriculum and makes learning holistic and meaningful. National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2075) has made a provision for an integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3). The NCF has made a provision for six major learning areas for grade 1-3 as shown in the table below:

Curriculum structure of basic education (grade 1-3)

S. N. Subject-related activities Credit hour Annual working hour
1 Activities related to literacy skills  (Nepali) 5 160
2 Activities related to literacy skills  (English) 4 128
3 Activities related to numeracy skills 4 128
4 Activities related to science, health and physical education 4 128
5 Activities related to social studies, character development and creative arts 4 128
6 Activities related to mother tongue/local contents 5 160
Total 26 832

Source: Basic level (grade 1-3) curriculum, 2075, p. 5

 Concept of an integrated curriculum

In a general sense, integrated curriculum is defined as a curriculum that interlinks learning of more than one domain or learning area. It can also be defined as a curriculum that promotes holistic learning by helping the children to make connections. This type of curriculum makes learning relevant to learner’s life and develops problem solving skills in the students by providing them “minds-on” and “hands-on” learning processes. Humphreys (1981 as cited in Lake 1994, pp. 1-2 ) states, “An integrated study is one in which children broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment”. The term interdisciplinary is often used to refer to an integrated curriculum.  Jacobs (1989 as cited in Lake 1994 pp. 1-2) defines interdisciplinary as “a knowledge view and curricular approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience”. These definitions support the view that integrated curriculum is an educational approach that prepares children for lifelong learning.

The rational for an integrated curriculum

It is commonly accepted that we need integrated curriculum:

  • To promote collaborative learning.
  • To reflect the real world in the learning process.
  • To connect school with society.
  • To motivate the learners for learning.
  • To check in the fragmentation of learning and to make learning more integrated and holistic.
  • To give learners an opportunity to learn in their own place.
  • To make learning relevant for life by integrating soft skills in the learning process.

 Approaches to curriculum integration

There are various approaches to curriculum integration. Susan Drake (2018) discusses the three framework for planning the integrated curriculum.

Multidisciplinary: In this model, the same topic or theme is addressed by each of the separate disciplines. It retains the integrity of each discipline. Multidisciplinary approaches focus primarily on the disciplines. Teachers who use this approach organize standards from the disciplines around a theme. The standards of the disciplines organised around a theme is the organising center in this model.

Interdisciplinary: In this model, specific skills, processes or ideas which are common to all disciplines are identified and they are addressed through the disciplines. Learning to learn is the organising factor in this model. In this model, teachers organize the curriculum around common learning across disciplines. They chunk together the common learning embedded in the disciplines to emphasize interdisciplinary skills and concepts.

 Trans-disciplinary: In this model, the focus of curriculum planning is ‘life-centered approach’. Knowledge is examined as it exists in the real world. The content to be learned is determined by the theme and the expressed interests and need of the students, rather than predetermined by some curriculum framework or set of curriculum objectives. In this model, teachers organize curriculum around student questions and concerns. Real-life context and student questions are the organising center of this model.

Continuum of curriculum integration

Integrated curriculum is not an absolute concept rather it is a relative concept and a matter of degree. Scholars have proposed various designs of integrated curriculum ranging from loosely integrated to highly integrated. The following figure represents the continuum of integrated curriculum.

As shown in the figure above, disciplinary curriculum is loosely integrated in nature. The existing school curriculum of Nepal is an example of it. At the opposite end of the continuum, there is a trans-disciplinary curriculum which is deeply integrated in nature. This sort of curriculum is rarely practised in the world. Only a few European schools have practised this sort of curriculum. In this type of curriculum, there exist no subjects. Students are involved in projects and problem-solving tasks.

 

Designed curriculum as integrated curriculum in Nepal

The present integrated curriculum for basic grades (1-3) in Nepal is based on multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary design. It is important to note here that there were six different subjects in the Primary Education Curriculum 2063 as mentioned below:

  • Nepali
  • English
  • Maths
  • Social studies and creative arts
  • Science, health and physical education and
  • Local subject/mother tongue

 

In the new integrated curriculum (2075) there are only three learning domains: language, maths and our surroundings. The language domain includes three languages Nepali, English and mother tongue. Maths remains as a separate discipline. The learning domain ‘our surroundings’ consists of the following subjects of the old curriculum:

  • Social studies and creative arts,
  • Science, health and physical education

Thus, the current interdisciplinary design of the integrated curriculum can be shown below in the figure.

