LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

March 4, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Laura Holland in Peru Observing English Teachers

Laura Holland is a popular LTS faculty member who teaches the LT 537 Language Teaching Practicum course and mentors the new faculty and graduate teachers at the American English Institute. She just returned from another adventure in Peru. We caught up with her as she settles back into Winter term at the University of Oregon and asked about her trip. You’ll find her responses below. Don’t miss the excellent advice she offers new teachers at the end!

What brought you to Peru?

Laura Holland in Lima last summer

Last summer I was in Chiclayo, Peru to give the Keynote address and several workshops at the PeruTESOL conference, which I have attended every year since 2014. While there, I was doing some student recruitment for the American English Institute at a bi-national, bi-cultural English language institute in Chicalyo, called ICPNA/Chiclayo. As it happened, they were looking to replace the person who had served as their external observer/evaluator for the last 15 years who was retiring, and when the Director looked me up before my meeting with them, he found that my areas of expertise and specialization coincided exactly with what they were looking for in a replacement. They offered me the job, which will now continue every year, with an annual visit to ICPNA Chiclayo and starting next year, two other cities in the north of Peru as well. These visits include classroom observations and follow-up feedback conversations with each teacher, professional development workshops for all, strategy planning, and activities needed for their CEA accreditation renewal.

The reason I am going into detail for how this came about is that we never know where the opportunities will come from, so while you are in school and then every year after, think about what areas of specialty you are passionate about and then grab every chance you have to develop those skills to gain hands-on experience doing them, even if it is on a volunteer basis at first, as this will give you excellent experiences and skills to add to your growing CVs making you more attractive as a candidate for jobs.

Laura Holland (front center) with ICPNA/Chiclayo teachers, February 2018

What kinds of tasks and activities were you involved in?

I completed 40 classroom observations (mostly 2 hours each, when possible) with 40 post-observation follow-up feedback sessions with each teacher I observed, in which I gave them detailed, specific feedback about everything I thought was strong in their teaching and specific suggestions for areas of focus for the coming year. Together we worked out short-term, medium range and long-term goals and objectives for the coming year, noting what things they would like to accomplish before my next visit in February 2019. I also gave suggestions for ways to bring the language and their classroom activities to life and to incorporate more genuine communication and active learning into their lessons than they have previously been encouraged to do. They asked many questions, shared their underlying pedagogical thinking and were thoroughly engaged in the process.

Faculty training session at ICPNA/Chiclayo

During the two weeks I was there I led five professional development workshops for teachers on the topics ranging from how we pose questions and call on our students, incorporating active learning models, improving lesson plans to include higher order thinking skills (their request), and creating their own in-house professional development systems (also at their request).

Additionally, I have been given the task of rewriting their new ICPNA philosophy, as the current model is in need of some updating according to “best practice” models in the field of language education. As such, we met to discuss strategy and plan our next moves. I will be rewriting the criteria for evaluating teachers and creating new rubrics based on those criteria.

Did you find anything particularly challenging?

There were two aspects that challenged me particularly. The first was the sheer number of hours a day that I was sitting in a desk chair. At UO I even have a stand-up desk, and in the classroom and around campus, I am in constant motion, walking across campus every day, walking all around, so sitting for most of each day, day after day was physically challenging! I would also say that maintaining the necessary pace was the biggest challenge, especially in the South American summer heat. I completed these observations over the course of 14 days, with only one day off in the middle, working 12-13 hours/day, filling two composition books of handwritten notes so that I would be able to give very specific, detailed feedback to each teacher and so that I would be able to write up the official reports once back home during the month of March. My trip coincided exactly with the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and I definitely felt that I was running my own Olympic event: part sprint, mostly marathon, but 100% amazing!

ICPNA teacher Rosa

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

Hands down the highlight was working directly with the teachers and the mentors, having both group and private time with each person. I came over excited, because I genuinely love teaching and teachers, and to me, classroom observation is one of the great luxuries of my job; I  learn something new from every single observation I ever do, so having this opportunity to do it marathon-style gave me so much food for thought—in addition to the writer’s bump I developed on my right thumb. But I had no idea before the experience the depth of impact I would be able to have. Because these teachers have been rather restricted in the past about how they deliver the curriculum, oftentimes rather terrorized by the summative observation process and told that the communicative activities their teaching instincts were desperate to employ were not allowed, and because I was this new person coming in, they had no idea what to expect from me, and as such, were all extremely nervous about the observations before meeting me, especially the ones first up during that first morning, before the workshops began, and before they began to see “my style.” Over the two weeks, 100% of the teachers, the mentors included, confessed to being so wildly nervous that they hardly slept the night before and many reported terrible “teaching nightmares” before their turn. However, nearly all found that when teachers engage in productive, positively-oriented conversations, where the observing teacher, begins the highly specific feedback session with all the activities and approaches and tools we think they are doing really well, they are open then, to hearing the suggestions. As mentors and supervisors, we can give critique and suggestions framed in the most positive, empathetic way possible, from the perspective of another teacher who also faces these challenges, rather than from some expert voice coming down from on high, and when we take

