Teachers, research and evidence: a happy marriage?

Written by Amy Lightfoot, Assistant Director – Academic, English for Education Systems, British Council India

Do teachers make enough use of evidence to inform their classroom practice? This was a key underlying theme of the International Association for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) conference, held earlier this year in Glasgow. It’s a growing topic of conversation in education circles generally, including English language teaching. Some excellent initiatives are underway to try to promote more informed teaching in the classroom. For example, ELT Research Bites aims to present research findings related to ELT in an accessible and ‘easily digestible’ way. The relatively new Chartered College of Teaching in the UK has made access to the EBSCO research database a cornerstone of teacher and associate membership. The inaugural issue of their journal series focused on impact and evidence. 

But what do we mean when we talk about ‘research’ and ‘evidence’? For some, the word ‘research’ has negative connotations; it might suggest an outsider view on what is taking place on the ground, or it might be assumed to be impenetrable or inaccessible – aimed at other people, not at me. But research in the broadest sense can be defined simply as asking questions and looking for possible answers or explanations. In other words, research is the process through which we look for evidence which can support (or refute) decisions about what to do in the classroom.

Evidence can come from a wide range of sources. These include external sources considered to be particularly trustworthy, such as peer-reviewed academic journals, but arguably just as useful are reflections from fellow teachers on what seems to be working (or not) in their classrooms perhaps via blogs or shared more informally. With all of this externally-sourced evidence, John Hattie suggests that the individual teacher still needs to be the final judge of its relevance and applicability to their own context. What works (or doesn’t) for one individual or group of individuals is never fully guaranteed to work for another when we’re talking about the social sciences, regardless of how robust the data is.

With this in mind, there is a growing movement within education communities around the world to encourage teachers to undertake research for themselves, within their own classroom settings. Again, in its simplest form this involves the framing of questions (or a question) and seeking answers. This approach is being actively promoted through a network of professionals working in English language teaching who have established the International Festival of Teacher Research in ELT. This aims to bring together details of events happening around the world and highlight the benefits of and approaches to teachers undertaking research. So far, affiliated events have been held in Turkey, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, online through the TESOL Electronic Village and in India, with over 1,500 participating education professionals globally.

Most recently, the All India Network of English Teachers organised a two day conference in Nagpur, central India, to provide a platform for teachers across the country to share the results of their small scale, classroom-based research. A key feature of the event was a series of presentations by teachers and teacher educators who have been participating as mentors in British Council India’s Aptis Action Research Mentoring Scheme (AARMS). AARMS seeks to develop a network of 14 mentors, working directly with two of the leaders in the ELT teacher research field – Dr Richard Smith from the University of Warwick and Dr Amol Padwad of AINET. The mentors work with more than 80 teachers across India to develop their skills in conducting relevant, classroom-based research related to English language teaching. This Nagpur conference was closely followed by a four day workshop at Gauhati University, also supported by the British Council and the IATEFL Teacher Development SIG, with Dr Smith and Dr Padwad introducing the principles and practices of exploratory action research to 30 teachers and teacher educators.

The benefits of classroom research shared through these conference events and from those involved in the AARMS scheme are clear. External research is all very well, but teachers’ reflecting on their own practice, setting their own research questions and actively seeking the answers is the surest way to improve classroom teaching in a way that is contextualised to and appropriate for individual learners’ needs. Martyn Hammersley from The Open University has talked about ‘the privileging of research evidence over evidence from other sources, especially professional experience’: there is no doubt that the former is important, but teachers need to take ownership of the research process and actively find evidence that applies directly to their own classroom.

Share via email

English and Employability Skills for Higher Education Students in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh Higher Education English Communication Skills Project lays emphasis on supporting teachers in their professional development and building institutional capacity of the state.
British Council directly trained 114 Master Trainers in teaching and training skills so that they are prepared to cascade ten-day teacher training programme to approximately 2500 teachers in Andhra Pradesh.
Master Trainer Training was conducted from 15 May to 20 May and 29 May to 3 June 2017 (two blocks, six days each) at Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam in Tirupathi and Acharya Nagarjuna University in Guntur.
Six British Council Training Consultants trained Master Trainers for 12 days. The materials for this training were specifically written to cater to the needs of Andhra Pradesh teachers who are at different levels of teaching and training experience. The materials on the course covered topics including the role of the Master Trainer in the project, developing skills in teaching speaking and writing, introduction to the learner course and its delivery in the student classroom, pedagogical awareness, reflective practice, development of training skills and approach to continuing professional development. The training involved a combination of input, practical demonstrations, microteaching, micro training, developmental feedback and reflection to help teachers to bridge the gap between the training room, classroom implementation and help personalise learning.

