New publication: Problem-Based Learning in TESOL

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) has become a popular educational approach and now has a global, multidisciplinary scope of influence. This experiential, student-centered learning approach was first piloted and developed by Dr. Howard Barrows in medical education for physicians at McMasters University in Canada from the 1960s onward. Over time, the methodology has also been adopted by other disciplines in the medical sciences, such as nursing and pharmacology. It spread further in the social sciences to programmes teaching law, sociology, business, agriculture, information communication technologies, as well as teacher education and regular classes for Grade 8–12 STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and math) courses. It has even been used in police training. To a lesser extent PBL has been used in areas such as the arts, literary studies, theology, and philosophy.

Due to the multidisciplinary expansion of PBL, a variety of modes for delivery have emerged from the initial approach. However, the following factors are common to PBL whether it is used for an individual module, a course, or a programme. PBL uses tutor-facilitated, small group learning to present students with real-world problems, relevant to their disciplines. The problems require critical thinking and collaboration to resolve. In a self-directed manner, examining what information has been made available, students identify what they do and do not know about the current problem; and they focus it to a manageable scope. Then they search for additional resources and interpret them. As the PBL cycle progresses, they integrate individual knowledge into the group’s final solution to the problem. The tutor will assist with this integration and / or provide feedback on the collaborative efforts, closing off the cycle with reflective activities. In course-based PBL, several cycles will contribute to knowledge creation over the duration of the course. That knowledge will be evaluated in discipline specific ways but preferably with authentic, professionally-oriented assessments that are in harmony with the learning process.

You are encouraged to discover how PBL has been used in an MA TESOL context. Cynthia Caswell is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics by distance learning, in the School of Languages and Social Sciences. She has recently published research on the topic of PBL and TESOL. The title, abstract, and an active link to her article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning (Vol.11, Issue 1, Article 6) follows:

 

Design and Facilitation of Problem-Based Learning in Graduate Teacher Education: An MA TESOL Case
(Cynthia Ann Caswell, Aston University)

Abstract

This exploratory, evaluative case study introduces a new context for problem-based learning (PBL) involving an iterative, modular approach to curriculum-wide delivery of PBL in an MA TESOL program. The introduction to the curriculum context provides an overview of the design and delivery features particular to the situation. The delivery approach has established multiple roles that contribute to the design and facilitation of the learning environment: lead instructors, collaborating instructors, and students as peer teachers. These roles also identify milestones on a collaborative instructional skills trajectory for professional development. In this mixed methods study, qualitative data were collected from collaborating instructors (the majority of whom were alumni) in order to illuminate the nature of successful PBL cycles and quality peer teaching, as experienced in the program. Their perspectives were also elicited on their position in the trajectory, highlighting current professional development benefits and future needs. Quantitative data on student demographics and mean GPA for coursework triangulate the qualitative results. Implications and recommendations for further research are explained.

Keywords:  teacher education, TESOL, problem-based learning (PBL), knowledge creation, collaboration, diversitz

Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol11/iss1/6/

Addressing English as a Lingua Franca in Language Teaching Theory and Practice: Challenges and Opportunities

This CPD event was run by Nathan Page (lecturer in applied linguistics at Aston) on May 4th, and was attended by staff and students of the university. The session was based around an overview of major theories and findings in the English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) research movement, and then an application of those to a specific context of language teaching and learning which formed the basis of Nathan’s PhD research.

ELF research tells us that many features of standard English lexicogrammar and pronunciation can be varied with no effect on mutual intelligibility between speakers. It has documented some of the processes involved in maintaining that mutual intelligibility, and has also pointed out which specific features are likely to cause breakdowns in communication and which are not. Given this backdrop, the audience were asked to consider a rather controversial question: to what extent is the teaching of all standard forms of English relevant in English education today?

