A web site for the developing language teacher

July 2006 - issue 7/06


Welcome to the July Newsletter.

This month we welcome Frank Farmer to our article section with an article about professionalism within ELT. Frank takes a look at the training & development aspects of professionalism - the complete article is reproduced below.

I'm sure that all readers of this newsletter would like to see more professionalism within ELT & ideas & debate on this area are always welcome. Slowly over the years ELT has changed for the better but it has been, & still is, an uphill struggle. Among those who seriously undermine professionalism from within ELT are schools who offer supposedly 'recognised' training courses, when in fact they are only recognised by the people who actually give the course. People new to ELT are hoodwinked into handing over their cash only to find they have wasted their money when they look for a job. This blatant dishonesty needs countering &, together with legal action when possible, information needs to be directed towards newcomers so that they can make informed decisions on training routes. Much more information from the boards offering recognised qualifications, as well as each of us when the opportunity arises, could go some way to diminishing this situation.

James Frith joins us again with an article this time about how he helped his learners develop their listening skills through using authentic video.

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Happy teaching!




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A Professional View Of Teacher Training and Development by Frank Farmer


Eldridge (2005) gives an insightful analysis of what such commonly used terms as professionalism, professional development, teacher development and teacher training may mean in an ELT context. He goes on to show how these definitions may generate conflicts of interest for trainees, trainers and institutions.

In this article, teacher training and development will be explored from a professional standpoint as a tool for resolving these conflicts of interest.


Eldrige’s view of professionalism is not unusual, and perhaps can ultimately be traced back to Goode’s (1969) account. Goode makes a list of the requirements for professionalism under the general headings of Professional knowledge and the Service ideal, and includes extended descriptions of all the usually accepted requirements of knowledge, skills and attitudes as well as the professional organizations needed to define and enforce standards. Goode holds that these are ‘generating traits’; that is, if a group of workers acquires these characteristics, it becomes professional. The causal link in this view is not proven. May it not be the case that professional approaches to the delivery of expert services in fact generate the observable attributes of professionalism?

Dingwall and Fenn (1987) examine professionalism in this light and show how professionalism may work as a socio economic system for the accountable delivery of expert services. The fundamental problem with expert services is that at first glance the expert holds all the cards. They claim to have the knowledge skills and attitudes to solve the client’s problem, but the client has no way of knowing whether the service could have been better, or just as good but cheaper, or whether undesirable outcomes could have been avoided. The client is vulnerable because of the difficult nature of the problems that are brought before professional advisers and the practical, emotional and financial consequences of failure to solve them. Each client’s problem is unique, and there is no book or web page that the client can consult to challenge professional advice. Dingwall and Fenn (1987: 61) point out that ‘the judgement of the professional stabilizes the unpredictable into a basis sufficiently reliable for human action’. That is their job.

These professional activities are controlled by society in two main ways. The most fundamental is the law suit for negligence or incompetence. Because professionals have to diagnose clients’ problems as well as framing them in a way that makes them soluble, they cannot resort to ‘small print’ to limit their responsibility. The problem with the law suit is that it only applies after something has gone wrong, and in any case needs the testimony of the professional peers of the accused expert to give evidence. Society’s second defence, then, is some kind of official recognition of the qualifications required for practice. But this too has problems. Charlatans can be well meaning as well as fraudulent, and the claims of any group of workers to be the only people able to solve difficult problems need to be examined very closely. Monopoly of practice can only be granted reluctantly and provisionally, and not to protect practitioners but to protect vulnerable clients.

This view proposes a strong position for professional bodies. A professional body is needed to make the argument in the first place for monopoly of practice to protect a vulnerable public. It is needed to act as gatekeeper so that only competent persons enter the profession, and to act as policeman against members who fail to uphold the standards of the profession. Competent members cannot be protected by the professional body if it does not cooperate fully in the discipline of incompetent members. Failure to do so would result in the loss of monopoly of practice. The Architects Registration Board (undated), for instance, gives its mission statement as ‘protecting the consumer and safeguarding the reputation of architects’. Contrary to popular belief, there is no conflict of interest in serving this dual function.

Professionalisation as a process has been described in two very different ways by Wilensky (1964) and Abbott (1991). Wilensky, examining evidence from a range of professions, sees it as a bottom up process in which practitioners sharing appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes establish their competence in the eyes of the public, start a university level training programme, and finally apply for full professional status and monopoly of practice. Abbott cites evidence from the development of the medical profession in the USA to suggest that the whole apparatus of professional organization and education resulted from the imposition of mandatory regulation by the government as a top down process. However these opposing views come closer together if we accept that at the beginning of the process Abbott describes the distinction between real medical doctors and quacks was already clear, so that government would be negligent in not acting quickly to protect the public.