The feedback received on the Master Trainer Training Programme suggests that the course met expectation of 94 percent of the participants and 98 percent felt that they improved in their training skills. Furthermore, more than 94 percent of the participants stated that they acquired new skills and knowledge in the training programme.

Ajayendra Rudraraju, one of the Master Trainers, shares his experience of being a part of the Master Trainer Training programme and its impact on his professional practice, his students and peers.

Being a part of the Andhra Pradesh Higher Education English Skills in the capacity of Master Trainer gives me immense pride and satisfaction. Even though the Master Trainer Training Program was for only 12 days, I have learnt a number of things from the trainers from the British Council. I have met like-minded people, whose objectives are to evolve and improve as a teacher, during the training period.

Being able to interact and reflect on the teaching methods and approaches, which I employ in planning my lessons, with the English teaching community was one of the highlights for me.
The real highlight, for me, was learning great number things from the trainers from the British Council. I found the concept of ‘elicitation’ very useful, while delivering lessons in the classroom.
I have come to understand the importance of ‘reflection’ and ‘Continuous Professional Development’ in the evolution of a teacher. The Master Trainer workbook designed by the British Council gave a chance to work on my shortcomings and overcome them.

Before the training commenced, I was optimistic about learning something from the program. But I didn’t anticipate the profound and immediate impact it had on me during and after the training. I expected that the program would let me know of the new methods of teaching English.

It got more than I expected as new approaches, activities and techniques were looked at in an interesting way.

Once the training program was over, I promised myself that I would make use of the takeaway tips from the sessions and implement the activities and techniques in my classrooms. The results are being overwhelmingly positive. The students are more involved in the classes now. They enjoy taking part in the activities. Since I have come to know of the different learning styles of the students, I could cater to all of them now.

I have understood the ‘role of a facilitator’ very well and I could see that my students are very creative than I originally gave them credit for.

During the cascading phase, I made the teachers understand the importance of less TTT and more STT. They took it very well. My colleagues have started incorporating certain activities into their lesson plans. I have been constantly speaking to them about the importance of reflection and CPD.
Low key, I have learnt how to work within the given constraints. I started planning my lessons keeping the constraints in my college in mind.

I would like to take up courses, attend workshops and training programs of this ilk in order to keep evolving professionally.

The impact of the Master Trainer Training program and Teacher Training Program would be huge in the coming months and years. The teachers would facilitate the process of making the students come forward and talk and express their ideas.

This would enable the students to express themselves without inhibitions, enhance their communication and employability skills. The course designed by the British Council would be greatly beneficial to the teachers and students in this regard.

Share via email

My FameLab India journey

Written by Rini Sharon, FameLab India Runner Up

“This is the pre-boarding call for passengers booked on flight AI901 to Chennai. Please proceed to gate number 3”, went the airport announcement as I sat there taking a stroll down the amnesia lane.

It all started as I set out on a beautiful trip to God’s own country, curious as I’ve always been, with a million dollar question in mind – “What does it mean to be a science communicator?” Surrounded by friends from various scientific backgrounds flooded with the passion to tell the world about their world of science, loaded with back to back sessions on the hows and whys of science communication, engaged in never-ending technical debates and made to feel at home by our fellow hosts, my over-enthusiastic mind nearly forgot that I was there to attend a competition. A competition that changed the way I viewed science, a competition that gave birth to the Science communicator in me- FAMELAB.

The South India Regional FameLab experienced a hard and healthy competition between researchers from diverse domains. None of the participants failed to charm us with their expertise and their exhibition of scientific skills. After many 3-minute bursts of breathtaking awesomeness, 3 of us were lucky enough to be chosen to represent South India in the Nationals. We stood there, one hand holding our trophies and the other holding our famelab buddies whose faces lit with a proud smile. Anxious and excited, nervous yet delighted we eagerly awaited our next course of expedition- Pune…

Fresh faces, new trainers, unfamiliar hosts and increased competition met us at Pune. What seemed like a sober sabbatical in the scenic campus of IISER Pune, turned out to contain two days of rigorous schooling, guidance and practice to equip us all for the FAMELAB India Nationals. The training which was conducted by the too-handsome-to-be-true Mr. Carl Byrne, included various fun yet wisdom imparting sessions like interview techniques, storytelling, taboo games and physical exercises ;-) . The merry-making came to a halt as the national finals neared. Anyone who decided to walk across the 2nd floor corridor of IISER Guesthouse would be stuck with the infectious competitive spirit of the participants and would witness cacophonous practices, heavy nail-biting and people with notepads pacing up and down the corridor. With the media coverage, live streaming, stage practices and online voting, the Famelab national finals much resembled a reality show. A little dance , some poetry, a lot of drama, some magic, everything from bursting balloons to going bald was witnessed on stage- all for one thing – communicating science! The fierce competition was finally lulled as they announced the 3 blessed scientists from India who would get the opportunity to experience the Cheltenham Science Festival in person.

