Oxford University Press | English Language Teaching Global Blog
Welcome to Oxford University Press Blog. This blog is intended for teachers, trainers, lecturers, authors and anyone else with an interest in keeping up with what’s happening in the world of ELT and what we’re up to. We’ll bring you resources you can use in your classrooms, hints and tips for teaching, insights into the lives of publishers and authors.
I close my eyes and imagine a place where I can meet hundreds of teachers from different places on earth, with different backgrounds, with different interests and with the same passion: learning and sharing. I open my eyes and see this place is real, like my very own self that meets these teachers and shares with them the same enthusiasm for teaching. This place is the wonderfully orchestrated 53rd IATEFL Conference 2019 held in Liverpool. The location of the event was right on the water with beautiful views of the coastline. Overall, approximately 3,000 attendees participated in over 500 talks! In these sessions, fellow colleagues presented their findings from their part of the world and discussed how it could be adapted to the participant’s home country. It was Aysu’s first time at IATEFL and Nick’s third, and both of us eagerly await next year’s conference.
Nick was fortunate enough to fly early to Liverpool and attend the special interest group on Learning Technologies. Here participants discussed how technology and feedback can be used to assist English language learning. After a great presentation on defining what feedback is and what it should be, the audience was shown several technologies that are currently being used in the classroom. This included uses of Artificial Intelligence and Screen Caption technology. During the conference, we attended several Teacher Training sessions, two of which stood out. One particularly memorable session focussed on using Lego to enhance teaching and learning, and another focussed on Assessing through Games.
Aysu has been into poetry since she could remember for her own pleasure, but for the past couple of years, she has been interested in using poetry in the ELT classroom. You can imagine her excitement at joining a poetry session with Doris Suchet to hear her ideas, poetry is another way to find out about one’s own, and certainly a great way to connect with others.
The Oxford Test of English
Oxford University Press’s Oxford Test of English Launch Event was a huge success. It was held in the beautiful Tate Liverpool Museum where many gathered to celebrate this new endeavour. The Oxford Test of English is a computer adaptive general English proficiency test certified by the University of Oxford. Nick was at the party and met several teachers eager to access this test for their students, enabling them to access further education.
The thing we will probably remember the most though was the people we met and interacted with. All the presenters were incredibly generous and approachable. We met so many teachers from around the world and learned about their students and working conditions. Conversations with teachers from Nepal, Russia, England, Thailand, Kosovo, Brazil, the Netherlands, Greece, China, and Bulgaria all helped to shape our knowledge of ELT globally, as well as help us to reflect on our own situation in Turkey.
Throughout the conference, this snippet from Alice in Wonderland haunted us:
The Hatter asks ‘Have I gone mad?’ and Alice answers ‘You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret, all the best people are.’
I believe we, as the people attending IATEFL, are all ‘bonkers’ like ‘all the best people are’ because we are the living proofs that we can create a world that is equal, inclusive, kind, hungry for learning, and open to sharing.
Nick Manthei is a full-time teacher trainer for Oxford University Press. He has previously taught in Istanbul and Izmir. He recently finished his Master’s degree in Education at Endicott College on International Education with an ESL Concentration. Nick has an optimistic outlook on Education in Turkey and the world and gives real examples of how education can be made better starting with the most important person in the school: the teacher.
Aysu Şimşek is a passionate advocate of continuing professional development. After graduating from Istanbul University with joint honours in American Culture and Literature with Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, she embarked on her own teaching career. As a teacher, Aysu had the fortune to work in supportive teaching teams and personally benefited from the valuable guidance of mentors. Now in her role with Oxford University Press, Aysu meets and supports teachers from across Turkey and is proud to be an active member of a global community of dedicated educationalists. She is a holder of a CELTA qualification, has co-written articles for Modern English Teacher magazine and TEA Online Magazine.
Assessment for learning (AfL) is a catchphrase with which many
teachers may be familiar and yet may not feel confident that they know what it
means in terms of classroom practice. Here I outline the basic ideas behind it
and the kinds of classroom practices AfL may involve.
At heart, it’s what good teachers do every day:
they gather information about where learners are
in their learning, what they know and don’t know;
they help their students understand what, and
why, they are learning and what successful performance will look like;
they give feedback which helps learners ‘close
the gap’ between where they are in their learning and where they need to get
they encourage learners to become more
self-regulating and reflective.
The evidence is that, done well, these practices are among
the most effective ways of improving learning and outcomes.