ICPNA students in action

the time to carefully craft our language and present any “areas to improve” as a challenge we might all face, most teachers turn out to be hungry for this sort of feedback, and eager to experiment with new approaches and tools we might be able to recommend. Of course, it helped that I was usually telling them that what their teaching instincts were screaming at them is considered “best practices” here in the US, and that we would now be moving toward a more active learning approach model throughout the institute. So, it was incredibly gratifying to receive a thousand heartfelt “thank yous” after almost every feedback session and to know that I am contributing to an institutional change that will make the teachers’ work with their students even more inspiring and successful.

Throughout the two weeks, I was amazed and impressed with how teachers were incorporating tools and practices from my workshops into their summative observations, a brave thing to do, to experiment with the unknown when we’re being evaluated. I think it worked in almost all cases because this is what these teachers have been wanting to do all along, less mindless repetition and choral drill, and more meaningful communicative tasks that get students using the language to tell their stories and express their ideas, while practicing the grammatical structures of the day. A moment I will treasure forever came in my last feedback session after my last observation on my last night at ICPNA (10:30pm Saturday night), the very last teacher told me that yes, she had been somewhat nervous before the observation, but more so, that she had never been as excited to “teach-for-evaluation” as she was that night and that she felt she had been “released and freed” to teach in the way she always dreamed she could. Her class had been a blast to observe and filled from start to finish with meaningful activities that put the language into action.

Delicious Chiclayo food: warm smoky ceviche with smoked grilled potato

Oh, another highlight: The food in Peru is outrageously delicious and Chiclayo is particularly famous for their regional and national cuisine.

Do you have any specific tips or advice to share with new or future teachers based on your experiences there?  

  • As you study and teach, reflect on where your passions lie and invest time developing those areas of expertise; you will have more energy for these areas you feel enthusiastic about and many opportunities will come from them as a result of your growing expertise
  • Every few years (or more often), put yourself in the position of our learners, learning some new skill or language or topic, so that you remember what It feels like to be in the learners’ shoes, to not know exactly what’s going on; this will create more empathy for your learners and the struggles they may be facing
  • Create a language learning community in your classroom and another one with your colleagues; our first languages are learned in communities and we should try to create as much of that in the language classroom as we possibly can; everyone has something to teach and something to learn
  • Ask questions you don’t know the answer to and watch how much space it opens up for our students to teach us
  • When you find yourself in a restrictive system that may be at odds with your training and instincts, bend the rules if you safely can, while still working to achieve the objectives of the school, and always reflect on the rationale for why and how you are putting any given approach into practice
  • Be a “reflective” learner/teacher as described by Kolb, Fanselow, and others, and try something out, see what happens, reflect and make small changes and try it again
  • “Leaders aren’t born, they are developed” is a popular saying in leadership training; every leader was once a “newbie” but took the risks to step up and go beyond expectations, a step at a time. Every personality style has the possibility of leadership. Take the excellent education and training you have gotten here at UO and make things happen!
  • Be a lifelong learner

Thank you, Laura–it’s great to have you back in Eugene!!!

Laura Holland (front, 4th from left) and ICPNA faculty “throw the O”

November 19, 2017
by Trish Pashby
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LTS Alumni Presentations at 2017 ORTESOL Conference

This year’s ORTESOL (Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference was held November 10th and 11th at the University of Oregon. The American English Institute hosted the two-day event in Agate Hall, which turned out to be a fine venue. The conference featured two plenaries on the theme of “Supporting Diverse Learners” and over 50 sessions facilitated by presenters from all over Oregon and beyond. Several LTS alumni were among these presenters. Read on for highlights from some of their sessions.

Maggie Mitteis and current LTS student Lee Huddleston

In a well-attended and highly interactive session titled “Teaching Tools for the Resilient Classroom” Maggie Mitteis (2016) introduced favorite activities of hers and fellow Peace Corps teachers accustomed to teaching in settings with limited (or no) technology and requiring much flexibility on the part of instructors. We played variations of the word game Taboo, an adaptation of Jenga that included language practice, and  a few raucous rounds of “Stop the Bus.” A group competition using letters from Bananagrams was also a big hit. All of these games were highly motivating and adaptable to almost any language classroom.  Note: These days Maggie is teaching locally at both Lane Community College and Downtown Languages.

