Category Archives: Teacher Education

Ethnography of Writing: A Basic Framework to Introduce Academic Writing to ESL University Students

Dr. Padam Chauhan*

Abstract

English as a second language (ESL) first-year university students often face challenges with academic writing because of the linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences between the education system in the U.S. and their home countries (academic writing conventions in English and their first languages). This paper aims to present an ethnography of writing as a framework to familiarize the ESL first-year university students with the basics of academic writing, which directly speaks to the educational, social, and cultural contexts of U.S. higher education. The paper concludes that ESL students benefit immensely from using Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing as a framework to introduce academic writing in English to cope with their academic writing challenges.

Keywords: academic writing challenges; freshman ESL learners; ethnography of writing; U.S. higher education; linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences

My Tutoring and Teaching Academic Writing Experiences

I have gotten an opportunity to become an ESL educator for different aged students in different educational contexts. First, I have been an ESL teacher in Nepal. I have taught reading and writing to high school and undergraduate students. Second, I worked as a writing tutor at a regional level teaching university in the Midwestern region of the U.S. I tutored both domestic and ESL international undergraduate and graduate students. Third, I have been teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing courses in the Intensive English Language Program (IEP) at the Midwestern U.S. university for four years. Primarily, I follow a process-based approach (Zamel, 1983; White & Arndt, 1991) and the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) to teach academic writing to my ESL students who come from diverse educational, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. I guide my students by helping them explore resources, services, and contacts in and outside of the university. These learning resources are essential to alleviate their academic writing difficulties in the U.S. higher education context (Chauhan, 2021). Sharing experiences of ESL instructors’ academic journey, including coping strategies, is critical to improving their academic writing skills (Odena & Burgess, 2017). However, existing literature shows that academic writing in English is challenging for ESL students at both undergraduate and graduate levels (Chauhan, 2021) because they come from diverse social, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds (Duff & Anderson, 2015). The diversity of their backgrounds can also be an asset to acknowledge and utilize for enhancing their academic writing skills in English.

Nature and Scope of Academic Writing in Higher Education Context

Academic writing (AW) refers to the writing used in the college and university-level writing courses (Johnson, 2016). Additionally, AW has become the primary communication medium between scholars in academic subjects and disciplines in a higher education context (Greene & Lidinsky, 2015). AW is simple, clear, focused, and formal. It is also technical, objective, impersonal, concise, logical, and well-organized. An academic writer must meet genre-specific expectations and stylistic conventions (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015). AW is specific to context, task, purpose, and audience (Ferris, 2018; Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Starkey, 2015). In parallel with these ideas, Gottlieb and Ernst-Slavit (2013) stated that“[t]he distinct purpose, audience, and context of communication result in clear differences in terms of language use in the selection of words, formality, sentence construction, and discourse patterns” (p. 2).  AW is seen differently by scholars based on the features mentioned above. Osmond (2016) argued that AW projects writers’ in-depth knowledge, critical thinking skills, and analytical skills while studying different academic subjects within their disciplines and majors. It is also seen as an inquiry because writers can discover their values, beliefs, strengths, and areas to improve when they engage in the writing process (Starkey, 2015). Grabe and Kaplan (1996) recommended that each writer understands AW from the lens of an ethnographic approach. Echoing similar ideas, Ferris (2018) has summarized the features of successful academic writers and standards of writing used in academia.

Writers must have at least an adequate grasp of the content they are writing. They must understand the rhetorical situation, including the purpose of the writing and the knowledge and expectations of their audience of readers. They need to appreciate the constraints and boundaries accompanying genres, tasks, and text types. Further, writers need advanced control of the linguistic features (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, cohesive ties) and extra-linguistic features (punctuation, capitalization, formatting) appropriate for their text’s content, genre, and target audience. (p. 75)

Ethnography of Writing as a Framework to Introduce Academic Writing

As I mainly tutor and teach academic writing to freshmen ESL first-year university students, I am well acquainted with their writing challenges based on my teaching experience and research study. Current research study has also found that ESL undergraduate students faced many challenges with academic writing in the U.S. university context.

To illustrate, Chauhan (2021) concluded that ESL “undergraduate students experienced academic writing challenges [including] content (gathering information/ideas), organization, academic vocabulary, genre awareness, grammar and mechanics, and citing and referencing sources” (p. 148) because the standards and genre-specific expectations of AW in English are different from those of in ESL students’ L1s (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015).

To address the AW challenges of my ESL first-year university students, I employ Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing, which provides a theoretical framework to understand AW regarding its social and cultural contexts in U.S. higher education. Before creating any written text, all writers must ask this fundamental question: “who writes what to whom, for what purpose, why, when, where, and how?” (Cooper, 1979, as cited in Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 203). They further stated that this framework considers academic writing as a combination of writer, reader, subject matter, and text as a writing triangle in which the writer persuades the readers in terms of logos (reason/text), pathos (credibility/writer), and ethos (values, beliefs/audience). Overall, the ethnography of writing is one of the best frameworks to introduce AW to the freshmen ESL students because this framework examines the text’s audience, the writer’s purpose, the genre required by the task, and the situation in which the wiring is used (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996).

Taxonomies of Ethnography of Writing

Grabe and Kaplan (1996) introduced eight types of taxonomies of ethnography of writing to discuss further how this framework operates in a broader academic context. Their framework is further explained together with how I employed this framework to teach writing to my ESL first-year students in a Midwestern U.S. university.

Who

            Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that the first parameter of ethnography of writing is a taxonomy of who, i.e., writers. Knowing the writer and their background is critical to understanding writing well. It is essential to understand whether the individual is a beginning writer or a mature writer and whether the writer is a student who will be evaluated by their teachers or an independent scholarly writer who writes for an academic journal. This background information of the writer influences the audience for whom the writing is produced.

Considering this parameter, I often emphasize the writer’s role in my writing class. As an L2 writing instructor, I know that my students come from different first language (L1) backgrounds. The writing system in their L1s works differently from the writing system in English. I am aware that they are beginner writers in L2 and need more explicit instruction, support, and encouragement from me. I do understand that they are at the initial phase of creating their identity in L2 writing. In the meantime, I am also aware that their authorial voice is critical. So, I orient my students to use academic language and concrete words that embody meaning in the academic context (Bailey, 2018; Brun-Mercer & Zimmerman, 2015; Johnson, 2016), which ultimately helps the writers to make their voices strong. Also, I ask my students to use active structures to strengthen their authorial voice.

Writes

The second taxonomy of ethnography of writing is writes, which focuses on the linguistic nature of writing. This taxonomy of ethnography considers the entire process of text construction, its different linguistic parts, and their organization (thesis statement, topic statements, coherence, cohesion, word choice, reference, transition words (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), sequencing information (Atkinson, 1991), and overall rhetorical arrangement of information (Bruthiaux, 1993). Overall, in the process of text construction, the writer considers audience, purpose, context, and the genre requirement (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), discipline-specificity, and disciplinarity (Christiene & Maton, 2011; Flowerdew & Costley, 2016). There are two approaches that I use to teach writing: a process-based approach and a genre-based approach.

First, I follow a process-based approach (White & Arndt, 1991; Zamel,1983) to teach writing in my class. For example, selecting topics (they select topics themselves which they are passionate about writing), gathering required information, creating an outline, preparing the first draft, seeking feedback from peers, writing center tutors, and teachers, addressing feedback, editing, and finally submitting the final draft to the instructor for evaluation (Johnson, 2016; White & Arndt, 1991). Each step in this writing process is equally important for them because my students need to undergo various stages of the writing process to write essays. Also, they will receive points for an outline, first draft, and final draft separately.

Another approach that I employ to teach writing to my students in my class is the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) because genre-based instruction enhances L2 students’ knowledge in four main areas, which include “formal knowledge of target genres’ features and conventions, the process knowledge of the methods used to produce, distribute, and consume these genres, rhetorical knowledge of target genres’ functions, characteristics, strategies, and subject matter knowledge of disciplinary content and skills” (Tardy, 2009, p. 21). By recognising the usefulness of a genre-based approach to writing, past research studies emphasized the responsibility of L2 educators to develop L2 students’ genre knowledge (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2013; Hyland, 2004; Tardy, 2008, 2009). Highlighting the importance of genre, Hyland (2004) stated “to fail to provide learners with what we know about how language works… denies them the means of both communicating effectively in writing and analyzing text critically” (p. 42). As the L2 students are not much acquainted with different types of genres, it is imperative to teach them genre knowledge explicitly. Also, they need to know that written texts are specific to each academic discipline, program, and major (Christie & Maton, 2011; Hyland, 2017).

Therefore, I provide a sample essay to my students, and they are engaged to analyze and identify all parts of the essay. They include an introduction (hook, background information, and thesis statement), three body paragraphs beginning with topic sentences, supporting details (explanations, reasons, examples, data, experiences, observations, etc.), and a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and restates the thesis statement. In doing so, my students internalize all parts of the essay, which will help them to create their essays later. Ferris and Hedgcock (2013) and Tardy (2008) also stress that it is crucial to train beginner writers with skills that enable them to participate in intertextual systems.

