February 2014
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BEYOND BEST PRACTICES: STRATEGIC ENGAGEMENT AT HIGH LEVELS OF DECISION MAKING or, An Expanded Imperative for EOP Teacher Training
Anne E. Lomperis, Language Training Designs, Montgomery Village, Maryland, USA

It is a concern that many in the field of TESOL focus only on what transpires at the classroom level. While this may be the ultimate goal, what happens in an effective classroom must be the end result of many prior levels of sound planning. This is especially the case in ESP overall and is particularly incumbent upon those in English for occupational purposes (EOP).

Considering the best practices for EOP, they help take into account the corporate context or the corporate level. In fact, in the list below (taken from the more itemized, prepublication version of 11 best practices [Friedenberg, Lomperis, Martin, Van Naerssen, & Westerfield, 2000], modified with headings in 2010), the classroom level of “Deliver training” is tenth, or second to last. Nine best practices, which address business development, planning and administrative matters, and the development of training, precede the delivery of training.

Best Practices: Process Standards for Workplace Language Training

Business Development—For Language Training Providers

  1. Develop a strategic plan.
  2. Conduct effective marketing.

Initial Planning and Preprogram Administrative Matters

  1. Assess the client organization’s need. (Conduct an organizational needs assessment.)
  2. Determine an appropriate program design.
  3. Develop a proposal and negotiate a contract.
  4. Identify and arrange program administration and staffing.

Direct Training-Related Activities (Development and Delivery)

  1. Conduct an instructional needs assessment.
  2. Create an instructional design/curriculum.
  3. Select and develop appropriate training materials.
  4. Deliver training.

Concurrent and Postprogram Administrative Matters

  1. Evaluate course(s) and program, and apply recommendations.

Yet as expanded as the best practices may seem, they extend only to the level of the individual company—or the corporate level. In the context of language planning and language policy for the labor force in developing countries, EOP needs to operate at even higher levels, for a total of six levels of society (see Lomperis, 2010). These levels are illustrated briefly below in a case study from aviation English.

Aviation English Case—Six Levels of Interaction Required

Economic Context

1. International, regional

  • United Nations: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

 

2. National governmental, national ministries

  • Ministry of Transportation
  • U.S. Federal Aviation Administration

 

3. Industry sector

  • Civil aviation: pilots, air traffic controllers, airport administrators

 

4. Corporation (or other occupational organization)

  • Airlines (that fly international routes)
  • Airport authorities (that serve international routes)

 

Education/Training Context

5. Education/training

  • Flight schools
    • Private: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU [U.S.])
    • Governmental: Civil Aviation Flight University of China (CAFUC)

 

6.Language training

  • Aviation English programs: Integrated with technical training (within ERAU, CAFUC)
  • Aviation English programs: Separate contracted programs
  • Networked with related professional associations (international Civil Aviation English Association)

 

The summary message about this framework is that all levels need to inform and cooperate with each other. To refer to the example above, ICAO has developed an English proficiency standard based on input from the industry (use formulaic terminology) as well as input from language training (also include “common English” for exceptional circumstances that arise beyond standard operating procedures, such as during emergencies). The proficiency standard would not serve the safety needs of the flying public without including the perspectives of all these levels.

Afghanistan Case—Lack of Openness at High Levels

In another case, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (under the United Nations) are engaged in infrastructure development in Afghanistan to build 22 dams for agricultural and hydroelectric purposes. The Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), in particular, has received funding for an irrigation restoration and development project. Tributary channels are even to be extended to villages of war widows so they can start family vegetable plots for eventual small farming entrepreneurial income. International experts are being brought in to present technical training in 6-day sessions on topics such as water and the environment, reforms in water resources management, and local water cooperatives. English is used as the common language for this training. To date, translators have provided support to MEW participants. However, with the draw-down of translators, MEW management has decided their staff need to develop independent English capability. An English training model has been designed for a corresponding 6-day program to precede each technical topic. The instructor is to be a native-speaking “foreign expert.” This foreign expert researched and proposed that a U.S. university–sponsored MATEFL program at a university in Kabul provide candidates to receive EOP training, to serve as internship teachers, and eventually to become the teachers of a long-term English training program for MEW staff.

The primary challenges here were (1) the short duration of training, (2) insistence on the original instructor model (the mindset could not be changed to use Afghan English teachers, despite their sustainability), and (3) a high-level decision maker in MEW who apparently blocked the whole English program when it reached his level. This, despite the World Bank being the funding source; they have tried to reintroduce the English program in association with subsequent evaluation cycles.