Being a person who has never stepped out of India, I was extremely excited, elated and thrilled at the thought of being a part of an international science festival. Although the preparation for the trip was a painful process, with the leave request being rejected and the VISA being refused, there was enormous amount of support and help from the British Council South India that made this trip possible for me. Looking back now, it might just seem like another laughable experience, but no words could express my gratitude to British Council South India. As I got my VISA the penultimate day of departure, I sighed a breath of relief and set out on my journey to Cheltenham.

Cheltenham – amazing weather, amazing town, amazing people, not-so-amazing food! :-P The first few days sped past as we engaged with science communicators from 31 different countries, got acquainted with their language and culture, exchanged souvenirs and rendezvoused with many field experts who presented their insights about multifarious issues in the scientific terrain. It blows my mind away as to how people from across the nations worldwide could get along so easily just because they share a common passion – science. A lot of science was doing the rounds but everyone lay keenly in wait for the International finals!

The day arrives, and Mayur Bonkile, the Indian representative for FameLab had gone through umpteen practice sessions with myself and Sumeet. We sat ourselves down in the dim lit auditorium taking selfies with our newly made friends, chit chatting and betting about which country would win until we were silenced by the legendary FameLab tune which marked the grand commencement of FameLab International Finale 2017. Without exception, the finalists held the audience spellbound by their enchanting and magnetic performances and gave the judges a hard time deciding who would own the FameLab champion title. The South African contestant won a special place in everyone’s heart as she wiggled and hummed spreading her contagious humor among the audience and won both the audience vote and the FameLab International Champion 2017 title.

Farewells bid, bags packed, skills learnt, memories made. Above all, a life made richer by new found friends…

Lost in thought, I was awakened by the familiar voice, “This is the final boarding call for passengers booked on flight AI901 to Chennai. Please proceed to gate number 3 immediately”!

I make my way back home pondering about my million dollar question – “What does it mean to be a science communicator?”

I know the answer because I am one now.

Thanks to FameLab – the name that spells science in a never-more-fun fashion.

Share via email

Explorations: Teaching and Learning English in India

India has a long tradition of educational research dating back to the pre-independence period which has included the foundation and development of national and state agencies including the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERT). However, as David Graddol (2010: 98), for example, has pointed out, the results of this research have not always reached the wider world and India may have been under-represented in the international academic community. British Council India places considerable emphasis on encouraging and supporting educational research and a key strand of that work, for a number of years, was the English Language Teaching Partnerships (ELTReP) Award programme.

The ELTRePs programme ran from 2012 to 2016, with the aim of facilitating high quality, innovative research to benefit the learning and teaching of English in India and to improve the access of ELT policy makers and professionals from India, the United Kingdom and the global ELT community to that research. Researchers on this programme have been supported in undertaking explorations in a wide range of contexts. All writers are practitioners in the field of English language teaching and learning in India, whether teachers, lecturers, educational department personnel or in other roles that involve day-to-day contact with the teaching and learning of English.

Our new publication series Explorations: Teaching and Learning English in India brings together thirty three papers which are describe the research undertaken, and present findings and recommendations which we hope will be of benefit to a wider audience. The papers are presented in a series of eleven issues, each containing three papers and each addressing one of the professional practices detailed in the British Council framework for continuing professional development. Topics include a focus on understanding learners, managing resources and the use of information technology, assessing learners, taking responsibility for continuing professional development and using inclusive and multilingual approaches. Each paper reflects the creativity, detailed awareness of context and practical suggestions of the wide range of writers, from different backgrounds and working in different situations. They present results which in each case are innovative and thought-provoking. The papers deal in different ways with the teaching and learning of English in India today and offer suggestions on how to meet these challenges.

Twenty-two of the papers have been edited by Professor Brian Tomlinson, Honorary Visiting Professor, University of Liverpool, TESOL Professor, Anaheim University. A further eleven papers were edited by Andy Keedwell, Senior Academic Manager, British Council India. Both editors worked in collaboration with the writers themselves.

Issue 1 looks at the professional practice of understanding learners and in particular the needs of students, especially for future employability. Barasha Borah makes suggestions on how a more communicative, task-based approach can be used to develop students’ speaking skills for students in secondary schools. Seemita Mohanty looks at ways in which the motivation and self-confidence of young people can be increased. Sutapa Chakravarty investigates how a range of multiple intelligences can be addressed inside and outside the primary school.