What

            The third taxonomy of ethnography of writing is what, i.e., the content or message. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) emphasize that this writing parameter should be described in terms of content, genre, and register. So, this taxonomy of writing seeks to answer these questions: to what extent does the writer need to have background knowledge (content) to create a particular text, what type of texts does the writer produce, and in which fields they are used? The what aspect of writing “must take into account the phenomenological world (a theory of world knowledge), a theory of genre, and some specification of register” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 205). In other words, the writer’s background knowledge (schema theory) is crucial in this taxonomy of writing because it provides the writer with the knowledge of the genre and the techniques to organize academic discourse for a specific purpose (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Swales, 1990). So, it is critical for ESL writing instructors to allow their students to choose their topics to write.

In my writing class, I do not assign any essay topics to my students. Instead, I provide them with the freedom to choose their topics themselves because I want to promote social justice in my writing class. I also encourage them to choose a topic based on their background knowledge because it is difficult for them to write on a topic that is entirely new to them. For example, the student majoring in Finance ended up choosing a topic from their field, such as Three Ways to Make Money Legally in the U.S. However, the student who is specializing in Sports Management wrote Three Strategies to Improve Cricket. Unlike these two students, the next student who is majoring in Nursing decided to write on Three Benefits of Homemade Breakfast. Besides that, I also provide them with a sample essay to follow because I follow a genre-based approach to teaching writing. This approach allows them to be acquainted with the framework of a text used in the academic context. In doing so, they can write their essays on their topics by following sample essays given to them.

To Whom

            Another powerful taxonomy of writing is to whom, which refers to the audience. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) call it a theory of audience or readers because the audience is always at the center of creating a text. Also, the audience plays an essential role in the meaning-making of the text. The writer needs to ponder some of these questions regarding the audience. Are the readers known or unknown to the writer? If they are known, how close or distant are they? How much-shared knowledge exists between the readers and the writer in general? How much-shared knowledge exists between them on a particular topic. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) further state that the audience’s parameter influences the writer’s writing, including the number of persons who are expected to read the text, the extent to which the readers are known or unknown to the writer, the level of status (can be either higher, equal, or lower) between them, the extent of shared background knowledge between readers, and the extent of specific topical shared knowledge between readers and writers.

Building on Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) framework, recent research studies also highlighted the role of the audience. Before the author writes any text, they need to consider their audience because the type of audience determines their writing (Swales & Feak, 2012). Similarly, Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that while writing any text, the audience should be kept in mind because they determine the purpose of the paper. While writing, academic writers envision a specific audience who share knowledge regarding a topic or issue they are writing about (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Realizing the significance of to whom parameter, I often ask my students to decide their audience because it is critical for them to know who is going to read their essays. They know that two types of audience read their essays. They include their classmates and their instructor/s.

For What Purpose

As its name suggests, this taxonomy refers to the purpose of producing a text. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that every written text is created purposefully. They add that when the writer thinks of purpose, they need to ask these questions: to what extent is it possible to define purpose in a writing task? Are there single or multiple purposes in the task? How does purpose interact with genre and audience? As most writings are meant for audiences, they expect the purpose of the paper when they read them. Therefore, most writers mention their goal of writing to facilitate the readers to make better meaning of the text.

Before writing anything, the writer should be clear about the purpose of writing. Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that it is the purpose that limits the writer what to say and how to say it. According to Bailey (2015, 2018), there are three main reasons for writing: (i) to argue on a subject of common interest and give the writer’s view, (ii) to report on a piece of research study and create some type of new knowledge, and (iii) to synthesize research conducted by others on a topic. So, AW is unique because the writer shares inquiry-based knowledge to inform a particular academic community (Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Considering this taxonomy, all writers need to know the purpose of the academic texts they are writing.

In keeping in mind this taxonomy, I mention to my students that each piece of writing has a certain purpose. My students mostly write five types of essays, and these are five-paragraph essays. For example, when they write a cause-and-effect essay, they show cause and effect relationship of a particular topic. However, when they write a descriptive essay, the purpose is to describe a place, person, object/thing, and process. Unlike these two essays, when my students write classification essays, the objective is to describe three main categories of a particular topic in an interesting way. For example, one of my students chose to write on Three Types of Roommates, whereas another student was interested to write on Three Types of Cell Phone Users.

Why

             According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), the notion of why people write refers to underlying intentions or motives that may or may not be revealed by functional purpose. However, if the writer’s motive is apparent, it helps the readers comprehend the text better. Therefore, genre-based texts overtly express the writer’s motive to facilitate schema instantiation. So, the why component of writing depends on the paper’s audience, topic, and purpose.

In order to make sure my students maintain the why component in their writing, I encourage them to engage in peer review. When they participate in the peer review process in different phases of their writing, they are provided with opportunities to read their course mates essays. In doing so, they not only write on only their topics but also get an opportunity to read and offer feedback on their classmates’ essays. First, they are provided with a checklist (based on a rubric) and asked to give feedback focusing on higher-order concerns such as content/ideas, organization, and vocabulary because they play an important role to convey the writers’ message to their readers. Then, they also give their feedback concentrating on lower-order concerns such as grammar, mechanics, and formatting.

When and Where

According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), this parameter refers to text creation’s time and place. This taxonomy of writing plays a more minor role than the rest of the taxonomies. However, its relevance depends on the type of text. For example, in official emails and letters, the date and place they are sent may be more critical for both the writer and receiver (reader).

In my writing class, when the parameter is crucial for my students because every writing assignment has a fixed deadline to complete and submit to me. The deadline is clearly mentioned in my writing course which every student is provided with both printed and digital copies of the course syllabus on the first day of the class each semester. Also, the deadline for each writing assignment is also mentioned on D2L (an online learning platform used in most U.S. universities and colleges). My students strictly follow the deadline to submit each writing assignment. If students are unable to submit their writing assignments due to any unexpected circumstances, they inform me via email and request an extension of the deadline. In that case, I extend the deadline depending on each student’s situation. In that case, I also provide additional time for individual conferencing with that student to support their writing development.

How

Although this is the final parameter of the writing’s ethnography, this is probably the most important because it examines how the text is created. Therefore, this parameter is also called “a theory of online writing production … or a theory of writing process” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213). Mainly, there are two things this parameter emphasizes. First, writing is a recursive process because the writing process stages, namely planning, drafting, revising, editing, and sharing, do not come in a neat linear sequence. Instead, the writers move backwards and forward several times to create a text (Hyland, 2003; Zamel, 1983). Next, the cognitive mechanism remains at the center of this parameter because it “provides [the writers with] the means for exploring notions such as audience, content, and writer intension from a composing perspective” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213).

This parameter is crucial for my students. For each writing assignment, they must go through all writing stages. They also know each stage has its significance in terms of learning and assessment. For example, they are aware that they cannot create a good outline without gathering sufficient information on a topic. Similarly, no good first draft can be written without a good outline. Without seeking and addressing feedback on the first draft, the final draft does not turn out to be perfect. My students understand this process; therefore, they love to follow all phases of the writing process because they receive separate points for outlines, first drafts, and final drafts.

Conclusion

To sum up, I have found that Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing is a useful framework to introduce AW to my ESL first-year university students. My students have developed an understanding of the basics of AW after I employed this approach. This framework has been very effective for me for two reasons. First, this framework promotes the teaching and learning of AW by asking the ESL students to analyze the writer’s process before composing any written text. As Paltridge (2017) stated, the students are asked: “to undertake any analysis of the context in which the text they are writing occurs and consider how the situation in which they are writing impacts upon what they write and how they write it” (p. 12). Second, this approach considers the intended audience, their background knowledge, values and understanding, conventions, genre awareness, and discipline-specificity and disciplinarity (Christie & Maton, 2011; Paltridge, 2017) because of people working in the academic community share “ideas, beliefs, values, goals, practices, conventions, and ways of creating and distributing knowledge” (Flowerdew & Costley, 2016, p. 11). Therefore, the ESL writing instructor’s responsibility is to train first-year university students to familiarize themselves with these elements when writing for academic purposes.

References

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Bruthiaux, P. (1993). Child’s talk: Learning to use language. Oxford University Press.

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Ferris, D., & Hedgcock, J. (2013). Teaching L2 composition: purpose, process, and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge.

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Gottlieb, M., & Ernst-Slavit, G. (2013). Academic language: A centerpiece for academic success in English language arts. In M. Gottlieb & G. Ernst-Slavit, Eds.), Academic language in diverse classrooms (pp. 1-38). Corwin.

Grabe, W., & Kaplan, R.B. (1996). Theory and practice of writing. Longman.

Greene, S., & Lidinsky, A. (2015). From inquiry to academic writing. A practical guide. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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Hyland, K. (2004). Genre and second language writing. University of Michigan Press.

Hyland, K. (2017). Learning to write for academic purposes: Specificity and second language writing. In J. Bitchener, N. Storch, & R. Wette (Eds.), Teaching writing for academic purposes to multilingual students: Instructional approaches (pp. 24-41). Routledge.

Johnson, A. (2016). Academic writing: Process and product. Rowman & Littlefield.

Kirszner, L.G. & Mandell, S. R. (2015). Patterns for college writing: A rhetorical reader and guide. Bedford St. Martins.

Odena, O., & Burgess, H. (2017). How doctoral students and graduates describe facilitating experiences and strategies for their thesis writing learning process: A qualitative approach. Studies in Higher Education (Dorchester-on-Thames), 42(3), 572–590. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1063598

Osmond, A. (2016). Academic writing and grammar for students (2nd ed.). Sage.