It is clear from the above figure that the learning domain ‘Our surroundings’ incorporates three subjects, i.e. ‘Social studies and creative arts, Science and environment and Health.

As already mentioned the present integrated curriculum for basic grades consists of three main disciplines language, maths and our surroundings. It means that these three learning areas remain as separate disciplines and thus form a multidisciplinary design. This can be presented in the following figure.

The overall design of the Grade 1-3 curriculum

The overall design of the grade 1-3 curriculum can be best presented with the help of the following figure.

It is clear from the above figure that the present integrated curriculum for grades 1-3 consists of three disciplines maths, language, and our surroundings. These learning areas have been linked by the common themes and various soft skills have been incorporated across the disciplines.

Themes as the linking forces in the integrated curriculum

It should be noted that the present integrated curriculum for grades 1-3 is a theme-based curriculum developed following multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary design. Various themes such as Me and My Family, My School, Our Culture, Birds and Animals and Fruits and Vegetables have been proposed in order to establish a link among the disciplines. There are two types of themes in the curriculum: common themes and subject-specific themes. Some themes are common to all the four subject areas, i.e. Nepali, English, Maths and Our Surroundings, and rest of others are specific to the subject.

Soft skills that have been integrated into the curriculum

The integration of various soft skills is one of the key features of the present integrated curriculum. The major soft skills that have been integrated across the subject areas have been mentioned below.

  • Thinking skills
  • Intrapersonal skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Information Communication and Multi-literacy skills

Key features of the English domain of an integrated curriculum

The English subject area of the integrated curriculum is based on the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching (CLT) as a theory of language teaching and learning. So far as curriculum design is concerned, it is based on a multi-strand model because it incorporates various models and approaches to curriculum development. It consists of language skills, language functions and also themes. Thus, its aim is to develop comprehensive communicative competence in the learners. There are six level-wise competencies and various learning outcomes in the curriculum. One new learning area has been added to conventional four language skills, i.e. viewing and presenting. It is integrated in nature. It is competency-based and various soft-skills have been integrated in it. There are altogether 11 themes: Six multidisciplinary (common) themes and five subject-specific themes. Themes are the tools to integrate learning. It demands team planning and teaching to integrate learning across disciplines.

Materials developed apart from the curriculum

In addition to the curriculum, two types of learning materials have been developed: curriculum implementation guideline and student’s workbook.

Curriculum implementation guideline: The curriculum implementation guide-line is designed to assist the teachers in planning their units and lessons. It is basically a pedagogical guideline for the teachers. Curriculum basically articulates why to teach and what to teach. It says a broader pedagogical approach in a general sense but cannot provide a detail pedagogical support to the teacher. In order to address this aspect, a curriculum implementation guideline has been developed. It consists of a wide variety of suggested activities for the teachers.

Students’ workbook: Student’s workbook is the key learning material developed for the students. It is different from the traditional textbook. Traditional textbook basically focused on the contents and it did not consist of sufficient activities for students to practice language skills. On the contrary, the present workbook consists of several activities for the students. It is, in fact, a blended form of textbook and workbook because it includes both content and activities for self and guided practice for the students.

Conclusion

The initial feedback obtained from the teachers and the students shows that an integrated curriculum is effective in encouraging learners for active and engaged learning. It encourages collaboration and communication among both the teachers and the students. Since it demands team planning and grade teaching, there is an increased level of teacher preparation before teaching. When we implement the curriculum throughout the country teacher preparation becomes an important and challenging task. In any curricular innovation teacher resistance is a possible risk, and there is no guarantee that we do not face this risk in this case. Until and unless the teacher, a real hero in the classroom, is clear, convinced and enthusiastic to implement a new curriculum and curricular materials, no matter how effective the curriculum is, it does not work. Therefore, careful and effective teacher preparation is necessary before we launch it in a large scale. In the same way, the curriculum and materials based on its need to be timely revised and made available incorporating the feedbacks obtained from its piloting.