Assessment in this process is essentially informal, the
information teachers gather comes in many forms, for example, through classroom
dialogue, following up on unexpected answers, or recognising from puzzled looks
that the students have not understood. Tests play a part, but only if they are
used to feed directly into the teaching and learning process.
What would we expect to see in an AfL classroom?
would beevidence of teaching and
learning that is active, with
students involved in dialogue with their teachers and classmates. This goes
beyond simple recall questions and will include seeking out students’ views
(‘what do you think….) and giving them time to think about their answers –
often with a classmate (‘pair and share’).
Clarity about learning
intentions. This requires teachers to be clear about what is to be learned,
how the lesson activities will encourage it, and where it fits in the learning
progression. They then seek to make this clear to their students by linking it
to what they have learned already and showing why it’s important. Expert
teachers will use imaginative ways of introducing the learning intentions (‘why
do you think we’re doing this?’) rather than routinely writing out the learning
Teachers will also clarify what a successful performance
will look like, so that the learners can see the standard they need to achieve.
Teachers may do this by negotiating
with the class about what the learners think a good performance might involve
(for example: ‘what would you look for in a good oral presentation?’). Another
approach may be to exemplify the
standard by using examples of work (best as anonymous work from other
students). A teacher may give the class two pieces of work, she may then give
the class the criteria for assessing the work (no more than two or three key
criteria) and ask them, in groups, to make a judgement about their relative
quality. This also provides a vital step in being able to evaluate the quality
of their own work and become more self-regulated learners.
Giving effective feedback. Providing feedback that moves learning forward is a key, and complex, teaching skill. We know from research that feedback is hard to get right. Good feedback ‘closes the gap’ between a learner’s current performance and the standard that is to be achieved. Some of the key features in quality feedback are:
It recognises what has been done well and then
gives specific advice on what step
the learner can take next. General comments such as ‘try harder’, ‘improve your
handwriting’, or 7/10, do not provide the detail needed.
It is clear
and well-timed. The teacher gives feedback
in language the learner understands and it is given when it is most useful.
to the success criteria and focuses on the key next steps. We may sometimes
give too much feedback if we start to comment on presentational features (e.g.
spelling) when these were not part of the learning intention.
It involves action
and is achievable.
In all this, the aim of
assessment for learning is to encourage our students to increasingly think for
themselves, and have the ability and desire to regulate their own learning.
Gordon Stobartis an assessment expert that has contributed to the latest Position Paper for Oxford University Press, ‘Assessment for Learning’. Download the paper today to learn about effective feedback, close the gap between where your learners are and where they need to be, and get access to exclusive professional development events!
Gordon Stobart is Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University College London, and an honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford. Having worked as a secondary school teacher and an educational psychologist, he spent twenty years as a senior policy researcher. He was a founder member of the Assessment Reform Group, which has promoted assessment for learning internationally. Gordon is the lead author of our Assessment for Learning Position Paper.
Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar ‘Strategies for EMI/CLIL Success for Primary Learners’! During the webinar I had defined EMI and CLIL while addressing a few strategies applying the CLIL approach focusing on primary learners.
EMI – English as a Medium of Instruction
Information communicated to the learner (English being their non-native language) in the classroom is in English. This includes subject content, student materials and resources (textbooks and or coursebooks), and lecture instructions.
CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning
CLIL refers to, situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language. [D. Marsh, 1994]
Strategy Focus for Primary Learners with CLIL – Use of Visuals and its Benefits
Visual aids are tools and instruments teachers will use to encourage student learning by making the process easier, simpler, and more interesting for the learner. Visual aids usage supports information acquisition by allowing learners to digest and comprehend knowledge more easily.
Examples of visual aids, but not limited to, are: Pictures, models, charts, maps, videos, slides, diagrams, flashcards, and classroom props.
Thank you all for your interesting questions! Here I will do my best to respond to a couple of those I could not answer during the webinar.
What challenges do students in EMI [classes] face?
A student’s stage in education, (i.e. Primary, secondary, etc.) would result in different challenges. Overall, there are usually two main factors to consider in an EMI learning environment; first the student’s native tongue is not English, and second, the acquisition of the subject content being taught. Since the learner is dealing with new and fresh information in a relative new subject, those challenges being difficult on their own, a strong command of English would be a prerequisite.
That being understood, without the language ability, challenges could include difficulties comprehending subject concepts or themes, struggles communicating with the teacher or classroom peers, even troubles using materials such as their textbooks, workbooks, or class resources.
