“Innovation is change that unlocks new value.”
-Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant (When Millennials Take Over, 2015)
We are in a very dynamic world, and the English Language Teaching (ELT) sphere is not an exception. Among professional activities contributing to change and innovation in ELT, creating opportunities for professional reflection, exploration and academic discussion is vital. With an attempt to work towards this shared professional goal, we have come back with another issue of NELTA ELT Forum. The theme of the issue is ‘Innovation in ELT’.
The first article by Lundy Prak investigates the attitudes of a group of Academic Writing lecturers towards different types of Written Corrective Feedback (WCF) as well as their practices and reasons for using WCF in the context of teaching English as a foreign language at a university in Cambodia. The study also discusses the central importance of WCF in students’ writing motivation.
In the second article on English education and dying Languages in Nepal, Laxmi Prasad Ojha recognizes the increasing use of English language both in academic and everyday life and its adverse effects on the local languages. Ojha importantly discusses the history of English language teaching in Nepal and makes an excellent attempt to bring out how it is leading to language shift and death.
The third reflective note “A Teacher’s Manifesto” by Gopal Prasad Bashyal reflects the journey of an ELT practitioner and sheds lights on different challenges he encountered in both professional and academic contexts.
The fourth article by Binod singh Dham on Differentiating Instruction in mixed-ability classrooms defines mixed-ability classroom, explains what is and is not differentiated instruction, discusses multiple intelligences, and shares useful activities for different types of learners along with tips to deal with multi-level learners.
The fifth article by by Kevin Thomson on Peer Observation has been included as a regular contribution under the heading ‘The Professional Practices Series’ with the idea that every teacher has some unique ideas to deal with different situations and topic areas and there is something to learn from every one.
And, as always, inspiring recounts can be found in the Teachers’ Confession series. For this issue, Umes Shrestha has brought the confession of Sanjeev Rai, a revered English language teacher currently working at DAV school in Lalitpur, Nepal.
We hope you enjoy the articles as much and would be pleased to welcome your comments and feedback.
Janak Raj Pant
Cambodian EFL Lecturers’ Perspectives on Written Corrective Feedback: A Case Study
1. Research background and research questions
Writing is one crucial macro-skill in learning a language. Learners need the skill to communicate formally and informally with the world. In these communication processes, when English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners produce a written output, they might commit some errors incidentally. In a language class, after receiving written outputs from learners, teachers generally try to correct and give feedback to the learners. Providing feedback in L2 plays an essential role in developing students’ writing. Herrera (2011) claims that Written Corrective Feedback (WCF) provides learners with information that they need to notice their errors or mistakes. Hyland (2003), in a similar vein, mentions that students’ perceptions towards their teacher’s feedback is crucial to their writing development.
There are many ways to provide feedback in L2 situations. Some of the common ones are: teacher correction (with comments) known as WCF, error identification, commentary, teacher-student conference, peer correction, and self-correction (Saito, 1994). Among these types of feedback, WCF has been found to play a very important role in improving students’ writing ability. However, this kind of feedback will not be effective if it is used inappropriately.
This study aims to investigate the attitudes of a group of Academic Writing lecturers at Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), Cambodia towards different types of WCF as well as their WCF practices and the reasons behind their choices of WCF. This study is crucial for several reasons. First of all, the lecturer participants will be able to better understand their students’ preferences and use appropriate types of WCF to improve their students’ writing performance. Secondly, the findings will shed much light on WCF practice in Cambodian Academic Writing classes which have largely remained understudied in the ELT world. Thirdly, based on the study findings, a set of guidelines for WCF practices will be recommended with the aim to make Academic Writing instruction more effective and more helpful for students.
2. Literature review
This section reviews the literature on WCF, main strategies for providing WCF, the effect of direct and indirect corrective feedback on L2 learners’ writing accuracy.
