From the President
Abstracts of the 15th SPELTA Conference (December 2001) Presentations
8th ESP Anti-conference
Pat McLaughlin, Something Else for Specific Purposes (Except English): Reflecting in Action (A talk presented at the 8th ESP Anti-conference, October 2001, St. Petersburg)
Full version (0.7 MB) of this issue in PDF format is obtainable here
Dear SPELTA members and ELT colleagues,
This Newsletter issue is number 21. It has come of age. It is getting more and more popular not only in Saint-Petersburg, but in other cities as well. Its number is the same as that of this century. I think it is a very good sign, and our association has all chances for an exciting future. At the beginning of summer I was asked, together with several teachers from other countries, to answer three questions for IATEFL Issues. I would like to share the questions and my answers with you.
1. What do you consider to have been the most significant development(s) in local ELT in the last five years?
2. What do you consider to be the most significant burning issue at present in your country in the ELT sector
3. What major change(s) or development(s) do you foresee in ELT in your own country during the next five years?
1. The most significant development in ELT in Russia and in St.Petersburg in particular is teaching in new conditions, when students and the public are higher motivated than they have ever been and have more opportunities to use the language in real life situations.
The last five years has been the time of emerging and growing of ELT Associations, when the teachers felt eager to be abreast of new developments in the world methodology of ELT and started to feel themselves a community of professionals. For myself, our St.Petersburg Association is very important. It is a bit more than five years old, but it unites about 400 teachers of English and has organised 14 international conferences in our city.
2. Difficult to name the Burning issue as there are many. Vital issues to name just a few are how to attract younger generation into teaching and how to train them; how to develop a standard for state education while trying to cope with a variety of teaching approaches and students' levels of knowledge; what how and why of teaching ESP in the new conditions.
3. I very much hope that the next five years will be the period when we'll realise that being non-native teachers we are not only limited by our weaknesses, but have numerous opportunities and strengths. We'll stop throwing away babies with water, when dealing with our teaching and learning traditions and styles. We'll be writing our own ELT books and develop our own teaching materials using the best of the new international developments and the best achievements of the rich Russian educational and methodological tradition.
Summing up what we have done this year, I would like to specially thank those SPELTA members who showed the association at its best preparing and hosting the 8th International ESP Anti-Conference. These were: Ludmila Kuznetsova, Grigory Pershin, Vitali Ashkinazi, Svetlana Klimova, Evgeny Klimov, Irina Ivanova, Yuri Tretyakov, Georgina Nevzorova, Svetlana Bebyakina, Ekaterina Gorobchenko, Alina Chitova, Ekaterina Anishenko, Ludmila Ezerskaya, Marina Ergemskaya, Tatiana Tcherneva, Ekaterina Anischenko and Irina Sokolova. This first experience of organising such a big event through our Association added a lot to our international reputation.
This year you will receive the newsletter shortly before Christmas
and New Year Celebration.
I wish all of you the best in your families, in your profession, in your life. Be happy!
Examinations Services in St. Petersburg
The main aim of the Examinations Services is to provide access to international qualifications. It is particularly important to familiarise the Russian audience with the internationally approved standards of knowledge and system of education. The strategy of the Examination Services includes:
The UCLES Main Suite consists of KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE. The new exams for young learners called 'Flyers. Movers. Starters' have recently been introduced.
International English Language Testing System is a testing system available throughout the year that aims to provide an assessment of non-native speakers’ language competence for study or training in the medium of English. This type of exam is more flexible than UCLES Main Suite.
Larissa Alexeyeva, The British Council Examinations Services
Internet and Internetworking in teaching English
Nowadays the Internet is employed in various ways for teachers’ networking, learning and teaching English. An attempt to classify them on the base of message source and recipient model is made. More detailed analysis of communication, sent and received data is given in the presentation. Main ways and means are presented below:
a. e-mail, questions or messages to interest groups forums, and chats,
pen-pals, articles to journals, etc.;
b. home task, questions, checked homework, answers to questions;
c. web-sites, pages, questions, tests, programmes;
d. homework, answers to questions, questions;
e. e-mail, chat, pen-pals;
f. answers to test questions, work with on-line programmes;
g. information, search reports, digests, newsletters;
h. information, search reports, digests, newsletters;
i. work of search engines.
Vitali Ashkinazi, Ass. Prof., St. Petersburg State Academy
of Refrigeration and Food Technologies
Ideas about Portfolio
The discussion about portfolios to manifest individual interest and responsibility in learning often comes with no practical suggestions on how to implement a program in a classroom or school. This workshop focuses on the questions educators must ask themselves to begin a portfolio system. In one hour, teachers in attendance will start the questioning process. The facilitator has used a portfolio system for diverse levels of language learners in El Paso and Canutillo, Texas, and Shanghai, China.
Maggie Berg is an English Language Fellow in Vologda. She has been teaching English for over nine years in a variety of settings including: Texas, USA; Shanghai, China; Odesa, Ukraine; and a men's prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Professional Skills of Learners in Teaching English
Teaching English to people whose dedicated field of learning is other than linguistics is difficult because of their low initial level. Preoccupation with the matters most appealing to them in view of their professional career deprives them of time and incentive to make efforts to over-come the problems they face. Practicing educators, aware of it, keep looking for solutions, so the following article, as an attempt to offer assistance in finding guidelines to dealing with the issue, especially at the earlier stage, might prove useful. Searching for solutions, we should remember that learners of SPE are regularly confronted with the original and often rather intricately com-posed texts, scientific or highly specialized. Understanding of what the text is about in general is of no particular interest to an expert in the field (unless he himself looks through many texts choosing the one he needs), as he already knows a lot about the subject. Most likely he is eager to find there a new interpretation or approach, some details, fresh data. For this he needs a quali-fied translation, the techniques of which he can only learn through proper training.
