Following on from the PELT Conference, Claire remained in Serbia, moving up from Belgrade to the picturesque town of Novi Sad, to conduct a 5-day British Council Trainer Development Course, for a select group of Serbian Armed Forces teachers. This was their first step towards becoming a trainer, in which they were introduced to the essentials, and given the opportunity to design and deliver a 50-minute workshop. Their intention is now practice and hone their skills by providing in-house training and by cascading their knowledge gleaned from various PELT workshops to their colleagues, who were unable to attend them. Claire is also looking forward to seeing them run a workshop at a local and/or regional conference in the not too distant future!
In contrast, the Macedonian STANAG Testing Team and teachers from the Centre for Foreign Languages and the Military Academy spent an intensive week with Rob looking at reading and listening tasks for STANAG tests and progress and achievement tests, and created a set of tasks at different levels. The aim of the workshop was to explore alternatives to multiple-choice tasks which have dominated the task types their standardised tests. Using authentic materials the testers and teachers wrote a number of test items and peer-moderated these; they planned and managed the work processes themselves and showed that can work independently and effectively in test creation and support each other with open and critical feedback.
The theme of this year’s PELT Conference was ‘The Sustainability of Military ELT in the Western Balkans’. In addition to teachers, testers and trainers from Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were delegates from MODs and General Staffs from across the region. There were also Defence Attaches from the UK, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States and, of course, delegates from the British Council from participating countries. Special guest speakers included consultant, George Pickering and NATO BILC Secretary, Emilija Nesheva, who are pictured here along with Colonel Simon Fitzgibbon, the UK Defence Attache in Belgrade.
Claire has recently returned from her third trip to Bangladesh, which was in connection with the Cadet College English Improvement Project. Having run a training course and overseen an induction programme on her previous visits, this time she was there to collect data for the end of project evaluation that she is conducting. For this purpose, she visited Jhenidah Cadet College and Feni Girls’ Cadet College, spending two days in each. The schedule was intensive yet in each College she had meetings with the Principal, Vice Principal and Project Co-ordinator, carried out lesson observations, and held focus group meetings with teachers and cadets. Overall, she was incredibly impressed by the commitment of the academic staff, the calibre of the cadets, and the facilities that the colleges have to offer.
Claire would also like to take this opportunity to thank the respective Principals at these Colleges namely, Colonel Mohammad Sadikul Bari, psc and Mrs Jahanara Chowdhury for their kind hospitality. Furthermore, she would like to thank the teachers for their time, and the students for making her feel so welcome. Her thanks also go to British Council Bangladesh, in particular Delower Hossain and Shaon Karmakar, and the Co-ordinators in the respective Colleges namely, Assistant Professor Tareekul Haq, and Assistant Professor Badrun Nahar for ensuring that the programme ran so smoothly during her time in-country.
During the coldest January in 10 years, Rob and Mirjana Ivancev, a skilled trainer from Serbia, led a Moodle materials writing seminar in Skopje (9th to 13th January) for the STANAG Testing Team and teachers from the Centre for Foreign Languages and Military Academy. In an intensive week of work, the testers created a site of information about the STANAG test, including practice materials, for test takers, while the teachers created a course of materials to accompany their Level 3 English Course. Each of the seven Level 3 units has a grammar and vocabulary task to revise the language of the unit, as well as reading, listening and writing tasks to practice skills. The course now needs to be trialled and reviewed. The materials will be presented and shared with other PELT countries at the up-coming Regional Conference, which will be held in Belgrade at the very beginning of March. This is something that all of us are very involved in at the moment. We are helping to create the conference themes and advising on who might be good people to invite. Among this year’s speakers will be George Pickering, a hugely experienced consultant with a particular interest in CPD, and Emilija Nesheva who is State Expert in the Education and Qualification Department of the Human Resources Management Directorate of the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense as well as being Secretary of the NATO’s Bureau for International Language Co-ordination (BILC).
I’ve just come back from the Language Testing Forum, held at Reading University. I stayed on the Whiteknights Campus, which has some very attractive water gardens and bird life. The theme this year was Assessing Languages in Higher Education, so it seemed very appropriate to go in my role as language tester at the Centre for Open Learning at the University of Edinburgh. The conference was opened with a discussion on issues related to languages and testing between Professor Barry O’Sullivan, Head of Research and Development at the British Council, and Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor at Reading. There were some excellent presentations including from Chris Smith of Sheffield University who described his reforms to language testing on pre-sessional EAP courses. Other highlights included Liz Hamp-Lyons looking at how language testers and EAP teachers and academics could work more closely together, and John de Jong and Veronica Benigno of Pearson’s examining the CEFR in higher education and their work in developing academic descriptors for the Pearson Global Scale of English.