We hope you enjoy Explorations: Teaching and Learning English in India Issue 1 and find it helpful for the context you work in.

Issue 2 will be released in August 2017.

Reference:
Graddol, D. (2010) English next India: the future of English in India. London: British Council.

Share via email

English and Employability Skills for Higher Education Students in Andhra Pradesh

Up-skilling Higher Education (HE) students in English and employability skills in the state of Andhra Pradesh constitutes the core objective of Andhra Pradesh Higher Education English Communication Skills Project. The project aims to create an environment so that HE students have access to equitable education, increased economic and career prospects and more importantly takes forward Honourable Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s vision “to transform Andhra Pradesh state into a knowledge hub by providing quality education and giving opportunities for students to develop employability skills among the Universities and Colleges in the state.”

In India, English holds a unique role as both a link language and a skill valued by employers across sectors and helps gain better education and employment. This has been stated by research, policy documents and as well as industry bodies:

Growing need for 21st century skills in India-English is considered a 21st century skill, ‘mastery of which leads to better job prospects in the future’. (ASER Report 2010)

National Knowledge Commission in its 2007 recommendations stated ‘English language is a critical determinant of access to, and opportunities for a better life’.

British Council conducted a comprehensive needs analysis to understand the context teachers and students operate in and the training needs expressed by the state. The needs analysis involved 988 stakeholders (teachers, learners, staff council members across colleges and universities in the state of Andra Pradesh). Some of the primary data sources included learner and teacher focus groups, online surveys, discussion with staff council and Aptis assessment (computer-based English proficiency test). In addition, meetings with key stakeholders and policy makers, university curricula, text books, govt. education policy documents informed the key findings and the proposed solution.

The key objectives of the project include:

  1. Learners will improve their workplace English language, employability and soft skills and thereby have increased opportunities for further education or employment.
  2. English teachers will increase their English proficiency and be able to employ teaching methodologies which facilitate more communicative language learning outcomes.
  3. Develop a sustainable cadre of Master Trainers, who will have the English language skills, classroom pedagogy, training skills and mentoring competencies needed to support on-going training and professional development of English teachers in colleges on a sustainable basis.
  4. Employers will have access to a better skilled workforce of young talent

The project model is aimed at creating a cadre of Master Trainers who will train teachers and support them on an on-going basis in addition to building institutional capacity. The teachers will be equipped to deliver an English and employability 100-hour face to face English course with the focus on speaking and writing using learner-centred methods to students in their institutions. Furthermore, students will have access to a 50-hour online course that develops their English and employability skills in addition to grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening and in the process makes them more adept at using digitally-enabled training solutions.

So far 114 Master Trainers have successfully completed 12 days of training on English language teaching and training skills and are currently delivering training to teachers across Andhra Pradesh. Watch this space for more details on Master Trainer’s experience of teacher training and the learner programme.

Share via email

My experiments with the CWIT Fellowship Chichester University, March – May 2016

by Shweta Taneja
Speculative fiction author
Charles Wallace Fellow, Chichester University, 2016
Contact: me@shwetawrites.com

What I like most about the Charles Wallace fellowship is that it can take any shape you want to give it, any direction you want it to take. This freedom of choosing, or not choosing, to write, to read and explore, worked quite well for me, someone who plans her book meticulously, with each scene in place and then decides to go into a tangent while writing it.

After the initial bouts of joy on being accepted had settled in (including a series of screechy phone-calls, a drinking party with friends and other distractions that expectedly derailed my work for a week in December 2015), I prepared for the UK visa. The process was as smooth as it goes considering one has to deal with the third-party clerk layer called VFS Global. I applied for the visa application with the following: The Trust’s letter; A letter from Dr Stavroula Varella from the Chichester Univerity; another letter from the British Council stating my travel details and the fact that I’d received the fellowship; a cover letter where I explained what this was all about and why I was heading to England; and finally, a print of my airplane tickets, though those weren’t required. I forgot to add in health insurance to the pack, but the Visa authorities-that-be must’ve understood the levels of my health from my cover letter, for within ten days I had my visa. (I took a health insurance later from HDFC, the cheapest one I could find.)

End of February 2016, armed with my passport, panic and excitement as well as a mini elephant, I left for London. London Heathrow was a breeze to negotiate. The marvellous Richard Alford, the one-man-army behind the Charles Wallace Trust based in London, had arranged for £600 to be collected at the Western Union, which happened with average ease. I chose to take this in cash (though they do give you a prepaid card loaded with the same money at a £10 fee, which is a better option if you don’t want to handle too much cash) and headed to Chichester.

