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Name: Ana Cabral Vidal
Location: Montevideo, Uruguay
Current position: English teacher and Director of Studies, La Casona del Sur - ELT
“Opportunity of a Lifetime”
‘This really was the opportunity of a lifetime – it was so rewarding to meet colleagues from so many different parts of the world who share my interests and concerns, as well as meeting ‘icons’ from the ELT world, and realising that they are ‘real’ people. I found Dave Willis’ presentation one of the most useful – I have read so many of his articles that it was unbelievable to be in his session. His views are always controversial and I left the room with so many things to reflect on.’
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'Ana’s essay identified the language learning context of her own experience and clearly identified a range of reasons to use English in the classroom. Her arguments were balanced, informed and well written. She discussed appropriate use of Spanish in the classroom and presented some interesting ideas on how to use L1 at different levels.'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
‘When I saw the Scholarships advertised in the Cambridge ESOL newsletter, I decided to give it a try and enter for the Teacher Training Scholarship. This is an area in which I am particularly interested, even though I started training teachers without planning to – I had so many students that I had to hire more teachers, and that was it. However, being involved in teacher training gives me the chance to keep up to date with new practices and techniques, as well as relevant literature. In addition, as I have been a teacher for many years, and have taught different ages and levels in different contexts, I feel I can share my experience with others.'
‘I had always wanted to teach English, even though I initially qualified as a primary school teacher. When I was an English student I always coached my classmates, and helped them prepare for progress tests or final exams. Becoming an English teacher therefore seemed the natural thing to do and I have never considered any other career.
‘I will certainly try to make the most of my visit to the IATEFL Conference – having the chance to meet teachers of English from all over the world, and share experiences, opinions and views, will be very rewarding, and it will be a wonderful opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher. Being an IATEFL member will also mean that I receive IATEFL publications, which will be invaluable resources, and I can also take part in Special Interest Groups where I can join discussions among teachers who share the same concerns.
'The Scholarship brings with it some responsibility, which I am happy to accept, but above all it makes me feel as though I am part of the Cambridge ESOL community – I hope more teachers from my country apply for future Scholarships, as I expect it to be the experience of a lifetime!’
TASK AND RESPONSE – IN SUMMARY
Write an essay on how you would advise a new or trainee teacher about the use of L1 and English in the classroom.
Accepting that the use of L1 in the English classroom is a hotly debated subject, Ana says she always advises teachers working in her institution to use English as much as possible. The aim is to create an English-environment classroom where English is the main language of communication – notice boards should be in English, and even any music played should feature English lyrics. Immersion gives everyone the opportunity to improve their English skills, explains Ana, noting that the English classroom might be one of the only environments in which students are exposed to the target language, and that this exposure can be extended if teachers also use English when communicating with students outside the classroom, through social media for example.
Ana reminds teachers, however that the language used must be ‘i+1’ (referencing Krashen) – only slightly beyond student understanding otherwise they will revert to their mother tongue. In addition, the use of native language may be the best option in certain contexts – for example to save time when checking understanding of instructions, or (with regard to more advanced speakers) when comparing common features or differences between L1 and L2. In this context, the use of sub-titled films, or books published in both languages, can be useful. In addition, L1 should not be discouraged if the student wants to talk about personal or performance matters, conversations which also help build rapport between teacher and student.
Name: Cristina Rodriguez
Location: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Current position: Head of English Department, EOI Santiago de Compostela
‘The Conference was a fantastic experience and I really appreciated the opportunity that the Scholarship gave me. I particularly found the exhibition very useful; it was a great way of finding out about different publications, especially from the British Council, and to discover information on further training and professional development for teachers. If there is one thing that the Conference inspired in me it was the desire to continue learning and studying the many different and exciting aspects of language teaching.’
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'The language assessment scholarship was won by Cristina Rodriguez whose essay stresses that assessment is an integral part of both the teaching and learning processes. Cristina shows a good understanding of all the assessment types and the impact they have on teachers and students alike. She demonstrates that assessment literate teachers are able to help their students be more confident in the assessment process. We are also given an interesting insight into how assessment is helping to standardise teaching methods and exam assessment in post-16 language learning in Galicia.'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
‘I hadn’t originally planned to be an English language teacher; I had always been interested in language and literature, but then began to realise that teaching could be creative, enjoyable and very rewarding. My interest in assessment came later, when I started to work in an adult language school which was part of the Spanish state system. That was when I first started to explore this field and found it both challenging and fascinating. My recent work as an exam developer has strengthened my interest further – although exam development is a difficult process, it has given me a renewed understanding of assessment, and a greater interest in the subject.
