IEP Newsletter

IEP News, Volume 26:1 (March 2006)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Spotlight on … Queen's University of English at in Kingston, Ontario Canada: The IEP Interview with Dr. Andy Curtis
    • Letter from the Editor
  • Articles
    • Timely and Local IEP Electives
    • Teacher Development/Professional Development through Reflective Teaching
  • Community News and Information
    • The 40th Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibit (TESOL 2006)
    • Correction
  • About This Member Community
    • The IEP-IS Steering Committee

Leadership Updates Spotlight on … Queen's University of English at in Kingston, Ontario Canada: The IEP Interview with Dr. Andy Curtis

IEP Newsletter (IPEN): I’m speaking with Dr. Andy Curtis, the executive director of the Queen’s University School of English in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Let me begin by thanking you for your time.

Dr. Andy Curtis (AC): You’re welcome, Tamara.

IPEN: Could you describe your IEP? How many students do you currently have?

AC: Although we are hoping this will be the last semester like this, we are still suffering the effects of the widespread downturn after 9/11, after SARS, and after the crashing of the U.S. dollar, all of which have affected our enrollment. So, we usually have up to 200 students in our program in the fall; but, this semester we have 160, which is a reflection of the 30% decrease in enrollment from what we’ve been experiencing over the past 2 years.

IEPN: I think that it is interesting to learn that Canadian IEPs have been affected by what happened on and after 9/11 and by the crashing of the American dollar. How exactly did the dollar affect your IEP?

AC: It used to be a lot less expensive to do comparable EAP courses in Canada than in the United States, but as the U.S. dollar has continued to go into freefall, there is not the price differential anymore that used to benefit us.

As well as being hit hard by SARS, as the United States tightened its international student exchange policies post-9/11, so has Canada. Although Canada does seem to put a great deal of time and effort into not being America, it often does seem to follow U.S. models, such as those in education, health care, and immigration.

IEPN: How many teachers work at your IEP?

AC: For 160 students we have 10 classes. We try to keep the average class size down to 16. So, this semester, we have 10 full-time teachers, 4 part-time teachers, and 8 administrative staff. During the summer, we work with a lot more staff because we run a lot of shorter specialized, tailored programs.

IEPN: That’s a lot of full-time teachers. That’s great. Where is your IEP housed? Is it actually part of the university? Is it on the university grounds but not connected to the university? A ruder way of phrasing this question is, Who controls your budget?

AC: Yes, “Where is it housed?”—a very polite way of asking a lot of much more interesting questions! It is physically housed in this beautiful, old building which is now an official historic monument.

But in nonphysical terms, our relationship to the university is very interesting, very challenging, and, I expect, similar to many in the United States, the United Kingdom, and perhaps elsewhere. We are a zero-based funded program, which is the university’s way of saying, “Get your own damn money because we ain’t giving you nothing!” But that is officially pronounced “zero based funded,” which means that we must cover, to be a viable entity, all operating costs; on top of that, we pay the university a fee; and, on top of that, we generate additional revenue if possible.

IEPN: I guess the up side to that would be that you get to control your own money. Is that right?

AC: Well, you would think so. The up side is that we have a lot of creative freedom. That is a great thing. We are not constrained in the same way that a degree-awarding department offering credit-bearing courses would be. Our courses are not yet credit bearing. So, we have a lot of creative, administrative, and pedagogical freedom.

In terms of the finances, we pay the university a fee, cover all of our operating costs, and the additional revenue goes to a fund, which is jointly managed between ourselves and our faculty, Arts and Science. If we do have a debt, we can use reserves that we have built up over many years to cover the debt, and if we have a surplus it goes into the jointly managed fund. Last year we built a brand-new, state-of-the-art, $150,000 digital language lab. We paid $100,000 and the faculty paid $50,000 so that the other language departments could use it.

IEPN: You said because your courses are not yet credit bearing, you have a lot of creative freedom. So, what kinds of classes do your students take?

AC: Well, the School of English is one of the oldest in Canada. It started in 1942 and by Canadian or American standards, that makes it terribly old! So, its focus has changed over the years.

Historically, the school has been more focused on English for academic purposes. Students wanted to enter a Canadian or American university. The big shift in recent times has been a focus on business English, not just English for the workplace, but English with time in the workplace. We are one of the first schools in Canada to offer this type of internship program and we are piloting it this semester.

IEPN: So, without giving away any of your secrets, could you describe how that program works? If someone were interested in doing your internship program, how would you coordinate that?

