It is the fourth post of its kind aiming to promote the use of photos in English language teaching learning. The photos can serve the multiple purposes 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 part IV, we share the photos of Choutari editor Jeevan Karki taken during his visits in different parts of the country.
(The ideas are based on the practice of the writer)
A. How to prepare and organize ideas for an essay?
As a language teacher for 8 years, I have found that my students struggle with their writing skills. When I ask them to write an essay for 250 words, it sometimes takes more than an hour to write because they do not know what to write or get stuck in the middle of their writing. Even the students with rather good grammar skills and sufficient vocabulary feel the same. To solve this problem, I undergo the following three-steps-process of writing to make it easy for them to write.
Step 1: Think of different social roles relating to the topic
Let’s see how we can think of different social roles related to the topic. For example, with the topic “Tertiary education should be free. To what extent do you agree?” When students get this topic, they often think of their arguments around students such as students could study freely without paying fees. And they cannot go further in their argument. I often suggest them to think of different people related to this topic such as lecturers, students’, parents, university administrators, government, or tax-payers. Now after thinking the different stakeholders associated with the topic, I ask them to follow the step: 2.
Step 2: Ask all Wh-questions
In relation to the above topic for essay writing, I ask my students to raise the following questions associated with people related to the topic.
- What do students get if tertiary education is free?
- What do the parents benefit when tertiary education is free?
- And where could the lecturers get the salary if tertiary education is free?
- Where do universities get money to pay salaries for teachers and provide other facilities if tertiary education is free?
- Is it good if the government pay for university education?
- Is it fair for everyone if the government pay for university education?
- Does the government have enough fund to pay for the university?
When the students brainstorm all the answers for the above questions, they will have a lot of ideas to write an essay. However, to write a good essay with logic arguments, they need to state their point of view and organize their ideas to support their arguments. Therefore, I ask them to follow the step: 3.
Step 3: State the point of view and organize ideas in a logical way
After answering all these questions, students should decide their point of view and organize their ideas according to the point of views. They should try to select the ideas that are more prominent and support their point of views. They do not need to include all the ideas in one essay. Each main point (topic sentence) needs three supporting ideas and try to give examples to support their point of view.
I believe following the above three steps offers students a lot of ideas and help them write an essay with the main point of view and ideas to support their arguments.
B. How to take academic notes effectively?
When I started my PhD journey, I read many articles. However, I did a blunder by not taking any notes. At the time of reading, I thought that I could remember what I had read. However, after reading more than 30 articles, I did not remember exactly what I had read! Luckily, I had chances to attend some workshops organized by my supervisors and PhD colleagues about completing the PhD journey. I was happy to share with you what I learnt and applied successfully after attending these workshops.
To come up with a paper, any other writing or a PhD thesis, I think the most important thing is to take notes methodologically. And organize the notes in a logical way so that you can retrieve it whenever you need it and use your notes for further analysis or comparison to discuss with other scholars in the world. Here are the main three steps that I find very useful.
Step 1: Take notes
When you are reading an article, take notes during reading or immediately after the reading. You may wonder what should note down. Sometimes, the article is very long and interesting but you do not know what is important to write down. In that case, you can include the following things:
- The context of the study,
- Theoretical framework,
- Findings of the study and
- Your critical view of the article.
Some of you may wonder why you need to take these notes. I will explain that in step 3.
Step 2: Organize your notes
Now, in this phase, we have to organize these summaries into themes/topics with the original articles because you may need to read these articles one more time when you find it related to your topic or area. On the other hand, you may need it to list in the reference section of your article or writing. Organizing this way, helps you compare many articles about the same topics.
Step 3: How to use your notes effectively
When you have all your notes, you will wonder how you can use these notes effectively. Please read your notes and compare or contrast the findings, methods or theoretical framework together to write the literature review. In the methodology section, you can also compare your methods with the method applied in the articles you read and summarized, so that you can figure out any differences and similarities between your method and the one used in the literature you read. Then you can state why you choose your own methods. I think it is very useful in the discussion section because you can compare your findings with the findings from previous studies. Then you show your readers that you find out something different from other people based on your context and your research method.
If you do not organize all these notes in a logical way, you may finish your writing. However, it might take you more time to go back and forth with the original articles to find the information that you need.
I hope that these practical tips could help you in to accelerate your writing.
Editor: Dear valued readers, perhaps you may have other ideas of composing the essay and note-taking effectively and efficiently. Please share your ideas in the comment box below.
*Thinh Le is a lecturer of English at Vietnam Banking Academy, Phu Yen Branch, Vietnam and he is also a PhD Candidate in College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Loads of textbook while going to school!
Loads of homework while returning home from the school!
Teachers and schools do not show their interests in curriculum and materials neither do students and guardians. In this context, private education has witnessed clear signs of a gradual shift from the rote learning. A survey, published in Nepal Magazine, found that 57 percent of school-age children has inclined to read the books other than the textbooks. The survey on the students’ habit of reading the non-prescribed textbooks has highlighted the fact.
The survey, that was conducted eight months ago, showed that the students have been trying to get out of the textbooks. Even today, many teachers are still unable to complete the courses and textbooks within the academic session. Nevertheless, 84 percent of the teachers have encouraged their students to read non-textbooks, as per the findings of the survey. While 16 percent of teachers have also forced the students to remain focused on the textbook, citing the time constraints.
Forty-three percent of the total participants have not been able to study the materials other than the textbooks. Although the role and significance of the non-textbooks is similar to the textbook, there is an absence of realistic study on the interests of stakeholders on the reading of non-textbooks. “It is beneficial to give children an important book instead of 300 chocolates. We found that the parents sending their children to private schools have understood this fact to some extent while the parents of government-owned community schools are yet to make aware of this fact”, says Manish Jha, manager of Research and Analytics, which conducted this survey.
During the survey, the students were asked:
- Are you encouraged to read the non-textbooks and materials?
In response, 83 percent of the students said that they were encouraged to read the materials outside the coursebook, while 17 percent responded that no one encouraged them to read the materials beyond the textbook. 84 percent of school teachers said that they have recommended their students to reading textbooks /materials outside the coursebook. The rest (16 percent) of the school teachers, responded that they advised their students to remain focused on the textbooks, showing the time constraints to complete course in time.
The measurement of academic achievement shows that there is a huge gap between government and private schools. For example, average learning achievement of government school children is 40 percent while the achievement of students in private schools is more than 70 percent. For such a huge difference in academic achievement, teaching and learning factor has a major role to play. The survey shows that the children of private schools who have secured more than 70 percent of the learning achievement are also active in studying materials outside the coursebook, while the students of government schools with 40 percent leaning achievement can hardly complete studying the coursebook alone.
Of course, teachers feel pressured for timely publication of results due to the constraints such as timely completion of the textbooks and examination-oriented teaching. The students have not been able to get rid of rote-learning and burden of homework. However, recent preference of the majority of teachers and students to non-textbook materials is a pleasant aspect, Amod Bhattarai, a member of the research team says. “Most of the teachers, students and guardians have been promoting the reading culture of the non-textbooks, and the trend is on rising in the country.”
These days, there are fewer parents who do not want to invest in their children’s education. Such an investment depends on the income of the parents. A well-to-do parent invests more than those who earn less. This survey shows that parents, who understand the importance of education and whose financial status is better, are investing more in the education of their children.
In the survey, 63 percent of the 663 parents and guardians, who participated in the survey, said that they have purchased non-textbooks for their children. Among them, 42 percent of the parents have purchased the non-textbooks worth 1000 to 3000 rupees annually for their children. There are 16 percent guardians who invest 3000 to 5000 thousand rupees annually to buy non-textbooks and materials for their children while four percent of those guardians have been investing more than 5000 rupees and two percent have been investing more than 7000 rupees.
The survey revealed that the non-textbooks selected for children have been written in a variety of languages. For instance, 47 percent of guardians purchases non-textbooks written in Nepali and English while 28 percent of guardians buy those written in English and 23 percent buys non-textbooks of Nepali language. Only two percent guardians invest in purchasing the materials written in other languages.
The survey has shown diversity in children’s choice for the book. ‘Storybooks’ is the first choice of children. 55 percent of students participating in the survey have purchased the story books. Thereafter, children chose other books based on the theme of the children. According to the study, 28 percent of the students purchase children’s books and 28 percent have purchased the books with biography. Likewise, 26 percent of the children have shown interest in essays, 24 percent in facts and figures, 20 percent in paintings, 18 percent in the books with illustrations, 12 percent in travelogue, nine percent in comics and four percent in the memoir. Hem Krishna Shrestha, who is involved in the survey, says, “Stories have touched children’s mind. So, the choice of the majority is for stories.”
Needless to mention that the concept of technology-based education such as smart learning, e-learning, e-library, e-book, etc, is not new. However, students are still interested in purchasing the books for reading purpose. 74% of the respondents said that they feel pleasure in reading the printed books. Only few have read books borrowed from school libraries and their friends. This means that our school system still enjoys traditional form of teaching-learning activities.
School time for students is usually spent for regular teaching-learning activities, assignments, classwork and project work. The children who are tired of school assignments are from private schools. In the regular school schedule, children cannot read non-textbooks. So, children have utilised a long vacation to read non-textbooks. According to the survey, students and guardians buy books at the book exhibitions or when they are available at discounted price, and also based o the recommendation of friends, book reviews, and writers’ names.
Not all guardians invest in non-textbooks. The number of guardians involved in the survey who do not want to purchase non-textbooks is 33 percent. Kashyap Marhatha, a member of the survey team, says, “Dire economic situation and lack of education and consciousness, etc. is its main reason. Hence, some have invested nothing in the purchase of non-textbook.” dire
For such a less investment of parents and interest of students in non-textbook, existing government school environment is responsible. The reason is, government schools are still unable to come out of the government curriculum and prescribed textbooks. Textbooks are neither delivered timely nor are they completely covered in the government schools. It is not strange to find that there is no discussion of non-textbooks in the government schools which solely rely on textbooks. Education expert Bidyanath Koirala says, “A school teacher of Baglung has kept the keys of the library, tied with his janai (sacred thread). Since no one visits the library, it is never open.”
The government has not carried out the study about the overall reading habits of school children. Public discussion is very little on how much students are interested in non-textbooks, the level of their engagement in reading and how their learning achievements are affected by this.This survey has highlighted the fact that the students who study materials outside the textbook have improved significantly in learning achievement and broadened their mind. Koirala says, “There is a wide difference in the scope of knowledge of those students who have studied coursebook only and those who have also studied non-textbooks and external books. That is why, it is necessary to motivate every student to read books outside the coursebook.”
