IEP Newsletter

IEP News, Volume 25:1 (March 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Are You a First-Timer? Here Are Some Tips
    • TESOL News: Reduced Rates for Students
    • Practical and Interpersonal Challenges of Curriculum Change
    • Fluency Dreams Can Come True
    • TESOL Convention Information: Important Dates and Times
    • Letter From the Immediate Past Chair
  • Community News and Information
    • IEPIS Steering Committee
    • Call for Submissions
    • About This Member Community

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

By Tim Cauller, e-mail:

Dear fellow IEP members,

By the time that you receive the link for this winter edition of our IEP newsletter, it will be well after the fact; nonetheless, Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful celebration, are feeling refreshed, and are off to a rousing start in 2005. There is another celebration on the horizon, though: it is just a few short weeks until our annual convention in San Antonio.

The TESOL convention is typically a time of fervent activity and a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues. The convention experience can also seem a little overwhelming, especially if it is your first convention. In my case, I did not really feel as if I had gotten into the swing of things until my third convention. So, if San Antonio is going to be your first big TESOL experience, or if it has been a while since the last time you attended a convention, then be sure to check out Madeline Garr's article in this newsletter for some great suggestions on how to get the most out of the many superb talks and events at this year's gathering in Texas.

For both veteran and new conventioneers alike, I urge you to take a few minutes between presentations to stop by our IEP booth in the Interest Section area of the Exhibit Hall. Introduce yourself to your IEP colleagues at the booth and share with your new friends something of your professional life and concerns. Consider becoming more actively involved in your IEP Interest Section's activities and help shape our agenda by learning more about how you can contribute a portion of your time and energy into helping our professional organization better serve the needs of our membership. We all lead busy lives, and it is never easy giving up precious, rare free time, but please remember that there are many ways that you can help without having to make a huge commitment of time.

During my brief tenure as chair, it has been one of my priorities to find ways to keep all of us, especially those of us who are not able to get to the convention, professionally connected throughout the year and to keep the spirit of TESOL fresh within us as we go about our daily business. I believe that this newsletter is one main ingredient in helping to achieve this goal. Through the combined efforts of TESOL's Central Office and our IEP newsletter coeditors, Tamara Jones ( and Tiffany Wilson-Mobley (, you are reading a reinvigorated newsletter with a fresh look that is poised to become an even more valuable avenue of communication for our IEP membership. However, we need your help!

We would like to feature a regular column in our newsletter that discusses the concerns, the needs, and the realities you are confronting in your life and in your IEP's life in this era of diminished enrollments. Even more, we would like you to share with our readership your personal and institutional strategies for meeting these challenges. Your forum for your ideas: Your newsletter. Please contact Tamara, Tiffany, or myself today for more information about how you can write a brief article and be a part of the larger discussion of the state of the IEP in 2005.

In closing, let me say a big "Thank you!" to everyone who has been helping put together the upcoming "big show" in San Antonio. I can truthfully say that the IEP-sponsored portion of the program promises to be both relevant and provocative. It would not be possible without the dozens of fellow IEP members who submitted presentation and discussion group proposals, rated proposals, volunteered InterSection ideas, and more. Special thanks are also in order for the behind-the-scenes work of the members of the IEP Steering Committee. Their ongoing dedication to serving our professional organization is much appreciated.

It has been my pleasure to serve as your IEP Interest Section chair this past year. As I transition to past chair for the next year, I remain confident in my belief that intensive English programs continue to be an essential component of international English education and that we have many fruitful years ahead of us. I hope to see you in San Antonio and look forward to our continued conversation in the months ahead.

Tim Cauller photo.Warmest wishes,


Articles Are You a First-Timer? Here Are Some Tips

By Madeline Garr, e-mail:

You have just been given the opportunity to attend your first annual TESOL convention. You are excited and overwhelmed. This latter feeling is common among first-timers, particularly when faced with the numerous possibilities the convention offers. There are so many sessions to attend, so many materials to examine, and so many people to meet. The question becomes how you can make the best use of your time and your and your organization's resources and return home with the information that you need or want. This goal is achievable if you keep in mind the following seven tips.

Tip 1: Know what you want to achieve in the time you have at the convention. Are there certain presenters you want to hear? Is there a certain area you want to concentrate on? Is there a specific area of ESL/EFL teaching you want to explore? Are you looking for a job? The options at the convention are endless so it is up to you to clarify your expectations. Once you have done that, then you can make a plan.

Tip 2: Go online and download the schedule of events and presentations. In earlier years, this option was not available to us. As a result, we spent a day trying to figure out what was being offered by reading the convention handbook. Now, however, you can go to the website and download the schedule. Once you have decided on your purpose at the convention, you can use this schedule to make a rough outline of what you want to do and when. This way, you are ready to attend. In addition, you can check to see when the first-timer orientation session is being offered. This session is offered by the TESOL organization to help first-timers get the most out of the convention.

