Sunday, 10 June 2018

#CELTAchat Monday 4 June 2018

Many thanks to Adi Rajan (@adi_rajan) for suggesting the topic and writing this month's #CELTAchat summary:

The topic of this month's #CELTAchat was learning styles to learning preferences and the participants were: 
Fiona Price (@fionaljp), Giovanni Licata (@GioLic1976) Darren Bell (@bellinguist), What is ELT? (@whatiselt), Sandy Millin (@sandymillin), Adi Rajan (@adi_rajan), Matthew Noble (@tesolmatthew), Jo Gillespie (@jogkiwi)
The chat topic -how to make learning preferences useful, meaningful and evidence-based - was in response to the change in criterion 1b from learning styles to preferences which was in effect from May 2018. Participants discussed changes they were making to address this new focus on learning preferences. 
What are learning preferences? 
Fiona suggested defining ‘learning preferences’ because we can’t substitute one term for another. 
·     Giovanni said that he found Kathleen Graves’ chapter on needs analysis and learning preferences in Designing Language Courses (2000) useful because it takes a socio-cultural approach. He added that he thinks “learning styles were too static to grasp the nature of learning. It was a kind of mechanistic approach to the learner. Preferences, on the other hand, are based on classroom observation rather than percentages. And the idea is that they CAN be challenged.”
·     Sandy pointed out that preferences covered a host of areas including group/pair/alone, writing/speaking, reading/listening, translator/dictionary, standing/sitting/moving around and all of these aspects would be required for variety in lessons which Fiona suggested was important for moving out of one’s comfort zone where learning preferences are seen as something you’ve become accustomed to and therefore would benefit from being challenged. 

·     Fiona shared an excerpt from The Psychology of the language Learner Revisited which was provided as evidence by Cambridge for the change from styles to preferences. 

·     Adi thought that the notion of preferences came across as quite abstract to novice teachers and that the reason learning styles were so seductive was that they were concrete and reductive. He went to add that if we were to put our understanding of preferences in a framework, it would be popular, albeit reductive again.
Analysing needs and exploring preferences
Giovanni discussed the importance of embedding needs analysis into the course and that learning preferences are a part of needs analysis. However, he went on to add that it was important that trainees needed to channel information gathered from surveying students’ learning preferences into lesson plans. This could be done after trainees have worked on the FOTL assignment when they could be asked to address learning preferences in the language analysis sections of their lesson plans and plan appropriate tools for clarifying meaning.  Darren also agreed that this would help them adapt material based on learners’ preferences. He mentioned a course he’d worked on where trainees got time at the end of TP to get feedback from TP students on the aspects of the lesson they liked. Sandy found getting trainees to analyse needs and apply these in plans challenging with larger groups. 
Sandy wanted to know if FOTL assignments were based on the whole group or individual learners. Darren has experienced both but prefers that students write about the whole group. Giovanni’s FOTL assignment is also based on the whole group and he felt that basing the FOTL assignment on the whole group would be an easy solution for making informed decisions in lesson planning in terms of preferences. Adi’s assignment includes both the whole group and individual learners because although this involves more work, he believes it’s useful for trainees to zoom out and then zoom in. 
Adios VARK? 
Giovanni suggested that the term "learning styles" favours Googling it and settling for the first results (which incidentally brings up VARK related links). Joexplained that it’s important to be aware of and include activities that draw on VARK as good practice but not label learners. 
Going beyond VARK 
@whatiselt and Giovanni felt that their learners were going beyond VARK while investigating the learner. However, Adi found trainees administering questionnaires that looked at broader preferences for the FOTL assignment but that they also used VARK questionnaires despite having explored the futility of these surveys. 
Darren asked what people thought about the “learner's preference for translation as a way of checking their own understanding of language in a monolingual context?” Giovanni thought this was a good idea and that if students had a preference for L1 as a way of checking understanding, it could be incorporated along with CCQs in lesson plans. @whatiselt felt that translation was underrated but cautioned against its use in monolingual contexts where trainees may rely too much on it since the CELTA ought to be preparing them for multilingual contexts as well.  Adi felt that using multilingual approaches were relevant in his South Asian context but that trainees would require some input on it, something that’s not practical with a packed input schedule. 
Fiona has created a Padlet for collecting evidence and resources related to learning preferences. She has also posted a note from Cambridge English with it’s position on learning styles and preferences.

#CELTAchat May 7 2018

Saturday, 28 April 2018

#CELTAchat 2 April 2018 From CELTA to DELTA

Looking for a volunteer to write the summary...