Paltridge, B. (2017). Context and the teaching of academic writing. In J. Bitchener, N. Storch, & R. Wette (Eds.), Teaching writing for academic purposes to multilingual students: Instructional approaches (pp. 9-23). Routledge.

Singh, A.A., & Lukkarila, L. (2017). Successful academic writing: A complete guide for social and behavioral scientists. The Guilford Press.

Starkey, D. (2015). Academic writing now: A brief guide for busy students. Broadview Press.

Swales, J.M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge University Press.

Swales, J.M., & Feak, C.B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). University of Michigan Press.

Tardy, C. M. (2008). Multimodality and the teaching of advanced academic writing: A genre systems perspective on speaking-writing connections. In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), The oral-literate connection: Perspectives on L2 speaking, writing, and other media interactions (pp. 191-208). University of Michigan Press.

Tardy, C. M. (2009). Building genre knowledge. Parlor Press.

White, R. & Arndt, V. (1991). Process writing (1st ed.). Longman.

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Author’s Bio: Dr Padam Chauhan works as a Retention Specialist for the International Center and an ESL Instructor for the IEP at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, Minnesota, USA. Prior to that, Padam worked as a Writing Consultant for MNSU’s Writing Center. He has earned MEd in English Education from T.U., Nepal, MA in TESOL, and EdD from MNSU, Mankato. Before joining MNSU, Mankato, he taught ESL at the high school level and served as a high school (10+2) principal in Nepal. Padam voluntarily served NELTA Central Committee as its member, treasurer, and general secretary. Padam has presented at the NELTA, IATEFL, TESOL, AAAL, and TESL conferences in Nepal, the UK, the USA, and Canada. His current research interests include academic reading and writing, Writing Center tutoring pedagogy, and equitable access to English language education.

 

Teachers’ Collaboration for Professional Development

Shaty Kumar Mahato*      

Introduction

Collaborative teacher development is the process of sharing together for enhancing and cooperating the quality of teaching and learning practices. It occurs when the teachers and learners work together in the process of teaching and learning. This paper is based on my presentation at the 22nd international conference of NELTA 2017. The teachers and learners have the common goal to overcome the problems occurred in the practices of teaching and learning. The teachers’ association like NELTA in Nepal is helping in energizing language teachers and researchers to be professional as well as professional growth. Personally, by joining NELTA, I am benefitted from growing professionally and academically. The teachers can play a pertinent role to collaborate with the people involved in teaching and learning practices. Collaborating together, the teachers explore more opportunities for the learners so that the learners can envision several steps of learning.

Likewise, teachers can also enhance expertise and build good confidence with their learners. The teachers exchange their ideas and knowledge with other participants in teaching and learning and that led them to be professionally sound. Therefore, collaboration is one of the ways for teachers’ professional development. Regarding collaboration, Vygotsky (1978) as cited in Barfield, (2016, p. 222) states, “Collaborative learning can be seen to occur through dialogue, social interaction, and joint-decision making with others and these shared processes contribute greatly to individual and collective growth as well as to co-constructed understanding and knowledge”. As a language teacher and researcher, I have had a similar experience in my classroom and outside of the classroom.

Similarly, Hargreaves, (1994, p.186) says, “To a point where teachers can learn from each other, sharing and developing their expertise together”. The learning becomes effective while sharing because they can generate meaningful ideas and information. Furthermore, Medgyes and Malderez, (1996), as cited in Barfield (2016, p.222), state, “collaborative teacher development is founded on dialogue, questioning, and discussion in working together towards educational change and improvement” and it is supported by Datnow (2011, p.155) that “it is at its most effective when it emerges voluntarily and spontaneously from teachers’ own beliefs that working together is productive and enjoyable”. It means teachers can feel comfortable if they apply the collaborative work to practice. Similarly, my experience in teaching is teachers can professionally forward in sustained and meaningful ways if we are able to do so together. Here, I transformed myself into a professional teacher and researcher.

This article explores the needs and importance of collaboration for teachers’ professional development. It is my own experience of encountering collaborative and non-collaborative teaching and learning. The theoretical studies of the collaboration in the field of language teaching and learning enhanced my pedagogical skills and also helped to explore more innovative ideas and skills. Likewise, this paper sets to explore collaborative teaching and learning to envision how it is one of the sources for teachers’ professional development.

Collaborative Teaching and Learning for Teachers’ Professional Development 

As a teacher and a member of NELTA, I participated in seminars and conferences and understand that teacher is not only empowering her/his students but also growing professionally. I also understand that professional teachers always try and stand in search of learning knowledge. Maggioli (2004, p. 5) defines, “professional development as a career-long process in which educators fine-tune their teaching to meet student needs”. As Maggioli suggests it is clear to say that professional development is not a day or night development for one’s career, it is an ongoing process where one should professionally develop and grow through joining different minds together. It gives the vivid concept that if the teacher understands themselves as a learner and expert to fulfil the demands of the students.

Collaborative teaching and learning make a sense of learning by sharing and engaging together. It also builds harmony in our Nepalese context. The teachers’ collaboration and an active engagement with their students and different agencies could explore more innovative ways and skills of learning. The literature also focuses on collaboration which means working together especially in a joint intellectual effort so that one could stay sound and confident in language teaching-learning practices. According to Richards and Burns (2009, p. 239), “it is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interactions with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understandings through listening to the voice of others”. It is clearer in our Nepali context that our country is diverse which helps to understand the social phenomenon. Similarly, teaching and learning practices enhance when there is equal dialogue and interactions. Through collaborative teaching, teachers can come and interact with other people. Regarding their understanding, experience, and subject matter build confidence and broaden their skills. Likewise, it helps to exchange ideas, skills, and understanding with other fellow teachers, researchers and policymakers in the language field.

Similarly, Johnston (2003) considers collaboration as a wellspring of teacher professional development. Collaborative teaching and learning are fundamentally social processes. It creates collegiality and quality in the teaching profession. Edge (1992) states, “self-development needs other people…by cooperating with others, we can come to understand better our own experiences and opinions”. I also understand that self-determination in learning with other people enhances both confidentiality and collegiality. Likewise, we need collaborative teaching and learning for teachers’ professional development because Johnston views state collaborative teacher development as any sustained and systematic investigation into teaching and learning in which a teacher voluntarily collaborates with others involved in the teaching process, and in which professional development is a prime purpose.

Collaboration is crucial and influential in teaching and learning, which is concerned with the teacher’s professional development that gives the update and current affairs of knowledge. Cook (1981) states, “concern for the ultimate clients, the students, and for intermediaries, the teachers are apparent in all programmes, and this concern is directed toward sound educational and professional development rather than the gratification of immediate needs and desires.”  Collaboration in teaching is not only meant for programme development, it is meant for individual development too. It creates an ample opportunity for the teacher to integrate and come up with the vision, increased understanding among teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas.

In my experience, I understand collaboration while engaging and interacting through different agencies such as NELTA, LSN, and so on. In doing so, I developed my skills and confidence not only in classroom teaching but also beyond classroom teaching. Likewise, it helps me to explore my techniques, strategies and methods to apply in and outside of the classroom. Doing collaborative works and finding its relevance in academia is described by Darling Hammond and Richardson (2009).

To make it more explicit, Cook (1981) states, “collaboration is to provide a means for improving the professional education, it is important to consider not only the meaning and implication of “collaboration” but also the nature of “improvement”. Collaboration creates an environment where the teacher can work together and learn together to improve their professionalism. The dialogue and interaction which led through collaboration also build trust, confidence and collegiality. Teaching/learning in such a way could give sound satisfaction with satisfactory achievement, which would orient them to professionalism. This could become like cooperation but not exactly cooperation. Collaboration is somehow different from cooperation. Let’s see the differences.

Collaboration and Cooperation 

Killion (2012) states, as cited in the essential guide to professional learning Aitsl (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) “the more one educator’s learning is shared and supported by others, the more quickly the culture of continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and high expectations for students and educator’s grows.” Collaboration is a community where learners and teachers are involved together to share their knowledge, skills or ideas to recover the issues and challenges seen in teaching and learning. According to Aitsl, collaboration creates a community of working to achieve a common goal through the sharing of practice, knowledge and problems. And, effective collaboration encourages ongoing observation and feedback among colleagues where a culture of professional sharing, dialogue, experimentation and critique becomes commonplace. What I also observed through experiencing collaborative teaching, it makes sense of collegiality and mostly to get to know how things are going on worldwide.

Brook et al. (2007) state, “collaboration creates a base of pedagogical knowledge that is disturbed among teachers within a school as opposed to being held by individual teachers” as cited in Aitsl. It clears that if the teacher is suffering from the pedagogical problems they would get the chance to solve them through collaborative work that may not be solved by an individual. AITSL clearly defines both collaboration and cooperation where collaboration is concerned with working with another or others in a joint project.  Collaborative works, it has a common goal and a high level of trust. It is a job-embedded long term program and works with joint planning, decision making, and problem-solving methods.

Cooperation has individual ownership of goals with others providing assistance for mutual benefit. Generally, cooperation is spontaneous and passive engagement by others. Therefore, cooperation and collaboration have not much comparison. Collaboration is far better than cooperation in academia. We can say that doing collaborative work makes professional growth. Therefore, to grow professionally collaboration with the teachers’ association, colleagues, researchers and teachers enhance the skills needed for professional development.