AC: Well, one of the good things about the enrollment downturn in the past 2 years is that it has forced us to take a very large step back and reevaluate everything we were doing. So, now we have more than 10 new initiatives in different stages of development and piloting. The model that is run for all of them is based on my earlier training as a researcher. We gather and analyze a lot of data. Then we start with a small-scale pilot program. The first run there generally incurs an acceptable loss. The second run through the program should break even. And by the third go-round, it needs to be generating a profit.

IEPN: And by go-round you mean by semester, not by year?

AC: Yes, by semester. That’s the other challenge for us and for many similar programs. The university’s mentality is very much “everybody comes in September and you are set for the year.” But as you know, programs like ours experience at least 3 academic years every 12 months. That’s six sets of orientations, placement testing sessions, and graduations every year.

IEPN: So, do your courses run every 2 months, then?

AC: It’s a 14-week cycle. For the core program, it’s three 14-week cycles; the students actually get 12 weeks in class, there’s a break week in the middle, and there’s a week of placement testing and orientation at the beginning. A full week is 22 hours of in-class time. We also run a 5-week summer program and other shorter, tailored, customized programs.

IEPN: Where do your students come from, mostly?

AC: Like most schools, we are working hard to be a diverse community. In fact, I put forward the notion of a “Diversity Index,” which is the relationship between the number of students we have and the number of nationalities they represent. The good news is that as our enrollment has gone down, our diversity has increased.

The main sending countries, on the whole, are China, Japan, and South Korea. However, each year about 35 countries are represented by our students. But, we are vulnerable in the sense that as many as two-thirds of our students come from three or four countries.

IEPN: Yes. I suppose you worry about financial crises and that sort of thing.

AC: Not just financial crises but any kind of sudden, negative development. If the Nikkei drops, soon after that, we see a drop in our Japanese enrollment. We are very closely connected to the daily economic, social, and political lives of these countries. If the Yen shifts against the U.S. dollar, we feel the effect. It’s like being a kind of socioeconomic-educational barometer for those countries.

IEPN: What are you trying to do to diversify?

AC: One of our many initiatives has been an expensive, long and labored complete redesign of our Web site. It now has more information in more languages and is easier to find and to navigate. That will certainly help. One of the things that I helped to establish when I arrived was a new kind of scholarship program. Now, that was a tough sell. My dean said, “Okay. You guys get no university funding at all, but you want to give money away. Why?” But, we have established a scholarship program that has enabled us to provide funding for students from places like Afghanistan, Iran, Venezuela, and other countries who would generally not be able to afford a program inCanada, the United States, or the United Kingdom, which has helped increased our Diversity Index.

IEPN: What “extras” do you offer?

AC: There is a very active social/cultural program at the School of English. It’s more than an activities program. Someone has a full-time job arranging more than 100 events and activities every semester. Every evening and every weekend there are events—and 90% of them are free. We pay the salary of the full-time person and the half-a-dozen part-time students she works with. That’s a substantial investment that creates an expensive but very rich social/cultural program.

We also have a full-time professional counselor, which is relatively unusual. She works part-time and looks after a great homestay program. It’s one of the most successful in the country and we know it’s successful because people are always trying to copy it. We work with up to 100 local families and about half our students choose to stay with these families. She does interviews and inspections and does an elaborate matching of profiles. Of course we have to pay her salary and none of that is passed on to the student or the homestay families. We just cover all of that cost.

IEPN: So the students don’t pay an activities fee?

AC: They have to pay a nominal fee to get a card from the university student union that gives them access to the gym and other things. But, no, for more than 90 of the 100 events we provide, the students don’t pay anything additional. It’s just part of their tuition fee.

IEPN: What factors do you attribute to the success of your IEP? Some of these things are already jumping out, like your social/cultural program and homestay coordinator and counselor, but if you could pick two or three things that you thought were key to your success, what would they be?

AC: That’s a great question. For us, real, solid, community building has been key. We have worked very hard arranging staff retreats and social gatherings and encouraging and promoting collaborative and collective facing of challenges. So, there is a strong sense of community at this school that I see every day. It really is a distinguishing factor. This is not just a group of people that work together, but a group of professionals that re-create every day an unusually caring professional community. Community is talked about a lot and written about a lot, but it’s the first time in my professional life that I have been a part of such a powerful example of this kind of professional community.

