HEIS News

Volume 29:1 (March 2010)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Interpreting Classroom Behaviour Based on Monocronic and Polychronic Time Orientations
    • Grammar in the Writing Classroom: How Do We Respond and Correct?
  • Reviews
    • Teacher Education: From Classroom to Computer Screen
    • Teaching Grammar With Communicative Activities
  • News From EFL Settings
    • What Do You Do If Your Students Don’t Talk?
  • Computer Technology
    • Electronic Grade Booking: The Basics of Using Excel as a Grade Book
  • About This Community
    • TESOL in Higher Education Interest Section
    • Call for Submissions
    • Call for Book Reviews
    • Call for Information Technology Submissions

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Shawn Ford, sford@hawaii.edu

Dear HEIS members,

Happy new year to you all!

This has been a very busy year for the HEIS Board and membership, and I would like to update you on some of our projects, including the upcoming TESOL Convention in Boston.

Governing Rules Update

At TESOL 2009 in Denver, the TESOL Board of Directors asked all Interest Sections to update their Governing Rules documents, and the HEIS Board has worked this past year to revise our document to reflect the current function and needs of HEIS, while keeping within the framework of the old Governing Rules and TESOL Governing Rules. After numerous drafts and feedback from the HEIS membership, we believe we have agreed on a very good document, which improves on and clarifies our old Governing Rules. At the time of writing, we are in the process of sending the document to the HEIS membership for a final vote of approval, and we hope to present the document formally to the HEIS membership and the TESOL Board of Directors at the upcoming convention. I would like to thank everyone who spent time working on this project.

HEIS Board Elections

Also at the time of this writing, HEIS is in the process of electing new board members, including the new chair. In the past, this process began in the early spring of each year, but this year the HEIS Board decided to move the process forward to the late fall to try to complete the elections in time for the new members to make arrangements to attend the TESOL convention. In the future, we hope to have the new board in place by the beginning of each new year. Thank you all for participating in the election process.

TESOL Convention

Academic Session. This year’s HEIS Academic Session is titled “The Higher Education Interest Section: Membership, Needs, and Interests.” This board-presented session will cover the history of the HEIS Interest Section, a summary of recent participation in TESOL conventions by HEIS members and the Interest Section, a survey of HEIS member issues and needs, and a discussion of the present and future directions of HEIS. Your attendance and participation in this session is necessary, and we hope to see many of you there.

InterSections. This year, HEIS is cosponsoring two member-suggested InterSections: “Generation 1.5 Students in Higher Education: Challenges and Recommendations,” a jointly sponsored InterSection with Second Language Writing, and “Transitioning Adult Learners to Higher Education in the US,” a jointly sponsored InterSection with Adult Education. These two InterSections should prove to stimulate vigorous discussions and generate productive ideas and should not be missed.

Other HEIS-sponsored Sessions. As for other types of presentations, HEIS is sponsoring 54 sessions, including half-session Hot Topics and Teaching Tips; full-session discussions, papers, and reports; and double-session workshops and colloquiums. Topics include access to college, community-college concerns, content-based instruction, corpus linguistics, generation 1.5 needs, online instruction, reading issues, student learning outcomes, and wikis. All HEIS members should be able to find something that speaks to their own and to their students’ needs and interests.

HEIS Member Events. The HEIS Open Business Meeting this year is scheduled for Thursday, March 25, 5-7 p.m., location TBA. At this meeting, members review the past year’s business and discuss issues relevant to the current membership. The HEIS Planning Meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 26, 7:30-8:15 a.m., location TBA. At this meeting, members plan for the upcoming year, including ideas for Academic Sessions, InterSections, and member-proposed sessions at the next TESOL convention. Members are always welcome at these events and in fact their attendance is necessary for the continued functioning of HEIS. Please come to these events to meet other HEIS members and share your ideas.

HEIS Booth. The HEIS Booth is always located in the Publisher’s Exhibit Hall, in the aisle with all of the other TESOL Interest Sections. Please stop by to say “Hi,” find out locations and times of HEIS sessions, pick up some HEIS-related handouts and articles, volunteer for an upcoming HEIS project, or just get a breath mint for the road.

I hope that you will recognize the importance of becoming actively involved in HEIS, whether by running for election, nominating a colleague, presenting at future conventions, attending the annual meeting at the convention, writing for the HEIS Newsletter, or simply participating in the HEIS Discussion List. Our Interest Section can be effective only with active participation by its members.

I hope to read many of your comments and ideas in the coming months on the HEIS Discussion List and see and meet with many of you at the upcoming convention.

Best wishes for a fruitful and productive year!



Articles Interpreting Classroom Behaviour Based on Monocronic and Polychronic Time Orientations

Roy Arthur Edwards, roy@bilkent.edu.tr

While teachers from the English speaking nations are recruited by their host organisations due to their expertise in teaching internationally desired courses and examinations, they also hold assumptions about what are appropriate student attitudes and behaviours towards learning. These include an enthusiasm for critical thinking and debate, a readiness for independent learning, combined with a motivation and commitment to individual development and critical expression. A range of student centred teaching methods are considered an appropriate medium to encourage the development of such attitudes and behaviours. However, these assumptions are more an expression of the particular cultural value orientations of the English speaking people, rather than universally applicable models of student learning and behaviour.

In this context, comments made by a number of teachers from a range of English speaking countries that had recently arrived to teach at a university in Turkey are both interesting and challenging. All these teachers were employed in the Faculty of Academic English on 18 months contracts and had extensive experience teaching English to international students both domestically and overseas. In addition, they were required to have post-graduate qualifications in language teaching. The teachers were aware that I was conducting a number of research projects on teaching methods and learning styles and were willing to discuss student behaviour in the class, both individually and in small groups, over the 18-month period. However, in an attempt to avoid influencing their perceptions, I did not discuss issues relating to cultural value orientations with them during any of the discussions.