Tip 3: Adapt an attitude of flexibility. Think of the convention as a third culture. Sometimes things are cancelled. Often these cancellations are in the "Convention Daily" or are posted on the door where the session is to take place. It helps to have a backup plan when this happens. Also, sometimes the session is too full and you can't get in. Again an alternative helps you at this time. Keep the convention book with you at all times so you can find alternative sessions.

Tip 4: Know the rules of this culture. One thing I didn't understand at my first convention was the rules surrounding the sessions. Believe me, if you don't understand these rules, you will be in culture shock at least the first day.

Rule 1: Handouts are gold. As you enter a session, get any handouts available. If you hang back, you won't get one. It is true that Kinkos is on site and offers handouts of sessions if the presenter runs out. However, these are offered at a price and as we teachers are notoriously frugal, getting a handout at the session itself becomes a quest.

Rule 2: It is perfectly acceptable to get up and leave in the middle of a session for whatever reason. When I was a first-timer, I was appalled at what I thought was rudeness. However, I later learned that this was acceptable behavior in this culture. People often come and go so if you find yourself at a session that does not meet your expectations or needs, don't feel trapped. Just quietly leave. Of course, it is easier to do this if you sit on the outside of the row, which may explain why the middle of the rows fill up last.

Tip 5: Schedule in a small break for yourself each day. If you don't, the sponge effect will set in and what you hear won't be processed. There will be too much information. Take a break. Sit in the sun if there is any. Page through the convention book or be still inside yourself. You will be the better for doing so.

Tip 6: Don't miss the featured speakers each day. Here you will hear the buzz words in the field and usually learn something that will inspire your teaching. The featured speakers tend to present the larger picture of the field and of the world. Also take advantage of the poster sessions which offer practical teaching tips from teachers like yourselves. Finally, the publishers' booths are a big draw but go with a purpose. Otherwise you will feel like you have entered Toys-R-Us without a list.

Tip 7: Each day, come away with at least one good idea to add to your teaching bag of tricks. This will help you feel a sense of accomplishment, give you something to share with your colleagues, and keep the convention alive in years to come.

In conclusion, for thousands of teachers this convention has created opportunities for learning and for service. You spend five days out of normal space and time with professionals like yourself for the purpose of seeking new and better ways to teach communication to others so that they can achieve their dreams. Taking a few minutes to design a plan to help you, the first-timer, get the most out of the convention will ensure that you will not leave the convention glassy-eyed and overwhelmed but instead clear-eyed and energized to go home and implement what you have learned.

TESOL News: Reduced Rates for Students

TESOL has significantly reduced fees for students to attend its annual convention and become TESOL members. Student members can attend the convention for just US$75, which is 67 percent off the regular member convention rate and 81 percent off the nonmember rate. Student membership dues have been reduced to just US$30 per year. Both of these changes were effective December 1, 2005, and neither is effective retroactively. Please tell any students you know about the discounts that are available to them.

If you would like TESOL to send a flyer that outlines the new dues and convention registration fees for you to post or distribute, please send your contact information to

Thanks in advance for helping TESOL reach students, the future leaders of the profession.

Practical and Interpersonal Challenges of Curriculum Change

By Vivette Beuster,, and Jennifer Graupensperger,


Timely and appropriate curriculum change is essential for survival in increasingly competitive IEP environments. There is no doubt that if teamwork is executed well, team members can develop creative language-learning solutions and innovative courses during the curriculum change process. Nevertheless, many unanticipated challenges face a department when it starts confronting individuals with deeply held beliefs about language learning and teaching. Literature expounding the benefits of teamwork abounds, but few writers warn of its challenges. Even fewer provide practical advice on how to conduct productive curriculum change in teams.

Well-intentioned teachers who sincerely believe in teamwork for their students are often more able to coach others than to work in teams themselves. Though they lean toward democratic principles in their work, they also tend to be territorial, to like to work independently, and to be committed to their own best ideas. In this article, the authors will share first-hand knowledge of how careful planning of tasks and awareness of human behavior patterns can lead to successful change, discuss the benefits and pitfalls of teamwork during the curriculum change process, and help prospective change agents think through their situations before they embark on the process.

Curriculum Change Process

When teachers are working in teams, the different elements of the curriculum change process fall into two distinct parts: practical tasks and human relationships. Though the practical tasks are relatively easy to anticipate and plan, creating productive human relationships within a team environment is more complicated because the problems arising from these relationships are often difficult to predict.

Practical Activities and Timelines

The worksheet below lists a variety of curriculum change activities a department needs to think about before it starts the change process. This list reflects the tasks to be completed in one possible situation, but obviously, each situation will demand its own set of activities and format. Depending on a department’s needs, the list may be longer or shorter than this one.