Morocco/Middle Eastern Case–Lack of Input to High Levels

In a case in Morocco, this regime, as others in the Middle East, is concerned about unemployment, particularly of youth. High-level national and corporate sponsors initiated an employability program, with language support. However, the program design confused reasonable requirements for the two different purposes. Timelines; space, facilities, and specialized equipment; proximity to targeted participants and therefore transportation; and qualifications of trainers were among the factors not soundly planned or well coordinated. Further, the training level did not fully share these issues with high-level decision makers so that changes and improvements could be made.

Such cases lead to recognizing new skills that EOP professionals must develop, including the following:

  • Identifying and engaging in wider networks
  • Finding all possible, relevant documents (e.g., requests for information, requests for proposals/tenders, white papers, business plans, policy statements, news releases, articles, reports [on previous and current projects, economic trends, financials], recommendations) and analyzing them for key insights and data
  • Identifying goals, from high level to various implementation levels
  • Researching all players, including sponsors/funding sources, targeted decision makers, new partners that may need to be brought in, and hidden or far-downstream beneficiaries
  • Determining operating models and program designs—and the mindsets behind them
  • Discerning movable and immovable obstacles
  • Identifying who can and who will not address obstacles—and their motivations, incentives, hot buttons, points of appeal
  • Developing advocacy plans and strategies for EOP
  • Developing support materials and providing formal or informal training for nonlinguist, content specialists or top management/officials to speak on behalf of EOP to higher levels not yet accessible
  • Following up, in incremental steps over time, if necessary, to gain a seat at the table of high-level decision makers
  • Researching and developing more sound, professional EOP approaches, models, recruitment, intake testing, space and facilities, instructional equipment and supplies, program designs, curricula, materials, use of technology, meaningful formative and summative testing, qualified teachers or teacher training programs to meet qualifications, evaluation procedures and instruments, and management buy-in from operational to policy levels
  • Introducing any of the elements above in ways that given audiences can hear, receive, and act on new information and recommendations (e.g., lots of tea drinking with some; stories and examples with others; no-fluff, bullet points with yet others; some respond best to cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment data; Martin & Lomperis, 2002)
  • Implementing the above, making judgment calls about where compromise or accommodation can and cannot be made
  • Pursuing constant updates on political, economic, security, environmental, social, health, and other impacts, and making creative and timely adjustments, as necessary
  • And even determining acceptable and unacceptable terms of consulting contracts themselves

 

This new skill development becomes the imperative for expanded EOP teacher training programs. The precious few even ESP teacher training programs worldwide or in the United States (Holden, 1997; Westerfield, 1994) are largely oriented to English for academic purposes or only get to the corporate level of EOP. It is time to start thinking of the realities of learners beyond the classroom. What are the needs of their future employers, as well as of the industry sectors of these employing companies, and ultimately the economic development goals of given countries at national, regional, and global levels? These stakeholders at higher levels of society need a labor force with competitive communication capabilities. Before effective language training at the classroom level can be delivered, sound planning for such higher level needs must be carried out. Such higher level critical factors cannot be ignored. Classrooms cannot be isolated from larger realities. The success and well-being of clients ultimately served by those learners sent to English language classrooms from industry and government are at stake. EOP teachers need to be trained to “think of such things in the first place.” A war widow in Afghanistan—or youth in the Tahrir Squares of the world—is depending on it.

References

Friedenberg, J. E., Lomperis, A. E., Martin, W. M., Van Naerssen, M., & Westerfield, K. (2000). Standards for workplace language training, Volume 1: Guidelines for workplace language trainers. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Holden, B. (1997). Degrees, diplomas and certificates in English for specific purposes worldwide. ESP News, 6(1), 9–10.

Jameson, J. H. (1997). Programs in the U.S. to prepare workplace ESPers. ESP News, 6(1), 11–12.

Lomperis, A. E. (2010). Issues in language policy for the labor force in developing countries. In M. Gueldry (Ed.), Consistent incorporation of professional terminologies into the world’s languages: The linguistic engine of a global culture (pp. 311–341). Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.

Martin, W. M., &. Lomperis, A. E. (2002). Determining the cost benefit, the return on investment, and the intangible impacts of language programs for development. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 399–429.

Westerfield, K. (1994). TESOL 1994 Academic Session: ESP teacher training around the world. ESP News, 3(2), 1, 9–11.


Anne Lomperis specializes in language planning and language policy for the labor force in developing countries. She served as the first EOP representative to the Steering Board after the ESP Interest Section was founded and has been instrumental in furthering EOP agendas within the IS, including best practices, a PowerPoint resource for those unfamiliar with ESP (both internal English language teaching colleagues and external corporate clients), and numerous presentations. She is currently the English language consultant to a project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to train high school graduates to become elastomer (synthetic rubber) technicians in the manufacture of tires and eventual automobiles, as the Kingdom pursues diversification of its oil sector into petrochemicals.

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