Category Archives: Courses and Conferences

Testing Training in Skopje

Rob went to Skopje in September at the invitation of the British Embassy Defence Section, working with the STANAG Testing Team. Rob helped the Team moderate items for listening and reading tests at Level 1 and 2. They also discussed design issues with computer-based tests of listening and reading and compared computer-based delivery with pen and paper tests. Last week he returned to work with the Centre for Foreign Languages on their new curriculum. The Centre is realigning their curriculum and courses to the STANAG descriptors as part of North Macedonia’s joining of NATO. Rob also explored some more ideas of how to integrate IT into lessons with the Centre’s teachers and a teacher from the Military Academy, building on Claire’s earlier work with the teachers. At the same time, Hamish provided distance advice to the Team on approaches to online testing.

Claire in Cuba

Claire has recently returned from a two-week trip to Cuba, where once again she was working alongside Alan Pulverness from TransformELT (https://transformelt.com/) on the annual ELT Roadshow. The Roadshow was organised by the British Council Cuba as part of their collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education to support their new English language policy, which aims to improve the level of English that is attained by university students upon graduation. This year the focus was on the CEFR and on the assessment of speaking and listening.

This year, Alan and Claire presented their plenaries and workshops at University ‘Marta Abreu’ of Las Villas, Santa Clara and University Enrique José Varona University of Cuba, Havana. They were joined by Tom Connelly (TransformELT) and Robert Williams (University of Westminster), who ran parallel sessions in University Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and University of Holguin.

In addition to the 50-tertiary level, highly qualified and experienced English teachers, who attended the three-day events at each university, this year’s plenaries were also attended by junior and senior high school teachers, and undergraduates, which made for an interesting dynamic. Claire would like to thank all the participants for their enthusiasm and participation during the sessions. She would also like to thank all those involved in the planning of the Roadshow, which is a significant undertaking, and the universities for their kind hospitality.

Rob at the University of Civil Protection in Minsk

Rob was back in Minsk last week, working with twelve English language teachers from the University of Civil Protection of the Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus, which trains fire-fighters and other rescue personnel. The course was based on the British Council CiVELT course and had a focus on the training of emergency call operators as Belarus is gearing up for the 2nd European Games which will be held in Minsk at the end of June. Rob was most impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of the English teaching team at the University. The course was organised by the British Council in Ukraine and the British Embassy in Minsk.

In Rabat and Liverpool with Claire

Claire has had a busy couple of weeks. She paid a return visit to Rabat to work with the same group of Middle and High school English teachers on the LearnEnglish Teens (http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/) mapping project. During the two-day workshop they finalised mapping the content from Teens to their Year 9 & 10 coursebooks. The teachers also created lesson plans to accompany the Teens content that they will pilot with their students later this month. They designed some excellent lessons and Claire wishes them every success with the trial.

After Rabat Claire travelled to Liverpool to attend the 53rd International IATEFL Conference (https://conference.iatefl.org/). She focused her attention on sessions related to teaching with technology and trainer development and came away with a couple of ideas to pursue! Best of all she caught up with a number of former colleagues and friends. She was especially delighted to meet the Cuban team, who she had worked with last year with her colleague Alan Pulverness, TransformELT namely, Yailet Landrove, British Council, Dr Santiago Rivera Pérez, Ministry of Higher Education, Dr Eduardo Garbey, University of La Habana, and Zoe Dominguez, University of Matanzas.

Training in Tashkent and Skopje

Claire has recently returned from Uzbekistan, her third trip in six months, where she had been running the fifth in a series of NILE led workshops for teachers at the National Guard Institute, as part of a British Council managed teacher development project. This time her focus was developmental lesson observations designed to support the teachers in their work with Campaign, which was introduced in November. She was delighted to observe them in action and to see first-hand how well they are coping with the coursebook. Claire was really impressed by the amount of preparation they put into their lessons, their openness to constructive feedback, and their willingness to act upon it immediately, adapting their techniques by the very next observation.