Final Product

Completion Dates

Responsible Party(ies) and Participants

1. Determine whether the curriculum should be changed. Focus on signs that the current one is not as productive as it could be.


2. Decide who will be involved in the curriculum change process and whether to use a team approach.


3. Explore and settle on

  • Goals for the curriculum change process
  • Member roles and responsibilities
  • Decision-making process

4. Revisit or develop departmental mission statement and overall program goals.


5. Review market trends and competitor offerings. Review trends in the discipline (e.g. methodology, content areas) and compare these with own program.


6. Compile a preliminary wish list for the new curriculum.


7. Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment through questionnaires, focus groups, meetings, and informal discussions with

  • Students
  • IESL/ESL/EFL teachers
  • Academic instructors
  • Marketing department
  • Student advisors

8. Review needs assessment documents to highlight trends and most prominent items and finalize the curriculum wish list.


9. Use the list in #8 to investigate and select appropriate curriculum models.


10. Look at the big picture to identify all elements affected by the change and assess the scope of the project.


11. Draw up an action plan indicating end product, milestones, completion dates, and responsible parties.


12. Review decisions about

  • Goals for the curriculum change process
  • Member roles and responsibilities
  • Decision-making process
  • Explore and decide on
  • Communication channels
  • The role of management
  • How to resolve disagreement and conflict

13. Implement action plan:

  • Provide curriculum change training at key phases
  • Have ongoing work sessions to complete assigned tasks as outlined by action plan in #11
  • Initiate regular communication with key players at every stage
  • Ensure ongoing communication with key stakeholders (students, instructors, marketers, and advisors)

14. Implement new curriculum

  • Train teachers to deal with demands of new curriculum
  • Involve marketers and advisors to work out support services
  • Hold briefing sessions with students
  • Deal with student placement and course support issues well in advance
  • Arrange logistics (booklists, rosters, etc.)

15. Monitor implementation.


16. Review new curriculum after a reasonable time and make adjustments.


Most planners set completion dates and specify who will be responsible for what tasks, but one of the elements most often neglected is visualizing the final product. For example, for number three in the worksheet above, the final products could be a document listing curriculum change goals, a worksheet specifying team member roles and responsibilities, and a decision-making binder containing a description of the decision-making process with space to file future decisions and discussion records. By being as specific and concrete as possible, a change team can proactively identify potential problems and address them in a comprehensive plan.

Potential Benefits and Pitfalls of Teamwork

When the change process is begun, a number of options are available for organizing the people involved. Teams can choose to have one or many managers direct the changes. Before a department decides whether to use a team approach to change the curriculum, they should weigh the pros and cons of teamwork. Some of each are listed below.

Working in teams during the curriculum change process can produce many important benefits:

  1. Participants can get multiple perspectives on curriculum issues so that they can think through scenarios, identify potential problems, and discover advantages. The synergy created when collaboration takes place produces better and more meaningful results than when one or two people try to consider all possible options. Teams can also promote communication when all stakeholders have a voice and participate in the work of thinking and doing.
  2. Team members can utilize participant knowledge and expertise to consider and develop curriculum frameworks and materials. Each person brings his or her unique set of experiences and priorities to the process and has the potential to provide important ideas. Participants can help fill in knowledge gaps for others.
  3. Full participation will allow all team members to feel they are involved and have a stake in the final product. People are more invested in the result when they play a role in bringing it about. They care that their ideas and their work come to fruition. Team membership allows people to pursue their own benefits (think “WIFM”--What’s In it For Me) within the greater goals of the department.
  4. Teamwork provides a developmental process for all parties involved. Participants can learn from and teach each other. Not only does the curriculum grow, but also so do the individuals involved.
  5. Through teamwork, participants can share the workload equally. Teams can avoid burnout and failing motivation when more people give the time and energy needed to complete the tasks. Team members can also complete tasks in a more timely manner when several people work together than when all of the work rests on one person’s shoulders.
  6. The team process can generate enthusiasm and cohesion in the department. Each team member becomes responsible to all the others for his or her attitude and share of the work. Other team members encourage, help, and celebrate the successes of each individual. By learning from and about each other through the process, the team is better prepared to handle other challenges they will face together.