Misti Williamsen

Misti Williamsen (2010) shared ideas for motivating students to read in her presentation “Going Beyond Summary: Engaging Students in Extensive Reading Through Projects.” She has found success inspiring lower level students at the American English Institute’s Intensive English Program to complete books through active participation in projects. In this session, Misti shared four of these: drawing character maps or timelines on posters, creating their own quizzes, videotaping a “commercial” for a book, and writing stories combining characters from multiple books. Misti brought along actual examples of all of these. Posters drawn by students covered three walls, and the audience was treated to the screening of several creative and highly entertaining student-made videos.

Liatris Myers

Liatris Myers (2015) presented “Digital Literacy Instruction in ESOL Courses: It’s Easier Than You Think”, which was inspired by her recent experience of creating a course and materials for teaching technology to low-level learners at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.  This session included step-by-step guidelines for approaching the design of this type of course, interacting with students, and creating learner-friendly materials. Admitting that she never considered herself particularly tech-savvy, Lia attributed her current comfort with using technology in the classroom to the four 1-credit CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) courses she completed while studying in the LTS program.

Jeff Magoto, Bené Santos, Joliene Adams, and Emily Masucci

Another popular session at ORTESOL was “The In-Class Flip: A Case for More Inclusion and Success” presented by Bené Santos (2009) and Joliene Adams (2017) with Jeff Magoto (faculty) and Emily Masucci (Anthropology Department graduate student), which featured a videotaped example taken directly from Bené’s Portuguese class at University of Oregon a week before (the clip is also part of a documentary by Emily Masucci about Bene’s life ). The example showed how to successfully implement blended learning by creating a classroom environment where students can go at their own pace in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Joliene Adams presented the software H5P, which is a great interactive video tool teachers can use inside or outside the classroom.  In the second half of the session, participants had time to interact with H5P, engaging in blended learning themselves, and discussed ways they could blend/flip their own classrooms.

Other presentations by LTS alumni were “Creating ESL Textbooks Using Open Source Materials and Digital Tools” Sean McClelland (2011); “What We Teach: Conundrums in English Variation” Kelly McMinn (2007); and “Facilitating the Development of Argumentation Across Programs” Ilsa Trummer (2011).

LTS faculty also presented at the conference. Jeff Magoto is mentioned above co-presenting with Bené and Joliene. Laura Holland’s session “Working Backward Propels our Students Forward: Small Changes < Big Effects” covered (1) teaching pronunciation of individual words and practicing stress in longer sentences, (2) analyzing what makes 2 essay introductions “good and “bad,” (3) using film clips to explore why native speakers chose the forms they did to express the messages they are trying to convey, and (4) Backward Design for curriculum development.

See the full conference program here: ORTESOL 2017 Program  

July 7, 2017
by gkm
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Professional Development with the International Association for Language Learning Technology

Becky and Jeff at the banquet dinner and awards ceremony.

In addition to the many internship opportunities available to LTS students, there are also many opportunities for professional development in the field of language teaching! In March, several LTS students attended the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington, which was a great opportunity for them to learn new ideas from experienced teachers in the field. Becky Lawrence (2017 cohort) presented at TESOL Electronic Village, which was an amazing opportunity for her to share what she has been working on in the LTS program with other teachers.

Becky also accompanied LTS faculty and Yamada Language Center director, Jeff Magoto, to the biennial 2017 International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) conference held at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota this past June. Jeff, also a longtime IALLT member, gave presentations about the Yamada Language Center and ANVILL. Becky gave a presentation about her MA project, which was great practice for the final MA presentations coming up in August.

Fun fact! The 2019 IALLT Conference will be held in our very own American English Institute at the University of Oregon, hosted by Jeff Magoto himself! Because technology in language teaching is such a crucial part of the LTS program, IALLT is a great organization for LTS students. They provide a lot of support and opportunities for graduate students and new teachers to present at conferences and publish in their journals. The IALLT organization is very warm and welcoming. Despite not knowing anyone besides Jeff upon arriving, Becky left the conference with many new friends!

For graduate students interested in attending IALLT conferences, IALLT also offers a $500 Ursula Williams Graduate Student Conference Grant to help pay for costs such as registration and housing. Becky was a recipient of this grant for the 2017 conference, and plans to stay involved in the organization to support graduate students in the future!

TESOL and IALLT are just two of the organizations that LTS students can become a part of, whether to attend, present, or publish.

To learn more about TESOL, visit http://www.tesol.org/

To learn more about IALLT, visit https://iallt.org/

Several of the graduate students who attended IALLT with Dr. Amanda Romjue (center), a 2015 Ursula Williams Grant recipient and current graduate student mentor.

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