The three pillars of academic management

January 22, 2010

Hello again,

I would like to develop some of the points from my earlier post about career progression. If you want to become a DOS, then it is essential you feel confident in being able to handle the three ...

The three pillars of academic management

Hello again,

I would like to develop some of the points from my earlier post about career progression. If you want to become a DOS, then it is essential you feel confident in being able to handle the three ...

Self-directed learning

August 08, 2009

Hello again,

What is your school’s view about the learning process? Do you believe that a teacher must be in charge of all the learning activity? There can be strong pressures that reinforce this view: in some cultures learning is seen...

Measuring progress (again)

May 07, 2009

Hello again,

A recurring issue in language teaching and learning is how to measure students’ progress. Here, I am making a distinction between assessing or evaluating knowledge and providing an indication of what has been achieved after a course of study. It might sound like...

Levels (again)

September 24, 2008

Hello again,
The issue of language levels is always a tricky one as I have noted here before. The Common European Framework gives some very helpful descriptions of levels for the key language skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing. It is also very useful in being adaptable to the sphere in which a learner wishes to demonstrate ability. But the problem...

Evaluating coursebooks

August 27, 2008

Hello again,

I noticed recently that a leading English bookshop has published a list of the top-selling ELT course books. Once again the Headway series tops the list. I guess one way of choosing a new course book...

Measuring progress

July 27, 2008

Hello again,

At this time of year the UK plays host to many short-course students, from juniors through to mature executives all devoting a portion of their holiday...

How different?

July 09, 2008

Hello again,
I was back in France recently and basking in the lovely sunshine: a bit different from the non-stop downpours here in the UK. Anyway, I met up with some former colleagues and students and one teacher told me she teaches her business English...

Become an English village for a day

November 30, 2007

Hello again,

I recently read about what sounds like a great idea in Taiwan ( Taiwan now has an English language...

Study skills

November 25, 2007

Hello again,
I want to follow up a point I made in an earlier article about the differing needs of our students. The dictum of direct method was ‘teach the language, not about the language’. This principle ...

Can we give students what they need?

November 16, 2007

Hello again,

This summer I was lucky to find myself working in a stately home set in wonderful gardens close to the sea. Mostly I was working one-to-one with...

November 10, 2007

Hello again,

Self-assessment is a useful tool in that it promotes awareness of the process of learning and encourages students to take...

October 22, 2007

Hello again,

A teacher trainee confessed to me recently that despite following the recommended procedures, his lesson plans never translated from paper to the classroom successfully. A number of things could be going wrong...

The Common European Framework

October 16, 2007

Hello again,

Given the amorphous nature of language and the varied reasons for which different learners need a second language, it is useful to have a means of finding core elements that we can all agree form the essentials of linguistic competence. Yes, I’m sure you’ve...

Comedy of errors

October 05, 2007

Hello again,

As we know language learning does not happen in a logical, linear fashion. Most of our students reveal from their placement test that they have an imperfect grasp ...

Emergency cover

August 31, 2007

Hello again,

It’s what every D.O.S. dreads hearing first thing n the morning: the phone call saying a teacher is too sick to report for work. Ideally of course ...


August 06, 2007

Hello again,
Having made a few suggestions about managing large classes, I now want to turn my attention to the ways in which schools can help teachers deal ...

Evaluating business English

July 28, 2007

Hello again,
Business English students need to justify the time and money they invest in language courses. This means that evaluation is extremely important as a means...

Benefits of a short course

July 08, 2007

Hello again,
Many business and professional people share the dilemma of needing to improve their English but of having only limited time free to study. A week or...

Ingredients of successful academic management

March 08, 2007

Hello again,

How a school implements its academic management will vary according to the size of the organization, the turnover of staff, the cultural context and many other factors. Some schools may have a hierarchy with a...