From Chichester station, I took the bus, a rookie mistake when you have to drag the said mini elephant who is having a bit of a tantrum. I would suggest my successor to opt for a taxi from the station which takes a mere £5-5.5 to reach the campus. Dr Stavroula Varella, the linguistics professor who I’d been in touch with from India and who handles the CWIT fellowship at the university, met me at the library and helped me get a university staff card, an essential for making sure all doors open and you can issue books from the library. She also introduced me to that apartment that was to be my home for three months, located in the Oaklands building, a mansion house surrounded by lawns on all three sides and a road in between with beautiful sunset views and a few ghosts floating around. Creative.

There were two new things that happened for my fellowship in terms of logistics which I found really useful (the older fellows haven’t availed either of these facilities): One was the catering option I got added to my staff card. Catering option costs about £50 per month and gives you £8 per day allowance to spend at the campus canteen. The canteen offers hot meals for lunch and dinner as well as healthy sandwiches with a lot of vegetarian options if you’re so inclined. This covered two meals a day during the week and I just needed to arrange for breakfast and weekend meals. Saved me a lot of time, money and visits to the grocery shop. (Also helps if you’re sheer lazy when it comes to housework as I am inclined to be.)

The second thing was the prepaid card that Stavoula, the very helpful Lorna Sargent, programme administrator for the department and Jenny and Jody at the Finance department arranged. It was a University of Chichester prepaid card loaded with all the leftover grant money after the accommodation and catering had been subtracted. The card made it easy for me to book tickets, transact online and pay my bills, use in pubs and restaurants, anywhere really. I easily tracked all transactions on Expensify (a free app for most smartphones) and send the report to the Finance team at the end of my stay, with all the physical bills, something they would require as it’s a corporate card.

Another thing I found useful at the university was the gym. The membership to the gym is quite cheap for staff members (I got it for £12.5 for three months) and there are fitness instructors to help you with a personal plan if you’d like to know which machine does what to which part of your body. The gym also has an extensive indoor sports facility. Do bring your fitness gear with you.

WHAT DID I DO?
Having been a city-girl all my life, it took me a little time to adjust myself to quiet country life and set up a writing routine. After a rather late start, I managed to finish a draft of my long pending novel (the third in Anantya Tantrist series); took a two-week Easter break in London to explore exhibitions and get inspired in British Library reading rooms and museums; found the beginnings of a new satire I’m working on now; and finished the final editing of a paranormal novel which releases in July/August 2016 with Juggernaut Books. Alongside I wrote eight articles for my regular gig at Mint, attended classes, had conversations, travelled and read a lot, exposing myself to varied speculative fiction and comics. I also explored similarities and differences in social and political norms and perhaps came back with a somewhat clearer understanding of what makes us all humans.

I’d applied specifically to Chichester University for two reasons: One, the Folklore library, which intrigued the amateur story-collector in me. It’s located in professor Bill Gray’s study. Since Bill was unfortunately unwell, I couldn’t explore his library as much as I would’ve liked to. (Though the Folkore Centre was kind enough to accept and publish an excerpt of my latest book Cult of Chaos, in their journal Gramarye.)

The second reason was the phenomenal Creative Writing faculty in the department, something that turned out to be a brilliant decision. The English department at Chichester is small but very active and welcoming. They have a tradition where each of them take turns to take the CWIT fellow out for a cup of coffee or experience (which meant for most months, my timetable was packed with coffee/tea/cake treats, experiences and conversations). I not only made lasting friendships with most in the department, but also learnt a lot about writing, the business of it, and the challenges faced by others. Alison MacLeod, professor of contemporary fiction whose book Unexploded was longlisted for the Man Booker, taught me the art of writing short stories, a medium I’ve not really explored. She also played host to me, inviting me over to her lovely Brighton house and prepping breakfast as we discussed cultural differences, the business of teaching creative writing and what it takes to continue to write. With Dr Naomi Foyle, who is an author of a sci-fi series inspired by the political scenario of the Palestine-Israel conflict, I discussed elements in science fiction and fantasy and how to pace a story—over multiple fish and chips dinners. Hugh Dunkerley exposed me to modern poetry, while Stephanie Norgate explained to me the usefulness of writing workshops and feedback. Stephen Mollett introduced me to radio screenplays; Karen Stevens fed me food while we discussed the art of teaching writing and of writing. The department also had multiple author visits and events, which meant I met and interacted with established British and European authors like Jim Crace, Adam Marek, and Dorthe Nors and literary agents like David Godwin. Needless to say, it helped me learn and understand trends in contemporary writing in English and make some connections.