Status of government schools on teaching non-textbook materials
The country’s education consists of 85% government schools and 15% private schools. In terms of non-textbook reading habit, the situation of private school is positive but the status of government school is disappointing. The government standards set by the Education Ministry that the schools should be opened for 220 days annually and then 180 days for teaching learning activities have not been implemented effectively. Most of government schools are hardly able to complete the coursebook and the national curriculum developed by the Curriculum Development Center (CDC). Therefore, children, teachers and guardians of government schools have not been able to concentrate on reading non-textbooks.
Gyanodaya Higher Secondary School, located in Bafal of Kathmandu, is one of good schools in the country. However, in the same school, former Principal Dhananjay Sharma admits that the school was unable to motivate the student to read non-textbooks. “A decision was made for a teacher to read at least a book per month was not executed. After the teachers did not read the books, the students did not read them either.”
With a view to develop the reading culture among teachers and students, Gyanodaya School has scheduled ‘library period’. Yet, the reading culture is to develop. Reading the non-textbooks in the government schools has been neglected because the textbooks have not been taught properly, the teachers do not accept the non-textbooks as source of knowledge, and poor parents cannot afford the non-textbooks for their children.
Let’s explore another case to understand the status of the government school on teaching non-textbooks. Pragati Siksha Sadan situated in Kupandol of Lalitpur is another standard school. The school could not motivate children to read the books other than textbooks, principal Surya Ghimire shares. “Our teaching learning activities are limited to the textbooks due to pressure on the completion of the courses and securing high scores. The habit of reading non-textbooks is yet to be cultivated in teachers, guardians and students.”
Pragati Siksha Sadan has adopted a unique way to increase the children’s reading culture. As per the unique method, namely ‘Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)’, when an emergency bell rings in the school at any time, teachers and students start reading soon , halting the activities they are involved in This is called ‘DEAR’. However, the DEAR has not even been able to do so. Ghimire says, “This has increased the reading of textbooks, but it has not been able to contribute to reading non-textbook materials.”
Survey Methodology and Population
The urban centred survey was conducted in the schools located in 12 cities of 12 districts in Nepal. They were Birtamode of Jhapa, Biratnagar of Morang, Janakpur of Dhanusha, Bharatpur of Chitwan, Birgunj of Parsa, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Butwal of Rupandehi, Pokhara of Kaski, Nepalgunj of Banke and Dhangadhi of Kailali. The survey was conducted among 2599 respondents, who were teachers, students and guardian of both government and private schools. Among the respondents were 622 students from 6-16 years age group studying up to tenth grade, 635 non-guardians, 677 guardians and 625 teachers. Each of these four groups were asked 16 questions. The answers to those questions were processed to bring the findings.
This post is the English translation of the article originally published in Nepali based on survey carried out by Facts – Research and Analytics.
Texts by Praveen, Photos by Umes
NeltaChoutari organized a workshop titled Behind Academic Publishing: Why, How and What at King’s College, Babar Mahal in Kathmandu on June 28, 2014.
Bal Krishna Sharma, a founder of NeltaChoutari and a Ph. D. scholar at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA, facilitated the one-day workshop, attended by over 30 emerging authors, especially English teachers and students from Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University. Continue reading Choutari Workshop: Photo Blog
Testing is inevitable although not desirable. It is necessary in order to keep the track of overall progress of language teaching programme. Debates have been going on for and against the testing. However, the important point to note here is that it is the faulty process of testing that is being criticized not the concept of testing itself. In fact, such criticism is necessary as it can help improve the system. The sphere of language testing in Nepal is also not free from criticism. Therefore, we decided to test the testing system of Nepal in this interactive article. We have attempted to explore the existing problems in the field of language testing and possible solutions to them after an interaction with experts and readers. We believe such interactive can play a significant role to reform the system. A thematic question was asked to language experts as well as Choutari readers. The question was ‘What is a major problem in language testing system of Nepal and what can be the solution to it?’ Among the responses collected, we have presented the opinions of eight respondents here:
There are many problems with current language testing regime (as well as some good things). One issue that’s come up in our conversations is how testing practices typically ignore multilingual competencies. At first, this may seem like an impossible ideal, but if you look deeper, the question becomes why not. Ours is a multilingual society and students’ language proficiencies are not isolated; their English is a part of a complex sociolinguistic tapestry; their other languages don’t “hamper” English; languages aren’t just mediums but rich epistemological resources; and, humans have always spoken multiple languages without seeking a monolingual standard. So, when we face the task of teaching and testing students’ English abilities in isolation, we shouldn’t act like helpless slaves of the system; when discussing the roots and stems and branches and bitter fruits of the current regimes, there’s no need to surrender to the “reality.” The reality includes politics, power, and possibilities beyond their grips, and thus, we must broaden the base of our discussions so we can see testing as a broader phenomenon than, well, testing. Scholarly conversations under the tree here can and should help the community rethink the fundamentals.
Shyam Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University (State University of New York)
I call it an ‘issue’ rather than a ‘problem’; why do we still ‘test’ monolingual ability (although our students have bi-/multilingual ability)? Another issue embedded within this issue is: How can we test students’ multilingual ability? First, we must be clear that ‘testing’ is not a ‘fixing-shop’ where you can fix a ‘problem’ rather it is a complex discipline which needs a critical scrutiny from multiple perspectives for a valid evaluation of students’ ability. Our assumption that ‘language testing’ should only test ‘monolingual ability’, meaning that multilingual testing is impossible, is the major challenge for reforms in language testing. This dominant assumption decontextualizes language testing from students’ cultural, linguistic and educational contexts. So, the major issue is: our tests are not context-sensitive. For example, I still remember that we were often asked to write an essay in SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam about different highways in Nepal but I had never seen any highways (when I was in school). We were asked to memorize their lengths, construction dates and so on. I could not even conceptualize what a ‘highway’ was. However, I could write more and better when I had to write about ‘my village’ or ‘my school’.
The issue of contextualization is closely associated with testing multilingual abilities; locally-contextualized test items require students to work with their abilities in more than one language. For example, when I had to write an essay about my village I used to think in Limbu, Nepali and English. I (and my friends) could not think about the topic in only one language – no separation of languages! But the tests did not allow me to use my Limbu and Nepali abilities while writing essays in English. This is the major issue, right? If language tests are meant to test ‘language ability’, why don’t we test students’ functional abilities in multiple languages? This applies to Nepali language tests as well. For example, when students speak Nepali they simultaneously use English as well (and/or other local languages if their first language is other than Nepali); one cannot create the fixed boundary of a language. Suppose a bilingual student writes “आजको class मा कस्तो frustrate भएको…” (I had frustration in today’s class) for her Nepali essay (it can be more complex than this in the case of Maithili and Newari children, for example), how do we evaluate her Nepali language ability? The first reaction could be ‘असुद्द” (incorrect –literally impure). However, she is expressing her views fluently by using both Nepali and English in her repertoire. She cannot separate one language from another. This means that monolingual tests do not test students’ bilingual or multilingual abilities. Unfortunately, the students who show their bi-/multilingual abilities in language tests are considered ‘deficient’ and ‘poor’. However, the above example represents the use of language in the real-life (authentic) context.
There are ways to test multilingual abilities. For example, an inquiry-based formative assessment, which engages students in doing research and working with teachers to receive qualitative feedback on their work, can be one way to help them fully utilize their multilingual abilities. Such assessments encourage students to translanguage (use multiple languages to perform different tasks) to achieve the goals as specified by the test criteria. However, any kind of so-called ‘standardized test’, which are guided by the monolingual assumption, cannot test bi-/multilingual abilities. We should say a big ‘NO’ to the standardized tests if we truly believe in developing equitable language testing.
Prem Phyak is an MA (TESOL), Institute of Education, University of London, UK, M.Ed., Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Tirth Raj Khaniya:
Lack of professionalism is the main problem of English Language Testing in the context of Nepal. Professionalism is known as ability of applying fairness, ethics and standards in exam related issues. While dealing with exam related matters we need to be fair. We assume that we are professional but in reality we are not professional thus the test is not testing what it is supposed to test.
In language testing for teachers’ to be professional they require both necessary skills and abilities and application of those skills and abilities in a proper manner. To maintain professionalism it is necessary to have wide discussion among teachers and therefore all those who are involved in exams will have clear understanding.
Tirth Raj Khaniya has a Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.
Ganga Ram Gautam:
The main problem of language testing in Nepal is that the test itself is faulty. It does not test the language skills but test the memory of the text materials given in the textbook. There are also other several problems that include the issues with the test writers, test item construction, test administration and validation of the tests.
One solution of this problem could be to develop standardized tests and administer them in the various key stages such as primary level, lower secondary level and secondary level. In order to do this, we need to train a team of experts to develop the test and the test should be standardized by going through the reliability and validity testing. Once the tests are developed, they should be administered in a proper way so that the real language proficiency of the students can be obtained.
Ganga Ram Gautam is an Associate Professor at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University and former president of NELTA.
There is no need to reiterate that the aim of the learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate in it. In order to find out whether English language learners in the Nepalese schools have developed communicative skills in this foreign language, there is a provision for the testing of listening and speaking at the SLC level. I feel that this test is not serving the purpose. The lowest marks students get in speaking is 10 out of 15, which is 66%. However, when we communicate with the SLC graduates (let alone who fail the examination), most of them perform very poorly. There are two reasons for this inflated marking: the speaking test includes predictable questions for which the responses can be rehearsed: personal introduction, picture description and one function-based question (which is repeated so often that students can prepare a limited set of responses and be ready of the test). Secondly, there is a kind of extreme leniency in the examiners; they just award marks irrespective of the quality if the responses.
Two interventions could improve the situation. Firstly, the examiners should be trained to ask very simple everyday realistic questions which students cannot respond without knowing the language. Secondly, each test should be video recorded so that inflated marks can be easily scrutinised. Administrative issues should not come in the way of quality testing which has far-reaching consequences.
Laxman Gnawali is an Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA
Laxmi Prasad Ojha:
I think we are giving too much priority to examinations and tests in our education system. We do not understand the purpose of testing and evaluation. We don’t test the comprehension and understanding of students. This is the main cause of the failure of our education system in many cases, including the language teaching programmes.
I think “formative” should be the key word here. Laxmi ji, pointed out an important bottleneck we have experienced due to lack of purpose of testing and evaluation. If we think of a typical Nepali school, we do give more importance on summative tests than the formative ones. What we seriously lack (and that’s why we have a tremendous opportunity to work on) is systematic feedback for student.
Uttam Gaulee is Graduate Research Fellow, University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida
Bal Krishna Sharma:
Yeah, one way would be to introduce and practice more formative type of assessment. This will evaluate and test students’ ongoing progress and learning outcomes.