To assist in this we should not only let the learners feel that the task they face is realistic, but also, paradoxically, help them choose the easiest course of action. It is quite natural that the self-preservation instinct, given to us by the nature, prompts them subconsciously to save bio-logical and mental energy by channeling the activity into what they are best disposed to through the original inclinations and gradually developed tastes. In view of it, one can only expect to generate productive curiosity in the learners by appealing to the knowledge and skills they already possess. It is believed that one's occupation, same as the language, leaves a deep imprint on the vision of life, mentality, even modes of behavior. So the teacher, familiar with their field and understanding how things work there, should let the students see that most of what they are going to learn, they already know through their major subjects as the underlying principles, which, though manifesting themselves in a slightly different way, are fundamentally the same. Employing analogy, one of the moving factors in any learning, will set their minds on finding answers to many questions that might arise when they start translating. Important at the initial stage, this approach can retain its significance even later, for every time they fail to cope with more technical explanations, it is always possible to resort to the terms and ways they know best.
Teaching translation to art students is facilitated by the fact that both the language and pictorial arts possess and operate numerous notions and terms that are similar or even the same in principle. Both deal with form and meaning, structure and composition, context, style, posi-tion, accentuation, so on. From top to bottom, and vice versa, one can draw convincing parallels, which help to establish understanding of the major rules that govern the language. Meaning of principal terms employed in explanations of sentence structures, parts of speech, even the regu-lations in pronunciation can also be thus explained. Such a comparison is possible because of the fundamental human property to represent ideas of things, events, living beings (natural or imaginary) through material means developed by the mankind. Different as they are technically, worded and pictorial ways of transforming ideas into tangible matter that can be stored and used to convey the original thought to whoever is able to comprehend them, appear essentially similar, and as such can be used to bridge the gaps between cultures and occupations. Naturally, instead of resorting to painting, which, however impressive, is but an imitation of reality, we can take examples directly from life. Yet, personal experience and outlooks tend to vary considerably from one individual to another even within the same age and social group, therefore it is much more reliable to appeal to the learners approximately equal professional knowledge and skills. As these are already structured and their applications analyzed by stages, diverting the students' thoughts towards similarly organized, though physically different subjects, makes understanding easier. Another thing to note is the fact, that similarly to a text, a painting aims at communica-tion. Both achieve it with conventional means: a painting by the illusion of visual demonstration, while a text . with graphic signs standing for ideas so closely associated with certain combinations of the signs that their perception seems as natural to us, as that of a picture.
Dmitry Bragilevsky, St.Petersburg State Academy of Art and
Teachers of foreign languages in monolingual classes around the world face the dilemma of how to get students to participate in the lesson. The task of learning a foreign language is difficult enough when one considers all its grammar and nuances, let alone, trying to get students to communicate in the target language.
One major task in teaching is to lower the affective filter and create an atmosphere where learners are willing to take chances with the language and not be afraid of peer criticism. One way is to put learning and practicing into a game format. This groups the learners into teams where they have an interest in working together and being creative. Games also focus on the forms you wish to review, and especially with older students, teaching grammar isn't a process where the teacher seems to be talking down to the learners.
Another way to get students to focus on grammar forms is collaborative learning. Having students gather information from each other concerning their own personal experiences and utilizing the targeted forms gets the students talking and using the L2 for real reasons. This type of activity is also a useful tool for generating lively discussion as a class after the task is completed. As far as material development is concerned, the instructor will also find that this type of activity can be adapted to almost every grammatical point.
This workshop will attempt to share some methods and techniques that have been successful in my classes, while also attempting to brainstorm some ways in which they can be adapted and modified for other purposes. Once students have bought into such a system they start to take control of their own learning. Outside of one of my classes, I received one of the best complements a language teacher can receive when one of my colleagues asked why my class was so loud.
English has always been an "open" language. That is, it has no body or organization - such as the Academy Francais in Paris - filters foreign vocabulary, or intends to protect the language, to keep it pure. It is this spirit of open expression, which has helped to establish English the world over, and helped to keep it popular. It is not our job as instructors to standardize English, but to allow it to grow, even to allow foreign students a role in its growth, whatever that may prove to be. Learning the language through games captures that open spirit of English.
Aaron Carlson, Teacher Trainer, Volga Humanitarian Foundation
Alina V. Chitova
Keep Sentence Structures not Only in Mind
What does it mean – writing successfully? What do students need to do in order to get a good grade for their composition paper? What is more important: structure, content, form? Since more and more emphasis is placed on the sentence structures in ESL textbooks, it seems that we should pay more attention to the ones our students use in their essays. The range and the importance of such structures will be discussed
New English Learner Profile: How
Fast Are We Adapting to It?
The times change and so do our students. The young minds undergo the influence of the attitude towards foreign languages in the society, they understand that knowing foreign languages will allow them to have more job opportunities in the future. In addition, modern students are more ‘exposed’ to foreign languages due to TV programs, movies in English, songs, Internet, publications and traveling with or without parents. Students are constantly obtaining more and more advanced level, become more independent, which requires changes in teaching instructions. What should a teacher do: step back and observe or adapt quickly and provide a challenging learning environment?
Alina Chitova is teaching at Academic Gymnasium and
at Special Philological Faculty, she is working on her PHD on teaching
Irina N. Ivanova
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." (Genesis XI.1)
The presentation is going to deal with teaching one of the principal ESP aspects: reading, intensive reading, in particular, exemplified with a few methodological ideas from the presenter's manual: ESP: Reading up the History of Costume (for art critics and designers).
Artists and designers are God-gifted to be design conscious and able to express themselves in non-verbal languages, like drawing and painting, graphic and plastic images, light and shade, form and color, like and volume, etc. They are often reluctant to speak or write, even in their native tongue, not to say about L2, and reading helps a great deal here.