Why do we need collaborative teacher development?

Collaboration is viewed as a process that facilitates teacher development, serves to generate knowledge and understanding, and helps to develop collegiality and one of which teachers should have or share control. It is an organizational and inter-organizational structure where resources, power, and authority are shared, and where people are brought together to share common goals that could not be accomplished by a single individual or an organization independently, Kagan (1991, p. 3) as cited in Rainforth and England (1997, p. 86). The work accomplished by the group may not be solved by an individual and mostly they become unfamiliar with the phenomenon or process used to accomplish the task. When they come together they would have common goals which can be shared together and can be easily accomplished. In other words, the most common things in collaboration are it facilitates every individual to share and learn the issues one is facing.

Similarly, teacher development is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interaction with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understanding through listening to the voices of others. It can be viewed as teachers learning, rather than as others getting teachers to change. In learning, the teachers were developing their beliefs and ideas, developing their classroom practices, and attending to their feelings associated with changing, Bell and Gilbert (1994), as cited in Evans (2002, p.126). It seems clearer that joining hands and working together means helping an association as well as helping an association means building a nation together.

Likewise, Goddard and Goddard (2007) states, “when teachers have opportunities to collaborate professionally, they build upon their distinctive experiences, pedagogies, and content” as cited in Burton, (2015, p.6). If we collaborate, our work and ideas together in a group could bring the lived experience in the field of professionalism. I’m not sure the satisfaction that I got during a teaching in a particular situation is equal to others in their own field. However, in my experience of teaching and learning in a group, I explore more ideas and opportunities to overcome problems with solutions. We need collaboration not only for individual improvement but also for our program development.

Yarger (1979) suggests, as cited in Cook (1981, p. 99) “collaboration in teacher education is not related to quality and improvement in program development”, it should provide a breadth of perception and vision, an enrichment in terms of resources and an opportunity for increased understanding among the teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas. It could then lead to effective programs of professional development.

Different Forms of Collaboration for Teacher Development

Collaborative Teacher Development (CTD) can take the initiation of effective teaching/learning along with professional growth. Nowadays it is one of the major concerns to be professional in one of the fields and teaching/learning is integrated into all the other development of the people. It helps learners and teachers to explore more innovative skills to find and accomplish the task according to their interests. To decide who, where and how the teacher gets collaborates for further development is necessary to know. We could say that five fingers are stronger than one finger, in the same way, working together by involving collaboratively could bring a concrete result which is most beneficial for all.

There are different forms of collaboration where teachers are the centre point to achieving the goal. According to Johnston, (2003), as cited in Richards and Burns (2009, p. 242), there are four different forms of collaboration that teachers can involve in their professional development.

Teachers can collaborate with their fellow teachers

In this group, the teacher and their fellow (peer) teachers worked and discuss together. This is the most balanced relationship in terms of power.  Collaboration among language teachers may well focus on instructional issues such as materials exploitation, classroom management, classroom language use, and other related issues. The language teachers are likely to point them toward certain common concerns and interests. Their professional understanding and depth of knowledge can help everyone involved in the group. It creates a lot of interaction related to the subject area and enhances the other further skills and knowledge. Here, we could say that meeting with different expertise minds certainly helps other minorities who have difficulties with resources and facilities in teaching/learning.

Collaboration between Teachers and University-based Researchers

As a teacher and researcher, I am much benefited from these forms of collaboration. I explore more innovative ideas and skills needed for the teachers and learners. For doing educational research such kind of collaborations are commonly initiated by the researcher to find out lived experiences of the teachers. Teachers and university-based researchers collaborate together and talk about the general and specific issues, and challenges that occur in the language field. Sometimes they do the classroom research to find the solutions; creating such an environment teacher could easily enhance their skills and knowledge whereas researcher also gets the credit for research and that could develop their professionalism as well as collegiality. Teacher and university-based collaboration may have a great inspiration for the teachers because the researcher could provide access and authentic resources to overcome the problems.

Teachers with their Students Collaboration

This type of collaboration makes an arrangement and offers fascinating possibilities for learning in-depth about one’s own classroom and who is in it. This kind of collaboration encourages the teacher and students to accomplish the goal together. Here, the learners are empowered by the teacher and the teacher also comes to know the current affairs of knowledge related understanding in teaching and learning. This form of collaboration is action and problem solving oriented which is livelier in the field of language teaching. It is problem and action-oriented therefore it could fix the problems raised by the students or teachers so that they could get the prompt feedback from their students to achieve the goal.

Collaboration with Others Involved in Teaching/ Learning

In this form of collaboration, teachers can collaborate with the administrators, supervisors, parents, materials developers and so on. Teachers and administrators collaborate together to find the issues and challenges that cause the improvement of the teachers, institutions, and programs, for the development. Similarly, the teacher and the supervisors collaborate together to recover the problems in the teaching and learning field. Supervisors can give constructive feedback to the teacher for their professional development. The teacher can also collaborate with the materials developers and share the implications of the material in the language classrooms. Teachers can also collaborate with the parents who play a vital role to achieve the students’ goals. They could share the students’ attitudes toward learning and the teachers’ teaching. In doing so, many of these collaborations, in turn, have had a significant component of the professional development of the teachers.

Conclusion

Sharing one’s learning is the everyday experience of human behaviour. The knowledge is hidden; it would enhance and grow when human beings take part in the discourse. Even unknown and unfamiliar things become known knowledge and familiar when people come together to share and present. Collaborative practices lead teachers to re-conceptualize the innovative process, boosting learners to continue varieties of challenges, generate cross forms, and participate in constructionist and supportive practices, including an-alternative dialogues. Collaborative teaching and learning practices help both teachers and learners to explore creativity and construct new frameworks for learning. Likewise, it creates innovative ideas and skills to know together and learn together.

References

Barfield, A. (2016). Collaboration. Key concepts in ELT, 17 (2). Retrieved from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/

Burton, T. (2015). Exploring the Impact of Teacher Collaboration on Teacher Learning and Development. University of South Carolina Scholar Commons (Doctoral Dissertations). Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/3107

Cook, G. E. (1981, May). Collaboration, Change and Concern: Professional Development through teacher centers. English education, 13 (2), pp. 97-104.

Evans, L. (2002, Mar.). What Is Teacher Development? Oxford review of education, 28 (1), pp. 123-137.

Rainforth, B. & England, J. (1997, Feb.). Collaborations for Inclusion: Education and treatment for children, 20 (1). Pp. 85-104.

Richards, J.C. & Burns, A. (Eds.). (2009). Second Language Teacher Education: Collaborative Teacher Development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Maggioli, G. D. (2004). Teacher- Centered Professional Development. Association for supervision and curriculum development (ASCD). Alexandria, Virginia, USA.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (aitsl). The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration.

http://www.aitsl.edu.au/professional growth/australian teacher performance/and development framework.

Author’s Bio: Mr. Shaty Kumar Mahato is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University and working as an ELT teacher, researcher and trainer in the field of education. Since his Bachelor’s degree in 2005, he has been involved in teaching and research. He has presented his research paper in NELTA, LSN, TERSD and Asia TEFL. At present, he is working as a Project Coordinator-Education in Aasaman Nepal a national NGO. His area of interest is teaching methodologies, Collaborative Approach, Teacher Education, Language Policy, Discourse Analysis and Narrative Research Inquiry.

Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning

 

Puskar Chaudhary

This paper aims to explore the techniques and tools used for assessing the English language learners in remote teaching-learning and to discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing the learners. Based on a collective study design, this paper presents a study on the assessment practices in remote teaching-learning. Data were collected from three English language teachers of basic education level using online interviews. The results showed that many English language teachers transitioned to remote teaching learning because of the  COVID -19 pandemic and whether it is a face to face class or remote teaching-learning, assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The assessments were taken more or less similar to the face-to-face mode via written or oral practices with the help of technologies and while assessing the learners, the teachers faced the Internet connection issues, investment of ample time for designing and organizing the assessment with the help of technologies. The teachers gained less support from the parents and students for conducting the effective assessment.

Keywords: Assessment, remote teaching-learning, techniques and tools, educational goals, integral

 Introduction

This study assessed the English language learners based on their mode of acquiring learning that is either through face-to-face or remote teaching-learning.  Remote Teaching -Learning (RTL) offers teaching learning beyond the physical classrooms. It is the learning process where the teachers are separated from the learners in time and distance. According to Graham (2019), RTL is the practice of teaching a language interactively via videoconferencing. He further describes that it differs from telecollaboration which mainly focuses on enabling language teaching and learning to take place rather than on intercultural collaboration. In remote language teaching, both students and teachers interact through two-way communication technologies. Similarly, in Belz and Thorne’s (2006) view, RLT supports learners’ interaction with the teachers and peers, encourages them to have more dialogue, debate, and intercultural exchange. Remote teaching is also referred to as live online language teaching to refer to synchronous (i.e. in real-time) computer-mediated communication for language teaching (Swertz et al., 2007). In RLT, teachers focus on both pedagogy and technology to provide huge opportunities for effective learning and collaboration beyond the physical classroom. They involve approaches and techniques that are more connected with the technologies. Whereas, Whyte and Gijsen (2016) argue that there is an ample burden for the teachers to conduct the classes remotely than for regular face-to-face classes. Teachers are committed to helping the learners with these different ways of working and teaching them in the most effective way possible. Teachers require and prepare designed and written materials to take advantage of the teaching and learning context and delivery method (i.e. video conferencing). Therefore, remote teaching is an innovative way of bridging cultural and geographical distances and enables the teaching and learning of languages to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.