I’m a wandering soul and love to soak in nature and creative arts to inspire me into new directions. For this Chichester University was a hotbed as the university has active departments in dance, music, films and theatre. There was something or the other happening at least two-three evenings in a week, most of the things free. I became a regular at the jazz evenings, saw operas and orchestras, experienced modern dance, plays, dramatization of the Palestine-Israel conflict by a historian, attended a conference on Shakespeare and heard a panel on how sets are designed for theatre productions today.

Since I was in a university and had the freedom to choose, I’d decided in advance to attend a few classes. For this purpose I got in touch with Dr Hugo Frey, the HOD of History department at Chichester (who is also a fellow comic nerd and now a good friend), and attended quite a few history lectures on slavery, death rites, and racism. It was very interesting to go back in a class, listen in and also to understand how teaching happens in modern classrooms. It was also because of Hugo that I did a talk on Indian comics at the prestigious Cartoon Museum in London after attending a workshop there on British comics.

THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH
When you head to a new country, a new place, it’s both exciting and slightly panicky. A heartfelt thanks to Stavroula Varella, Simon Barker and Lorna Sargent for making sure I had everything I needed at the university and accommodating all my demands with bucket loads of patience and an unwavering smile. Though I’m a writer, I’m blessed with a personality which is hyper-extrovert. Which meant living in a mansion of 20-rooms, alone, wasn’t too much in the comfort zone. This loneliness vanished like smoke within a few weeks thanks to the welcome homes of Sandie Divers and her husband Ian who fed me multiple teas (yes the grammar works here) and loaned me a bike (loaning me another when my husband came visiting); Karen Stevens who let me sleep in her house, took me on hikes and multiple get-togethers. Other friends I made in and outside the university and my friends Anubhav and Neha who sheltered me while I was in London.

Finally an affectionate thanks to Richard Alford for meeting me at Trafalgar Square in London and then again coming to Chichester to spend a day around and making sure I was doing okay. And also listening in patiently as I rambled at the comic talk at the Cartoon Museum.

SNAPSHOTS
Here are a few images from my Instagram feed where I maintained a living journal of my fellowship. You’re most welcome to head there, browse through, see and comment.
Pic1
Finished a draft of a novel; started a new work and edited a third which releases in July-August 2016 with Juggernaut Books.

Pic2
Read a lot of unexpected titles and unexplored authors to force the mind to think and produce new ideas.

Pic3
Explored the countryside, breathing a lot of the sea, the fresh air and the skies. Also realized why the British talk about the weather all the time.

Pic4
Exposed self to a lot of pleasurable exhibitions and cultural stimuli. This is from the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library.

Pic5
Tried to understand the British culture as it’s now, its varied differences and similarities with my own.

Pic6
Tried, really, really hard to understand the difference between dinner and supper. Realised that JRR Tolkien hadn’t imagined the word ‘elevenses’.

EXTRAS
These are just tips and things I found useful as well as a few links for future fellows. Feel free to write to me and ask more on any of them.

HEALTH
- Hot and cold: I know it’s the obvious one, but I found the weather in UK fluctuating dramatically within a day, with cold winds that can grab by the neck if you’re not careful. Indians for most part are not used to it. My suggestion is cover up ears, head, neck and chest. Always, even when the weather feels warmer as it’ll happen in May.
- Hydration: All buildings in the UK have internal heating which can make it a very dry affair and even give you headaches if you’re not used to it. So drink a lot of water and eat fruits.
- Sickness: If you fall sick and haven’t brought any medications with yourself, the first step you can take is go to a Pharmacy. UK pharmacists can prescribe basic medicine. Also, the docs there don’t prescribe antibiotics easily, so do bring whatever you may need in a medical bag. For more serious things, head to St Richards Hospital’s Emergency ward, a small walk from the campus.

TRAVEL
- Trains are really expensive but not if you book in advance. So always plan ahead and book your tickets at the NationalRail website.
- Local buses are expensive, each way costing £5 (this is in 2016, for West Sussex area), so plan your travel around the area. I got a bike from Sandie and her husband Ian and used it for two months to go around the city as well as explore trails across countryside. Would highly recommend that as Chichester is pretty bike friendly. I also asked a lot of people I met to pick me up. They did go out of their way and it was kind enough of them to show me around the city and the areas.
- Chichester University has tied up with HostUK, an organization that arranges for British families to host international students for a weekend. I would suggest you to try it out. It costs £20 and your travel to the British family’s home. I made some great friends due to this organization.
- Since I need to hangout with people when I’m not writing, I also found Meetup, a location-based social network quite useful. I was able to go on multiple hikes with groups found here.