Intensive reading in ESP is one of the most significant parts of L2 curriculum at St. Petersburg State Academy of Art and Design. It is flexible and can easily be combined with training other language skills in translating, listening, speaking or writing.
Reading is an efficient tool to develop learner's (and teacher's) comprehension, both mental and spiritual, through the insight into another Culture. It is a universal truth that all the peoples have stemmed and grown up from the same root branching along different roads. So, the point is to shift the focus from differences to similarity, i.e. to teach and see similar things deep down under their superfluous diverse forms. An instructor guides his/her students through L2 grammar and lexis enabling them to find and gather words, things, happenings, events, phenomena, etc. inherent in both languages and Cultures.
It is interesting to know, for example, why the tail of the tail-coat in divided in two or where lapels came from. Why the stool is backed in Russian and backless in English. Why pantaloons became pantalettes, shortened to pants and shrank to panties. On the other hand, trousers turned to trusy in Russian. You can ask a student what brussels means when it is written with a small b.
Students can have a good time, even a fun, when reading authentic texts. But, to get and accumulate pieces of information from texts, students have first to do a lot of exercises before and immediately after reading.
The audience is going to be offered handouts of some texts accompanied with various exercises.
Irina Nikolaevna Ivanova, Associate Professor, head of the
Dept of Modern Languages St. Petersburg State Academy of Art and Design
Supplementing and Personalizing Tasks in the ESP Classroom
Usually the instruction of Business English, or TOEFL, or First Certificate Exam classes is guided and structured more by the text book than the teacher.
But the text book doesn't know the students, or what country they come from, or really what they want from the course. The teacher of an ESP course needn’t feel particularly tied to the text one teaches from. This is even true of TOEFL or Cambridge Exam Classes. Yes, in the latter cases, students should be familiar with the structure of the tests, but that doesn't mean the teacher must, time and again, repeat practice tests and activities.
When we use language ourselves, it is rarely to learn vocabulary--“stapler,” or “mouse pad,” for instance--for the sake of knowing or practicing their names. What is important is what “I” want to do with the stapler, or what on earth "you" have done to the mouse pad. Text books in business English--and especially test preparation texts--do not encourage instructors to promote a personalized "I/you" supplement to tasks and assignments. However, most of our real “used” language deals with such exchanges.
The ESP instructor, regardless of subject, can and should design activities in which students speak or write about their own lives and interests, using those skills pertaining to the subject.
A single example might help at this point. Let's take something, in my opinion, rather unpleasant--a course in TOEFL preparation. While playing a TOEFL practice listening test is useful, it does little for varying the lesson or making it both useful and fun. Besides, although the skill involved is ostensibly listening, the success of the listener depends very often, for example, on the meaning of verbs + particles: "dress up," or "get along with.” Really, then, isolating and understanding key terms is the skill being tested.
The instructor can help students isolate the terms just as effectively, by supplementing with a parallel speaking, reading, or writing task. Very simply, for instance, students might interview one another: "When was the last time you dressed up? What was the occasion? What did you wear?" The teacher with initiative will devise board games, dictations, variations on listening activities. The possibilities are great.
Whatever the Special Purpose subject, teachers need to challenge themselves by personalizing lessons to make them pertain not only to the goals of the students, but to their English-speaking lives.
Kevin McCaughey, SPELT Fellow, Samara, Russia.
Integrating Multiple Intelligences Theory in TEFL Teacher Education
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory offers language educators a means to examine their own teaching techniques and strategies with regard to differences in how individuals learn. The theory allows such an assessment by taking into account that there are different and discrete levels or components of cognition and that learners have different cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles.
This workshop will present a brief overview of MI Theory and some ways in which teachers can reflect on their teaching methods. We will then take a look at some lessons designed for Earth Day and environmental issues and analyze what learning styles are involved and what particular intelligences are being utilized.
Alice Murray is the English Language Fellow Regional Coordinator
for Northern Russia.
English Language Education in English Schools
The paper describes the National Curriculum for teaching English adopted in England and Wales in 1990. The Curriculum is part of the Education Reform Act, it is intended for schoolchildren of 5 to 16 years old and consists of two parts: Attainment Targets and Programmes of Study in English. Attainment targets and associated statements of attainment are arranged in the framework of language skills: speaking and listening, reading, writing, spelling, handwriting and presentation. The programmes of study are developed around real life demands, cf. "Through the programmes of study pupils should encounter a range of situations, audiences and activities which are designed to develop their competence, precision and confidence ..." Educational principles that ensure continuity and growth of linguistic competence will be commented upon.
Dr. Elvira Myachinskaya, St.Petersburg University
Enlarging students’ vocabulary in the framework of ESP
Teaching techniques in ESP have largely concentrated on grammar-translation method and on developing reading skills. As to conversational skills, they have focused on activating the already existing vocabulary and on teaching the student to talk about herself, as such topics as “my family”, “my flat” “my working day” well illustrate.
Now that students entering universities have some conversation skills, the teacher is called upon to extend and enlarge their active vocabulary, which will enable them to discuss more sophisticated subjects, which are widely discussed in the West – from the current economic situation to environment and animal rights, to name just a few.
A number of vocabulary extending techniques are being suggested.