Ph.D. student, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Although the issue was one, the thematic question unbelievably raised so many genuine issues. The respondents highlighted the issue of testing multilingual competencies apart from only testing monolingual ability and also suggested some ideas on how to test students’ multilingual abilities. In the same way, the interaction raised the issue of lack of professionalism in language testing. Similarly, the respondents also urged that our memory-driven testing system itself is faulty. Furthermore, there is problem in test construction and administration and suggestion is put forward to develop and practise standarized tests to minimize the problems. In relation to the problem in testing listening and speaking in SLC exam, it emphasized that the test items are predictable and examiners are lenient and award marks irrespective of quality. The solution proposed is to train the examiners properly and introduce the system of video recording students’ performance. On the other hand, overemphasizing exams and not testing what it should test is characterized as a problem. The solution discussed over such problem is to give more importance to formative test rather than summative test, which helps keep the track of students’ achievement.
Now the floor is open for you. Share what you think is the problem of testing system in our context and what can be the solution. We believe such interaction contributes in the development of innovative ideas in ELT.
Bal Ram Adhikari
“How do you find marking students’ answer sheets?” To this question once asked abruptly by a friend of mine, I replied, “It tastes rather awful.” “What about teaching?” he asked another question. “Oh, don’t you compare teaching with testing!” That was my immediate reply.
As a teacher, my job is not over with the completion of the courses. The another important job that awaits me is testing or marking students’ answer sheets of the annual written examination. I enjoy teaching. My passion for teaching has now turned into a necessity rather than a desire. I often find teaching as a process of other-transformation and self-transformation. However, once I sit with my students’ answer sheets to rate their written performance in the subject, I find the same charm no more. Sometimes I question myself– What am I doing with these answer sheets?
I find testing itself intrinsically problematic
I find the notion of testing itself intrinsically problematic. The process itself tastes rather bitter. I read their written performance. I try to make sense of what they are trying to communicate through their words. I end up with a certain impression. I pause for a while. I mentally categorize the impression into such headings as language, content, and organization. Language is further divided into accuracy, brevity, clarity; content into relevance, details and depth. Then I quantify the overall impression. I try to find the appropriate numerical values for the impression. Say, it could be five, six, seven or even eight out of ten full marks. It might be two or three. Then I circle the marks in red ink at the end of the answer. However, the whole process from the first reading through interpretation to quantification of the impression takes me by surprise– What does it mean to present my impression of their answer in the numerical form? What does it mean when I assign six out of ten? How does the impression lend itself to quantification? Impression is intangible while quantification is tangible. It is the very process of converting the intangible into the tangible that puts students into two different bins: the pass and the fail. The passes are again ranked as first, second, third and last creating the notion of comparison and competition. The quantification also functions as a gatekeeper. How I quantify my impression of their answers might be detrimental (if low marks) or beneficial (if high marks) to their future academic as well as professional life. Similarly, the marks can also be detrimental or beneficial to the student’s self-esteem throughout their life. Isn’t it a funny as well as fatal game to play? Someone else’s impression of your performance determines your career and remains that with you throughout your life? Accepting this as part of academic and professional life, I enter into the process of evaluation. However, it tastes even bitter when I begin turning over the pages of the answer sheets.
Why does testing taste bitter?
Most of the answer sheets that I have marked leave the bitter taste behind. First, it is hard to make sense of what most of my students are trying to communicate. Here, I would like to present some sample sentences that I have picked up from the written performance of Masters’ second year students:
• Translator should also have bilingual as well as bicultural.
• On the above topic I am going to write argue for
• The main concern of today is only deconstruction. It is always starts with questions and goes beyond the logocentrism.
• I support this sentence by my heart due to culture is a inseparable element at translation process.
• In translating metaphoric expressions, there occurs different problems.
• The distinguish between them can be listed in the following ways. The time makes the clear distinguish between them. Anyway, translation and interpretation are same.
Such expressions abound the answer sheets of the advanced level students specializing in English. These are but few pieces of evidence out of 200 hundred sentences I have collected from students’ academic performance. When I run into such pidgin-like English, it strikes me– What did I teach? What did they learn? Or worse, did I teach them at all? Did they learn from my teaching at all? These questions are worth contemplating in terms of subject matter and the language they use to communicate to the prospective readers.
It is really hard to interpret their answer sheets when they are poor in terms of grammatical accuracy and clarity. Despite this, as a teacher, I try to make sense of what they are trying to communicate keeping the language matter aside and bringing the content to the fore. However, they are advanced English students. Subject matter knowledge and accurate writing ability must have the equal weight. Sometimes, the latter may get more priority. Now, it is hard for me to continue reading such answer papers which are hardly intelligible. How many marks should I assign them on what criteria? Should I penalize them for their language? I often grow ‘sympathetic’ to their poor level of language performance with the thought that development of writing proficiency is a life-long process. At least, they have demonstrated some knowledge in the content area. They will improve their language in course of their professional life. I console myself. However, the difficulty does not end here. My thought of being liberal to their level of language is immediately followed by another problem i.e. the complex interaction between language and content.
Language and content are inviolably interdependent. Is it possible or desirable to assign marks to their writing being ‘sympathetic’ to their language? Can we make such a separation in practice? Isn’t it something like running contrary to McLuhan’s famous dictum “the medium is the message”? I find myself in the helpless situation. I have to drop most of the criteria of marking that I happened to mentally outline before setting about the job. It makes my job rather difficult. I cannot fail the majority of the students for their poor performance in writing. Nor can I assign them the pass marks only considering their subject matter knowledge. In either case, I feel guilty. My students’ poor performance hints at the quality of my own teaching. Their failure means my failure too. I am testing myself as a teacher while testing them. The tester himself is tested. Nevertheless, I cannot, nor should I assign marks only to pass them. This means the information quantified in the form of marks is not valid. I am giving the invalid information to the concerned authority, and the professional organizations that rely on the marks for the purpose of selection. I have been in such a quandary for years while testing my students’ test papers.
Bal Ram Adhikari
Mahendra Ratna Campus,
Presented By: Ashok Raj Khati and Manita Karki
Language testing cannot be separated from the changing understanding of the nature of language, language abilities, and language teaching and learning. Accordingly, what is to be tested in language teaching has drastically been changing in recent times as a result of changes in what is to be taught. In this regard, we have entered a new era in language testing, which is classroom assessment also termed as performance assessment.
In recent years, there has been a growing discussion on whether classroom testing should replace other tests. In this essay, we suggest that it should work as a supplement to paper and pencil tests. The method may not be capable of replacing established methods of testing but there are a number of benefits that make classroom-based language testing more genuine and better attuned to effective language teaching and learning by today’s standards.
Let us begin with the central role of teacher in classroom assessment through this real story.
In an award giving ceremony to School Leaving Certificate (SLC) graduates, a teacher stepped forward and asked a particular student whom he had taught for years, “How did you get the first division, you deserve the second division.” Though the student passed SLC and got certificate of the first division, the teacher remarked so confidently that he should not have got first division.
It indicates the fact that teacher spend long time with his/her students and are able to evaluate them more or less rightly. In many countries, a teacher is the authority. If a student is unable to sit in the final examination because of certain reasons; the teacher has a right to recommend grades or percentages to examination board based on the students’ internal/classroom assessment and the board accepts it. Doing that makes teacher fair and ethical. However, there are many other contexts where teachers have not gained this sort of credibility. The point is it is the teacher who can best judge his or her students and it the classroom tests which allows teachers to do so. Therefore, classroom assessment is accepted as being close to what we are struggling for a long time.
Secondly, in most of the cases, we make a machine type of judgement when we test students through paper and pencil beyond the class but it is a human mind or brain that is involved in making judgement on classroom assessment. It used to be believed that everything can be tested by using a paper and pencil test but now people have started asking how? There are things that we want to test which cannot be tested by paper and pencil based test. The answer to this question is classroom testing. There are so many things that we can do in classroom which cannot be done through a paper and pencil test. We cannot test all types of abilities and skills by paper and pencil test because of expertise, time, and other limitations, but classroom assessment is genuine and it is worth implementing.
Class room assessment or performance assessment is genuine because one cannot test people’s actual language ability while they are not actually performing an act by using it. It is the classroom that allows learners to perform. In this regard, classroom assessment captures genuineness. Many scholars have realized that paper and pencil test, whether it is based on communicative approach or something else, cannot authentically test students’ performance. Especially a large-scale test cannot be a performance based test. There were classroom tests after 2010 but those tests were used for internal assessment. Classroom tests are different, they are bound to be different and they are of different designs.
Classroom assessment is collaborative in nature. When students obtains marks in board examination, one common thing they cannot figure out is on what basis was their answers marked and consequently, they think they are given less and what they deserve. However, in classroom assessment, teacher works with students before, during, and after the assessment. The present of students makes teacher cautious and transparent. Thus, the teacher makes judgement of the students in a collaborative manner. Further, teachers can also assess students’ performance by assigning group work that makes classroom testing different from large-scale assessment. That adds one more dimension to collaboration.
The best thing about classroom testing is that it is learning focused. As a result, it has positive wash back. It mainly focuses process and less product. Teachers get enough opportunities to observe the different learning processes of their students in classroom assessment. By contrast, paper and pencil test may not be able to create situations and offer adequate opportunities to demonstrate different abilities and skills, and perform certain tasks on the part of students. It is more product-oriented. It is only classroom test that can make learners perform tasks while being tested.
In the same way, classroom assessment is a social phenomenon. The classroom is a society. A school is run for teaching and learning but at the same time, we mange it in a way that that would be the representation of the society. Thus, the classroom assessment is a social phenomenon where we promote classroom assessment and students learn and practise performance based activities, which they will continue to practise outside the classroom.
In terms of creativity, classroom testing is not an entirely new approach because in some way prior approaches also tried to capture what this approach tries to do. A good example of this is how Bloom’s Taxonomy captured a range of simple to complex competencies. It is very difficult to capture the psychological processing of learners in many occasions. We have to be tentative to assess it. Testing cannot be a science; it is different from many other activities. The focus of language testing is: what is the content of the language, where is it, how do we get hold of it? Scholars who are advocating for communicative testing have now realized that what they were trying to accomplish with it is something different. Icons of language testing has different views on communicative testing. Some say that it is not necessary to test communicative abilities through communicative approach. After 2010, testing has moved into assessment, assessment has moved into performance, and testing tends to be always indirect unless one asks students to perform certain tasks. It is not the test that test; it is the tasks that test. It may be hard to determine whether or not classroom testing can entirely replace communicative testing. However, classroom-based testing can be a focus of testing because it is very close to reality since teachers will be asking students those tasks in the classroom which they are supposed to do outside the classroom in their real lives.
While talking about classroom-based testing communicative testing, there may arise a question of construct. The construct is the basic characteristics of activities of an event, the psychological and the philosophical aspects of skills and abilities, and the quality of the content. The construct in communicative language testing may be assessed in an indirect way by bringing language performance into the classroom and assessing it. The concept of communicative language teaching and testing in a real sense has been changing. Henry Widdowson, one of the prominent scholars in the field of Applied Linguistics, wrote a book in 1979, “Teaching English as Communication”. Once in 2000, he said that he if he were to revisit that book, he would call it “Teaching English for Communication”. He realized that it is not possible to teach English as communication. He was excited to talk about communication in 1980s but later he found that it was not easy to capture communicative activities and bring them into the classroom and make it happen. In some ways, it has to be indirect, less communicative and difficult to bring communication in the classroom.
