it a Challenge Teaching English to Students in Vocational
Schools? by Marjorie Rosenberg
This article appeared in the ELT News, Issue 42, October,
2000, published by Teachers of English in Austria/The British
worked for the past 10 years in the training of vocational
school teachers, I felt this question should be addressed
in order to define appropriate methodology used to prepare
teachers for their work in vocational schools. Training of
teachers takes part at both the 'Berufspädogogishe Akademie'
(BPA) and the 'Pädagogisches Institut', implying the
necessity to discover which methods should be incorporated
into a training module at the BPA. Unlike other educational
facilities in Austria for modern secondary schools and grammar
schools, there is no clear definition of pre-service and in-service
training for the vocational school teachers who teach English.
Because vocational school teachers are not actually 'English
teachers', the majority of teachers who attend the 'Vorbereitungslehrgang'
at the BPA had already had some experience in teaching English
although most of them have not received any formal training
as English teachers.
with the beginning of a new 'Lehrgang', we decided to make
some changes in our goals and subsequently the structure of
the training module in order to bring the training more in
line with the reality of the school day. In order to find
out what happens in schools I interviewed several English
teachers by asking them several questions. The questions and
the answers I received are printed below.
1) Are your students motivated? How can you help their
At the beginning of the year they were not motivated.
I tried to motivate them by answering the question, 'Why should
I learn a foreign language at all?'
English is fun for most students; they see it as necessary
to understand pop music and for their holidays. I motivate
them by using authentic situations that come up in shops or
workshops. Part of the lessons are held in the 'training shop'
at school and we teach some of the specialized subjects, such
as sales techniques in English.
Most students are not motivated. We can motivate them
by teaching only general topics because they feel this is
the English they need.
Older students who have already completed an apprenticeship
in another field ask for more job-related topics in English.
How do you teach to different levels of students?
Sometimes I divide the group into beginners and advanced
students (if there are about 50% in each group).
We form mixed ability groups - we provide different
tasks for different levels.
We give advanced students extra work and have them
help the beginners.
We prepare the topics differently for different levels.
I use almost the same methods, but gear them to different
levels. For example, a game can be used to teach various grammar
structures or vocabulary to different levels of students.
Do you teach differently to different learner types?
We try to prepare our lessons so that every type of
learner is involved.
We have been aware for a long time that each pupil
learns differently and we create lessons to accommodate these
I try to offer different types of learners (visual,
auditory and kinesthetic types) a chance to understand the
material in the form in which they prefer it.
4) Is there support for English from school authorities,
companies, the BPA and the PI?
Teachers must be pro-active, take advantage of courses,
seminars, offers, etc.
Teachers must be ready to make suggestions as well.
Yes, there is a little help from the P.I.
We get help from our colleagues.
What types of teaching materials are available in your school?
Do you need a lot of supplementary material or do you have
what you need?
Most schools have a budget for materials - teachers
can make recommendations concerning what should be bought
for the school.
We have a library and a collection of grammar materials.
We have videos, songs, cooperative games
SThe supplementary material we use are magazines, the internet,
material we collected on trips to the U.K.
What would you say is one of the most challenging things about
Motivating my students.
Making sure that students enjoy learning.
Most of the students don't want to be in school. It
is our task to make them understand the importance of what
they learn with us and how it can help them to be successful
in their future careers.
looking directly at the problems faced in this field, it is
clear that we teacher trainers have an even greater challenge
to face. It is absolutely necessary for us to present more
possibilities and materials which teachers can use, give teachers
ideas which they can adapt to their particular teaching situation
and work on helping teachers build their own self-confidence.
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