March 2017
TEIS Newsletter



Greetings TEIS Community!

It has been a busy year in our interest section (IS), in our organization, and in our field. Our community is more important than ever to the well-being of English learners and their teachers worldwide. In these challenging times, many of us have sought opportunities to come together in strength, support, and solidarity surrounding the issues that we care most deeply about. To that end, we celebrate our professional community and those of us who are able to attend the convention in Seattle can connect even further while there. Make a note to come to our Open Meeting on Wednesday, 22 March at 5 pm to meet our new leadership team!

In between conferences, it is even more important to stay connected. You may have noticed that we have moved to a new community platform, myTESOL, and seen several interesting discussions posted to our community. Are you connected to our TEIS community via myTESOL? You can read the discussions on the website, receive daily digests of the messages posted, or get email about each message in real time. Go to myTESOL, sign in using your TESOL credentials, click “Communities” to check your enrollment and settings, then watch for more discussions in the lead-up to TESOL’s 2017 convention in Seattle. We also started a TEIS Facebook page at last year’s conference and already are close to 400 members!

The TESOL Teacher Education Blog is another dynamic way to share information, and our six-session webinars have been a fun innovation in extending the “conference” feel throughout the year. Each of the webinars is archived on the TESOL website—Below are the topics we had in 2016–2017:

  • edTPA in TESOL (SCALE)
  • TESOL Teacher Educators’ Roles in Preparing Candidates for IEPS (Gulbahar Beckett)
  • The TESOL Methods Course (Wayne Wright)
  • Preparing Mainstream Teachers to Work with ELLs (Ester de Jong)
  • The U.S. Department of State English Fellows Program Opportunities (Jennifer Uhler)
  • TESOL Online Program Considerations (Faridah Pawan)

This year has also brought a process of change to ISs within TESOL. At the 2016 convention, an Interest Section Task Force presented findings and let us know that the IS system would be changed, with input from all members. We have recently received the proposal that TESOL will have knowledge-based member communities (KBMCs) instead of ISs. You can find more information about this change and make comments about it on the TESOL Blog. Please follow this information and share your input to help TEIS have a wonderful future as a KBMC, with increased year-round activities.

I’m excited to hear from you on myTESOL and to see some of you in Seattle this year. The lineup of teacher-education related topics is extensive and rich.

In appreciation for all you do as a teacher educator,



Dear TEIS Colleagues,

Greetings to all of you. I am honored to be serving as your chair-elect, and I am looking forward to connecting with you at the convention in Seattle. I hope that many of you will be able to attend the conference and enjoy an invigorating professional development experience in the company of good friends. I hope that you are as excited as I am about spending time with colleagues who understand us and get what we are grappling with daily. It can be isolating to be the only TESOL faculty member or one of just a few. I always find it uplifting to connect with teachers who wonder about the same issues, focus on similar priorities, love languages and cultures, and advocate passionately for bilingual learners.

I would like to invite you specifically to several events TEIS has planned for the convention. Our academic session will address the role of teachers’ TESOL expertise on learner outcomes. We are interested in evaluating whether TESOL training has measurable effects on what matters most to educators: students’ academic achievement. An amazing panel of experts will share their research findings from studies conducted in California and New York, USA, and Qatar. The presenters will demonstrate methodologies of bona fide program evaluation and highlight caveats in studying lasting outcomes of teacher training.

For the 2017 convention, TEIS has partnered with the Refugee Concerns Interest Section to bring you an invaluable session on preparing teachers for the special needs of refugee students. The panel will unite researchers, practitioners, and advocates to bring into focus a group of essential topics. They will approach from the perspective of cultural diversity and the recognition of students’ strengths and contributions before they investigate specific challenges for unaccompanied minors and students with limited formal schooling. Presenters will explore issues related to overcoming trauma, accessing resources, integrating support, and designing suitable curricula. Finally, they will outline successful, evidence-based training programs for teacher professional development. Presenters represent some of the leading resources in refugee education.

I would also like to highlight for you another much-anticipated session, which is the result of our partnership with the Second Language Writing IS. The panel will explore various approaches to the preparation of preservice candidates to become writing teachers as well as better writers. Presenters will reflect on instructional units and assignments they have tested and developed for this purpose.

TESOL is offering an additional forum for networking at the Seattle conference. We invite anyone with responsibility or interest in developing online teacher education courses for in-service teachers in U.S. public schools. These can range from short-term programs in TESOL to prepare all content teachers or in-service or preservice teachers, or they can be specialized coursework for teachers who are pursuing a full ELL certificate or endorsement. The purpose is to introduce educators who are presently working on similar tasks in order to exchange resources and materials, and perhaps even form an ongoing support group. Eventually, this group can share expertise with others in the form of future conference presentations and TEIS webinars.

Please mark your calendar for the annual open business meeting. This is the most important idea forum of the interest section. We launch activities and initiatives based on the issues raised by members. Think of current trends in your community and advocacy concerns that TEIS should act on. One specific proposal on which we are gathering feedback is TESOL’s reconfiguring of interest sections with a two-tiered system of professional knowledge communities: informal groups (professional learning networks) and formal groups (professional knowledge sections; PKSs). Formal groups, PKSs, would be renewed annually and would have a leadership succession plan. They would operate year-round, define their own activities, and be able to organize one 1-hour 45-minute session at the annual convention; however, they would not be evaluating convention proposals. As you know, a key role of interest sections has been to invite reviewers, review proposals, and fill a proportionately allocated number of convention sessions with quality presentations. Although this proposal does not specify how future convention proposals would be reviewed, it removes that decision-making from the PKSs. Anyone interested in a town hall discussion of this proposal by interest section leaders can access the transcript. We are interested in hearing everyone’s comments on this prospective organizational change. You can also contact Dudley Reynolds, TESOL’s president, directly to voice your opinion.

Finally, I am inviting volunteers for our IS booth during the convention. This is a good opportunity to guide novice attendees, who may not know about activities available to TEIS members, such as serving as a reviewer, participating in our TEIS webinars, or joining our TEIS online community on myTESOL. You may remember how grateful you were when someone reached out to you at your first TESOL convention. If you are ready to give someone else a warm welcome, please let me know.

I am delighted about seeing you in Seattle and serving as your TEIS chair in 2017–18.

