Theme: Promoting English Language Teacher Professional Development (TPD): Opportunities and Challenges
He who dares to teach must never cease to learn. – Aristotle
Teaching is a very rewarding yet a challenging profession since education is ever evolving and the educational systems are constantly changing. Thus, a teacher is required to enhance his/her knowledge and skills, keep abreast of all the latest developments in teaching and learning contexts in terms of teaching methodologies, pedagogical approaches to address the challenges of the changing contexts. The aforementioned powerful adage exemplifies that a teacher should make a relentless pursuit of learning to sustain in the teaching profession. For that, one should look into the opportunities of continuous professional development from the very early start of their teaching career.
Generally, language teachers seem to be focused much on teaching specific language skills, teaching methods, and pedagogical approaches. Self-content with their teaching for a long time or with the knowledge and skills they have, they often give little importance to the notion of professional development, because of which they gradually lose zeal and enthusiasm; develop negativity and boredom towards their profession and professional lives. Often times, the issue of professional development is misunderstood as mere occasional in-service teacher trainings, seminars, workshops whence professional development, in its real sense, is a continuous process that occurs throughout the teaching career of teachers.
Scholars argue that teacher professional development should be substantially linked with what they want to see or bring in to their own classroom situations. They also argue that TPD should make teachers feel more responsible toward bringing in changes in their classroom contexts in particular and in education at large. However, the issue of professional development is often criticized as meaningless since the learning of knowledge and skill acquired through various professional development opportunities of teachers doesn’t seem to get reflected in teaching learning context of real classroom situations. The reasons could be due to the imposed top-down approach of professional development mandated by institutions rather than bottom-up approach guided by individual teacher’s perspectives for their own professional development. Thus, teachers should be provided with liberty for choosing what and how they want for their professional development.
In the context of Nepal, the Ministry of Education (MOE) through its collaboration with its apex body National Center for Educational Development (NCED) introduced Teacher Professional Development (TPD) for significant years now as a crucial part of School Sector Reform Program (SSRP). But the implementation of the TPD at community-based schools in Nepal has not been successful enough to bring in much-anticipated change and reform in classroom teaching and learning contexts. Hence, it is evidenced from this fact that the teacher professional development should be based on an approach that would help teachers bring change in teaching and learning contexts in the real classroom situations. Furthermore, TPD should help them look into the opportunities for offering their students engaging and relevant instruction that would eventually help students become independent critical and creative learners, freeing them from the tutelage of their teachers.
Indeed, there are various opportunities and challenges in TPD. Our valued contributors for this September issue have focused on the issues, opportunities, and challenges of TPD in Nepalese ELT context in general and their own teaching and learning context in particular. The first blog entry by Pramod Kumar Sah entitled ‘Putting old wine in a new bottle’: A context of Nepalese EFL teachers’ professional development’ critically examines the situation of Nepalese EFL teachers’ professional development through a small scale survey of Nepalese EFL teachers. He makes a critique of present TPD in Nepalese ELT context analogous to putting old wine in a new bottle. Mr. Sah, therefore, urges for the need of professional development that would rather bring in changes in all aspects of EFL teaching and learning contexts for quality outcomes in students’ learning.
In the second post, Chiranjivi Baral, an M.Phil scholar and visiting faculty at Kathmandu University presents his idea about ‘Self-study teacher research’ as a significant tool for teachers’ professional development. In his intriguing and thought-provoking article, he has attempted to explore “self-study teacher research” as a new option for TPD against the traditional notion of what teachers’ professional development means and those traditional options for teachers professional development i.e., teacher training, mentoring, observation, supervision so on and so forth.
Sangeeta Joshi in her third post on ‘Peer Observation’ concentrates on the significance of peer observation in English language classroom and also as a useful tool for personal and professional development. She has shared her own experience of doing peer observation at her school without any guidelines and directions about it. Here, she argues that adequate trainings about the procedures of observation, peer observation and collaboration between and among teachers are essential prerequisites for the effective implementation of peer observation as a tool for teacher professional development or it may lead to a disastrous situation.
Likewise, the post by Dr. Laxman Gnawali discusses the instrumental role that institutions could play in helping teachers for their professional development and bringing change in teaching learning contexts of the institutions at large. Dr. Gnawali provides various examples of institutional arrangements for creating conducive environment for effective teacher professional development of EFL teachers. Similarly, Mandira Adhikari in her blog entry recounts her own professional journey of conducting classroom observation and providing constructive feedback to her observee. She admits that the activity has been fruitful for both observer and an observee for their professional development.