Professionalism in ELT

The issue, as has been shown, is not the protection of ‘qualified’ practitioners from losing their jobs to the unqualified, but rather the protection of vulnerable clients. The first question then is, are our clients practically, emotionally and financially vulnerable? Perhaps a case can be made for all three, as the consequences of failure to learn English do indeed have an impact in all of these in many parts of the world. The second question is more difficult. Who are the ‘qualified’ ELT practitioners and can they show that only they can do the job? One way of thinking about this may be to consider different routes towards qualified ELT practitioner status and to see where the locus of control in gatekeeper and police functions may lie.

One route towards qualified practitioner status may be through a mix of native speaker language skills, personal commitment, and in service training and development. People enter ELT for all sorts of reasons, but that does not automatically imply a lack of commitment. An example may be an educated native speaker, with a period of on the job training followed by something more formal like ICELT or DELTA. Although there may well be benefits to the practitioner in getting a qualification, it is not clear that clients benefit. After all, the practitioner entered without relevant qualifications, so that is presumably true of others in the organization too. The employing institution is in this case acting as both gatekeeper and policeman, and the criteria applied are not those of a professional organization.

Entry through academic qualifications is no better, in professional terms. Academics are supposed to be able to review the literature and contribute to it. But these skills have little to do with professional practice, and again the gatekeeper and policeman is the employing institution.

These gatekeeper and policing activities are not necessarily misplaced in institutions that value teacherly lore and skills. The teaching and learning of languages does in fact proceed, with some degree of success. Arguably, it is through the dedication of practicing teachers engaging in their own development that the teaching of languages comes closest to being a truly professional activity. It is a heartening thought, but unfortunately quite unfounded.

The problem with teacher craft is that it mainly serves the needs of teachers, and teacher needs are not the same as learner needs. Teachers need to be able to plan their work so that it fits into a working day, and carry out activities that make sense to them, both instinctively and in accordance with their preferred reading. Perhaps the gap between teacher and learner needs in a professional sense can best be illustrated by considering a short scenario, a hypothetical situation.

A learner enrolls in a school of English, is assigned to a group, attends faithfully and does all that the teacher asks, but makes poor progress and fails the final exam. Meanwhile, unknown to the teacher, the student has obtained a place in a British university and only needs an average score of 6.5 in IELTS to confirm both funding and the university place. On the strength of being enrolled in an English course in a good (and expensive) school, the student books an IELTS test but fails to achieve the required score. The teacher is in court facing charges of negligence and incompetence.

The law sets great store by the views of the reasonable person, and like everyone else, judges’ images of the reasonable person are modeled on him or herself. It will therefore occur to their lordships to ask the following questions:

  • What did the teacher do to discover the client’s purpose for taking classes?
  • What did the teacher do to ascertain whether the course offered might assist in those goals?
  • What did the teacher do to discover the client’s learning ability, limitations and potential?
  • What did the teacher do to discover the client’s starting level?
  • What did the teacher do to estimate whether the client’s goals could be achieved in the light of the above?
  • What did the teacher do to facilitate the use of learner abilities and minimize the effect of learner limitations?
  • What did the teacher do to keep progress towards the goal under review?
  • What did the teacher do to communicate clearly with the client the likelihood of reaching their goal?

Arguably, this is the professional agenda, and neither academic courses nor practical experience prepare teachers to deliver this service.

The case for professionalizing ELT

The scenario above gives a context for what we really do know how to do. Managing classroom or self access or ESP situations, organizing activities for meaningful communication, conceptualizing language and language learning, and writing objectives in such a way that their achievement can be verified are really difficult activities and we are good at them. As it happens, scattered around the literature there is a good deal of information on good practice in diagnosis. The rest is just administration, and it is not beyond the wit of able practitioners to learn to do it. So perhaps it can be accepted the professionalism is achievable and that our teacher, with suitable training, could give their lordships rational answers and expect colleagues to confirm them.

A professional approach to ELT would also allow us to think about our outstanding practitioners. Professionals must all attend to the points noted in the scenario, but beyond that we know that there are really marvelous teachers who have acquired their skills as much though reflective practice and hard won personal insight as through innate ability. What are we to do with them? In architecture, for instance, we know who they are and what they are for. They are for designing Reichstags and Millennium bridges. In ELT we do not know who they are, nor do we know what they are for, and until we do know both reflective practice and other forms of teacher development remain rather purposeless.

