Author Archive: NELTA ELT Forum

Alternative Activities for Teachers’ Sustainable Professional Development

Gobinda Puri

Abstract

“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better,” said Dylan William, a British Educationist. As said in the quote, the teacher has to continue learning to make his/her profession creative, enthusiastic, interesting and rewarding as a part of professional development. This article attempts to present some major alternative activities and techniques for teacher professional development giving details how a teacher can groom professionally. It begins with brief introduction of PD and explores some practical activities to keep teachers updated and engaging in his profession. Moreover, it emphasizes the collaborative techniques, MOOCs, Webinar and Teachers Support Groups for sustainable teachers’ professional development.

Key words: Collaborative techniques, MOOCs, Online courses, TPD, Teachers Support Groups, webinar

Introduction

Teaching English as a foreign language provides a career for thousands of teachers worldwide, and the vast educational enterprise of English language teaching could not operate effectively without the dedication and effort of such teacher day-by-day and year-by-year throughout their careers. Maintaining the interest, creativity, and enthusiasm of teachers in their profession is one of the challenges faced by the government, program coordinators, school principals, and teacher-educators. Teachers need to expand their roles and responsibilities over time if they are to continue to find language teaching rewarding, and it is the responsibility of schools, government agencies and other educational institutions to provide opportunities for teachers to develop longer-term career goals and opportunities over time. Hoa & Van Anh (2015) assert that the field of language teaching is subject to rapid changes, both as the profession responds to new educational paradigms and trends and as institutions face new challenges as a result of changes in curriculum, national tests, and student needs. As a result, teachers need regular opportunities to update their professional knowledge and skills, that is, their opportunities for professional development.

Language teaching is an exciting profession where we can sustain and enjoy our professional life because it is valued much in comparison to others. It can be made more beautiful and respectful profession through various TPD activities. To be specific, teaching the English language can be made more charming being involved in the activities like online learning, webinars, and teacher support groups.

In recent days, teachers in Nepal have been blamed for being involved in political and trade affairs, and not being professional. It is said that the teachers normally do not engage in professional development activities in private institutions because they think that their jobs are not secured and they take teaching as an only transitional job. The teachers in public institutions think that they have already got the jobs and no one terminates them even if they do not involve in professional activities. So, they may not think that it is necessary to carry out the professional activities much. However, the government has made some provisions to recognize their research and publications during recruitment and promotion. TU service commission has allocated the marks for the research article published in newspapers or journal. Similarly, teachers’ service commission examination has also allocated marks for Action Research during the promotion. Continue reading →

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The discursive psychology of ‘broken English’

                                                                                                Dmitri Detwyler

Abstract

The adjective ‘broken’ is often used to describe the English competence of self or others, especially in places like Nepal where English is the first language of relatively few people. What is happening when speakers use this ‘broken English’ discourse in conversation? What might speakers be using it to do? This brief essay considers several possibilities and their consequences, with recommendations for English language teachers especially to refrain from using this description in their practice.

Key Words: broken English, world Englishes, psychological, expanding and outer circle  

Introduction

The discourse of ‘broken English’, or the figurative use of the adjective ‘broken’ to describe one’s linguistic competence, is a common feature of environments in which English learning is a central preoccupation; for instance, in expanding (e.g., Nepal, China, South Korea) and outer-circle (e.g., India, Pakistan, Singapore) countries as described by Kachru, Kachru, and Nelson (2006) in the world Englishes paradigm. In this essay, this phrase will be considered as representative of a broader class of simplistic and usually negative absolute descriptions, such as ‘poor English’, ‘bad English’, and so on. Most of the discussion, except for a brief consideration of the metaphorical aspect of brokenness more than a simple assessment of competence, is, in fact, a form of social action that performs complex psychological work in conversation. The implications of this conception should be of special interest to language teachers, who because of their profession tend to both use and encounter the use of English language in daily life more than most others do. This is especially true in places like Nepal, where English remains the home language of relatively few people, even as it gains social importance.

We will begin our analysis from a formal semantic perspective. As an adjective, ‘broken’ offers a number of possible definitions for modifying the noun ‘English’. The most precise is the sense of “imperfectly spoken” or “spoken in a halting or fragmentary manner, as under emotional strain” (“Broken”, n.d.), as in “he asked the doctors in a broken voice what had happened to his child”. This is a rather specialized and sophisticated usage, arguably likely to be familiar to only a subset of second language users. The key point is the sense of strain, which is temporary; once it passes, the ability should return to some normal level. If no such temporary difficulty is present, then another interpretation might be more appropriate. One alternative arguably familiar to a greater proportion of second language users is “not functioning properly; out of working order” (“Broken”, n.d.), which invokes a mechanistic metaphor, as in ‘a broken clock’. This sense suggests a continuing or persistent condition of malfunction. And because machines do not repair themselves, but must rather be repaired, it prompts the question of agency: just who is capable of performing the necessary repair?