I am not stating that a student must be 100% fluent in English for EMI to be successful, but since EMI classrooms do not focus solely on English language learning, an appropriate level of English is needed to help learners reach their goals.
Does CLIL overlap with the PPP approach?
I believe that CLIL and the PPP method can overlap. Just to clarify the PPP methodology, this style of English teaching follows the 3Ps – presentation, practice, production. This method deals with a set process of how to deliver content to a L2 student, then provides support for language usage and application. Though CLIL does not encompass or represent all learning styles, it does provide a more flexible set of principles and guidelines. To paraphrase our previous definition, CLIL is established as a learning environment that satisfies the two goals of learning content and learning a foreign language equally. I like to think of the PPP method as a language delivery system. If an English teacher is teaching her L2 students science and writing skills, the PPP method can be used just as effectively as with a teacher teaching L1 grammar to an L1 classroom.
Many of the questions that were included were in regards to characteristics of a CLIL classroom/lesson. For that, I would like to recommend a short article for additional information.
The British Council has an article by Steve Darn that addresses CLIL’s framework and expectation in the classroom with supplemental resources: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/clil-a-lesson-framework. I also would like to recommend some other resources that I have found very helpful as well for CLIL and EMI in the classroom:
Ball, P., Kelly, K., Clegg, J. (2015). Putting CLIL into Practice. Great Clarendon Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Deller, S., Price, C. (2007). Teaching Other Subjects Through English. Great Clarendon Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Missed my webinar? click the link below to watch the recording!
Joon Lee has been involved in the EFL and ESL educational community at the positions of Academic Director, Content and Curriculum Developer, and Academic Advisor. He has been fortunate to pursue his interests in developmental learning from both in and out of the classroom. At OUP he is part of the Asia Educational Services team and shares his experiences providing teacher training and professional development workshops. He holds great respect for educators and administrators who show passion towards nurturing a learner’s path to success.
As a Girl Scout, I learned a song that you may also have learned. “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”
The lesson of that song also applies to the role of languages in our lives. “Learn a new language, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” Even better, learning languages isn’t like lining up silver coins beside gold ones, with spaces between them. The new and old languages interact; they can strengthen and enrich each other, creating knowledge and skill that go beyond the simple fact of knowing more words.
– the ability to use more than one language – has been found to bring benefits
throughout our lives. Some of those benefits are obvious, but others are more
subtle and unexpected. As teachers of English, we sometimes need to be reminded
that we are not only helping students become proficient in English, we are also
helping them become bilingual, adding
English language knowledge to the knowledge of the language they already have
already acquired at home, at school, or in their community. In some contexts,
of course, English will be students’ third or fourth language.
is more than just a personal benefit. Bilinguals can positively affect their
community because of their ability to engage more easily with members of
different linguistic and cultural groups. Knowing and using more than one
language can promote empathy, allowing us to see and interpret the world from
another person’s perspective.
There may even be some health benefits to learning and using more than one language.
As bilinguals, we may enjoy the cultural enrichment that comes from being able to read literature or watch films in the original language. In addition, we may get more from travel when we are able to understand local languages. Other personal benefits include the value of maintaining connections with family members of an older generation who speak only the language of their cultural heritage.
benefits of bilingualism have been found not only for individuals who leave their
country of origin and migrate to another country to find work. Even individuals
who have been brought up in wealthy countries and who speak a powerful world
language such as English or French have been found to have greater earning
potential when they are able to use additional languages.
Researchers have found that bilingualism is related to cognitive benefits across the lifespan. Young bilinguals show greater mental flexibility and creativity in problem-solving than children who speak only one language. Bilingual children develop metalinguistic awareness at an earlier age, coming to understand, for example, that the name of an object is not part of the object itself but rather a label that we can choose to change. The experience of regularly using more than one language also appears to enhance children’s ability to shift attention from one task to another.
possibility that bilingualism entails health benefits may seem farfetched, but language
skill may be related to health in several ways. It is clear that if we are away
from our home community, knowing a local language can be crucial for getting
information about local health concerns, reading labels on medicines, or
understanding a doctor’s instructions. More surprising, perhaps, is evidence
that in elderly bilinguals, symptoms of dementia may manifest
themselves later than for monolinguals with similar medical conditions.