As ESP classes center largely around a text, any text studied should
be accompanied by word study – a set of exercises aimed at
developing new lexis. Polysemantic words, such as involve, claim, maintain,
current, concern, and many others should be displayed in different contexts,
highlighting their different meanings. After the word studied has
turned up in different contexts and has been looked at from various
angles, students may be ready to use it in translation from Russian
into English. So the process can be divided into four stages
Exposure (the word turns up in the text)
Analysis (a special exercise illustrating various meanings)
Active usage (translation from Russian into English)
Spontaneous usage (beyond the teacher’s control)
The latter stage deserves special consideration, because Russian words also have more than one meaning and have different English equivalents. Trivial as it may seem, experience shows that students usually don’t see different meanings of Russian words unless they are formally explained. Special exercises may be advisable here illustrating different English equivalents of the same Russian word. To show but one example:
It seems helpful if the words studied during the term turn up in tests and examination materials. One of the exam tasks may include translation into English. In this case, lists of words studied may be given to students ( or even a complete list of sentences to translate from Russian into English). Then the students know exactly how they are supposed to prepare for an exam. And the entire teaching process – from the initial appearance of the word in a text to its active usage at the exam acquires logic and continuity.
Tatiana Sallier, PhD, Ass. Prof., St. Petersburg State University
Continuity in Teaching Pronunciation
Continuity in teaching pronunciation at school and university levels is either easily maintained, if pronunciation skills at both institutions are not taught at all, or virtually non-existent, if it is based on wrong assumptions. Among these, the most important ones are the ideas that the differences in English and Russian phonetic systems are most evident in segments (vowels and consonants) and not in word stress, rhythm and intonation, and that English vowels are contrasted as short and long and English consonants are contrasted as voiced and voiceless.
The continuity is further disrupted if the teacher at either level feels that teaching phonetics, on the one hand, and teaching speaking and listening, on the other hand, set different goals. As a result, pronunciation is mostly taught to elementary students, but later in the course the teacher does not find time for teaching “the less important” subject matter.
To maintain the continuity, teaching pronunciation should be viewed as teaching a communicative skill and concentrate on differentiation of segments, accentuation models and intonation patterns in communicative situations. The variety of English language course books complete with audiotapes which is now available for the secondary school and university levels offers a wide choice of materials for the purpose. If for some reason the teacher does not feel confident enough to comment on various phonetic phenomena, he or she still should give his or her students the opportunity to listen to and imitate spoken English drawing their attention to communication failures that may result from a misuse.
Elena A.Shamina, St.Petersburg State University
Teacher Training and Managing Curriculum Innovations
At a time of large-scale changes in curricula when colleges and universities introduce new courses and areas of specialization, it is appropriate that decision-makers in these institutions pay greater attention to staff development.
This talk raises an issue of recruiting teachers for implementation of curriculum innovations. Quite often the heads of departments/schools balance between two options: hiring specialists from other organizations to deliver a new course or finding human resources within their own faculty. The second option may cause difficulty, as the staff may not possess the required content knowledge or technical skills. If we strive for eliminating such a problem, greater thought and action need to be devoted to strategic planning and management of human resources and, as a logical sequence, to staff training and development in the required field. Innovations cannot be managed overnight, they need changes in attitudes, processes, skills and knowledge. And these take time to take root and bear fruit.
Zhanna Shuklina, MA in TEFL at Birmingham University, PhD
in Linguistics, Programme Co-ordinator of ELT Training and Consulting Centre
“St. Petersburg Bridges”.
The Global Classroom Project: Collaborative Learning Technologies.
The Global Classroom Project (GCP) was developed by the European University Language Center in St.Petersburg and the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA. It creates a unique virtual classroom where instruction is offered over the Internet to international groups of American and Russian graduate and undergraduate students through joint efforts of American and Russian professors.
GCP does not follow the pattern of often ill-conceived distance learning projects that repackage lectures or correspondence courses through televideo, CD ROM, or WWW information sites. In contrast, GCP technology supported pedagogy enables discussion, research, and information sharing for purposes of collaborative learning.
The project aims at developing cross-cultural digital communication skills through joint research. Based on a suggested reading list, students participate in online discussions, develop specific research documentation (resumes, proposals, memos, etc.), and produce collaborative analytical reports providing the results of their investigations in hard copy and web site formats.
In addition to increasing general language proficiency and skills in academic communication and technical writing, GCP creates a forum for experiential learning of the other country’s culture and ways of how this culture is reflected in language.
The pedagogical problems arising from the specific nature of the project are numerous. Instructors need extensive training in computer technology and computer pedagogy and have to be ready to commit a lot of their time for developing, teaching, and assessing the course. Since the entire materials of previous courses are easily accessible, each new course, though similar in structure and goals, should be unique in content. Students experience psychological difficulties of working within a large group and communicating in a multinational/multilingual setting. Besides, they need to acquire experience of using the Internet and conferencing software in addition to adjusting to the demands of an 8 hour time difference.
These problems are hard to deal with, but the experience of 1999-2001 has demonstrated that even semester-long GCP courses provide students with invaluable communication, cultural, linguistic and research experience.
Yuri Tretyakov, St. Petersburg Department of Foreign Languages,
Russian Academy of Sciences Language Center, The European University at
American teen culture presented in a text-book : E. Vlasova, Teens' Guide to the USA
The text-book is aimed at developing the teenage learner's speaking skills. It is designed to introduce a Russian teenager to American teen culture. It is well known that a lack of cultural awareness may lead to a failure in comprehension thereby blocking communication.Such words and phrases as: "high school", "class", "period", "faculty", " major", "surfing the Web", to name just a few, cannot be adequately understood unless the learner is aware of their cultural background.
The text-book equips the learner with the knowledge of the major landmarks of American history (the first settlers, the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement) as well as features of American youth culture of special interest to teenagers:
American School and After school activities;
Holidays and traditions;
Summer camps and Scouting;
Recycling and After school jobs leading to careers;
Teens and the Internet;
Going to college and How to apply to College (university ) if you are a foreigner.
THE SUPPLEMENT contains authentic essays written by the seniors in the high school featured in the text-book. Apart from the texts which contain the basic information, each of the 20 UNITS of the text-book is equipped with speech exercises. Adequate use of Speech Formulas (what to say when you "want to know more about something", when you "praise somebody", how to say you "look forward to something" and many others) will help the teenag learner behave naturally in different situations as well as project the image of confidence.
