EFL Colleges Management by Piotr Jednaszewski

EFL Management is all what I would call the EFL institution leader contribution to the development of his organisation in terms of:

  • Manager contribution within the system

  • The management realities

  • Perspective Management

  • Personal Development

For organisations, if not for academics, the key purpose of any organisation theory or approach is to help them analyse and rectify the weaknesses and problems of their current situation, and to assist them in bringing about the changes necessary to achieve future objectives. Not surprisingly many managers look for simple, foolproof solutions.(1)

In this article I would like to focus on Manager’s contribution within the system as this is the main root from which grow out such issues like: perspective and development. The realities shape our vision of the surrounding world. Hence the way of perceiving the world is very individual and can be shaped through personal retrospective on achieved experience, knowledge and outcoming from them possibilities. The article presented below shows the way of development approachable for every Teacher – Manager as I firmly believe.

Manager’s contribution within the system

Through my college work I tried to find, with many ups and downs, the right balance in my personal contribution into the:

  1. teaching methods used by my teachers, recommended by me and expected by students

  2. books and teaching materials preferred by the students, but not always by teachers and vice versa

  3. teachers’ and students’ expectations

In all of three above mentioned issues I could not find the faultless managerial tools apart from talking and discussing with people which could enable me to find the right balance between the needed and the expected. According to Bhaskar, ‘the purpose of an experiment is to isolate one mechanism, which normally operates alongside others, so as to create a closed system where a given cause will always produce the same effect’(2) To do so my colleague teachers and I have prepared a model questionnaire for students, which was to enable us to check if our understanding – teachers and managers understanding of students participation in the programme is the same as the learners’ expectations. The questionnaire included the following questions:

Why are you on the language course?

What would you like to learn?

These two questions seemed to sound similar but the answers were in 85% out of a 100 questioned students different. As for the first one, there were reasons like having a better job, passing international exam, getting better mark at the A level exam. Then, for the second question, the answers were divided into two distinguishingly different groups. The first group of 68% answered that they would like to communicate fluently in the international environment and use English in their everyday life, whereas the second group of 38% was strongly motivated in learning grammar rules, doing tests and not wasting time on speaking because of the international and A-level exams assessment. Having the mixture of students in seven out of ten tested classes created a hard job for teachers where to put the right balance not having the students – College customers complaining and disturbing one another on the course. So the new system had to be created, which could enable both groups to become more motivated in developing all language skills and show the concerned students that not only separated skills play a role in their further language development but that all of the language skills are essential. The system or rather the new motivation programme was divided into two stages.

First stage

Teachers were asked to talk to students and lead that talk as an open discussion starting from asking questions on:

What do you expect from the course?

Where do you plan to use English?

And then going to more guided questions like:

Do you think that you will not need writing or speaking and why ?

How can writing improve speaking? (followed by an open discussion)

How can reading improve writing?

Why is proper usage of grammar essential in everyday talks / business talks?

What language is the most popular in business world?

What language is used in business and science documents all round the world? Could you provide some examples?

The discussions in particular groups took no more than 10 to 15 minutes and it was of a crucial role that teachers developed a relationship with the students in order to make them feel more relaxed and open as it is recommended and conducted in research methods in business studies (3)and finally to arise students’ interest in broadly understood language development. With arising students` interest through discussions, students could reflect upon the issues of language usage and register, development of different language skills and their needs known or not known to them. Moreover, research methods used for business studies proved to be the right tool not only for obtaining the feedback from the students but also as part of the educational and student language development instrument and that was also present in the second stage of the created EFL managerial practice.

Second stage

The second stage was based on explaining the reason for doing the particular exercises to students and that explaining was carried on for the next two months. Explaining in such a way that students were not only taught i.e. READING for a gist and specific information when the task was established but also it was always said that the task is important for developing the students ability to use the new vocabulary in communication. Those explanations were supported with the class activities followed by the group discussions.