Oh, and one
more thing. Some research shows that in order to get the greatest benefit from
becoming bilingual, it’s necessary to achieve a certain threshold of
proficiency. The exact level of proficiency has not been defined but the
evidence suggests that while there are personal and social benefits to learning
even “a little bit” of a new language—enough to facilitate travel or to read a
newspaper with the help of a dictionary, for example—the most significant
benefits come to those who have developed higher levels of proficiency. Related
research shows that the strengthening and continued growth of a person’s first
language supports the acquisition of a new language. As with keeping “old
friends”, it seems that the experience of maintaining and strengthening our
first language makes us better at adding new ones.
Patsy ran a webinar on this topic for OUP’s free English Language Teaching Online Conference in March 2019. Click the button below to watch the full recording.
Note: Among the researchers whose work we
will draw on in this webinar are Jim Cummins, Wallace Lambert, Ofelia García,
Ellen Bialystok, Colin Baker, Vivian Cook, Fred Genesee, and Lily Wong Fillmore.
Patsy M. Lightbown is Distinguished Professor Emerita (Applied Linguistics) at Concordia University in Montreal. Since the 1970s, her research has focused on the importance of time in second language learning and on the complementary roles of meaning-focused and language-focused activities. She has studied the acquisition of French, English, and Spanish in classrooms in Canada and the US. Her 2014 book Focus on Content-Based Language Teaching appears in an Oxford University Press series that she co-edits with Nina Spada, with whom she co-authored How Languages Are Learned (OUP), an award-winning introduction to second language acquisition research for teachers, now in its fourth edition.
with native English language speakers is one of the most effective ways to
learn English, and using technology makes this possible. I teach English based
on my “collaborative-communication model”, one that’s very effective for motivating
my students. I use a wealth of technologies with my class such as Skype,
Minecraft, and AI robots. I find them useful for not only teaching English, but
for teaching 21st century skills as well!
my experience, virtual environments can be very effective language learning
tools for students of English; they allow students young and old to experience
new worlds, communicate, make friends, and build relationships. There are a
wealth of tools out there that you can use, but I’m happy to say that I’ve had
real success with my students using a combination of Skype and Minecraft (a
game many students may already be familiar with). These digital environments offer
students engaging opportunities to use English
with native speakers and to use the language to achieve a common goal, such as
constructing a digital building. Through these activities, students also
develop their 21st Century Skills of communication, collaboration,
imagination, and logical thinking. These four skills are necessary assets for
learners that will help them to succeed in the modern world.
A typical lesson
Typically, students grouped together to make a team of four people, and they are given a task. I might ask the groups to construct a building, like the Kyoto World Heritage Site in Minecraft, before asking them to introduce it to students from overseas. To build something in Minecraft, students need to exercise their imagination, and think logically about the build and their resources. Each student is then given a role; Minecraft Leader, Programming Leader, English Leader, and Building Designer. Finally, they are given a deadline.
Most groups start off by discussing a plan, each student offering an opinion. These discussions continue throughout the duration of the build. Once completed, the group welcome overseas visitors to their digital environment, giving them a tour of their build and gathering their opinions on their work, all in English!
The simplicity and global appeal of Minecraft make it extraordinarily easy to introduce to the class. As a tool, it allowed me to break down subject barriers, combining English, 21st Century Skills, and programming. This is something I’m especially proud of achieving as from 2020 in Japan, the Ministry of Education plans to make ‘English’ and ‘Programming’ compulsory across all Primary schools. The techniques I’ve described combine these two educational programmes, which is great for teachers! And through the “collaborative-communication model”, students can improve their English proficiency in an engaging and motivating way.
Hidekazu Shoto was born in Osaka, Japan, and is an English Teacher and Head of ICT at Ritsumeikan Primary School. After graduate school, he joined Ritsumeikan Academy as an English teacher, introducing ICT and technology into his English classes.
Hidezaku Shoto was a top 10 Finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019. Here’s why!