LONDON
- British Library: If you’re heading there, get your reader pass registration done online in advance. It makes sure you don’t waste a day when at the library.
- Home to stay: If you’d like to stay at someone’s home, my friends David and Oonagh, a really interesting couple who live in Finsbury Park, have a 4-BHK and are looking for tenants. They want someone for a minimum of 2-3 months. There’s a direct bus from their home to the British Library. You get quality conversation and a kitchen space to cook. Oh, and David also has occasional passes to Arsenal games (he’s a huge fan), so definitely think about it. You can email him for any queries you might have regarding London. Contact: david.todd.hunter@btinternet.com

All the best, you!

Share via email

The 5 Cs of Email Writing

77194

The 5 Cs of Email Writing 

Written by- Kamini Taneja, Academic Manager, British Council.

 

Please do the needful and revert back asap.’

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We see sentences like these in emails all the time. However, it’s not the most effective way to write since it doesn’t state what needs to be done and by when.

Emails need to be written as clearly as possible to avoid causing confusion, especially when transacting with partners/stakeholders overseas. A common complaint among Learning and Development managers is that their team members, while excellent in technical skills, can’t communicate successfully in writing. This leads to a lot of time being spent correcting and proofreading emails before they are sent out. This is especially true when emails are written to senior managers or important stakeholders. Furthermore, it has a negative impact on employee productivity and decreases efficiency.

Business communication is heavily reliant on emails – an indispensable tool in the business world today. So let’s look at the 5 Cs of email writing.

Complete: This is about stating your purpose up front and providing the right amount of information. It is a good idea to explicitly state what action will follow and when, and who will do it.

For example, let’s look at an email that starts with the sentence ‘I am writing to enquire about the new photocopier model manufactured at NEWX.’ Is the purpose/reason for writing clear or obvious? We usually state the reason for writing in the opening sentence of the email. It is also vital that all information is logically presented in the message.

Clear: This relates to using specific language. Which of these sentences specify exactly what action is required from the reader?

  1. We might extend the deadline to some extent on the condition that necessary measures are taken in a timely fashion.
  2. You now have until 31st March to remove all machinery from the site.

Additionally, using linking words, paragraphs to logically connect ideas is of utmost importance.

Correct: Let’s consider these sentences:  ‘I received many informations from you last week.’ or ‘I have received a letter from you on Monday.’

Can you spot any errors in these sentences?

You got that right – information is an uncountable noun so doesn’t take a ‘s’.

The second sentence can be written as ‘I received the letter on Monday.’ We use the past simple to state completed actions in the past (i.e. the action of receiving the letter is complete). The use of present perfect, in this case, brings together two contradictory elements: I have received the letter (recently received the letter) on Monday (with a past time phrase, time that is complete and over).

Grammatical accuracy plays a big part in how you come across to the reader and if the message was received as intended. Remember, words are powerful, but the right words are dynamite.

Concise: It is important to use short sentences (15-20 words).  Take a lo at this sentence:

The recommendation I have, and this is the area which I will now address in this section, is that relating to the issue of whether we need to provide refreshment for the employees of our company. It being my considered opinion that in fact, it would save time if the aforementioned meal could be provided by our company rather than having the employees go outside for any eventual refreshment.

The importance of keeping it simple and concise cannot be stressed enough when drafting crisp and easy to understand messages. Sentence length and “big” words can distort the message. Besides, who has the time to read long-winded emails! A better sentence is:

In order to save time, my recommendation is to provide refreshment to all staff in the office rather than having them go out.

Courteous: Our relationship with the reader influences our choice of language (formal/informal). When talking to your reader, you need to tailor your writing to fit their specific needs. One needs to consider what the tone of the message is and strike the right level of formality.

If you like the article,  share it with someone who will like it too!

 

 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

Share via email

Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings

79257

Make meetings matter- Expert tips to improve your meetings

Written by- Shonali Khanna, Academic Manager, British Council

Think meetings are a waste of time? Think again. Our top tips for managing meetings effectively can help you make meetings matter!

What’s usually your first thought when you get a meeting request?

  1. Oh no, not another meeting
  2. Why am I even invited for this?
  3. What a total waste of time
  4. Fabulous, I love meetings!

If you chose 4, you’re one of those few individuals who is clearly doing things right. For the rest of us, however, meetings that run on endlessly or one where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a really frustrating part of regular work. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way and you don’t have to jump on the “boring meetings” bandwagon. Here are some ways to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave them with clear objectives.The end game