Of course there are many ways of approaching that question, and certainly matters of educational context and individual identity, aspirations (and so on) are of paramount importance. It was noted that it is not uncommon for teachers or learners to have either ambivalent or openly hostile reactions to some of the concepts and ideas associated with ELF. This issue was expanded upon by demonstrating that – in a Japanese context where the English learners are volunteers preparing to work overseas in diverse global contexts – there certainly must be a strong case for adopting an ELF-type position on teaching practices, and yet some teachers were openly dismissive of global diversity in English, preferring to adhere strictly to standard forms of the language. This was shown to be a complex, multi-layered issue as research from the context shows many reasons which justify an ‘intelligibility based’ approach but this comes with many caveats indicating that some focus on standard forms of English is still important to the volunteers.

Ultimately, the session pointed out that an awareness of the issues raised by ELF is important for all teachers of English, but that the associated concepts represent both challenges and opportunities for classroom pedagogy, largely dependent on context and also learner identity.

If you would like more information, Nathan can be contacted on n.page@aston.ac.uk. He also has an open-source publication available at http://www3.caes.hku.hk/ajal/index.php/ajal/article/view/28 .

‘New Directions in Reflective Practice’ conference at Aston University

Clera logo_squareBritish CouncilAston LSS logo small

 

 

 

CLERA held a one-day conference on 14th May 2014 aimed at bringing together researchers and English language professionals to share current approaches to reflective practice. The event was led by Dr Fiona Copland, Director of CLERA, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University.

From left to right: Dr. Steve Mann, Dr. Sue Wharton, Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell, Dr. Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Dr. Elaine Riordan and Dr. Fiona Farr

From left to right: Dr. Steve Mann, Dr. Sue Wharton, Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell, Dr. Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Dr. Elaine Riordan and Dr. Fiona Farr

We were delighted to welcome many well-known researchers as speakers at the event. The opening plenary talk was delivered by Professor Thomas S.C. Farrell (author of Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice).  Other invited speakers included Dr Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Aston University; Dr Sue Wharton, Dr Steve Mann and Sarah Banks, University of Warwick; Dr Jane Spiro, Oxford-Brookes University; Dr Fiona Farr & Dr Elaine Riordan, University of Limerick.

During the conference, there was plenty of opportunity for discussion of a range of issues in the field, from practical approaches to reflective practice to researching it effectively and evaluating it critically.

The conference was attended by 60 delegates comprising of Masters and PhD Research students, EAP tutors and lecturers in English Language Teaching from across the country.

Many thanks go to Dr Fiona Copland for organising the conference and to the British Council for sponsoring this event.

British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We call this cultural relations.

Japan: “English education and English sheepdogs”

This article, published in the Japan Times, takes a light-hearted look at English language teaching in Japan and may well strike a chord with teachers around the world.

“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to globalize Japan’s workforce and says that Japan must become more competitive in the English language. This has touched off a debate among native English teachers, Japanese who teach English, Japanese speakers who don’t speak English, and English sheepdogs owned by both Japanese and English speakers.” … To continue reading, click here.

English in Japan

© http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/01/forget-dragons-japans-biggest-quest-is-for-english/

Is English a form of linguistic imperialism?

IATELF 2013On the occasion of the 47th Annual IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) Conference in Liverpool, 8-12 April, 2013, Prof Anne Burns, Director of CLERA, moderated the British Council Signature Event “Linguistic imperialism: still alive and kicking?” (video recording available here).

To coincide with this event, Anne provides some background information about the discussion of English as linguistic imperialism on the British Council’s Voices blog.

Inspirational Teachers: Dr Fiona Copland

In Aston University’s Inspirational Teacher series, Dr Fiona Copland, Senior Lecturer in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and CLERA member, talks about what inspires her in her teaching.

“The motivation for teaching is those everyday experiences you have with students where [because of something you have done] you can see the change in them…”

To find out more about Fiona’s work and research, visit her Researcher of the Month profile and go to her Aston staff website.

    .