She would like to thank the National Guard Institute for their warmth and hospitality, and the teachers for their friendship and generosity. Last, but not least, she would like to thank the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Mr Christopher Allan, for presenting the certificates on the final day, and the British Defence Attaché, Wing Commander Andrew Strefford for accompanying him.

Rob was also out and about last week. He was back in Skopje, Macedonia, working with the STANAG Testing Team, writing and moderating Listening items for Levels 2 and 3.

Reviewing and Revising Tests and Curricula in Skopje

Rob spent last week in Skopje, Macedonia working with the Centre for Foreign Languages teaching team as they started the revision of their English language course curricula. The team looked through the current STANAG descriptors and identified what tasks and topics were not currently included in the curriculum and added these. Then all the course curricula were reviewed and revised in detail, the course length and number of hours were reconsidered, and the placement testing process was revised. The teachers now have to complete the revision process ready for the new curricula to be introduced in January 2020. Skopje is currently enjoying a lovely golden autumn and was beautiful in the warm sunshine.

Claire on the Campaign Trail in Uzbekistan

Last Friday Claire returned from Uzbekistan where she had been running the second in a series of NILE led workshops for teachers at the National Guard Institute. This particular 10-day workshop focused on how to teach using the military English coursebook Campaign, which the Institute will introduce this academic year on the English language programme for their cadets.

The workshop was highly practical and gave the teachers opportunities to jointly plan and teach different sections of Campaign in micro-teaching sessions. Overall, the teachers did an excellent job and Claire has very confidence in their ability to effectively use this coursebook. She wishes them all the best and hopes that they, and their cadets, enjoy using Campaign!

Claire at the National Guard Institute in Tashkent

Claire has just spent two weeks in Uzbekistan working as the Project Lead Consultant for Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE) on a British Council Professional Development Programme for Military English Language Teachers Project. She delivered the first of what will be a series of workshops to teachers working at the National Guard Institute in Tashkent. This initial workshop focussed on language teaching methodology. The second in-country workshop, which Claire will run at the end of October, will build on the first with a practical focus on teaching using the military English coursebook Campaign.

Her thanks go to the National Guard Institute for making her feel so welcome and to the teachers for their enthusiasm and hard work during the workshop. Claire is very much looking forward to returning to deliver the next workshop at the end of the month and to enjoying Tashkent life once more.

Baltic States Summer Schools and Conferences

Rob has been busy helping organise and presenting at two events this summer. The Latvian Association of Teachers of English’s (LATE) Annual Conference was held on the 23rd and 24th August 2018 at Riga State Gymnasium No 1, Raina Bulvaris 8. The conference title was: Educating Today’s Learners for the 21st Century World: Competence-based Teaching and Learning. One hundred and forty teachers from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia took part in the two-day conference. Rob’s presentation was about teaching writing: Writing: Still a Key Competency in the 21st Century.

The British Council/LATE Summer School: Coping with Competences was held recently on the 15-18 August at Priekuli Technical School in northern Latvia. Fifty-four primary and secondary school teachers from Latvia (and one from Lithuania) spent three days considering the new Latvian school curriculum and how best to deal with the challenges it will be bringing into their classrooms. The Summer School was an original proposal by Rob and organised by the Latvian Association of Teachers of English, of which Rob is Vice-President.

The trainers at the Summer School were mostly local Latvia-based trainers but the British Council sent Chris Thorn to give workshops on Engaging With Motivational Activities and Assessment for Learning. Chris was able to attend most of the Summer School and did not just fly-in-fly-out, which is often the case. This meant he had a better idea of the local teaching context, and was able to socialise and network with the Latvian teachers in the evenings.

The Summer School was not just workshops either. The teachers were asked to work in pairs to develop lesson plans based on the coursebooks they were using in their schools, incorporating ideas which they had been presented with during the workshop phase of the Summer School. By engaging in professional practice (lesson planning) they immediately had to incorporate the new ideas into their teaching in a collaborative learning process with their peers.