In a way, the philosophy behind the communicative language teaching (CLT) is the continuity of what we have been doing for the last 70 years. Somehow, CLT is also based on a paper and pencil test. At the end of the day, teachers give test to students to perform where they may not authentically perform language use. Based on the change from CLT to language teaching and testing, teachers and scholars began to realize that classroom assessment should be an additional learning exercise. Therefore, a genuine assessment must be a performance assessment and an inherent part of the whole process and that is the next era of language testing. It does not mean that communicative language testing has nothing to do with language teaching and testing in the days to come. We are still using 1960s’ multiple choice items. All previous methods of language testing have made lots of contributions to language testing but we are moving toward something new. Communicative approach in testing will also continue because it has strengths and potentialities but at the same time, the thrust of classroom assessment needs to lead classroom teaching and learning activities.
In sum, classroom assessment is an important approach to language testing. It appears to be very close to what we have been trying to find out. It may take time to make a strong ground to be a prominent approach. So for now, classroom assessment is an additional option- not a replacement. It will contribute to make assessment more authentic and better attuned to current understanding of language learning. It will be a good instrument for us to improve teaching and testing in the classroom.
(The piece is based on a lecture delivered by Prof. Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya at the School of Education, Kathmandu University)
Ashok Raj Khati
Ramesh Chandra Bhandari
Thousands of graduates begin their career as teachers every year in Nepal. As they do not have any experience in dealing with various aspects of the profession, they face many problems. Everyone who starts his/her career in a field expects to receive some kind of orientation of briefing (known as induction) from the senior staff and administrators. But most of the schools donot provide induction to their newly appointed teachers in our context. Due to lack of induction, they face various problems in their career. In this reflective paper, I have tried to discuss the problems faced by beginning teachers due to lack of induction and the benefits of the same.
Induction: A Brief Introduction
The term ‘induction’ means to guide, to introduce or to initiate especially into something demanding, secrete or special knowledge (Cole & Mcnay in Dube, 2008). It is the process or ceremony of introducing someone to new job, organization, or way of life. It is oriented towards adjusting somebody in new a context. Every organization or institution needs to carry induction to help its staff function properly in the beginning of their job.
The beginning teachers or newly qualified teachers (NQTs) should be provided with initial training before they enter into full-fledged teaching.
Teacher induction refers to the assistance, guidance, orientation and support provided to the novice teachers in order to make them familiar with new teaching environment. Through induction, the new teachers can develop knowledge of professional practice, capacity to assess the needs, awareness of future responsibilities, dedication to the profession and ability to maximize the use of the resources available around. Teachers should also be trained to adopt the new innovations that occur in their professional areas. In this regard, Wong (2004) states that induction is a “Comprehensive, coherent, and sustained professional development process – that is organized by a school to train, support, and retain new teachers and seamlessly progress them into a lifelong learning program.”
There is no formal provision of teacher induction in the field of teaching in Nepal, though there are some informal modalities of induction launched by private institutions. There are many challenges for teachers in Nepal and they continue to face them due to lack of proper induction from the schools in the beginning of their career.
My experience of ‘being’ a teacher
When I joined the teaching profession, I expected assistance from the seniors, colleagues, and head teachers but I did not get such help. I felt lost and disoriented when I stepped into the class for the first time. I couldn’t utilize the theoretical knowledge into practice. I had theoretical idea about different teaching methods like grammar translation method, direct method, audio-lingual method, etc. and different techniques like pair work, group work, dramatization, role play, different language games and so on but I forgot everything. I felt very uneasy to express even the things which I was well familiar. I lost my confidence and even if the students laughed in their own matter, I used to think that I had made some mistakes.
Similarly, I also faced different problems regarding classroom management, students’ response and behaviour, handling subject matter, instructional techniques, administrative and co-worker relationship, adjustment to overall school environment, curriculum, evaluation system, etc.The number of students in my class was very large and the environment was completely new to mewhich created difficult situation to manage the classes. It wasdifficult to motivate and make the students ready to study, lead the class in the proper direction, and check class work and homework in the class. At the same time, it was also hard to maintain proper classroom conduct among the students. There used to be several queries of the students regarding my teaching items, but I was unable to manage the answers to all of them.
When I graduated in ELT, I thought I knew a lot of things about English language teaching but I realized that I just knew the theories. I didn’t feel very comfortable with my co-teachers. I received few support from administration but no help from the other teachers. I expected a huge support from everyone but they were only busy in taking his/her own class and no one cared for what a new teacher was doing. Only few of them shared their ideas, experiences, information and techniques with me.
I found it hard to understand the overall school environment as it was my first experience as a teacher. I was in a state of confusion and had no guideline from the seniors on a regular basis. I felt problems to adjust myself with the rules and regulations of the school, understanding students’ psychology, their nature and it took me some time to recognize all those. Likewise, I didn’t have sufficient knowledge of curriculum as the course was new and I had very few ideas about the proper ways to handle the tasks that were given in the prescribed course. I had to study and practice a lot hard to handle the subject matter.
I had many problems related to evaluation of the performance of the students. I had no idea about evaluation system of my school at that time. I faced many problems regarding class tests, unit tests, responding to students’ immediate problems, interval between different examinations.
How did I overcome these problems?
If I had been introduced to these systems properly in the beginning, I would have been able to feel comfortable and perform better. Though all the teachers are in favour of teacher induction, it is not practiced in teaching properly. In the beginning, I had no idea how to face the problems I encountered. Later, I thought I should do something to help myself overcome them. I started adopting different techniques. I tried to take the help from my colleagues, head teachers, administrators and even with the students. I got positive responses from some of them but not all. I tried my best. But in some cases it was not possible to overcome those difficulties myself. My seniors and the principal also helped me to make teaching and learning activities effective. I also consulted with teachers from other schools.
My Observation and Suggestions
Over the months, I have realized that teacher induction is essential for the professional development of the beginning teachers. I faced various challenges and problems due to the lack of proper induction. As a treacher who has completed a graduate course to be a teacher, I had enough theories in my mind but I severely lacked the practical skills and understanding of the context I had started working. From my own experience, theories and discussion with other teachers, I have come to realize that, induction helps new teachers solve the problems they encounter in their early stage of teaching career. Here are my suggestions for the effective implementation of induction program:
- All the novice teachers should be provided with teacher induction program while they enter into the profession. Lack of induction might give them bitter experience which results in negativity towards the profession.
- Novice teachers should be provided with the idea of dealing with the subject matter, maintaining relationship with administration, co-worker and students, maintaining discipline in the classroom, addressing students’ problems and so on.
- There should be regular provision of collaboration and interaction between novice and veteran teachers at the regular basis. Workshops, seminar, and group should be conducted for the professional and personal development of the teachers.
- Teacher induction should be made flexible, decentralized, regular and accessible to all. So, the policy should be formulated accordingly. Government should provide sufficient numbers of teacher mentors, supervisors, resources to implement induction program properly.
- Teacher training program organizers and teacher educators like Ministry of Education (MoE), NELTA, NCED should include and focus on the role of teacher induction program as one of the most effective means for teachers’ professional development (TPD).
Dube, W. S. (2008). The induction of novice teachers in community junior secondary schools in Gaborone, Botswana. An M.Ed. thesis, University of South Africa.
Griffin, C. C. et al. (2003). New Teacher Induction in Special Education. COPSSE Documents No. RS-5.
Wong, H. K. (2004). Induction programs that keep new teachers teaching and improving. NASSP Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 638.
Ramesh Chandra Bhandari
Teacher at Neelbarahi Higher Secondary School, Kalimati, Kathmandu
Ganga Ram Gautam
Prof. Stoynoff in his keynote address during 19th NELTA International Conference held in Kathmandu on Feb 27, discussed his professional journey in the field of language assessment using a “trekking” metaphor as part of an anecdote from his Nepal visit long time ago.
The highlights of the message that he conveyed through the metaphor were:
a) a beginning is always exciting but not easy
b) we need to understand the challenges and put every effort to face them in order to get to the next level
c) we must understand the significance of our endeavor in the work that we do
d) we should not give up but try various alternatives so that we might find a better way for addressing the challenges and issues
Describing the various landscapes of language assessment in the last few decades, Prof. Stoynoff shared about two key orientations, namely, the psychometric perspectives and socio-cultural perspectives, which have influenced language assessment. Highlighting the key features of these perspectives, he also talked about the shifts that have taken place in the area of assessment along with the changes in the curriculum and materials in English language teaching and learning.
Drawing on the principles and practices of the socio-cultural perspective in language assessment, he elaborated alternative approaches to language assessment and how these approaches address the issue of ‘authenticity’ in language assessment. The key message that Prof. Stoynoff delivered during his presentation was that it is the teacher who is chiefly responsible for selecting the appropriate assessment and in many cases developing them, administering them properly, interpreting the results correctly and using results responsibly. He advised the teachers to be more attentive to the purposes and practices associated with assessment and their impact on students’ learning and their teaching. Thus, he highlighted the term “Assessment Literate” as the key that every teacher should be aware of.
As concluding remarks, Prof. Stoynoff said:
a) Set ambitious goals
b) Persist in important endeavors
c) Periodically gauge your progress and recognize changes in the professional landscape
d) Prepare for the challenges that are ahead
The presentation was both academic and practical and participants enjoyed it thoroughly. The uptake of the presentation was that the best way to keep abreast with the new trends and development in the professional field that one is engaged is through continuous professional development.
Ganga Ram Gautam
Reader in English Education,
Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahachal, Tribhuvan University
Executive Member (Immediate Past President), Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA)
NELTA added a special event to its 19th International Conference 2014: Interactive Language Fair (ILF) designed after the IATEFL’s ILF. In this event, 16 presenters showcased their research, innovations and experiments. As I coordinated this event, I would like to briefly describe the process of preparing and organizing the event.
Once the NELTA Conference Organizing Committee approved the proposal for the Interactive Language Fair and entrusted me with the responsibility to coordinate it, the call for proposals was made via emails, Yahoogroups, Facebook and the NELTA website. I received queries from potentials presenters asking me what it was and how they could participate in it and I did my best to explain the nature and the process of the Fair. The proposals were submitted from home and abroad. Once the proposals were accepted, I asked the presenters to get ready with their slides and other the materials for the Fair.
The Fair was scheduled for Day 3 of the conference, i.e. 1st March. Sixteen presenters came ready for the presentation. The hall opened for setting the show one hour before the Fair actually started. The presenters arranged their tables along the walls of the hall and displayed their materials on the laptops, tables and the walls.
