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IATEFL 2018 reflections: Great ideas for developing our Trinity Dip TESOL course

Nicola Meldrum has been course director on the Trinity DipTESOL and teacher trainer on our Teaching Pronunciation course for more than 10 years. On a recent trip to IATEFL in Brighton, Nicola found inspiration from the speakers and new ways to in which we, the trainers, can develop these courses to better meet the needs of teachers.

Nicola Meldrum

I’d like to start this blog post by thanking Oxford TEFL for continuing to sponsor me to attend events like IATEFL. As course director on the Trinity Dip TESOL course it really helped to spark new ideas and consider how we can carry on innovating the course.

I spent Wednesday of the IATEFL conference focusing on teacher development and teacher training with this innovation in mind. As Sinead Laffan (one of our tutors on the DipTESOL course) pointed out, teacher trainers/educators are sometimes left out of development frameworks – we are the ones doing the development to others, right? So, conferences like this help inspire and motivate us and also help us to network with other teacher educators who we can look to for development and support.

The first session I went to was titled,  Ongoing professional development: don’t tell me how… engage me! and the speaker was Natalia Gonzales Brandi. She was talking about her centre in Buenos Aires and her starting point was describing the moment when she was given a director of studies role and started thinking about the CPD in that centre and that it wasn’t working.    

Why? The first thing she discussed were pop-in, evaluative observations she had to do as part of her job which used quite formal tick lists consisting of Yes/No questions. Having been on the receiving end of this system, and after some reflection she took issue with this approach to observations and started to consider alternatives.

Her goal? To make it more personalized….she asked how we can make observations more from the perspective of the person being observed. How can DoSs put themselves in the teachers’ shoes or the learners’ shoes and step out of their own “boss” shoes? Also, she thought about the affective side of things and how happy and motivated this teacher is and whether this was more important than whether they were using CCQs or not. “How can I support this teacher not how can I teach her/him?”.  “How can I inspire this teacher as another ELT professional?”

These seemed like very positive changes to me as I listened to this talk. It helped me to reflect on my role as a teacher trainer on a high stakes teaching qualification course. Her suggestions as a way to improve their observation scheme was to move away from evaluative, judgemental observations to supportive peer observations with team teaching following this framework.

1 Teachers are told they will observe each other and learn from each other and then plan and teach together. One teacher asks a peer observer to focus on something specific. Ideally, a DoS can suggest pairings to help teachers learn from each other, knowing the teaching styles and strengths of their team.

2 They use the observer’s notes to reflect and then plan a lesson together knowing they will be teaching it together.

3 They team teach the lesson.

4 They have a post lesson meeting to reflect on the process and discuss development points.

So one innovation I intend to implement on the face to face section of our DipTESOL course, will be to build in more team or co- teaching with tutors and other teachers. We already do tutor demo lessons and peer observations to help illustrate strategies and techniques trainee teachers want to see in action. However, to add to the validity of this experience, I plan to develop the process so there is pre-lesson planning together with the trainee teachers, team or tag teaching and then post lesson meetings. I also think we can focus peer observations more effectively, so they can learn specific things from each other.

The second talk was  Remote control(led?): a peer observation project for experienced teacher educators by Jessica Andrews and Michael Turner. They also referred to a pop-in observation, open door policy for observation, but this time between teacher trainers. While this was a great idea, trainers struggled to attend other classes due to time constraints – possibly the biggest barrier to CPD.  They wanted to develop this system and drew inspiration from effective professional development: Principles and best practice (Richardson and Maggioli, 2018) to develop “remote controlled” development. The idea comes from on demand viewing where trainers can access content in out of hours viewing. Video in other words! Their goal was to create a bank of videos of colleagues working. They used the Panopto video sharing platform to achieve this. One of the key principles in the development of this program was that the trainers opted in to it – it was 100% optional and they had control over what was recorded. They chose the sessions they felt happy being recorded. They used the recordings of sessions for: self reflection and peer observations and opened a discussion board to open up discussion and development from the viewing.

This has led me to think about the professional development in our DipTESOL trainer team. We have an amazing team of tutors so I am now inspired to create more opportunities for them to learn from each other and feel they are developing too.

This leads on to the third session which inspired me to innovate. This was part of a CPD forum on CPD and the speaker was a tutor on our DipTESOL course, Sinead Laffan. She described some research she did with a small group of Trinity CertTESOL trainers. She facilitated an online focus group where they could share ideas, engage in small-scale action research and consult each other on the findings to develop professionally. The results were really positive and the participants all commented on how useful it was having to focus their development on something specific to their context, asking a question and trying things out to develop and answer that question.

So, the final innovation for the diploma course is to set up focus groups for the participants on our Diploma course when they are working on Unit 2. In this part of the diploma they complete three projects involving action research in different ways. Teachers work on this individually for the most part, with their assigned supervisor. My idea now is to set up online focus groups on shared topics so participants can share reading materials, ask questions to each other and support each other by sharing results and ideas.

So, I think this summary attests to how conferences can help us develop, as long as we take time to actually write these summaries and put things into practice that is. As I said in the closing plenary at Innovate ELT 2017, we  cannot let all our lovely notes and photos of slides end up in the graveyard of great conference ideas!

I am now looking forward to Innovate ELT 2018 where as well as hopefully getting more ideas to add to the list above, I will be running a drop in session about the Trinity Dip TESOL. We will be showcasing some of the best work of recent candidates to give you a flavour of the course as well as having two graduates of the course there to answer questions straight from the horse’s mouth!

If you would like to find out more about how Nicola can help you develop your teaching skills during the Trinity DipTESOL or Teaching Pronunciation course, contact us, apply here or join us at the Innovate ELT conference on May 11th and 12th in Barcelona.

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