These teachers argued that, in general, they perceived the behaviour of their new Turkish students as being the opposite of those at home in that they are very polite outside the classroom, while frequently rude and disorganised in class. The specific behaviours identified by these teachers that led to this generalisation are listed below.

One possible explanation for these perceptions could be that these teachers were experiencing a form of culture clash. Specifically, the behaviour of the students and the way this was interpreted by the teachers could be the result of both groups operating within two different time orientations. These distinct perceptions of time were defined by Hall (1983) in his seminal work, The Dance of Life, as polychronic culture and monochronic culture.

According to Hall (1990), people operating in a monochronic time orientation, such as those from the English speaking nations, perceive time as a sequence of events that flow into the past and cannot typically be repeated. As a consequence, those with a monochronic framework live with a clock constantly ticking in their imagination, accompanied by regular alarm calls warning them to prepare now for the next event. The main characteristics of monochronic time is the tendency to engage in one activity at a time, to adhere religiously to plans, an emphasis on promptness, the ability to concentrate on the current task, while taking time commitments seriously, such as appointments, schedules and deadlines.

In contrast, Hall argues, people operating with a polychronic time reference perceive time as a spiral. In this view, events in time come around more than once which provides the opportunity to change plans and appointments regularly. Such people tend to undertake several tasks at once, are highly distractible, base promptness on relationships, borrow and lend things regularly and are significantly more people-centred than task-focused.

Of course, a wide range of distinctly diverse cultures display a polychronic orientation to time, such as those in East and South East Asia, the Middle East, as well as some European cultures including France and Greece. Clearly students across these cultures show varying degrees of polychronic behaviour due to the influence of a complex pattern of additional cultural value orientations that differ across these cultures. Indeed, some of these cultural value orientations strengthen polychronic behaviour, while others can act to moderate this orientation towards time.

As an illustration of this, the teachers could be divided into two groups in terms of their background experience of polychronic cultures. One group had prior experience teaching in East Asia, in Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, while the second group had taught in Arab nations. Interestingly, the teachers who had taught in East Asia were far more critical of student behaviour than those who had followed a career path in the Arab nations. Indeed, some of the members of the latter group even compared their Turkish students favourably at times with those they had taught in the Arab nations. One possible explanation for this can be observed in the cultural value orientation model constructed by Schwartz (2006), who identified seven major cultural value orientations.

In relation to Turkey, the two dominant cultural values are embeddedness and hierarchy. The characteristics emphasised in embedded cultures are a strong association with rituals and tradition, the protection of public image, or face, a desire for social order and respect for elders, especially those in the family. The cultural value of hierarchy places strong emphasis on humility towards those in authority and the acceptance of inequality of power and wealth.

While countries such as South Korea, China, Thailand and Taiwan all include high hierarchy, they also show high levels of mastery, in which an emphasis is placed on success, being ambitious, selecting goals and risk taking. This typically encourages greater motivation for achievement and a commitment to tasks than can be found in the Turkish culture, while the cultural value of mastery also moderates some of the negative characters associated with a polychronic time orientation. Furthermore, as the Arab nations are generally more hierarchical and embedded, while including less Mastery than Turkey, this may account for such cultures displaying even more pronounced polychronic characteristics. As a consequence, teachers with a background in the Arab nations may have become more familiar with polychronic characteristics, while those with a background in East Asia were registering the lower levels of Mastery in their Turkish students, together with a higher level of conformity to the polychronic model than they had previously experienced.

However, for teachers from the English speaking nations working in countries where students and colleagues function in a polychronic time framework, there is a practical requirement to both manage certain aspects of this behaviour, while learning to adapt teaching methods, learning styles and such factors as schemes of work in order to take advantage of the strengths and opportunities that arise from a polychronic orientation. In this context, I have listed below some of the strategies that I have developed while working in China and Turkey that have typically worked for me.

First, it is important that teachers from the English speaking nations are able to recognise aspects of polychronic behaviour as expressions of a deep-rooted cultural orientation that makes sense and is perfectly functional in the cultural context, rather than manifestations of laziness, lack of interest and especially rudeness. Of course, polychronic behaviour does represent a potential threat to societies competing in the global market that overwhelmingly operates in monochronic time, which has been recognised by a number of governments, most recently in South America. In addition, students from polychronic cultures entering educational courses in cultures where monochronic time is the norm, could well experience a number of challenges and need to learn to adapt quickly to the new time orientation.

Where teachers occupy a management role on programmes, it is important to consider ways in which to reduce some of the opportunities for culture clash arising from polychronic behaviour, especially in the areas of lateness and absenteeism. Here, strict attendance and time-keeping policies can help to restrict the opportunity for polychronic decision-making that can lead to the student feeling pressured to make alternative commitments to friends and other people, over the requirement to attend class and to attend on time. Sadly, the majority of students who failed their modules both in China and here in Turkey did so due to poor time management that resulted from the more extreme expressions of polychronic time orientation.

For the classroom teacher unable to influence management policy, a number of actions could be considered. First, as people from polychronic cultures prioritise relationships, it is important to spend more time than is typical in monochronic cultures on team building, especially during the early phase of a course. In this context, providing students with group- based homework has resulted in the development of strong relationships between group members, which encourages students to make personal commitments to one another during future projects.

In terms of assignments, students from polychronic cultures show a strong commitment to achieving outcomes, especially where they are graded. Here, students can be supported by both imposing strict deadlines on assignment completion, while allowing greater flexibility for time management in the process leading up to the deadline. This is important as students from polychronic cultures will tend to jump from one project to the next, rather than complete each project sequentially. If too many time constraints are included in the process leading up to the completion of tasks, students will frequently opt to miss classes, fail to attend tutorials or make last minute changes to appointment times, rather than just admit that they have missed a stage deadline. Unfortunately, important stages in the process of completing tasks can be allocated little priority by such students. For example, the thinking, note taking from texts, planning, drafting and proof reading of the essay process can be bypassed, while drafts can be given less significance as they are not seen as essential outcomes, as long as something is given in at a draft deadline. This is why teachers should avoid over correcting the drafts of polychronic students as they will end up writing the essays themselves, while deepening the teacher dependency culture.