On the other hand, there are many inherent problems when working in teams. Here are some potential pitfalls and ways to avoid them:

  1. It is time consuming to work in groups. Team leaders should prepare participants for the extra time commitment related to coordinating tasks and making decisions. They should also plan enough time for all activities and build in a time buffer.
  2. Not everybody feels comfortable working in groups and spending the extra time and effort it takes to work on human relationships. Group work requires special interpersonal and group processing skills. Team leaders should assess whether people want and are able to work in groups and assign tasks accordingly. In addition, leaders should make people aware of potential difficulties and confront teamwork problems immediately and openly.
  3. Decision-making can get difficult when there are too many voices, not enough discussion, hidden agendas, and negative dissention. Right at the beginning, teams should decide how they will make decisions and how they will deal with dissenting voices. They should discuss controversial issues deliberately and carefully. Team leaders should take notes during discussions, ensure all participants are heard, and record final decisions to avoid confusion later.
  4. It is sometimes difficult for individuals to give up preferred ideas for the good of the group or to achieve common goals. Change teams should establish goals and ground rules for decision-making at the outset. Team leaders should remind members periodically of these and confront individuals when appropriate.
  5. Team and leadership roles are not always clearly established at the outset, which leads to dysfunctional power dynamics that can disrupt harmony and cooperation within the team. Team leaders should find out people’s strengths and weaknesses in advance, consider existing power structures, and allocate roles accordingly. They should obtain a clear mandate and support from management, and draw on that support when the situation requires it.

Though there are definite advantages to teamwork, team leaders should keep the potential pitfalls in mind and plan specific activities to avoid them.

Assumptions About Coworker Abilities and Willingness to Work in Teams

When teams form, members often make assumptions about how colleagues will function within the team setting. They base these assumptions on their own abilities and willingness to work within them. However, making assumptions about others can be a foolish, even hazardous, venture. Even before making a decision to work in some form of team, prospective team leaders, and perhaps even all potential team members, should make an assessment of the attitudes and skills of participants. An accurate assessment can help determine staff readiness to change, optimal staff organization for the work ahead, appropriate roles for individuals, and potential roadblocks to success.

The worksheet below addresses 14 common assumptions and asks for an evaluation of coworkers’ willingness (attitude based) and ability (skill based) to complete or follow through on specific tasks. When the answer is “NO” for one or more potential team member, team leaders should seek a productive solution. This process allows leaders to foresee roadblocks and think through strategies to overcome them.

Will coworkers be willing and able to do the following?



If no, how can you deal most productively with the situation?

1. Take responsibility for finding solutions to departmental problems


2. Always follow through on commitments


3. Speak up when they have legitimate complaints or problems during the change process


4. Seek ways to develop mutual understanding of terms, concepts, or processes


5. Agree and reach consensus


6. Give up favorite ideas and be satisfied with compromise


7. Want improvement even though it necessitates change


8. Take calculated risks


9. Work closely with their peers


10. Do a little more work for a given period to achieve a common goal


11. Try different methods and discard outmoded ones


12. Have staying power during a process that extends over time


13. Accept their share of the workload


14. Accept responsibility for resolving conflict in the group


Some solutions for lack of willingness or ability in these areas may include additional training, collaborating with other team members, or even making agreements in advance in areas that individuals are concerned about or feel are especially important to them.

Dealing With Difficult Situations

Even if team leaders plan tasks and timelines carefully and clarify assumptions about coworkers, there will still be difficult situations. We have listed six of the most difficult situations we had to deal with. Hopefully this list will alert team leaders to some of the hazards that may be lurking in the future.

  1. Deciding on decision-making models.

Having an agreed-upon procedure for making curriculum change decisions is paramount. Departments can avoid many arguments and discontent by taking this important first step. There are many ways to make decisions. Teamwork does not automatically necessitate majority rule or complete consensus models. The team must choose how they will make decisions and this can be done through identifying different models and considering the advantages and disadvantages of each. At this stage, teams should also think about how to review decisions at various predetermined stages.

  1. Keeping all key parties involved and informed.

Many stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, and students, are involved in a curriculum change process. Keeping parties informed, invested, and positive about the change requires a delicate balance of communicating information and getting feedback. Keeping parties involved and informed is also a key to building trust and maintaining goodwill.

  1. Confronting unwillingness to cooperate.

Cooperation is the key to successful planning and implementation. When team members show unwillingness to cooperate, they may do so privately or publicly, passively or aggressively, and for a variety of reasons. For example, some may refuse to take responsibility for finding solutions, follow through on commitments, speak up if they have legitimate complaints, or seek ways for mutual understanding. Others may refuse to give up ideas, settle for compromise, seek improvement, or take calculated risks. They may also lack staying power during difficult times. A confrontation may lead to increased unwillingness if managed inappropriately. On the other hand, intervening promptly and effectively might avert bigger problems down the road. Many cooperation problems can be avoided if individuals’ behavior patterns are kept in mind when choosing a decision-making model and when assigning roles.

  1. Working toward a common goal.

What is best for the student or the program may not always seem advantageous for, or may require sacrifice from, the instructor. This situation requires convincing the self-interested colleague to work and make decisions for the best interests of the program. This can be done by establishing a group that wants to work together, agreeing to a clear team mission and goals at the beginning, and reminding the team of the goals and rewards of their achievements at appropriate times.