Claire recently returned from a two-week trip to the Balkans that took her to Skopje in Macedonia, and Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Tuzla in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH). On the first leg of the trip she delivered a four-day ‘Teaching with Technology 2’ course to largely the same group of English teachers from the Macedonian Armed Forces and instructors from the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had attended part one earlier this year. The main aims of this course were to refresh and update the participants’ knowledge on the websites, tools and apps introduced in the first course plus more, and to create activities to accompany their syllabi for either class or home use. The group were extremely creative and during the four days built up a good-sized repository of tasks that they can now trial with their students.
During the second half of her trip, Claire carried out a situation and needs analysis into English language teaching and learning in the Armed Forces of Bosnia & Herzegovina (AFBiH). The findings from which will feed into the creation of an English Language Learning Strategy 2020. Claire was already familiar with the context having worked on the British Council’s Military English Support Project in BiH between 2003 and 2007. Moreover, last February she returned to gather data for her chapter on the role of English in the AFBiH for the recent publication entitled The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, this trip gave her the chance to review more thoroughly the current system for English language teaching and learning and to identify the areas where attention needs to be focused. She would like to take this opportunity to thank the BiH Ministry of Defence, the AFBiH and the international stakeholders for their invaluable support while she was in country. She looks forward to working with them further over the upcoming months to help them develop the strategy.
Rob returned to the western Balkans in September for a visit to Montenegro to work on Integrated Skills lessons with teachers from the Montenegrin Armed Forces. The small team of teachers in Danilovgrad created a set of ten complete integrated skills lessons for use with their students.
Then in October Rob went to Zrenjanin in Serbia to work on developing aspects of placement, progress and achievement tests with teachers from the Serbian Armed forces. During the five-day workshop, the team developed oral interview questions for placement tests as well as speaking and writing tasks for progress tests to use with Headway and Campaign. The teachers also developed the speaking and writing scales to be used with the tests.
Claire has recently returned from a follow-up visit to Bangladesh, where once again she was working on the Cadet College English Improvement Project. In March of this year she had trained two teachers from each of the twelve cadet colleges to become trainers. On this occasion it was the turn of eight of those trainers to run an induction programme for twenty-four recently recruited subject and English teachers from the cadet colleges.
There were three main aims to this six-day event. Firstly, to provide the trainers with practical training experience using British Council materials. Secondly, to provide the new teachers with the essential knowledge, confidence, and practical experience to prepare them for using interactive methods of teaching. Lastly, for the subject teachers there was also a focus on developing their confidence in using English to manage their classrooms as their subjects are taught through this medium of instruction.
The feedback indicated that the course had been well-received, and the trainees identified a multitude of new techniques and activities that they plan to try in their classrooms. Claire would like to thank the trainers for the amount of time and effort that they put into preparing their sessions, and for their eagerness to develop as trainers. She would also like to thank the trainees for their active participation throughout this highly intensive course. We at McIlwraith Education wish them the best with their teaching and hope that they feel inspired by their new found teaching skills.
The value of this two-year project was recognised during the closing ceremony by the attendance of Major General S M Matiur Rahman, afwc, psc Adjutant General, Bangladesh Army, who gave a short speech on the importance of education and the teachers’ role, before presenting the certificates. Also in attendance were Dominic Spencer, Defence Adviser, British High Commission, Jim Scarth OBE, Deputy Director and Gaynor Evans, Head of English, British Council.
There have been a few developments over the last few weeks. We have been working with our colleagues at the Norwich Institute for Education (NILE) to see how we might collaborate more closely on international consultancies. We are confident that we will be able to use our teams’ expertise on a number of different projects over the coming months. We have also been busy with Peacekeeping English consultancies. Claire is getting ready to follow up on the trainer training sessions she delivered at the Cadet College in Sylhet, Bangladesh earlier this year, while Rob has been in Macedonia. Last month, he led training for ten teachers and testers from the Centre for Foreign Languages, the Military Academy and the STANAG Testing Team in Skopje. The topics for the five-day workshop were the testing of Speaking and Writing. The participants drafted, trialled and revised STANAG Speaking and Writing Ratings scales for Levels 1 – 3 [including + levels]. Four candidates were interviewed, videotaped and evaluated in mock examinations. The new Writing Scales were trialled on sets of candidate scripts from STANAG test sessions. The format and contents of the STANAG Speaking and Writing examinations were discussed by the group and suggestions for revisions were made. The group also developed, trialled and revised the Centre’s Speaking and Writing Achievement Test Rating Scales for Levels 1 – 5 as well as evaluating and suggesting improvements to the tests themselves.
Claire is delighted to announce the publication of ‘The Status of English in Bosnia and Herzegovina‘ in which she has a chapter entitled ‘Military English Matters’. The book explores the widespread adoption of English and its effects on a nation recovering from war from a number of perspectives, such as policy, teacher training, assessment, textbook publishing, interpreting and translating. Claire’s chapter is a consideration of the importance of English from a military perspective. She examines NATO’s influence on the growth of English in Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and describes the current system for delivering English language training to military personnel and for testing their levels of proficiency. The chapter also provides an account from the students’ perspective as to how they perceive the role of English in relation to their work.