As students from polychronic cultures typically find concentrating on one issue at length difficult, classroom sessions should be broken up into shorter chunks, while activities should be constantly changed. For example, in group work sessions, a positive response has been achieved by asking students to first work in pairs, next swap roles with other group members, then to share ideas, before finally preparing a feedback report, rather than just leaving the group to discuss a topic.

Moreover, as people from polychronic cultures are easily distracted by events around them, it is important to try to eliminate potential distractions. For example, mobiles phones not only need to be powered off, but buried deep within bags so as to avoid the temptation of students checking messages from friends, while sweets and food should be banned to prevent them being constantly offered around, which typically provokes further distracting conversation. It has also been found useful to carry around a number of pens, erasers and spare pieces of paper so that students learn to borrow from the teacher, which can be achieved with minimal disruption, rather than allow students to borrow from each other, which can set off a chain reaction of requests, thanks, promises of future favours and other conversations.

However, it is also important that the class teacher accepts a degree of reality in terms of polychronic behaviour. Due to both the inevitable distractions that students will experience, together with the periods when the students will break off to chat about interpersonal issues, extra time allowances should be built into lesson plans. For example, group work sessions that might take 20 minutes in a monochronic context, could take 30 or 40 minutes in a polychronic environment. Failure to adapt to and accommodate polychronic behaviour will simply lead to poor outcomes combined with a sense of frustration and stress in both the students and the teacher. Where the polychronic culture is weak on Mastery and strong on Embeddedness and Hierarchy, time allowances for class project completion may have to be extended further when planning lessons.

Finally, the possibilities for both managing polychronic behaviour and modifying programmes were displayed on a course that I designed and taught across two semesters called Cross Cultural Analysis. As one aspect of this course, students were required to work in small groups and analyse the cultural value orientations of a country of their choice, compare and contrast the culture with that of Turkey, then visit the embassy of the country in order to conduct research on the culture. Attending the embassy appointment prepared and on time was an essential aspect of the course grading criteria. Over the year, every group attended their interviews on time as it was seen as an essential outcome. In contrast, the process leading up to the embassy visit was frequently chaotic in terms of organising meetings between the students and other necessary preparations. However, all the group members grew to develop a significant sense of group loyalty, which continued after the visit and on to their final examination presentation. Interestingly, the planning stages leading up to the embassy visit lasted approximately twice a long as the time taken by the Chinese students that I taught previously on the same programme in China. This project also highlighted the importance of discussing polychronic and monochronic time differences directly with the students. Indeed, I would strongly recommend this course of action to teachers, as talking about the potential problems and issues associated with time orientations makes the topic less personal and can help avoid some of the misunderstandings and stress that can arise from this form of culture clash.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, when reflecting on student behaviour in the classroom, a complex variety of variables needs to be taken into consideration, such as gender, social class, age, as well as a multitude of other cultural value orientations. However, especially for any teacher encountering a polychronic culture for the first time, factors relating to time orientation are well worthy of consideration when attempting to evaluate classroom behaviour, while seeking to avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings.

REFERENCES

Hall, E.T. (1983). The dance of life. New York: Doubleday.

Hall, E. T & Hall, M. R. (1990). Understanding cultural differences: Germans, French and Americans. Boston: Intercultural Press.

Schwartz, S. H. (2006). Mapping and interpreting cultural differences around the world. In H. Vinken, J. Soeters and P. Ester (Eds.). Comparing cultures: Dimensions of culture in a comparative perspective (pp. 43-73). Leiden: Brill.

RECOMMENDED READING

Gudykunst, W. B. & Ting-Toomey, S. (1988). Culture and Interpersonal Communication. Newbury Park , CA: Sage.

This book is accessible for teachers at any stage of their career without the need for prior knowledge of the subject. The book provides an interesting introduction to various cultural factors relating to attitudes, behaviour, as well as to verbal and non verbal communication, which the teacher can easily relate to the classroom.

I would welcome any comments, suggestions, or alternative views on this topic, to be shared in a future issue of the newsletter. Please direct your comments to the author, roy@bilkent.edu.tr and copy the newsletter editor Maria Parker, mgparker@duke.edu.

After teaching the MBA as the course leader for the social sciences at a British university, Roy Edwards taught on international degree programmes in Management and Academic English in China and Japan. He currently teaches in the Faculty of Academic English at Bilkent University in Turkey. He has run a number of professional development workshops for teachers, as well as consultancy projects for management in major international companies. His main area of research interest is in the field of teaching methods and learning styles.


Grammar in the Writing Classroom: How Do We Respond and Correct?

Erin Knoche Laverick, knoche@findlay.edu

For over a decade, ESL instructors and researchers have debated the effect of error correction in L2 writing assessment. Scholars such as Truscott (1999) believe error correction should be eliminated because students are incapable of understanding the errors marked by instructors. Yet others such as Ferris (2005) claim students require feedback based on their linguistic knowledge. Indeed, these competing approaches to grammar complicate the message L2 writing instructors receive. Similarly, we often find an imbalance between higher and lower order concerns in L2 writing instruction and in the approaches teachers employ when responding to student writing.

Though surface-level errors should never be valued over marginal comments regarding content, development, and organization, there is value in implementing short grammar lessons so that students learn to self- and peer-edit. This is especially important in a university setting, as students are often expected to turn in grammatically correct papers in their graduate and undergraduate courses. Therefore, students must learn how to compose texts that successfully communicate with an audience, using correct sentence structure and vocabulary.