‘I decided to apply for the Cambridge ESOL IATEFL Scholarship because I felt that the IATEFL Conference would be a great learning experience. I always try to keep up to date with the latest developments in my field and knew that the Scholarship would give me the opportunity to join an international forum where I could discover different points of view. Now that I have gained the Scholarship I can’t wait to attend the event. My aim is to assimilate as much as possible and then to convey this to my students and to my colleagues - I am Head of the English Department within my institution, managing 37 teachers. They are a fantastic group, very dedicated, and I feel privileged to work with them.
‘I am sure the Scholarship will be a wonderful experience for me personally and professionally. I know I’ll learn a great deal, and this will be reflected in my teaching and in other aspects of my work. I also consider the Scholarship an opportunity to reach out to other language teaching professionals and use their experiences to further expand my point of view. In addition, the Scholarship also gives me membership of IATEFL which I hope will help me stay up to date with current trends in language teaching, allow me to delve deeper in the field of assessment, and to stay in touch with other teaching professionals.'
'Assessment literacy in the context of teacher development has become a hot issue in the last few years. Write a short essay examining the notion of assessment literacy and its components. Explain why it is an essential component of teacher development and discuss how it can be operationalised within your context.'
Arguing that assessment literacy – a solid knowledge of assessment theories and components – is essential for teachers, Cristina first notes that up to a third of a teacher’s time can be dedicated to assessment-related tasks. She then lists five criteria which can help the development of assessment tools – reliability, validity, practicality, authenticity and washback. Teachers must also be able to differentiate between diagnostic, formative and summative assessment, and use each appropriately. A flexible approach also allows the teacher to adapt assessment to student needs, making it more relevant and learning more successful. Better teacher understanding of assessment also improves student understanding, making assessment an aide to learning rather than a source of fear.
Cristina references her own experience, in a public sector language institution for post-16 year olds, where assessment focuses on standardized certification exams designed to measure the four skills (and in 2011, Cristina was a member of the commission that develops these exams for Galicia). Since their launch in 2008, the exams have had a positive impact on teaching, unifying teaching methodology and helping balance the four skills in the classroom. Cristina also heads a department in which all 37 teachers administer the exams, and she has had responsibility for standardising exam assessment criteria. To do this, she held a number of standardisation sessions during which 21 writing samples were assessed and 24 speaking samples. In small workshops, teachers compared results and discussed issues such as the appropriateness of tasks and the significance of the assessment criteria. As a result, teachers agree that familiarity with the components of assessment helps both assessment and teaching.
Name: Emese Enyedi
Location: Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Current position: Head of the English Department, and Hungarian teacher, Teleki Blanka Gimnázium és Általános Iskola
“WE HAD GREAT FUN”
‘The Conference was an event I will remember for many years to come. It was both the experience of a lifetime and an enormous professional development opportunity, and I appreciated the excellent organisation, impressive venue and unique atmosphere. Of all the activities, my personal favourite was the pre-conference event on teacher development. We had great fun forgetting we were adults, and the highlight for me was ‘story creation’, ‘the dumb teacher’ and ‘tell me about’ – these activities required creativity and imagination, and can easily be adapted to any level.’
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'Emese’s essay shows an excellent understanding of what motivates students at this age and highlights a number of teaching methods, from teacher-led to student-centred. It demonstrates experience in the classroom management of younger learners and outlines some good practical activities for a generation living in a technology-led society. The essay stresses the point that working towards exams should ultimately achieve similar language goals to those achieved in a non-exam class.'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
‘I am a member of IATEFL Hungary and although I take part in national events I have never attended the international Conference, so when I heard about the Scholarship I did not hesitate to apply. In addition, the topic of this year’s essay was of particular interest to me as I have been preparing students for paired language exams for many years.
‘I am currently Head of the English Department at the Teleki Blanka Gimnázium – I had wanted to teach from a very early age (both my parents were teachers), and I find it a rewarding and challenging profession, especially trying to engage a generation which is now so used to obtaining much of its information online. To address this, I recently launched a series of demo lessons for teachers within our school to encourage best practice, and as part of this we are looking at the use of ITC in the classroom, with some colleagues using interactive whiteboards to add interest to their lessons.