At present, most English language teachers had to opt for remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers had transition to remote learning with no advance notice or preparation earlier this year. Some are planning for remote learning in the fall when they return to school. It is important to remember that remote learning refers to a class that intends to meet face-to-face. The teachers have been practising to replicate remote learning as far as possible into the real face-to-face classes. It is not just enough with the engagement of teaching-learning activities. The learners should be assessed to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The learners must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences. Hence, assessing them is the most challenging factor in RTL. Nitko and Broookhart (2013) opine that organizing assessment helps the teachers to collect the information about teaching-learning and well as the students’ performance to make the certain decision teaching. Assessment in English language teaching has been defined as “involving professional judgment based upon an image formed by the collection of information about student performance” (Stanley, 2019, p. 8). Similarly, Wolf (2020) states that assessments are a critical means of identifying learners and monitoring their achievements. Assessments also play a fundamental role in teaching and learning, since it helps to gather the important information about students’ needs, which helps teachers provide appropriate support and interpret their academic performance accurately. Assessment is one of the important aspects which is being treated as a teaching-learning process as well (Stiggins, 1991). Assessing learners is a very important and essential part of a teacher’s teaching (Nitko, 1996). It is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student’s learning and achievement (Linn & Gronland, 2005).

According to Stanley (2019), there are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Assessment can be formative when it is to improve learning and assessment is summative when it is for monitoring and certificating performance or achievement. During the year, formal and informal instances of the formative assessment provide information to Remote Teachers (RTs) and Classroom Teachers (CTs) about student learning so adjustments can be made to teaching.

Assessment is an important aspect of teaching-learning. It offers the teachers to go up to the next class and to figure out whether the students are included. It also helps to get the results of the teaching-learning activities. On the other hand, it makes the teachers ready to take a proficiency test and provide the students the grades.

Research Questions

This study sought to answer the following research questions:

  • How do English Language teachers assess students in remote teaching-learning?
  • What challenges do English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning?
Methodology

This is a qualitative study that used a collective case study design to explore the questions. According to Stake (1995), a case study is the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances. It helps to collect the information in detail and understand the problem in-depth with its real-life context. The case study design is an important tool for exploring and describing a phenomenon in context while refining theory and identifying areas for more exploration (Yin, 2018). Data were collected from three English Language Teachers of Basic Education Level who were assessing students by using different techniques and tools and while assessing them in remote teaching-learning in one of the schools of Kathmandu Valley. The teachers were a diverse group in terms of their ethnicity, gender, and grade level experiences. I collected data, which included notes of observation and interaction during online classes and interview with synchronous tools like Zoom Cloud Meeting (5 times in total); written reflections for each teacher related to assigned articles, email and Facebook messages correspondence with pupils, and transcriptions of semi-formal small group interviews. I conducted two rounds of interviews individually with teachers and three rounds of interviews in a group. Each interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed them twice a week. The data occurred in two phases. First, I divided the data sets for coding purposes. In this initial phase, I examined individual cases, techniques, and the tools used for assessing the students in remote teaching-learning. Comparing the responses, I coded and analyzed them into the four themes: Observations, Discussion, Feedback, and Self-assessment.

Next, I collectively asked the participants what challenges they were facing while assessing the students in the remote teaching-learning. The responses were kept under different themes in which the individual cases were combined and compared to create a collective case study. After collecting data by qualitative technique, the data were analyzed and interpreted qualitatively. The following sections represent the results obtained from data analysis.

Results and discussion

This study aimed to explore the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning and to find out the challenges English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning. Therefore, the results gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections: Assessment for learning techniques and Challenges.

Techniques and tools for assessing in remote teaching-learning

This section presents the data derived by observing the English Language Teaching (ELT) class to answer the first research question, exploring the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning.

Observations

Informal teacher observations: In remote teaching-learning, the teachers were found observing different things in their classes. They observed how well the students managed to focus when doing the tasks. Furthermore, how much time do the students need to do certain tasks? And whether the students were willing to volunteer or respond when called on. The teachers in the interview also added that they observed the students if they were prepared for the task or provide help.

Student-led observations: Teachers assessing English language learners using remote methods checked the students’ autonomy and responsibility in their learning. They were asked to follow the netiquettes as it was remote teaching. They were given responsibilities where they took attendance and gave their opinions on what was happening in the class. Furthermore, they were asked to provide the class report either to the class teacher or the subject teacher.

Discussions

Teacher participants in the interview shared that they assessed the students in remote teaching-learning by giving different learning situations. They assessed through the discussions in the live classes. Discussions were done on the usages of techniques and digital tools by the teachers, about the language usage L1 or L2. In addition to this, the discussion where the students did share in a peer, small group, or the whole class was also assessed. Lastly, the assessment was made when the students were provided with options during controlled practice.

Feedback

Students in remote teaching-learning were assessed based on the feedback given by them. Following things were taken into considerations when assessing the feedback given by them. Students were asked to give feedback when their peers participated or did any work. They would give feedback on their friends’ thinking process, presentation, content, gestures, etc. They were asked to provide positive and critical feedback which could motivate their friends to perform better and which would help to create a healthy atmosphere.

Self-assessment

Self-assessment is another technique used by the teachers to assess English language students in remote teaching. They explained that they used active recall questions to check the students’ progress. The students were asked to do the self-assessments by preparing PowerPoint presentations, using digital tools to do their project works, encouraging them to write journals, blogs, etc. They were also asked to take objective tests with the help of google forms and other online platforms. Furthermore, they were asked to appear for the written subjective tests. Recording the voice or video on any academic topic was promoted which they had to send to the teachers. Finally, some teachers asked them to attend the class on time.

Challenges in assessing students in remote teaching-learning

This section presents the data derived by observing the ELT class to answer the second research question, exploring the challenges and the obstacles faced by the teachers assessing the learners in remote teaching-learning.

Students with the internet issues

The teachers have found that most of the learners had the Internet with low bandwidth. There were also the chances of power cuts and disconnection while taking the synchronous class. The teachers responded that because of low connectivity they had to turn off their camera and be connected with mobile data.

Students with not enough support

The teachers revealed that the students were getting less support from their parents and seniors regarding the use of laptops and digital tools while taking the classes. The children were also less supervised by the parents while taking the classes. There were more chances of getting distracted and being engaged in playing online games.

Widening gaps between students’ proficiency

The teachers explained that there was an individual difference in remote teaching-learning. All the students did not have the same digital literacy and level of competency. The children faced problems while submitting the assignments, communicating with the teachers, and handling the tools.

Difficulty in supporting individuals

It was very time-consuming for the teachers to prepare the lessons and spending more on screen. The teachers had to spend more time preparing PowerPoint presentations and giving feedback to the students because of the technical issues the teachers were unable to give the class and communicate with the learners properly.

Conclusion

The present study investigated the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing the learning in the remote teaching-learning and the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing them in the remote teaching-learning. Results of the study showed that assessment was an integral part of teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals were achieved or not. The teachers did the planning, implementing, and organizing of the lesson by using digital and printed materials to assess the learners. The teachers engaged the learners in the discussion in the remote learning, observation of the lesson, engaging them in the feedback and self-assessment. While following those techniques, the teachers also encountered challenges related to the technologies and with the students’ well-being.

About the author

Mr. Puskar Chaudhary is an MPhil practitioner at Kathmandu University. He works as a full-time faculty and coordinates with the Digital Literacies Programme at Triyog High School, Tokha, Kathmandu. He is also a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). His current interests include digital pedagogy, digital literacies programme, and teachers’ networking, and professional development.

References

Nitko, A. J. & Brookhart, S. (2013). Educational assessment of students. Pearson.

Belz, J. A. & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education. Thomson Heinle.

Coniam, D. (Ed.). (2014). English language education and assessment: Recent development in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Singapur: Springer-Verlag.

Hill, C. & Parry, K. (2014). From testing to assessment: English an international language (Applied linguistics and language study). Routledge.

Linn, R. L. & Gronland, N.E. (2005). Measurement and assessment in teaching. Pearson Education.

Rahman, M., Babu, R., & Ashrafuzzaman, M. (2011). Assessment and feedback practices in the English language classroom. Journal of NELTA16(1-2), 97-106. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/nelta.v16i1-2.6133

Rivera, C. (2006). State assessment policy and practice for English language learners: A national perspective. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers Inc.

Shrestha, P. (2014). Alternative assessment approaches in primary English language classrooms. Journal of NELTA18(1-2), 148-163. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/nelta.v18i1-2.10337

Stanley, G. (Ed). (2019). Innovation in education remote teaching. British Council.

Stiggins, R. J. (1991). Relevant classroom assessment training for teachers. educational measurement: Issues and Practice, 10(1), 7-12.