Students will not learn grammatical concepts unless they receive explicit instruction. Ferris believes nonnative speakers require “instruction that is sensitive to their unique linguistic deficits for strategy training” (2005, p. 5). Muncie (2002) suggested teachers focus on a few errors at a time. These errors could be ones previously covered in the curriculum or common errors that an instructor notes in the students’ writing. Though there is still disagreement over the role of grammar in the writing classroom, the general consensus of those who favor grammar instruction is that it should be brief, focused, and connected to course assignments (Ferris, 2005). As students learn error analysis strategies and apply them throughout the writing process, the inventing and drafting stages become easier, as students are able to clearly and concisely communicate their ideas. As a result, they should be able to attend to higher order concerns without worrying about grammar and syntax.

What follows are two in-services designed to help ESL instructors at a private liberal arts university better understand the role of error correction and grammar instruction in L2 writing classrooms as a means of ameliorating the knowledge gap between balancing higher and lower order concerns.

IN-SERVICE ONE: RESPONDING TO STUDENT WRITING

Presession Activity

Before attending the first in-service, instructors read “Responding to Student Writing” by Vivian Zamel (1985). In this article, Zamel presented her findings from a study in which she investigated how 15 ESL writing teachers respond to student writing. She found that most teachers focus on surface-level errors rather than global concerns. In other words, students did not receive feedback regarding organization and development. Focusing on grammar errors can send a conflicting message to students, as students often believe their drafts require only copyediting, when in fact they need global revisions. Zamel’s article set the stage for the in-service and introduced teachers to pedagogically sound practices for responding to student writing.

Global vs. Local Errors

In small groups, instructors first discussed how they respond to students’ writing and if their practices will change or have changed after they read Zamel’s article. Instructors then watched selections from the video Writing Across Borders, a short informational video created by Wayne Robinson (2005) of Oregon State University, which is designed to train professors and peer tutors who work with nonnative speakers of English. In the video, Deborah Healy and Tony Silva discuss the importance of responding to global concerns, such as thesis, organization, and development, rather than correcting grammatical errors. They encourage teachers not to become bogged down by grammar such as incorrect or missing articles and prepositions. In addition, international students explain how it frustrates them to receive papers back from professors with their grammatical errors marked rather than feedback regarding their ideas, organization, and development.

After watching the video and discussing how it relates to Zamel’s article, instructors practiced responding to an ESL student’s paper (Appendix 1). This activity required instructors to apply the ideas discussed in Zamel’s article and in the Writing Across Borders video. The instructors then explained how they responded to the student’s essay through a global lens. Many instructors commented that the student’s paper had a good thesis and transitions. They also believed the student needed to define “dead zones” in the first body paragraph to better explain the paper topic. They further suggested that the student develop the body paragraphs in order to better inform the audience about global warming. Overall, this in-service provided faculty with the opportunity to brush up on current research and practice responding to authentic selections of student writing.

IN-SERVICE TWO: GRAMMAR’S PLACE IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM

A second in-service was designed to highlight the role of grammar instruction in the writing classroom. To prepare for the in-service, instructors read James Muncie’s article, “Finding a Place for Grammar in EFL Composition Classrooms,” and reflected on how they implement grammar instruction into their writing courses. Instructors then received two short paragraphs written by an ESL student (Appendix 2). In groups, they analyzed the paragraphs and selected one common grammatical error found in the student’s writing. They were then asked to develop a short grammar lesson that addressed the error and present the activity to the entire group. After instructors created their lessons, we discussed how to assess grammar in student writing. The consensus among the faculty was that concepts targeted in lessons should be assessed and noted in an instructor’s rubric. Overall, this activity helped instructors better focus their grammar lessons within the context of a writing classroom and discuss how they should assess the errors without overcorrecting a student’s paper.

CONCLUSION

Brief in-services such as the ones presented in this article can readily be implemented as part of a professional development series for in-service ESL instructors. Skilled faculty should be encouraged to share their expertise to help their colleagues stay current in the field.

APPENDIX A

Sample Student Essay

One can see global warming’s effects all around the world. It destroys all the natural life in the world, people, and animals. If global warming affects all people, humans need to do something about it to stop global warming. Global warming causes a lot of things, but specifically, it causes two things: dead zones are accruing day by day and water level is rising.

Firstly, global warming affect land, oceans, and seas. In the oceans and seas dead zones have been increasing each day since 1960s and now have 405 dead zones (Juncosa). Dead zones are happen, because world’s climate is changing and it is affects oceans by dead zones. All around the world dead zones are make the fishers struggle because low-oxygen zones kill all the sea life (Juncosa). Dead zones affect fishes just after 50 year, it will affect us.

Another effects of global warming is world is getting warmer, and it melts glaciers. A warmer world could mean melting ice, rising seas, and flooded coast lines. A lot of seismologists are studying about the melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland. West cites O’Neel, “Sea level rise is a really strong motivator and it s not happening every day that surges have been slowing down since 1998” (5). When the ice starts to melt fast again, a lot of cities will flood and many people with lose their home and their life.

For now global warming is destroying nature life in the world. Dead zone destroys sea life and glaciers are meting day by day. All experiments show us that global warming is going to dangerous for everybody.

APPENDIX B

Sample Paragraph 1

In the article “Pay your own Way,” Audrey Rock Richardson writes about how she studied college financed herself, she thinks that most the students can do this. But studying and working means to do two hard jobs at same time, also it s too hard and stressful. She had a really hard life experience. She believes all students can pay their tuition, they can learn the life easily and surely.

Sample Paragraph 2

Authors are written the summary very clear and understandable. They explain reason of the war and how can they stop the war which is between Russia and Georgia. In my opinion they did really good job article is very clear and understandable. If people read this article, everybody can understand what’s going on between Russia and Georgia.

REFERENCES

Ferris, D. (2005). The treatment of error. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Muncie, J. (2002). Finding a place for grammar in EFL composition classrooms. ELT Journal, 16, 180-186.

Robinson, W. (2005). Writing across borders. Corvallis: Oregon State University.

Truscott, J. (1999). The case for “the case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes”: A response to Ferris. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8(2), 111-122.