Global Teacher Prize 2019 Top 10 Finalist - Hidekazu Shoto - YouTube
Inclusive education is defined as “recognition of the need to work towards ‘schools for all’ – institutions which include everybody, celebrate differences, support learning, and respond to individual needs” (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2011, p. 3). When inclusive practices are introduced into a school system, usually teachers are trained and they are expected to make necessary changes in the teaching-learning process. However, teacher training itself cannot create an inclusive environment in the school. All relevant parties such as school administration, parents, and other social institutions should also play an active role. Therefore, it is important to understand how these different groups contribute to create an inclusive environment.
creating an inclusive environment
attitudes and lack of awareness: One of the main challenges in introducing
inclusive practices into an education system is the negative attitudes and/or
misconceptions of teachers, school management, parents and society on issues
such as disabilities. This is due to their lack of awareness of such issues. Research
in different parts of the world has shown evidence of teachers’ (e.g. Alawadh,
2016) and parents’ (Scorgie, 2015) lack of awareness of learning difficulties
such as dyslexia. A recent study (Indrarathne, in press) has shown that English
language teachers find it difficult to implement inclusive practices to
accommodate learners with dyslexia at classroom level due to lack of support
from their colleagues, parents and school management (or the education system).
If educational changes are to be successfully implemented, there should be
healthy and regular collaboration between professionals within the education
system (Alur & Timmons, 2009). For example, when inclusive practices are
introduced into a school system to accommodate learners with learning
difficulties, there need to be changes introduced to the assessments as well.
However, in certain contexts, assessments are designed by external bodies and
teachers have minimal influence on the decisions taken by those who design
assessments. On such occasions, teachers are in a dilemma as changes that they
introduce may have negative consequences on learners when it comes to assessments.
of physical resources (e.g. sufficient classroom space, facilities for
preparing learning aids), lack of awareness-raising programmes aimed at
teachers, principals, parents and society at large, lack of specific
teaching-learning materials/resources and lack of administrative support within
the school system can also be challenging when creating an inclusive environment.
Awareness raising: One of the most important steps that need to
be taken when creating an inclusive environment is awareness-raising. This
should be aimed at:
Everybody in the education management system including teachers,
principals, teacher educators, policy planners and administrators. This can be
realised through either short-term or long-term programmes and by including
components related to inclusion into existing CPD programmes.
Parents – both of learners with and without special needs. It is
important that parents of learners without special needs understand the reasons
for accommodating learners with special needs and parents of children with
special needs understand which accommodations their children need. Involving
the parents in creating an inclusive environment will bring more positive
results. This can be done through regular discussions with parents, through
parents’ meetings and through other means such as leaflets.
Society – as social institutions need to fully participate in
creating an inclusive environment, it is important to design ways and means to
reach them. Awareness- raising programmes such as newspaper articles, leaflets,
short TV/radio programmes, public talks and seminars would be useful in this context.
At school level, events such as school visits and open days can be arranged.
Learners – it is also vital to make learners aware that some of
their peers need special accommodations in the learning process.
Agenda for creating an inclusive culture: The institution
needs to identify the steps that need to be taken to create an inclusive
environment and design a programme to realise it. This needs to include a clear
vision, short-term and long-term goals and ways to make changes sustainable.
This should be designed in collaboration with all parties (i.e. teachers,
administrators, students and parents) and should also be communicated to all
Collaboration and communication: It is important to create an environment where all relevant parties within the school system (i.e. teachers, administrators, students and parents)engage in regular communication and collaborate in creating an inclusive environment.
Legislation: Eleweke and Rodda (2002) identify the
absence of enabling legislation as a major problem in implementing inclusive
education particularly in developing countries. Therefore, a country/education
system needs some enabling legislation of inclusive practices, for example,
giving extra time in exams for learners with learning difficulties such as
Resources: Providing teachers with necessary training and physical resources
to implement inclusive practices and providing learners with special needs the
resources that they need would make the school environment more inclusive.
I spoke about creating and Inclusive Classroom at ELTOC 2019, click here to watch the recording!
Dr Bimali Indrarathne is a lecturer in the Department of Education, University of York. She researches second language acquisition/pedagogy and teacher education. She has been involved in several teacher training projects on dyslexia and inclusive practices in South Asia. She is also an educator on the Lancaster University’s MOOC on Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching.
A. S. (2016). Teachers perceptions of the challenges related to provision of services
for learners with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia) in Kuwaiti government
primary schools. Unpublished
PhD Thesis. University of York.
Alur, M., & Timmons, V. (Eds.). (2009). Inclusive education across cultures: Crossing boundaries, sharing ideas.
India: SAGE Publications India.
Eleweke, C., & Rodda, M. (2002). The challenge of enhancing
inclusive education in developing countries. International
Journal of Inclusive Education, 6(2), 113-126.
B. (In press). Accommodating learners with dyslexia
in ELT in Sri Lanka: teachers’ knowledge, attitudes and challenges. TESOL Quarterly.
Scorgie, K. (2015). Ambiguous belonging and the challenge of inclusion:
parent perspectives on school membership. Emotional
and Behavioural Difficulties, 20(1), 35-50.
Children’s Fund (2011) The right of
children with disabilities to education: a rights-based approach to inclusive
education. Geneva, Switzerland: UNICEF Regional Office for Central and
Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEECIS).
In todays’ wired world, technology is an integral part of our work and personal lives. As teachers, we are often expected to use a range of digital technologies in our English language classes.
These expectations come from a range of quarters: from educational technology vendors, Ministries of Education, school directors, students, parents, and often from teachers themselves who feel they ‘should’ use technologies, especially with younger students/teenagers.
But in our rush to use technology in the English language classroom, the question of whether a chosen technology ‘works’ or not is frequently ignored.
What does research say?
Let’s start with a short quiz. Are
the three following statements true or false?
students (e.g. teenagers) are naturally better users of digital technologies
than older students.
to blogs can help language learners improve their writing.
technologies can help students with special educational needs.
Do you feel confident about your
answers? Let’s see what the research says about each of these statements.
Younger students are naturally better users of digital technologies than older students. Many people believe this to be true, but the myth of the ‘digital native’ (Prensky, 2001) has been thoroughly debunked by research. Young people are not automatically effective users of new technologies, although they may be confident with these technologies and use them for a range of (primarily friendship-driven) purposes. Young people may appear to live on Instagram, but they are often not good at evaluating the source and veracity of information they find online. They often don’t know how to write an email with the appropriate structure and tone. In short, younger students tend to be confident but uncritical users of technology. A large-scale research study (Fraillon et al.) carried out with 60,000 13 to 14 year olds across 3,300 schools in 21 educations systems/countries found that the ICT skills of young learners and adolescents were fairly low, and depended on a wide range of factors. These factors included: the impact of students’ home and school contexts, students’ individual characteristics, parents’ educational level and profession, the number of books and access to ICT resources in the home. Whether students received ICT instruction in school was another factor that affected their digital literacy. The bottom line is that younger people are automatically digital literate.
Contributing to blogs can help language learners improve their writing. Blogs have long been considered good for helping students develop their writing skills. When writing blog entries, students write for a real audience and with a communicative purpose; students can also interact with blog readers in a blog’s comment section. These are all good things for writing. Research shows that blogs can increase students’ motivation to write in English, although the research is less clear on whether the quality of their writing improves through writing blog entries. For example, it has been found that students with a lower level of language proficiency may benefit less from writing blogs than stronger students do (Secru, 2013). Nevertheless, the research into using blogs to develop EFL and ESL students’ writing is positive overall.
Digital technologies can help students with
special educational needs.
So-called ‘assistive technologies’ are used in inclusive learning in different
disciplines, not only in English language learning, so much of the research has
taken place in a range of subject areas. Overall, the research is promising.
Tablets, for example, have been enthusiastically taken up by teachers working
with special educational needs (SEN) learners because of their multimodal and
tactile assistive qualities, as well as the ever-growing range of educational
apps available for SEN students. In the field of English language teaching,
research suggests that, depending on the learning materials or apps used and
task design, learners’ engagement with language learning materials can increase
(e.g. Cumming & Draper Rodriguez, 2013). The research also suggests that
language teachers usually have a positive attitude to the use of assistive
technologies with their SEN language learners.
Whatever the technology and whoever
the learners, one thing is clear: it is important to review the available
research in order to take an evidence-based approach to using technology with
English language learners.
To what extent do technologies support language learning, and lead to improved outcomes for students? Join me in April for my webinar where we’ll take a critical look at digital technologies research and ask: Does technology actually help English language students learn better?
Nicky Hockly is the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an award-winning online training and development organisation. She has worked in the field of English Language Teaching since 1987, is an international plenary speaker, and gives workshops and training courses for teachers all over the world. Nicky writes regular columns on technology for teachers in ETP (English Teaching Professional) magazine, and in the ELTJ (English Language Teaching Journal).
Cumming, T. M.,
& Draper Rodriguez, C. (2013). Integrating the iPad into language arts
instruction for students with disabilities: Engagement and perspectives. Journal of Special Education Technology, 28,
Fraillon, J., Ainley, J., Schulz, W., Friedman, T.,
& Gebhardt, E. (2013). Preparing
for life in a digital age. The IEA
International Computer and Information Literacy Study International Report.
Springer Open: Springer International Publishing AG Switzerland.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital
immigrants. On the Horizon 9, 5.
MCB University Press.
Sercu, L. (2013).
Weblogs in foreign language education: Real and promised benefits. Proceedings of INTED2013, 7th
International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia,
Spain, pp. 4355-66.
Successful communication in English entails, among other skills, the ability to use language in socially appropriate ways, also known as pragmatic competence. For example, when making a complaint about the quality of food, language learners need to consider their relationship with the other person (are they friends, or are they co-workers?), the social distance (how well you know them), and the setting of the interaction (is it at home or at a restaurant?). The answers to these questions are crucial for contextualising communication, and they help people determine the linguistic resources they select to communicate.
In a less formal context and when interacting with someone we know well, we may say, “Does the soup seem too cold to you? How about if we stick it back in the microwave for a minute?” whereas in a restaurant, when making a complaint to a server, we may instead opt for, “Excuse me, my soup is cold. Would you be able to warm it up for me?” In recent years, pragmatic competence has received increasing recognition as an important component of language instruction.
The why and the how of
Research suggests that because pragmatics is closely
related to cultural norms and to individuals’ beliefs and identities, it is one
of the most difficult areas for language learners to grasp (Kasper & Rose,
2002). Pragmatic nuances are also difficult to notice in the input because many
of them are so salient. For instance, there is a subtle difference between “Can
I sneak by?” and “Can you move?” yet the situations in which these utterances
are appropriately used are quite different. Other speech events, such as
interactions between doctors and patients which usually take place behind
closed doors, may simply not be available in the input at all. At the same
time, we now know that unlike grammatical errors, pragmatic errors tend to be
interpreted on a social or personal level, and therefore “may hinder good
communication between speakers, may make the speaker appear abrupt or brusque
in social interactions, or may make the speaker appear rude or uncaring” (Bardovi-Harlig &
Mahan-Taylor, 2003, p. 38). For these
reasons, it is particularly important for language teachers to help learners
develop their pragmatic skills.
However, while there is now a consensus among second
language researchers and practitioners that “most aspects of pragmatics are
amenable to instruction, [and that] instruction is better than non-instruction
for pragmatic development” (Taguchi, 2011, p. 291), the debate on how teachers
can best promote pragmatic development in the classroom is still ongoing. To
date, the strongest rationale for the existing approaches to teaching
pragmatics comes from Schmidt’s Noticing Hypothesis (1993, 2001), which states
that in order to acquire certain linguistic features, language learners need to
first notice them in the input.
Consequently, the teaching of pragmatics often focuses on raising learners’
awareness of the linguistic forms that perform various pragmatic functions (for
instance that a request can be performed using imperatives such as “Open the
window!” or hints “It’s hot in here.”). However, pragmatics instruction should
not be prescriptive in nature. Rather, its goal is to make learners familiar
with various target language pragmatic choices and practices and to enable them
to make informed decisions when interacting with different people and in
different settings (Bardovi-Harlig
& Mahan-Taylor, 2003).
Teaching pragmatics with Wide Angle
Wide Angle, a new series for adults from Oxford University Press spanning CEFR levels A1 to C1, helps English language learners discover the “secret” rules of English and learn to say the right thing at the right time. The activities in each lesson follow the activation-presentation-production approach, with activities moving from controlled to freer. The design of the activities fulfills two important criteria for sound pragmatics teaching practices as specified by Bardovi-Harlig and Mahan-Taylor (2003):
They provide models of authentic language use;
Learners are exposed to input before they are expected to
reflect on language use and participate in interactions.
types (Activate, Notice, Analyse, and Interact) are loosely based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, with
the level of linguistic and cognitive challenge increasing.
Join me in my upcoming webinar
to take a look at specific examples of pragmatics-focused activities from Wide Angle and to learn how to best
promote pragmatic development for adult learners in the classroom.
Anna Krulatz is Associate Professor of English at the Department of Teacher Education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. She holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Utah. Her research focuses on pragmatic development in adult language learners, multilingualism with English, content based instruction, and language teacher education. She has published (and has forthcoming) articles, teaching tips, and book chapters on topics related to teaching and learning pragmatics.
& Mahan-Taylor, R. (2003, July). Introduction to teaching pragmatics. English Teaching Forum, 37-39.
