Category Archives: Research

Global Survey for English Teachers

A request to all our English teaching colleagues. Please find below details of a British Council, Northumbria University survey into reading published research. It sounds interesting and if you can spare the time to complete it, it would be much appreciated.

Global survey for English language teachers: how far does published research matter to you, and why (or why not)?

In conjunction with the British Council, Northumbria University (UK) has recently launched a survey for all English language teachers, teacher trainers and other ELT professionals:


To what extent do you read research about English language teaching and learning? What kind of publications do you read, how often do you read them, and to what extent does this influence what you do in the classroom?  Alternatively, perhaps you don’t read research or about research findings? If not, why not, and what, if anything, would make published research more accessible to you? 

We are interested in the opinions and activities of ALL English language teacherswhether you read published research or not  whether you are particularly interested in research findings or not, and wherever in the world you teach English 

This is a great chance to make your voice heard. The survey takes around 15-20 minutes to complete, and all answers are anonymous. Findings will be published in a freely available report later in the year. The survey can be found online at:

Nigeria Regional Hornby School Research Papers Published

In 2015 I led a British Council Regional Hornby School in Abuja for teacher trainers and academics from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Some were from UNICEF and others were supported by DFID’s Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) and the Teacher Development Programme (TDP), which is a UKaid programme managed by a consortium led by Mott Macdonald that involves the Nigerian government and six State governments in the north. Over the past year or so I have been guiding the participants’ research and editing their papers, which have just been published. Many thanks to the British Council’s Yetunde Oluwatosin for all her help and advice.

Nigeria Hornby School

Publications on Egypt, Nigeria and Blended Learning

We are involved with a number of publications at the moment. The research that Alistair and I conducted into Basic and Secondary education in Egypt has just been uploaded by the British Council. We looked at education from the point of view of ministries, teachers, students, parents and employers in relation to the education goals of the Ministry of Education and the National Curriculum Framework for English as a Foreign Language: Grades 1-12. I will be travelling to London to present the findings at an event on Monday 7th March to help UK stakeholders to learn more about the context for English teaching and learning in Egypt and the current issues, and to strengthen and explore potential partnerships and opportunities for collaboration.  It is similar to a presentation that Alistair made a year ago following research he conducted in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Sphynx 7

I am also putting the final touches to editing a collection of research papers by Nigerian academics, which is due to be published in the next few weeks.

Claire is delighted to learn that one of the chapters she wrote for the British Council publication Blended Learning in ELT: Course Design and Implementation, has been used by Pete Sharma Associates to inform the final unit of their new course on blended learning for language teachers. All at McIlwraith Education wish Pete and his associates the very best with the launch of what promises to be an interesting course. For a free PDF copy of the British Council publication click here and and for more information on Pete’s course go here.

Winding down the Old Year and preparing for the New

We are starting the process of winding down for Christmas and the New Year and getting ready for 2016. I have just sent off the first draft of a set of research papers I have edited to the British Council. These papers are the product of two British Council-managed Hornby Schools that took place in January 2014 and January 2015 on British Council premises in Abuja. The first was led by Dr Eddie Williams, former Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University. The second was led by me. Hornby Schools are run with the support of the A. S. Hornby Educational Trust, UK. The Trust was established in 1961 by A. S. Hornby, popularly known for the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. The schools are recognised as one of the most prestigious activities in the field of ELT. Each year these schools have enabled teachers to develop their expertise and upgrade their English teaching skills.

Participants on the first school were invited to attend the second event. The majority came from Nigeria, but others were from Rwanda and Ethiopia. Most were senior teacher trainers and inspectors at State or National levels. There were also researchers and education specialists from donor-funded projects such as UNICEF and the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), which is funded through the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

The schools had similar aims: to help course members share and discuss different approaches used by teachers to deal with expectations of an ‘official’ use of English as a language of instruction in situations where teachers may be working with textbooks in an unfamiliar language, have low levels of English, poor literacy rates and a default bilingual delivery including the use of pidgins.

The participants were asked to conduct small-scale research projects to look at aspects of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in their localities and states in relation to national language-in-education policy. They approached their task from a variety of perspectives and this is reflected in the collection, which will be published online in the New Year.

