Tuesday, 20 September 2011

On the job training - experienced EFL teachers in Nagoya

I had the pleasure of training at Happy English Club in Nagoya on Sunday. This is where we were supposed to have been training back in April, except no one told Sean (the owner). So, it was nice to actually meet him this time and a relief to find his door open and my recruits already waiting for me.

It is always interesting visiting another (foreign-owned) language school, as there are always things to learn – d├ęcor, layout, classroom organisation, materials (I am an avid bookshelf spy!) & vibe (even if the place is empty, you can get a feel for how things might be). I reckon HEC must be well-organised & child/learning centred. Certainly not one of the cowboys.

Anyway, we used their lovely Apple TV to get acquainted with our levels (First Certificate and Advanced) and to establish good interlocutor practice wrt handling materials, sticking to the script, timing, use of back up questions against allowing a lull to prompt more from candidates, non-verbal communication, intervention. In the past, examiners have been handed the materials ‘cold’, and expected to be able to ‘become’ an examiner magically. Even the experienced teachers find this difficult to achieve, as they have no template upon which to base their behaviour. After all, teachers often feel their classroom role is to provide a safety net/scaffold for their students, and assist in the progression of a discourse…which is an instinct we are trying to ‘pause’ while examining. Closest analogy I can think of is getting England rugby players to provide quick ball to the backs, when they actually produce dinosaur eggs.

These days, examiners are able to access the relevant levels to refresh their assessment online, on demand. It is important in training to have examiners discuss their application of the assessment criteria to candidate performances…plumping for the right number can be a seat of the pants estimate. I insist my examiners produce samples/examples from the videos to back up their assertions as to performance (‘live’ they do not need to do this). They need to be able to ‘place’ these examples within Cambridge’s frames of reference and adopt ‘Cambridge’ speak to negotiate with peers. The hardest thing teachers find with the assessment scales is that they are fully ‘can do’ orientated, so they are driven to focus on what the candidates are able to do/attempting to do, rather than picking up errors/mistakes and cataloguing what they can’t do. So, no “couldn’t use that tense properly”, “didn’t take turns”, “mangled a relative clause” or “has a really strong accent”.

My trainees today did everything asked of them, and impressed me with their willingness to take on new directions. I am very confident that they will be firing on all cylinders in December when I expect them to be in action in Nagoya & Matsumoto – lucky candidates, and lucky JP004.

  • If you want to get more info about becoming an examiner, contact Jim by email (or just leave a comment on this posting) & check ELT Calendar.
  • If you want to enter your students for any exams go to http://www.luna-jp004.jp
  • If you want info about the exams/leaflets, email luna.jp004@gmail.com
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