‘Students hate being bored during lessons and so as teachers we have to entertain as well as teach – I am therefore hoping that the IATEFL Conference will help me address this challenge. I have already noticed an exciting pre-Conference event on drama techniques for creative teaching, and am also looking forward to visiting the ELT Resources exhibition. Learning from experts, leading theorists and writers is always a bonus for a teacher, and I can’t wait to meet and share ideas with fellow professionals.
‘The Conference will undoubtedly have a huge impact on my professional development, and I also plan to share my experiences with my colleagues. There are 12 highly motivated teachers in my Department, keen to know more about latest methodologies and who often try out new textbooks, and download resources, but who are rarely satisfied with the availability and variety of teaching materials on offer. I currently teach classes of all sizes, age groups and abilities, and I am sure that the Conference will provide me with resource materials and ideas which I can use in my teaching every day, helping me motivate the less able, while challenging talented students.’
How to manage a large class of students preparing for the paired Cambridge English: First for Schools Speaking test.
Emese acknowledges that it is a challenge for teachers to prepare large classes for examinations, especially if the school does not have appropriate facilities, and so imagination is required.
Emese first recommends that teachers familiarise students with the test format and different interaction patterns. Then, using essays as homework tasks (thoroughly marked by teachers), students can practise organising thoughts and linking ideas together to produce an extended piece of discourse.
As the exam requires the discussion of various topics in depth, it is also important that students brainstorm as many ideas as possible relating to these topics. Teachers should be aware of the interests of ‘generation Y’, says Emese, but should also aim to broaden these interests by looking at wide ranging sources, such as the internet or newspapers, and then help students prepare and give a presentation on a topic of their choice.
The most difficult stage, notes Emese, is ‘real-life’ role-play practice of social occasions, the exchange of ideas, justifying opinions or negotiating. Pair work can be very effective but needs careful management – as two examiners and two candidates will take part in the exam, practising in a group of four is a possible strategy, as long as students get the same opportunity to speak, and so teachers must make sure students understand the importance of taking turns.
Another practice technique Emese recommends is the ‘one-minute speech’. Students can time each other, thereby getting used to exam conditions, and take notes of mistakes made during each speech which can then be discussed by the class.
Name: Margaret Swannock
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Current position: International Course Coordinator
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'Maggie’s essay outlined a concise and clearly articulated view of the salient issues facing her students. She showed a high degree of insight into the issues and pitfalls facing her students when they try to write academic essays. Her programme was well balanced and clearly based on personal experience. She addressed the relevant needs of her students from the micro level (language development) to the macro level (cultural influences on academic writing styles and differing perceptions of what constitutes plagiarism).'
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
'I applied for a Scholarship because, living and working in Australia, I realised that I would never otherwise have the chance to attend such a large international conference. In terms of the Scholarship focus, English for Academic Purposes, I hope the Conference will give me the chance to meet other teachers in this area and discuss their methods. I currently work as a co-ordinator for international programmes at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, and I also teach EAP within tertiary education preparation courses – my aim is to develop my knowledge and understanding of how best to integrate international students into university education in Australia, and the UK is often perceived to be at the forefront in this area.
'For me, English language teaching was, initially, a means of travelling and working abroad. I began by teaching general English skills, but then moved into preparation for tests and university courses which gave me the opportunity to work in an area in which I also developed a theoretical interest. In particular, I am interested in the impact that assessment has on teaching styles, in terms of both positive and negative washback, and in the development of courses that truly reflect the skills that pre-university students need to function successfully within an Australian university.
'I hope the IATEFL Conference will give me the opportunity to develop these interests further. In particular, I am keen to learn about recent developments in the use of internet technologies in the classroom, and to seek advice from my peers regarding resources and methodologies. I hope to pass some of these fresh ideas on to my co-workers within the University as I would like to see my faculty gain a better understanding of the special challenge represented by international students, and to help staff deal with this challenge positively so that these students can achieve their, at times, truly remarkable potential.'
Write an essay describing ways you help students learn how to structure a piece of academic writing.
Margaret identified three major areas that students need to master in order to produce a piece of writing considered acceptable by an Australian university: use of language; understanding appropriate organisation; and understanding academic cultural concepts of acceptable use of sources.
In her EAP classes, Margaret explains how she shows functional grammar as well as traditional rule explanation, and encourages students to analyse different authentic texts (taken from sources such as textbooks or previous student work) in order to recognise different writing styles and purpose. Margaret also helps students understand the importance of frameworks by looking at paragraphs, essays or reports, and at more difficult items such as abstracts. Using the general-specific model, Margaret references a problem identified by Casanave (2004) whereby students easily learn academic writing frameworks but then fill these with boring, irrelevant or over-generalised content. Margaret therefore underlines the important role of authentic texts as references for students, and advises teachers to write essay questions which relate to students’ academic interests where possible.