I think another factor in our success is our willingness to look at what everyone else is doing, study it very carefully—then do the opposite. I call it counterintuitive intelligence; other people may just call it stupidity! So, when the downturn in enrollment hit, most schools cut back on their marketing and stopped investing in professional development. We did the opposite because we believe that when the downturn bottoms out, we will be in a great position to move forward. We have kept putting resources into our professional development program, and we’ve kept on investing in marketing, research, development, scholarships, and community building. Most other schools that we know of responded to the downturn by doing just the opposite.

We’ve also established, developed, and funded a strong commitment to professional development. We are a unique school in Canada in that every person who works at the school commits to paid professional development. Every member of the school, whether they are full-time or part-time teaching, administrative staff, or student helpers, is required to make a commitment to professional development or they are advised not to work at this school.

IEPN: What challenges are you facing right now?

AC: I think one challenge, which is always ongoing, is the future. As I said, we are unusually susceptible to social and economic changes in South Korea, in China, inCanada, in the United States, in Latin America, and elsewhere. Being so vulnerable to social, economic, and political changes is tremendously challenging. For instance, Immigration Canada once decided that all English language education agents, also known as “recruiters,” had to be Canadian citizens. That would have instantly and permanently slashed enrollment across the country, and there was an outcry, so they withdrew the plan. But they’ll be back. . . .

A more recent challenge is having so many new initiatives: a first-of-its-kind workplace English internship program in Canada, a brand new Web site, and many other new initiatives. How do we engage in so much change and innovation while at the same time maintaining a solid foundation? Too much change at the same time overwhelms people, but too little change leads to stagnation. How do you maintain a leading edge in creativity and innovation without overwhelming everyone?

IEPN: Balance. Any more challenges?

AC: Another is the fact that as we don’t have any credit-bearing courses and because we are zero-based funded, in addition to being vulnerable in the international domain, we are also vulnerable within the institutional domain. How do we ensure the ongoing growth and development of the school within the university, for whom we are an optional extra? Of course, we don’t see it that way, but within the university, we have no illusions about our own limited importance. We are a disposable, dispensable, optional extra. So how can we help the university to see that we are important? And that’s where the new initiatives come in. For example, we are developing a program in which we work with international faculty, as there is still the expectation that it is up to a nonnative speaking professor to adapt to and align with the university’s generally White, monolingual, students. It is not seen as a shared responsibility. So we are developing this program to help international faculty—and to help the university to see that we are not just a cash cow when the years are good and a loss-maker when the years are bad. We provide essential services that enable the university to achieve its proclaimed goal of wanting to be a much more international campus. 

IEPN: Interesting. Thanks for your time and for sharing your innovations and ideas with the IEP Newsletter.

AC: It’s been a pleasure, Tamara. Thank you.

Can the IEP Newsletter interview you? Please e-mail Tamara Jones at to be our next Spotlight On… interviewee.

This interview was conducted as part of the IEP Newsletter’s new series, “Success in Challenging Times,” which looks at the strategies IEPs are relying on across the world to keep afloat during this difficult period.

Letter from the Editor

Written by Tiffany Wilson-Mobley


Dear readers,

I had never really considered myself the maternal type.  Sure…I have always loved my students and wanted to give them the tools they needed to be successful in life. But, maternal, as in “Mom,” I wasn’t sure if I could do it.  My life was already pretty full and, I thought (chuckle, chuckle), in control and running smoothly.  In fact, I felt my students were my children, no matter how old.  I communicated with them daily.  I listened to their stories of sorrows and joys.  I felt I really was an active, purposeful member in their “family.”  Honestly, I felt I was a pretty darn good teacher.

But, then, life changed.  I found out that we were expecting.  As you can imagine (and many parents can imagine), I was a little overwhelmed when I realized life was completely out of control.  I knew nothing about (1) having a baby and (2) raising a baby. 

Then, our daughter, Lily, was born.  She is beautiful, sweet, and pure.  She fills our lives with unutterable hope and goodness in a complete way we have never known. However…she did not come with a manual.  So…we thought, “What if we do something wrong?  What if we do something right?  How will we know?” 

Fortunately, instinct kicked in, and thankfully, Lily is a great teacher.  Now, she is 22 months old.  She counts to 20 and recognizes her ABC’s with true enthusiasm.  So how about teaching?  And…now…how about my students?  Are they still my children?  Yes.  But now, with this new “helper” who also happens to be a first language learner, I have tapped into a new excitement for language and teaching language myself.  Furthermore, this rejuvenation of thought has made me reflect on teaching as a whole.

