LETTER FROM THE CHAIRS
Dear PAIS Community,
We are thrilled to be able to bring you this latest issue of the PAIS Newsletter with contributions from our colleagues across the field! We want to take a moment to thank our authors for contributing their expertise and insights. Program administrators fill diverse roles in the ELT profession, from teacher trainer to records manager, from curriculum coordinator to all-around problem solver. If you have an innovative practice that could be adapted in other contexts, please consider sharing with the PAIS community by writing for the PAIS Newsletter.
The PAIS Newsletter is just one of several initiatives that we have undertaken this year to reinvigorate our community of practice. Most recently, PAIS coordinated our first virtual meeting to bring you timely and relevant information on pathway programs. With more than 50 participants, we were encouraged by the enthusiastic response from our community. Our goal is to continue to reach out to you through the MyTESOL portal to solicit feedback on how we can best serve our unique population.
Finally, PAIS is an all-volunteer effort! We want to encourage you to get involved with us by reaching out through the PAIS MyTESOL forum or even by attending the PAIS Annual Business Meeting at the TESOL International Convention. This is a great way to network with like-minded professionals in ELT administration.
Sherry Warren & Erin O’Reilly
PAIS Co-Chairs 2019–2020
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Amy Cook, Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan, USA
One of my considerations when taking on the role of editor of this newsletter was that much of the work for this first issue would take place during the slow summer months. The summer months have come and gone with no sign of slowing down.
Not running classes in our intensive English program this summer would seemingly result in a lighter administrative load. Yet, I experienced the opposite. I suspect the same is true of other administrators who are dealing with lower enrollments. Fewer students can precipitate more work as administrators explore new initiatives, restructure programs, and once again trim their budgets.
Administrators also bear the weight of making difficult decisions, which is one of the ideas Jason Litzenberg explores in his article, “Achieving Accord in the Status Discord of ELT.”
Despite the current difficulties many administrators are facing, it is important not to lose sight of our mission of providing quality language instruction to our students. Ilene Winokur, Kelle Hutchinson, and Heba ElHadary (or El-Hadary) share about their experience reviewing and revising curriculum in their article, “Reflections on a 5-Year Journey to a Quality Program.” We must also look ahead to the future of learning, work, and skills, as Sara Davila explores in her article, “Preparing Today’s Language Learners for the Future of Work.”
So, whether you’re experiencing that elusive slow time or are struggling beneath a myriad of administrative tasks, I invite you to take a few moments to join fellow administrators as they share challenges and insights in this issue.
PAIS Newsletter Editor
ACHIEVING ACCORD IN THE STATUS DISCORD OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING
Jason Litzenberg, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
During a meeting with a recent MA TESOL graduate with temporary summer employment in our intensive English program (IEP), I asked how the job search was going. Her response was revealing: “This is not what I was expecting.” Searching for that first job after graduation in any field can be overwhelming and intimidating, yet the shifting structure of English language teaching (ELT)—and, in particular, of IEPs—makes the challenges for TESOL graduates particularly pronounced. Indeed, the instructor I was speaking with is highly qualified, having completed her degree with financial support from the department and possessing almost a decade of international experience prior to graduating, but she was nevertheless struggling to find full-time employment or even receive responses to her applications. As an administrator, I understand the competitiveness of the ELT job market from the other side—for example, a posting for a part-time, contract-based position quickly fills my inbox with applications from individuals willing to move to our small town for the mere sake of employment in the field. In fact, my suggestion to recent MA TESOL graduates looking for part-time work in our program is to search for opportunities outside of ELT where such degrees might be applicable, such as international admissions, recruitment, or advising. These types of jobs might not be what they were expecting, but they at least widen the range of possibilities.