Margaret then notes that concepts such as the avoidance of plagiarism, or the fine line between proof reading and collusion, can be difficult to explain to both EAP students and staff, especially as understanding varies depending on cultural background. Margaret’s response is to improve awareness of the ‘real academic world’ in Australia, also noting how important it is that students know why they are including information in their work as (referencing Olywn, Argent and Spencer 2008) plagiarism often results when this issue is not understood. Therefore, comments Margaret, although it is important to teach specific referencing and paraphrasing skills, students must first understand why these skills are being developed.
Margaret’s conclusion is that a holistic approach is effective in helping students structure an academic text, but that language skills must also be supported by cultural awareness and a firm understanding of purpose.
Name: Raluca Sârghie
Location: Braşov, Romania
Current position Secondary Education Teacher, Mesota National College
“I met teachers from all over the world”
‘Beyond doubt I found the IATEFL Conference useful both professionally and personally. I had the chance to keep up to date with the latest developments in the EFL industry, I met teachers from all over the world to share experiences, and I became friends with the other Scholarship winners. I found it difficult to choose between all the sessions and workshops so I am glad that I can watch some of the presentations online. All in all, it was a great experience.’
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'The essay title asked candidates to describe the importance of teaching idiomatic language in the EFL classroom at levels C1 and C2. Many candidates used idiomatic language in their answers, but Raluca did so much more effectively and her use of idiom served to illustrate her point. Her essay was clever, well argued and engaging. Not only did she discuss the advantages of teaching idiom but also pointed out some of the pitfalls that teachers should avoid.
WHY I APPLIED FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
‘I have always been interested in English literature and culture; I studied English at university and, after graduating, decided to become a teacher because I also wanted to help improve children’s lives. As a teacher, I have a chance to inspire and encourage my students, and make them aware of their potential for future success.
‘I applied for the Peter Hargreaves Scholarship because I am interested in the study of collocations. The task focused on the use of idioms, which have caused problems for my students over the years. Idioms are a basic part of the English language but also one of the hardest aspects to learn – individual words sometimes do not help to explain an idiom’s meaning, and as fixed expressions idioms have to be learnt as a whole, and they are not always found in dictionaries. I felt that this was an opportunity to improve my own knowledge of idioms, which would be also be helpful.
‘When I applied for the Scholarship I knew it could give me an opportunity to make contact with a highly professional, and competitive academic community. I also thought of the Scholarship as an amazing opportunity for ongoing professional development, essential for language teachers, and that it could bring access to resources and to recognition as ‘Scholarship’, for many, is a magic word.
‘Having now won the Scholarship, I hope that my visit to the IATEFL Conference will help me raise my own standards. It will also be a very interesting personal and cultural experience, and an opportunity to meet other delegates with similar goals and interests, especially English teachers from schools in different countries with whom I could develop possible partnerships. In addition, I will have the chance to attend presentations on the latest developments in the field and to ask questions directly, rather than read about the presentation in a magazine. The Scholarship has therefore also given me a sense of responsibility, as I must bring back what I have gained from the Conference and use it to benefit the lives of others.’
Write an essay on the importance of teaching idioms at advanced levels C1 and C2 in an examination preparation class.
In an essay entitled ‘It’s all Greek to me’, Raluca examines the reasons why idioms are so important in the teaching of English as a foreign language. As idioms are used in both spoken and written language, understanding their meaning is essential for candidates hoping to pass C1 or C2 exams which require a very high level of language skill. Raluca notes how the use of idioms makes spoken English sound more natural, and points out that even the most able student can find English conversation between native speakers difficult to follow if they do not understand a range of idioms, as their use is so common. Therefore, students hoping for a ‘native-like’ command of English, as represented by levels C1 and C2, must become familiar with idioms as these are frequently used to convey a great deal of meaning in a few words, adding colour to the language, but also increasing the chance of exam success.
Raluca notes that a key challenge for students is knowing that the individual words used in an idiom may not enable an understanding of the whole phrase. Raluca also warns against the influence of the mother tongue, noting that many students attempt to translate idioms from their own language into English without realising the grammatical or lexical errors that might occur.
Exposure to ‘tricky’ texts, such as short stories, jokes, adverts or real life examples can help here, as can practice, and together these enable students to feel confident enough to use idioms in advanced level exams.