Swertz, C., Motteram, G., Philp, H. & Gonul, S. (2007). Language learning with certified live online language teachers: Teacher Manual. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/198458088/LANCELOT-Teacher- Manual

Unruh, S. & McKellar, N. A. (2017). Assessment and intervention for English language learners: Translating research into practice. Springer International Publishing.

Whyte, S. & Gijsen, L. (2016) ‘Telecollaboration in secondary EFL: A blended teacher education course. In S. Jager, M. Kurek,  and B. O’Rourke,  (eds.), New directions in telecollaborative research and practice: selected papers from the second conference on telecollaboration in higher education (pp. 163-170). Research-publishing.net.https://doi.org/10.14705/rpnet.2016. telecollab2016.503

Wolf, M. K. (2020). Assessing English language proficiency in US K-12 Schools. Routledge.

Can be cited as:

Chaudhary, P. (2021, May). Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning [Blog article].  ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/assessing-english-language-learners-in-remote-teaching-learning/

E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom – Dr. Rana

Karna Rana, PhD

Dr. Karna Rana is an Academic Coordinator [MPhil in English] at Open University Nepal and Lecturer of English at Gramin Adarsha Multiple Campus. Dr Rana facilitates teacher training for teachers and students in and about online classes and resources. He earned his PhD degree in ICT in Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He did an MA in Education (E-based learning; Inclusive education; Managing teaching and learning; Research Methodology), from the University of Bedfordshire, UK. He is one of the members of the editorial board of ELT Chourati. He has authored and co-authored several academic papers and research articles nationally and internationally. He has launched different online-based training and workshop to contribute to Nepal’s ICT enhancement procedure. His interest areas include ICT in education, digital literacy, research and education.

Our Choutari editor, Ganesh Kumar Bastola, has talked to Dr Rana about COVID-19, pandemic pedagogy and its impact in and around Nepal specifically in education and explored some useful strategies to enhance online classes and resources during pandemic. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.

1. What can be the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in our education system?

Well, if we review the history of educational development and the impact of such crisis like World War I and II on social transformation, the rise of industrial education value dominated neo-classical education value and it gradually resulted in capitalism. Before these wars, work efficiency used to be valued more than what education qualification someone had. The current industrial education system that came out of British and American neoliberal ideologies seems to be outdated as it is eventually failing to fix issues of this crisis. If the pandemic continues throughout this year, the world will be in an economic and humanitarian crisis. Many schools and universities will be shut down. Nepal will also experience it if the situation lasts long.

2. Since the educational institutions are shut down and the ‘face-to-face’ mode is put to halt. What can be the alternatives to reach students, especially school students in this crisis?

Since the world is in lockdown, several universities and schools mostly in developed countries have switched their traditional physical classrooms to online classes or distance learning mode. Unfortunately, the majority of schools and universities might not be prepared for it. Let’s observe the context of Nepal. Except for Nepal Open University, an online university, all other universities are not fully prepared to go online. It is unlikely to move schools to online in this situation as the majority of people live outside the range of broadband internet. However, we can utilise a few potential technologies like television and radio to deliver limited courses and engage students in possible projects.

3. How can we ensure and track the learning of school students if we adopt alternatives to educate them?

Let me share how schools before 2028 BS used to educate children in villages. Even the government did not know the number of schools across Nepal but these schools had their own curriculum to meet individual as well as social needs. The majority of schools particularly primary ones were never connected with the national examination system but they were efficient to educate millions of children. It does not mean to revive the system but we can explore such efficient local schooling ideas to make schools resilient and self-efficient. That was the time when there were few literate members of the community, but now we have educated or at least literate family members who can be teachers of their children. We have municipalities to follow micro strategies to engage teachers and students from their home. Probably flexible curriculum may provide schools with opportunities for developing own learning programmes, learning materials and outcomes. Of course, national education policy can provide them guidelines to maintain the education standard. Municipalities can be a focal point to manage local resources like teacher trainers, experts, teachers, learning materials and other essential materials. The wise use of ICT in education may develop our schools and education for the growing generation. FM radios and local televisions can be utilised to reach out children and their parents can be engaged with them. In cities and towns, internet facilities can be more productive. There may be challenges for ICT illiterate teachers to gather digital content and materials for teaching and learning but they can be shortly trained through radio or television to use smart mobile or personal computer to explore online materials.

4. What are the differences between online teaching-learning materials and face-to-face teaching-learning materials? As the academic session is going to kick off soon, how can we use the existing materials and resources for teaching via online, radio, TV or so on?

Teachers can bring some laboratory works and concrete materials in the traditional physical classroom but digital learning materials can be animated or real videos, audios and audio-visual. For many learners, online materials can be more productive than what they can read in library books. Unfortunately, such online materials cannot be shared without the internet. As I said earlier, the Education Unit at municipalities can look for ICT experts across the country to train local teachers on how to use digital devices and digital materials in teaching and learning. At least local authorities can train few teachers to plan and deliver lessons on TV lively and even students can be allowed to talk to the teacher over phone. It can go live on the radio too. By listening to the radio, students can work with pen and paper. In cities and towns, teachers and students can be shortly trained to use free apps like Skype, Messenger and Viber, and to communicate through emails. Teachers can utilise these free apps and emails to share learning materials and go to live interaction. Teachers need to have minimum ICT skills to operate these technologies. Unfortunately for many teachers, these advanced technologies may be intimidating. In that case, local teachers can be allowed to choose local learning materials for students. It can develop local autonomy and students’ independent skills. Both students and teachers can use print materials as a source of content. School and local libraries can be developed as a learning hub.

5. You have been facilitating the graduates at Open University, Nepal. What particular strategies do you employ for an online-based classroom to make the students engaged and make teaching-learning activities effective?

We have basic ICT infrastructure to plan and deliver lessons. We basically use MOODLE to share digital content with students, give feedback on students’ regular works and assess their works. Microsoft Teams connects students and teachers and they have a regular video conference on it. It is a dynamic tool to share screen and present works. I can create teams of any number and schedule meeting for the team. This application is highly advanced for online teaching and learning which allows us to share heavy contents like movies or large size videos and digital books. The whole class can be recorded and students can download it whenever they want to. Students from their home or comfortable place can join the class and share ideas. Actually, everyone works on their devices while they are in an online class with their teacher and friends. I teach a research course and it requires students to work on their area of research. I provide live feedback on their works and they actually work with my feedback. It is really effective, interactive and productive as we work while we discuss. I don’t go for a lecture.

6. As the pandemic hit us, we do not seem ‘prepared’ to deliver teaching-learning using alternative means. Firstly, the majority of teachers themselves do not seem to be well-equipped to employ alternative means. So, what skills should the teachers acquire to run alternative teaching-learning and how can we develop their capacity?

Yes, we may be immature to think about moving all schools online in this situation. As I explained earlier, the majority of schools don’t have ICT infrastructure and teachers may not have minimum ICT skills. We cannot expect students to have expensive internet and computers, particularly in rural remote villages. I have reported several challenges including a lack of ICT infrastructure, teachers’ ICT literacy and government preparedness in my research publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/KarnaRana). I wish the government would have enacted its educational policy in ICT and plan itself without relying on I/NGOs for the past two decades. If the government has a proper plan to equip teachers with ICT, the local governments can be involved in the project. In a cluster of many teachers at the local level, they can be trained to operate a computer and use internet facilities. Teachers basically need minimum computer skills, ICT literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and communication literacy. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to train all the teachers across the country now. The educational crisis is apparently caused by unpredicted pandemic COVID-19 and such crisis may turn up time and again. Can we think a new way of schooling much more resilient than just internet-based school?

7. People also have started speculating that the online means can replace the face-to-face mode of teaching-learning in future. To what extent is there gravity in this speculation in terms of Nepal? And to what extent do we need online means?

I don’t think so. Internet can be used as a means but not as a replacement. There are predictable challenges like network crash, piracy and cyber-attack. Internet is based on the ideology of a few developed countries and they can hold the power of it. Let’s not imagine the worst but who knows if they destroy all the mechanisms of the majority of the countries. From my knowledge in this area, I would never suggest totally going to online. Of course, we can utilise internet facilities and develop the mechanism of e-learning to complement social learning strategies. Thinking about absolutely online school in Nepal may be an immature idea. The landscape of the country, weak national economic condition and expensive technology will be great barriers ahead. Poor people cannot afford such an expensive education. There are practical issues like how we can conduct actual laboratory works, how children learn to socialise and what kind of world we expect to be. I would rather think about how to develop the best practice that suits our local context.

Note: Now the floor is open for you. We encourage you to drop your comments in the box below after reading the interview. Your constructive feedback and questions inspire the interviewee. Thank you!

