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TESOL Connections (December 2009)

by User Not Found | 11/09/2011

• Grammatically Speaking
• A Journey Towards Professional Development, by F. Fleurquin

Association News

  • 2010 Convention Registration Open: Register early for discounts

  • TESOL Launches New TESOL Core Certificate Program
    • Principles and Practices of Online Teaching Certificate Program
  • Calls for Book Submissions: Focus on Form and Teaching Idioms

    • Partner With TESOL: A global outreach program

  • TESOL 2012 Program Chair: Open call closes December 15
  • TESOL Comments on Proposed Accommodations for National Assessment of Educational Progress
  • Items approved at the October 2009, Board of Directors meeting
  • New Teacher Membership Category Launches


    Practical Guidelines for ELL Education: Instruction & Intervention

    • U.S. State Department funded Educational Seminars Program
    • Promising practices in using ARRA funds to meet the needs of ELLs

  • 2010 Toyota International Teacher Program to Costa Rica
  • International Teacher Exchanges: An Overlooked Approach to Meet the Instructional Needs of ELLs

    TESOL Connections Archives (members only)


    Grammatically Speaking download to PDF

    Richard Firsten explores English grammar

    and answers your grammar quandaries.

    Dear Richard,

    In a reader I use with my students, we had the following sentence in one passage:

    “Paleontologists still cannot fully explain why it is the megafauna of North America went extinct.”

    Some students were wondering if it was all right to omit it is, and I told them that was fine. I told them those words weren’t necessary in the sentence. Then, of course, the students asked me why the phrase is inserted and what its function is. Frankly, I was at a loss to explain this, so I told them I’d do some research and get back to them.

    Can you please help me out here? Thanks in advance.

    Lydia Shake

    Charleston, South Carolina, USA

    Dear Lydia,

    In order to answer this clearly, I’ll need to break things down a little. First of all, we need to understand that why it is is a noun clause that’s the direct object of the verb explain. If we turn things around to find out the question that this comes from, we wind up first with the question

    Why is it the megafauna of North America went extinct?

    What we have above is called a cleft question. If we break that down to its more basic construction, we get to

    Why did the megafauna of North America go extinct?

    Our cleft question contains anticipatory it. This cleft construction is used to bring attention to one of the elements in the sentence—in this case, the part beginning with why. It’s just a device used at times to bring fuller or more dramatic attention to what’s coming next in the idea. It seems more dramatic or important to say They still don’t know why it is those animals disappeared than to say They still don’t know why those animals disappeared.

    When you explain this to your students, give them some more examples of a basic question that’s converted into a cleft question and see if they can “feel” the difference between the two, even though the basic meaning is the same. I hope this has helped, Ms. Shake.

    Thanks for sending in such an interesting question, one that doesn’t come up often.


    Dear Mr. Firsten:

    Can you please explain the proper way to use the phrase would rather? I heard somebody say “We’d rather he doesn’t settle for just one opinion” when discussing a friend’s medical problem, but I just thought there was something wrong with doesn’t settlein the sentence. Am I right or wrong?

    Thanks for your help.

    Bosse Owambawa

    Lagos, Nigeria

    Dear Ms. Owambawa:

    You’re absolutely right. There is something wrong with doesn’t settle. The phrase would rather should be followed by a subjunctive clause, and this offers us three options:

    1. We’d rather he didn’t settle for just one opinion.

    The sentence contains the present subjunctive, which refers more to time in general.

    2. We'd rather he not settle for just one opinion.

    This has the mandative subjunctive, not specific to any time period, which some consider to be a very formal style. There are others who consider this to be an archaic form, but that’s debatable.

    3. We'd rather he wouldn’t settle for just one opinion.

    This third option contains a subjunctive form using would for the future. Many people feel intuitively that the big difference between no. 1 and no. 3 is that 1 sounds more forceful, while 3 sounds less forceful or weaker in its feeling.

    There you go, Ms. Owambawa. Thanks for a very interesting question.


    Dear Richard,

    Is it correct to say Drive safe or Drive safely? First I thought only safely sounded right, but then I thought safe sounded right, too. Now I’m confused. What’s your take on this?


