Reminiscence of ELT Clinic in 21st International Conference of NELTA 2016

                                                                                                Sarita Dewan*

“What is ELT clinic?” was the immediate question of anyone who saw or heard the topic in the programme schedule of 21st International Conference of NELTA 2016. Actually the ideas of ELT Clinic was conceived while having coffee with Sagun Shrestha and Kunjarmani Gautam. We were talking about the practical problems teachers face in their classes and the challenges of professional development they have, and tentative solutions of them. Although, it was in a casual talk Sagun Shrestha proposed to present this as an issue in the upcoming international conference taking help from some experts, we felt the problems should be diagnosed for the solution, still not sure who would be the experts. Moreover, it was proposed to form a clinic for teaching English teachers. This was how the topic for the workshop came out. We followed the modality of the teacher training that Richard Smith and Amol Padwad delivered in Hornby Regional School 2013. We adapted and contextualized a little bit according to our needs to fit in the conference session.

We felt “Teacher development takes place when teachers, working in individuals or in group, consciously take advantage of such resources to forward their own professional learning”, as Penny Ur (1996) proposes. The workshop was designed keeping in mind the time constraint, problem identification (diagnosis) and solving (prescription) and was divided into three phases.

  1. Problem identification
  2. Sharing success stories
  3. Problem solving

The participants were asked to sit in groups of eight, they were from different backgrounds, regions and levels. With some context setting by the moderators, they were asked to think of one most severe or unmanageable problem they have been facing in their classroom teaching and one professional problem they have. Then, they were asked to write their problems on a piece of paper. These problems were collected after everybody had written down and handed over to the experts. The experts were Dr. Z.N Patil, the Head of Department of Training and Development, English and Foreign Languages University, India, Prof. Sirish Sahasrabuddhe, the director of two language schools teaching English and Foreign Languages to International and Indian students, India. Other two experts were Ms. Meera Shrestha, former Head of English Department, Mahendra Ratna Campus and Ms. Maya Rai former Regional Education Director from Curriculum Development Center. These experts had sorted out the problems of eighty teachers according to their own expertise and the topic of the problems, diognised the problems and gave their expert views.

Some of the challenges teachers face in their teaching which they shared there are;

  • Checking and giving feedback personally to the students while doing free writing exercises in class.
  • Large number and multi level students in class.
  • No or very less motivation from school management. The management feels that the teachers may not continue once they get empowered with these trainings.
  • No substitute teachers during in service trainings in private schools.
  • Teachers are underpaid or not paid according to their qualifications.
  • Teachers overloaded with work
  • Frequent changes of textbooks by the school management some books are not up to the m
  • Using textbook creatively
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Experts discussing their challenges

While the experts were busy prescribing solutions, the participants were asked to recall one of the most successful stories in their teaching experience, discuss with other participants and write down on the chart paper in bullet points. The participants were told that they could be techniques to implement in the classroom or any other classroom practices. The next stage was to post the chart paper on the wall, and the participants were asked to have a gallery walk. The main objective of this act was to make the teachers learn from each other’s story and if possible solve their problems themselves. Education is most effective if it is experience-centered and relates to real need, (Freeman, 2000). This activity was a reflection of individual teachers and a kind of eye opener or motivation to the teachers.

The following are some of the success stories mentioned by the participants:

  1. Teaching English through Facebook
  2. Writing poems through strips of sentences
  3. Students develop a profile with the pictures of family, friends, school and community on the Project ‘About me’, (Srilanka)
  4. Developing confidence in speaking in front of mass, by starting of speaker’s club at school
  5. English speaking environment was created (within two months) using word bank, used both punishment and reward for students and teachers.
  6. Developed Writing through Wall Magazines
  7. Developed reading materials by teachers themselves in low resource classroom
  8. Sandpit Activity: Learning vocabulary by preparing different landforms in the sandpit, students learn the definition of landform terms, identify and label all the landform.
  9. Students presenting news from TV. or radio in the class to improve listening and speaking skills.
  10. Developed speaking skill of the students of Sanskrit by giving assignment of free writing (diary writing) and making them discuss in the class.
  11. Motivating students learn vocabulary through music and story
  12. Teaching preposition of movement and direction by motivating students drawing pictures.
20160309_153219

Participants in ELT Clinic

It was observed that some of the teachers had identical problems and had solved them in the similar manner, e.g., developing Speaking skill in class. It is true that much can be learned about teaching through self-inquiry. Rather than drawing on experts’ opinion and relying much on theories of teaching techniques, teachers can learn more by collecting information and making decisions about their own teaching exploring their own contexts. They can decide what initiatives need to be taken and what strategies to carry out according to their level or background of their students. According to (Freeman Larson; 2000: 187), there are many methods, teachers can make choices through the information but not conditioned or imposed, these methods are alternatives to what they currently think and do.

Through the strategies they learnt in this workshop we believe that the teachers will be able to solve their existing problems that occur in their teaching. It is true that teaching is a complex, multidimensional activity, the teacher who has a more extensive knowledge and deeper awareness about the different components and dimensions of teaching is better prepared to make appropriate judgments and decisions in teaching. (Richards & Lockhart, 1996). According to Richards and Lockhart (1996) the commonest solution to the language teaching problem lies in the adoption of a new teaching approach or method.

They have also suggested having the groups of like minded professional community to share ideas and experiences. We do hope that this workshop has helped the teachers know problems of other teachers and build a mindset to solve them learning from each other.

20160309_153259

One of the experts, Prof. Patil commenting on participants success stories

We are encouraged and overwhelmed with the positive feedback given by two eminent professors from India Prof. Patil and Shaharshabuddhe. They have committed that they are going to adapt this session in their conferences as well.

(This Clinic was moderated by Sarita Dewan, Sagun Shrestha and Kunjarmani Gautam in the 21st International Conference.)

References:

Freeman, D. L. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. UK: Oxford University Press.

Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T. S. (20010. Approaches and Method in language Teaching. India: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. C. & Lockhart, C. (1996). Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classroom. USA: Cambridge University Press.

Ur, P. (1996). A course in Language Teaching: Practice and Theory. UK: Cambridge University Press

(*Ms. Dewan is the Faculty Head of English Department at Little  Angels’ School, Hattiban, Lalitpur.  She is the treasurer of NELTA Central Executive Committee.) 

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