Zamel, V. (1985). Responding to student writing. TESOL Quarterly, 19, 79-101.

Erin Knoche Laverick is the director of the Intensive English Language Program at the University of Findlay. She holds a doctorate in composition and rhetoric from Bowling Green State University and specializes in second language writing acquisition.



Reviews Teacher Education: From Classroom to Computer Screen

Shannon Daniel, sdaniel@umd.edu

Teacher Development Interactive: An Online Course for ELT Professionals. Reading Module. (2009). Pearson Longman. New York: Pearson Education.

The entire Teacher Development Interactive: An Online Course for ELT Professionals (2009) program consists of four major components: Fundamentals of English Language Teaching, Listening, Reading, and Speaking. Each component must be purchased separately. Successful completion of the program leads to an electronic First TEFL Certificate in English Language Teaching from Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. After logging on to the program, the user can see that to get the certificate from the English Teaching Institute at Hunter College, he or she must earn at least a 75 percent on the final exam in each of the four modules. This review focuses on the reading component of the four-part program.

The reading module includes five lessons and a test to be completed at the end. The lessons are Understanding Reading, Preparing a Reading Lesson, Selecting and Using Reading Materials, Designing Effective Reading Tasks, and Assessing Reading. Each lesson has an introduction, several sessions, an application session, and a quiz at the end. For example, the lesson Understanding Reading has sessions on the following topics: How We Read, Six Essential Reading Strategies, and Problem and Solution. Each session includes a variety of activities, including videos of Jeremy Harmer, author of numerous books on ESL teaching, reading scripts on the topic of teaching reading; classroom simulation videos; readings; and short question prompts. The application portion for this lesson includes looking at a short text with a question and asking the user to determine whether the English language learner would need to use top-down or bottom-up processing to answer the question, or determine the reading strategies English language learners could use when answering certain questions (e.g., predicting or reading for detail). Upon completing each lesson, users are prompted to complete a writing assignment as well as a quiz, and upon completion of the entire reading module, users complete the module test.

WHAT IS THE RESEARCH BASE FOR THE BOOK?

Some parts of this reading module for English language teachers, such as the use of videos of classroom simulations and advice from Jeremy Harmer, are supported by research in teacher education. Other aspects of the program, such as the lack of face-to-face interaction and the lack of enforced field experiences, may receive disapproval from educational researchers.

Videotapes of classroom practice have been respected as one type of pedagogy for teacher education and as a means for teacher candidates to observe and analyze examples of teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond, 2006). This module shows several clips of English language classrooms in order to highlight the ways in which the teacher questioned students or guided them in using reading strategies. Although the video clips of English language classrooms in this program seemed to be staged, the video demonstration can help teacher candidates gain new insight into concepts in the lesson texts. For example, a viewer can see the pre-reading strategies and questions the teacher uses in order to introduce different types of texts.

Jeremy Harmer, who gives a number of video lectures throughout the program, has written several books on the topic of English language teaching. His books have been used in multiple teacher education contexts, whether through teacher educators referring to his work, using excerpts of his work, or using his book as course texts. His books have been used internationally in university teacher education programs as well as less prestigious English language teaching certification programs at private institutes. Having a well-known writer of books on English language teaching may enhance the credibility of this program for some users.

Researchers have defined “learning as a dynamic social activity that is situated in physical and social contexts” (Johnson, 2009; p. 9). Johnson (2006) noted that “knowledge entails lived practices, not just accumulated information, and the processes of learning are negotiated with people in what they do” (p. 237). However, this online program for English language teachers includes only presentations of content through written text and premade video lectures. The program focuses on the content of teaching English (such as reading strategies and methods for choosing texts) and some teacher reflection (such as prompts to reflect on one’s lessons), but as with any online program, it does not give teachers the opportunity to interact with other new or experienced teachers.

Many researchers (Lucas & Grinberg, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2006) have advocated for multiple field experiences to be part of teacher education programs, but the certificate for this program can be obtained simply by passing a series of tests. Although several of the writing prompts, such as “Use these questions and write a journal entry” and “How could a wider range of strategies be integrated into your classes?” encourage users to participate and reflect on teaching, any user could pass the test without completing any field experience. This program seems to be aimed at teachers with little experience of teaching English language learners, but awarding new teachers a certificate in English language teaching without requiring them to participate in field experiences cannot prepare them to teach effectively.

WHAT ARE ITS STRENGTHS?

Although not recommended, the program does have some strong points. For example, aside from simply reading texts about how to teach reading, users can see some textbook pages that have been used in English language classrooms. Here the program displays a page of a textbook and asks users to answer simple multiple-choice questions about the reading or assessment in the text. Seeing sample textbooks provides a context in which candidates can understand major concepts such as top-down and bottom-up processing or what strategies a language learner would need to read the text and answer the questions. Another strength of the program is that it does review major concepts such as the importance of activating schemata, teaching strategies such as SQ4R and jigsaw, reading strategies, and an introduction to major assessments that affect language learners (such as proficiency tests and the TOEFL) and ways teachers can assess students (such as cloze tests and multiple choice items). Also, the video clips of classroom simulations and Jeremy Harmer provide multifaceted presentation of the content.

WHAT ARE ITS WEAKNESSES?

Of foremost importance is the fact that online certification programs can lead to the deprofessionalization of the field of TESOL. As Waxman, Téllez, and Walberg (2006) noted, “the use of teachers with nonstandard certifications and the use of online programs instead of teachers” is a major threat to high-quality language education.

Aside from this threat to the field of teacher education, four additional major weaknesses exist: (1) assessments are inconsistent and incongruent with the intended audience, (2) assessments are invalid, (3) some issues are overly simplified, and (4) the presentation is not stimulating. As completion of this program can lead to a “first” certificate, it can be assumed that new teachers are the audience for this program, yet the levels of assessment seem to be incongruent with one another.