  1. Avoiding false buy-in.

Team members may agree to comply with a decided upon course of action but later either resist follow-through (e.g., making excuses or procrastinating) or completely reject the plan. Indeed, for various reasons they may have the intention from the start of not complying with a plan they publicly agreed to. False buy-in can largely be avoided by keeping team participants actively involved in the change process, showing them that their efforts are valued, and making them feel they have a stake in the final product. It also helps to discuss problems and issues sufficiently before assigning tasks or casting votes. It is important to deal with individuals at the first signs of false buy-in. In severe cases and as a last resort, remove individuals from the team.

  1. Limiting resistance to change.

Change intimidates people when they have to abandon comfortable patterns, do new work, and take perceived risks. Team members may resist change by work slowdowns, forgetfulness, continued questioning of decisions, or other indirect means. This problem is difficult and time-consuming to deal with, but it helps if the team explores reasons for resistance to change, makes changes in small steps to develop trust and goodwill, and allows results to win over skeptics.

Ten Steps to Success

Successful team leadership requires vigilance, responsiveness, and much optimism. Though team leaders should be aware of the potential negative situations that can arise as described above, they may also want to consider taking the following important actions during the change process:

  1. Get a firm commitment from team members that they are ready and want to change the curriculum. Have them sign a contract. This is an opportunity to identify and address concerns, but team leaders should be careful not to make promises they cannot keep.
  2. Regularly clarify definitions and check assumptions. Provide a glossary of terms so that there is a common understanding and language does not become a barrier. Regularly refer to the assumptions checklist.
  3. Keep clear and accurate records of discussions and decisions made. Post minutes of meetings and make sure that colleagues concur with the contents before archiving them.
  4. Provide models and examples of concepts as often as possible. This is an opportunity to teach--both explicitly and implicitly. Provide good quality examples. People will be watching.
  5. Be consistent--do not make changes under pressure and be sure to follow through on commitments.
  6. Trust the collective experience and value the individual experience of group members. Remember and refer back to the list of benefits as needed. Treat others with respect. Respect the process as well.
  7. Find ways to make involvement beneficial for everyone. Whether it is money, recognition, or a professional development opportunity, find an incentive for each person and help him or her identify how work leads toward it.
  8. Follow a clear, accepted decision-making model. This is the key to consistency, empowerment of leadership, and fewer challenges to authority or the process.
  9. Regularly review goals and celebrate progress. Keep a mission statement with program goals posted in clear sight to all, plan recognition events at major milestones, and make sure spontaneous celebrations take place.
  10. Listen, listen, and listen. Do this above all else. Be aware of publicly and privately expressed needs and take action immediately once a need or concern is identified. Listening is more than a chance to gather information. It is also a chance to show care and respect for coworkers.

The curriculum change process can be destructive or it can be the best thing a department has ever done. The outcome depends on the extent to which team leaders are willing to ask hard questions and deal with difficult situations directly, openly, and promptly. The ideas discussed in this paper will help prospective team leaders prepare for the journey and provide practical tools to manage the tasks, decisions, and human challenges along the way.

Vivette Beuster, IESL instructor at Green River Community College, Auburn, Washington, United States, taught ESL/EFL in South Africa and China, designed curricula, and taught courses for ESL teachers in China and the United States.

Jennifer Graupensperger teaches ESL at Annie Wright School, Tacoma, Washington, United States. She has designed curricula and taught intensive ESL at a Washington State community college and EFL in Germany.

Fluency Dreams Can Come True

By Cheryl Ernst, e-mail:; Kimberly McGrath, e-mail:; and Marilyn Rivers, e-mail:

Imagine the following scenario: You walk into your classroom. You take your seat and two students begin class. They lead their peers in a vocabulary activity, work with the class to identify the main ideas of a unit, and, finally, lead a discussion based on information they assigned to their peers. They’ve read and peer-reviewed their handouts, they’ve managed their time, the activities and discussion are interactive, they’re speaking naturally and not giving a memorized performance—finally, they are engaged and learning. All the while, the facilitators are paying special attention to their language production. As a result of teachers incorporating presentation techniques and facilitation strategies with the goals of the class, students can visibly see their fluency improve.

This is not an ideal or imaginary classroom—it is a classroom where pair-facilitated instruction is taking place. With the proper foundation and support, pair-facilitated instruction is a wonderful culminating activity that allows students to show their strengths, accomplish goals of the course, and accept responsibility for their own learning.

What is it?

In a pair-facilitated discussion the two facilitators share an article, key vocabulary, and comprehension and discussion questions with the class. The students go home and read the article. Then during the next class period, the facilitators lead the class in a discussion based on their questions from the article. In addition, the facilitators have created some kind of activity (vocabulary game, debate, etc.) that encourages further exposure to and use of the vocabulary words and the content.