References

Curriculum Development Center (2006). Primary education curriculum (grade 1-3). Sanothimi Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2008). Primary education curriculum (grade 4-5). Sanothimi Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2019). Basic level (grade 1-3) curriculum. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur; Curriculum Development Center.

Curriculum Development Center (2019). Curriculum implementation guideline, English. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur. Curriculum Development Center.

Drake, S.M. & Reid L. J. (2018). Integrated Curriculum as an Effective Way to Teach 21st Century Capabilities. Asia Pacific Journal of Educational Research. Vol. 1(1) 31-50.

Lake, K. (1994). Integrated Curriculum. Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education.

The author

Ramesh Prasad Ghimire is currently an Officer at Education Training Center, Dhulikhel. He was the coordinator of an English subject area of an integrated curriculum while he was working in the Curriculum Development Center. His areas of interest include English language teaching (ELT) material development, teacher training and instructional leadership.

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Enhancing project-works in EFL class

Samira Idelcadi

Scene setting

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

What is project work?

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

Why is it important to integrate project work in class?

Project work can affect students’ learning in different ways:

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

How to integrate projects in EFL class?

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

How/when to plan project in EFL class?

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

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

  • Classroom planning
  • Conducting projects
  • Monitoring and Evaluating projects

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5 – Students present their work

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

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

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

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

B-    Evaluation the project

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

How to evaluate project works?

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

Sample self-reflection questions:

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

 

APPENDIXES

APPENDIX: A- Sample project planning template

Project title: 

Expected outcome/ product :  

Name of the group:

Students name :

Project date completion: 

Summary of our project
 

Steps / process / roles

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

Resources needed

 

 Mode of presentation

 

 APPENDIX: B Sample project evaluation rubrics

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

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

There aren’t  enough  details about the topic

The information is not always clear

There  is only some details about the topic

The information is clear, concise

There are enough details about the topic.

Organization The audience can’t  follow

There is no introduction, and a conclusion

Poor  time management

The audience can follow most of the parts.

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Good  time management

The audience can easily follow

There is an introduction, and a conclusion

Excellent time management

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

Use too many gestures/ move a lot

Do not speak clearly

Don’t look confident enough

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

Use natural gestures / sometimes move a lot.

Speak less clearly

Look  less confident

 

The presenter(s) keep eye contact

Use natural gestures

Speak clearly

Look confident

 

Team Work Very few group members participate / have a role

Group do not seem to get along well

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

Few of  the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members  are able to answer some questions of the audience

All the group members participate / have a role

Group seem to get along well

Team members are able to answer all audience questions

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

Student name: ……………………………………………………………

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

The market study: An integrated approach

Prakriti Khanal

Scene setting:

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

An integrated approach: What and why

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

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

How does market study foster learning across disciplines?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges and benefits

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

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

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

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

 Some unplanned observation made by the students

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

Conclusion

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

References:

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

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

Ministry of Education.

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

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

The author:

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

Experiential learning experience of a preschool

Midesh Maharjan

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

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

Sample Thematic Unit 1

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

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

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

Sample Thematic Unit 2

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

Sample Thematic Unit 3

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

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

Conclusion

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

About the Author:

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

Photography project V: Photos for teaching speaking and writing

It is the fifth post of its kind aiming to promote the use of photos in ELT. The photos can serve the multiple uses in our classes such as writing (paragraph/essay writing, story writing etc.), speaking (conversation, describing photos etc.) and other kinds of group/ peer works. In this project V, we share the interesting photos of Choutari editor Jeevan Karki and Babita Sharma Chapagain. 

I’m very thirsty: a child in rural village attacks the tap as the tap runs out of water. Photo: Anonymous

In the search of food: a monkey is searching its food near by the dust pit in a park. © Jeevan Karki

Save environment: teachers and kids planting in a pre-school in Kathmandu. © Babita Sharma

On the stage: Children performing a drama on the stage in a pre-school in Kathmandu. © Babita Sharma

Time to sow: children learning to plant paddy seedlings as a part of experiential learning in a pre-school in Kathmandu. © Babita Sharma

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

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