The questions are not aimed at only one audience, which makes the levels and types of questions inconsistent. One question asks users to fill in the blanks (“We read novels for pleasure. We read words in the dictionary to understand a specific definition”) but this knowledge is common to anyone who would consider teaching. Another question asks users to “design and implement a reading lesson. Write a description of the lesson and an evaluation of how well it went.” If this is a first certificate program, it is possible that some users have not yet taught in their own classroom, and even if they do teach while completing this program, the presentations in the program do not prepare them to reflect on their teaching in this manner.

Assessments in this program lack validity, as they not only test students on issues that were not covered in the presentations but also lack real-world application. Answering multiple-choice questions such as the ones listed above will not prepare teachers for the reality of the classroom. As Breen (1985) wrote, “the content and process of language classes are jointly constructed” (p. 148), and successfully answering these questions cannot adequately prepare a new teacher for the interactions that occur in classroom culture.

Finally, the presentations are not only boring but also overly simplified. For instance, in one of the video lectures, Harmer stated, “The level of difficulty of a text is determined by two factors: vocabulary and sentence length,” yet this explanation seems inaccurate or at least incomplete. Other factors, such as figurative language, decontextualized academic language, or use of metaphor, could cause texts to be difficult regardless of their length or vocabulary.

IS THE BOOK USEFUL IN SUPPORTING TEACHERS TO WORK WITH ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS IN THEIR CLASSROOMS?

This program is not useful in supporting teachers to work with English language learners in their classrooms, unless the teacher has had no prior professional teaching certification of any type and has very little teaching experience. Many English language teachers, in both EFL and adult ESL settings, fit this category. The modules in this program could be beneficial to these teachers if no collegial support exists. However, some major concepts presented in these lessons can be learned within the first few days in a classroom or through a quick discussion with a colleague. An example of this type of teaching tip is from Jeremy Harmer’s monologue in Lesson 3: “Learning materials are relevant if they relate to learner goals and interests. If you’re teaching teenagers, there’s little point in having them read a text about buying a house.” It seems that new teachers would catch on to this lesson quickly through the first few days of teaching, discussions with colleagues, or simply common sense. If, however, a new teacher is in an isolated context, this online program may provide support in the major concepts of teaching reading.

This program is not recommended as a supplement for teacher education classes. As a current instructor for a course that serves as an introduction to the field, I would not use any part of this program as supplementary material, as the simulations seemed staged, the texts in the lessons overly simple, and the video lectures tedious. After reviewing the research base and major strengths and weaknesses of this program, I do not recommend it to any teacher educator or teacher candidate.

REFERENCES

Breen, M. (1985). The social context for language learning: A neglected situation? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 7, 135-158.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2006) Powerful teacher education: Lessons from exemplary programs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, K. (2009). Second language teacher education: A sociocultural perspective. New York: Routledge

Johnson, K. (2006). The sociocultural turn and its challenges for second language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 40, 235-257.

Lucas, T., & Grinberg, J. (2008). Responding to the linguistic reality of mainstream classrooms: Preparing all teachers to teach English language learners. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feinman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts (3rd ed., pp. 157-174). New York: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Waxman, H. C., Téllez, K., & Walberg, H. J. (2006). Future directions for improving teacher quality for English language learners. In K. Téllez & H. C. Waxman (Eds.), Preparing quality educators for English language learners: Research, policies, and practices (pp. 189-195). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Shannon Daniel is in the doctoral program in teacher education and TESOL at the University of Maryland, where she also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education and supervises student teachers. Shannon has taught ESL/EFL in a variety of contexts over the past 9 years. Her current research focuses on improving teacher education for both TESOL and mainstream elementary school teachers who will teach English language learners.


Teaching Grammar With Communicative Activities

Valerie Mettler, valeriemettler@yahoo.com

Ur, P. (2009). Grammar Practice Activities (2nd ed). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Grammar is an essential part of language teaching. However, I am sure Penny Ur, the author of Grammar Practice Activities, is not the only one who is tired of the fill-in-the-blank, matching, and sentence completion activities we continue to find in most textbooks. With communicative teaching theory in mind, Ur set out to put a book filled with communicative based grammar practice activities into the hands of teachers. Grammar Practice Activities will be useful to ESL teachers who teach various age groups in various settings (the book focuses on international English grammar), as well as multi-level classes.

The text is divided into two sections. The first section, Background theory and guidelines, takes up only the first twenty-one pages of the book. Ur gives a brief explanation of what grammar is, how she chose the grammar points included in the book, as well as the place of grammar in language teaching. She continues by defining the action of practicing grammar and what components of practice need to be present for the activity to be effective (namely validity, quantity, success-orientation, heterogeneity, and interest). The first section concludes with a definition of activity and task, a brief summary of different types of effective and ineffective grammar teaching activities, and practical tips for how to “teach” the activities in the book.

The second section, Activities, contains 221 activities for grammar points that will help students in written and spoken communication (adjectives, adverbs, conditionals, future tenses, imperatives, indirect speech, interrogatives, is/are, there is, there are, modals, negatives, nouns, articles, determiners, numbers, passives, past tenses, possessives, prepositions, present tenses, pronouns, relative clauses, short answers and tag questions, and verb structures). Each activity is labeled with a grammar focus, intended age level and language level, the time it will take to complete the activity, and any preparation necessary for doing the activity—which is little to none; the book comes with a CD-ROM, which contains all of the documents necessary for the activities in color PDF format. All activities in the book have written step-by-step instructions for how to carry them out and Some are accompanied by follow-up procedures, variations of the activity, language tips, and teaching tips. In short, Grammar Practice Activities would make a great addition to every ESL teacher’s personal library. It is concise and user-friendly, and with the color PDF documents on the included CD-ROM, who could ask for more? In fact, I am going to use it right now to help me plan my grammar lessons for the week. Happy grammar teaching!

Valerie Mettler taught ESL to adults for many years at the Minnesota Literacy Council. She is now teaching ESL to middle school students in the New York City Public Schools.



News From EFL Settings What Do You Do If Your Students Don’t Talk?