So, I thought about first language learning.  Why does it happen?  How is it similar to second language learning?   Well, researchers all the way back to Piaget, Skinner, and Chomsky have already given their conclusions.  No reason to reinvent that wheel (thank goodness).  But, this “major change in my life”, this “being thrown into waters I know nothing about” – why has it made me enjoy teaching and language learning even more?

I think it’s the “a-ha” factor.  By “a-ha,” I am referring to those brilliant moments of peace when everything looks clearer and something new is learned.  You know the feeling.  But, many times, these brilliant, good-feeling, progressive moments of clarity and learning are sometimes one-way.  Maybe the student learns something new and beams up admiring you and your golden glow as TEACHER (ethereal music, please, da-da-du).  Or, you learn something from your student that makes you realize, “Ah, yes, this is the key to helping her remember how to write the adjective before the noun in a noun phrase.”  You know the feeling - strong, primal, want to pound your chest because you feel connected to your purpose and meaning. 

And, yes, of course, these are great moments.  But, how often do these moments happen simultaneously?   Let me give you an example what I mean.  This is an entry from my journal...

June 27, 2005

Lily now lets me know she wants to cuddle.  She points to me and says, “Momma.”  Then, she points to herself and I say, “Lily.”  Then, we both smile and snuggle in for a moment together.  I’m not sure how to describe the love I feel when she does this, and of course, at other times.  Also, sometimes, after she does this, she points out the door and says, “Dada.”  It’s as if she’s saying, “OK, now our family is complete.”  Amazing child, she is.

Also, today, I was so touched when we were reading her book called Cats [which is a baby book with facts about cats].  She pointed at a picture with a look of joyful surprise and said, “Momma.”  When I looked at the picture, I was also surprised.  I was surprised because the picture is of a beautiful romantic woman with her hair piled on top of her head – very soft and gentle, and Lily is associating her with me!!! What an incredible compliment [especially since I was sitting there looking rather awful in my sweats and sat-on-too-many-times glasses].  Is it a role she is seeing and not really me?  Sure, possibly.  But, the point is, she doesn’t see me as I have been seeing myself.  She sees me as beautiful. Wow!  What a teacher she is.  This is how I want to look at the world and the people of the world – as beautiful – as they truly are.

What is the exact point of this entry?  Well, I’m not quite sure, to be honest.  It could be analyzed as a demonstration of language learning…sure.  But, more importantly, I think it’s a demonstration of a moment:  a moment when two members of the experience learned something new, something surprisingly new.  It happened simultaneously.  And, although Lily and I learned something different, it happened at the same time, which increased the emphasis of the moment and changed at least one learner’s perception (mine!)…forever.

So, readers, here’s the challenge.  How often do symbiotic learning moments happen during your teaching day?  Do you get as much out of the lesson as your students are?  Do you walk away from the day knowing something new, fresh, different, or all of the above?  If not, question why.  And, while you are questioning why, know that these opportunities for growth and awareness are actually there.  If you are not recognizing them, do something (intellectually, academically, spiritually, geographically, etc.) that will help you get there.   Of course, if all else fails…you can spend time with a baby and look at the world through her eyes….it’s always amazing.

                                                            Tiffany Wilson-Mobley


                                                            IEP Newsletter

Articles Timely and Local IEP Electives

Johnnie Johnson Hafernik,

For many years, electives have been common in intensive English programs. Electives increase students' motivation for learning English by allowing students to choose one or two courses in addition to the required core classes. Faculty also benefit because they can often incorporate their own interests into elective courses, learn new content and skills, and be creative. Electives typically fall into two broad categories: skills based and content-based courses. While these categories are not mutually exclusive, most electives fall predominantly into one division. Typical skills based electives include such classes as TOEFL Preparation, U.S. Idioms and Vocabulary, and Pronunciation. Content-based electives include such titles as Business English, U.S. Culture through Film, and U.S. History and Politics. Service learning courses often include elements of both categories.

In this article, I argue for electives with content that is based on local areas and current events. Such electives help students increase their overall language skills, teach students academic skills, develop critical thinking skills, and build awareness and exploration of the world outside the classroom. I use two multi-level electives to examine common characteristics of timely and local IEP electives: (1) Current Events and the Media (hereafter called Current Events) and (2) San Francisco: Yesterday and Today (hereafter termed San Francisco). Current topics and issues important for the area where students are studying provide rich content for courses, content that students enjoy and put to immediate use.