When we opened the door for the participants, the hall was filled with very inquisitive ELT professionals and enthusiasts. The presenters made two-minute thumbnail presentations introducing themselves and highlighting the innovations they had made and invited the participants to visit their tables. Once the thumbnail presenters were over, the participants visited the presenters of their choice and asked questions, listened to the explanations, played games, tried the materials, clicked through the slides and also exchanged the information. What follows is the brief description of each of the presentations.
Babita Sharma Chapagain from Nepal shared samples of the reading materials developed by trainee teachers based on the local/rural context. She shared photos and sample books that were developed by the trainees and interacted with the visitors. Manju Bajracharya from Nepal shared the report of an action research she carried out with aim attempt to improve English spellings. She engaged visitors with some interesting spelling tasks and games. Dipesh Kumar Shah from Nepal shared his ideas on critical thinking that he tried out in his EFL classroom. Md Mahmudul Hasan from Bangladesh showcased his innovation called Smart Gamification. Illustrating what a flipped classroom is, he engaged visitors in games and exercises based on the concept.
Naheed Haq from Pakistan shared her research on formative assessment as a systematic part of teaching. Claire Bradin Siskin from India described and demonstrated the ESL Writing Online Workshop (ESL-WOW), an online multimedia program designed to guide non-native speakers of English through each stage of the writing process. Jeevan Karki from Nepal shared introduced a webzine and shared the ideas of encouraging students for creative writing by publishing their writing instantly in the webzine. Prof. James Crocker from Japan showcased The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, a publication which focuses on language teachers and learners’ writing about their experiences as language educators abroad and at home. Dinesh Kumar Thapa from Nepal shared the art of making learners engaged with reading texts at a deeper level with the aid of graphic organizers. Kshitiz Upadhyay-Dhungel from Nepal shared an experience of a Principal of ECD pre-school in learning/teaching English language in a more lucid way in the Nepalese context.
Durga Prasad Pandey from Nepal highlighted self-management as a way to self-leading professional development. The visitors discussed ‘Doing’ (Physical), ‘Thinking’ (Mental), ‘Feeling’(Social), ‘Being’(The self). Shyam Kumar Shrestha from Nepal got the visitors to share their experiences of teaching children who are uninterested in reading authentic materials. Praveen Kumar Yadab from Nepal shared the experience of professional development in ELT through blogging on NeltaChoutari. Dhani Ram Yogi and Bir Singh Nayak from Nepal showed the link between the content from social studies and EFL teaching and learning based on project based learning concept. Sagun Shrestha from Nepal argued that technology brings amicable language learning environment in the ELT classrooms and demonstrated the use of some online resources such as nicenet, delicious and others. Teachers of English Access Micro-Scholarship Program Mandira Adhikari, Radha Krishna Humagain, Gokul Sharma and Kalpana Poudel and some of their students showcased a non-traditional classroom through a ‘poster presentation’ for a ‘gallery walk’.
During and after the Fair, I reflected and made two conclusions. First, when we visit other countries and participate in ELT events, we can and we should return with ideas to add new activities and try them out here in Nepal. I initiated this ILF event because I had attended a similar event in the IATEFL Liverpool Conference in 2013. I feel this is a way to enrich our practices. Two, the ELT professionals in Nepal are comparable at the international level which was demonstrated by the quality of the presenters in the Fair. The visitors/participants said that the Fair was a good learning opportunity for them.
The Interactive Language Fair will continue at the NELTA 2015 Conference.
Associate Professor (ELT)
School of EducationKathmanduUniversity
Some of the photos of the ILF:
Photos: Umes Shrestha
Do English teachers still need dictionaries, especially printed dictionaries? Because internet gives access to the online form of most of the monolingual and some bilingual dictionaries, do English teachers need to buy and ask students to buy dictionaries? Dictionaries are usually bulky and voluminous, so should we ask students not to buy them, but rather suggest them to use mobile or web dictionaries? This write-up will attempt to answer these questions in relation to the talk given by Dr. Elaine Higgleton, in the 19th International Conference, L.A. School, Hattiban, Lalitpur.
Dr. Higgleton, who is one of the chief editors of Collins Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, focused on the importance of dictionary and significance of their use in this age of digital media. She started her talk presenting an account of how the buying of printed dictionaries has declined over the decade from around 250,000 to 35,000 copies annually. She attributes the reason to the easy availability of large free online dictionaries. Having talked about the history of dictionaries, in which she concluded that the notion of dictionary is always changing based on the perceived needs of the users and the intention of the compiler, she went on to say that the online dictionaries complement the print versions of them. Most of the online dictionaries, according to Dr. Higgleton, are traditional in form and are not user friendly. Hence, learners of English as a foreign language might find it very hard to use online dictionaries and make a sense out of them. Yet, on the other hand, millions of hits have been recorded by different online dictionaries web pages, and it is reported that people seem to be contented with what they get from those online dictionaries.
Moreover, learner’s dictionaries also provide free access to their online dictionaries. Most of these dictionaries do serve purpose as they can aid learners in their effort to learn spelling, hear spelling or check grammar. Nonetheless, Dr. Higgleton claimed we should encourage learners to buy dictionaries because most printed dictionaries offer “more bespoke and tailored content” for users having special needs. Secondly, printed dictionaries are user friendly given that we do not need to depend upon lights of internet connectivity to use them. Thirdly, they can be carried to the classroom and used as per the requirement. Also, she stressed that the lexis chain that the dictionaries provide can be useful in creating other vocabulary related activities. Next, the printed dictionaries can be used in creating grammar exercise to simple writing exercise. And, they also aid learners if they would like to score higher in English examination. Lastly, she added that bespoke and tailored designed traditional dictionaries address the specific content needs of learner most of which are driven by their context and L1.
In line with the arguments of Dr. Higgleton, I as a teacher and learner of English feel that dictionaries have a high significance in the successful learning of English. Reflecting back to my language learning experience, I can vividly remember that I used to have oxford dictionary placed near to my bed while I sat on my bed to read. I can recall noting down words, in class while teaching or while attending university classes, to find their meaning and the usage in the dictionary. I have used dictionaries for multiple purposes. I have used them to decide whether I should use one word over another; whether I should use a particular preposition or conjunction after the given words; to find out how a particular word is used in sentence.
One of my fond memories related to the use of dictionary goes back to the first year of my teaching career, when I bought a dictionary and a self-help grammar book to brush my English language with the first salary that I received. Obviously, dictionary alone does not help, but having one may aid language learning task. I used that dictionary for reasons mentioned above. Since then, I have bought multiple copies of dictionaries. I feel that buying dictionaries is an investment, which worth it.
Hence, I conclude that yes we still need dictionaries, and we should encourage our learners to buy printed dictionaries. We can do multiple, language related activities in class if all our learners bring their dictionaries. Further, we can also request the school/college administration to buy newer version of dictionaries. Because, language is dynamic and so are the needs of learners, the newer versions can address those needs.
Adjunct Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education
Lecturer at Ace Institute of Management, Baneshwor.
Here’s a look-back into the 19th NELTA International Conference through the photos !
In this blog entry, I attempt to present my experience of gender from two different points of view in my life: one through social and behavioral norms while growing up as a girl in my family and society, and another through academic and professional perspectives while learning complex intellectual issues about gender in the university. At the end of the post, I ask readers to share their thoughts about gender and gender role in the context of their profession.
My mother still recalls the discouraging reaction of my family when she gave the birth to me, a daughter, as her first child, at Patan Hospital in Lalitpur one chilly morning in February 1988. She felt bad because everyone including her had expected a son. A few years later, she was, however, compensated by the arrival of my brother in the family. But that did not change the dynamics of how a daughter and son were viewed and treated in the family and society at large. Two different boxes, one for a daughter and another for a son, were created at the time our birth. My being was regarded as a daughter and my brother as a son, and everything in life and society seemed to be determined within these boxes.
The first time I realised myself as feminine was when I received the toys different from my brother’s. My brother was given cars and guns while I received teapot set. I played with it pouring hot tea and serving to him; that was my favorite game. I never knew the game I used to play during my childhood would turn out to be my stereotypical gender role today.
My mother always used to say “Chori manche bhaneko mato ko bhada ho ra chora manche bhaneko tama ko bhada” (Girls are clay pots and boys are copper pots). The binary comparison of daughters as ‘fragile’ ceramic products and sons as ‘strong’ metal ones governed my life and sensitized me about morality. As a girl, it was of utmost importance that I become a good woman without any stains in my character. So, from childhood, I internalized gender primarily in terms of how important character and morality was for a person of a particular gender.
However, when I entered academia and pursued gender studies, my viewpoint for gender which I learned through social and behavioural norms since my childhood got a radical change. When I stumbled into feminism for the first time, I turned into a rebel. I think I acted like a radical feminist until I came across the study of masculinity, which changed my stance again.
My mother’s quotation about ceramic pots and girls still deeply influences how I conceptualize and experience my own gender and gender roles in general. But beyond the personal experience, when thinking about gender in the world of the academia, my intellectual comprehension about the specific gender roles, ideas and ideologies of gender all become very complex and dynamic. The definition of Gender, the understanding of it and reaction to it have undergone a constant change. I have started rethinking what shapes one’s understanding of gender in terms of personal experience and as well as when one is academically sound, how difficult it is for one to comprehend the issue of gender after having different outlook for it breaking away the stereotypical boundary.
Reading the academic discourse makes me look for a middle ground between the rather discriminatory treatment of girls/women in traditional societies and the more complex academic discourse of gender. Indeed, even in the definition of gender by the World Health Organization, “The word gender is used to describe the characteristics, roles and responsibilities of women and men, boys and girls that are socially constructed.” The definition is elaborated as “Gender is related to how we are perceived and expected to think and act as women and men because of the way society is organized, not because of our biological differences.” Of course, the binary opposition that has been the part of society for ages has its roots very deep and this middle-ground understanding of gender and gender roles in the world. However, it seems necessary to also look at more complex dynamics of gender even in our own society.
If I ask question of gender to a hardcore science student like my brother, he has nothing to answer. But on the other hand, the liberality that is given by social science and the enrichment of my capacity has made me able to think in other, very different ways as well. So, I realize that thinking about gender through academic and theoretical lenses can help us develop a balanced and complex view of gender.
Academic studies of Feminism made me think about the role of women in and beyond my community. In the first stage, Feminism made me think of how marginalize my female community was or how marginalized I was. My birth was firstly gendered as it made many people sad. Secondly the teapot given to me as a toy was my marginalization of my own qualities. Peter Berry in his book “Beginning Theory” defines Feminist Criticism as “the movement was in important ways, literary from the start, in the sense that it realized the significance of the images of women promulgated by literature, and saw it as vital to combat them and question their authority and their coherence” (116). The question the then female feminist critics started with was in academic or in the literary sense; it later went to the personal domains.