Best regards,

Andrea Hellman

TEIS Chair-Elect


TEIS Convention Sessions and Meetings

TEIS Academic Session
Gauging the Effect of TESOL Expertise on Learner Outcomes
Friday, 24 March 3 pm–4:45 pm
Presenters: Donald Freeman, Dudley Reynolds, Andrea Honigsfeld, Maria Dove, Joshua Lawrence, Susana Dutro, Donna Smith, Tyler Watts
Facilitator: Andrea Hellman

TEIS–Refugee Concerns InterSection
Preparing TESOL Educators to Address the Needs of Refugee Students
Wednesday, 22 March, 1 pm–2:45 pm
WSCC, 310
Presenters: Brenda Custodio, Debbie Zacarian, Judy Haynes, Stacy Brown, Julie Kasper, Laura Baecher, Jennifer Ballard-Kang, Josephine Kennedy, Lois Scott-Conley, Allene Grognet
Organizer: Andrea Hellman

Second Language Writing–TEIS InterSection
Teaching Teachers to Write: Assignments and Approaches in Preservice Programs
Friday, 24 March, 9:30 am–11:15 pm
WSCC, 304
Presenters: Cathryn Crosby, Lynn Goldstein, Kate Reynolds, Brian Morgan, Nigel Caplan, Ditlev Larsen

TEIS Networking Event
Online Program Developer Network
Thursday, 23 March, 9:30 am–10:15 am
Sheraton Grand Ballroom B 

TEIS Open Business Meeting
Wednesday, 22 March, 5 pm–6:30 pm
WSCC, 614

Volunteer for the IS Booth



Anna Krulatz

Georgios Neokleous

The importance of pedagogical grammar in language teacher education is unquestionable, and, in recent years, publications related to teaching grammar have abounded. More often than not, English teacher training programs, be it in English as a foreign language or English as a second language contexts, include a component on grammar teaching. The topics covered in such a course range from structural descriptions of the English language and error analysis tasks to exploring the role of grammar teaching in a communicative language classroom and activity design and lesson planning.

In every classroom of pre- or in-service English teachers, a few individuals will name themselves grammar geeks and exhibit fervid enthusiasm when new grammar structures are presented and challenging exercises are assigned. But despite an abundance of new approaches to grammar teaching, such as awareness raising or grammar through discourse, for the majority of language teachers, pedagogical grammar is a course that has to be taken and passed, and in their own classroom, it is the domain of language associated with daunting tasks and boredom (Nassaji & Fotos, 2011).

The way English teachers approach teaching grammar in their own classroom is affected by many factors, including their own beliefs about grammar as well as former grammar learning experiences (Keck & Kim, 2014). Just as we want the teachers in our courses to stop thinking about grammar as a set of rules that needs to be inserted into a learner’s brain and move away from the structural syllabus, we need to structure the pedagogical grammar courses in a way that prompts reflective practice and innovative teaching methods. In this article, we offer an approach to pedagogical grammar instruction based in loop input (Woodward, 2003), which we have applied successfully in our own EFL teacher training program for 2 years.

Loop Input

Loop input is an experiential teaching approach that “involves an alignment of the process and the content of learning” (Woodward, 2003, p. 301). In teacher education courses, this means integration of the content of learning into specific classroom tasks. Pre- or in-service teachers participate in activities that illustrate language-teaching practices and simultaneously utilize the course content. In contrast to other forms of experiential learning, loop input necessarily includes a “decompression stage” during which students reflect on and analyze the instructional method they have just experienced and consider in what ways they can apply it to their own teaching (Woodward, 2003, p. 303). We find loop input particularly beneficial in pedagogical grammar instruction. It not only allows for more in-depth processing of the content but also leads to increased consciousness of how grammar works and fosters improvement of teachers’ own grammatical competence.

Model Lesson

Whereas most of our lectures include only one or two loop-input activities, we sometimes apply this approach to model a complete lesson plan. In a session that focuses on restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses, our students participate in a model content-based lesson and experience examples of an enhanced input strategy, mechanical practice, and a communicative task. The lesson’s content objective is the students’ ability to apply these techniques in their own teaching. The language objectives state that students should be able to identify subject, object, and possessive relative clauses and different types of relative pronouns (who, whom, which, that, whose), and to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses.

To implement loop input, we utilize relative clauses as the content theme in this lesson. Following a brief brainstorming session, the students receive short passages describing relative clauses. To illustrate teaching of relative clauses through enhanced input, relative clauses in each of the passages are highlighted to make the grammatical structure in focus more salient. For example:

Relative clauses, which constitute a type of subordinate clauses, are categorized into restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Relative pronouns that introduce a restrictive relative clause are not separated from the main clause by a comma and convey information that is essential for identification. Nonrestrictive relative clauses, which are separated from the main clause by a comma, add essential information about the antecedent in the main clause.

Working individually, students then participate in a mechanical practice task in which they are asked to label a number of clauses as either restrictive or nonrestrictive. The following sentences provide some examples:

  1. In a mechanical task, which is a task you are completing now, students usually supply a missing word or identify a grammatical feature.
  2. Mechanical tasks that are particularly boring are those in which the sentences are taken out of the context.

In the next stage of the lesson, the students experience how a communicative task can be used in a lesson about relative clauses. Students are divided into small groups and each group creates one section of an instruction manual. For instance, one group is asked to work on subject clauses, whereas another one is responsible for object clauses. In order to compile the complete manual, students need to exchange information with their classmates, which is accomplished in a jigsaw task.

In the decompression stage, students unpack the whole lesson and analyze each of the activities in which they have just participated as “language learners,” discussing what they found challenging but also considering challenges their own students might experience. As a learning scaffold, they receive a handout with the following table (Table 1).

Table 1. Relative Clauses: Model Lesson Analysis

Activity Name



How It Worked

How I Can Use It

Task Type

Enhance Input

I can use it to make grammar forms in the input more salient

We labeled restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

To compile a relative clauses manual

We often initiate reflection by filling out the first row together with the whole class. Alternatively, students can be asked to work in groups, with the instructor rotating around the room and monitoring the process. We hope that this detailed analysis and reflection will prompt our students to critique the activities they experienced first-hand and consider the ways in which they can apply similar strategies in their own grammar teaching. As Woodward insists, decompression time is a necessary step in loop input as it allows students to “learn more deeply as a result of [the] reverberation between process and content” (2003, p. 303).

Model Activity

Apart from applying loop input at the level of a complete session, we also apply it at the level of an individual task. To familiarize students with the principles that communicative language teaching (CLT) advocates, we try to incorporate different CLT activity types. One of the tasks in which students engage in is the design of a poster. The grammar focus of this lesson is on modality. The objective of the lesson, therefore, is for preservice teachers to be able to explain the differences between the different interpretations of modal verbs and to employ various communicative strategies to teach modal verbs.

For the task, students are divided into five teams based on the following modals: can, must, may, should, and will. Working in groups, each team is given a poster displaying extensive rules from different pedagogical grammar handbooks and a selection of communicative activities about their modal. After reading the poster, the five groups are asked to create their own poster to educate their students about their modals. They are instructed to summarize key information from the section assigned including the different interpretations of their modal (e.g., can displaying potential, ability, permission, and possibility) with examples highlighting each use. Using a comic strip creator or their own artistic abilities, they also have to illustrate a particular use of their modal. When they are done, students give feedback on a poster to the other four groups incorporating modals in their sentences. For instance:

  1. You should have used a clearer example of your modal conveying possibility.
  2. You might want to use some color in your drawing.
  3. You must also include a section listing all the different interpretations of your modal.

The posttask reflection stage aims at generating discussion about the steps of the task, what makes this task a CLT task, as well as the drawbacks and merits of incorporating such tasks in the classroom.


Pedagogical grammar courses are an essential component of language teacher–education programs around the world. To prepare pre- and in-service teachers to utilize a variety of grammar teaching approaches in their own classrooms and to foster reflective teaching practices, we have employed loop-input activities and lessons in the pedagogical grammar course we teach at our institution. Because the loop-input approach involves decompression time during which participants reflect on and evaluate the teaching strategies they have experienced, it leads to more in-depth processing of the course content. We have found this approach to be highly successful with our own teachers in training, and we hope to encourage its use in other teacher education programs.