Teaching the Electives

Using the Current Events and San Francisco electives, I outline eight common characteristics, providing example assignments and activities. Each of these electives is a multi-level course that meets four hours a week for a semester. Electives can, of course, be more or fewer hours, depending upon the overall schedule of the English program. "Multi-level" here means the students are low intermediate to advanced level, with no real beginners in the class. As becomes quickly evident, these characteristics are closely connected and complement each other.


1. Focus on content and communication

For both electives, content is the organizing principle. The value of content-based instruction (CBI) is well documented (e.g., Brinton, Snow & Wesche, 1989; Snow & Brinton, 1997). The content is used as a resource or vehicle for learning English. Eskey (1997) states that "a basic premise of CBI is that people do not learn languages and then use them, but that people learn languages by using them" (p. 133). Inherent in a focus on content is a focus on communication: on understanding, articulating, and transmitting content. Both language and content are tested; both are part of the grade on assignments and in the course. Some quizzes, test questions, and assignments may deal mainly with discrete language items such as vocabulary, idioms, grammatical structures, and pronunciation. Yet, the majority of grades on tests and assignments are based on content as well as language use and accuracy. For example, a written reflection on a field trip or a guest lecture, a summary of an article or a video clip, an oral presentation, and an essay are graded for content as well as language use. For the Current Events class, the content is the local, national and international news (e.g., elections in the U.S. and other countries, conflicts and wars around the world, health pandemics and epidemics, entertainment and social issues, economic and business issues). For the San Francisco class, the content focuses on the history of San Francisco and California as well as local and state current events. For the history component, example topics are the Gold Rush, growth and expansion of the city, building of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, and earthquakes. For the today component, example topics are city politics, social issues, entertainment and sports, and neighborhoods (e.g., banning guns in the city, homelessness, the new DeYoung Museum of Art). Focusing on content and communication in these electives provides the foundation for the other seven characteristics of timely and local electives.

2. Use of authentic materials

Material is chosen for its content, not for its linguistic ease or difficulty and not for its linguistic features. The challenge is not in finding material, but rather in choosing material judiciously and in presenting the content in a coherent, unified sequence. Instructors have the opportunity to select content and pedagogy that promote critical thinking of broad issues and that advocate social responsibility. For example, by choosing to read about, discuss, and think critically about the San Francisco mayor's authorizing same-sex marriages, broader issues of individual legal rights, discrimination, human rights, and civil rights around the world can be addressed.

For the Current Events class, there is no textbook. Rather students use local and national print media, broadcast media, and the Internet. Free print media is often available. For example, urban areas generally have free neighborhood or specialized newspapers and newspaper companies may have an educational program whereby institutions can receive day-old newspapers for educational use. Television and radio broadcasts are freely available and can, along with print media, often be found on websites.


For the San Francisco class, students purchase a guidebook such as Fodor's Guide to San Francisco as well as a specified laminated map. Content also includes free material such as transportation system maps, information from the Tourist Bureau or Chamber of Commerce, local print and broadcast media, and material from the Internet.

3. Integration of language skills

Just as timely and local electives provide a platform to address important social issues, they create an opportunity to integrate the four basic language skills that students are learning in their core IEP classes (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing). Brinton and Master's book New Ways in Content-Based Instruction (1997) showcases CBI classroom activities that can be modified for specific timely and local electives. Below are three examples of activities that I have found successful in integrating language skills.

1.         Prediction exercises based on newspaper headlines and lead-ins to broadcast stories: 

Project enough newspaper headlines on a screen, or use a blackboard/OHP, for students in pairs or small groups to each have one. Each group discusses the headline, predicts five vocabulary words that will be found in the article, and tries to answer 5 WH questions (what, who, when, why and where). After discussion, I give each group the complete article to read and to evaluate their predictions (i.e., vocabulary and answers to the WH questions). Each group then reports to the whole class about their article and the accuracy of their predictions. For homework, students write a brief summary of the article. Example headlines from the San Francisco Chronicle (12/19/05) are (1) "Unseasonable greetings: Gusty, drenching storm snarls traffic, knocks out power" (2) "White House presses nation for resolve to win in Iraq" and an editorial in the San Francisco Examiner (12/19/05) "Gender selection's ethical minefield." With slight modifications, broadcast lead-ins can be used instead of print headlines.

2.         Listening logs

Listening logs familiarize students with local radio and T.V. stations and are appropriate for both Current Events and San Francisco courses. Students complete two listening logs for radio and two for television. This activity helps students become familiar with the format and content of local broadcast media, making it particularly ideal for assignments early in the semester. Table 1 contains a radio listening log assignment that can be adapted for a television listening log.