To accomplish this seemingly idyllic scenario, the instructor needs a strong foundation. The instructor must model the desired outcome. To do that, it’s important to start with good presentation techniques. An instructor who does not make good eye contact or speak clearly is not setting a good example. The qualities that are key are good volume and pace, developing a rapport with the audience, and encouraging everyone to be involved by asking open-ended questions, clarifying points, and summarizing to keep the group focused. Another important quality is time management. Students need to understand how time plays an important role in order to successfully communicate an intended message.

In addition to being a good performer, the instructor must demonstrate good facilitator and participant roles. When training students to facilitate, the instructor must make the responsibilities clear and model how they work. Sometimes the instructor facilitates, but the instructor also needs to participate. The instructor may choose to be a bit of a devil’s advocate by playing the role of an obnoxious student or the dominator. Perhaps by interrupting the participants and facilitator, the instructor would like the facilitator to practice asserting more control over the group. Ample opportunity for practice is key, and as instructors we fully realize that every discussion that we lead is not always smooth. Thinking on your feet during a discussion activity becomes a key skill in dealing with this format of communication.

Instructors must also utilize a multitude of interactive activities, which the students can adapt for their own needs or mimic. Our students are not trained instructors and do not have a repertoire of ideas to pull from, but many students are able to create amazing activities after having some preparation discussions with their instructor (see the Facilitation Handout). This is also an opportunity for discussions with open-ended versus closed-ended questions. The key to helping students develop these interactive activities is to be clear about what is to be accomplished from this communication and what the guidelines for the activities will be.


Most important for fluency is for the instructor to provide specific feedback to each student participating in the discussion, not just the leaders of the discussion. When students communicate with each other, instructors need to note recurring errors in their production; this can be done on strips of scratch paper that are returned at the end of class or mentioned in a brief feedback session at the end of class. By noting specific production problems that interfere in communicating clearly, instructors heighten students’ awareness of what they are saying and identify what some of their communication goals need to be. At first the feedback seems cumbersome. But after a while students start to expect it and in a classroom where students feel comfortable with one another, the instructor can start asking students to give feedback to each other, in the same manner.

These are the qualities that lead to productive pair-facilitated discussions. The actual process starts with continual modeling by the instructor prior to the pair facilitations. Then comes the preparation for the activity and the discussion activity itself, followed by the all-important debrief. Students must have time to talk with each other about what worked and what didn’t and what their errors were, and to review the outcomes.

The assessment component of this activity is essential. We recommend three forms of assessment (see the Feedback Form). The first is peer evaluation. Peer evaluation is a terrific tool but, like the pair-facilitated discussion itself, must have a solid foundation and students must understand their role as evaluators. An additional strategy for peer evaluation is to assign students different components of the assessment. One student may be responsible for pronunciation errors, another for grammatical inaccuracies, and a third for facilitation. The most comprehensive assessment should be the instructor’s evaluation. The instructor should be looking beyond what the peer evaluators will note. Instructors should be more critical and identify recurring problems in addition to simply noting mistakes. The final form of assessment is a self-reflection from the facilitators. Usually we videotape the discussion and the students write a reflective journal evaluating themselves after they have watched their tape (see the Reflective Journal Response). Though this tool is invaluable it is also difficult for students, but they often see the usefulness of opportunities to watch themselves on tape. Students need to see what their evaluators are seeing so they can appreciate the comments (both positive and negative).

After students have read the comments from their peers and instructor, they must have the opportunity to set postfacilitation goals. By identifying recurring errors, students can work to correct them. The ultimate goal of this portion of the activity is for students to heighten their sense of awareness about their own language production to improve fluency. As students start focusing on errors and mistakes, they begin to feel comfortable helping each other.


Pair-facilitated discussion may seem like a group leader or informal presentation exercise. It does emulate both of those activities. The advantage to using the pair-facilitated discussion format is that students work together negotiating through content and language issues, must use the skills that have been developed over the course, and, most important, must be impromptu. Students in this type of activity need to learn to think on their feet, so to speak. When students make presentations they very often memorize the entire speech, use stilted language, and have little control over their audience. Also, presentations tend to be noninteractive and the audience gets, well, let’s face it, bored. With the pair-facilitated discussion, everyone is involved. The facilitators must play off each other, and there is an acute awareness of the audience and a fair amount of control because discussion questions can be asked and the activities are planned. This activity is a productive use of classroom time.

At the end of the day, the success of handing over the classroom to students to practice presentation techniques and facilitation strategies has been notable. Every so often instructors will get a pair of students who are really not prepared or even interested in taking on the challenge of such a task. However, for the most part most students will marvel at how hard they had to work to prepare themselves for this type of language/communication work, and as they visibly see their fluency and confidence improve, they will thank their instructors for the opportunity provided to them.

