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.
As spring arrived in the Western Balkans, near the end of March, Rob and Mirjana Ivancev visited Montenegro for the last seminar in the PELT project. English teachers from the Montenegrin Armed Forces (MAF) spent the week learning how to create Moodle materials and set up a Moodle course to support their CEFR B1 level face-to-face course. The course concentrates on listening skills, and the group scripted and recorded the texts, and then created pre-, during and post-listening tasks to go with them, and uploaded the tasks to Moodle. During the week Rob and Mirjana also met with the Danilovgrad Training Centre Commander, Lt. Col. Miodrag Vuksanović and discussed the Moodle set up which the training centre hopes to use for English language and other courses. The MAF is now committed to implementing a Moodle platform approach to on-line and blended learning, which means that it will be able to share courses with other PELT project countries, as well as develop other specialised courses.
We are delighted to learn that UNICEF and the South Sudan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) have agreed to move forward with implementation for the Primary English Language Policy plans that we drew up. Our plan was based on an extensive baseline survey we carried out across five of South Sudan’s ten states in 2015. In terms of implementation, there needs to be trained human resources to draw upon to move forward. These resources are English language trainer trainers and English language testers who will be able to provide long-term sustainability of MoESTs EMI ambitions. It is envisaged that these two cadres of professionals will work in tandem, although on two different project strands, towards the same EMI goal.
Stage 1 (Foundation) of the Policy Implementation includes a Needs Survey and Pilot Preparation phases. The first step is planned to be the creation of a cadre of 30 trained teacher trainers because, without teacher trainers, no training, or pilot, is possible. These trained trainers will be responsible for training trainee teachers as described in the Implementation Plan, i.e. teachers at P1-P3, P4-P8 and Specialist EFL teachers.
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.