Advanced learners

March 06, 2007

Hello again,
As English gains greater coverage as a lingua franca, we see the general rise in language ability among students. However, as advanced learners have already met the major structural and lexical components of the language the issue of how to motivate and stretch them remains something of a problem in the classroom. If you concentrate simply ...

Coaching learners

February 01, 2007

Hello again,

In my last posting about personalising learning I suggested that schools need to try to devise individual learning plans to run alongside group courses. One way of helping learners...

Personalising learning

January 30, 2007

Hello again,

Personalised Learning is the latest buzz phrase in UK state education. It seems obvious when you think about it. Each learner’s needs are specific and schools face a challenge in reconciling an individual’s needs with those of the group.

Since few EL students can afford one-to-one teaching, it is advisable to...

Teaching resources

January 23, 2007

Hello again,

I am often asked what books to recommend for ELT. I don’t need to go over my antipathy to coursebooks again but I also hesitate to recommend books unless...

Teaching monolingual groups

October 26, 2006

Hello again,

The travelling English language teacher is more likely to teach monolingual than multi-lingual groups and one of the biggest challenges is to understand the main areas of mother tongue interference for the group being taught. Since training courses cannot...

A learner-centred syllabus

September 14, 2006

Surely it is the responsibility of the teaching staff to devise the syllabus?

Hello again.

I had a lively discussion recently about how far it is feasible to have a learner-centred syllabus. Some people felt very strongly that students did not have the necessary professional expertise to be involved in syllabus design. However, while the teachers...

Student-centred learning

July 25, 2006

I'm back again after a bit of a break!

Hello once more,

In talking to various language professionals recently, I realized that much misunderstanding surrounds the concept of student-centred learning. It is not an approach that gives students a free hand; it does not mean that the teacher devolves responsibility to the students, nor does it permit ...

English for academic purposes

June 27, 2006

Helping students prepare for their university course.

Hello again,
I have been looking at the statistics for overseas students in English-speaking universities. In the UK, although numbers are holding up, increasing fees could have a negative impact...

Motivating teenagers on summer courses

June 22, 2006

Summertime and the teenagers are coming!

Hello again,
For those of us in the northern hemsiphere the season of the short summer course is nearly upon us. Teachers everywhere will be scratching their heads for ideas on how to keep bored teenagers occupied. While parents no doubt have high expectations that their teenagers will benefit educationally from a summer English course, the kids probably have another agenda: having fun. And can you blame them? At the end of a long academic year...

Innovation in course design

May 30, 2006

Are the days of the static classroom numbered?

Hello again,

Curiosity about a job ad led me to investigate the website of a Czech school. English, the school claims, is taught in a dynamic, creative way rather than in the stereotypical classroom. Music, intensive ...

Self-observation in the classroom

May 11, 2006

Action research is a means of reflecting on one's personal performance.

Hello again,

We all know how nerve-racking it is to have our teaching observed and to have to perform under the scrutiny of a hawk-eyed Director Studies. In fact if observations become a source of stress for the teacher they can be counter-productive. If we assume the purpose of the observation is to help the teacher become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, then a first step might be to encourage self-reflection. Without the pressure of an outsider...

Describing language levels

May 02, 2006

What is the best way to describe a student's level of English?

Hello again,
I have thinking about the way we describe students’ language levels. It’s a really tricky issue because language development doesn’t proceed at a uniform pace. A learner may have excellent reading and writing skills but be poor at speaking. This is something I met frequently among French university students, who had done a great a deal of reading and essay writing but hade seldom...

Learning plateau

March 23, 2006

What can we do to help students who feel stuck on a learning plateau?

Hello again,

Language learning seldom moves ahead at an even pace. Learners face spurts and slow-downs in their perceived progress. Intermediate students often feel they are stuck and are not making significant progress. This is partly because, in the early stages of learning, they can see a clear course ahead and can mark off the hurdles as they successfully tackle them. By intermediate stage, a lot of the learning process involves consolidation and extension of existing knowledge so it is harder to see what has to be achieved and to recognize when the achievement has been successful . . .