    Danbury, Connecticut, USA

    Dear Embarrassed,

    You really shouldn’t feel embarrassed. I’ve got a hunch that many people would ask the very same question. The answer is that you can use both safely and safe as the adverb.

    Most people are aware of words like fast and deep that can function both as adjectives and adverbs, and safe works the same way. Another one is slow: Please drive more slowly or Please drive slower. Both work fine in this case, too.

    Thanks for a question that I’m sure has come up many times with many people.


    Dear Mr. Firsten:

    I was in the middle of writing a memo to the chairperson of our ESL Department when a colleague of mine mentioned that I’d made a mistake. I looked at what she thought was incorrect, but felt that it was correct. We bickered a little over this, and then left it as it was. But this has been bothering me, so I thought I’d ask you about it. I’ve thought about it so much that now I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong.

    The sentence I wrote is This is a matter of great importance for we teachers who deal with foreign exchange students. My colleague insisted that it should be This is a matter of great importance for us teachers who deal with foreign exchange students. Can you please explain which is correct and why?

    Thank you for your help.

    Name and location withheld

    Dear Anonymous:

    Your colleague’s sentence is the correct one. After a preposition, a personal pronoun must be in the object case, so us is the word to use. Your thinking that for we teachers was the way to go is an example of what we call hypercorrection. You know that saying us teachers is wrong as the subject, so you think it doesn’t sound right even when it’s the object.

    Of course it would be correct to say something like We teachers feel this is a matter of great importance. In this case, we teachers is the subject, and that’s why we works fine in this case.

    It’s interesting that if the pronoun had been you, your colleague wouldn’t have said anything. That’s simply because you is the same whether it’s the subject or object. And as far as they goes, we wouldn’t even use the object form of that pronoun in your sentence. We’d never say *This is a matter of great importance for them teachers. Why? Beats me! All I can say is that English has some interesting idiosyncrasies. So how do we get around this problem? We use those: This is a matter of great importance for those (who are/of us who are) teachers.

    Thanks for sending in this great question, Anonymous.


    Now let’s get to the Brain Teaser from my last column. The question was: What does it mean when we say if you will? What exactly does will mean in this commonly used expression, and what’s its origin?

    The first correct response came in from Ælfwine Mischler of Cairo, Egypt.

    If you will is used parenthetically to qualify a word or phrase. It means “if you wish it to be so called” or “if you choose or prefer to call it so.” Its use is absolute (not grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence) or with ellipsis of the objective clause.

    This meaning of will, “to desire” or “to wish,” dates back to Old English.

    Thank you for a very concise and very accurate answer, Ælfwine! Yes, the Anglo-Saxon verb willan, meaning “to wish,” has given us words like will as in will power and adjectives like willing. It’s amazing how it transformed over the centuries into the modal auxiliary will!

    And now here’s a new Brain Teaser: A person is speaking at a business budget meeting. She says, “Profits have been really down for the past three quarters. Having said that, whatever money is available for raises must be tightly controlled.”

    Is there something wrong with what she said? If you think there is, what is it? If you don’t think anything is wrong, why not?


    Please e-mail your grammar questions and Brain Teaser responses to

    When writing to Grammatically Speaking, please include your name and location (city and state, province, or country). If your question or response is selected for publication, your name and location will be printed unless you specify otherwise.

    Read the Grammatically Speaking Archives (2003–2009)


    A Journey Towards Professional Development:

    Using Performance Standards As a Tool

    for Professional Development for EFL Teachers

    download to PDF

    by Fernando Fleurquin

    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    Baltimore, Maryland, United States

    English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers and schools are constantly looking for alternative ways to promote professional development and to improve instructional practices and results. Using the Standards for ESL/EFL Teachers of Adults (TESOL, 2009) as a framework for reflection, nine EFL teachers reflected on their need for professional development and identified strengths and weaknesses in their teaching. A variety of ways in which the standards can be used to promote professional development in EFL contexts are discussed.