Thursday, 8 March 2018

#CELTAchat Summary Monday 5 March by Amy Blanchard

Many thanks to Amy Blanchard @admiralamy for the following #CELTAchat summary.

CELTA Chat 5th March 2018: Alternatives to Coursebooks in TP

Participants: Cathy Bowden @Cathyofnusle, Fiona Price @fionaljp, Darren Bell @bellinguist, Giovanni Licata @GioLic1976, Amy Blanchard @admiralwamy


The need for an alternative

It was quickly agreed that despite problems with coursebooks (out of date or boring materials, prescriptive lexical sets, a repetitive formula of text-based presentations), trainees need to know how to work with coursebooks, and this is an important skill to focus on during CELTA courses.  Giovanni emphasised that he encourages trainees to adapt the coursebook from the word go. Amy includes an input session that evaluates coursebook practice activities and teaches trainees how to adapt them to make them more relevant/engaging/useful.
However, we all agreed that it would be useful to consider alternatives to coursebooks. Cathy and Amy shared a similar approach; following the coursebook until week 3 and then encouraging trainees to make their own materials/find more suitable materials, based around the language presented in the coursebook. Thus, the coursebook is still responsible for setting the syllabus, a fact that Amy finds unsatisfactory at times.

Needs analysis and moving away from a CB based syllabus

Fiona suggested that trainees do a needs analysis with the TP students - they can get to know sts and think about needs so syllabus is needs based not CB based. Some worry was expressed that this would create more work for trainees, when they are already under so much pressure, though Giovanni countered that sometimes coursebooks can create work for them. “If you focus their attention on the learners and their identity as learners rather than the teaching, you can really remove some of the pressure”. Fiona added that trainees would need guidance but the tutors could provide TP points based on needs analysis to show as example / model for reflection. Darren talked of his experience on a course where the trainees had time early on in the course to speak to the learners about the lesson and to get their feedback. The self-evaluation was as much about the learners as it was the teacher, which could feed into a needs analysis. It was then pointed out that needs analysis/course planning is not part of the Celta syllabus - more a Delta level skill, though Fiona made the point that trainers need to promote the right message i.e teaching the learners not the course book. The FOTL assignment requires a needs analysis, so it was suggested that could be tied in with preparing for that assignment, though on some courses by the time trainees have done that assignment, they've changed to the other group of students. Fiona suggested after completing the FoL assignment they could have an input session to share ideas to inform TP content for the next level (with tutor guidance). She suggested aiming for a 50/50 or even 60/40 CB- based/needs analysis- based approach to TP points make it more workable.

Authentic Materials

Cathy raised another problem with coursebooks – if TP students attend a few courses, they will have already completed the units in the coursebooks. She told us about a solution they’re working on: “So we've batted about the idea of creating our own packs of 'starting point' materials, less a finished product than coursebooks, which could be combined more flexibly and where candidates have to create tasks around the material. Just an idea so far”.
Cathy said that on her courses she used to ask trainees to create a lesson using authentic material for first round of TP in week 3. “It was interesting and gave room for strong candidates to show ability but was v demanding too. They had pretty much a free rein and they tended to be skills lessons…I liked it but colleagues felt it was too hard for weaker candidates, and we abandoned it. They had a point”. Giovanni follows this approach for TPs 7, 8 and 9. He added that trainees usually cope very well. He checks that the text they choose is "suitable" and that's all. But he believes that for them to succeed there needs to be a focus on the use of authentic materials right from the beginning. Fiona helps with this by using authentic material for reading skills input to highlight sub skills and provide a model for assignment.


An unplugged approach to teacher training

Anthony Gaughan @anthonygaughan wasn’t involved with the chat but has talked about his ‘unplugged’ approach to teacher training here:

There was some support for an input session that focussed on dealing with emergent language, though Amy expressed concern that it may be asking too much from trainees. “No doubt it would help make them more effective teachers... but there's nothing in the CELTA criteria about emergent language, is there? Not til Delta?” Giovanni pointed out that it’s part of monitoring, which is something we expect trainees to do. He suggested demonstrating it as a technique in some of the grammar seminars. On courses with free TP teaching slots, Amy has done some of the teaching and encouraged trainees to get involved during the freer practice parts, to practice really listening to students, noting down things they said that they'd help with etc. This is useful practice, but wasn’t as effective as she had hoped.  However, this practice was supported by the following responses:

Here is a link to the Wakelet transcript of the  #CELTAchat