This rudimentary discourse analysis already reveals itself to have at least one obvious limitation: we have thus far considered only a fragment of text, removed from any context, and represented also as text rather than speech. Even from a semantic perspective, some level of context is required to establish which of the senses of ‘broken’ might have been intended, and therefore enable us to understand its interactional effects for the speakers. What are they ‘doing’ by their use of this discourse? What is needed here, in other words, is a framework for thinking systematically about spoken discourse as oriented to action in context. One such framework is provided by ‘discursive psychology’, which considers context on three levels: first the interactional context, such as a language classroom or the principal’s office; second, one or more rhetorical ‘frames’, which can be understood as each person’s version of reality, and which speakers promote through rhetorical moves; and third, the sequence of turns, or what was said before and following (Wiggins, 2016). While these levels interact to some degree and the most relevant for analysis will depend on the question to be answered, all discourse is to be understood as oriented towards action; put another way, words are not only for thinking but for doing, in specific situations (Wiggins, 2016). It should be clear by now that in order to analyze the ‘broken English’ discourse from this perspective, more detailed data will be needed. I now provide two examples that are composites of interactions I have observed as a teacher of English as an additional language in Taiwan, the U.S., and Canada. I believe they will also be recognizable to most teachers of English in Nepal. While authentic data of specific, situated interaction would be even more fruitful, I hope that these composites are sufficient to suggest a range of analytic possibilities that language teachers might wish to consider for their practice. Continue reading →

Mobile Learning: Some Convenient Ways to Digitize the Nepalese Classroom

Krishna Prasad Parajuli

Abstract

In this short article, the author reflects on his own mobile learning practices to share with the readers how he developed insights into the digital world of learning. Then, he reviews the research that he conducted in 2014; on mobile learning practices of undergraduate students, from semi-urban and rural areas of Gorkha, who did not have regular access to the computer and broadband internet connection. He further discusses mobile learning practices among undergraduate students in his class. Finally, he considers the potential for supporting undergraduate students to facilitate more productive mobile learning practices.

Keywords: mobile learning, undergraduates, digital resources, observation Gorkha

Introduction

Integration of digital technology has been a major issue in contemporary educational discourse. Following the global trends of including information and communication technology in the education systems, many schools and campuses in Nepal have established computer labs with internet connections. While some of these schools have utilised the computer labs successfully and students have been benefitted, most schools from rural and semi-urban areas have not yet been able to do so. One of the reasons for such failure is that traditional computer-based learning labs are very expensive to run in rural areas. The barrier of costs, installation, technical support, transportation, maintenance, training, stable power supply, and internet connectivity are major challenges to operating computer labs smoothly in the schools.

Traditional computer labs provide students with access to digital resources within the fixed learning hours. However, such labs do not provide them with the freedom of learning “anytime anywhere”. The last census reported that by 2011 only 7.28 % households had access to a computer (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2013, p. 14). This shows that the majority of students do not have access to a computer in their homes either.

On the other hand, mobile penetration among the population in Nepal reached 126.44% in April 2017. (Nepal Telecommunications Authority, August 2017). Access to a mobile phone network and the decreasing cost of modern, powerful smartphones have opened greater opportunities for enhancing our teaching-learning through digital technology.   Mobile phones can potentially enhance or language learning given that it is used strategically in the classroom.

The ways and purposes of using mobile phones have drastically changed today. For example, I only used my mobile phone to make phone calls and send text messages with my first phone in 2005. This was when I was doing my Masters’ degree. I do not remember its academic uses except making a few calls to my friends to keep track of courses. I started to teach in a college in 2007. The college had few computers, and they were not connected to the internet. I bought a Nokia 6300 mobile set in 2008. It was special for me because it had an internet connection and I could search the content on the web. Although it had a small screen, I could use it as a minicomputer. The second year of my college teaching was greatly enhanced by my mobile phone. Continue reading →

Seeding MOOC in Schools in Nepal: Teacher, Not a Sisyphus

Baman Kumar Ghimire

Abstract

In recent days, online learning has not just been an asset of the West. With the spread of broadband services, the students in Nepal are also trying out some Open Online Courses. Since it is relatively a new concept in Nepal, there are obviously some complications not only due to the provisions set up by the providers but also the socio-linguistic conditions of the learners. Despite the financial and technical constraints, if a teacher applies some strategies, the courses can be promoted very successfully empowering the younger generation with a qualitative learning beyond the border.

Key Words:   MOOC, internet, challenge, traditional

What is a MOOC?

The world is trying for something that is easy but qualitative access to education. Undoubtedly, educational technology has been an asset for such enthusiasts. MOOC is also an amazing product of such a practice to make the learning globalized regardless the financial or geographical borders. Began in USA in 2008, MOOC is a ‘technology-based instruction revolutionizing traditional higher-education teaching’ (Joyce, 2017) as exemplified by some educators in Jose State University who ‘are trying out MOOCs in traditional classes, “flipping” the experience so the students take the MOOCs as homework and engage in deep problem solving in the classroom’(Jarett, 2012). It is an open-access platform that offers you a number of courses with free choices. In a sharp contrast to our less than 150 traditional classes monitored by a teacher, it is a free course that entertains a big number of students, regardless the region and qualification but the access to internet. One does not need to wait for a year to have a result but you make an assignment every week and tentatively your result comes in less than three days. A participant has multiple roles in a MOOC. He/she is a motivator or counselor in a discussion forum, a student in assignment/quiz and an evaluator in peer-assessment section.

Such courses rarely have any regular time-bound or the location for the presence as they are all run online. The course period of some self-paced courses is determined by the competence of the user whereas other regular courses range generally between 4 weeks to 10 weeks which demand you an hour to ten hours a week. It is open to 3 Ps (person, place and pace). You can notice no limitation in the registration in MOOCs. It has developed a notion that school is where you are. So it has been a favorite platform for even the beginners to befriend the professors in a certain course. Thanks to the globalization aura, west-bound-studies mania and also the financial pressures, in less than a decade of its sowing, even in the high schools in both developed and developing worlds, MOOC is spreading its wings with some miraculous achievements.

MOOC Mania

With only ‘2200 students signed up for the first ever MOOC in the world in 2008’ (Marques, 2013), in less than a decade the number has grown up exponentially to ‘58 million registered for 6850 courses from over 700 universities, where Coursera tops the list of MOOC providers with 23million registered participants’ (Dhawal, 2016).

I took my first MOOC in late 2013 when I noticed no other Nepalese in my course on teaching English from Oregon State University, but these days we can find lots of Nepalese students and professionals in the MOOC platforms especially for English, Computer Science, Life Science and Math courses. Our experience of the MOOC orientations also shows that the enthusiasm for the MOOCs is also growing significantly with lots of queries pouring in the face-to-face conversations or in virtual chit-chats. Continue reading →

The need for integrating spoken grammar in the Nepalese ELT course and material design

Anu Upadhaya

Abstract

It is likely that many non-native speakers of English, especially from expanding circle countries, use almost the same form of English in both spoken and written communication. Although this does not prove their lack of competence in the language, it hinders fluency and natural flow of communication in conversational settings. This indicates a need for assimilating spoken grammar in ELT course and materials. This article deals with the Nepalese ELT context and argues for the relevance of incorporating spoken grammar into the existing Nepalese ELT courses, which may help Nepalese learners of English to communicate naturally with better fluency and accuracy in spoken discourse.

Keywords: Spoken grammar, English as a Second Language (ESL), English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), exonormative model

Introduction

Grammar teaching is still a controversial issue in the field of second or foreign language teaching (Barnard & Scampton, 2008), whether it is for a general English or English for Academic Purposes (EAP). It has been of great interest to researchers and teachers to investigate whether it is worth teaching. Some applied linguists (e.g., Bright, 1947; Cowan, 2009; Ellis, 2002, 2006, 2008; Thornbury, 1999); advocate teaching grammar, whereas Krashen and Terrel (1983) along with some other linguists find grammar teaching of less or no importance in second language acquisition. However, grammar teaching can be of high relevance in many contexts, given that it considers appropriate approaches. As some linguists believe that grammar is an inevitable aspect of second or foreign language teaching, there are some studies that investigated the need for spoken grammar along with written grammar in the second language learning. The need for spoken grammar in ELT syllabus has been derived from the problem of native and non-native interaction that, in a real world, they sound much different in spoken discourse. This also possibly leads to communication breakdowns. One negative outcome of only teaching written grammar is that it produces learners who can only speak like a book since they are only exposed to an almost exclusively written version of the language (Rings 1992). In particular, as a native of Nepal and having taught the English language for several years, I can sense that most Nepalese learners of English use the almost similar version of the language in both written and spoken discourses. As a result, they seem to lack fluency and accuracy in their spoken variety of English language, although they have developed mastery over competency in the English language. This article, therefore, delves into the significance of spoken grammar in EFL courses that specifically links to the Nepalese ELT context. It further discusses the challenges of designing course and materials for spoken grammar and the challenges for implementing such courses. I should also mention that most arguments in this article are based on my personal experiences of teaching English from primary to university level students in Nepal.

Nepalese ELT context

English language is taught from the primary level to bachelor level as a compulsory subject in Nepal but, unfortunately, the results do not seem to be satisfactory as the majority of students, largely from public schools, fail in the English language in the SLC (School Level Certificate) examinations, Higher Secondary, and university examinations. Although there might be problems in various other aspects of language teaching, the article focuses on teaching and learning of English spoken grammar.

Grammar teaching is often perceived as the process of explaining only linguistic patterns followed by some exercises for students than teaching them the grammar per se. To put it another way, students are told the rules of grammar but they hardly have any exposure to patterns that they can internalize for real learning to happen. In line, Bhandari(2012) states that ‘in most English classes in Nepal, we find deductive (an imperfect deductive) method. This is because the teachers who have been given the tag of “trained” have never got opportunity to undergo, observe or practice inductive classes’. This does not demean the deductive approach to teaching grammar but underpins the inappropriate existing teaching and learning practices. This may be the condition owing to the lack of opportunities for teachers’ professional development (Sah, 2015). Continue reading →

Welcome to NELTA ELT Forum, October Issue, 2017!

Editorial

Dear Valued Readers,

As we all know, continuing professional development (CPD) is an important aspect of any professional lives. Teaching being a professional activity, teachers need to be engaged in CPD to ensure that they remain competitive in their profession. CPD is an unceasing process and continues throughout the teachers’ profession. In the context of English as a foreign language (EFL), CPD is even more pertinent and significant because, in our case, teachers have limited structured resources to support them in their profession. We always have drawn on multiple sources (mostly external ones) to remain competent in the business. Of those different sources, sharing of ideas and tips amongst teachers has an important place in our practice.

NELTA, being a professional organisation of EFL teachers, always encourages teachers to share their good practices and ideas such that we can create discussions and promote context suitable knowledge. For the same, this issue of NELTA features write-ups by teachers of different backgrounds.

The first article by Gobinda Puri is on alternative activities for teachers’sustainable professional development. This article lists a few alternative but sustainable activities that teachers can engage in to continue their professional development.

The second piece, “The discursive psychology of ‘broken English”, by Dmitri Detwyler sheds light on the popular term in EFL, ‘broken English’. Mr Detwyler argues that broken English is a common feature of environments in which English learning is a central preoccupation. He further argues how the use of broken English reflects the complex psychological work in conversation.

The third article by Krishna Prasad Parajuli is entitled “Mobile Learning: Some Convenient Ways to Digitize the Nepalese Classroom”. In this piece, by drawing on his experience, Mr Parajuli argues how the use of mobile could help teachers/lecturers in their pedagogical practices.

In the fourth write-up, entitled “Seeding MOOC in Schools in Nepal: Teacher, Not a Sisyphus”, Baman Kumar Ghimire draws on his experience of championing massive open online courses (MOOCs) in Nepal to discuss how they could support EFL teachers learners in their pedagogical practices. He presents the advantages and challenges of MOOCs for school teachers and students in the local context.

The final article entitled “The need for integrating spoken grammar in the Nepalese ELT course and material design” by Anu Upadhyaya argues why there is a need to assimilate spoken grammar in ELT course and materials. She discusses how such integration might help Nepalese learners of English to communicate naturally with fluency and accuracy in spoken discourse.

For your ease, please find the links to the articles here:

  1. https://neltaeltforum.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/alternative-activities-for-sustainable-teachers-professional-development/ (Alternative activities for teachers’ sustainable professional development – Gobinda Puri)
  2. https://neltaeltforum.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/the-discursive-psychology-of-broken-english/ (The discursive psychology of broken English – Dmitri Detwyler)
  3. https://neltaeltforum.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/mobile-learning-some-convenient-ways-to-digitize-the-nepalese-classroom/ (Mobile Learning: Some ways to digitize the Nepalese classroom – Krishna Parajuli)
  4. https://neltaeltforum.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/seeding-mooc-in-schools-in-nepal-teacher-not-a-sisyphus/ (Seeding MOOC in schools in Nepal: Teacher not a Sisyphus)
  5. https://neltaeltforum.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/the-need-for-integrating-spoken-grammar-in-the-nepalese-elt-course-and-material-design/  (The need for integrating spoken grammar in the Nepalese ELT course and material design – Anu Upadhyaya)

We hope that you enjoy reading the October Issue of NELTA ELT FORUM. As always we welcome any feedback and comment. Happy Reading.

Issue Editors
Suman Laudari
Pramod K. Sah