Chandani Pant shares her reflective account of her attendance at the 8th International SLELTA conference held in Colombo, Srilanka. She narrates her experience presenting a paper at the conference about her experience of teaching drama, stories along with co-teaching experience and relates it to her own professional development. Umes Shrestha in his entry humorously presents three minor events that relate to his journey of learning English to understanding subtle nuances of English language in general and ELT in particular. He admits these various phases of learning English language have helped him become a better ELT professional.
Dear readers, you are advised to have a look on the teacher’s confession section of the blog compiled and managed by our esteemed colleague, Umes Shrestha. In this month, we have Kishor Parajuli, the Secretary of NELTA Makwanpur chapter to share his confessional story of how he learned English and eventually became a teacher of English.
Here is a list of the contents incorporated in this September issue of the NELTA Forum and are hyperlinked for ease!
- ‘Putting old wine in a new bottle’: A context of Nepalese EFL teachers’ professional development by Pramod Kumar Sah
- Self-study Teacher Research as a Tool for Teacher’s Professional Development by Chiranjivi Baral
- Teachers’ Professional Development Through Peer Observation in English Language Classrooms by Sangeeta Joshi
- Institutional Arrangement for EFL Teacher Professional Development by Dr. Laxman Gnawali
- Observation and Feedback in Professional Development: A Travelogue by Mandira Adhikari
- My Experience of 8th International SLELTA Conference: Drama, Stories, Co-teaching, and More by Chandani Pant Bhatt
- Three Lessons that I Learned Outside the Classroom by Umesh Shrestha
We would like to extend our appreciation to all the valued contributors for their articles. We would like to encourage our readers to read, comment, share, thereby creating healthy discussion and debate in ELT scholarship.
‘Putting Old Wine in a New Bottle’: A Context of Nepalese EFL Teachers’ Professional Development
*Pramod Kumar Sah
English language teaching is going on to be more challenging with the changes occurring in and beyond the philosophy of teaching the English language globally. More advanced and effective teaching principles are being suggested recently, and they would benefit learners if adopted successfully. However, it is noted that English as a foreign language (EFL)/ English as a second language (ESL) teachers, especially from developing and underdeveloped counties, do not often have the knowledge and access to these sophisticated approaches to teaching the English language. This is perhaps why the outdated approaches, such as Grammar Teaching and Audiolingualism are still dominantly used in Nepalese EFL classrooms (Sah, 2014), which is causing the poor language education quality. It therefore requires English language teachers to keep upgrading themselves in order to help EFL/ ESL learners acquire English effectively. At the same time, the Ministry of Education (MOE) along with other agencies can have a significant part to play, but not by filling a new bottle with old wine. They would rather need to bring about changes in all aspects of EFL teaching, from designing courses to preparing teachers, to implement the changes effectively.
In this brief article, I have tried to discuss the situation of Nepalese EFL teachers’ professional development (PD) in terms of the opportunities they are often given and how they mediate them in their classroom practices. The discussion is largely based on a small scale survey of Nepalese EFL teachers.
The elements of teachers’ education
It is widely believed that the quality of teachers’ learning experience is directly linked to the quality of learners’ achievements. Teachers are thereby required to continue learning to help their students learn better. It is very unwise to finalize their learning with the completion of their university degree and teach with their limited skills and knowledge that often change over time. This is unfortunately a common situation in many Asian countries, including Nepal.
Over the last decade, some attention has been paid to educating in-service teachers for their professional development. As it is evident that professional development courses enhance teachers’ pedagogical skills and perhaps content knowledge (Radford, 1998), many countries have taken on designing and delivering in-service teachers’ education courses. This has also had some effect in the Nepalese context, however very limited. It can be argued that such professional training courses are in progress in Nepal due to foreign assistance, such as British Council, American Embassy, REED, etc. Such programs undoubtedly help teachers build up their skills and knowledge further provided that these courses are designed in accordance with the present development in the domain of EFL and are delivered effectively. There are a few elements of teachers’ education that can be of major concern in Nepal, for example, pre-service university courses, quality and length of trainings, teachers’ motivation for attending the training courses, and the environment and availability of resources to implement the new skills.
Pre-service university courses largely decide how skilled one becomes as a teacher in future. Student teachers are exposed to a range of pedagogical theories in their courses that seem to guide them in real teaching situations (Park & Oliver, 2008). However, if we look at the structure of ELT courses and the way they are delivered in Nepalese universities, the student teachers merely become the consumers of other people’s ideas. For example, while taking a B. Ed course, students are offered an ELT methodology module in their second year in Tribhuvan University. They are exposed to almost all the teaching approaches and methods available in the literature. Teachers just tell them whatever they have read in books about these principles and students make their efforts to comprehend them, and hence they can write about them in their examinations. Neither teachers nor students tend to look at the practical aspects of these approaches and discuss the integration of those approaches in Nepalese contexts, which is the most crucial activity that needs to be done. Continue reading →
Self-study Teacher Research as a Tool for Teacher’s Professional Development
What is self-study teacher research?