Ruhina Ahmed ruhi.ahmed@yahoo.co.in

If I were to take a brief survey of our readers and ask them one question about the problems they encounter in their classrooms when it comes to student behavior, I’m confident many teachers would say that center around students“talking.” I would categorize these students into three categories: students who talk among themselves and thus disrupt the classroom; students who interrupt the teacher by asking unnecessary questions; and students who make comments such as that the class is boring In my experience, many classes have a combination of these three categories.

My students this semester do not fall into our second and third categories. In other words, these students do not ask any questions – not even unnecessary ones, nor do they make any negative comments. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Some instructors might view this situation as one they would like to have in their classrooms. In other words, as the students do not ask any questions, instructors do not need to fear that some intelligent students might challenge them about something which they have taught. Also, if the students do not make any negative comments, then the teacher would feel comfortable as they do not face criticism.

However, in my case, I was unhappy and dissatisfied with this situation. Firstly, I believe that students should ask questions in the classroom, irrespective of what they ask. The fact that they are asking proves that they are aware of what you are teaching. If the students do not ask anything, how can the teacher know whether they have understood what you have taught? Secondly, it’s important for the instructor to know what the students feel about what takes place in the classroom. Whether they find it interesting or boring is of great importance. I believe that learning should be an enjoyable experience, rather than something which seems more like a punishment. We all know how much effort it takes to prepare and teach a lesson, so of course we want it to be meaningful to students.

Returning to this particular group of students, after a few weeks of class, the first round of assessments took place. The students were tested on reading, grammar, vocabulary and writing. I was surprised to see that more than 50% of the students had failed in all these areas. In my college, 70% is considered a pass grade. In this situation, the students’ grades were in the range of 50-70. I was unable to understand the reason for this poor performance, but felt that probably it was because the students weren’t taking the course seriously. This frequently happens at the beginning of a new academic year. The new students come with a lot of confidence and zeal. They get so busy enjoying the freedom of college life that they do not pay attention to studies. As a result, they fail in the first set of assessments. I felt this was the situation in the case of this group and gave them a talk about working hard and focusing on their studies. I also told them that if they had any questions regarding anything I had taught or they needed extra help with, they should feel comfortable to discuss it with me in the classroom or during office hours. I thought that some students who were conscious of their low grades would approach me but nothing of that sort took place.

As time passed, I got some idea about the ability of this group. From the writing samples that I had seen, I could identify the strong and weak students. In addition, practice in other skills also reinforced my observation. However, when the second assessments took place, I was shocked to see that the result was worse than the previous one. From my observations, I had been confident that this group would do better this time but I was disappointed. I asked the students what the problem was but no one said anything. There was complete silence. I could feel a void between me and the students. No one was saying anything, and there was a communication gap between us. Furthermore, while teaching, I noticed that very few students answered my questions and majority seemed uninterested. Again, why was all this happening, I failed to understand.

Then, I came to know from the authorities that the students had complained that they found my classes boring and felt demotivated as there was little opportunity for participation. Finally, I had found the answer to my million dollar question. Now, the challenge was how to bring about a change.. We all know that motivation is the key to success. All of us work hard to keep the students motivated in the classroom. But what would you do in this negative situation? I had my share of sleepless nights, thinking of solutions to this problem.

I reflected on not only my methodology in the classroom but also how I approached the texts or materials I used for teaching. I visualized the situation from the student’s perspective and realized that my lesson plans lacked class participation because I didn’t give them an opportunity to come forward and participate in any games or activities in the class that they could enjoy and have fun with. I realized that all this happened because I felt under such pressure to complete the syllabus that I did not pay attention to these things.

First, I changed my methodology and encouraged students to take part in class activities. I reduced my talking time and encouraged the students to participate. I asked them questions and this time they were answering with interest. Then, I referred to some books and created my own games. The students enjoyed this thoroughly. With time, they seemed more comfortable with the environment in the classroom. At times, they themselves suggested some game or activity which they would like to do in the class and I was happy to comply.

One thing the students did complain about was that they found reading boring. This was because they hardly read anything outside the classroom. As English is a foreign language for them, they find it difficult to comprehend. As a result, they don’t approach any text in English. In order to help the students with this, I encouraged them to borrow a simplified version of any novel from the library and read it at home. Then, they would tell the story to the class and give their opinion as to why they found it interesting or boring. I noticed that the students were motivated with this idea and very happy to share their stories with their classmates.

It has been a couple of weeks since I have been practicing these new strategies. This experience has helped me develop to be a better teacher. Also, the students are motivated and enjoying themselves. I hope that this article helps our readers who are probably encountering or have encountered a similar experience as mine. I would be glad to get to your feedback regarding this issue.

Ruhina Ahmed has an MA TESL from the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL) Hyderabad, India. She currently teaches English at the foundation level to pre-medical students in Oman.



Computer Technology Electronic Grade Booking: The Basics of Using Excel as a Grade Book

Alan D. Lytle, tesolcomptech@hotmail.com

There are many electronic grade books available to ESL/EFL programs and faculty, such as Grade Book 1.0, Online Grades 3.2.2, and SnapGrades. Some are free to download, and others can be purchased at a low cost. However, anyone who owns a computer (PC or Mac) probably already has an installed program that can be easily used as a grade book, namely Microsoft Excel. Following are instructions for setting up a basic grade book using Excel in a 1997-2003 file compatibility version so that it can be accessed on most computers (not every computer has the 2007 version of Microsoft). The instructions are meant for the Excel beginning user; therefore, the functions and formulae (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and averaging) are simplified. Excel has a great deal more capacity that intermediate and advanced users might want to take advantage of (e.g., graphing, comparisons between quizzes, tests, projects, cross-linking grade spreadsheets). These later concepts can be learned after mastering the basics described in this article.

Excel was originally designed as a financial program for accounting spreadsheets, bookkeeping, and so forth. However, because educational grades contain addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and averaging, the program works just as well for educators who do not want to sit down at various points in the teaching cycle to calculate grades. With an electronic grade book in Excel, averaged grades can be available at any time.

Following is a PowerPoint presentation showing the steps to creating a basic grade book. The more familiar Excel becomes, the more that can be accomplished with it.

http://www.tesolmedia.com/docs/heismarch2010/HEIS29-1_Tech_ExcelGradebook.ppt

ELECTRONIC GRADE BOOKING PRESENTATION

In addition to these basic instructions, many other functions can be used within Excel. There are also many web resources that can be consulted for more tutorials: Using Excel as a Gradebook by Brooks and Byles (2009), Excel Grade Book Lite by Enfinger (2009), and Excel Formulas & Functions by City University – New York (2009). Conducting a web search will offer many more ways to expand your use of Excel for educational purposes. Whether you use Excel or another grade book program, take advantage of what is available. It truly does make some of the tedious things that we teachers have to do a bit more simple.

REFERENCES

Brooks, S., & Byles, B. (2009). Using Excel as a gradebook. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://www.internet4classrooms.com/excel_grade.htm

City University – New York (2009). Excel formulas & functions. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://lca.lehman.cuny.edu/lehman/itr/html/library/Excel-Formulas-manual.pdf

Enfinger, F. (2006). Excel grade book lite. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://faculty.sccd.ctc.edu/jkent/workshops/ibc/excel_grading-rev1-06.pdf

SnapGrades. (2009). Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://snapgrades.net/index.php?web/comparefree.php

The Grade Book 1.0. (2009). Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://wareseeker.com/Business-Finance/the-grade-book-1.0.zip/1523

Online Grades 3.2.2. (2009). Retrieved December 22, 2009, from http://linux.wareseeker.com/Internet/online-grades-3.2.2.zip/318774

Dr. Alan D. Lytle, the teaching director of the Intensive English Language Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA, has a background in second and foreign language education (ESL/EFL, German, and French) as well as 19 years of ESL teaching experience at all levels, in academic-preparation programs, conversation programs, English for special purposes programs, and topic-specific programs.



About This Community TESOL in Higher Education Interest Section

The ESL in Higher Education Interest Section advances effective instruction, promotes professional standards and practices, influences and supports policies of TESOL and other associations, determines needs, and considers all other matters relevant to ESL in colleges and universities.

HEIS COMMUNITY LEADERS 2009-2010

Chair Shawn Ford, sford@hawaii.edu

Chair-Elect Heather Robertson, heatherr@usc.edu

Immediate Past Chair José A. Carmona, carmona1661@bellsouth.net

Assistant Chair Lara M. Ravitch, lravitch@ccc.edu

Secretary Cem Balcikanli, mbalcikanli@gazi.edu.trail

E-list Manager Karen Stanley, mkaren.stanley@cpcc.edua

Newsletter Editor Maria Parker, mgparker@duke.edu

Newsletter Book Reviews Editors Maria Ammar, mammar@frederick.edu

Linda Barro, barrol@eastcentral.edu

Newsletter Computer Technology Editor Alan D. Lytle, mtesolcomptech@hotmail.com

Membership Coordinator Tracis Justus, tjustus@gpc.edu

2009-2010 STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS-AT-LARGE

2009-2010 Sheryl Slocum, Sheryl.Slocum@alverno.edu

2009-2010 Brian Rugen, rugen@hawaii.edu

2009-2010 Alan D. Lytle, tesolcomptech@hotmail.com

Discussion E-List: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected to subscribe to HEIS-L, the discussion list for HEIS members.


Call for Submissions

Get involved—consider contributing to our newsletter!

Please consider submitting an article for the next  issue.

HEIS News welcomes articles that apply to classroom situations and that focus on ESL/EFL pedagogy, second language acquisition, academic literacy, language assessment, applied socio- and psycholinguistics, advocacy, administration, and other related areas. Given the newsletter's electronic format, authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Full-length articles and brief reports should

  • be no longer than 1,500 words
  • include a 50-word (500 characters or fewer) abstract
  • contain no more than five citations
  • follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA Manual)
  • be in MS Word (.doc) or rich-text (.rtf) format

Please direct submissions and questions to Maria Parker at mgparker@duke.edu.

Note: It is not necessary to have an article complete and ready for submission to contact us! Please feel free to get in touch at any stage of the process. We are happy to answer any questions and work with you in developing or refining a topic.

The deadline for submissions to HEIS 29-2 is June 30, 2010.


Call for Book Reviews

Book reviews are always a very popular feature of the newsletter. Book review guidelines are below. To request or suggest a book for review and for details, including submission deadlines, please contact

Maria Ammar at mammar@frederick.edu or 
Linda Barro at barrol@eastcentral.edu

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

HEIS News welcomes reviews of scholarly books and textbooks dealing with English teaching, applied linguistics, second language acquisition, language assessment, or other disciplines as they relate to ESL or TESL instruction in higher education settings. Anyone interested in writing a review for HEIS Newsmay choose a recent book in the field and contact the editor for approval. Reviews will be considered for publication based on the quality of the reviewer’s evaluation and description of the book, and the book’s relevance and importance to the field.

Reviews should

  • be 600-900 words in length
  • include a 50-word (500 character or fewer) abstract
  • include a 75- to 100-word bio of the reviewer
  • follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA Manual)
  • be in MS Word (.doc) or rich-text (.rtf) format

To read a sample book review, go to http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=174&DID=1644


Call for Information Technology Submissions

Computer and information technology are a growing part of our professional lives. The HEIS News Computer Technology section welcomes articles and reviews of Web sites or other materials that use technology in ESL/EFL teaching, applied linguistics, second language acquisition, language assessment, or other disciplines in higher education settings. Please contact the Computer Technology editor, Dr. Alan D. Lytle, at tesolcomptech@hotmail.com with your suggestions, ideas, or questions or to receive information on submission deadlines.