DISCUSSION POINTS offer opportunities for comparing the target culture with the native culture of the learner. The selected information is presented in lively conversations, it is up-to-date and will not fail to interest teenagers. The author used her experience of teaching Russian culture to American seniors at a high school in Massachuetts.
E.Vlasova, Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages,
Russian Academy of Sciences.
Highlighting Factive and Fictive in Philological Reading
As is generally known, philological reading is one of the basic skills to proceed from when language study is aimed at the Faculty of Philology language proficiency level of performance. The problem of reading in general and philological reading in particular has long been the subject of learned disquisition. Quite a few trends of phonetic research in this or that way had to deal with many aspects of this highly complicated task. There is every reason to believe the difficulty here consists in the fact that this problem is actually part of the far more general question, that of the relationship between oral and written speech, and, as part of it, of transposing the text from its written into its oral form. The talk touches upon the two diametrically opposite kinds of reading: 'information retrieval' and 'philological reading' (the latter founded on the study of the global vertical context of a work of verbal art). It also deals with the difference in the functioning of punctuation marks in the texts associated with the register of scientific prose (factive) as well as in those associated with the register of artistic prose and thus referred to as fictive.
Elena Yakovleva, Associate Professor, Faculty of Philology,
Department of English LinguisticsThe Lomonosov Moscow State University
Building Bridges: From Intermediate to Advanced Level Speaking and Thinking Skills
I will first define "advanced speaking skills" according to the ACTFL guidelines, DLI guidelines and CALLA methodology. After doing so, I will link advanced speaking skills to theories of cognitive development and critical thinking. I will do so through two hands-on activiites, engaging participants with guidelines criteria and with quotations regarding critical thinking. I will then present several activities that meet criteria for both advanced speaking and critical thinking, asking participants to "test-run" the activities in skeletal form and then to rate their effectiveness.
I prefer to have no more than 25 participants in the workshop, as smaller is better and as I need to make a small package of materials for each participant. I don't need any special equipment. The workshop is 100% paper-based.
Julie Zdanovski is an EFL Fellow, teacher trainer, currently
teaching in Petrozavodsk
8th ESP Anti-conference
This autumn SPELTA organised and hosted IATEFL ESP Anti-Conference 2001 in St.Petersburg, 18-21 October
Anti-conference is a new modern type of ELT professionals’ meeting. Unlike traditional conferences where there is a substantial input of plenary presentations and talks, anti-conference is first and foremost a discussion of case-studies, defining the areas of mutual interest, sharing ideas. The focus of anti-conference is on output. There is no audience in the traditional meaning of this word. It is a meeting of a team, where everyone speaks and then a final document is worked out.
The 8th. ESP anti-conference is over! We are writing the day after tired but satisfied participants from twelve countries left St. Petersburg, where SPELTA (St. Petersburg English Language Teachers’ Association) had organised this international networking event, sponsored by the British Council, for practitioners teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to students, mostly at tertiary level. All of them are involved in influencing ESP practice in their home countries/cities as teacher trainers, classroom process / curricula decision makers, course designers, materials writers and enthusiasts in teachers’ associations.
The event was aimed at identifying, sharing experience of and in some cases generating practical solutions to ‘burning issues’ in tertiary ESP. We would not claim to have found solutions for all burning issues (a tall order in two and a half days), but the focussed discussions and feedback sessions showed that participants found common ground and a mutual attitude to what issues are really burning and what priorities to work at together. Through this process, the participants have developed a clearer understanding of the practical challenges of their respective educational contexts and seen that the core problems are very seldom unique, allowing the group to contribute practical and tactical approaches to coping with and solving them – the ‘recipes’ in the anti-conference cookery book.
The ‘anti-conference’ followed a tradition of creating a professional forum which turns the conference format inside out. The original concept originated through the initiative of the British Council at an event in Bratislava, Slovakia in 1994. The concept and the format have developed from year to year and the term 'anti-conference' was first used for the 1998 event in a conscious attempt to address the shortcomings of the traditional conference, especially the formality, the inflexibility and the lack of opportunity for discussion and networking. Virtually the only decision made in advance is which ESP themes should be highlighted: the format relies on discussion rather than prepared papers, with input provided by focussed case studies from each of the participants. Practitioners, who come mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, use these as a springboard to share experiences, ideas and insights into teaching English to non-language specialists.
The conference is deliberately not a big event: one or two participants represent each country or region, and are expected to disseminate the outcomes on their return, identifying ESP colleagues who have specific skills to carry the group’s initiatives forward. There is also an element of continuity, with a conscious decision to involve some participants, and a skilled and level-headed facilitator, Richard West (University of Manchester), with experience of previous events. The very enthusiastic and discussion-provoking Wendy Scarlin (President, ETAS, Switzerland), who organised the event in 1998, both encouraged the SPELTA president to act as host and participated in the event herself.
This year there were more than 50 delegates. As well as the 23 international participants, this event provided the opportunity for 29 Russian participants (including the nine SPELTA delegates) from classical and technical universities to work together. Together, they represent a wide range of ESP specialists from law and economics to teachers of future engineers, nurses and peacekeepers. What is striking is their common core of concerns: the nature and balance of EGP and ESP in tertiary curricula, the means to motivate and support colleagues involved in ESP teaching and the need to educate students towards autonomy.
This year was innovative in that a local teachers’ association, SPELTA, initiated, prepared and hosted the meeting, with the British Council acting as main sponsor (and occasional trouble-shooter).