The end game
Often, general weekly meetings with no clear outcomes end up becoming opportunities to catch up on lost sleep. So first things first, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. In other words, clearly define what will happen as a result of the time spent together as a group. Define this with a tangible action such as ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and leads for each action.’
Putting the D in digital
Once you clearly define your objectives, you might even find that a meeting isn’t the best medium to achieve a particular outcome. That’s ok. In fact, that’s good! Maybe a shared, collaborative document or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Perhaps project updates can be shared more effectively through a project management tool or communication platforms such as Basecamp, Asana or Slack.
An invite gets the clock ticking
The meeting actually starts when the invite is sent out, not when the physical meeting takes place. Meetings can be way more productive if you use appropriate ways to engage your invitees even before the meeting happens. This could be done by sharing a clear agenda so people know exactly what they can expect or giving a pre-meeting task that they have to complete before they come to the meeting.
Pre-wire meetings with important topics
For important or sensitive topics, where you want people to collaborate and don’t want any surprises, use the pre-meeting time to approach the key players attending the meeting. Get a preview of their thoughts on the meeting even before it happens. This will also help you anticipate concerns or questions or challenges so you can go into the meeting with clear solutions.
What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.
If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs. To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

Share via email

Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017?

79821

Planning your company’s L&D strategy for 2017? 

Written by- Tapsi Chhabra, Academic Manager, British Council.

With rapid globalisation, English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. Add to that the rise of the internet, and you have a situation where there is a high demand for proficiency in using English a.k.a the ‘universal language on the internet’.

Even within organisations, English takes centre stage.
Need to share information with your team? Write an update on Yammer or Basecamp.
Need to report to the CFO on numbers? Make a presentation.

Considering all of the above, here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

To avoid communication breakdown:
Non-standard English aka ‘Indianisms’ in international contexts can cause confusion and pose barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they may even lead to communication breakdown.

For instance, the oft-asked question What’s your good name? may confuse an expatriate colleague or a native English speaker. That’s because this is a direct translation of the Hindi expression, ‘Aap ka shubh naam kya hai?’ and the use of the adjective ‘good’ needlessly complicates a very simple question. Instead ‘What is your name?’ works for all situations.

To save time, save costs:
Did you know that we spend 28 per cent of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails, and a whopping 35 percent on meetings? That’s because most communication on emails and in meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clear and the need for clarification is drastically reduced. On the whole, employees are better able to grasp what is expected of them and perform tasks more effectively.

In addition, many companies report that highly paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails riddled with a non-standard use of English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it may be time to think about English language training.

Boost confidence and propel leadership:
You may have hired people with excellent technical skills, but are they able to lead on projects that require a high level of communicative competence? Equipping these techno-wizards with the ability to use language effectively empowers them to embrace leadership and take initiative beyond their basic job responsibilities. Don’t be surprised when a middle manager who recently attended a negotiation skills workshop cracks that deal with a coveted client all on his own – yes, the one that the management has been eyeing for months!

So tweak that L&D plan today – save costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2017!
Have you struggled with communication breakdown at the workplace and a high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

If you like the article, share it with someone who will like it too!

 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication related solutions targeting specific needs. Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant on our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact Alisha Debara on +91 9643200831 or email us on B2BTrainingSolutions@britishcouncil.org.

 

 

Share via email

What’s so perfect about a ’10′ anyway?

Apparently, none of us really look good. We are all either too fat or too thin; our hair and skin are not of the right colour or texture; or some part of our body is not of the right shape, or size. If only that one aspect were different, if only…

WHAT IS BODY SHAMING?

In its broadest sense body shaming is, either overt or covert, criticism of deviance from an accepted body norm. This body norm attempts to codify how the body should be presented and represented if it needs to be perceived in certain ways – as beautiful, or as ugly, or funny, mysterious, etc. In its most simplistic and hyper-analysed form, one can think of a body norm as a two-dimensional table where body features or traits point to certain “meanings.” This is how “tall, dark, and handsome” means a desirable lover in romantic pulp fiction or in sitcoms, a short, bald, or fat guy has come to mean a shallow loser who provides comic relief.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

We have always been body shamers. We are social beings and there is an awareness of (consciously or unconsciously) agreed-upon norms. We show our conformity to the tribe by reiterating and reaffirming these norms. One way this happens is through the choices we make about presenting our bodies (including but not limited to body shaping, styling and even colours). However, sometimes we pledge allegiance by interpreting and then communicating value judgements (“I don’t think you should shave your moustache; it makes you look womanly” or “look at how high she wears those trousers”). In saying something positive, we may by accident, be body shaming.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

The body norm is neither universal (apparently, women with tiny feet used to be quite the thing in China) nor timeless (think of the robust beauties of renaissance art). It survives and is replenished through its agents – us. One way to fight body shaming, especially its more pernicious effects, is to offer a genuine counter discourse – one that stops short of a too lazy normalisation, one that is more inclusive and diverse in its representations, and one that not only accepts but also celebrates pluralism through its language. We have the agency and herein lies hope.

IWD banner

Written by Anshuman Manur, Teacher of English, British Council – Chennai

Share via email