In April of 2013, World Learning / SIT Graduate Institute in partnership with AMIDEAST delivered a Professional Certificate in English Language Teaching (PCELT) course in Tunis, Tunisia. The course was part of a larger project being funded by the GE foundation that involves teacher training and training of trainers throughout the MENA region (Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia, Iraq and Morocco). The Tunisian course participants represented university professors from all regions of the country who teach a variety of subject matter. As part of the program, we asked participants to write a final statement of their key learning during the course. Zeineb DEMI-GHERIANI was kind enough to share her statement for our blog to provide a window into the kind of learning that happens on the PCELT program. Enjoy!
After one month of PCELTing, I am going back home with my head full of insights and doubts! I am no longer the teacher I had been. Am I not suffering from a problem of pedagogical identity? Who am I now? A deep voice in me calls me, “Don’t bother yourself you are just a better teacher, learner, and researcher!”
The PCELT, or rather the experiential approach behind it, has given me a more efficient lens to have a clearer vision of what is going on in my classroom. Now, I have learnt to learn my students and put them at the heart of the learning process. Every single activity or task has to take into account the learners’ needs and their preferred learning styles. I have begun to rethink giving and receiving feedback to and from my students. Although it is not always possible to give immediate feedback, trying to deliver it before it is too late prevents the mistake from becoming difficult to repair. Moreover, the feedback should be clear and straightforward for the student in order to be constructive. Assessment should also be constructive and not destructive. I’m in the process of considering how to implement a low-stake learner-centered ongoing assessment which value’s student progress. I’ve discovered that I prefer formative or informal testing rather than summative high-stake numerical assessment.
I have learnt also from the PCELT training how to prepare my students to demonstrate their learning and how to help them use the language in real life situations. All the activities, the teaching techniques, materials and aids should be designed with “this final learning activity in mind.” For the same reason, time allocated to the use stage, should exceed the time allocated to the two previous stages: the preparation and practice stages as Moran (1981) suggested. Accordingly, I should reconsider the “segregated approach” we are used to. Focusing on only one skill regardless of meaning and language use and teaching language for the language’s sake is not a realistic approach since it does not mirror the richness and complexity of the language use in real life (Oxford, 2001). It sounds rather mechanical, tasteless, meaningless, and leads to nowhere. It does not promote the natural, fluent and communicative use of language in real life. I should therefore, tweak my lesson whatever skill it highlights (whether reading, writing, grammar, ect.) in a way that it could serve the learner’s connection and interaction to the outside world and not just confine the language point or topic within the classroom’s walls. The fluent use stage (the F) in the ECRIF (www.ecrif.com) framework has to receive a special focus. Even Grammar can be taught to serve communication. An integrated-skill grammar lesson can begin by a speaking activity to help the learners encounter the language point through contextualization, and can end by a writing or speaking activity simulating a real life situation where the learner has to fluently and meaningfully use the learned language point.
In the PCELT training, I have learnt also that there is no right or wrong teaching and learning method. Teaching is an ongoing workshop where the teacher keeps experimenting, observing, analyzing, planning and re-planning and reflecting upon all that. Kevin Giddens, my PECELT trainer, even suggested the Do-Nothing Teaching (DNT) approach (www.kevingiddens.wordpress.com) and asked teachers to take a critical pause to reflect on what unnecessary pedagogical practice could be “peeled away” to better serve the student’s learning process. There is always a room for creativity, just test and see! Huberman (1995) said that “teachers who invested consistently in classroom-level experiments or ‘productive tinkering’ were more likely to be ‘satisfied’ later on in their careers than others” (p. 205).
The PCELT training has benefited me as a learner and researcher as well. Now, armed with the Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1984), I can identify and notice any issue, analyze it, draw conclusions/generalizations, make a hypothesis and determine action plans, and so on.
To sum up the PCELT course, intensive and demanding as it has been, it is itself a wonderful experiential journey with multiple lessons to learn about pedagogy and life as well.
Kolb, D (1984). Experiential learning as the science of learning and development.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Huberman, M. (1995). Networks That Alter Teaching: conceptualizations, exchanges and
experiments. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and practice, 1(2), October 1995, 193-211.
Moran, P. (1981). A framework for language teaching. School for International Training.
Oxford, R. (2001). Integrated skills in the ESL/EFL classroom. ERIC Digest. 6(1).1-7.
Zeineb DEYMI-GHERIANI is currently a higher education assistant at the Higher Institute of Human Sciences in Medinine, Tunisia. She is also an English online tutor at the Virtual University of Tunis. She got her DEA (the equivalent of MA) in linguistics in 2005, from the University of Manouba, Tunisia, and she is at the last stage in her Ph D thesis project which is entitled: Toward an Effective Online English Teaching Strategy. Zeineb’s current scientific preoccupation is on the area of e-learning. She participated in a number of workshops and trainings on the subject and experienced the online mode of learning herself as a student in the Swiss Coselearn program at the end of which she got the SEL certificate (Specialist in E-learning) in 2010. Lately, Zeineb has got the Professional Certificate of English Language Teaching (PCELT) from the Amideast, Tunis, in collaboration with World Learning/SIT.