[To cite it: Rana, K. (2020, April 20). E-learning is only a means but not a replacement of physical classroom [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/e-learning-is-only-a-means-but-not-a-replacement-of-physical-classroom-dr-rana/]

Lockdown, physical distancing and isolation in Ramayana: An overview

Bhansingh Dhami

Introduction

Most of the nations in the world have gone lockdown due to the worldwide spread of Corona Virus pandemic. Human beings are in the danger of deaths from an invisible fatal virus which is threatening for the entire mankind. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Corona Virus Disease (COVID) first outbroke in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. So, WHO named it COVID-19 virus. According to the report published by WHO, about one hundred thousand people have been killed till the mid of April 2020 due to this deadly disease throughout the world. Not only the underdeveloped and the developing countries but also the developed countries have been kneeling down in front of this unseen killer. Travelling is blocked, visiting is restricted, sports are halted and the world has become silent as if it is time for worldwide curfew. People are confined at home. Police have been presented in each and every street as if it indicates as government-imposed curfew in the cities and towns, but it isn’t so. Lockdown is essential to save people from the deadliest virus. World leaders are participating in video conferences and are exchanging their ideas and intentions to control this global pandemic. China has controlled in many extents, but the virus is rapidly spreading in other nations of Asia, Europe, America and Africa respectively. According to WHO, the medicine hasn’t been discovered to cure the COVID-19 infected patients yet. In Nepal, the government has used lockdown to keep Nepalese people safe from the pandemic. Before declaring lockdown, the government has closed the universities, colleges and schools. Due to lockdown, the educational sector of Nepal has been badly affected. In fact, lockdown is the act of confining the people to their own places during the time of great crisis. Due to lockdown, the movement of people from one place to another is restricted so that community spread would not take place. The doctors suggest people to maintain physical distancing and isolation which prevent the community spread of the virus.

Physical distancing and isolation are essential during the time of lockdown. Physical distancing can be taken as the opposite state of social gathering. It can also be referred to maintain distance with all people of the society including family members. It maintains the physical distance among the people. Likewise, isolation can be taken as the act of keeping a person alone. In other words, it is a state of being isolated from other people. It is obligatory to protect people from COVID-19 at present. COVID-19 virus transmits from one person to another through droplets. When the infected person sneezes or spits carelessly, the others are affected if they come into the close contact of the droplets. The systems of this virus are seen in the person after two weeks of being infected. Doctors suggest that physical exercise and vitamin C contained meal are essential to increase immunity power.

Chinese doctors had already informed the people of the world about the precautions of this global pandemic virus. The countries of the world have been locked, are being locked and are going to be locked. Socialisation has conversed and isolation has been maintained as if Stone Age is going to be restarted. In the Stone Age, human beings used to live in dens and caves because the sense of socialisation was not developed till that time. They had the feeling of fear from others such as strange wild animals and other humans who would be strangers. At present, in the same way, no one is allowed to come in the streets; shake hands and go to temples, stupas, churches, mosques and other social gatherings. If there is the presence of an infected person from COVID-19 in such gathering, the people who are with him or her can be easily infected by it. It is sure that the infected people return back to their home and the whole family members will be infected soon. To stop the transmission and infection of the virus, it is essential to maintain physical distancing. That is why, during the period of lockdown, physical distancing and isolation should be strictly maintained. Due to lockdown, people stay safe at their home so that they couldn’t be infected from the pandemic virus. Instead of walking on the streets, they have been passing time by watching the news and some evergreen movies such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which have been broadcasting from Doordarshan National and Doordarshan Bharati (TV channels of India) respectively. In this crisis of pandemic, individuals are frequently listening to the words and word phrases like lockdown, isolation, physical distancing, self-quarantine, stay safe, stay at home and so on.

Isolation is the process of keeping self away from others so that the isolated person couldn’t be infected from the virus. It is the condition in which people are advised to be isolated whether the symptoms of the virus are seen or not. Now I want to discuss the movie Ramayana in which some important scenes are relevant to reveal the context of physical distancing and isolation. I watched the movie Ramayana in Hindi presented and directed by Ramanand Sagar. The protagonist Ram Chandra is a central character whose role is crucial from beginning to the end of the film. Though the story of Ramayana belongs to Hindu mythology, its essence is above the religion. According to the story presented in the movie, there was the widespread expansion of murders, criminal activities and tyranny of violent kings in the world. So, the world was at risk. The supreme Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva compelled to think about how to save the world from the sinners? The God, Vishnu, decided to take evolution in the form of human being and other minor gods decided to take evolution in the form of monkeys. The aim behind their evolution was to get victory over demons and to save mankind from the cruel tyrannical demons who were misusing their power, prestige, spiritual and material properties. The powerless were victims and praying the God to bless from the dangerous and injurious demons. Some major events that reveal contexts of lockdown, self-quarantine, physical distancing and isolation found in Ramayana movie are discussed by connecting to the present context of lockdown in the following different headings.

Ram Chandra and his brothers in isolation for learning archery

Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya, had three queens namely Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, however, no queen got a baby. So, Dasharath was worried about his future dynasty. One day he organised Yagnya (a ritual organized for getting what is expected). The Rhisi (saint) gave the prasad (an edible substance to be blessed) to the queens and Kausalya and Kaikeyi gave one halves of prasad to Sumitra which they, three, ate happily, interestingly and eagerly. Happiness resided and extended in the palace when Kausalya gave birth to Ram Chandra, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat and Sumitra gave birth to Laxman and Shatrughan. The king became very happy. Later, when the children were grown up, the King sent them with the Rishi to learn life skills in his Kuti (hermitage). The Kuti is the symbol of isolation where the saint or hermit lives alone. Ram and his brothers were also isolated from the palace and stayed with the saint to learn archery, war strategies and so on. When they were in isolation, they learned how to handle the bow, how to throw the arrow and how to meet the target. In this isolation period, Ram and his brothers became perfect in archery and learned war strategies. They fully utilised the time and learned various life lessons. They didn’t feel isolated even though they were sent in the Kuti. If people properly handle the isolation, it seems to be meaningful in this present lockdown context of Nepal as well. Though it is a chance for conducting virtual classes for the conduction of the regular formal classes for campus and university level students, it is challenging for the continuation of classes for the school level students. Because of the lockdown in Nepal, the movement of people is restricted throughout the country. In this condition, for the school level students, the teachers can utilise social media to teach their students. As Ram Chandra and his brothers maintained isolation staying away from home, they obeyed their father’s suggestion. In the same way, following the suggestions of the government, Nepalese people can also play the role to win the Corona Virus pandemic by keeping themselves in isolation.

Fourteen-year-long banishment as physical distancing

Due to the old age, Dasharath wanted to hand over the rule in the hand of Ram Chandra. But, Kaikeyi, the second Queen demanded two boons from Dasharath. The two boons were the banishment of Ram Chandra for fourteen years and enthronement of Bharat. So, Ram Chandra heartily accepted the banishment and went to forest along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. If they didn’t go to the forest, the people of Ayodhya would raise the question against the dignity of the trustworthy King Dasharath. To save the dignity and the prestige of his father, Ramchandra decided to leave Ayodhya. They spent fourteen years in the forest. This fourteen-years long banishment can be taken as the period of physical distancing. Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman maintained the distance from Ayodhya and other people. They kept themselves in isolation for fourteen years. After fourteen years, they returned back to Ayodhya. So, in the context of lockdown in Nepal due to COVID-19, it is compulsory to maintain physical distancing to win the global pandemic virus. So, Nepalese people should follow the guidelines of lockdown to save self and others from the fatal disease. In the case of learners, they should also stay at home and focus on self-study. By doing so, the learners can utilise the time of lockdown maintaining physical distancing.

Crossing the Laxman rekha as violation of lockdown

Unfortunately, one day, Surpanakha, the devil sister of Ravan, came into the cottage where Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman used to live. She proposed Ram for marriage. Then, Ram Chandra laughed and informed her that he was a married person. Then, she talked to Laxman and proposed him for marriage. He ignored her and she threatened them that she would kill Sita. With the help of a knife, Laxman cut her nose at once. By weeping and crying, she went back to Lanka where his brothers used to live. She informed Ravan that Ram Chandra, Sita and Laxman had lived in Chitrakut Mountain. Then, Ravan planned to kidnap Sita. So, he went in Marich’s hermitage and forced Marich to be a golden deer so that Sita could be attracted to the deer. When Sita saw that deer, she requested Ramchandra to catch or kill the deer. Ram Chandra ran after the deer and reached far. When Ram Chandra left the arrow, the golden deer appeared in the form of a human being. He was Marich and shouted in the voice of Ram Chandra loudly. Sita heard the voice and asked Laxman to go for searching Ram Chandra forcefully. Then, Laxman drew the line around the cottage. Before leaving for searching Ram Chandra, Laxman requested Sita not to cross the line until he returned back. Later on, Laxman left the cottage and immediately Ravan came to the cottage in the form of a hermit. As Sita crossed the Laxman Rekha (the divine line drawn by Laxman to protect Sita from the danger of outside), Ravan caught Sita and took her Lanka in his Pushpabiman (a type of plane belonging to Ravan).

Due to the violation of lockdown, Sita was kidnapped by Ravan. So, this event of the Ramayana movie can also be connected with the present lockdown context of Nepal. As Sita violated the lockdown drawn by Laxman, the problem appeared in front of Ram Chandra. That is why people of Nepal should also be aware of the possible harms that can be created due to the violation of lockdown. The learners including school children should welcome the lockdown in this critical period of COVID-19 so that they cannot be infected from the deadly virus. The learners can protect themselves and others by staying at home. They can read books at their own home to utilise the time.