That “tricky” practice was conducted to meet the expectations of both groups and make them feel satisfied. Meet the expectations because those who wanted to use only grammar and reading were sufficiently convinced to work on the provided exercises, whereas the communicationparty needed the philosophy which would bring their expectations into the point of working on something different than initially expected. The word “tricky” might not be the best because of its negative connotation, as here the aim was also to arise students’ interest in the development of other language skills for the benefit of the overall language progress. As Kolb says: ‘learning might start with the experience of an event or stimulus, which the individual then reflects upon in trying to make sense of it’ (4)

The same reading language practice was always set in a way that after pre-teaching the new words pronunciation, practice was carried to give the communication orientated students the idea that their expectations are fulfilled and also improve students` communication, listening and vocabulary skills.

As the colleges are the language institutions which have to earn money for paying their teachers we could not afford having a group of mixed expectation students who would not be guided as presented before. Therefore, I have based the presented method on the analysis of the situation from the previous years, when complaining individuals were coming to director’s office and in spite of being explained the reasons for the usage of teaching methods still had a lower but existing tendency to complain or at least did not participate actively in the provided programme.

On the other hand, it was also crucial to have employees, i.e. teachers of English, fully involved in that system by means of discussions, generating ideas and having their commitment as a quality generated within our program (5) Moreover, it should be mentioned that the attitude of native speakers towards implementing those changes was more open and creative than some of the other teachers at the beginning, however, during the staff meeting and teachers` group discussions all teachers seemed to contribute well to the programme.

Thanks to the applied method I could also observe the drastic change in the number of students continuing the program. In the years 1996-1999 the number of students continuing the program was as indicated below.

Academic year

No of student in the college

Percent of students continuing

1996-1997

70

80%

1997-1998

80

70%

1998-1999

80

70%

 

In the academic year 1999-2000 the method was implemented and the percent of students continuing the program have risen.

Academic year

No of students in the college

Percent of students continuing

1999-2000

100

85%

2000-2001

120

90%

2001-2002

160

90%

It was clear that there were also other reasons which could have paid a crucial role in the indicated numbers. Therefore, before the end of every semester students are traditionally asked if they are going to continue the course on the basis: “yes/no and why?” As in the years 1996 – 1999 there were 35 applications out of 230 stating that there should be more practice on speaking or reading, generally indicating the development of particular skills, then in years 1999 – 2002 there were 9 applications out of 380 stating that more conversation or grammar should be incorporated into the language practice. Therefore I believe it should be remembered the presented method is to be used exclusively for developing all language skills not promoting teachers’ preferences. The individual teacher’s tendency of misusing this method can be limited through the right curriculum, contact with students, class observation and progress tests.

So, as the research presented above shows, the teachers should be asked to accept the interdependency that exists between the teaching and all the other operational aspects of a language institution which are crucial for the overall right functioning of that micro educational system. However, we should be aware of the fact that it is only one of the aspects of management needed for the big cake to taste well.

(1) Burnes, B. (1996). Managing Change. London: Pitman Publishing, 46.
(2) Johnson, P., & Duberley, J. (2000). Understanding Management Research . London: SAGE Publications, 32.
(3) Ghauri, P., & Gronhaug, K. (2002). Research Methods in business Studies . Edinburgh: Pearson Education, 45-52.
(4) Gill, J., & Johnson, P. (1991). Research Methods for Managers . London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd, 120-121.
(5) Mabey, C., & Iles, P. (1994). Managing Learning . London and New York in association with The Open University, 54-65.

Biodata

Piotr Jednaszewski is a methodologist, graduated with degrees: Doctor of Philosophy, TEFL, American University of London Master of Art in Education and Professional Development (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), University of East Anglia Master in Science in Engineering, Post Graduate Diploma in Management and Marketing, Post Graduate Diploma in Education and Professional Development. For 10 years he has been language counselor, proofreader and has been preparing managerial staff for international talks. English teacher: - preparing for negotiations, business plans and projects presentations - English for Banking - English for Lawyers - General English - preparing for University of Cambridge exams From 1992 Director of Diplomat Colleges in Poland
email: st_university@hoga.pl

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