The introduction of the book, Feminisms says, “Feminist theory is also traditionally characterized by its interdisciplinary –its transgression of the usual subject divides (e.g. literary, historical, philosophical, psychological, anthropological and sociological). A lot of countries including Nepal took the way of transgression. But transgression without an in-depth understanding of the state of female or even feminism is worthless. There were movements and happenings in Nepal and I can interpret those events I could interpret through feminism, for instance, through the issue or property or the issue of citizenship. However, the recent “Occupy Baluwatar” movement that was led by some group of people gave me epiphany again. Those who don’t even know about the rights of female, those who have not understand the sociological, psychological burden of being a female in a country like Nepal were demanding rights for women. That made me think how Feminism could also be turned into a political football for anyone to play their own game. It certainly raised many issues, including the issues of hypocrisy and publicity campaign.
The second stage, when I started learning about the limitations and complexities in Feminist theories, was even more fascinating. I now started asking: Does Feminism speak about both genders? Is the discourse of Masculinity necessary? After I started exploring questions like this, I did not completely agree with many feminist scholars, as feminism seems to have its own limits as well. In particular, many feminists blamed the social structure and the opposite sex only and rigorously fought for the representation. But the blame-game never became fruitful. The emergence of Masculinity ideology was also purported by the Feminist ideology. As females went on to vie for their rights, males also felt it necessary to maintain their own space.
And thus a space for masculinity emerged out of crisis, as Debby Phillips quotes Kimmel, who said that
These crises usually involve radical questioning of the meaning of masculinity, and they occur during periods of significant ideological, economic, and social tensions. It is during periods of upheaval and changes in social values that “old definitions [of masculinity] no longer work, and new definitions are yet to be firmly established” (405).
Certainly, masculinity needs a redefinition, as scholars of gender suggest. In fact, both Feminism and Masculinity need to undergo timely redefinitions. If academia is to shape one’s perception towards gender, these two domains need to move side by side and the redefinitions must be accepted.
These academic and/or public discourses certainly help us to understand more about gender, but what about personal life, socio-cultural life that first shapes one’s mind? Doesn’t academia and personal life come in contrast while one discourses about the gender keeping knowledge and experience side by side? I think that both academia and personal life shapes one’s comprehension of gender.
The concept of gender depends upon many things, including one’s upbringing, one’s culture, society, and one’s academic study and professional experience. As scholars, we should allow the broader and more complex perspectives and issues about gender to shape our understanding of gender. We should allow different perspectives, as well as our personal and professional experiences, to take us into various levels of thoughts, to inquire and seek the best understanding for ourselves. Through this blog entry, I wanted to share my thought that there is much to be gained if we try to understand gender by viewing our personal space through academic lenses.
As a practitioner of English Language Teaching, what are the issues of gender that you find worth discussing? What are the obstacles for female colleagues in our society and our time? Are there limitations for men as well? How can we address the challenges while cultivating realistic and complex views about gender and gender roles in our professions? I would love to hear the views of Choutari readers.
Barry, P. (2010) Beginning Theory. New Delhi. Viva Books Pvt. Ltd.
Phillips, D.A. (2006) Masculinity, Male Development, Gender and Identity: Modern and Postmodern meanings. USA: Seattle University.
Sweta Baniya works as a Communication Associate at UN Habitat and is a student of MPHIL, Baniya’s interest lies in writing and expressing herself in words when something touches her deeply or hurts her so much. She also runs her personal blog – www.swetabaniya.wordpress.com
As teachers, we often ask ourselves, “How can we develop creative thinking of our students? How can we ensure that our lessons are fun making and useful for them?” We, the teachers today always seek to find new ways to help the learners unleash their creativity. In this post, I share with you some thoughts about how we can use storytelling to help our students learn language in effective and enjoyable ways.
When I was a young, my sister used to fascinate me and the rest of the family because she had a very captivating way of unfolding events that kept the audience glued to their seats. I remember getting so engrossed in the story that I fell off the stool. Stories, and creative and effective expression still fascinate me, because stories not only made my childhood fun but they also greatly enhanced my language development. As the old Nepali saying goes, those who can tell good stories are worth adorning with garlands of flowers and . Hearing a story is heartwarming and a storyteller can make the world come alive for the listener. The power of storytelling is attested by sayings like this in many cultures. And as language teachers, we all know that power. When telling stories, speakers develop language skills, as well as build confidence for communicating their ideas.
Storytelling in the Context of Teaching/Learning Language
In the context of learning language, storytelling allows learners to learn and express new ideas, use new vocabulary and grammatical structures, and put such language skills to use within the broader context of events and ideas in the story. Storytelling gives learners the opportunity to use language in a holistic way.
Highlighting how the use of story in language classroom is a powerful tool in the language learning process, Jones (2012) argues that “Once learners get into conversational storytelling, it is an enjoyable experience for both them and the teacher.” There’s no doubt that stories can be fun and also there is more to storytelling than it meets the eye. One has to ensure successful learning of language as well. According to Morgan & Rinvoulcri (2003), successful second language learning is “far more a matter of unconscious acquisition than of conscious, systematic study.” The stories could be such method of unconscious input that can ensure creative output. Stories unconsciously draw a learner towards them. “They capture and hold the imagination of learners; they create empathy as children identify with characters and situations in the stories; they present language in authentic contexts, thus promoting both grammatical and vocabulary development; they facilitate acquisition through multiple repetition (both of the language in the story, and as the story is told over and again)” (Maley, 2008, p. 4).
Hence, storytelling can be a powerful tool for teaching language. Stories also help students to be expressive, imaginative and capable of using language naturally in real context. Telling stories is a natural way of engaging students to communicate complex ideas. Stories when used in classroom help students practice communication and expression. If we as a teacher can help students love stories, we will pave way for them to be extensive readers in the future.
It is worth noting at this point that storytelling is more than just reading aloud. Actually it is NOT reading out loud. When a story is told live, the teller can engage listeners and can create an intimate bond through his/her voice and eye contact. Another obvious benefit of storytelling over reading aloud is improvisation through the use of mimes, gestures and body language.
What Type of Stories?
It is not enough for us as a language teacher to go to a class with any story. If you plan to tell a story to a class full of eager minds, there are two questions to consider first.
Is this the story I enjoy telling?
Is this the story my students would find entertaining or thought provoking?
The stories that you choose to present in the class should touch you and your students should be able to relate to it the way you relate to it. Your reaction to the story and your enthusiasm can really ignite a desire in your students to be better recipient and eager participants. Choosing a good story is a crucial part of storytelling. Don’t tell a story just for the sake of storytelling. Let the story be a part of you. Know your students well and choose a story that might easily be their story.
For my English lesson, one day, I chose a fairly easy story about a tortoise, having a bad day, decides to run away from home. I planned my lesson around it and decided to use this story in two different levels: one primary and another secondary. I chose grade 5 in the primary level and grade 10 in the secondary level. I told the same story to the classes, improvising and detailing the story as per their level. After an initial round of storytelling, I got the students talking about their feelings. I asked them if they could relate to the character and if they have ever in their life felt like running away. All the students responded with “Yes”. When I asked them to write down a similar story, I saw them eagerly opening their notebooks and writing energetically. In the story, the main character returns home after learning the value of his family and friends. The story not only helped them in their language learning process, it also helped them to meditate on their lives by relating themselves to.
Stories are everywhere; in fact stories are our way of life. “Stories are central to what it means to be human. The human mind seems to be hardwired for the creation and reception of narratives. It is even true to say that we are the stories that make us up: stories we have heard, we have told, we enact daily” (Maley, 2008, p.4). There are lots of sources of story. We can choose our stories from fairy tales, traditional folklores, culture, proverbs, pictures, newspaper clippings, films, personal anecdotes, rumors, imagination etc.
Who can Benefit?
As a teacher of language, I have found storytelling very helpful. However we should not just limit its use in language classroom. Stories can be used in a math, science and social studies classes as well. Stories are not limited to kindergarten only but can be useful for secondary classes as well. Stories can be told to any level of learner. Beginners can benefit through it and it will aid their literacy and language learning. Even advanced learners are benefited through storytelling; they can refine their already learnt language skills and polish their ideas. Stories give them opportunity to be creative with what they have already learnt.
Storytelling is an effective alternative to traditional language teaching activities. There are a lot of ways through which we can use storytelling in our classroom. As stated by Morgan & Rinvoulcri (2003), storytelling activities range from introspective to interactive, beginner to advance, written to oral, individual to group. Stories can be planned and delivered in such a way that it achieves its objectives. If our objective is to help students with grammar, then we can choose a story with recursive pattern of words and phrases. Our telling can give them exposure to the target language. Apart from grammar, we can focus on vocabulary, intonations and phonetics to help them acquire English language easily and successfully.
Choosing a good story is a crucial part of storytelling. The main part is storytelling itself. Your relation and attitude towards the story matters a lot. Once the story has been delivered you need to plan various activities to help the students contemplate the impact. Group discussion based on various probing question can help the students relate to the story. You can prepare the questions beforehand and have the students talk about it with each other. The questions can range from their reaction to various elements or aspect of the story. If your students are advanced learner you can have them discuss the literary aspect of the story. Have the students paraphrase the story individually and they can even write a reflection on it. Another activity would be to write a similar story on a totally new context.
Dramatizing the story is another method of exploiting stories. Either you dramatize the storytelling itself or have your students retell it in a form of drama. Role playing and role taking helps the students with revision and in doing so they get familiarized with the grammatical, semantic, structural aspect thus unconsciously learning language. Retelling a story is fun and enjoyable. Getting the students to narrate their story in the class often creates a receptive environment in the classroom where more than one student will be willing to share similar experience. Tannen (1984) has stated that one person’s narrative may often be taken up by one or more of the listeners who will add similar narratives of their own to create what she refers to as a “story chain”.
Apart from storytelling, creating similar stories through parallel writing helps them a lot. Get the students create a story with the help of theme words either individually or in a group. Instead of the teacher telling the story, students can also do the telling. This will help in a successful two way communication in a language classroom while giving an opportunity to the teacher to evaluate the learner.
Using pictures and shapes, together the teachers and students can create a new story to tell. Sometimes we can tell an incomplete story and have the students complete it and tell it. Taking an event from a newspaper clipping and telling it in a form of story can also help the students.
Storytelling, which is an integral part of human life, can be vital in language teaching. Basing the language lessons on stories have creative impact on the students. If we cultivate a love of stories in our students through storytelling, we can help them learn without giving them the monotonous drill and bland role play. Stories add a humanistic element in teaching making it quite effective. Various classroom activities based on stories not just make your lesson comprehensible and useful, it also adds fun to your teaching.
Jones, R. (2012). Creating a storytelling classroom for a storytelling world. English Teaching Forum, 2-9.
Maley, A. (n.d.). From story literacy to reading literacy. Literacy in the language classroom, 4-7.