Cheryl Ernst is a student in the curriculum and instruction PhD program and a TA in the Center for English as a Second Language at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Kimberly McGrath teaches at the Intensive English Institute at the University of Miami.

Marilyn Rivers is the director of the Center for English as a Second Language at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Pair-Facilitated Discussion Facilitation Handout Being a Facilitator

Pair-facilitated discussion gives students the opportunity to practice the skill of leading and facilitating group discussions. You and your partner will choose a topic of interest related to our course material. You will then plan good discussion questions and several activities to elicit thoughtful responses to the topic. One discussion will be facilitated weekly between weeks 3 and 8 of the course. What follows are some specific suggestions to help you be an effective discussion facilitator.

Before your session
  • Choose a partner from another country or language group.
  • Read your material carefully.
  • Identify the main points, key vocabulary, and areas that might be difficult for your fellow students.
  • Think of issues raised in the text that can be discussed and perhaps resolved in the class discussion.
  • Make a list of questions to ask as you facilitate the discussion. These questions should be open-ended and broad enough to elicit responses from students.
  • Prepare three different types of activities for your session. These could be a combination of whole class, small group, pair, or individual work on sections of the text, vocabulary, or opinion-type questions. You might experiment with true-false, multiple choice, skimming, or scanning exercises. Think up your own ideas with the idea that variety is important to keep your audience interested and involved.
  • Hand in an outline of the facilitation 3 days before the presentation.
  • Be sure you have thought about the 30-minute time limit. Carefully plan your activities so that they do not run over time.
  • If students need to read a text before the discussion, make a copy of the article for each class member, including the teacher, and be prepared to give a quick introduction of the text when you distribute it for them to read as homework.
During the session
  • At the beginning of the session give an overview of the objectives and activities planned for the period.
  • Invite participation from everyone in the class.
  • Keep a good pace, but keep in mind that silence is often a necessary pause in a conversation for people to think about ideas.
  • Keep the discussion focused on the text, specifically to clarify and analyze what is being said in the text.
  • Keep discussion focused on the main topic and avoid digressions.
  • Help the group clarify points raised by restating what members have said.
  • Have students respond to each other’s remarks (Do you agree with X’s point of view?)
  • Encourage the exploration of different points of view.
  • As a facilitator your role is more about conducting the conversation than about providing all the answers.
  • At the end of the session, recap what has been found in the session.
  • Many plans have to be modified at the moment, so this type of communication exercise requires a bit of thinking on your feet. Enjoy the moment, and go with the flow.
After the session
  • You will watch your performance and the performance of the group on tape in the Language Resource Center.
  • You will be given a follow-up journal assignment that is to be submitted 1 week from the day you presented.

Pair Formations: Specifics to address

My partner for this discussion will be: ________________________________________________

Our discussion week will be: ________________________________________________________________

Our content material will be: __________________________________________________________________

The outline deadline will be: _________________________________________________________________

Partner member contact information is (e-mail and phone):


Best of luck! Come and see me to talk about your ideas if you would like.

Pair Discussion Facilitation Feedback Form

Facilitator Name:

Feedback from:

1. Content
a. Preparation Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
b.Varied activities (group, pairs, etc.) Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
c.Student involvement Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
d. Main points discussed Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
e. Overall Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
f. Other: _________ Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
2. Delivery
a. Fluency Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
b. Comprehensibility Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
c. Volume Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
d. Eye contact Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
e. Confidence Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
f. Enthusiasm Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
g. Speaker did not dominate the discussion Excellent Good Fair Needs Improvement
h. Was content a problem? No Somewhat Yes

3. Errors: Write the problems you hear by noting down specific language items

a. Pronunciation:

b. Intonation

c. Grammar:

4. Overall Comments: One thing you liked and one suggestion for improvement.

Pair Facilitation Reflective Journal Response Reflective Responses - Overview

Reflective responses mean you need to write down impressions of yourself and others, not simply a recollection of what happened—more the why behind the what. The objective is to give you an opportunity to analyze different aspects of your experience, which will allow you to make progress the next time around.


Typed versions are always easier to read. If you cannot type your assignments, please be sure to write clearly and in black or blue ink (no red please). In addition, if you type or write, please be sure to leave room for comments. That means you need to leave a line between each line of writing. You should aim for about a page, though you may not always have that much to say. Just write as much as you can (no novel versions please).

Due Date: Journals are due 1 week after your presentation.

Date of entry:
Type of presentation:


On the basis of your experience with this short presentation and after viewing the tape in the Language Research Center, please write or type answers to the following questions.

1. Describe your general feeling after watching yourself on tape.

2. Do you think your presentation was an interactive communication and that you performed the role of facilitator well? What evidence do you have of this? (Give reasons to support your response.) How would you get more audience involvement and response if you were to present a second time?