Self-study teacher research is a form of practitioner research. It is about systematically studying one’s own practice in order to make it better. It is an “intentional and systematic inquiry into one’s own practice. Included in this definition is inquiry conducted by individual teacher educators as well as by groups working collaboratively to understand problems of practice more deeply” (Dinkleman, 2003: 16).
Self-study formally came into research practice when a group of scholars, known as “the Arizona Group,” met to discuss common difficulties experienced by new faculty members (Loughran, 2004). “The birth of the self-study in teacher education movementaround 1990 has been probably the single most significant development ever in the field of teacher education research”, says Zeichner (Zeichner, 1999: 8). However, this methodology has not taken a complete shape yet since it is in the process of emerging. “Despite the development, refinement and clarification that has occurred…it is clear that the “one true way, the template for a self-study method, has not emerged” (Loughran, 2004a, p. 17, cited in Cindy, Sally & Clare 2009 p. 11). Rather, self-study tends to be methodologically framed through thequestion/issue/concern under consideration so that it invokes the use of a method(s) that is most appropriate for uncovering the evidence in accord with the purpose/intent of the study.
As self-study researchers, what we study is not just about understanding what we do it, but also about how we can improve it. It promotes an inquiry within one’s own teaching context that requires critical and collaborative reflectionin order to generate knowledge. According to Hamilton and Pinnegar (1998b, cited in Pinnegar& Hamilton, 2009), self study is “the study of one’s self, one’s actions, one’s ideas, as well as the ‘not self’. It is autobiographical, historical, cultural and political”. Continue reading →
Teachers’ Professional Development through Peer Observation
in English Language Classrooms
Teacher’s professional development is a process that makes one aware of what he or she is doing regarding teaching learning and classroom activities.It is a procedure through which teachers bring change and growth (Head & Taylor, 1970) in relation to new experiences, new challenges and new responsibilities. There are various methods for promoting teacher professional development that are of equal importance, and among them, one of the tools to enhance teacherpersonality, quality and strategies is peer observation. It is an approach through which teachers exchange their experiences, their views on teaching, their teaching methods and techniques to help each other grow and develop.
Why Peer Observation in English classroom
In today’s world the scope of English language is increasing, and teaching and learning English has become not only the part of language acquisition but also part of self-development. An English language teacher is expected to perform best with the help the knowledge he/she has acquired through academia or various teachers trainings and workshops. A teacher should persistently focus on the teaching methodology, making appropriate plans, observing what is going on and reflecting on his or her teaching behaviors. For this, she needs to embrace new techniques, methodologies, and ideas, and keep up with the changes in the field of education. As Richards(2009) has stated, “There are pressures from within the language teaching field, as the profession continually reinvents itself through the impact of new ideas, new educational philosophies, and new research paradigms, and teachers are expected to keep up with the changes.”
In this way, the English language teacher can help maintain andimprove standards not only of the students but also his or her own. Unless the teacher develops his or her standards of teaching, the students’ development is taken for granted. Thus, for the professional development of teachers and for the enhancement of teaching quality, the implementation of various methodologies needs to take place and among them, one is peer observation.
Significance of Professional Development
Teachers attend various trainings, workshops, meetings, conferences, in-service trainings, read journals, and increase their qualification in order to get new ideas regarding teaching learning pedagogy. However, when they find that these trainings and new ideas are not adoptable or transferrable in the traditional pattern of teaching learning pedagogy, with frustration, many of the teachers leave their profession. Diaz-Maggioli (2003) is of the opinion that this stage is the stage of “diversification”– teachers begin to question their effectiveness when some of the students fail to learn, and many teachers leave the profession as a result (p. 8).
Thus, teachers ought to be provided with such teacher education that helps them to be highly qualified teachers: knowledgeable, effective leaders, innovative, action-oriented role models in classrooms, schools, districts and communities throughout the world (Mohan,2011, p.11).Now, teacher education has moved beyond simple in-service workshops and has expanded into a more robust system of a continuous process of learning by teachers, gaining new knowledge and experiences, achieving integrity of personality, accepting challenges and eliminating the blockade between them and their students. Continue reading →
Institutional Arrangement for EFL Teacher Professional Development
*Dr. Laxman Gnawali
When the discussions and deliberations are made on the EFL teacher professional development, main stress is put on the efforts teachers need to make for their own growth: what opportunities there are and what the teachers need to do to make the best out of them. Teacher educators make prescriptions on the strategies teachers need to follow so they can grow and develop enhancing their professional capability. While teachers’ own efforts are crucial in accessing and utilizing the opportunities, the role of the institutions cannot be underestimated. It’s the institutions, i.e. the schools and colleges, which have the power to facilitate or to bar the teachers from the available professional development opportunities. The institutions are even more instrumental for the EFL teachers as these teachers are a minority in terms of the language they work with. They work with a language which finds itself as foreign where it is taught. The institutions need to make a conducive environment so these teachers can grow professionally. For this, the following institutional arrangements can play an instrumental role for creating such an environment.