Morgan, J. & Rinvoulcri, M. (2004). Once upon a time: Using stories in language classroom. Cambridge: CUP.
Tannen, D. (1984). Conversational Style: Analyzing talk among friends. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Wright, A. (n.d.). Creating stories. Literacy in the language classroom, 23-34.
Santona Neupane is a scholar pursuing her M. Ed. in ELT at Kathmandu University, School of Education. She is an English teacher in a private school in Kathmandu. She has recently joined the editorial team of Choutari.
Pramod Kumar Sah
In countries where English is used as a second or a foreign language, teachers have already started grounding their ELT practices on their locally available resources as well as locally viable methods and approaches of teaching English as a lingua franca language. In Nepal, where English is used as a foreign language, it is evidently urgent that we develop our own ELT practices. In a post written last month’s issue In their highly thought-provoking essay, “Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up” Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma and Shyam Sharma have presented a broad and powerful proposal for a reinvention of Nepalese ELT from the ground up. This blog entry takes Phyak, Sharma, and Sharma’s ideas one step further by situating them in the context of classroom, textbooks, and such other specifics of ELT practice in Nepal today.
Methodology: Prescription or Formation?
Allow me to first briefly describe my stance on ELT/EFL/ TESOL methodology in Nepalese context today. As Phyak, Sharma and Sharma have indicated in their recent article, I strongly believe that there is an urgent need of realizing own potential in language teaching, rather than seeking for solutions to the different classroom problems from in the ideas and experiences from contexts unlike our own. In this post, I intend to add that the “formation” of ELT methods and resources from the ground up may never happen unless our teachers, as the ultimate practitioners, do not see how they can practically do so. I would like to add some more specifics ways to achieve the goal to the many concrete examples and practical suggestions that the authors have provided in their post.
Since the advent of language learning as an academic discipline, there have been gradual shifts in language teaching methodology from Grammar Translation, to Audiolingualism, and those applied in more recent and well known Communicative Language Teaching. However, ELT practitioners have put forward an array of opinions, arguments and concerns over the issue that which of the suggested methodologies works best in language teaching. But, a variety of factors, such as official language policies, the role of L2 in a distinct speech community, learners’ need and their linguistic background, cultural and economical state of the institutions, teachers’ background, students’ previous linguistic competence, etc. affect the selection of methodology – this is why a single methodology was not effective enough to quench the thirst of language learning of all the time and circumstances.
For me, the most relevant experience is that a method should no longer be a prescription made from a linguist; rather it should be a pattern of activities made by a distinct language teacher accounting for his/her classroom scenario. Moreover, all the methods are best for their corresponding situations, as Prabhu (1990, p.161) states ‘…..different methods are best for different teaching contexts; that all methods are partially true or valid; and that the notion of good and bad methods is itself misguided’. In the meantime, it is very significant for a language teacher to remain aware of scientific principles of language learning or acquisition, they are more importantly free to make their own personal methodology based on their distinct context, which Prabhu (1990) calls as teachers’ ‘sense of plausibility’. It is also worth suggesting that a language teacher needs to choose various activities or techniques from a certain method, not because of the faith in the underlying method but because that is suitable in their own unique contexts.
Thus, I assume, it’s high time we should start framing our own method that can best fit in our unique classroom rather than following sets of prescriptions.
Need of Teachers’ Authority for Syllabus Design
The reason I focus on teacher-driven syllabus is again based on so-called ‘teacher sense of plausibility’. I have been motivated to develop my own personal teaching methodology for my unique class, that requires me to set my own syllabus rather than following syllabus set somewhere else. Put it other way, considering learners’ need, cultural background, age group, etc., teaches should be authorized to frame his syllabus against marketed textbooks. Furthermore, prescription of a methodology, syllabus, course, materials, activities, techniques, and an assessment procedure does not support the views, such as every class is unique. The teachers should be authorized to make decision on aforementioned aspects of teaching.
A Dark Practice and Ways out
There are a few dark practices in Nepalese ELT that seem to be in high need of evolution, out of which Teaching a subject vs. language skills is one.
Teaching English is merely a subject to pass in the examination in our concern, rather than developing our students’ language skills. It might be my overgeneralization but this as a consequence of my teaching experience and observation in some leading educational establishments in Nepal. We rely on ‘a’ textbook and we teach them page-by-page and finally, test them if they have comprehended what mentioned in the textbook. But, in fact it works for no good. Using textbooks is necessary, but what seems irrelevant is just to interpret what are printed on textbook pages. The situation not only exists in school teaching but has been the same in university level; for example, the General English for B. Ed. under Tribhuvan University has recommended three textbooks; (a) New Generation in English, that is a collection of exciting and helpful reading texts including some literary pieces written in Nepali contexts- but, what we do is to render the meaning of the texts in Nepali with near comprehension (that helps for nothing) rather than getting out students to read them extensively to develop reading skills and intensively to do the tasks set; (b) Exploring Grammar in context, indeed a good textbook that is based on Hallidayan approach and contains grammar for written and spoken discourse – in this concern as well, we just try to teach them rules of grammar, practice only the exercises and prepare them for examination instead of having them explore meaning of the grammatical items for natural communication; and (c) Academic vocabulary, at this point, we just teach them the meaning of words in isolation and the students hardly keep those in their head – the best thing we can do is to teach them ‘lexical chunks’ in contexts with the help of ‘corpus’ grounding our teaching on Michel Lewis ‘Lexical Approach’, so the students will be able to make use of those vocabulary in their real academic writing. Additionally, this gap is the consequence of our examination system, especially question pattern that contains questions from the textbook exercises itself without a word alteration, normally. The textbooks are to be used as reference, rather than a subject to have students’ mastery over. Teaching English means teaching language skills that help students expose themselves in English speech community. Moreover, as Phyak, Sharma and Sharma show, there is an urgent need to realize our own potential and bring our local resources to support our students develop their language skills rather than grounding our teaching on mere textbooks.
Making Our Own Ground
Firstly, as Phyak, Sharma and Sharma emphasize, our focus has to be on practice instead of discussing the problems; teaches should build confidence in themselves and use approaches and resources that are readily available to them.
Secondly, where there are potential teachers equipped with the knowledge of different paradigms in our society, we should no longer be reading literature and theory developed in different contexts somewhere else in the world with an aim of implementing those theories and methods in our classrooms—even though ideas from anywhere are good for expanding our knowledge. Instead, we must frame a plot of our own stories, to shape our own educational future.
Thirdly, to develop and implement any approaches, methods, and syllabus, we need to figure out what we can do even within the material and technological limitations in our classroom. Thus, instead of being demotivated, we can attempt to let the things go with what available to us in a best way. In Phyak, Sharma and Sharma’s words, we have to shift our belief from what we do not have to what we can do well and with what we do have.
To say in a nutshell, since English is no longer the only language of English, we have freedom to teach and learn it in ways that fit our needs and interests, and it is high time we stopped searching for methods originated in some other situations. It is time that we explore and understand our own teaching scenarios in order to form whatever methods and whatever blends of methods we find good for us. For this to happen, it is necessary to authorize our teachers and allow them to develop their own syllabi and their own materials, however impossible or difficult it may seem at first. Without more independence for our teachers, it may never be easier for teachers to teach language skills, instead of textbooks. And if we are to move beyond complaining about what we do not have and what we cannot do, we must start using readily available resources as well as use available opportunities for teaching language as it is used in life and work, instead of just whatever the textbooks includes.
Pramod Kumar Sah is an M. Ed. in English from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is currently pursuing his MA in TESOL with Applied Linguistics at University of Central Lancashire, UK.
It is said that five years is a century in internet time! But this is not always true in every country and context. Due to never-ending political gridlock, our society is not making the type of progress that the discourse of the internet assumes. We have slightly better bandwidth for internet access itself today than we had five years ago; but we don’t have better environments for academic and professional progress today than we did when monarchy was replaced by an interim constitution toward the transition to full democracy.
However–and this is a big however–we are also defined by who we envision we can be, who we strive to be, where we want to reach in another five or ten years. In spite of the hurdles in our social, political, and economic lives, we should do what we can to connect more members of our community, to engage them, and to provide opportunities for professional development. Accordingly, at Choutari, we are trying our best to engage our community in professional discourse here at home and around the world. We believe that if we desire, we can turn our conversations into useful resource for our professional work and our professional development.
Those of us who are running NeltaChoutari are optimistic. We believe that in spite of all the challenges in our society, we can and should give back our best to our profession and community. We want to serve as a bridge between a generation of scholars and teachers who have built our professional community from scratch. We also want to be a vehicle of transformation by creating a venue where the ideas and experiences of our professional colleagues across the country can be shared. We are dedicated to the idea that small acts for helping to transmit knowledge, skills and resources between scholarship and classrooms, trainings and publications, and conversations offline and online can make a huge impact in our field.
Our readers don’t need to be told that blogging is a powerful means of professional development. We believe that Choutari is perhaps the first and the most popular blog in the country; but our mission is to promote blogging and other emerging modes of professional conversations among individuals and groups who are seeking to share their voices. We are also eager to help promote the professional activities–training and conferences, local events and conversations, and other professional updates–across the country. We encourage our colleagues to share any professional updates through Choutari.
Choutari is also a place for mentorship. We do not just accept and reject submissions when our colleagues want to share their ideas through Choutari; we try to provide resources/guidelines (please see “join the conversation” tab), and we try our best to help the writers on a one-to-one basis through a review process as best as we can.
With the expansion of our team, we are truly excited and eager to serve the community even better than we have done so far. But for our efforts to be most fruitful, we need your support through promotion, contribution, and feedback.
Let us start another wonderful year together. Happy New Year, 2014 to all our readers, contributors, and well-wishers!!!
Here is a list of this special issue’s khuraks:
- More Than Status Updates: Choutari Chat with Some ELT Professionals by Uttam Gaulee in support of the team
- Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up by Prem Phyak, Shyam Sharma, and Bal Krishna Sharma
- A Journey from Information to Transformation in ELT Professionalism by Bal Ram Adhikari
- Quick Survey with Choutari Audience by Ushakiran Wagle and Lal Bahadur Rana
- Impact of NeltaChoutari on Nepalese ELT by Ashok Raj Khati
- 2013: A Reflection about Choutari by Praveen Kumar Yadav
- Welcoming new colleagues to Choutari by Choutari Editors
We urge you to join us again by sharing your responses as comments under any posts, by liking and sharing them, by contributing your own posts for future issues, and by encouraging other colleagues to do the same.
Happy New Year 2014!
Compiled and Edited by Ushakiran Wagle and Lal Bahadur Rana
The value of a venue like this lies in the conversation that follows the publication of the community’s ideas. Just imagine that no one responds to what we publish! Fortunately for us, in the last one year, we have had a lot of new conversation, and we hope it will keep coming.