Keck, C., & Kim, Y. (2014). Pedagogical grammar. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Nassaji, H., & Fotos, S. (2011). Teaching grammar in second language classrooms. Integrating form-focused instruction in communicative context. New York, New York: Routledge.

Woodward, T. (2003). Loop input. ELT Journal, 57(3), 301–304.

Anna Krulatz is associate professor of English at the Faculty of Teacher Education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, where she works with pre- and in-service EFL teachers. Her research focuses on multilingualism with English, pragmatic development in adult language learners, content-based instruction, and language teacher education.

Georgios Neokleous is associate professor of English at the Faculty of Teacher Education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, where he works with pre- and in-service EFL teachers. His research focuses on the use of the mother tongue in monolingual classrooms, English for academic purposes, and classroom anxiety.


New Methods

Last year, I was faced with an age-old problem: I had to figure out how to get colleagues with lots of experience and fixed ways of doing things to try new techniques. In this particular case, I was leading 2 weeks of informal workshops intended to introduce active learning techniques to coworkers in Saudi Arabia.

For me, the workshops were a catalyst for thinking about old problems of teacher training: How do we get coworkers to try new techniques? How do we move institutions with ingrained practices forward? And how hard should we push for change?

The Seminar: Introducing Active Learning

For the purpose of this article, the instructors and the institution have been kept anonymous. I have only included the details that are necessary for discussing the topic.

In this particular setting, foreign teachers had become used to using a set of lesson plans that were divided into lecture notes and practical exercises. Previously, these instructors had been encouraged to use the lesson plans as they were written without any modification.

Several administrators at my school were now introducing concepts such as student-centered learning, the flipped classroom, the project-based classroom, and the gamification of learning. For simplicity’s sake, I will categorize all of these concepts under the heading of “active learning,” because the focus was on getting instructors away from lecture-type lessons and large amounts of teacher-talk toward active, participatory classrooms.

Over a 2-week period, my goal was to expand the teachers’ familiarity with these alternatives as well as give the instructors some grounding in improvising during class and creating their own lesson plans to fit the students’ needs.

The initial part of the training was conducted over the first week in 2-hour sessions. The first 30–40 minutes of the class concerned a core concept of active and student-centered learning. During this part of the training, ideas were elicited from the participants and discussed. We used elicitation, discussions, and activities in order to model ways to introduce new concepts while limiting teacher-talk. We followed this with structured exercises in which instructors had to demonstrate what they had learned.

Typically, the instructor or group of instructors had 20 minutes of preparation time. Over the final hour, the instructors demonstrated or modeled a specific teaching concept. One exercise was for an instructor to modify an activity from the curriculum based on an expected classroom situation. The instructor might have to make the activity harder for students who were bored or easier for students who were overwhelmed, or to design their own interactive game to create a more lively classroom atmosphere. Another exercise was for instructors to introduce a concept using elicitation and activities rather than direct explanation.

The second week of the seminar, I allowed each instructor 2 hours of observed teaching in a classroom with four students from our program. The instructors were given a unit to review with the students. I encouraged, but did not require, them to use the techniques taught during the first week of the seminar. Afterward, I or another colleague gave them feedback on their lesson.

Reflections: What Went Wrong?

As one might expect, I faced resistance. Prior studies (e.g., see Borg, 2011; McLaughlin, 2013) had shown that instructor beliefs are not easily changed by short-term seminars and that even more long-term training seminars have had at most mixed impacts on instructor beliefs and practices.

However, what was interesting about my particular series of workshops was the kind of resistance I faced. Many of the instructors professed to agree with the general concepts introduced in the first week of the seminar. They were able to create new activities, modify lesson plans, and create interactive games as long as they were in the safe space of a workshop without students. They were also able to justify their choice of activities during this first week of the seminar in terms of the new concepts.

However, in the second week, when they were presented with students in our program, most instructors reverted to old habits. Many instructors didn’t plan their lessons at all because they knew the old lesson plans by rote.

So, what went wrong with the seminar? Several of my colleagues told me that they planned to use the techniques in the future—when they were ready. One colleague who had just started out explained that he wanted to become familiar with the textbook before using the new techniques. Another confessed that he simply had not had enough time to plan his lesson that week, as he had had other responsibilities.

From my discussions, it was clear that the instructors saw the first week and second week of the workshop in different ways. In the first week, they were free to try out the new methods and experiment with them because they were in a risk-free zone where they were expected to do so. However, when faced with actual students, they reverted to the safety of their original techniques.

Not a Conclusion: Open Questions

The Wrong Lessons?

Some of the administrators who had suggested the workshops proposed that instructors should be forced to put active learning into their lessons. A mandatory percentage was suggested at one point. This, I believe, is the wrong approach to introducing new teaching methods. It might be especially inappropriate for techniques that stress learner autonomy. Instructors are learners, too. And just as we shouldn’t force-feed lessons to students, instructors shouldn’t be force-fed new methods.

Incremental Changes?

The seminar came as the result of the work of several advocates of learner autonomy, the flipped classroom, and the gamification of lessons. These advocates wanted to make active learning concepts the foundation not only of the English language training portion of our school but of all the training programs at our institution. However, as I suggested after the seminar, instructors might appropriate the approaches more if they are introduced gradually.

Offer More Incentives and Fewer Guidelines?

It’s clear that institutional inertia and muscle memory were working against those who had organized the workshop, including myself. For several teachers in our program, the old ways had become easy and familiar. Perhaps a better approach would have been to include other instructors early on and provide incentives for generating ideas of their own. This approach isn’t obviously the correct one. Our active student learning enthusiasts had already generated a great deal of material in their own time (often outside working hours) and made this material shareable, thus ensuring that anyone willing to take up these approaches could easily do so. And yet their work had also ensured that other teachers felt very little at stake in the success of the project. The irony was that the theoretical foundations of much active learning research point to the need for early involvement of participants and learner choice.

Empathy: Stepping Into Someone Else’s Methods?

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked in their shoes.” As Spandler-Davison (2013) has written about his own experience teaching nonnative instructors in a rural environment, “Two of the key lessons to take away from this brief study are the importance of ‘walking in the shoes’ of the teachers you seek to train and developing a program that builds confidence.”

Unfortunately, I have been in an institutional setting where an administrator has tried to force me to teach in a specific way. The administrator made few efforts to empathize with me or get to know the reason for my classroom choices. It was uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like myself.

The same feeling might have been shared by other instructors trying out the techniques for the first time. Perhaps they really did understand the rationale for the new approaches and believed in their value, but something about actually putting them into action made them feel a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they just need time before they can feel confident using these techniques.

I went out of my way to provide examples but not force others to use any particular way of teaching. I encouraged instructors to come up with their own interpretations and ways of moving toward “active learning.” But perhaps I was still asking them to go a step too far.

Resisting a Conclusion

As you can see, the results of the seminar have left me a little perplexed, but have also opened up productive paths for inquiry. It’s still too soon to say whether the seminar will bear fruits. Sadly, I’ve moved on to another job, so I can only monitor the results from afar. But at the very least, I’ve come away from the experience with a renewed enthusiasm for experimentation in small steps, for democratizing participation of professional development, and for continuing to ask and answer questions as I progress as an instructor.


Borg, S. (2011). The impact of in-service teacher education on language teachers’ beliefs. System, 39, 370–380. Retrieved from

McLaughlin, L. (2013, April). Relevance of young learner teacher cognition for English language teacher trainers and educators. TEIS News. Retrieved from

Spandler-Davison, D. (2013, April). Training nonnative rural teachers of English: Three approaches. TEIS News. Retrieved from

Daniel Clausen has taught English as a second language, English composition, and other courses in the United States, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. He has also conducted research in the field of international relations. His work has appeared in The Diplomat, e-IR, East Asia Forum, and TheKorean Journal of International Studies, among other places. He is currently an English language instructor for Coco Juku English School in Japan.


NOTE: This article has not been copyedited due to its length.

"[T]ruth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction" – Bakhtin


Classroom observation has long been regarded as an important procedure for teacher development in the English language teaching field. However, it has been widely recognized that many teachers find classroom observation stressful and threatening (Lam, 2001; Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2011). Teachers’ negative feelings toward classroom observation are due in large part to the fact that many classroom observation procedures adhere to a top-down approach in which teachers are observed by superiors who design and implement the classroom observation process. (Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2011). In other words, teachers often have no agency in the process; they are simply subjected to it. As a result, teachers often perceive classroom observation as an intrusion rather than an opportunity for development (Lam, 2001, p. 162).

Lam (2001) notes that there are two different types of classroom observation: “one for the sake of accountability and one for development and improvement purposes” (p. 169). Often, however, these two processes are combined into one, thus preoccupying teachers with apprehension about their evaluation and inhibiting them from being able to actively reflect upon their teaching beliefs and practices. As such, in this article I focus strictly on classroom observation for the purpose of teacher development and highlight two different classroom observation models—top-down classroom observation and collegial classroom observation—arguing that collegial observation has the most potential for facilitating teacher development.

Top-Down Classroom Observation for Teacher Professional Development

In the top-down or supervisory approach to classroom observation, the observer, usually a supervisor or administrator, visits a classroom to observe a teacher with the intention of helping the instructor improve their teaching effectiveness. Oftentimes, the observation is preceded by a pre-observation conference in which goals of the observation are laid out. Afterwards, the supervisor conducts a post-observation conference and may provide feedback and suggestions on how the teacher can improve. The overall goal of this process is to help the instructor develop their teaching effectiveness by way of feedback and suggestions in a post-observation conference.

Within this model, observers are presumed to possess “superior” knowledge of teaching practices and methods and are expected to actively transmit this knowledge to teachers. Conversely, teachers are presumed to possess “inferior” knowledge of teaching practices and methods and are expected to passively receive the observer’s knowledge. Consequently, the locus of authority resides within the observer, whose knowledge, experience, and beliefs about teaching often form the basis and focal point of post-observation conferences and discussions.

This model of classroom observation is not optimal for helping teachers develop their effectiveness in the classroom for a number of reasons. First, it must be noted that teaching is a cognitive activity. Teachers are always, to some degree or another, actively thinking about their practice and making decisions based upon this thinking. As Borg (2003) states, “teachers are active, thinking decision-makers who make instructional choices by drawing on complex practically oriented, personalized, and context-sensitive networks of knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs” (p. 81). Moreover, there is agreement among researchers that teachers’ beliefs and experiences govern their instructional judgments and decisions (Borg, 2003, p. 81). The chief problem with the top-down model, therefore, is that all interaction between the teacher and the observer revolves primarily around the observer’s knowledge, not the teacher’s. Arguably, then, teachers are less likely to reflect on their teaching practices through the prism of their own knowledge and beliefs—the very notions that govern and influence their instructional practice. In effect, the observers’ comments and suggestions in the top-down model risk carrying little import, as they do not exploit teachers’ individual background knowledge and experience, which in turn limits the probability that teachers will apply the observer’s comments and suggestions to their own teaching practice.

Furthermore, many teachers find top-down classroom observation uncomfortable and threatening. For example, in a survey conducted by Lam (2001) on Educators’ perceptions of classroom observation for staff development, Lam notes that “an overwhelming majority of the respondents ranked ‘Pressure felt by teachers’ as the top difficulty that undermined the practice of classroom observation” (p. 170). Lasagabaster & Sierra (2001) also note that many teachers are unaccustomed to being observed and as a result classroom observation provokes “uneasiness, nervousness, and tension” (p. 450). Such emotions should not be easily dismissed, as anxiety and stress have the potential to impede learning, which is the overall goal of classroom observation for teacher development.

Finally, supervisors face a difficult task in defining improvement. As Gebhard (1999) states, “the relationship between teaching and learning is complex and not enough is known about how the teacher’s behavior results in student learning to specify improvement as it relates to student learning in all contexts” (p. 36). In other words, the chief metric by which teaching should be measured is student learning, and not enough is known about the relationship between instruction and learning for observers to make accurate judgments about the kinds of instruction that result in student learning outcomes. Consequently, recommendations about how a teacher should teach are subjective at best and potentially harmful at worst, for an observer cannot possibly account for the multitudinous factors in a particular classroom and how they will determine the best and most effective means of instruction.

All in all, the top-down classroom observation model is based upon an instructivist epistemology— a theory of knowledge in which teachers (the observers in this case) are the primary agents of learning, knowledge (observers’ comments) is fixed and absolute, and learners (the teachers in this case) are passive recipients of information. As noted above, these assumptions restrict teachers’ opportunities for reflection and introspection, which are among the key prerequisites for learning.

This is not to say, of course, that teachers never learn as a result of this approach, or that observers necessarily exercise authority that is threatening or stifling. Indeed, there are no doubt many instances in which observers and teachers participate in the top-down model in effective ways that produce teacher development. Still, the model itself inheres in institutional hierarchies and structures of power which position teachers as passive recipients of information, not critical and reflective professionals, and observers as owners of knowledge, whose responsibility it is to transmit their knowledge to teachers.

Collegial Observation for Teacher Professional Development

Collegial observation stands in stark contrast to top-down observation. Gebhard (1999) describes the process of collegial observation as observing “other teachers to construct and reconstruct our own knowledge about teaching and thereby learn more about our teaching attitudes, beliefs, and classroom practices” (p. 38). Within this model, colleagues observe one another, with the intention of engaging in “exploratory conversations…prior to, and after, the classroom visit” (Gray, 2012, p.234). In contrast to the top-down model, it is the teacher being observed who “leads the identification of the focus and the protocols to be observed” (Gray, 2012, p. 234). The overall goal of this process is for the observed to “see teaching differently,” allowing them to become more reflective about their teaching practice and to develop new and different means of instruction. (Gebhard, 1999, p. 38).

Practically speaking, two instructors meet one-on-one in a pre-observation conference, wherein one teacher describes the principle, method, or activity that he or she would like the observer to focus on. Next, the observer conducts an observation, aiming to observe the principle, method, or activity that the teacher he or she is observing prescribed in the pre-observation conference. Finally, the two instructors meet in a post-observation conference in which the observer offers insight and perspective based upon his or her observation and the teacher responds with his or her impressions. Again, the chief goal of this process is exploration—the exchanging of new and different ideas between two teaching professionals. There is no standardized procedure for facilitating this process, but Gray (2012), who conducted a research study on secondary teachers’ use of collegial observation in New Zealand, provides helpful pre-observation and post-observation forms that teachers can use to facilitate this process (See Appendix A and B).