One area which has attracted much attention lately is how teachers perceive the usefulness of WCF (e.g., Ferris & Roberts, 2001; Furneaux et al., 2007; Makino, 1993). Continue reading →
English Education and Dying Languages in Nepal
*Laxmi Prasad Ojha
Because of globalization and development of communication and transportation facilities, the world is shrinking day by day. Nepal is no exception in regard. Because of economic, social and other benefits, people are highly motivated to learn English. People send their children to English medium schools so that the children can master it well. This inclination to English language has badly affected the local languages here. This article is an attempt to bring out this issue of language shift and death due to the growing use of English language in education in Nepal. In this article, I have discussed the history of English language teaching in Nepal, the situation of language, the language policy of government of Nepal and the consequences of language shift and death.
Because of the economic benefits and social prestige, people around the globe are motivated to learn English language. English is no more a language alone; it is a skill required to stand and compete in the international arena. Realising this fact, people in Nepal are also inclined to learn English language in recent years. It is widely used in education here. English language teaching has a ‘big market’ in Nepal with hundreds of thousands of people learning and thousands of teachers engaged in it.
But teaching and learning of English language has some dark sides too. Because of the growing interest of people to learn this language, the indigenous languages are losing their native speakers. People are sending their children to English medium schools hoping that their children will master that ‘essential’ skill.
English education in Nepal
Formal education in Nepal started with teaching and learning of the English language. This continued for many years as the Ranas used English as a language to keep themselves superior to the rest of the people. In this regard, Giri (2010) mentions:
English language education formally started after the historic visit of Jung Bahadur Rana to England. After the visit, he adopted a different approach to the language because during his association with the British, he learned the power of the language and its ability to create superiority. (p. 93)
But, after the introduction of democracy in 1950, Nepali language got priority. The government made Nepali the medium of instruction and it was the only language used in education. Languages other than Nepali were denied from the use in education. New Education System Plan (NESP) opened the door to establish private schools. Private schools won the heart of people delivering quality education. Quality education for many people was making the students proficient in English. These schools sold the dream of English language to the middle class people.
People saw that those with good English got better position in various I/NGOs. They got scholarships to study abroad. Private companies and offices started making extensive use of English language and those who did not have proficiency in English were denied of the job and position. This raised the parents’ expectation to send their children to English medium, schools. The private schools boomed after the restoration of multiparty party democracy in 1990. Continue reading →
A Teacher’s Manifesto
*Gopal Prasad Bashyal
After teaching more than two decades, I now have a question. The question is whether years of teaching experience matter in teaching. Some may quickly answer ‘No!’ Yes, I agree. But I find many teachers, especially those who have been teaching for several years and aging, are proud of their years engaged in teaching though this is not always acknowledged in our government system.
To share my pain, as the third out of thirty two permanent secondary level teachers in BS 2060, I have not been promoted yet after burying myself in my teaching all these years. Interestingly, those who couldn’t pass the teacher selection exams due to any reasons and became permanent due to a special arrangement in BS 2063 are now promoted because they have more years of teaching as temporary teachers. The government has allocated 35 marks, 2.5 per year for permanent teachers and 1.5 per year for temporary teachers, for promotion. It is not hard to find none of the students got a pass score from the school where many teachers got promoted to the first class. In contrast to this, the policy makers of Nepalese education and scholars are always hesitant to acknowledge the creative works of teachers. The point to emphasize is the mark allocation for promotion to the teachers’ writings like articles, research papers, books etc related to their subjects of teaching. I know many teachers who are established as good writers and authors, but the government system doesn’t encourage them. The big scholars based around Sanothimi never thought to appreciate teachers’ creativity and allocate some marks. No education commission has faith in teachers’ creativity and academic excellence. Universities have this provision of marks for innovative works, so many lecturers write books and get promotion quickly. Unfortunately, secondary school teachers have to count years of experience. However, number of years merely mean little in journey of the professional development.
