Over the past few years, there has been a decided shift in teaching and learning preferences in India. With an increasing number of people and organisations moving towards online learning and especially online-blended learning, India has come a long way. There are primarily four factors which have advanced the advent of online learning in the country.
Improved teaching quality
For the longest time, online learning meant gamified and gimmicky apps or video-based content. Over the last decade, that has changed to include several education leaders investing in the development of effective teaching and learning methods for online learning.
Modern EdTech platforms are enabling this revolution with platforms like Zoom are used for delivering live online classes. Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning will further empower teachers as they can use data to respond to learners’ micro-needs, and educators will be able to use this data to develop their product-learner fit to a higher degree.
Remote working flexibility
So much of today’s work in done via email, Skype or Slack. It is natural that training delivery also becomes virtual. The need for adapting to online learning is even greater now, given to the enforcement of social distancing and working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This pandemic has increased the urgency around the conversation on online learning and the digital divide across the world. In the scenario where traditional education institutions like schools, colleges and coaching classes are forced to shut shop, online learning has come to the rescue.
Adopting robust online solutions for learning are a necessity now than a luxury. Just like the flipped-classroom approach, COVID-19 has flipped our understanding of online-learning which was limited to continuing education through distance learning.
Tech is the new norm
It is predicted that by 2050, 280 million job seekers will enter the Indian job market. 2020s will be the first decade that Gen Z, the generation that grew up with smartphones, will join the job market. For them, it is a core part of their personal and professional lives. If companies are to attract and retain this talent, they must differentiate their employment offers by providing more and modern L&D opportunities like online-based learning classrooms.
The companies of today are grappling with additional challenges such as climate change and security threats etc. Some companies operate in areas where it isn’t possible to fly trainers down. More organisations are turning to online delivery of their training sessions in such cases. Some studies have claimed online learning classrooms can be as less as 53% cheaper than offline alternatives.
The author is the Assistant Director, British Council Examination and English Services India Pvt Ltd.
Can your English language course transform you into a global professional?
Employers today demand much more from their workforce than simply gaining the right degrees. They require skills for the 21st century or ‘employability skills’ that go beyond subject matter knowledge. Employees who demonstrate these skills often have better job prospects. The G20 notes in its Skills Strategy report (2015) that having the right skills can boost earnings, enhance opportunities and promote well-being. Professional environments are shrinking, in terms of access, and expanding, in terms of newer connections, at the same time—giving rise to the need for enhanced workplace skills. Today, there are many ‘soft skills’ that enable an employee to stand out in the crowd, especially when the world has become more connected, and businesses more global in nature. What are these skills and how can employees acquire them?
Staying competitive with soft skills
At times, even good performers find it difficult to advance to senior positions due to a lack of soft skills. As businesses transform to keep up with changing technology and socio-economic factors and the demand for multi-disciplinary skills increases, employees too need to adapt their approach. Apart from domain knowledge, other skills valued by employers are communication, digital literacy, learning agility and cultural awareness (India Skills Report, 2017). Effective communication is one of the most sought-after job skills. In some cases, lacking the necessary language proficiency may become an obstacle to career growth. In a British Council study, employers suggested that good English language skills are important for promotion to supervisory or management roles (English Skills For Employability Report, 2015). As English is the language of global business, being proficient in it is important for employees. There seems to be ‘a critical need for English’ for career success in many sectors. Hence, English proficiency is not a choice, but a necessity.
Ability to connect & collaborate
In the business world, employees are regularly required to use video conferencing and email for day-to-day work. They may also need to use social networking sites and micro-blogs. Being collaborative and knowing how to use digital technology to communicate can help an employee bring additional value to the workplace.
How to get started
As a first step, you can access free language learning material online, including tools that can help improve reading, listening and pronunciation skills. However, taking a taught language course is likely to boost not just your overall language proficiency, but also employability skills. There are a host of courses available for employees to bridge the language proficiency gap, but the biggest challenge that people face is paucity of time. With ever-increasing workloads, expanding social circles and transportation issues, taking out time for additional practice is tough. This problem can be solved using technology. In a country the size of India, with improvements in technology and connectivity, online learning solutions are readily available for determined knowledge seekers.
Why go online?
First, the advantage of an online course is convenience and flexibility. Learners can study where and when they like. Second, an online language course can boost learners’ digital literacy, by guiding them on the rules of ‘netiquette’, or polite online communication, and maintaining basic online security. In addition to improving English, they learn to communicate using modern media. Given the proliferation of remote working, collaborative sessions and video conferencing, this gives them a competitive advantage to succeed in the workplace. Third, online courses demand learners be well-organised, motivated and have time-management skills. Successful online learners demonstrate learning agility; they set goals for themselves and know their areas for improvement. Thus, any good online language course also nurtures the essential skills of time management and independent learning. Showing initiative and self-motivation are highly valued workplace skills, and an online course can help you develop in these key areas. Another benefit is the exposure to language as it is used globally, and access to internationally-recognised course content. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have seen an exponential increase in student enrolment over the years, underlining the appetite for learning. While MOOCs may offer limited interaction, other more evolved online courses offer a holistic experience with interactive classes that allow for real-time feedback, an appropriate teacher-student ratio and interaction with peers—all ingredients of a real classroom.
Picking the right course
Committed learners have a plethora of choices, but need to invest in the right options; the right course can enhance an employee’s confidence. For starters, check the credentials of the course provider in terms of the number of years of delivering language proficiency training, the qualifications and profile of trainers, the teaching methodology and the availability of on-course support for troubleshooting, among other factors. Analyse the delivery mechanism to gauge the effectiveness of the course. Remember, while most courses will offer standard features and services, it is prudent to find out more about the class delivery, interaction and engagement, guidance, etc, to ascertain the effectiveness of the course. When choosing a course, focus on the additional value it offers to maximise the returns on time and money you invest. For instance, a carefully designed online course should offer access to world-class content and expose individuals to global standards of communication. In conclusion, each aspect of an online course mirrors the workplace routine of today’s competitive and results-oriented employees, who are required to display interpersonal skills, critical thinking and problem solving skills. In most cases, successful online learners can develop these useful workplace skills. They can also develop capabilities for future job roles, becoming adaptable lifelong learners. For this reason, both employers and employees should view online learning as an opportunity to hone their skills and embrace the new horizons it affords.
By Neenaz Ichaporia The author is academic manager for the British Council’s blended learning myEnglish courses. Views are personal
From facing issues in presenting themselves with confidence to handling communication in a second language with ease, British Council myEnglish students share the secrets of their success.
We’re in conversation with Bhavana, Nupur, Sayed, Ashvina, Siddhant, Saba, Priyanka, Ramchandra and Ritesh who want to share their experience of taking the online myEnglish course, and how to make the most of it.
1. Know your motivations
Communication, career and confidence are the common threads that motivated our interviewees to learn.
Bhavana, a homemaker, shares a common problem: “There are times when I have to respond to queries or write a small note, and I find it hard to express myself. I find I can do it in Hindi but not in English – if I can feel a little more comfortable with English it will be a big help”.
Nupur, an artist, agrees: “I used to think people will make fun of me if I did not speak properly”.
Ramchandra, an engineer, Siddhant, a content writer and Ashvina, an assistant professor wanted to improve communication skills for their career. Sayed, who works in IT, says, “I could read and write well, but speaking was a major impediment”. As Priyanka, an entrepreneur, says, “I have to deal with a lot of delegates from all over the world on a daily basis and speaking English was my biggest hurdle”.
Saba, a post-graduate in English literature explains: “[English] is how you communicate. Therefore I developed an interest in learning the language”. Ritesh, a chartered accountant, says “I love reading books, travelling across the world to understand varied cultures and it’s been quite some time since I wanted to improve my language”.
All of them decided to take an online English course. This may seem unusual, but Siddhant says: “Initially I was a bit hesitant choosing this course as it’s online, but I went on to enrol on myEnglish after examining the pros of having an online class – like avoiding travel and saving time”.
2. Communication is the key
Develop communication skills by practising with others as much as possible.
Bhavana says “I could use the course to interact with my fellow students in English and not feel bad about it. For me, this was of great help because it showed me a good way of expressing myself in day-to-day situations. The other big merit is the chance to interact with fellow students who have the same problems”.
Saba agrees: “You learn to take turns, talk, have a discussion. Now, wherever I go for interviews, maybe I’m sitting in a team, discussing anything in a cafeteria, it helps me with the pattern that should be followed. This is not just about formal conversations; it is also about informal chat and everything else”.
3. Course design is crucial
Look for progressive structure and useful content. Having fun also helps!
Ashvina tells us: “Grammar topics were covered really well during our virtual sessions. These helped me in the successful completion of weekly activities. My writing skills improved significantly as well”. Ramchandra adds “The course is a nice combination of traditional and modern methods. Apart from language learning, it develops the skills of interaction, presentation and study with ethics”.
Saba says “I enjoyed the different types of topics taught to us via the language. I learned a bit about crime and law, health, sports, and media. The topics were unique, the way it was taught was unique”.
This impacts learning even after the course: “I have stopped reading books on grammar, even after all the hard work it’s difficult to grasp many rules. Instead, I visit the web portals advised of and do exercises with more comfort and enjoyment” says Sayed.
4. The teacher is a facilitator
A good course is not a one-way experience.
Sayed explains “It was not a ‘learn by rote’ methodology. I learnt many valuable things with fun, and I have always felt motivated as the teachers never dented my morale”.
Nupur adds: “My tutor has been friendly, helpful and effective in her teaching”. Ashvina agrees: “Our instructors were always ready to support us. They gave timely suggestions and feedback”.
5. Don’t be afraid to step into the unknown
Take risks and accept challenges when you are learning – embrace new ways of doing things.
“I was hesitant to join the course when I came to know that it’s online learning” admits Saba. “Obviously, the fun is about taking up challenges. I talked to many people from British Council, and they always maintained ‘It’s easy, you can do it’. There was a lot of support”.
Siddhant adds, “Virtual classes were something I was most hesitant about, but that ended up becoming the best part of the course. It was as good as a face-to-face class in the comfort of my house”.
“I got handy with the tools and technology” continues Saba. “That is one of the things which is much needed in whatever areas you want to apply them in, regarding your job or maybe even in your everyday life.”
6. Hard work pays off!
Taking a course makes a difference and effort yields results.
Saba notes “Now, if I go for an interview, I’m quite confident. The interviewer sees my CV, and the first question would be about ‘Oh! Have you done the British Council course?’ So it adds a lot of weight to my bio-data”.
Ashvina says “The results are amazing. I can read, write and converse in English with better fluency and confidence”.
7. The self-motivation factor
You get out of a course what you put in, and being independent and motivated is a success factor.
Bhavana warns “There is a lot of work to be done by the students on their own and there are no shortcuts”. Ramchandra counsels “Choose suitable resources, be honest to the trainer and work hard. It definitely leads to success”.
Ritesh echoes that: “Show perseverance. Complete the course with dedication, and you will soon see the difference”.
Development of English skills is a core area of focus for many Indian state governments interested in developing the capacity of their teacher workforce. The Teacher Professional Development Initiative (TOPDI) was a British Council pan-India pilot to offer a fully online English language course, combining self-access material with weekly live classes, to 571 state school teachers. An online course that can achieve positive learning outcomes in a low-resource context has the potential to impact the accessibility and scalability of language learning courses in India and the Global South.
The aim of the pilot was to gauge whether the design and the support mechanisms of the six-week course could maximise participation and retention and therefore successfully develop participant’s English communication skills. Data around course access, attrition rates and completion were gathered, alongside qualitative participant evaluations (questionnaires, focus groups, forum posts) of the course experience.
Access and completion rates remained both fairly high and remarkably consistent for an online course. Participant’s self-rating of language ability rose significantly from pre-course to post course. Ratings and qualitative feedback around elements of the course delivery model highlighted the successes of its design for maintaining and motivating access and completion. The evidence indicates that that this model for an online bring-your-own-device English language course can achieve significant results for language and skills development at scale and is therefore a potential delivery model for the Indian context and beyond.
Beth Caldwell is Head of Blended Learning at the British Council in India. She leads on the management, design and development of blended learning programmes, in particular ‘myEnglish’, British Council’s online English courses, which have welcomed over 4000 adult learners since launch in 2015. She has worked in English language teaching, teacher training and management in countries around the world since 1998 and has lived in India since 2011. Her professional interests include online and blended learning, materials design, quality standards and continuous professional development. She holds a Cambridge DELTA, has been a CELTA course tutor and is a certified e-moderator.
How do you create a cohesive team of teachers, across a country the size of India? How do you keep them motivated, without a traditional bricks-and-mortar teaching centre, meeting them face-to-face only a few times a year? This article discusses makes practical suggestions for managing the challenges, based on our experiences in India.
Over 20,000 learners engage annually with the British Council’s English Language Centres in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi. However, the demand for English courses is high in the other metropolises of Mumbai, Bengaluru and beyond. A suite of blended learning courses was developed to offer quality language learning opportunities in such cities.
When we started delivering myEnglish courses in May 2015, the team was small; an Academic Manager and two teachers. Since then, the team has grown rapidly to 16 teachers (and counting)! The teachers are based in and around course cities, while academic management functions are carried out from Delhi and Chennai (north and south India respectively). Therefore, we adopted several teacher support resources to remotely manage and build our geographically dispersed teaching team. The varied modes of delivery outlined below were aimed at building a community, motivating staff in a relatively isolated teaching environment and promoting their professional development.
Online teacher support community
One of the first support resources we set up was the ‘myEnglish Teachers’ Café’, originally a Moodle discussion forum where teachers exchanged views on professional beliefs and experiences. Though this is moderated by management, anyone can start a discussion including teachers and operations staff. Typically for an online forum, while some members are very active and engage in detailed discussion, others are either ‘lurkers’ or do not engage. To boost participation and, as increasingly, teachers use ‘online social-networking tools to break the traditional isolation of the classroom’ (Menon & Varughese, 2013:80), we recently moved the Teachers’ Café to a closed Facebook group. This is also borne out by our finding that teachers make significantly more frequent use of an informal messaging platform than the Moodle forum (see below).
To ensure that relevant resources are available to our teachers no matter where they are based, we set up an e-library containing resources and reference material. It also contains links to videos and websites. To ensure that copyright is respected, only managers add resources to the library after careful screening. We send out regular email updates as new publications are added and teachers have made use of it, particularly when doing reading/research for their annual learning and development plans.
This helps us deliver bite-sized news and development items on a bi-monthly basis. The ‘Blend-o-meter’ gives teachers a picture of the business and keeps them up-to-date with developments. A ‘Trending Topic’ directs teachers to discussions in the Teachers’ Café and invites them to share their views, while the ‘Development Dispatch’ section contains a link to a relevant development resource, e.g. a webinar, blog or article. Using Campaign Monitor (an email marketing application) to deliver the newsletter enables us to track engagement, including the number of teachers who view the newsletter and on which links they click.
Phone catch ups
We regularly call individual teachers to discuss course progress, admin-related questions and other issues. We aim to keep the tone friendly and approachable; appreciation of teachers’ work and support is given, as well as action points. We have found these are a valuable way of troubleshooting day-to-day issues that teachers face.
Synchronous online sessions
We hold monthly INSETT sessions on topics relevant to classroom/online learning pedagogy. We also host mandatory quarterly all-teachers meetings to share important news and celebrate milestones. Both management and teachers are involved in deciding on topics so it is not all top-down; teachers suggest topics through training needs analyses and individual learning plans. Where the management team perceive a critical need or skills gap, attendance is mandatory, while other sessions are optional. While attendance at mandatory and paid sessions is slightly higher, all sessions are very well-attended, probably as they have immediate practical relevance to teachers and they are involved in the planning themselves (Bolitho, 2014).
INSETT sessions are attended via video-conference (Adobe Connect and Zoom). We can share screens, links and documents and meetings are accessible via smartphone. We encourage teachers to use webcams when logging in to make the sessions as personal as possible. Adding a positive, personalised dimension to these meetings has helped to grow the team identity and foster a positive culture. As many teachers never meet face-to-face, the ability to see and speak to each other in these sessions also builds community.
Informal support group
In our experience, many important developmental and community-building conversations happen informally in the staffroom. Being able to talk to colleagues real-time is invaluable. This need led to the creation of a WhatsApp messaging group for teachers. Interestingly, this was a teacher-led initiative and we had not foreseen the preference for instant messaging over phone, email and the Moodle-based community. Teachers use this group to clarify points related to administrative and technical aspects of the course. By crowdsourcing ideas and tips, teachers have been able to resolve issues more quickly, and it has also enabled the academic management team to get a better understanding of the everyday issues teachers face. We have also found this group useful for signposting important news, emails and updates on other platforms, which improves the likelihood of them being attended to. Teachers also frequently share teaching- and technology-related links. This technology has an important informal, peer learning and community building function.
Peer observation and team-teaching
In training, new teachers are encouraged to do shadowing, peer observation and team teaching with more experienced teachers of both online and face-to-face lessons. This is underpinned by the principle that observation isn’t a ‘stand-alone activity’ and encourages sharing within a community of practice (AITSL). Teachers generally record their reflections on each stage of the lesson for later discussion, with the more experienced teacher providing support and developmental feedback. These have served to cement the peer support network. Given the success of this system, we plan to develop a peer observation network, so that all teachers can continue to develop through productive observation.
Scheduled city visits
We believe that face-to-face interactions still have a vital role in building interpersonal relationships, with both teachers and management finding these valuable. We have instated a programme of quarterly visits to cities where our teachers work. This has both formal and informal dimensions. On the formal side, we carry out observations of face-to-face lessons, feeding into the individual teacher’s learning and development programme. We also catch up with teachers over a coffee for a social, relaxed meeting. This enables us to further build relationships and community.
All teachers have a corporate email address through which we share official news, updates, course changes, documents and so on. Teachers are expected to check email regularly. However, as accessing corporate email requires several steps, we have found that some teachers do so less frequently and may miss important announcements. By signposting these on other platforms (e.g. WhatsApp, see above) we have managed to improve the access rate. We have also joined the mailing lists of teacher development sites (e.g. ELT publishers or British Council Teaching English) and share relevant sites, blogs and articles we come across with the team. Accompanied by a short note to focus attention on useful content, these serve as informal development tools.
To sum up, using a range of tools and platforms facilitated our building of a remote teaching team. The various solutions we use have helped us exchange important information in response to institutional or individual need and have facilitated learning and development and community building. We adopted varied channels for information to meet different needs and preferences. Mixing synchronous and asynchronous modes has ensured flexibility and immediacy of access. Smartphone-compatible solutions have also achieved success with our teachers, who value ease of access to resources. Making provision for face-to-face meetings (whether online or in person) was also vital. We have found that all modes contribute to socialisation, as long as they are not all top-down and that teachers are encouraged to respond to each other and share. Varying the interaction between informal and formal, mandatory and voluntary, individual- and management-led has allowed our community to build organically and in response to both personal and institutional need.
AITSL, How-to’ Guide INTRODUCING CLASSROOM OBSERVATION, Australian Institute for teaching and school of Leadership Limited
aitsl aitsl.edu.au (28.01.2016)
Bolitho, R. The Dimensions of Continuing Professional Development Plenary talk.
Menon, M & Varughese, S. CPD through Social Networking amongst Indian School Teachers: An Action Research, in Bolitho, R and Padwad, A. eds. Continuing Professional Development Lessons from India, 2013, British Council, New Delhi
Video conferencing has become an important and increasingly popular means of communication in organisations all over the world, opening the door to operational flexibility and efficiency with policies such as remote working opportunities. According to a survey conducted by LifeSize.com:
98% of respondents state that video conferencing helps with relationship-building inside and outside the company
94% of businesses say video conferencing increases productivity
90% of respondents say video makes it easier to get their point across and feel connected
On the other hand, webinars are emerging as a great online, interactive tool for information exchange and communication. According to a report by GoToWebinars:
73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders say that a webinar is the best way to generate high-quality leads
57% of marketers say that they will create more webinars next year
So how do we get the most out of webinars and online meetings? Here are some tips and strategies:
For organisers, consult others in your organisation or even have a vote on the topic of the webinar. You could provide a list of options which to choose from
Tailor content specifically to the target audience attending. The sign-up form can include a few fields in which registrants can enter their details. Use this information to tailor your messaging
Offer opportunity for engaging with the speaker(s) instead of having a one-way conversation with the audience. This could be via chat or voice or video calling. Ask questions and have the audience share their views and ideas
Provide incentive or value-adds for participation to encourage more signups
Ensure that you do follow up surveys and interviews after the webinar and incorporate the feedback given by respondents into subsequent webinars
For participants, it helps to take notes during a webinar to ensure you don’t miss out on any vital information
Ask questions and engage with the speaker to get the best learning experience from the webinar
For organisers, its good practice to check your video/audio conferencing system beforehand
Ensure that you send a clear agenda for the meeting well in advance
Encourage participants to turn on their computer/phone cameras where possible to help bring a personal touch to the meeting. If someone is in an area with limited internet connectivity, it might be best to simply use audio and turn their cameras off
Define the flow of the meeting at the outset and keep a strict eye on timelines
For participants, there is sometimes a tendency to multitask while on calls, especially if they are not speaking. Best practice entails giving your full focus to the meeting and organizing your time to complete your other tasks before or after the call
Want more tips and tricks on how to make the best of webinars and online meetings? Join the British Council’s free, live webinar on ‘Taking part in webinars and online meetings’
In this webinar we will:
explore the rules of netiquette and safety in online meetings
practise communication skills for online meetings
describe how to use chat more effectively to boost your participation
When is the webinar?
Date: Thursday, 19 November 2019 Time: 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm IST
According to a British Council report, one of the main reasons these skills are so important is economic: critical thinking and problem-solving help people make better decisions about their jobs and livelihood. For example, 78 per cent of people living in poverty are in rural areas and are farmers. Being able to think critically about different approaches to water and grassland management may boost productivity and increase income. In some communities, adopting different breeds has grown milk yields by 65 per cent, and better grassland management has doubled the income of herders.
Critical thinking can be divided into seven stages:
1. Understanding the issue clearly without room for error or misunderstanding
2. Understanding the final goals and objectives, or outputs and outcomes of the exercise
3. Gathering as much information and data from multiple sources as possible to be able to make an informed decision
4. Getting multiple points of view on the issue to formulate a complete picture
5. Separating fact from assumption
6. Looking back at historical data to check for any learning which can be useful
7. Draw your most logical conclusion basis the above information
Tip: Discussions and group sessions are great ways to enhance critical thinking as they offer students a chance to think about things they care about and analyse the pros and cons of their thought processes to explain their points of view.
Free resources to help you develop your critical thinking skills:
Improve your own critical thinking skills by doing free Sudoku puzzles. You can pause, print, clear, modify difficulty level and ask, ‘How am I doing?’ in the middle of the puzzle
Taking an online course is a great way to advance these skills. MOOCs, for example, will expand your professional knowledge and provide global perspectives from other participants who join from around the world. The British Council offers range of MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform, including ‘How to Succeed in a Global Workplace.’
Look for courses that focus on maximising opportunities for you to speak or write. A good course will develop your independent learning skills and offer practical learning activities based on real-life situations.
At the British Council, these skills are built into our course design. For example, our online myEnglish courses include communicative group tasks in live online classes – all under the guidance of an internationally-qualified and experienced teacher.
————————————————————————————————————————————-Sign up for our free, live online webinar and learn more about critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can help you advance in your career.
When is the webinar?
Date: Thursday, 17 October 2019 Time: 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm IST
‘Teachers are the gurus who give you light when you are stuck in darkness.’
My above quote applies to every teacher that guides every student like me. Beginning with that, I wish a blissful Teachers’ Day to everyone at the British Council!
I joined the Upper-Intermediate Course at the British Council to improve my written and verbal skills in English. The course was amazing and I look forward to many such courses.
The teachers that helped me in my journey were Mrre Mr. Rahim sir and Mrs. Ellora ma’am. They were amazing at their job and guided me very well throughout the course.
Rahim sir inducted me to the course and explained everything in a great manner. The classes I had with him were fun-filled and educational at the same time. He gave us awesome activities to do and assured me that I can reach out to him if ever I need some help. Thank you, sir for your hard work and support!
Coming to Ellora ma’am, she was the second teacher during my course. Only one word comes to my mind when I think about Ellora ma’am, and that is ‘FUN.’ She is the teacher who makes every class a joy to attend. I can remember so many fun things we did when the class was in session. I learned a lot from her and cherished her feedback and her way of speaking English!
There are many more teachers at the British Council I don’t know about, but I know for sure that everyone works hard to fulfil the goals of the students
A happy Teachers’ Day to everyone at the British Council!
Just a quick email to convey my special thanks to you for my progress in the myEnglish Course.
I am glad to inform you that the course is going great and I’m enjoying every bit of it. I can’t stress enough how vital this course is for me. I was a little nervous before joining it as I thought it would be difficult to understand and participate. But it’s your able guidance and mentorship because of which today I’m feeling confident about speaking in English.
You always conduct the class in an open, friendly and informative way. Your way of explaining any concept is simply great. You always give apt examples which help us understand any concept better and remember it for a long time. You have given us every possible support in learning this course.
In the end, I’d just like to reiterate that you are an excellent mentor and I’m sure with your guidance, we’ll be able to achieve fluency in our English language skills.
————————————————————————————————————————————–Dear Avinash sir and Ellora ma’am,
I’d like to thank both of you for your patience and all the important learnings that you gave us during the duration of our course. One thing that I’m taking forward from both of you is how to be a synergist.
I wish to join you again for another course. With lots of love.
————————————————————————————————————————————–I want to share my feelings for Rajul.
Two-three months before, I had completed an online English course at the intermediate level, where I interacted with Rajul as my course teacher.
I would like to empasise the knowledge she has of her subject and her command over the language. Every moment I learned a thing or two from her. I always tried to match her language skills and accent. I always look up to her to correct my mistakes. She was always like a friend to the students, and very dedicated, calm and polite.
She always made me excited to attend the classes. I would be lucky if she could be my guide throughout my career.
Thanks Rajul for your immense support and guidance.
We’ve been always in a comfortable mode in the live sessions since day one and the reason behind that is you.
Getting your feedback in the forum was as regular as getting the daily paper at my doorstep.
Thanks for sharing your skills and for your patience.
I wish a long tenure for you as you have set the bar to platinum standards.
Thanks a lot for teaching me so well. I would always be obliged to you for your guidance, and I have decided to become a trainer like you. You are my inspiration.
Happy Teacher’s day to you.
Thank you for continually inspiring me to do my best. You helped me strive towards my goals. I found guidance, friendship, discipline and love- all in one person. And that person is you. Happy Teachers’ Day!
I thank you for all you have taught me. You are the reason for what I am today
HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY Karthik ————————————————————————————————————————————–Dear Teacher,
Not every teacher carries the dedication and enthusiasm you do. You are a truly an inspiring individual who has taught us so much more than simply what was in the curriculum. You took much extra effort to help me with IELTS preparation. Thank you for everything.
Happy Teachers’ Day.
————————————————————————————————————————————-Happy Teachers’ Day Rajul ma’am
You are awesome. Thank you for being my mentor
————————————————————————————————————————————–To Savites and Rajul,
Thank you for inspiring and igniting my dreams- to be always learning.
Happy Teachers’ Day
————————————————————————————————————————————–Getting the proverbial ‘ray of light’ of knowledge was the main motivation for me to join this course. I wanted to improve my speaking, vocabulary and basic grammar skills. Our course facilitator was VM Reshmi.
She made sure all the students participated and interacted during the sessions. Also, she shared the self-study links with all individuals who were facing challenges with certain topics. This was a sign that the facilitator was giving personal attention to every individual.
Mid-week progress reports for each student were prepared very carefully, taking their progress into consideration, which was very helpful along the rest of the modules. Also, the content was very well suited to the syllabus.
Along with what was covered in the syllabus, Reshmi gave special help to us which encouraged us more. This was one of the key reasons that our batch had 95% attendance, and all credit goes to her involvement and feedback process.
With respect to the daily exercises, she provided us assistance if we were stuck anywhere via email.
Reshmi was also very passionate about why English is so important and gave real life examples during sessions which kept us motivated throughout the sessions. She always maintained a friendly environment with everyone so one would not feel hesitant in asking questions, which I think increased the participation of everyone, and all sessions were flowing along cohesively. She also used to remind us of the importance of completing the modules along with attending live sessions. She made sure to double check on the progress of each candidate, which imbibed a sense of responsibility among everyone, and we completed all modules before our last session.
Personally, this was the first ever live online English course for me, and I had a fear how it would go. But Reshmi did a great job in guiding and facilitating the learning for the entire class very smoothly. I would like to take this moment and give a shout out to Reshmi for being the ‘ray of light’ for me and helping me get ahead in my career with confidence by using the tips and tricks she shared. I would never ever miss an opportunity to take another course in future.
Written by Amy Lightfoot – Assistant Director (Academic), Schools, English and Skills
I’ve shamelessly stolen the title of this blog from Jim Scrivener, whose presentation I attended at the recent IATEFL* conference in Brighton. I’m not sure I entirely agree – good teaching clearly supports effective learning – but the sentiment interests me, not least because it seems to sum up one of the emerging themes of the conference this year: English language teachers need to remember what is truly important about the work that we do and not let ourselves get distracted by all the various trappings of the multi-million dollar industry that has grown up around ELT**.
In my experience, most conferences can be boiled down into a few key messages for participants to take away. I don’t think these are always planned or intentional – although the existence of a conference theme can help give them some direction – but instead the current collective consciousness of the profession often seems to emerge during the course of the event. Of course, these are subjective to a large extent, but conversations with others suggest at least some commonality. These themes aren’t shaped only by fads or trends within the profession, but also by the way the world is changing around us. Technology is an obvious example – many recent conferences have reflected on (and usually championed) the integration of technology into our teaching. But this year at IATEFL it was interesting to note people questioning the its role. As its use gathers pace, do we need to consider going back to basics and ensure that we are controlling the use of digital tools, rather than the other way round?
Similarly, there were questions raised around the publishing industry and whether it has lost sight of its true purpose. According to the hugely popular plenary speaker Dorothy Zemach, many publishers are focusing too much on making money and retaining their market share rather than ensuring the quality of their products and capitalising on the creativity of experienced ELT writers. She called upon teachers to be more discerning in their choice of course book and to question the motives when offered multiple wraparound elements for free which might actually just distract from effective classroom teaching and learning. Dorothy also questioned whether a one size fits all global approach to product development was really helpful, beyond the reduction in costs this provides for publishers. This was highlighted again in Barry O’Sullivan’s entertaining plenary, where he called for assessments to be made more localised and personalised to individual needs and context.
Brita Fernandez Schmidt from Women for Women International had a strong message for delegates about the purpose and power of English and education more generally: women supported by this organisation in countries including Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan have escaped poverty, violence and damaging ingrained social norms as a result of educational interventions. English has considerable power to enable positive change by generating hope and opportunity for a better life and as English language teachers we have the capacity to be agents of that change. To paraphrase Spider-Man, we mustn’t forget the great responsibility that comes with that power.
To return to Jim Scrivener’s statement, it is true that learning matters most of all, not only for our students but also for teachers. Attending conferences supports teacher learning – and hopefully as a result of that, their learners – not just because of the content and ideas shared in each session but also the learning that takes place on the sidelines. Networking with colleagues and meeting new ones is key, as is critically reflecting on the messages and themes that bubble under the surface, taking shape only as the conference develops.
What conferences are you attending this year? Our new conference calendar might help you to decide. If you know of others we should include, please let us know.
A selection of the best sessions from IATEFL 2018 are available to view online here.
Representatives from British Council India’s delegation to IATEFL (L-R): Amy Lightfoot; Nagesh Lohare; Urvi Shah; Radhika Gholkar; Ashok Chavan; Nisar Shaikh.
*IATEFL: International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language
How we equipped 1800+ teachers to deliver the learner programme on the Andhra Pradesh Higher Education English Communication Skills Project.
The ten-day teacher training programme was delivered over three phases with 112 Master Trainers training more than 1800 teachers.
The training aimed to equip teachers with the required facilitation skills so that they can deliver a blended learner course focusing on employability skills and based around LearnEnglish Select effectively to the students. The ten-day teacher training programme focused on introducing communicative teaching strategies and methods, learner-centred techniques such as elicitation, collaborative learning activities that develop speaking, reading and writing skills of learners. Another key element of the training was to familiarise the teachers with the learner course materials.
The training capitalised on teachers’ general pedagogic knowledge (such as classroom management skills), and contextual knowledge of students’ social context and integrated teaching demonstrations where the teachers experienced taking part in a lesson using the ideas from the input they had received. The teachers then took part in microteaching where they practised facilitating a lesson using ideas they had been exposed to in the input and practical demonstration sessions. This was then followed by a reflection stage, where the teachers discussed and reflected on ways of using or adapting the ideas from the training into their own classrooms in their own contexts.
Teachers gave extremely positive feedback in the monitoring and evaluation activities conducted during the first two phases of the training. Teachers credited the acquisition of learner-centred methods for the classroom to the training and stated that these are essential to make the classroom more interactive for the students. Teachers also acknowledged that the training had a positive impact on their English ability and microteaching sessions allowed them to practise learner-centred methods and strategies in a no-risk environment and get valuable feedback from their peers and the Master Trainer.
When the teachers were asked about applying learning in the classroom and how they would achieve this, one of the teachers responded:
‘By adopting the strategies, methods and techniques such as reflecting on my own teaching skills and practices, shifting from a teacher-led approach to a learner centred one, reducing teacher talk time, conducting activities including warmers, using instruction checking questions, effective and relevant teaching aids and most of all giving due priority to L-S-R-W skills.’
During observation of training sessions, it seemed that a gradual shift from a traditional approach was taking place. This was evident in teachers’ feedback in focus group discussions as the majority stated that ‘learner-centred activities develop critical thinking skills, communication skills and social skills. They encourage alternative methods of assessments and help students transfer the skills to the real world and promote intrinsic motivation to learn.’
Teachers have now received a wide range of input related to using learner-centred methods in the classroom. We would like to invite teachers to continue building on skills and knowledge acquired in the training and embrace continuing professional development; Please visit https://www.britishcouncil.in/teach/continuing-professional-development for more details.