As the current team enters its second year, we are aiming to further increase the amount of discussions among our readers and contributors. We are also grateful to members of the community who have read the blog but didn’t find the chance to leave comments–hoping that more of us will be able to join the conversation this year.
Here are some excerpts of the brief survey among some of the most active commenters:
1. When and how did you come to learn about the blog? What is your impression of it?
Our readers learnt about the blog from different sources. Jeevan Karki came to know about NeltaChoutari two years ago while googling in course of doing his assignment of M. Phil, while Sagun Shrestha knew about it through his friends and later learnt more about it in NELTA conference in 2011. Like Sagun, Rajan Kandel came to know through his colleagues at Surkhet Campus (Education) and NELTA Surkhet few years ago. However, Jyoti Tiwari learnt about this blog in 2010 from her teacher Sajan Karn during a two day training of NELTA in Birgunj. Samjhana Pradhan, unlike others in the list, said, “I read about it in the Kathmandu Post in 2009. Later, she learnt more about the blog at a NELTA Conference. She “found the blog not only impressive but also its team so energetic and informative.” We are amazed by how far and wide a humble blog (which started as a conversation among a few ELT scholars) is known now, and we are truly grateful to all those who promote it. Without the word of mouth promotion by one colleague to others, we wouldn’t become such a great community with so much value.
2. Can you share one or two benefits of reading Choutari blog entries? What particular post or what kinds of materials have you liked most so far?
In response to this question, our respondents said that they learnt practical and innovative ideas of teaching English. For instance, Jeevan Karki said, “I learnt straightforward ideas rather than abstract ones…very practical experiences.” Similarly, Sagun Shrestha stated:
I learnt some activities of teaching creative writing from Alan Maley’s articles ‘Creative writing for students and teachers: some practical ideas’ and ‘Creative writing for students and teachers.’ I liked and like the reflective articles and the articles which give us innovative and practical ideas in language teaching.
Rajan Kandel said that he liked best “the experiences of the colleagues. I liked them.” Jyoti Tiwari responded to this question as follows:
Frankly speaking I liked all the post of Choutari because all posts are directly or indirectly relevant to teaching, teaching techniques and Education and also that are the experience of the professionals. If I have to name a post that I liked most I would like to name “Creative Writing for Students and Teachers: Some Practical Ideas” by Alan Maley because I find this article helpful for me. Before reading this article I was so confused about how to teach poems in the classroom but when I read this I feel relaxed and took that easy to teach poems to the new learners.
Samjhana Pradhan, another top commenter had a similar response:
We receive updates on ELT. It is good to share and exchange ideas with colleagues in the discussion forum. I like to read articles related to teacher development, teaching techniques and multilingualism.
Thus, most of the respondents said that they found reflective and experience-based blog entries, based on the actual challenges teachers or teacher educator had faced, to be very useful for them. Some of them also expressed their wish to read posts on teacher development and multilingualism.
3. Please share one or more suggestions for us to further improve the venue. What kinds of materials would you like to see added in Choutari? Are there any other areas of improvement?
The suggestions provided by the participants during our survey are very substantial. For example, Jeevan Karki suggested that it would be “better if [the blog] proceeded towards internationalization”–perhaps meaning that we should try to make global connections and draw on scholarship from outside. Sagun Shrestha did not make any suggestion but rather opined that Choutari is making good progress: “There is nothing to say right now. Things are getting better.”
Rajan Kandel suggested that we should be more
inclusive and try to reach to those who think you are there for them. Get them to publish through you. Encourage them and inform the writers to improve their articles for the next issues and not just say sorry for the issue.
Some participants provided us more specific comments. Samjhana Pradhan pointed out a weakness: “I have always enjoyed reading articles in the blog. However, there were a number of spelling errors in the blog entries particularly this month. So this should be avoided.”
The most striking and useful comment was given by Jyoti Tiwari:
In my view female writer should be encouraged too for the contribute some articles and share their experience regarding teaching and learning activities.
This is an issue with which Choutari team has struggled from the very beginning. We have tried our best to invite female colleagues to join us, and we haven’t always succeeded. We urge our colleagues to help us correct the imbalance; we want to develop Choutari as a platform that represents the gender balance in the real world.
All in all, we were humbled by the responses, critiques, and suggestions of our readers. With this kind of support from our readers, we hope to be able to serve you and invite you to increasingly better conversations in the year–and years–to come.
When NeltaChoutari was started five years ago, we gave it the tagline: “Nepalese ELT Practitioners meet the world”. As we make the fifth year’s milestone, we greet our readers with the voices of our readers. We present the voices of our colleagues who have read and joined the conversation on Choutari, and thereby translated knowledge, skills and resources from the blog to their workplaces and other venues of professional development. Through NeltaChoutari, Neplese ELT practitioners have not only met the world but also grown together promoting professional conversation and building local scholarship in line with the vision of NELTA. For this post, Ashok Raj Khati, one of our regular contributors, talked to five audience members (3 from outside Kathmandu valley and 2 from Kathmandu University) and collected these voices that largely represent the impact of NeltaChoutari on Nepalese ELT.
Praveen Kumar Yadav
What happens when a whole new generation of farmers who have the ability to meet in the village square to discuss whole new types of crops, agricultural methods, and markets for their harvest? They meet at the local Choutari. They find or create new intersections on the way to one another’s fields, villages, and towns–and those intersections can be called new choutaris. The blogzine ‘Nelta Choutari’ (Choutari for short) is just one possibility among many that could emerge as the world becomes more connected, and as our community gives rise to more productive and active new scholars. This Choutari came into existence when a group of ELT scholars found a way (called blogging) to talk to one another, share their ideas with the community, and ultimately turn to the community to join the conversation. After they ran the conversations for four years, they asked a new group of enthusiastic colleagues one year ago, and that group (the current team) has had wonderful opportunities to continue that project by sharing, creating, and updating professional knowledge in our community.
The journey of Choutari in the editorship of the current team for the first year was a wonderful experience. As young and enthusiastic members, we were so excited to take over the responsibilities of running the blog. At the same time, we took some time to develop confidence in subject matters and technical skills and community engagement.
We are proud to be a team of scholars from diverse background and with diverse expertise (See the introduction compiled by Shyam Sharma in January 2013). We are even more excited because a few new members have joined us at the start of our second year. It has been a tradition of Choutari to invite those who have actively contributed to the professional conversation to start directly contributing their ideas. This year, we are excited to have Umes Shrestha, Uttam Gaulee, Santona Neupane, Laxmi Prasad Ojha, Jeevan Karki, Ashok Raj Khati, and Sagun Shrestha join us. A new colleague, Santona Neupane will also be assisting us in the coming months.
Everyone in the team has their own interesting stories in connection with Choutari. I would like to share how I came to know about this wonderful venue. While I was studying masters’ degree in ELT in Birgunj outside Kathmandu valley, I was more interested to learn about technology and its integration into pedagogy. To quench the thirst of my learning and passion for engaging myself in collaborative projects, my teacher Sajan Karn, one of the founding members of Choutari introduced me to Choutari. The more I read and contributed to the blog, the more interests along with passion I grew and finally I delved into this. My connection with Choutari and passion to get involved in ongoing conversation not only qualified me for joining the current editorial team but also enabled me to pick this blog as a case for my Masters’ thesis as a means of professional development in Nepalese ELT, which is the first thesis in Nepal focusing on a professional blog.
Most of the issues in 2013 leaned toward being special issues. After the joint venture of the old and new teams produced the special/anniversary issue in January, we focused on seeking a theory-practice interface in Nepalese ELTin February, ; March was a conference special; April issue advocated for the integration of creative writing in ELT; May issue mainly focused on teacher’s perspectives on scholarly ideas; June issue stretched from ELT practitioners’ reflection on their achievement to action research; and July issue featured topics on local pedagogies especially in multilingual settings. Likewise, August issue focused on teachers’ narratives; the entries in September added to Choutari’s ongoing conversations about language teaching and learning critically; October issue again specialised on some practical aspects of ELT with creating writing as a focus, November issue explored creativity in young learners and finally we wrapped up the year with a diverse issue addressing multiple entries under diverse theme and thus making the December issue special among specials.
Choutari in Numbers
Next, I would like to share some interesting numbers in the tradition of thanking the community by indicating that there is power in numbers! First, here is the big picture of readers’ visit to the blog from the entire five years of Choutari.
The above statistics clearly shows that the number of readers visiting Choutari is constantly increasing year after year from its inception in 2009. What is most remarkable and pleasant is the fact that number of views has increased more than double in the last two years.
Let me be specific over the statistics of the Chouatri visitors during the new team’s first year responsibility of running the blog. Here is the graph which shows the number of visitors in months over the year 2013.
While we had around five thousand visitors every month. We had significantly larger number of visitors in March and September. While March could be explained by the being the conference issue, we couldn’t explain the peak of September. Could it be due to the festive occasion when readers had more time to read?
Top five most viewed blog entries in 2013
The blog entry ‘T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” contributed by Motikala Subba Dewan is on the top of the list. Dewan’s piece of writing targeted to the bachelor level students of English in Nepal gives a brief glimpse about T.S. Eliot and his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, a prescribed poem in major English BA course. Similarly, Practice Teaching: A Reflection by Ganga Ram Gautam and The Role of Local Culture and Context in English Language Teaching by Mabindra Regmi stand the second and the third respectively in terms of the number of visits. The fourth and the fifth blog entries among the top five most viewed in 2013 include The Process-Genre Approach: Some Ideas for Teaching Writing in Nepal by Madhav Raj Belbase and Teachers as a facilitator by Mukunda Kumar Giri. The highest number of views indicates that the audience are interested in finding such entries in the blog. We find the opportunities for both the contributors and editors to cover the blog posts related to the theme.
Top five most commented blog entries till 2013
The page ‘Join the Conversation’ on Choutari has got the highest number of comments. However, the top five most commented blog entries as of its inception to till 2013 include ‘Future of our nation is in Students’ Quality Circle*, What-like what-like English?, English and Scientific Research: Some Reflections, NNESTs and Professional Legitimacy: Fighting the Good Fight and Teaching Language Functions as a Broader Concept.
The most often visited/read blog entry of 2013 was ERROR ANALYSIS – Third Person Singular Subject-Verb Agreement by Umes Shrestha and the most commented was “NNESTs and Professional Legitimacy: Fighting the Good Fight by Davi Reis. Meanwhile, the Choutari team carried out a quick survey from the top five contributors/commenters of last year and the responses upon the survey has been compiled and interestingly presented in this blog entry in the anniversary issue.
Last but not the least, we acknowledge substantial contributions made by our valued readers, commentators, authors/bloggers and well-wishers for their active engagement and participation in the blog. Like the wonderful support in the past, we urge your active participation so that we can make Choutari as more engaging and more productive place in the days to come.
– – – – – – –
Also, if you can find a few extra moments, here is a visually attractive “annual report” sent by WordPress.com to us.