Table 1: Radio Listening Log Assignment

Radio Listening Log

Choose two of the Bay Area English radio stations listed on the sheet and complete the questions below. Complete one log for each station.

1. What are the call letters and numbers for the station?

2. Is the station AM of FM?

3.Listen for 15 minutes to the station and fill in the following information.

Time: Date:

Type of program:

Name of program, if one:

4. Choose one item to summarize in 1 or 2 sentences. (e.g., Is it international news, sports, local news, weather, music?)

5. How is this radio station similar to and different from a station in your country?


3.         Map exercises

Map exercises work well in any class and are particularly appropriate for the San Francisco class. Groups of map exercises focus on map reading, listening, and speaking, with each building on the last one and increasing in complexity. Reading maps, giving directions and understanding directions are complicated tasks for native speakers and important skills for everyone. All these activities orient students to the area, provide practice in skills they can immediately use outside of class, and are engaging.


The first day of the San Francisco class, I give a short lecture on the geography of the Bay Area, discuss neighborhoods of San Francisco, and have students locate the areas I talk about on their individual maps as well as the map projected on a screen. Each student can find the school and their residences on the map and show classmates. Pairs of students can be given specific locations to find on the map, such as Union Square, the Opera House, AT&T baseball park, Golden Gate Park, the Ferry Building, and then asked to show another group the locations of these attractions.

Other map activities include: (a) having team competitions to name attractions when given the cross streets, (b) doing exercises with campus maps, transportation maps, and city maps, (c) assigning students to find the cost and timetables of specific bus and subway trips, and (d) doing exercises and role plays giving and asking for directions.


4.         Practice of academic skills 

Academic skills and especially critical thinking can be developed in timely and local electives. Students can practice listening and note taking skills with such materials as news broadcasts, documentaries, movies, instructor and guest lectures, and student presentations. In the San Francisco class, each week students watch a short clip of a documentary about an aspect of history in San Francisco, do vocabulary and comprehension exercises on the clip, and discuss the content, significance, and issues raised by the clip. For example, a 15-minute segment of a documentary on early San Francisco presents the history of the Chinese and other minorities in San Francisco, with special attention to their treatment, employment opportunities, and legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Gentlemen's Agreement between the United States and Japan in 1907-1908. This leads into a discussion of the broader issues of immigration, the treatment of minorities, discrimination, and prejudice.

In addition to note-taking and discussion skills, students practice other academic skills by preparing and delivering formal presentations, debates, and participating in interviews and panel discussions. In both courses, students give written and oral summaries of readings and their reactions, evaluate internet sites, and practice library skills such as searching databases, using on-line references, and finding materials appropriate for a specific topic.

5.         Fostering of independent learning

For both Current Events and San Francisco courses, students play a role in selecting content and do independent research. Allowing students' choice of material and subject matter increases motivation and learning of both language and content. Assignments where students chose the content include (a) listening log assignments, b) individual vocabulary notebooks which I collect and review on a regular schedule, c) collectively generated class vocabulary lists where each student adds one or two words and all are responsible for learning, and d) summaries and reactions to individually selected news articles or portions of the guidebook not covered in class. I require students to submit a copy of the news article they summarize or indicate the pages from the guidebook that they have summarized. Additionally, I test students on their individual vocabulary words as well as the class words.

Independent research projects are another way to provide students choice in the class. These can be short assignments or longer projects that are done in stages. In the San Francisco course, a short assignment that students enjoy is researching the origins of a specific street name and then giving an oral and a written report on what they have learned. If possible, I begin the assignment during a class period held in the computer lab. Students list two or three San Francisco street names, locate them on a city map, and then research them on two or three websites that I provide.


Longer independent or group research projects for the San Francisco course include an oral and written report on a person who is or was important in San Francisco (e.g., Levi Strauss, Harvey Milk, A.P. Giannini), and a neighborhood or site in San Francisco (e.g., Alcatraz, Japan town, North Beach, Palace of Fine Arts). In the Current Events course, students examine a timely issue in depth. I approve all topics before students begin their research and structure the project so that students are guided step by step and submit reports at each stage.


6.         Introduction and analysis of cultural patterns

Timely and local electives provide content that can lead to students learning about and analyzing U.S. cultural patterns. Historical events, as well as current ones, provide glimpses into the values of individuals and cultures. For example, examining and comparing the practices and successes of early entrepreneurs and philanthropists in San Francisco such as Leland Stanford with today's entrepreneurs and philanthropists helps students understand how business practices have evolved because of legal constraints, differing definitions of ethical practice and changing cultural values. Issues, both historical and current, that capture people's attention and are deemed important at the time also reveal cultural values (e.g., smoking laws, support for public transportation, types of public transportation and populations served by each, issues of law and order, approval and use of guns). Students think critically about issues and events, thus learning more than facts.