SPELTA was created in 1994 as a forum for anyone interested in teaching, studying, or using the English language. One of the primary objectives is to encourage specialists in EFL methodology and communica-tion, teachers and textbook writers to share experience and discuss ideas with colleagues from Russia and beyond. SPELTA is an IATEFL (Great Britain) Associate and an Affiliate of TESOL, and publishes a Newsletter on a regular basis. The association sees the future of SPELTA both as an idea-gen-erating body and a powerful instrument for dis-seminating information aimed at raising ELT stan-dards in Russia. They seek close connections with similar associations within and outside the country.
As well as the local sponsorship the British Council provided in St. Petersburg, British Council offices covered costs for international participants and some of those travelling from other regions of Russia. The British Council, Russia also enabled SPELTA to invite Pat McLaughlin (College of St. Mark and St. John, Plymouth) and Richard West, and the St. Petersburg office arranged a welcome reception for participants hosted by the Consul-General, Barbara Hay. This form of partnership is a move towards a sustainable model where local ESP special interest groups, many of which have emerged from British Council projects, are actively involved in maintaining links between professionals from across East and Central Europe.
The process and atmosphere
In her speech, Barbara Hay remarked on the “buzz” that accompanied the group, who had already spent a day comparing experiences and solutions in their respective national contexts. Over the next two days that buzz continued, with the emphasis being not just on talk, but on developing practical co-operation at a trans-national level. Although the starting point was a series of themes (including ESP teacher training, course development, materials development, new technologies and projects), the plenary discussion at the end of Day 2 proved that many of the key issues are cross-cutting and relate to the roles of ESP teachers working in teams: as materials and course developers, and as proactive strategists influencing institutional policy and change.
“Internetworking”, a term coined during the event by Keith Kelly from Bulgaria, is now both a feasible way to continue discussion after the event and a more systematic way to plan for the future. To start the ball rolling, Keith (Plovdiv), Tatiana Lysunets (Tomsk), Vitaly Ashkinazi (St. Petersburg) and Galina Bougon (Saratov) will post common ‘burning questions’ the group did not address fully in the face-to-face forum to the participants (and eventually previous participants) as an e-group. A further step will be establishing and evaluating a list of ESP-related websites – something which has already been done by individuals but not, to our knowledge, by an international group.
Communicating in this way will also allow the development of a more ambitious project, to establish a regional web-based ESP journal. Many of the high-quality journals and newsletters produced around the region are facing difficulties as funding is reduced. One way to maintain impact is to pool resources and expertise by publishing on-line. In addition to an editorial team, each country involved in the project will appoint a local editor to secure contributions.
Although we as ESP professionals assume many roles, our core role is as teachers. The major professional outcome was agreement that it is a crucial part of our practice to maintain an appropriate balance between EGP and ESP. Members of the group are able to influence this balance jointly and individually through teacher training and course development as well as in the classroom. Expert professional groups also have an active part to play in influencing institutional policy at the level of the tertiary curriculum.
The final major outcome is related to process as much as product. The anti-conference format has already been used successfully as a model by this group and others, and now teachers’ associations in the region are planning to adopt the framework for their own purposes, particularly in ELT contexts where identifying common issues is a preliminary to prioritising areas for future action.
One unresolved ‘burning question’ is the venue for the 9th. anti-conference in 2002. “Internetworking” complements but does not yet replace the need for face-to-face networking and planning. The anti-conference is an effective structure for focussing the work of a national group of ESP ‘movers and shakers’ in the context of an international forum. If you have suggestions or offers, please contact the authors of this report at the addresses below.
Helen Noble, The British Council, Hungary: Helen.email@example.com
Else for Specific Purposes (Except English): Reflecting in Action
St. Petersburg, October 2001
Today's talk will centre on a number of areas but will highlight three in particular:
Over the years, my approach to teaching, training, - whether of EGP or ESP - of working in education in general, has gradually changed. I have moved away from what Schön in his 1983 The Reflective Practitioner calls the high ground, with its emphasis on technical rigour and narrow technical practice, and I now work in the swampy lowlands, where those involved find themselves in messy but crucially important problems (Schön: 43). But isn't that what this, an ESP Anti-conference is all about? I have tried to move away, too, from the Applied Science method of aiming to solve problems. I think it greatly arrogant of many academics and trainers to contend that they are the problem solvers. My approach now is to maintain a conscious effort at problem setting which Schön describes as 'the process by which we define the decision to be made, the ends to be achieved, the means which may be chosen.' Schön goes on to say that, in the real world, 'problems do not present themselves to the practitioner as givens. They must be constructed from the materials of problematic situations which are puzzling, troubling, and uncertain.' (Schön: 40) Let us hope we meet many such problematic situations over the next few days of this conference - let us hope that we meet and are patient and modest enough to set many problems, rather than be arrogant and expect us - or perhaps others - to solve them. When we confront a new situation - whether it be a new ESP project or a new class - we cannot predict what the problem or problems will be; indeed, there is, as yet, no problem to solve: each activity is unique and it is only when we encounter the activity that we can frame the problematic situation and then clarify the ends to be achieved and the possible ways of achieving these.
My approach to teaching, to training, to materials development is now that of reflecting-in-action.
The best professionals, Schön explains, know more than they can put into words so I ask the audience today to be kind to me, as well as to be creatively inventive, and to look beyond the limitations of my words. Often - if we are being really honest with each other - it is difficult to put into words what exactly it is that we do as teachers. I find a helpful way - at least, for me - of talking about what I do as a teacher is through the use of metaphor - a powerful instrument - and through the use of stories. I find that this method not only helps me, but it may aid others, understand what I do, too. I am going to begin today with a metaphor.
My metaphor is the hope that this ESP Anti-Conference will act as a bridge between the old and the new, between the academics - 'the talkers' - (and isn't the world of ESP just full of such talkers?) and the practitioners - 'the doers,' between the teachers we are now and the teachers we will be after taking part in this symposium of ESP minds.