- Induction: Once the newly recruited teachers enter the institution, they need to be inducted into the system that operates. The induction involves the process by which teachers are made familiar with the physical facilities, colleagues and staff, service givers, the givens of the institution etc. They are also shown the classroom processes and the way they are expected to deal with the students.
- Mentoring: The induction helps the newly recruited teachers to settle but to support the teacher with the implicit nuances of the school culture, classroom culture, pedagogical processes and also to build the psychological confidence, a senior colleague need to be given the role of the mentor. The protégé gradually makes himself/herself comfortable in the institutional setting gaining the psychological well-being.
- In-house professional development events: Unless the institution organizes in-house professional development events, teachers will not feel the need to andmotivation for doing something to help themselves. The in-house training seminars, professional sharing between teachers, talks by ‘experts’, in-house publication, and other in-house collaborative efforts will promote professional dialogues between the teachers.
- Inter-institution exchanges: For the crossbreeding of the ideas and good practices, institutions can agree to organize short-term teacher exchanges. In this, a teacher from one institution goes to partner institution while the counterpart from the partner institution comes to his/her institution and teach the respective classes. These exchanges will be instrumental in sharing ideas and insights between the institutions.
- Membership of professional bodies: There are EFL teacher associations and networks that support teachers in their professional endeavors. If the institution makes it mandatory for the teachers to be members of these associations and networks, the teachers will benefit in two ways: they will get opportunities for the professional development; more than that, they will get information for the opportunities that are not instantly available. With such information, they can help themselves.
- Subscribing to the professional journals: The professional journals bring in fresh ideas from the professional communities. They help teachers to be updated with the latest development in ELT. From classroom tips to updates on news trends, the journals keep the teachers afresh with the contemporary ELT pedagogy.
Observation and Feedback in Professional Development: A Travelogue
This article is my reflection on observing a lower secondary English teacher whom I observed for seven days, and to whom I provided constructive feedback. During the journey of observation and feedback, I learned that if the teachers get an opportunity to receive constructive feedback from the observer, meaningful change can be brought into our classrooms. Similarly, classroom observation and feedback is a way of professional development for teachers.
Observation and feedback
Generally, the term ‘observation’ means the purposeful monitoring or examination of various tasks. Similarly, observation is a kind of research that helps researchers to get live data. As Cohen et al. (2010) state, observation is used as a research tool that offers an opportunity to garner ‘live’ data from ‘naturally occurring situations’ where the researcher can actually look directly at what is happening in the situation, rather than depending on a second-hand data source. Thus observation is a tool to gather data for the purpose of any kind of research that is ‘live’ and reliable. This tool cannot only be used for research purposes, but also can be a support for further teacher development. Supporting this view, Wajnryb (2002) defines observation as ‘a multi- faceted tool for learning which can be learned and can improve with practice’ (p.1).
As observations are of different types, here I am discussing classroom observation, rather than any other types of information.
Classroom observation and feedback
Classroom observation doesn’t mean observing another teachers’ class to find out some depressing points of the teacher’s classroom activities, or making them nervous to even deliver the lesson effectively, by sitting ominously at the back of the class. Classroom observation is a kind of observation where the researcher /supervisor observes the real, live classroom of the teacher and provides feedback in order to improve the teacher’s professionalism. Highlighting the benefit of classroom observation, Wajnryb (2002) states classroom observation is a ‘multi- faceted tool for learning. It is about being an observer in the language learning classroom and learning from the observation process of classroom processes’ (p.1). Thus, classroom observation is beneficial for both the observer as well as the observed.
Similarly, “feedback” means giving both negative as well as positive comments with suggestions. Thus, feedback really benefits all of us; as our tutor told us, feedback really “feeds us back” and lets us to develop ourselves. Discussing the role of feedback, especially corrective feedback, Ellis (2009) feels that the role of feedback has an vital place in most L2 learning and language pedagogy theory. Thus, feedback is an important modality in the teacher development process.
The observation and feedback I undertook
Convincing an English teacher for classroom observation was a difficult task; however, I am thankful to one of the English teachers’ from ‘Good Neighbors’ school which lies in Badikhel, Lalitpur, who was ready to be observed as well as ready to take feedback positively. Thus, I prepared five different checklists for classroom observation and prepared to be an observer. Continue reading →