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.
Rob has spent the last two weeks in Windhoek, Namibia, trialling his new Military English course book with officers of the Namibian Defence Forces. The training took place at the School of Military Science at the University of Namibia. Twenty-three officers – from captain to full colonel – took part in the course. The course was opened and closed by the Deputy Minister of Defence, a sign of how seriously the Namibian’s take the English language proficiency of their soldiers. It was a joint project with the British Council in Namibia and the Namibian Ministry of Defence, and part of McIlwraith Education’s ongoing engagement with Africa. Rob waived his usual fee and covered his own costs. Rob will now make final revisions to the course and move towards publication.
Last week Claire visited the IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Brighton, UK. During her three days there she attended some excellent plenaries, in particular Brita Fernandez Schmidt’s on the work that Women for Women International carries out helping women in countries affected by conflict. It was an incredibly sobering, yet inspirational talk, which left a strong impression on Claire. (The plenary can be watched at: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/knowledge-power-access-education-marginalised-women.) She also attended as many workshops as she could in the time, which focussed on research, teaching with technology and teacher training. She found these really stimulating and they left her buzzing with ideas to develop further.
As a book lover Claire enjoyed visiting the publishers’ stands scanning them for new publications. She was excited to pick up a copy of Best Practices for Blended Learning by Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett, and was delighted to see that they have drawn on her questions for blended learning course designers from her book Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design to Implementation to create a checklist for successfully implementing Blended Learning. The two other books that she came away with were Mind the App! 2.0 by Thomas Strasser, and a new British Council publication entitled A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research by Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo, so she has plenty to keep her occupied!
Last, but not least, IATEFL is about catching up with friends and former colleagues, and Claire was delighted to spend a sunny lunchtime on Brighton’s beautiful beach with three members of the Macedonian team, Snezana, Jasmina and Aco, who she’s worked extensively with over the years! She also found the time to take a flight on British Airway’s i360, a 162-metre/531-foot vertical cable car, which provided stunning 360-degree views across Brighton and the South Downs.
All in all, she found it to be a highly enjoyable, productive and stimulating conference – roll on IATEFL 2019!
Rob was in Minsk last week delivering elements of the British Council Certificate in Vocational English Language Teaching course (CiVELT) to a group of 25 teachers from institutions from around Belarus. The 35-hour intensive course took place at the Minsk State Linguistic University in the centre of Minsk. The course covered modules on ESP, professional profiles, needs analysis, creating positive classroom interactions, using authentic materials and evaluating coursebooks. The participants were extremely positive and enthusiastic about learning and developing their professional skills, and hopefully this course will mark the beginning of a period of sustained engagement for us in the Republic of Belarus.
Rob recently spent four days in Skopje, Macedonia, working with the Macedonian Testing Team to moderate reading and listening test items for STANAG 2 and 3. The team worked very hard on revising the items and writing new types of items for their exams. The moderated items now need to be trialed. He had time to fit in a day’s trout fishing on the beautiful Radika River to catch four Macedonian trout before moving on to Minsk. But more of that next time…
Last week Claire paid a return visit to Skopje to run Part 2 of the Trainer Development workshop for the experienced team of English language teachers, who teach military personnel in the Army of the Republic of Macedonia. In this second stage of the training, the participants had to design and deliver 50-minute workshops on a topic of their choice, with a target audience of less experienced local English language teachers in mind. The topics they selected predominantly focused on teaching with technology and included: using QR codes; using infographics; using computer corpora for vocabulary teaching; activities to promote speaking and – roleplays/simulations; and teaching vocabulary with online dictionaries.
The teachers had put a great deal of thought into the selection of their topics prior to the workshop and worked hard on the design during the preparation stage of the course. Their hard work paid off and Claire, along with her co-trainers, Snezana Stojanovska, Head of Foreign Language Training Centre and Natasha Andonova Jovanovska, a senior member of the teaching team, were impressed by the high quality of their workshops. It is hoped that with their newly acquired skills they will be able to train local and regional English language teachers, when the opportunity arises.