Having begun with a metaphor, I am going to follow up with a story, an extended metaphor perhaps.
My story is about a distinguished professor - a Professor Don Redden - who was giving a talk to a group of students at a tertiary institution just outside Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. In his presentation, Professor Redden asked his audience a number of questions emanating from some visual aids he had brought with him. Showing first an opaque jar, he put as many rocks as he could into it and asked if it were full. The students answered a very positive 'yes.' Without saying anything the distinguished academic, now put as many pebbles as he could into the jar and then asked the same question. The response was again 'yes' but there were some reservations on the part of the audience. Professor Redden then filled the jar with sand. On asking the same question, this time there was no response. The professor next added as much water as he could to the jar from a jug. 'Is the jar now full,' he asked. The silence was deafening. Professor Redden next dissolved salt into the water, over the sand, the pebbles and the rocks. . 'Well, is the jar now full,' he asked. A brave student near the back of the hall broke the silence by answering, with great confidence, 'No, Professor, no. The jar is not full.' Professor Redden looked around the hall and said, 'Ah, but the jar is full' and with that he invited the audience to do some reflecting-on-action and to consider both the purpose and the meaning of his demonstration. After a moment, he invited the students to offer their interpretations and he allowed each and everyone one of them to speak. When they had finished he thanked them and said that he was not surprised that each of them had their own different interpretations for, he said, each of them was a unique individual, with unique experiences of life. Finally, he asked them if they would like to know his interpretation of the demonstration. With great enthusiasm they said that they would. 'Well, I will give you my interpretation, then. But remember. My interpretation is no better nor worse than any of yours,' he said looking round the hall as he spoke. 'My interpretation is this: whatever you do in life, whatever the context, always remember to get your rocks in first.' And with that, Professor Redden left the podium.
Well, that's my story. The story will no doubts have touched you all in different ways - some of you might be happy with it (after all, many of us like listening to stories) but some of you will almost certainly not be happy. There might be those among you who think that it a boring story, one that had a disappointing ending - it might even have agitated some of you. (Maybe some of you are thinking - this is supposed to be an ESP Conference, albeit an Anti 0ne!) Well, there's nothing I can do about that, I'm afraid - that's the way the story goes and the story stands as it stands.
I think the message for me from what I have just done with you - tell
you a story - is that other people's worlds are different from our own.
When teachers or our learners work from materials in class, it is highly
likely that they will see and interpret these materials in a myriad of
Dudley-Evans notes that ESP is
'a materials-led movement and that the role of the ESP practitioner has been to write teaching materials to meet the specific needs of learners.'
Dudley-Evans, Tony and Maggie Jo St John. 1998: 185.
In today's talk I want to take up that point, that we as ESP practitioners
can do much to improve the quality of the materials we use with our learners
(and thereby the quality of the learning that goes on in our classes) and
the I would like to look at ways in which we can utilize our personal qualities,
skills and knowledge to create our own tailor-made materials.
We can begin improving our materials, for example, by:
I believe that we, as teachers, are best well-placed to create our own materials, materials that will have an impact on our learners as:
Teachers can … be said to be the central figures in materials
development -for they are the ones who select materials (or, at
least, have some influence in the selection process), who
actually teach the materials and we sometimes have to rewrite
materials. The students tend to come and go as do materials
but a large number of teachers tend to stay.
Our materials also need to:
I said that I would also briefly talk today about two materials development/textbook projects in which I have been involved. These are case studies; they are not meant to be models. We can all learn from looking at such case studies.
From September 1999-December 2000, I worked with a team of six English teachers with the aim of producing four English textbooks for the last years of the secondary level sector in Bangladesh. None of the teachers had ever written a textbook before. They were, to say the least, inexperienced and extremely nervous. Although enthusiastic, they really did not believe that they could achieve the high targets and demands the project had set for them. The model we used for textbook writing appears in Table 1 below. I find it a useful model and have used it on other writing projects. The team first attended a 10-week Writers' Training Course, led by me, at my institution, the College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth from September to December 1999.
THE TEXTBOOK WRITING PROCESS
During the course, emphasis was on collaborative writing, with learning
to work successfully in pairs and groups, team membership and confidence-building,
all prime objectives. Input on the course consisted of honing I.T. skills,
examining and working with current methods and materials, increasing the
writers' language awareness, textbook evaluation, classroom research methodology
as well as helping the participants' with their materials writing and desktop
publication skills. During this period, the six writers-in-training also
agreed on and drew up a taxonomy of working principles (a list of 'house
rules' that they would follow when writing the textbooks and extremely
important in collaborative writing exercises of this nature). They also
investigated and based the design of the new textbooks on learners', teachers'
and administrators' needs.
I began to answer these questions and then I went on to use whatever skills I had from my teaching and life experiences, to find out. And it was so that I transferred my skills and allegiance to the field of nursing. I had to learn a lot.
I began by discovering that Nurses in Bangladesh qualify following a 4-year training programme. The curricula and examinations are all in the medium of English. I quickly found out that the standard of English of the nurses-in-training (and indeed of their trainers) was worryingly poor. In reality much of the learning discussion takes place in Bangla with the written notes dictated in English. At the end of their course, many nurses were able to rote-learn and by doing so successfully passed their diplomas. Many of the nurses had understood very little during their four years of training. Not only was their English weak but, more grave, their nursing skills were also poor.
The textbooks currently used in nurse training institutions are all in English, were written for American or British students and date back to the 1950s. They are not appropriate to Bangladesh and even less so for the delivery of nursing care.
