English methodology or how we combine both:Reflecting on training teachers in Peru
06th June 2017
by Nele Noe, ELT Associate Consultant
Since I first started working with public school English teachers (teachers who work in government schools) on an intensive residential 4-week British Council training programme in 2015, I have started to question if we can really adapt and implement training packages that were initially developed for a different context. While being involved in more and more training projects here in Peru, working for Pearson Education and the Ministry of Education, I have reflected more on what seems to be the idea that to achieve best practice teaching we just have to adapt materials that were written by international experts in the field of ELT. Isn’t there enough material around us that we can adapt such as teacher training books by Scrivener, Harmer, etc., CELTA preparation books and other courses?
From my own teacher training, coaching and mentoring experience around the country I have come to realise that it is essential to first get a picture of the local teaching context if we want to provide sustainable teacher training that will actually positively impact the quality of teaching and learning. In order to get a view of the local English language classroom, I have visited many classrooms around the country, often being invited by colleague teachers or friends who had connections to schools. During these class visits I have learned about the many challenges of the system … non-subject specialist teachers teaching English, teachers with less than B1 level English, no textbooks or textbooks that are much too difficult for the students, classroom taught in Spanish, large classes, traditional teacher-centred methodology; just to name a few. So how can we cater to all these challenges in a short intensive teacher training course and what gets priority in terms of teacher training?
In terms of understanding the context, I would like to clarify that there is a shortage of qualified English language teachers in Peru. Because until recently English was only taught 2 hours per week in all secondary schools, tenure track teachers with insufficient timetabled hours were given English classes to fill their schedule. Many of these teachers did not have any English language skills and therefore could not teach in English. The Ministry of Education is gradually switching from two to five hours a week of timetabled English instruction with a blended approach including software and laptops. They have announced that in the future all teacher must have C1 level English to teach English however no plan is in place on how to achieve this criteria.
I personally felt that I had to consult with the audience, the teachers, to determine their teacher training needs. From conversations with teachers around the country, I have gathered the following information which I think is useful in planning for future teacher training. The one thing I have concluded is that most teachers who are graduates of the Bachelor’s of Education in ELT have had a thorough overview of pedagogical theory and therefore this is the one area that does not need attention.
I am providing here an overview of what teachers mentioned during the conversations we had. Many teachers want to improve their English language skills as they feel that they can’t teach using target language English as they are uncomfortable using it. They want concrete advice and assistance with planning lessons and are very eager to watch demo lessons. Teachers often mentioned that their students are unmotivated so they want strategies to motivate students and some quick ready to implement fun activities for their classroom. Many teachers said during the chats that they just follow the textbook as they have little to no time for planning as they teach in several schools.
The data I gathered from classroom observations was largely confirmed by what teachers mentioned during the many conversations. When I looked at the teacher training books and courses on offer it was clear that they were mostly geared towards teachers with higher level of English and often to teachers with little or no teaching experience. The teachers I was working with on the other hand had a lower level of English but often had many years of teaching experience. Therefore, in order to meet teachers’needs, the teacher training programme would have to be specifically tailored to meet their unique context not just adapted from existing teacher training courses or books.
In the past couple of months, I have implemented several projects to support teachers throughout Peru which I would like to share as I think these could be transferred to other teacher training contexts. On a monthly basis, I organise a free Lima Café session which provides teachers with an opportunity to share ideas about teaching and practise their English with colleagues in a relaxed environment over a cup of coffee. I also collaborate with teachers in local schools to provide demo lessons or pair teach. Whenever possible, the hosting teacher and I plan the lessons together and other English teaching colleagues are invited to attend the lesson. In the future, I hope to share these lessons online. Additionally, I am currently working on developing a teacher training programme specifically tailored to meet the needs of local teachers focusing on providing teachers with the language and teaching skills for implementing communicative language lessons. These training sessions will include demo student centered lessons, micro teaching and include a variety of fun activities ready for teachers to implement in their classes to motivate their students. I hope that all these projects in the future will lead to improved ELT in Peruvian government schools.