Claire would like to take this opportunity to thank the UK Defence Attaché, Lt. Col. Andrew Layton MBE, for closing the workshop and presenting the certificates, and Lidija Ognenova, Defence and Security Project Officer, British Embassy, for organising the training event.
Claire has recently returned from a two-week trip to Cuba, where she, along with her colleague Alan Pulverness from TransformELT, acted as a plenary speaker and workshop facilitator on an ELT Roadshow.
The Roadshow was organised by the British Council in 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.
The Roadshow took place at universities in four provinces: University Oriente in Santiago de Cuba, University Holguin, University ‘Marta Abreu’ of Las Villas, and University San Geronimo of Havana. Sixty tertiary level, highly-qualified, and experienced English teachers attended each workshop, and they in turn will cascade the training to their colleagues. Claire would like to thank them for their positive response to, and active participation in, her workshops. She would also like to thank the universities for their kind hospitality.
Claire would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the planning of the Roadshow and for their support during the trip especially Yailet Landrove, Omar Carralero, and Manuel from the British Council, Dr Santiago Rivera Pérez from the Ministry of Higher Education, Dr Eduardo Garbey from the University of La Habana, and freelance journalist José González Mosquera.
Rob was back in sunny Skopje last week for four days of intensive work with the STANAG Testing Team. They worked on the revised STANAG Level 2 and 3 Speaking Interviews. This involved reviewing the examination materials, standardising rubrics and tasks, listening to trial interviews and agreeing changes to the interview format and contents. The Team were very open to receiving feedback (even listening to themselves on the recordings), and developing their tests.
Last week, Claire paid a return visit to Skopje to run a Trainer Development workshop for the Macedonian Army Forces English language teachers on behalf of the British Embassy, see: https://en-gb.facebook.com/ukinmacedonia/. The aim of this workshop was to support the teachers in their transition to trainers, so that they can share their knowledge and experience with local, regional, and in-time, international peers.
A new development was that Claire had the support of two co-trainers for the first time namely, Snezana Stojanovka, Head of Foreign Language Training Centre and Natasha Andonova Jovanovska, both of whom had completed British Council trainer training workshops and delivered training sessions previously. Their help was invaluable and Claire looks forward to designing and delivering part two of the workshop in the New Year with them. The photos are courtesy of the British Embassy.
Rob is back in the classroom trialling his new book: Military English: Tactical and Peacekeeping Operations, with the Latvian National Guard. The course is designed as a complete pre-deployment course for army soldiers and officers being sent on multi-national missions. It is aimed at students who have done two or more years of study in English and is pitched at an intermediate level (B1/STANAG 2). The course has three parts.
Phase 1 focuses on General English, General Military English and some specialized Military English. The General English units focus on the social side of missions (e.g. talking about role and responsibilities, career, family, home, sport, hobbies and interests, describing people). Military topics include the NATO phonetic alphabet, force structure, formations and purpose, different kinds of forces e.g. mechanized infantry, armour etc, disposition of forces, different weapons and platforms. There are also 25 study pages of military acronyms, ten peacekeeping mission fact file reading tasks, five report writing tasks, and seventeen study/revision pages of functional grammar: these are to be set as homework tasks. This phase concludes with a test with four sections: Grammar, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
Phase 2 concentrates on specialized Military English. Topics include using the radio, the weather, terrain, land navigation, survival, medical English and Tactical Combat Casualty Care, describing position, bases and base defense, OPs, overwatch, convoys, IEDS and UXO, checkpoints, patrols, attacks, and understanding orders.
Phase 3 has a focus on solving tactical and peacekeeping problems. There are five tactical problems to solve, units on peacekeeping missions, ROEs, OPs, patrols, checkpoints, convoys, using interpreters, civil disturbances, and natural and man-made disasters, and five peacekeeping problems.
The course is being trialled before being published in 2018.