My blank sheet of paper began to fill. As Project Manager, and someone who was not a specialist in nursing, nor was I fluent in Bangla, my main responsibilities were co-ordinating the work of others. Delegation was central to my style of management: I delegated each aspect of the job - editing, proof-reading, picture search, indexing and so forth, checking with the work at each stage and checking with the teams. In my style of management, good,, open communication is at the forefront and it was helpful for me to recall the words of Barbara Horn:
There are many style of communication, from apologetic to apoplectic. To manage projects and teams of people effectively you have to avoid these extremes. While being timid is not an efficient way to get results, being assertive is not a euphemism for rudeness. You can be authoritative without being strident, in control without being intimidating, critical without being unkind. In fact, it is a lot easier for you to get people to do what you want when you want it if you are considerate, calm and supportive.
The current lack of Bangla nursing textbooks is due to the lack of competent
authors in Bangladesh able to write textbooks. To combat this deficiency,
we needed to identify, select and train a cadre of authors in nursing for
the country. To facilitate this, I was able to draw on the expertise, experience
and skills of the six ELT writers I had recently worked with. They were
to be trained by me as writer trainers and they in turn would train the
cadre of (28) nurse writers, identified by the Ministry of Health as competent
practitioners in their field.
The project began in early 2000. The project was a collaborative one: between the British Council, the Department for International Development (the funders), the Government of Bangladesh and the College of St Mark and St John, who gave institutional support, with me as Project Manager, leading it from the UK but visiting and working with the teams several times a year.
We went about the project in the following way:
The project so far? Well, so far so good. All the teams have produced the first drafts of the first Blocks of their books. We will meet again in November for an eight-day residential programme during which we hope to finalise the first Blocks and to move on to produce more Blocks. We have interviewed publishers/printers in Bangladesh and will choose the most suitable one to publish our materials in November. The aim is to finish the textbooks by December 2002.
But that is the world as I see it. I wonder how you see it. Have I talked to long? Have I broken a rule of the Anti-conference? Are some of you thinking – what relevance has this for us? I don’t know. I can only tell my own story. Ihink it worth remembering, however, the following:
To sum up I want to leave you with one final thought:
Remember. Remember that whatever you do in life, whatever you do in
your professional practice, whatever the context, just make sure that you
get your rocks in first.
Bax, Stephen, 1997. Roles for a teacher educator in context-sensitive
teacher education, ELT Journal, 51 / 3.
Doff, Adrian, 1987. Training Materials as an Instrument of Methodological Change, in Language Teacher Education : an Integrated Programme for ELT Teacher Training, ELT Document 125, Modern English Publications in association with the British Council.
Evans, Tony and Maggie Jo St John, 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge University Press.
Everand, K.B. and G. Morris, 1985. Effective School Management, London : Paul Chapman.
Horn, Barbara. 1997. The Effective Editor's Handbook. Pira Publications.
House, E., 1974. The Politics of Educational Innovation, McCutchen.
Lewis, Michael. As quoted in Past, present and future of English language teaching, ELT News and Views, 6.1 1999: 7
Liu, Dilin, 1998. Ethnocentrism in TESOL : Teacher education and the neglected needs of international TESOL students, ELT Journal, 52 /1, 3-9.
Medgyes, Peter. As quoted in Past, present and future of English language teaching, ELT News and Views, 6.1. 1999: 8
Richards, Jack.C, 1998. Beyond Training. Cambridge University Press.
Schön, Donald A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. Arena., Asgate Publishing Ltd.
Straker Cook, R.H., 1987. Introducing ELT Curriculum Change, in Language Teacher Education : an Integrated Programme for ELT Teacher Training, ELT Document 125, Modern English Publications in association with the British Council.
Tomlinson, Brian (Editor). 1998. Materials Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
Stanislav V. Voronin
1935 – 2001
We mourn the passing away of Professor Stanislav V. Voronin, a prominent linguist, excellent teacher, and a good friend.
Born in Leningrad on June 23, 1935, Stanislav V. Voronin came in contact with the English language at the age of 10, when he enrolled in the Battlefield School in Glasgow, where his father served in the Russian military mission. Here he started compiling a record of outstanding scholastic and scholarly achievements – silver medal as he graduated from secondary school, honors when he received his university diploma in Germanic philology, and the Scholarly Excellence Award from the Ministry of Higher Education upon the publication of his doctoral dissertation, “Fundamentals of Phonosemantics,” in 1982. At the University of St.Petersburg, where Stanislav Voronin had done his undergraduate and graduate work, he received an appointment as postgraduate fellow and, in successive steps, rose to the rank of professor. He was also given the opportunity to travel extensively and visit academic institutions abroad, which he did with definite intellectual profit and a distinct measure of personal enjoyment.
As a contributor to linguistics, Stanislav Voronin will be remembered for the size of his scholarly production and the originality of his ideas. He was, on the one hand, the author and co-author of nearly two hundred items, including books, articles, and oral presentations in national and international conferences, and, on the other, the pioneering advocate of a field of study which he labeled “Phonosemantics,” and for which he always displayed enthusiastic interest. In his eyes, F.de Saussure had overstated his case, and time had come to revise the assertion that the relationship between the meaning and the phonetic shape of the word is purely arbitrary. In elegant wording, often enhanced with subtle humor, but also with a wealth of empirical data and convincing arguments, he consistently argued that sound symbolism must be properly recognized and duly integrated in the study of the relationship between sound and meaning. His strong conviction and his hearty enthusiasm for sound symbolism had found great appeal among his graduate students and led to a number of dissertations.
He was one of those who started SPELTA from scratch, who spoke at SPELTA conferences, who helped with editing the Newsletter, who was always ready to answer difficult questions and step in with friendly criticism. He encouraged his students to join SPELTA and participate in its conferences.
With Stanislav Voronin’s untimely death, linguistics loses a distinguished scholar, the University of St.Petersburg, an outstanding teacher, SPELTA, one of her founding fathers, his friends and colleagues, an extraordinary personality and a very good man, who will always be remembered with appreciation and great fondness.