By obtaining an MA TESOL, graduates like the individual in the preceding anecdote are fulfilling the requirements set forth by the field and which have become more established over the past several decades as ELT has increasingly professionalized. Most ELT researchers as well as professional organizations such as TESOL and accreditation agencies such as CEA consider an MA to be the minimum qualification for adult and higher education professionals. English language instructors are expected to be pedagogically trained, reflexive individuals with the ability to complete a range of noninstructional tasks in addition to teaching, such as student advising, tutoring, attending meetings, maintaining accurate records, providing student feedback and assessment, assisting in orientation activities, serving as mentors for practicum students, and maintaining current professional development, among numerous other obligations. Depending on the institution, instructors may also be expected to conduct research, or at least to support academic departments in research.
Yet despite the educational requirement for a career in ELT and the ever-increasing demand of expectations beyond pedagogy, the job market is competitive and lacks sufficient full-time opportunities. This reality creates what Standing (2011) refers to as status discord, or when individuals “with a relatively high level of formal education…have to accept jobs that have a status or income beneath…their qualifications” (p. 10). Indeed, after having acquired the necessary qualifications for the field, many graduates discover that the only positions available are part-time jobs of a secondary professional status (Holborow, 2013) that deny them full inclusion in the field and lack job security or benefits. These opportunities are irregular, vacillating with student enrollment: part-time faculty frequently do not know from one session to the next whether they will have employment, and, all too often they may not even know whether they have work until a couple of days prior to the start of classes. These individuals, in order to maintain a competitive advantage over colleagues and ensure that they are considered for future teaching opportunities, are generally willing to teach whatever is offered, regardless of uncomfortable hours, conflicts with childcare, or other inconveniences. At the same time, these individuals are expected to maintain their professional development in the field, placing an additional burden upon an already uncertain status and an income that seldom provides for self-sufficiency.
This somber reality is exacerbated by downward student enrollment trends for noncredit programming. According to the most recent Open Doors Report (Institute of International Education, 2018), IEPs have experienced drops of 23% and 18% over the past 2 years, respectively. Keeping faculty on short-term contracts or hourly rates allows administrators the flexibility needed to adapt to market changes and maintain competitiveness and solvency. This approach transfers risk and insecurity onto the workforce, with part-time faculty maintaining a program’s viability while simultaneously experiencing the status discord of possessing an advanced degree but facing a future of uncertain opportunities and a lack of benefits. Even full-time instructors have reason for concern, as they continually take on new tasks, put forth additional hours, and maintain professional development in order to reduce the risk of being replaced by cheaper, part-time teachers.
The majority of IEPs and other types of English language teaching organizations are revenue-generating units; at a minimum, they must secure at least enough income to recover operating expenses. The factors that drive businesses are central to the operation and survival of IEPs. This business-oriented approach can conflict with the humanistic ideals of education, as articulated in the 2010 position statement jointly issued by TESOL, University And College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP), and the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP):
…institutions of higher education need to be extremely cautious about proposals that foreground economic benefits over assurances of educational quality.…it is crucial that academic standards be upheld and not undermined by financial interests. Otherwise, decisions can be made that impact the quality of curricula, faculty, and staff that can lead to a loss in academic integrity for programs. Moreover, these situations lead to a loss of overall professional status for IEP faculty [emphasis added] that denigrates the field of English language education (AAIEP, TESOL & UCIEP, 2010).
The highlighted warning in the position statement is analogous to the concept of status discord. Moreover, without a reversal of current enrollment trends—and with more than 300 MA TESOL programs in the United States and Canada (TESOL, n.d.) regularly graduating students—this status discord and the corresponding loss of professional status is likely to continue, which should be disconcerting to everyone who has put forth effort toward developing ELT standards and recognition of the field as an independent profession. Though the position statement acknowledges and discourages the “loss of overall professional status for IEP faculty” (AAIEP, TESOL & UCIEP, 2010), it is nevertheless an unenforceable guideline implemented and observed independently by individual language programs.
Status discord is real. However, the immediate focus should not be upon eliminating the discord, which would require systematic sociopolitical and economic changes beyond the scope of language programs, but instead upon finding an equitable means for acknowledging and working within the reality. For the most part, ELT is a socially oriented field, with the majority of practitioners displaying an interest toward ethical, humanist behavior. Even from within the confines of a for-profit language program, however, we can make an impact. For instance, in our hiring practices we must remain conscientious of the individual needs of the faculty whose professional qualifications allow our programs to operate, similar to how we recognize language learners as having varying goals, different multilingual competencies, and diverse identities (e.g., professionals, academics, students, parents, immigrants). Though we clearly must consider aspects such as availability, pedagogical knowledge, evaluations, and performance when assigning courses to instructors, we should incorporate our understanding of teachers’ personal and professional identities as well—that is, we must also balance the decision with aspects such as the instructor’s actual need for additional income (e.g., Does the instructor have a working spouse or other sources of income?), the instructor’s position within their career (e.g., Is the instructor new to the field? Do they need experience to develop their CV? Are they a retiree teaching out of pleasure for the career?), and so forth. To clarify, this suggestion is not advocating discriminatory practices, but rather a more complete integration of instructors’ professional needs and identities into administrative planning while working within institutional policies and legal obligations. We should also recognize that full-time instructors are not immune to the status insecurities of the profession and that their willingness to take on additional hours or new obligations may originate from a place of fear (“Will I lose my job?”) rather than one of professional affection (“I appreciate the excitement of the field”). The latter type of individuals may be more robust in their growth as IEPs evolve to the changing markets, and programs would perhaps be better served if administrators, in one of their many sided-roles as career consultants, could advise accordingly. Similarly, for those of us who teach or advise preservice teachers, we should inquire about their goals and be forthright about the employment prospects—in particular, about prospects domestically in IEPs but also about other challenges, such as the likelihood of being able to pay student loans while working internationally. Quite simply, we should help preservice teachers avoid the shock of status discord or the experience of “This is not what I was expecting.”
These steps are small, incremental ways of managing the growing pains of a rapidly changing industry. Other administrators and professionals in ELT undoubtedly have more effective suggestions. The employment situation in IEPs is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as global markets continue to shift and competitiveness increases, but we nevertheless have the ability to shape the manner of our engagement and to ensure that we do so equitably and ethically.
American Association of Intensive English Programs, TESOL International Association, & University And College Intensive English Programs. (2010, January). Joint position statement on governance for English language instruction at institutions of higher education [Position statement]. Retrieved from https://www.tesol.org/docs/pdf/13010.pdf?sfvrsn=2&sfvrsn=2
Holborow, M. (2013). Applied linguistics in the neoliberal university: Ideological keywords and social agency. Applied linguistics review, 4(2), 229–257.
Institute of International Education. (2018). International student enrollment trends, 1948/49-2017/18. Retrieved from https://www.iie.org/research-and-insights/open-doors/data/international-students/enrollment
Standing, G. (2011). The precariat: The new and dangerous class. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.
TESOL (n.d.). Common qualifications for English language teachers. Retrieved from https://www.tesol.org/enhance-your-career/career-development/beginning-your-career/common-qualifications-for-english-language-teachers
Jason Litzenberg has a PhD in applied linguistics and ESL from Georgia State University. He has more than 20 years’ experience teaching English and applied linguistics in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, and the United States. Jason has served as director of the English Language Program at Yachay Tech in Imbabura Province, Ecuador, and is currently the director of the Intensive English Communication Program (IECP) at The Pennsylvania State University.
REFLECTIONS ON A 5-YEAR JOURNEY TO A QUALITY PROGRAM
Students in the English Foundation Unit (EFU) program are placed in their English courses based on placement test results. Courses taught at the undergraduate level are mainly taught in English, so the intensive English program prepares these matriculated students for academic English in those courses. Each course is one semester: 15 weeks, 20 hours per week. Courses are integrated skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) at two proficiency levels: preintermediate and intermediate.
Students at the pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are required to take one or two semesters of foundation English. EFU instructors and undergraduate faculty were mostly in agreement that the foundation level curriculum being taught from 2010 until 2014 was not fully preparing the students for undergraduate courses. It assumed prior skills and knowledge that the majority of the students entering our program did not have. As a result, students entered Academic English and Freshman English courses along with their general education courses at a disadvantage to students placing directly into those courses.
The director, curriculum and accreditation coordinators created a plan for researching, discussing, and implementing curriculum changes that aligned more closely with the skills and knowledge needed to ensure student success in foundation classes and beyond. The EFU mission statement reads, “The mission of the English Foundation Unit (EFU) is to provide quality language instruction to non-native English speakers with an emphasis on the language skills necessary for academic success.”
In an effort to look for gaps in student learning, the EFU team and director focused on curriculum components and skill areas to guide instruction. In addition, a major program review was initiated because the department was in the 10-year CEA (Commission on English Language Program Accreditation) self-study review process.
Program Review Process
Faculty worked with the two coordinators on small committees to review the latest research and discover best practices for reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, listening, speaking components, and writing/grammar. The faculty shared their findings with colleagues which led to decisions to revise components of the curriculum, assessments, student learning outcomes (SLOs), and instructional methods. Corresponding changes were made to the department’s Operations Manual and implications for the CEA reaccreditation process were also considered.
Once changes were made to the curriculum, we needed tools and assessments to check if/how the changes helped or hindered learning. Gathering the data is a vital component of the change process because various stakeholders, including faculty, administration, upper management, and accrediting agencies need to see the validity of the program’s quality. The process for finding the right tools (assessments and other measures) evolved over the first 2 years of changes. The internal and external measures used currently include placement test results, pre- and posttests, department-created assessments of each skill area, student survey results, and data from the university’s Institutional Effectiveness Department.
To validate the efficacy of the program and ensure high-quality results, a variety of tools were used that include internal and external as well as qualitative and quantitative measures. Areas that were closely analyzed were level to level progression and whether student proficiency was adequate for undergraduate study at the university.
Initial analysis of the data uncovered several skill areas that still needed attention, such as listening and grammar. A new textbook was chosen to enhance the development of listening and additional resources for grammar instruction were selected. Training for instructors and teaching assistants was implemented. SLOs for listening improved according to data analysis after implementing the new textbook and additional resources, and we are waiting for results specific to grammar and writing to find out if the changes had a positive effect on SLOs for grammar. Faculty feedback and teacher observations were important quantitative tools to assess the learning objectives and instructional activities, as well as the validity of assessments.
Data analysis is used to facilitate the team’s discussion and highlight areas still needing attention. The review cycle is ongoing, so minor changes to curriculum are reviewed at the end of each semester during a meeting with the curriculum coordinator. If any changes are recommended, timing of implementation and necessary resources are prepared prior to the change. Training is provided to instructors if there is a change in the textbook or instructional activities.
Program Review Template
The program review template (Table 1) aligns SLOs to tools such as assessments and surveys. The review process is explained in the EFU’s Operations Manual, which everyone in the department has access to.
Table 1. Program Review Tools
Role of Accreditation
The process of CEA reaccreditation required a comprehensive self-study and a thorough program review supported by data analysis and effort by the EFU team to embrace the necessary changes to the curriculum. These changes support SLOs which are aligned to the EFU mission and the goals of the university. This process provided a forum for interaction among all sectors of the university, including the undergraduate and EFU faculty, director and EFU coordinators, Institutional Effectiveness Department, and upper management. These discussions led to a better understanding by all stakeholders of the important role EFU plays within the university.
Program review is a valuable process that was vital to ensure our foundation English program was of high quality. Data analysis continues to show that the changes we made to the curriculum, assessments, and instructional activities improved SLOs aligned with the EFU’s mission and goals to prepare students as they strive to complete their undergraduate courses and attain a degree.
Dr. Ilene Winokur has lived in Kuwait for 35 years and recently retired as the director of the Foundation Program Unit (Math and English) at Gulf University for Science and Technology. She taught and was an administrator at the early childhood and elementary levels, in addition to teaching and administration at the college level in private institutions in Kuwait for 25 years. Ilene has more than 20 years of experience in teaching, mentoring, and administration.
Kelle Hutchinson has been an instructor in the English Foundation Unit (EFU) for more than 5 years and served as the EFU accreditation coordinator at Gulf University for Science and Technology since 2014. She will begin her role as the program director beginning in September 2019. Traveling and working in Asia, Europe, and the USA has allowed Kelle to maximize her expertise in ESL, reading comprehension, and student services.
Heba ElHadary is a dedicated English as a foreign/second language instructor with more than 20 years’ experience in Canada, Dubai, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. She is currently the reading and writing coordinator and instructor in the Foundation Program Unit at Gulf University for Science and Technology.
PREPARING TODAY'S LANGUAGE LEARNERS FOR THE FUTURE OF WORK
Sara Davila, Pearson, Chicago, USA
The future of learning will determine the future of the workforce. Changes will continue in the field of education, and these changes will transform how we think about and develop English language learning programs. Fortunately, recent research illuminates what the workforce of the near future will look like, helping educators anticipate and adjust our current practices to align to future needs. Better understanding this shifting landscape will allow us to better support the development of critical language skills that will be of high value in the next 10, 20, 30 years, and beyond.
The Future of Learning
Research has indicated that the ways students learn English and the ways they wish to learn English have begun to change and will continue to change. Educators must develop awareness of these changes in order to support our learners and their growth.
Students are becoming increasingly more interested in targeted courses with flexible attendance, flexible timelines for completion, and technological integration, as in digital and online classes (British Council, 2018). Technology, in some ways, will offer us a wider range of learning solutions and allow us to expand our overall reach with learners. Now is the time to strategize integration of technology into our program offerings and how to better support learners’ future success with technology-facilitated communication.
To achieve these changes, programs must consider how communicative technology is currently integrated into their programs, allowing educators advance time to develop skills in the appropriate platforms. Current technology that supports spoken communication (VOIP platforms and web meeting platforms) and interactive writing (SMS, and various chat platforms) have gained in importance in industry. Developing new ways to incorporate these types of communication platforms into existing programs and strategies for successful English language learning through technology should be at the forefront of future planning for language courses.
The Future of Work
What does work look like in the future? For 21st-century learners, there are unique challenges in preparing for the future workforce, key among them invention. Some of our students are currently preparing to work in fields with technology that is still in development or has not yet been invented. Machine learning experts and artificial intelligence managers, for example, are entirely new positions with rapidly evolving skill sets. Though technology complicates the future of the workforce, it will also help educators understand how to prepare for tomorrow today—and there is a great deal of work we can do to help prepare our students for success in our increasingly technological future.
Communication skills should be an important focus in preparing learners for the future workplace. Employers continue to indicate a need for learners with high levels of English skills, especially fluency in describing and explaining work-specific tasks, ability to negotiate, logistical problem-solving, and the ability to outline and communicate solutions (British Council, 2018). In each area of communication development, employers are looking for improved focus on industry-specific English, emphasizing highly specialized, sector-specific English language skills. From the perspective of an educator, English skills extremely focused on specific uses may be seen as a limitation in students’ ability to achieve future employment and mobility goals. However, this emphasis on specific skills should be seen as an opportunity to incorporate skills into our English courses directly aligned with employment.
In our programs, we can certainly use tools like English language career and job profiles (Gordon, Hayes, Mayor, & Buckland, 2018) to understand the specific communication needs of a variety of career sectors. In order to serve the greatest number of students and diversify our classroom work, we should consider ways to support learners in developing appropriate language skills for a variety of sectors of future employment. Depending on the institution and market, courses on English for specific purposes could be key to learner success. However, we also have the option of taking a higher level view of future skills to diversify the impact of our language classes and ensure that regardless of the specific career of interest, our learners are armed with the communication necessary for success.
The Future of Skills
A better view of the factors shaping various industries and their labor needs by 2030 is possible through examination of the drivers of these coming changes. A recent comprehensive analysis of a variety of occupations, their key tasks, and growth patterns illuminates ways the workforce will grow and change, providing insight into the top skills of the coming decade (Bakhshi, Downing, Osborne, & Schneider, 2017). This analysis highlighted the future of skills in 2030, seeking across sectors for areas of growth, areas of contraction, and ways for those currently part of a shrinking or contracting labor markets to best prepare for future careers. Within this analysis there are a number of key findings of interest to educators; however, the primary takeaway is the importance of awareness of future skills beyond the four Cs of 21st-century learning (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity). Through the research (Bakhshi, Downing, Osborne, & Schneider, 2017) it is possible to identify key skills for future success , including the following top 20 skills:
1. Judgement and Decision Making
2. Fluency of Ideas
3. Active Learning
4. Learning Strategies
6. Systems Evaluation
7. Deductive Reasoning
8. Complex Problem Solving
9. Systems Analysis
11. Critical Thinking
13. Education and Training
14. Management of Personnel Resources
16. Inductive Reasoning
17. Problem Sensitivity
18. Information Ordering
19. Active Listening
20. Administration and Management
Armed with information about future workforce skills, language educators possess the tools and resources necessary to improve current programs and develop future programs designed to help our learners achieve their lifelong career and personal goals. By looking more holistically at ways to strategically incorporate these skills into our learning programs, we can support the largest field of career interests with a fair amount of freedom and flexibility.
The Future of Learning
As the needs of employers become more focused on a broad knowledge base with strong English communication skills, we as educators must ensure improved attention to deeper skill development. Incorporating communication technology into our classes, along with the aforementioned top 20 future skills, will improve the overall value of our classes to our learners. When necessary, targeted and custom courses focused on specific English purposes can be incorporated into our programs. Our effective and skillful response to learner needs, informed by insight on the changing landscape of future careers, will allow us to better prepare students and ensure English language learning is a solid bridge for future success.
These changes raise challenges for our industry; today, technology and workforce skill integration are no longer optional, but are imperative for our students’ future success. As language educators, we must improve our programs, courses, and lesson plans so that they optimally incorporate high-value future skills supporting the development of long-term achievements.
Bakhshi, H., Downing, J., Osborne, M., & Schneider, P. (2017). The future of skills: Employment in 2030. London, England: Pearson.
British Council. (2018). The future demand for English in Europe: 20205 and beyond. London, England: British Council.
Gordon, M., Hayes, C., Mayor, M., & Buckland, S. (2018). Developing GSE job profiles: Interim report and initial validation study. London, England: Pearson.
Sara Davila is a teacher and educator who has spent more than a decade immersed in communicative language pedagogy and learner-centered teaching. She is currently informing the next generation of curriculum as a learning expert with Pearson English. Her personal contributions to the field can be found at www.saradavila.com.
ABOUT THIS COMMUNITY
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The Program Administration Interest Section (PAIS) addresses the special needs of ESOL program administrators at all levels and in all fields. PAIS is committed to the support and development of professional and ethical program administration by administrators and teachers in English language programs regardless of type, setting, geographical location, or size. Program administration refers to every aspect of a program’s development, operation, and management. Program administrator refers to any person involved in those areas. PAIS aims to provide those involved in the administration of English language programs with opportunities for growth, understanding, and professional development.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Did you enjoy reading the articles in this issue? Please consider submitting an article for the next issue of the PAIS Newsletter. We are interested in hearing from program administrators at all levels and in all fields.
Ideas for articles include but are not limited to
· challenges and opportunities;
· management, planning, and budgeting;
· professional development of staff;
· program development and evaluation; and
· creative initiatives.
Please review the submission guidelines below for more information.The submission deadline is 17 January 2020.
PAIS Newsletter Guidelines
All submissions should
· be no longer than 1,750 words;
· contain no more than five citations;
· be in .doc or .docx format; and
· be carefully edited and proofread and follow the style guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition (APA style).
Please also include
· a short teaser (no more than 50 words),
· a byline (author’s name, affiliation, city, country, email),
· author headshot (jpg), and a
· two- to three-sentence author biography
Email submissions to Amy Cook at email@example.com