In January Claire will deliver a week long course on Teaching with Technology to the English language teachers who work in the Macedonian Armed Forces Foreign Language Training Centre.  This work, along with that which Alistair undertook in December on STANAG testing, forms part of the ‘Working towards Sustainability and Interoperability’ project. Two of the project’s deliverables are to provide targeted training for the English language teachers in the Armed Forces and for the STANAG testing team. The main aim of Claire’s course is to present, discuss, and evaluate a number of online tools and mobile apps that can be used for language teaching and learning and to consider firstly whether to and secondly how to integrate them in a principled fashion into the current courses.

Museum Bridge Skopje

Rob will be in Montenegro in January. He’ll be working with teacher and trainers from Montenegro, Macedonia and (possibly) Bosnia and Herzegovina to create a short course on Radio English, which the participants will then team-teach to some students during the week. Rob will also give developmental feedback during that teaching process. The outcomes will be a short course and teachers trained in the process of developing short courses and some peer review on teaching.

We are also very pleased that NATO Allied Command Transformation has approached the Serbian Armed Forces for permission to use the Introduction to Online Learning Moodle course Rob developed for the Serbs in 2014 as part of the PELT Project. The School would like to use the course in the development of its residential two week e-Learning Design, Develop, Deploy course.

Alistair has also been busy. He is finishing off a desk-based needs analysis as part of our work with the UN China Police Peacekeeping Training Centre (CPPTC) in Langfang, just outside Beijing. This has involved research into existing reports and documents and an analysis of responses to questionnaires he developed for returnees from UN missions (particularly Police Peacekeepers deployed to Liberia and South Sudan) and teachers in the CPPTC itself. The aim has been to develop a better understanding of the English language needs of mission personnel and, as a result, develop a more relevant syllabus, course content and materials for them prior to deployment. All of these results will feed into the design of Syllabus and Materials Design courses that Rob and I will deliver in the first half of next year.

English Language Policy in South Sudan

Alistair and I are preparing for the first of three visits to Juba in South Sudan with the aim of developing an English Language Policy Framework for Teachers in Primary schools for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) through UNICEF and the Windle Trust. We will be meeting the main sponsors and training research assistants to help us investigate attitudes towards English, its use in classrooms and methods teachers use with input from MoEST officials, head teachers, County Education Directors, inspectors, teachers and learners. We also hope to be visiting some classrooms.

Research in Egypt

Alistair and I have returned from a second visit to Egypt where we made a series of observations in government schools and in private classes as well as talk to academics delivering pre-service teacher training. We also talked to teachers, students (studying for their school leaving certificates), employers and parents. We sent out survey instruments through the Egyptian Ministry of Education to be completed by teachers and students. We have received several hundred completed surveys so far, which are currently being collated. Our report, for the British Council and Egyptian Ministry of Education, will be out by the end of this year.

Education Review in Egypt

I’m making final preparations for a two week visit to Egypt. The British Council has asked me to gather views in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education on policies, the perspectives of teachers from primary to tertiary level, the aims, motivations and expectations of students (in particular in learning English) and the expectations of employers across Egypt. This may be followed up with a second visit before I present the results at a regional symposium in the New Year. I’m looking forward to getting started…


Preparing for South Sudan NGO Mapping Exercise

I’m preparing to leave for South Sudan to conduct a mapping exercise of different NGO initiatives supporting English language training for primary school teachers. There are a number of bodies and agencies involved including the Africa Education Trust, Save the Children, DFID, the Windle Trust, the Norwegian Refugee Council, World Vision International, USAID, the EU and UNICEF. It’ll be a busy couple of weeks…

Back from Juba

Back from a very interesting trip to Juba. I was able to talk to a wide range of people from ministries, schools, NGOs and charity organisations to try and unpick issues around the use of mother-tongue and English in the education system. When I went to see St Joseph’s Primary (a very happy place), I was reminded of the busy classrooms I had when I was teaching at Amentego Girls’ Higher Secondary School up in the North of Sudan almost thirty years ago…