The devil King of Lanka as a symbol of Corona virus

Ravan was a very powerful demon king of Lanka and was blessed by Lord Shiva. He could lift the Kailash Mountain in his hands. After being blessed by Lord Shiva, he became proud and tyrannical with gods and goddesses along with human creatures. All gods and people were afraid of Ravan. So, Ram Chandra was born as a human and killed Raval. The blessing given to Ravan by lord Shiva was for doing good deeds on the earth, but he misused Shiva’s blessing. Ravan created situations of terror and horror in the world. Ram Chandra killed him because he kidnapped Sita. Symbolically, he was the chief coronavirus of Treta Yug (the second era according to Hindu mythology). As COVID-19 has been spread all over the world, people should be aware of this global pandemic virus. To control the spread of the pandemic, the government of Nepal has declared total lockdown. In this critical situation, all people should maintain physical distancing and isolation to keep them safe from the deadly virus. Lockdown is not imposed, but it is used to keep the people safe from the infection of the invisible deadly disease. It will be defeated as Ravan was defeated in Treta Yug. The country will surely win the virus if people follow the rules of lockdown.

Personal reflection on physical distancing and isolation

After watching the Ramayana movie, I felt that the exercises of lockdown, physical distancing, isolation and self-quarantine were in existence in the Ramayana era. So, the study and application of eastern philosophy, as well as its publicity, seems to be quite essential in the present-day overpopulated world. As Ram Chandra maintained physical distancing and isolation to overcome from the possible harms and dangers, the people of the present era should also maintain it properly. We should also learn lessons from Sita’s violation of Laxman Rekha which ultimately brought problems in her life. Not only Sita but also Ram Chandra and Laxman took a great risk due to the violation of lockdown. To be safe and secured, people need to follow the procedures of lockdown such as washing hands frequently, staying at home, avoiding social gatherings and so on. Should we live following the moral, social and humanitarian behaviours of the protagonist? Should we leave the brutal behaviours of the antagonist? Isn’t the antagonist as a symbol of Corona for mankind? These questions remain unanswered if we don’t follow the lockdown by maintaining proper physical distancing and isolation. Humans should have only one religion i.e. humanity which leads them towards humbleness. Indeed, humbleness reveals the height of spiritual culture in each deed done by an individual. It also directs each person into the direction of progressive human civilisation. Humiliation never creates humanisation so that progress can be felt. The feeling of overpower leads towards destruction which is ultimately very painful and sorrowful. We can perceive isolation as a miniature of socialisation so it should be maintained properly. Socialisation seems to be a miniature of globalisation. So socialisation should also be maintained to restrict unnecessary social gatherings. In this global era, everything is being globalised whether the thing is good or not.

Some pedagogical implications of physical distancing and isolation

Using the means of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) available at home, the teaching and learning of any subject in general and English language, in particular, can also be conducted. The reading materials related to the English language are widely available on the Internet. Virtual classes can also be conducted to continue teaching during the time of the lockdown period. Being an autonomous learner, the lockdown period can be utilised by the learners within their home. In the case of English language teaching and learning, the teachers and learners may use social media for teaching and learning. Learners can surf the Internet at the time of lockdown to expand the horizon of their knowledge. Teachers can conduct exams through the Internet which helps to maintain physical distancing and isolation. Teachers can send reading materials through email. Learners can take an exam through the Internet when teachers send questions related to free writing.

Conclusion
Corona Virus pandemic has taught us a great lesson regarding lockdown, physical distancing and isolation. By maintaining physical distancing and isolation, we can be safe from possible harms and hazards. As physical distancing and isolation maintained by Ram Chandra in Ramayana movie, it can be a source to know about the lockdown, and physical distancing. Isolation can also be useful for brainstorming which helps to foster our intuitive knowledge by which the learners investigate the various possible solutions of the personal problem. It is essential to be safe in the time of a great crisis. Teachers and learners can utilise ICT for teaching and learning English during the period of lockdown. The COVID-19 can be defeated by only maintaining physical distancing and isolation. People should become alert to tackle the possible challenges of other sorts of pandemics as well.

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

[To cite it: Dhami, B.S. (2020, April 20). Lockdown, social distancing and isolation in Ramayan: An overview. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/lockdown-physical-distancing-and-isolation-in-ramayana-an-overview/]

The Author: Mr Dhami is doing a Masters in English at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a secondary English teacher and has been teaching at Holyland Secondary School Attariya, Kailali since 2006 AD.

Certification and Licensing of English Teachers in Nepal

Kiran Thapa
Kiran Thapa

Late in the Saturday evening, I received a call from my colleague who happily announced that her eldest son had passed the exam of Nepal Medical Council. Now with this license he can freely practice medicine in Nepal.

License!

A month ago in this summer, I had my other colleague who received a message from her husband. Her husband had failed the exam of Nepal Bar Association. He needs to wait for few more months before he could start his law practice.

Again License!

These two encounters with ‘License’ made me look into the issue of licensing and certification from a different perspective. Even after a rigorous study for four to five years, the doctors and lawyers need to have a license to work in their respective areas.  Because licensing ensures that they have demonstrated minimum standards of skills and are now recognized by laws. Likewise, we need driving license, pilot license and so on. All these are highly skill oriented works too. This made me wonder why we, as teachers, do not need a license before entering into the field of English language teaching.

Language Teaching as a Skill

Before I discuss on this question, let me first quote Johnson (1996) on what a skill is. Skills are goal directed hierarchically organized, non-stereotyped behaviors. From the environment, the performer receives information along various parameters. The performer’s response is selected from a large repertoire of possible responses. It must be appropriate along all the relevant parameters (hence exhibiting considerable combinatorial skill), and in many cases must be executed speedily (Johnson, 1996).

Now the question is- does English language learning fall into the skill category? Definitely yes, Johnson (1996) further mentioned that a language fulfills the entire requirement to be a skill, what is said about the skills can be equally applied to language and those who use it. He further added that second language acquisition has much in common with other forms of skill learning and that there is much to be learned about the business of language teaching. Thus if learning a second language  or foreign language like English in our context is a skill learning, then definitely a teacher teaching this second language must be skilled. In this light, incensing and certification of teacher is the must as to control over the entrance of incompetent English teachers to school education, be it a private school or government-funded one.

Certification in Nepal

Licensing and certification of teachers in the UK, the USA, Australia and many other countries are the requirement to get entry into teaching profession like in Nepal. In Nepal many universities are offering teacher education courses who educate their graduates and certify them. Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University and many other newly established universities offer teacher education courses. They have B.Ed. M.Ed. MPhil degrees in English language education to prepare teachers and teacher educators. These degrees allows the graduates to get entry into English language teaching in Nepal. Besides these universities, British Council Nepal, TEFL international and some other globally recognized organizations have introduced courses like CELTA, TESOL and TEFL.  Several non-governmental and teachers’ professional organizations are also involved in teacher preparation program. Universities and these organizations provide certificates after the successful completion of their training and makes the candidates be eligible to teach in schools and colleges.

Licensing

Regarding the licensing of the English teachers, Teacher Service Commission (TSC), an independent body under Ministry of Education is authorized for all sorts of licensing processes of teachers. To get a teaching license, a candidate need to sit for a written examination. To be eligible for this examination, the candidate must be graduate from education stream or have gone through minimum ten months teaching training courses of Ministry of Education (MoE). The government of Nepal has made teacher license mandatory for every teacher in order to continue teaching across the country. However, it has been optional in large number of private English medium schools, nor it has been mandatory for all teachers recruited in community schools.  It has only been obligatory to be qualified for government quotas (government paid quotas) in government-funded schools.

Significance

I believe, the provision of certification and licensing to get entry into teaching is indispensable in Nepali setting as it allows qualified candidates enter into teaching profession. In several cases, if someone gets him or her jobless and failure in other professions, then he or she is expected to join teaching in our context. Therefore, it is more significant. Certification and licensing system is more important as they bring professionalism and minimum standards into teaching profession. In addition, the provision assists to filter qualified and trained teachers to come into this profession. In Nepal a few years ago, there was a strong belief that one who can speak English fluently can teach English. So many private English medium schools used to hire teachers from India, especially from Darjeeling. Now the trend has been changed. The focus has been provided on pre-service teacher education and training the candidates have received.  It definitely helps to improve quality of education.

In a nutshell, teaching English in Nepali context or elsewhere demands demonstration of teaching skill and ability as per the demand of curriculum and context. Certification to teach English language in Nepal and India like countries has not been taken seriously. To ensure the quality of teaching, certification and licensing system need to be mandatory.

Conclusion

In Nepal, MoE seemed to be flexible for not making license compulsory for all teachers in both types of schools. For instance, licensing is not compulsory for teachers in private English medium schools. Nor these schools provide focus on the pre-service teacher education program. For instance, there are several teachers working without prior pedagogical knowledge and skills. It shows University degrees holders from any streams could join teaching in those schools. It might underrate the ethics and standards of professionalism. Nor it would help to improve the learning achievement of students.

Furthermore, TSC conducts examination and is providing the license to all candidates from different academic subjects.  There is no doubt that one needs have a particular knowledge and skill to teach a language like English. The provision of examination is appreciative to get license but government needs to think over the implementation of licensing system. Therefore, MoE needs to implement the policy of certification and licensing effectively in the education sector and it further has to improve the existing policies, plans and the strategies of TSC to make licensing provision more prestigious and practical.

Ms. Thapa teaches English at Little Angel’s School in Lalitpur. She is in her dissertation phase of MPhil in English language education at school of education, Kathamndu University.

References

Johnson, K. (1996). Language teaching and skill learning. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.