7.         Broadening students' horizons and encouraging students to explore their environment

Few students seem to stay abreast of what is happening where they are and in the world. Students may also be reluctant to explore the city and area where they are studying and may be unaware of campus and local events and activities, many of which are free or inexpensive. Timely and local electives encourage students to broaden their horizons and to practice their English outside the classroom. Important components of timely and local electives are class field trips, required attendance at one or two events on campus or in the area, and contact assignments (e.g., interviews with native speakers). For example, in the Current Events course, students have toured the campus radio station (KUSF), the local public TV station (KQED), and the local newspaper building (San Francisco Chronicle). For the San Francisco course, field trips have included City Hall where we once met the Honorable Mayor Gavin Newsom, Mission Dolores, museums, and walking tours of neighborhoods. One benefit of field trips is having the class use public transportation, a new adventure for some students. After field trips and guest lectures, students write thank you letters as well as complete follow-up assignments.


In addition to field trips, I require students to attend at least two outside events during the semester and write a brief report. Each week I write on the board and announce campus and local events and students share information about events they have attended or know about. Typical events that students choose are campus lectures, campus sports events, theater productions, and poetry readings. I do not allow concerts or movies. For all outside of class activities, students have follow-up assignments such as writing up summaries and reactions and/or giving oral reports. A third type of assignment that gets students using English outside of the class and exploring their environment is individual and group contact assignments. These can be very structured or more open-ended and involve interviewing, observing and surveying native English speakers.


8.         High interest for students and faculty

Students and faculty enjoy timely and local electives. Students improve their English and critical thinking skills, and broaden their horizons while faculty use their creative skills and grow professionally. Two students' responses after a tour of Mission Dolores and two from a tour of City Hall illustrate benefits of field trips and of timely and local content.

Responses after a tour of Mission Dolores in San Francisco.

It is very interesting to see how different the world is from place to place.

I knew little about Christian during the grownup because it is not part of

my culture. The tour of Mission Dolores gave me an opportunity to open

my world and unveil the mysterious mask I have not got access to in my life.

Visiting the history is always better than just reading from books. How

amazing it is for standing in the same place with people from the different

time; life is unbelievable, isn't it? A Taiwanese woman

The tour was very interesting because it help me to understand more about

the origin, costumes, traditions of San Francisco, and how this city has a lot

of things in common with my country Venezuela because we had the same

experience with the Spanish missionaries. A Venezuelan woman

Responses after a tour of City Hall

I was surprised when I saw a woman. She was a chief of fire station. Anyway

my country I don't have the woman was working in the fire station.

A Cambodian male

It is really exciting and wonderful time to visit City Hall. I felt so excited and

surprised to see Mayor because it is not easy to run into a celebrity in my

ordinary civilian life, especially in San Francisco. More surprisingly, Mayor is

so nice and friendly to chat with us and presents an image of easy going instead

of an authority figure as a government official…. Most of officials in Taiwan

look more solemn and conservative. A Taiwanese woman


Designing these courses is hard work. It takes time and requires faculty to stay abreast of what's happening in the world, choose content judiciously, respond to students' interests and needs, and in the case of an elective based on the local area, become knowledgeable about the history of the area. Timely and local electives provide opportunities for faculty and students to address and critically examine important issues. Faculty must select content and authentic materials and then develop activities and language exercises appropriate for their students. Yet, the benefits and joys for faculty and students are many and the rewards are well worth the efforts.



Brinton, D.M. and Master, P. (Eds.) (1997). New ways in content-based instruction. Alexandria, Va: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

Brinton, D.M., Snow, M.A. and Wesche, M.S. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Eskey, D. (1997). Syllabus design in content-based instruction. In M.A. Snow and D.M. Brinton (Eds.). The content-based classroom: Perspectives on integrating language and content (pp. 132-141). White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

Snow, M.A. and Brinton, D. M. (Eds.). The content-based classroom: Perspectives on integrating language and content. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.


Johnnie Johnson Hafernik is professor in the ESL Program and the Department of Communication Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Teacher Development/Professional Development through Reflective Teaching

Rosemary Orlando,

In March 2005, as part of the Intensive English Program Interest Section at the annual TESOL 2005 convention in San Antonio, Texas, USA, I initiated and presided over a discussion on Teacher Development/Professional Development through Reflective Teaching. It was a thoughtful, lively discussion. I will share some of the main points that were shared and discussed at the session.