Though legally neglected, I’m a most delighted teacher. Yes, I am. I declare this. If I track my life history, it’s curvy, distracted, obstructed and rumbling like thunders every time lifting a number of contextual barriers. I learnt to enjoy these hurdles in life. Surprising to many, unlike many, I resigned after working for seven years as a permanent Kharidar, and became a teacher. If I hadn’t left that I would have received pension for the last seven years. I deliberately did it. I’m a simple high school teacher, but people say I’m not obliged to any scornful elites for blessing me with a part time class. In fact I’m grateful to my parents, teachers and all who taught me to dream patiently and ride slowly. Continue reading →
Differentiating instruction for mixed-ability classrooms
*Binod Singh Dhami
English language learners are similar and at the same time different. They are different in terms of many aspects, for example, rate of learning, age, language proficiency level, socioeconomic factor, family education, ability to learn a language and so on. The rate of learning among the students varies according to their ability to learn and their learning styles and strategies. Some are fast learners, some are slow, and others are average. It is really challenging for language teachers to deal with this context. The general concept in practice around the world is that a teacher goes to a class with a single lesson plan and delivers the lessons. The teacher, however, often times forgets to reflect and evaluate if the lesson presented was appropriate for every student. The activity, task or language lesson may not be appropriate for everybody in the class because students have different ways of learning. They have their own learning strategies, and, importantly, what Gardner (1983) calls multiple intelligences (MI).
In most situations, a language teacher cannot teach with a single lesson plan. The teacher would find it beneficial to prepare a modified version of the lesson plan for mixed-ability students without letting them know. The teacher would have to develop different activities and tasks to suit different groups of students for more effective language learning.
In this paper, I will discuss what a mixed-ability classroom is, what multiple intelligences are, and what differentiated instruction is. I will also discuss some activities that are most suitable for each type of the multiple intelligences as well as some techniques to address individual learning differences.
What is a Mixed-Ability Classroom?
Students in language classes are not the same. On the basis of language proficiency, some students are proficient language users and others are not. A mixed-ability classroom contains students of varied ability levels. Handling and planning for such a classroom has become a serious problem for many language teachers. In this regard, Harmer (2008) mentions, “One of the biggest problems teachers face is classes where the students are at different levels– some with quite competent English, some whose English is not very good, and some whose English is just getting started. This is a case where different individuals are at different levels and have different abilities.” Similarly, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2006) believes, “Not only do students come from different cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, but some also are formally or informally labeled gifted and talented, while others require individual education plans to address specific needs.” Continue reading →
Professional Practices Series – “Peer Observation”
Thank you very much for reading and responding to our first article published in the October 2015 issue! For November issue, we have included an article by Kevin Thomson on Peer Observation. This article contains some vocabulary items related to peer observation, useful phrases that teachers can use before/during peer observation and activity for organizing peer observation.
Developing professional skills is very much challenging in a country like Nepal where we lack adequate ideas and resources to support ourselves. But as the proverb goes –where there is a will, there is a way- teachers can develop an association with other like-minded professionals and collaborate to learn from each together. By doing so, they can help each other develop their teaching skills.
Peer observation is based on the idea that every teacher has some unique ideas to deal with different situations and topic areas and there is something to learn from every one. Peer observation is beneficial for both teachers (teaching and observing) because they can gain insight and provide feedback by having discussion about the activities carried out by one of the teachers. As peer observation does not include merely being in another teacher’s class; the observer teacher should also provide some feedback or suggestions for improvement. This ultimately benefits both of them.
We hope that this article encourages you to collaborate with a teacher in your locality to learn and help him/her learn English language teaching skills.
Please do not forget to respond to the British Council about your use of the ideas to the address mentioned at the end of the article under the heading “Over to you”. Doing so, you can get a chance to win a free seat on British Council’s teacher training workshop – Fundamentals of Teaching.
Click on it : Peer observation by Kevin Thomson
Laxmi Prasad Ojha