    Professional development (PD) is a demanding active process that spans teachers’ entire careers and that requires their active involvement. All of us, ESL or EFL teachers, have engaged in different activities that promote our personal and professional growth. This paper illustrates EFL teachers’ perceptions about their need for PD and describes the main conclusions that a group of EFL teachers reached after using TESOL’s Standards for ESL/EFL Teachers of Adults (TESOL, 2009) as a tool to promote their personal and professional development.


    Like many other areas in our field, the concept of PD has changed significantly during the past few decades. In 1982, Freeman distinguished between teacher training and teacher development. Training refers to building specific teaching skills, and development focuses on the individual teacher—“on the process of reflection, examination, and change which can lead to doing a better job and to personal and professional growth” (p. 21). According to Lange (1990), PD refers to the “process of continual intellectual, experiential, and attitudinal growth of teachers” (p. 250). Underhill (1994) stresses the direct relationship between teacher development, the need to “see the larger picture of what goes on in learning” (p. v) and the results of the teaching–learning process. England (1998) proposes a model of professional development under the assumptions that it needs to be a coordinated effort and that it is a process that continues throughout the teachers’ career. More recently, Freeman (2009) describes how the scope of second language teacher education has changed during the past 20 years. He says that it has gone from “a focus on training in knowledge and skills, to development of the individual teacher, to a broader examination of a common professional learning process and alternative conceptualizations of what was being learned through that process” (p.14). In this expanded scope of second language teacher education, the original concentric circles that represented training and development are part of a larger domain that includes research and conceptual arguments that inform professional learning and teaching. The last and broadest circle includes what he calls operational questions, which deal with teachers’ identity, socialization, and situations of practice. There is no question that we all need new knowledge and skills that lead to professional growth and opportunities to address our operational questions.

    There are many reasons teachers decide to take an active role and pursue PD goals. Bailey, Curtis, and Nunan (2001) describe some of them: to acquire new knowledge and skills, to accept change, to increase income and/or prestige, to have power, to combat negativity and burnout, or to interact with colleagues and create networks. England (1998) considers PD essential to ensure accountability, as well as to improve instructional results, morale, and working conditions. Curtis (2008) cites reasons a school must promote PD activities, which include keeping the organization growing; creating communities of language teachers, learners, and administrators; and preventing burnout. For Christison and Stoller (1997), PD is at the heart of a quality ELT program.

    Whether initiated by the teacher or promoted by the school, the personal PD that each teacher participates in has some general features that apply to all contexts:

    • PD is a journey that teachers embark on even before they start their teaching careers. The journey is as relevant as the destination and begins when teachers choose the field they will work in.
    • PD is a process that requires teachers’ active desire to increase their awareness of the variables that affect their success as teachers and learners of teaching, to explore their experience as their professional knowledge and skills evolve, and to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of their actions on their students’ lives and the community.
    • PD involves a conscious decision and requires active cognitive involvement on the part of the teacher.
    • Each teacher’s PD needs are different and vary according to the stage of the teacher’s career.
    • PD requires time.
    • PD requires a supportive environment.

    During my professional life, I have engaged in many activities that contributed to my PD. The activities I chose changed throughout my career. Some were activities that I chose to do by myself, such as keeping a journal, videotaping some classes, writing reflections on my classes, doing action research, presenting at conferences, or writing a paper to publish; I did other activities to comply with institutional requirements, such as compiling a portfolio as part of my performance evaluation. And I particularly enjoyed collaborative projects I did with colleagues and friends. All the activities I engaged in were part of my professional journey and contributed in different ways to improve my skills, knowledge, awareness, and autonomy as a teacher.


    Reflection is a powerful tool that can empower EFL teachers to take ownership of their PD within any social or working environment. Bartlett (1990) suggests that teachers engage in a process of critical reflective teaching by asking “what” and “why” questions about their practice, thus exercising control over their teaching. Crandall (1994) describes the reflective teaching model as an exciting PD option in which teachers read about, share, observe, analyze, and reflect upon their own practice in order to improve it. Richards and Lockhart (1996) encourage teachers to develop a critically reflective approach to teaching, regardless of the method or approach they follow. According to them, teachers can learn a great deal about teaching through self-inquiry, and “critical reflection can trigger a deeper understanding of teaching” (p. 4). By engaging in this reflective process, teachers can explore what happens in their classrooms and consider ways to improve their teaching. Brandt (2007) argues that reflection is a powerful tool to develop self-awareness and to contribute to ongoing PD. Zeichner and Liston (1996) explain that a reflective teacher (1) examines, frames, and attempts to solve the dilemmas of classroom practice, (2) is aware of and questions the assumptions and values he or she brings to teaching, (3) is attentive to the institutional and cultural contexts in which he or she teaches, (4) takes part in curriculum development and is involved in school change efforts, and (5) takes responsibility for his or her own PD. For Davies and Pearse (2000), constant reflection is the most important and profitable path to PD.

    Wallace (1991) proposes a reflective model of PD to reach professional competence. Received knowledge (the facts, data, and theories associated with the profession) interacts with experiential knowledge (the knowledge obtained through the practical experiences of professional action) to inform teachers’ practice. With the aim of enhancing their professional competence, teachers can reflect on the valuable experiences of their classroom practice, thus generating the basis for new and different practices in reference to their own professional concerns. The cycle is thus perpetuated, gradually improving the quality of reflection and of teachers’ continued PD.


    Teachers, students, parents, administrators, policy makers, and the entire community can benefit from the definition of parameters that identify goals, procedures, best practices, or final results. Standards provide a framework for all stakeholders to understand educational processes and results. There are different kinds of standards in ESL/EFL education, and TESOL has played a crucial role in the development of new standards for the international community. I will discuss three examples.

    Content standards describe the knowledge and skills that students are expected to show in a certain program. The publicationESL Standards for PreK-12 Students (TESOL, 1997) provides content standards for elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Three goals are established for ESOL learners at all age levels, and each of them has three standards:

    • to use English to communicate in social settings
    • to use English to achieve academically in all content areas, and
    • to use English in socially and culturally appropriate ways (p. 9)

    Program standards describe the resources, conditions, and features that a program needs in order to be effectively implemented. TESOL’s Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs (TESOL, 2003) is one example. The task force in charge of these standards defined nine components of a quality adult education ESL program:

    • program structure, administration, and planning
    • curriculum and instructional materials
    • instruction
    • learner recruitment, intake, and orientation
    • learner retention and transition
    • assessment and learner gains
    • employment conditions and staffing
    • professional development and staff evaluation
    • support services (p. vii)

    Performance standards define performance expectations in different content areas and the instruments that will be used to measure performance. TESOL’s Standards for ESL/EFL Teachers of Adults (TESOL, 2009) addresses a critical issue for teachers to use for personal and professional development: “What does the profession of English language teaching consider to be effective teaching?” (p. v). In fact, the book is designed to be used by teacher education programs and educational institutions to promote PD at personal and institutional levels. As the authors say,

    Personal professional development results from a commitment to students and the acknowledgment that there is room for improvement at every stage of a person’s career. The vignettes and the Performance Criteria . . . can facilitate self-evaluation and re-energize experienced instructors. (p. x)

    TESOL’s Standards for ESL/EFL Teachers of Adults explore eight main areas of teachers’ performance. The first three standards are the core components of the student-learning centered model: (1) planning, (2) instructing, and (3) assessing. The other standards include (4) identity and context, (5) language proficiency, (6) learning, (7) content, and (8) commitment and professionalism. These performance standards are the guidelines that were selected for this paper, to engage teachers in reflective teaching and promote personal and professional development in EFL contexts.


    To answer this question, nine EFL teachers were invited to use TESOL’s Standards for ESL/EFL Teachers of Adults (2009) as a tool for personal and professional development, reflecting on how they interpret their teaching experiences in relation to their own personal and professional background, social context, and working conditions in order to make decisions to engage in PD activities and improve their teaching.

    Nine teachers from three Latin American EFL centers responded to the invitation to participate in this project. Teachers (1) used the standards and the performance criteria for self-evaluation, (2) reflected on their teaching practice during 2 or 3 weeks using the eight standards as guiding principles, (3) communicated with the investigator about their reflections and daily decisions that affected their teaching and their need for PD, (4) used the same standards as a final self-evaluation, and (5) completed a final questionnaire about the process.

    To read the rest of this article, click here.