Welcome Brenda to ESL School!

February 24, 2006

Greetings ESL experts,

Allow me to say thanks to Jake for his introduction of me and for giving me the honor or presenting to you the newest member of the ESLemployment team, Brenda Townsend Hall, PhD.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Townsend Hall is a communications consultant trainer and course designer. Now, she’ll be blogging for ESL School and writing for the ESL Expert newsletter. She offers face-to-face and distance training in the fields of interpersonal communications, business English, written communications and cross-cultural awareness. She also has runs a distance-learning training course, Teach Business English, for teachers wishing to enter the field of business English . . .

The Skills Balance in ESL

January 30, 2006

Dear Bloggers,

The relative importance of the four language skills has been on my mind. One group of teachers I have spoken to recently told me how difficult it is to persuade their students to speak while another group couldn’t get their classes to write.

From a teacher’s point of view the importance of these skills is obvious but what is the students’ perspective? I want to use this blog to talk about speaking and the next one to discuss writing. The reasons for students being reluctant to talk are various . . .

ESL Coursebooks: Blessing or Curse?

December 15, 2005

I always enjoy wading into the textbook debate.

Dealing with Difficult ESL Students

December 06, 2005

Students may display problem behavior in class for many different reasons, often for reasons quite unrelated to what is happening in the lesson.

A Model for Evaluation in ESL

November 01, 2005

I have written before of the importance of evaluating students’ reactions to the courses schools provide. It is interesting how different constituents of a school view this process.

Business English Testing in ESL

October 27, 2005

I think it is important to keep up-to-date with new testing opportunities as students increasingly need to have their learning verifiied by external sources.

Observation Feedback

September 20, 2005

Hello again. I wrote recently that lesson obersvation is essential to quality assurance. By the same token, the way the observers give feedback is important in turning observations into a positive experience for all. I have made a list of questions that obersvers need to ask themselevs about the manner in which they give feedback. As an observer giving feedback, ask yourself, do I:

Setting up observations

September 13, 2005

Observing teaching is an essential aspect of quality assurance. Understandably, however, teachers feel nervous about observations and the system needs to be handled with care if it is not produce a neagtive reaction. One way of making the observation system less threatening is to have peer observation. If teachers observe each other they should be able to establish a sense of mutual support rather than of being under critical scrutiny.

Responding to Tragedy in the English Classroom

September 06, 2005

Hello again.

How should we respond in our professional role to the terrible events that are making life sheer hell for the people caught up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

When large scale natural disasters strike, I think it is unnatural to go about our business as if nothing had happened. These vast tragedies remind us all that we are vulnerable to forces outside our control . . .

Motivating the unmotivated

September 01, 2005

In a recent comment on this blog, somebody raised the problem of motivating adult students to learn. The problem in this case appears to be that, although the students need English for work purposes, they don't like the language and don't really want to come to classes.

I think this is really a hard one to solve because the students clearly feel that they are having this need to learn English imposed upon them. They do not therefore have any personal motivation to spark their enthusiasm. So what can be done?

Learning styles

August 16, 2005

Hello again. Frayed nerves today! I spent the whole weekend without Internet connection because my server had supposedly switched my coonection to broadband. Unfortunately the telephone company hadn't actually activated my telephone line for broadband. Now neither the server nor the telephone company will answer my calls: they seem to think repeated playing of David Bowie's "We Could Be Heroes" is an adequate response to disgruntled customers. I have had to activate an old account to get connected. I know modern technology is a wonderful thing but there are times when it makes you want to tear your hair out.

Providing feedback

August 04, 2005

Hello again. I've been writing about academic management recently and I wanted to focus today on giving students feedback. Feedback is crucial for helping students to know where they are in the learning process and where they need to go in the future. Sponsors may also need to receive clear feedback to help measure the effectiveness of the training they send people to do.