I began the discussion with the point that often times teachers spend so many hours per week in the classroom, that unless they make a concentrated effort to work on their own professional development and growth, they may find themselves feeling stagnant, frustrated, or ineffective. If you are fortunate to have a program director or program administrator who believes in making professional development a priority, then you are encouraged to make it part of your daily work. You have someone to guide you, to talk to you about your goals as a professional, and allow you to grow and develop as an educator. But, what if that is not the case at your worksite?

Here are some suggestions that were offered and some of the points that were considered and discussed by the participants.

1.                   Start with yourself. Decide that you want to be more cognizant of the learning and teaching that takes place in your classroom. Make it a conscious decision. Begin by taking notes about your thoughts, the students’ comments, and the supposed teaching and learning that you think should happen in the class. It is not sufficient to simply write “good class today.” Describe what happened. Why do you think it was a good class? Try to write immediately afterwards so as to capture what you think might have had an effect on the teaching and learning.

2.                   Be open to change and be willing to make changes in your teaching. This may not come easily at first. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to adjust to this different way of doing things. How can you better link your teaching to the students’ learning? A good book to read as you’re thinking about this is:  Pursuing Professional Development: The Self as Source (2001) by Kathleen Bailey, Andy Curtis, & David Nunan. I found this book to be a wonderful starting point in the effort to become better at what you do.

3.                   Work with a trusted colleague. Have yourself videotaped as you teach a lesson. Sit down with the colleague afterwards to discuss the tape in a non-threatening, non-evaluative manner. Develop questions that you want to ask and consider about your teaching. Take notes on these discussions and decide what action you could take to better improve your teaching. (Some of the participants who do this regularly at their school, made the point that this is not to be used as your evaluation tool. This is a separate piece that you are doing for yourself. Many teachers noted that it may not be easy to find a partner. Trust is very important for this to work well.)

4.                   If you don’t have anyone you feel you can work with, videotape yourself and try to look at yourself with fresh eyes. It is better to have someone else to work with, but it is still worthwhile to do it yourself in the beginning. The important thing is that you want to change and improve and you cannot wait for someone to do it for you.


5.                   Audiotape yourself teaching a lesson and then transcribe the tape. Sometimes we think we know how we sound when we teach, but there is no denying the facts when it is right there on tape. Although this has been suggested in many books, some teachers consider this to be too time-consuming. It was mentioned that it was well worth the time involved to gain this perspective on yourself and your teaching.

6.                   You cannot force your colleagues to “develop,” but you can share with them some of the things you are doing and in turn they might be encouraged to try them. Sometimes, the more seasoned teachers might be more resistant to change and consider their years in the classroom proof enough of their effectiveness. (A few of the participants explained that professional development was very much a part of their Intensive English Program and their directors worked with the staff.  When asked about the teachers who might be opposed to being videotaped or audio taped, those present at this discussion explained that anyone who applied for a teaching position at their school were told what to expect from the very beginning.)

7.                   Get started right away. Jump right in and give it a try. Write down your thoughts immediately and begin to see yourself and your teaching in a new light. You might just be very pleased at what you find!


Bailey, K.M., Curtis, A., & Nunan, D. (2001). Pursuing Professional Development: The

Self as Source. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Curtis, A. (March 2004). Leadership and Management in Times of Challenge and

Change. Plenary address presented at the TESOL 2004 annual Convention,

Long Beach, CA, USA.

Rosemary Orlando is an Associate Professor in the Center for Language Education at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. She teaches in the Intensive English Program as well as in the MS-TEFL Masters degree program.

Community News and Information The 40th Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibit (TESOL 2006) Click to view the article. [PDF]

Virginia D. Lezhnev’s inspiring and informative article, “Advanced Grammar Review:  A Descriptive Approach,” was printed with the email (one “v”).  Dr. Lezhnev’s correct email address is (with two “v’s”.)  We apologize to Dr. Lezhnev…and thank her again for submitting her article.

About This Member Community The IEP-IS Steering Committee

Past Chair

Dawn E. McCormick,



Tim Cauller,



Elizabeth Anderson,



Tamara Jones,



Tiffany Wilson-Mobley,



Dayna Ford,



Judy Dillon,



Christie Ward,


David Ross,


Jim Bame,



Katherine Wood,