Kasper, G., & Rose, K. (2002). Pragmatic Development in a Second language. Oxford, Malden:
N. (2011). Teaching pragmatics: Trends and issues. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics,
The term ‘Enquiry Based Learning’ (EBL) was
first coined back in the early 1900s when two esteemed psychologists, Vygotsky
and Piaget, took a closer look at the mechanics of how we learn, or more
accurately, how children learn.
This surfaced a debate: is learning something you do, or something you’re taught?
Around 1936 Piaget undertook a systematic
study of cognitive development. Piaget was intrigued by the reasons children
gave for wrong answers to questions that required logical thinking. He believed
that these incorrect answers revealed striking differences between the thinking
of adults and children. What Piaget sought to understand was the way in which
fundamental concepts like the very idea of number, time,
quantity, causality, justice and so on emerged.
‘Discovery learning’ was one outcome derived
from his work in the 1960s. The idea that children learn best through doing and
actively exploring was seen as central to the transformation of the primary
school curriculum in England.
Although crucially the work of these two great minds contributes to the EBL practices we see today, it was Vygotsky’s work which is more recognisable in the primary classroom today.
According to Vygotsky, adults are an important source of cognitive development. Sometimes also referred to as ‘The More Knowledgeable Other’ (MKO), they have a higher ability or a better understanding of the subject being investigated/ researched. While it is implied this is the role of the adult Piaget stressed the importance of peer to peer support and collaboration on successful learning.
The ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD) is
a crucial concept linking together this work to form the basis of EBL we
recognise in today’s classrooms: The ZPD is the difference between what a child
can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement
from a skilled partner, such as a more knowledgeable peer, an expert, via
scaffold or specific instruction.
Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development – where we set the learning for most progress.
How does EBL benefit you as a teacher and facilitator of learning?
When you become a facilitator for children to take responsibility for what and how they learn, you help them gain a deeper understanding of the work they are covering, as well as building and developing skills required for tackling issues that will arise in the real world. Through this facilitation, you will be encouraging them not to just seek information and facts based on the initial outcomes, but to search further into their own interests and relate these to real life contexts.
As they take more ownership of their learning, you will see an increase in ownership and participation. They get to see the work as more relevant to their needs, which will enthuse and inspire them to apply themselves more in lessons.
EBL allows for independent and differentiated learning, group and peer-to-peer, meaning the children are able to work at their own pace, realise their own abilities and challenge in a positive learning environment, when well established and integral to the teaching and learning.
Join Derry Richardson as she explores enquiry based learning in more detail in her upcoming webinar.
Derry Richardson is an outstanding classroom practitioner and leading mathematics teacher, with experience teaching across the primary phases and early years. Currently, she is the Head of Professional Development for Oxford University Press’s Education Division.
I started at Oxford University Press as Director of Assessment for ELT on January 2nd this year. I remember at my interview being asked about what my priorities would be within the first 3 months of the job. I said one of my main priorities would be to fall in love with the OUP assessment products. Somethings you say at interviews because you have to, but this is something I genuinely meant. I need to feel passionate about what I do and see the value in what I do – I need to fall in love with what I do. So this blog is a love story! It’s a love story about me and the Oxford Test of English.
Where to begin… how about an exotic location!
In my 3rd week at OUP, I visited the OUP España offices in Madrid. I wanted to meet customers, I wanted to know about their problems, I wanted to know their thoughts about the Oxford Test of English, I wanted to know from them what my priorities should be. And so, my colleagues arranged for me to meet 3 very different types of customer in and around Madrid. I was overwhelmed by the positivity of these customers towards a new English language assessment in what is a very competitive market. Some key things that came out of this were that the Oxford Test of English is fit for purpose, friendly and flexible. They loved the fact that the exam can’t be failed, that it’s fully online, that it’s modular, and that it’s on demand. As a newcomer, this was fantastic to hear.
“I arranged to sit the test like an
As soon I got back to the UK, I arranged to sit the test as an actual student, and so my love was ignited! A 4 skill test, 3 CEFR levels, and it can be completed in 2 hours; it solves so many customer pain points. It had me hooked.
The assessment capability at OUP is strong. The Oxford Test
of English is really impressive, and our placement test is also a winner! We’ll
be revealing a new product in April 2020 and I’m really happy in my new role.
Sarah Rogerson is Director of Assessment at Oxford University Press. She has worked in English language teaching and assessment for 20 years and is passionate about education for all and digital innovation in ELT. As a relative newcomer to OUP, Sarah is really excited about the Oxford Test of English and how well it caters to the 21st-century student.