The collegial observation process differs markedly from the top-down model in a number of ways. First of all, “knowledge” is construed in very different terms than within the top-down model. Rather than being a fixed, deliverable construct, knowledge is constructed, in dialogic interaction between the observer and the observed. That is, through exploratory conversations before and after the observation, teachers develop new understandings of teaching and thus new theories of how they might practice it. These new understandings are built upon teachers’ prior background knowledge, beliefs, and experiences, and as a result, they have great potential to transfer to teacher’s actual classroom practice.

Secondly, in contrast to the top-down model, teachers are autonomous over the entire collegial observation process, and thus have the authority to expand their own understanding and draw their own conclusions. There is no one telling them what they should or should not do. The consequence of this authority is increased likelihood that teachers will own—in a very personal way—the new knowledge that they gain from the observation process, and thus use it to improve their teaching effectiveness.

Finally, research clearly shows that teachers are more comfortable being observed by their peers than by a supervisor (Lam, 2001, p.171). After all, even when classroom observation is presented as a means of professional development and not appraisal or evaluation, hierarchies of authority might potentially inhibit teachers’ freedom to be active and engaged in the observation process.


The purpose of collegial observation is by no means to replace classroom observation for teacher appraisal or evaluation, nor does it preclude the need for teacher remediation. To the contrary, teacher evaluation by way of classroom observation is crucial to developing a successful instructional staff and holding teachers accountable to excellent teaching standards. Too often, however, these two processes are combined into one, thus preoccupying teachers with worry about their evaluation and inhibiting them from actively reflecting on their teaching practices. English language programs should consider implementing collegial observation for the sole purpose of professional development, with the goal of empowering their teaching cadre to be critical and reflective practitioners, in turn helping them to develop new pedagogical theories and methods of instruction with which to better serve their students.


Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: a review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching 36(2), 81 – 109.

Gebhard, J.G. (1999). Seeing teaching differently through classroom observation. In J. Gebhard & R. Oprandy (Eds.), Language teaching awareness: A guide to exploring beliefs and practices (pp. 35-58). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Gray, S. (2012). From principles to practice: collegial observation for teacher development. TESOL Journal, 3(2), 231 – 255.

Lam, S. (2001). Educators’ opinions on classroom observation as a practice of staff development and appraisal. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17,161 – 173.

Lasagabaster, D., & Sierra, J. (2011). Classroom observation: desirable conditions established by teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 34(4), 449 – 463.

Appendix A

Teaching Partner Observation Procedures for Organising Observation

Use this grid to plan your teaching partner’s observation of you class. Discuss these aspects with him or her.

Date for observation:

What principle would you like focused on in the observation of your class?

What data would you like collected so (for example, student talk, interaction that you can receive useful feedback patterns, examples of student work, on the development of that teacher talk) particular principle?

How would you like that data collected (for example, observation grids, audioin your class? or video recording, field notes, photographs)

Appendix B

Written Report for Teaching Partner After Observation

Instructions for the person who visits:

In your report for your teaching partner after observing his or her lesson:

  • Comment on the aims of the lesson as pertinent to your given agenda.
  • Include a description of the activities that were relevant to your teaching partner’s stated interests/principles/problem.
  • Do not give an interpretation of the classroom events, but rather richly describe what was going on in the lesson related to the stated interest of your partner. From the data you collected, try to give your partner a new perspective on an old problem.
  • Do give alternative ways to teach related to your teaching partner’s interests.
  • Concentrate on giving constructive feedback from another subject specialist with a language perspective.

Mitchell Goins serves as assistant ESL director at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois and teaches writing, rhetoric, and discourse at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.


On 20 January 2017, I returned with 19 preservice teachers—all graduate students in New York University’s (NYU)’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development—from an annual study abroad program that I created and led in the Dominican Republic (DR) during the January intersession. The paradox of the day was not lost on us, as we were just returning from spending 3 weeks in the DR learning about and immersing ourselves in the culture and language of the country from which many students in New York City (NYC) public schools hail, even as our newly inaugurated president was touting “America first” to the country and world. It is important that we confront this cognitive dissonance in the 21st century—the fact, and frequent celebration of, an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse population and, by extension, student body, even as many fear and try to retreat from it. Teacher education programs are an appropriate place to constructively confront this tension because teachers are on the front lines of engaging cultural and linguistic difference in our schools today. They are, by default, cultural brokers. This article thus describes the conception, goals, design, and highlights of the aforementioned study abroad program as one approach to addressing cultural diversity in teacher education.

The Demographic Imperative

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012), immigration to the United States has increased significantly since 2000 with the Latino population from the Caribbean and Central and South America leading the way. This demographic shift nationally has translated into a marked increase in English learners (ELs) in public schools across the country. At roughly 4.4 million (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016), ELs are the fastest growing segment of the K–12 student population and are predicted to represent 25% of all public school students by 2025. In NYC in particular, the most culturally and linguistically diverse city in the country, more than 3 million of its 8.4 million residents are foreign born, the largest group of approximately 380,000, or 12.4%, hailing from the DR. This is directly reflected in NYC classrooms where Dominicans are the largest Spanish-speaking population. Therefore, most NYC teachers, regardless of their subject area, are likely to have Dominican children in their classrooms. For this reason, teachers in NYC need a more in-depth understanding of Dominican culture to better serve this population.

Teacher Education Curricula

I believe bolder steps need to be taken to enrich teacher education curricula, which must go beyond including cultural diversity issues in course readings. We should bolster these readings by providing real opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers and their professors to experience “otherness”—in other words, to engage linguistic and cultural difference first hand by temporarily living and learning in the countries of their students’ origin. Thus, I led the first group of mostly MA TESOL and/or foreign language preservice teachers from NYU’s Steinhardt School on a 3-week study abroad program to the DR in 2010, and the program has run uninterrupted annually in January since then.

The program, entitled Culture and Language Learning in Real Time (CLLRT), was conceived and developed as a collaborative learning experience between Steinhardt and Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), the leading Catholic University in the DR, located in Santiago, the second largest city. The conceptual framework for the program is situated within four interrelated areas of research—second language acquisition (SLA), study abroad as a component of SLA, culturally responsive pedagogy, and intercultural competence.

Second Language Acquisition and Study Abroad

Krashen (1982) has proposed the well-known distinction between language acquisition (learning language by immersion in naturalistic settings) and language learning (formal study of language in a classroom) to explain differential outcomes in SLA. In fact, many studies in SLA have examined language learning from the learner’sperspective but have not looked at the extent to which having teachers engage in language immersion raises their sensitivity to their own students’ language learning process and how that might inform their teaching of such students.

One way for teachers to engage in language immersion is through study abroad programs, which often include specific learning objectives, such as developing competence in a foreign language; understanding how cultures and societies are formed, sustained, and evolve; and developing empathy for the values and perspectives of cultures other than one’s own. CLLRT encompasses all of these objectives, including a required language learning component.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Intercultural Competence

CLLRT is also informed by the work of researchers who have argued that culturally responsive pedagogy should be a focal point of teacher education curricula if we are to adequately prepare teachers for the growing diversity in the student population. Gay (2000, p. 29) defines culturally responsive pedagogy as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches to and through the strengths of these students.” Such pedagogy requires as a starting point certain dispositions toward learners (e.g., empathy, openness, curiosity). Furthermore, engaging students’ prior knowledge and experiences requires intercultural competence, in other words, having or seeking in-depth knowledge of students’ cultures and interacting and communicating with students in ways that are contextually appropriate and effective (Lustig & Koester, 2010). These issues are all addressed in the graduate course that is part of CLLRT.

Program Design

CLLRT is a two-part learning experience, both theoretical and experiential. Students take a three-credit Steinhardt graduate course that I teach at PUCMM, entitled Intercultural Perspectives in Multicultural Education. Topics include cultural norms and values; intercultural competence; cross-cultural communication in and beyond the classroom, including the role of race/ethnicity, class, and gender; and culturally responsive pedagogy. Prior to departure in early January, students must attend two predeparture orientations to obtain background information on PUCMM, discuss program goals, and review the course syllabus. Students are also required to read and respond to predeparture readings on differences in values, beliefs, and practices across cultures, and the history and current state of the DR to provide some context.

In addition to taking the Steinhardt graduate course, students simultaneously learn Spanish through an immersion model by taking a one-credit undergraduate-level Spanish class offered by PUCMM faculty. All students admitted to the program are required to take the Spanish class regardless of whether they know Spanish. The goal for taking the Spanish class is not to become fluent in Spanish but for these prospective teachers to experience what it feels like to be a language learner and hopefully develop empathy for the language learning challenges of ELs who are new to the United States and must learn English for schooling and survival.

The most important experiential component of the program is that students stay with Dominican host families for the entire duration of the program, which provides an authentic setting for language and cultural immersion. We also complete a number of educational tours and cultural activities across the island, all arranged by PUCMM’s Office of International Students. We visit Dominican schools, observe classes in session, and have a debriefing session with teachers to get a better understanding of the Dominican education system. We also visit museums, an orphanage, a market at the Haitian border, and the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo, among other places.

Evaluation of the Program

The program is evaluated through a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures, including the following:

  1. The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a 50-item survey instrument used to measure intercultural competence. Students complete the same survey pre- and postprogram, and then paired sample t-tests are calculated to assess changes in their intercultural dispositions.

  2. A qualitative evaluation form that I developed for the program that asks students to comment on the Spanish class, my graduate course, living with a host family, the various educational tours that we do, their overall experience in the DR, and how they would connect their experiences to their teaching.

  3. The regular Steinhardt course evaluation form.

Students always rank the homestay as the best part of their experience; they say it gives them authentic exposure to Dominicans with all of their complexities. They also experience first hand Dominican cultural values, norms, beliefs, and practices—those subjective aspects of culture that are subtle, deeply embedded, and often the most difficult aspect of teachers’ intercultural work. Participants emphasize that the visits to schools help them to understand the educational experience of Dominican children so that they can be better prepared to build on their students’ strengths and address the challenges they face in NYC schools. Students note that the Spanish class provides models of language teaching as well as shows them the pros and cons of an immersion model. Those who don’t know Spanish say that they immediately feel empathy for their beginner ELs, but they also note that they’re acutely aware of the difference between their voluntary short-term stay in the DR and the permanent residence of their immigrant children who are brought to the United States not by their own choice. Finally, students report that this experience makes them more willing and able to negotiate the uncomfortable moments of engaging students from different cultural backgrounds.


Studying abroad is one approach to helping teachers better engage with our culturally diverse students today. There are obviously many other approaches that can be equally constructive. As migration patterns continue to change and students bring new and different cultures, languages, and funds of knowledge to our schools, teacher education programs would do well to adjust their dispositions, curricula, and practices to engage our students in academically enriching and culturally responsive ways.


Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.

Lustig, M., & Koester, J. (2010). Intercultural competence: Intercultural communication across cultures (6th ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The condition of education 2016 (NCES 2016-144). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Statistical abstract of the United States, 2012. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Retrieved from statab/cats/education.html

Shondel Nero is associate professor of language education at New York University. Her work on educating speakers of Caribbean Creole Englishes and World Englishes, language and identity, and language education policy has appeared in three books and numerous scholarly journals. She also directs a study abroad program in the Dominican Republic for preservice teachers to better prepare them for practicing culturally responsive pedagogy.


Helaine W. Marshall
Long Island University-Hudson
Purchase, New York, USA

Carolina Rodriguez-Buitrago
Institución Universitaria
Colombo Americana - ÚNICA
Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

A relatively recent innovation in education, flipped learning has captured the imagination of classroom teachers across the disciplines. Our field is no exception, as evidenced by the rapid rise in conference presentations and published papers on using this approach in TESOL (e.g., Bauer-Ramazani, Graney, Marshall, & Sabieh, 2016; Kostka & Brinks Lockwood, 2015). In ESOL classrooms where the instructor is implementing flipped learning, students dedicate in-class time to language use, application of material introduced in the course, and meaningful interaction with fellow students as the instructor observes, provides feedback, and conducts informal assessments. The presentation of the lesson concept, the introduction of authentic language samples, and explanations of course procedures are provided outside of class, typically, but not exclusively, as videos prepared by the instructor, who has created or curated them. The name “flipped” learning refers to this nontraditional switching of what transpires in and out of class (Flipped Learning Network, 2014).

Teacher educators must not only keep updated on the latest developments in instructional technology, but should also model such developments by utilizing them wherever appropriate in their own instructional contexts. This has led us to flip our teacher education courses, be they linguistics, methods, or assessment focused. Having done so with positive results (e.g., Marshall, 2012), we then sought to translate the flipped learning approach to our online courses.


Online TESOL teacher education is now quite common; however, there are few such programs that embrace flipped learning as an integral part of online learning. Egbert, Herman, and Lee (2015), using a design-based research methodology, implemented flipped learning in a graduate-level TESOL methods course, and their findings indicated that, despite the challenges, online flipped instruction can lead to “a more resource-rich, student-centered approach to teacher education classrooms” (2015, p. 19). They described a model for online flipped teacher education that leverages technology and takes into account the need for a focus on procedural knowledge and instructional strategies rather than declarative knowledge as in many discipline-specific flipped courses.

Their promising study suggests the possible benefits for preparing language teachers using flipped learning. However, because the model chosen was nearly all asynchronous, it did not fully realize the potential of this approach for an online learning environment. We have developed a synchronous model of flipped learning to create real-time in-class activities and problem-solving that mirrors what we were able to accomplish when meeting our face-to-face classes.

The course reported on here was an intensive, 5-week pedagogical grammar course with 24 students, primarily certified teachers returning for a TESOL credential. Regarding their prior online learning background, 83% had taken online courses before while somewhat fewer, 66%, had taken synchronous online courses. None had yet experienced the flipped version of the synchronous online delivery. Student background and feedback data were collected via anonymous questionnaires.

Instructional Model

Although we started by flipping face-to-face courses, after some time it seemed obvious that the online environment could also be flipped. The pedagogical grammar course reported on here was the last course in the program that had yet to be delivered in either a flipped or online format. It was taught in an online synchronous flipped fashion for the first time in 2016 and represented the wedding of two previously discrete modes of course delivery: flipped learning and synchronous online learning. The resulting model became the Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach, or SOFLA.

Video lectures, a mainstay of flipped learning, were created using Zaption (now PlayPosit), which enabled the insertion of questions placed strategically throughout the lecture. Students were required to respond before the video would restart. Responses were visible to the instructor and downloadable for assessment purposes. Individual accountability was maintained in this manner and, in addition, the instructor could see which aspects of the material were challenging for the class. These learner analytics informed subsequent instruction.

In addition to implementing the traditional flipped learning model with out-of-class content delivery, we included a peer instruction in-flipcomponent, in which students taught each other through video lessons they themselves created, real-time question-and-answer sessions, and quizzes, all taking place in the virtual classroom synchronously. Through this course component, the students could practice teaching a grammar point as well as learn to place the content piece into a prerecorded video lesson. They could also see the immediate results of how well they taught their assigned area of grammar through the quiz they administered to their fellow students.

Blackboard was the materials hub for easy accessibility and 24/7 communication. In addition to serving as a repository for announcements, resources, recorded material, and assignments, Blackboard included discussion boards and wikis. Here, students could interact asynchronously between class meetings and post questions for peer response or for clarification from the instructor.

Adobe Connect was our virtual classroom, where synchronous communication took place weekly. Adobe’s affordances allowed full synchronicity facilitating the flip. Every session flowed as follows: First, students joined the session and “signed in” on a whiteboard by contributing their ideas about the instructional video they had watched in preparation for the session. Second, students collaborated on exercises that applied the concepts from the video lecture, guided by the instructor. Third, students moved into the virtual breakout rooms, where they worked in small groups, either to do a task assigned by the instructor or to conduct the peer instruction in-flip lessons referred to earlier. Finally, the students returned to the “main room” for sharing each other’s group work and writing an individual take-away on a whiteboard for reflections. All sessions were recorded for further review or absentees, and materials created in Adobe were posted to Blackboard.


Data from the pre-, mid-, and postcourse questionnaires provided us with insight into each element of the implementation as well as student perceptions of their experience in this new instructional delivery mode. The course component that students enjoyed most was the real-time class in Adobe Connect. One student noted, “I have taken online courses before but not with as much interaction as this one.” Another compared our class to her other course that semester, stating, “I am currently taking an online course through another institution that doesn’t have a specific meeting time and I am not enjoying it as much.” Asked about the Adobe e-platform, 95% of students responded that they agreed or strongly agreed to the instructor’s use of Adobe Connect enhancing their learning.

The use of technology was a highlight of the approach. Most students were new to the tools that were used. One student said, “The webcam and audio are amazing and the breakouts are engaging. It is truly technology at its best for learning.” When asked what contributed most to their learning, many students cited the breakout room activities in Adobe and, especially, the peer instruction component. In fact, because they viewed the instructor's interactive video lessons and then also had to make one of their own, they saw the potential of flipping for their own teaching. One student said, “I really enjoyed learning how to use Screencast-o-Matic. I plan to use this technology with my own students.” When asked how they felt about learning through video lessons, before the course about 50% said they liked it somewhat, but by the end, nearly 100% reported liking to learn through video. In terms of the flipped learning approach, 75% of the students preferred this to traditional online classes and would recommend it to other students.

Student feedback also cited the challenges of this course delivery format and the difficulties encountered. Most students noted their constant struggle to gain control over the many new uses of technology while simultaneously mastering the course content. They also mentioned the glitches that nearly always occur with online courses, and even more so when there is a robust synchronous component as in this model.

Future Directions and Implications

As teacher educators, we must provide our students with the knowledge and skills needed to implement and evaluate innovative approaches. There is a need to look at the affordances and the challenges of online flipped learning with a view to gaining insight into what makes it more or less effective in various teaching contexts. We might, for example, follow up with students who have experienced flipped learning in their teacher education programs and/or have been trained in how to implement it in their own language classrooms. Another promising direction is to look at teacher education programs that train teachers for English as a foreign language settings specifically, as they may be more likely to select a synchronous online model, such as SOFLA, for flipping their instruction in non-English-speaking learning environments.

The class reported on here sets the stage for such research and demonstrates some of the unique possibilities of robust synchronous online flipped learning in TESOL teacher education.


Bauer-Ramazani, C., Graney, J. M., Marshall, H. W., & Sabieh, C. (2016). Flipped learning in TESOL: Definitions, approaches, and implementation. TESOL Journal, 7(2), 429–437.

Egbert, J., Herman, D., & Lee, H. (2015). Flipped instruction in English language teacher education: A design-based study in a complex, open-ended learning environment. TESL-EJ, 19(2), n2.

Flipped Learning Network. (2014). The four pillars of F-L-I-P. Retrieved from

Kostka, I., & Brinks Lockwood, R. (2015). What’s on the Internet for flipping English language instruction? TESL-EJ, 19(2), n2.

Marshall, H. W. (2012, October). Three reasons to flip your blended classroom. Paper presented at 18th Annual SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning, Buena Vista, FL.

Helaine W. Marshall is professor of education at Long Island University-Hudson, where she teaches courses in TESOL, linguistics, and multicultural education. Her research interests include culturally responsive teaching, instructional technology, and nontraditional approaches to grammar teaching. She has published in the TESOL Journal and Urban Review, among others. She serves on the boards of the NYS TESOL Journal and the Flipped Learning Network.

Carolina Rodriguez-Buitrago is professor of education at Institución Universitaria Colombo Americana - ÚNICA and also teaches at Universidad de La Sabana in Colombia. Her research interests include blended learning, instructional technology, and course design. She is associate editor for GiST - Education and Learning Research Journal.


English in a Latin-American Country

Learning English as a foreign language (EFL) brings many advantages to students. In Ecuador, our students being Non-native speaking (NNS) do not have opportunities to practice the language outside their classrooms. Thus, it is advisable that teachers include in their lesson plans the four skills of the language: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

In Ecuador, the government included English in the primary school curriculum starting in 2016. The Ecuador Ministry of Education (2016) states the main goal of learning English “…is to set the foundation for forming competent, autonomous, and critical readers, speakers, and writers…[and] to communicate ideas, learn to learn, and deepen and enrich their knowledge base.” However, there are several difficulties. First, there is a need for teachers specialized in English language teaching; the government is trying to solve this problem with the Time to Teach in Ecuador Project, which provides benefits for foreign teachers who stay in Ecuador to teach for a certain period of time. Second, the strategies implemented to help teachers improve their English proficiency may only show results in the long term. Third, there are about 30 students in each class. This makes it hard to develop spoken and written communicative activities, especially for student teachers. Lastly, there are not many resources, especially in public in schools, to motivate students to learn the language.

Despite all these difficulties, our teachers’ mission and vision is to help students in their learning process. Thus, they welcome different activities and exercises that they can plan and develop in their rooms to motivate their pupils.

Visuals to Promote Speaking and Writing Activities

Wright (as cited in Contreras, Niño, & Pérez, 2015) confirms that visuals help to 1) raise interest and motivation, 2) provide a sense of the context to EFL classes, and 3) set a specific reference starting point or stimulus. In order to help teachers to improve students’ writing with no extra cost or investment and using at-hand resources, teachers can use the visuals that come with their EFL textbooks.

Teachers in all educational institutions have a textbook. These books contain a variety of photographs, drawings, and illustrations that most of the time are not exploited by teachers. In a study by Briones-Huayamave and Ramírez-Avila (2011), the researchers found that teachers led traditional classes in which they utilized translation or mechanical repetition, worked with the best students, and dominated monologues—practices that might not help every student to improve their language or even practice something during their English classes. It is important to mention that those observations were done at English classes of two different high schools located in two provinces.

Regarding writing, Harmer (2007) suggests building a habit from lower levels with easy and enjoyable activities. He indicates that this writing habit will help students later explore written genres with enthusiasm and increased involvement. I strongly believe that using visuals on a daily basis will help teachers and students to create such a habit.

Let’s Get Started

The primary idea is to begin with students labeling the objects found in each photo or visual. After this is complete, teachers can write lists on the board and make a quick pronunciation drill, and following this they can start exploring sentences using those words. The sentences can be very simple at the beginning, and, with time, teachers can add complexity according to how students develop in their tasks.

Depending on the content focus, teachers can:

  • highlight themes (colors, professions, weather, and places),
  • work with parts of speech,
  • create different kinds of sentences (simple, compound, complex),
  • focus on tenses, or
  • adapt the content to students’ contexts (e.g., What would you do in this situation? Where would you be in the picture? What would you be doing?).

These tasks can be grouped in pre-, during, and postactivities. The preactivities should be done by describing or eliciting what students see in the picture. In the second stage, teachers can

  • have students label the pictures;
  • write words on the board, then asks students to listen and repeat;
  • ask students to spell the words;
  • have students classify the words (e.g., parts of speech) so that they learn the order of words and their function in the sentences;
  • model simple sentences so that students know the order of the words and can later create their own sentences.

For postactivities, teachers can

  • ask students to switch papers and read their classmates’ work to one another;
  • tell students to assess another’s work (provide them with a rubric or model the activity in advance);
  • create a group game in which students write sentences according to the number of words, part of speech, or tense requested;
  • assess students’ work with a rubric that had previously been shared with the class;
  • introduce punctuation; or
  • make corrections.

Enjoy the activities in your classes and report the results!


Briones-Huayamave, M. K., & Ramírez-Avila, M. R. (2011). Implementing instructional coaching using a partnership philosophy model to train teachers in reading skills. Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador: Obtenido de Universidad Casa Grande.

Contreras, K. G., Niño, M., & Pérez, L. A. (2015). Using pictures series technique to enhance narrative writing among ninth grade students at Institución Educativa Simón Araujo. English Language Teaching, Vol. 8, 45–71.

Ecuador Ministry of Education, (11 January 2016). It is time to teach in Ecuador project. Retrieved from

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. Essex, England: Pearson Education.

María Rossana Ramírez-Avila is currently coordinating a Master Program in Pedagogy of National and Foreign Languages. She was a consultant for primary and high schools for about 8 years. She also supervised eight teachers at an English language school.



de Oliveira, L. C. (Ed.). (2013). Teacher education for social justice: Perspectives and lessons learned. Charlotte, NC: Information Age. 162 pp.

In the 2013 edited volume, Teacher Education for Social Justice: Perspectives and Lessons Learned, de Oliveira builds on Cochran-Smith’s (2010) theory of teacher preparation, which emphasizes how preservice teachers learn to teach social justice through “subject matter, pedagogy, culture, language, the sociocultural contexts of schooling, and the purpose of education” (p. 459). This book is organized into four thematic sections: 1) the diversification of the teaching force, 2) the inclusion of social justice in the preparation curriculum, 3) the university-school partnership as a context for social justice education, and 4) the promotion of educational outcomes.

The book’s contributors underscore the value of integrating social justice concepts into teacher preparation. It frames the challenges regarding the advocacy for equity in schools and communities. Multiple perspectives on different social justice practices not only enrich dialogues related to culturally and linguistically diverse students, but also reveal potential frameworks for designing effective coursework in teacher education.

Despite the breadth of topics presented, coverage seems a bit uneven. First, despite the inclusion of concrete theoretical frameworks in Chapter 4, critical inquiry into diversity, power, and privilege is insufficient. Such inquiry composes a necessary foundation for challenging systemic inequity and for embodying socially just teacher education. A critical analysis of educational systems, teachers’ dispositions, and sociocultural inequality is indispensable. Second, arguments about recruitment, selection, and retention of teacher educators and teacher candidates could move beyond superficial concerns for diversity in preparation programs and schools to include detailed descriptions regarding the process of hiring and selecting candidates. Finally, the use of a hypothetical course as an example in Chapter 10 is puzzling. It may lead readers to question whether there is any evidence of successful social justice curricula in classrooms.

Although the authors do not answer many of the questions that they call into being, the volume is a solid contribution to the ongoing debate of reframing teacher education. The book closes by emphasizing the impact of testing policies on culturally and linguistically diverse students from the perspectives of teachers, administrators, and advocators. It also pinpoints what happens when accountability through testing loses sight of multiculturalism and social justice concerns.


Cochran-Smith, M. (2010). Toward a theory of teacher education for social justice. In M. Fullan, A. Hargreaves, D. Hopkins, & A. Lieberman (Eds.), The international handbook of educational change (pp. 445–467). New York, NY: Springer.

Amy Yun-Ping Chen received her PhD in curriculum and instruction from Saint Louis University, Missouri. Her research emphasizes the study of multicultural and social justice teacher education.



Teacher Education Interest Section Call for TEIS News Submissions

Deadline 30 April 2017

TEIS News encourages submission of articles and book reviews on training programs or education program topics of significance to teacher educators. We also solicit TEIS voices from all of our members.


Articles should be between 800 and 1,750 words and may address program descriptions, course descriptions, best practices, teaching techniques, or any topic of interest to ESOL teacher educators that pertains to teacher training. The focus of the article should be on teacher education, teacher training programs, or instructor professional development.

Book Reviews

Book reviews of between 300 and 500 words should provide the reviewer's analysis of books that are relevant to the practice and theory of teacher education. For book suggestions and/or further guidelines, please contact the book review editor, Jillian Baldwin Kim.

TEIS Voices

TEIS voices are paragraphs of approximately 100 words that introduce a teacher educator's work or program. TEIS voices serve as a networking tool as well as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a teacher, program, or country we might not otherwise read about.

Additional Guidelines

Here are additional submission guidelines:

  • Include a title for the article (written in ALL CAPS).
  • Include author’s name, affiliation, city, country, and email address.
  • Include a 50-word abstract or teaser for the newsletter homepage.
  • Include a 2- to 3-sentence biography of the author.
  • Include no more than five citations.
  • Format text in MS Word (.doc(x)) or rich text (.rtf).
  • Include author’s photo in jpeg format with a head-and-shoulder shot.
  • Write manuscript according to APA style (6th ed.).

Please send article and voice contributions to Fatma Ghailan.Please send book review submissions to Jillian Baldwin Kim.