3. What were the strengths and weaknesses of dealing with the content?

4. What strengths and weaknesses did you see in your delivery of the content? Did you plan a variety of activities to help engage classmates in the content? Give examples.

5. Identify and describe at least one communicative strength and one weakness that you think you exhibited.

6. Are you able to identify any areas of grammar or pronunciation that may have interfered with your message? Identify two to three language errors you heard yourself make on this tape. Were these common errors you often make? How do you propose to address these problems in the coming weeks?

7. What techniques (language, content organization, rapport with audience, use of humor,....) about presenting well did you learn from other presenters? What techniques would you consider trying to incorporate into your next presentation?

8. Do you have any questions or further comments that you would like to make about this communication exercise?

TESOL Convention Information: Important Dates and Times

By Tamara Jones, e-mail:

San Antonio, here we come!

The 2005 TESOL Convention is, in fact, rapidly approaching. As you make your convention plans, please take note of some important IEP dates and times:

IEP IS Business Meeting
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
5-7 p.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center / 008A

IEP Intersection Meeting
Thursday, March 31, 2005
9:30-11:15 a.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center / 204A

IEP Academic Session
Friday, April 1, 2005
8:30-11:15 a.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center / 217A

See y'all in Texas!

Letter From the Immediate Past Chair

By Dawn E. McCormick, Immediate Past Chair IEP IS, e-mail:

Dear Fellow IEP IS Members,

Happy New Year to you all! I hope that some of you made resolutions to serve or continue to serve the IEP IS membership. We will be electing three new members of the IEP IS board and steering committee at the 2004 convention in San Antonio: chair-elect, secretary, and one member-at-large.

Let me provide you with a bit of background on the structure of the IEP IS and on each position. Please note that future changes in IS governance structures may occur, so some responsibilities may change.

IEP IS offices are as follows: chair, chair-elect, immediate past chair, secretary, and historian. The steering board consists of the officers, three members-at-large, the IEP IS newsletter editor(s), and the TESOL board of directors representative nominated by IEP IS, if one is currently serving.

Chair-Elect: The main responsibilities of the chair-elect include organizing the IEP IS Academic Session at the convention, attending meetings during the convention, and assisting the chair. The chair, the chair-elect, and the immediate past chair will each hold office for 1 year. At the end of this term, the chair-elect becomes the chair, and the chair becomes the immediate past chair.

Secretary: The main responsibilities of the secretary are to prepare the minutes of the annual meetings of the steering board and of the IEP IS business meeting at the convention and prepare a summary of the minutes for publication in the IEP IS Newsletter. The secretary will hold office for 2 years and may not serve more than two consecutive terms.

Member-at-large: Members-at-large represent the IEP IS membership and lend their expertise to decisions made by the steering committee. They attend the steering board meeting at each convention. Members-at-large shall hold office for 3 years, with one member elected each year to provide staggered terms and, thus, continuity on the board.

You can read more details in the IEP IS governing rules available on the TESOL Web site. In "Member Communities" choose "Interest Sections," then "Intensive English Programs" (or go to and select "IEP IS Governing Rules."

Elections will take place at the business meeting, Wednesday, March 30, 2005, 5:00-7:00 p.m. If you are attending the convention and your membership is active, please come to the meeting and vote.

Please e-mail me nominations for all three positions or contact me for additional information (


Community News and Information IEPIS Steering Committee

Past Chair: Dawn E. McCormick,

T. Cauller, photo.Chair: Tim Cauller, 

E. Anderson, photo.Chair-Elect: Elizabeth Anderson,

T. Jones, photo.Coeditor: Tamara Jones,

T. Wilson-Mobley, photo.Coeditor: Tiffany Wilson-Mobley, 

D. Ford, photo.Secretary: Dayna Ford, 

J. Dillon, photo.Historian: Judy Dillon, 

Member-at-Large: Christie Ward, 

Member-at-Large: David Ross,

Member-at-Large: Jim Bame,

K. Wood, photo.Member-at-Large: Katherine Wood, 

Call for Submissions

The IEP Interest Section Newsletter is published four times a year (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter). Please send your submissions to:

Tamara Jones, Coeditor

Tiffany Wilson-Mobley, Coeditor


About This Member Community

TESOL's Intensive English Programs Interest Section deals with methodology, curriculum design, materials development, placement, evaluation, and research relevant to the teaching of English primarily to nonnative speakers who are foreign students attending intensive/semi-intensive programs prior to (or during) regular academic study.

IEPIS Community Leaders, 2004-2005

Chair: Timothy Cauller, e-mail
Chair-Elect: Elizabeth H. Anderson, e-mail
Editor: Tamara Jones, e-mail
Coeditor: Tiffany Wilson-Mobley, e-mail

Discussion E-List: Visit to subscribe to IEPIS-L, the discussion list for IEPIS members, or visit if already a subscriber.

Web site: