The native versus non-native teacher dichotomy – Challenging Mental Models

1 05 2016

I saw a post recently on Facebook advertising a position for a native speaking teacher in a Brazilian language program. The post appeared on the page of a closed group for English teachers in Brazil. The reaction to the post was immediate. People wanted to know why the program was only hiring native speakers and questioned this practice. The person in search of this native teacher justified the restriction saying that it was for advanced groups, that the program already had non-native teachers, and that this specific job ad was to fill the slots for native teachers. Soon after, a group participant joined the discussion defending the practice of hiring a native teacher because, after all, given the same experience and qualifications, of course a native teacher is better than a non-native one. Needless to say, a long discussion ensued, with many people reacting against the job ad. I requested that the Facebook group administrators adopt the practice of many teacher associations, such as TESOL, which will not post ads for jobs that are exclusive to native teachers. And so they did.

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Punishing with grades – are you ready to rethink your grading system?

16 04 2016

grades

I have recently read two posts about grading that touch upon a topic that has long been boggling my mind – the use of grades as punishment and the overall fairness of grading systems. I would like to invite you to check out Monte Syrie’s explanation of why he doesn’t give zeros anymore, or grades below 50% for that matter, and why. Likewise, Andrew Miller explains how grades can harm student learning and how he has refrained from giving zeroes, taking points off for late work, grading practice exercises or homework, and allowing grading to become more important than teaching. Both authors contend that when we give students a zero or take points off for late work, their grade ends up not reflecting how much they have truly learned. An outsider who looks at a student’s grade might be misled into thinking that the student hasn’t mastered the content, when in fact what might have happened is simply that the student got a zero that was averaged out with the other grades, resulting in an unrealistically low average.

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What makes adult students stick around

21 02 2016

academiaThose of us who teach adults in groups know all too well anxious adult learners are and how easily they can give up and seek other language learning experiences. When the reasons for giving up are not personal, they are sometimes attributed to the methodology adopted or the heterogeneity of the group. A recent personal experience has gotten me thinking about adults’ anxiety and what motivates them to embark on a learning experience and, most importantly, stick to it.

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Thirty teacher development activities you may have engaged in this year

22 12 2015

One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true for most professionals. They may finish projects or meet deadlines, but they are not bound to the “year” as we are. In the Southern hemisphere, where our school year really ends at the end of the year, I believe this is even more symbolic.

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Some thoughts on the English Proficiency Index

6 12 2015

Last month, Education First released its English Proficiency Index for the year of 2015. This index was launched in 2011 and since then, it has released reports about the English proficiency of different countries around the world.  The 2015 report is based on tests taken by around 910 thousand adults from 70 countries in 2014 (Education First, 2015). Besides ranking the countries around the world, the report also ranks the different states in Brazil.

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Are our teenage students learning English for today or for tomorrow?

8 11 2015

At the school I work for, we have a large teenage population. If you’ve taught this age level, you know the challenges they pose to us every day, but you also cherish the lively interactions with them once you’ve established rapport. It is true that in order to establish such rapport, we have to be acquainted with the topics they like to talk about, the songs they listen to, the TV shows they don’t miss, the stars they worship, where they like to hang out, what they like to do, etc. However, to what extent should “their reality”, as teachers like to put it, be the focus of our classes?

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The Power of Portfolio Assessment

27 09 2015

Despite my 15 years of experience with portfolio assessment, its power never ceases to amaze me. I’ve recently conducted a course for public school English teachers in the Federal District and, once again, used portfolio assessment.

I have a feeling that some educators might not adopt portfolio assessment because they think it is too complicated; others might think it is not “serious” or “valid” and “reliable” enough, and that anything goes.

I’m going to demonstrate how portfolio assessment is simple, valid, and reliable as a classroom assessment tool. More importantly, I am going to address its greatest strengths as an authentic assessment tool: authenticity and usefulness.

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