The research agenda too would benefit from a professional approach. The purpose of research is to establish and test knowledge, and Pratte (1981) offers a useful tripartite view of knowledge for the present purposes. He proposes Propositional knowledge (knowing something), Performative knowledge (knowing how to do something) and Dispositional knowledge (knowing to do something). The relative independence of these types of knowledge may be demonstrated by an example. Suppose, for instance, we wish to persuade children to wash their hands before eating. We may tell them about germs (propositional knowledge) and show them how to use soap and water to get rid of them (performative knowledge). But how much do they really have to know about microbiology or the best way of washing their hands to make the washing of hands (dispositional knowledge) a good idea? Surely it is a good idea anyway, even without microbiology or a study of hand washing techniques. The area of dispositional professional knowledge has been largely ignored by the research community, and performative knowledge too has been abandoned to hearsay and teacher lore. Professionals may or may not find themselves attracted to a particular theory of learning, but what they really need are good accounts of what works. They need to know who may be helped and who may be harmed by any procedure, how much, and under what circumstances, whether or not there is a satisfactory theoretical explanation. This kind of clinical research is both achievable and applicable as both performative and dispositional knowledge.

Finally, a professional approach to ELT would lead towards the formation of valid professional organizations, moving gatekeeper and policing functions away from teaching institutions and into the professional system of public accountability where they belong. Bottom up professionalism, starting with individual practitioner responsibilities, makes more sense than attempts to impose professionalism from above, and would be in line with Wilensky’s account of the development of other professions. Such professionalism would be local, culture sensitive, accountable and above all, achievable.


Abbott, A. 1991. ‘The order of professionalization’ Work and Occupations 18 355-384.

Architects Registration Board undated. ‘Architect’s Code, Standards of Conduct and Practice’[available on-line] [last accessed 19/06/03].

Dingwall, R. and P. Fenn 1987. ‘A respectable profession? Sociological and economic perspectives on the regulation of professional services’ International review of Law and Economics 7: 51-64.

Eldridge, J. 2005. ‘Rendering unto Caesar: the ambivalent case of in-service teacher education.’ Iatefl Teacher Development SIG newsletter1/05 6-10

Goode, W. J. 1969. ‘The Theoretical Limits of Professionalization’ in Etzione A (Ed.)

The Semi- Professions and their Organization. New York: The Free Press.

Pratte, R. 1981. ‘Analytic philosophy of education: a historical perspective.’ in Solis, J. (Ed.) Philosophy of Education since mid- century. New York. Teachers College Press.

Wilensky, H. 1964 ‘The professionalization of everyone?’ American Journal of Sociology 70 137-158.

To view the article:


Listening Using Authentic Video for Overseas Learners of English By James Frith

Problems Encountered

While teaching in the UK this summer, it struck me how advanced the students’ listening skills were in comparison to my year round Spanish students who are of a similar general level of English. I did not find it particularly surprising. After all, who has not complained about the listening tasks in text books being too demanding for our poor students learning overseas. And who has not received the response that coursebooks are often written with the student living in the UK in mind. However, I began to ask myself just why these students should have such abilities. The initial answer to spring to mind is that they have much more exposure to English, of which we will discuss more later, but before looking for answers, there were more questions to be asked.

I chose an advanced class who have particular problems with listening tasks and set about doing some research into why this was so. After an informal chat during which they agreed that the sheer velocity of English and the subsequent intrusion of connected speech was their major enemy, they were given a questionnaire (see Appendix A) incorporating ideas from Parrott’s list of sub-skills (1993). The following is a summary of the results.

All of the students questioned stated that instead of trying to understand every word they just tried to understand the message. When it came to problems perceived and aspects of the skill of listening on which they wanted do more work, guessing the meanings of words from context figured highly, as did understanding specific details. Recognising the attitude of the speaker and understanding the main ideas were also mentioned.

In addition to the problems found in listening, the students were also asked about the situations in which they listened in English outside of class. I was surprised to find that although some students were regularly required to use English in meetings at work, the majority of listening took place for pleasure in the form of watching television or films, or listening to music. This lead me to the decision to focus on video as the listening material in my research as it would have been unfair and redundant, in my opinion, to use a resource without visuals when so many of the above mediums of communication involve visual information. Ur (1984:24) goes so far as to suggest that: ‘the speaker is actually visible to the listener in most real-life situations.’ What is more, video lessons, in my experience, generally prove to be highly stimulating (also supported by Ur 1984). I chose to use authentic video in order to include the fast connected speech mentioned earlier. As Richards highlights:

Materials should aim for relative authenticity if they are to prepare listeners for real listening situations. Many current commercial listening materials are spoken at an artificially slow pace, in prestige dialects that are not typical of ordinary speech.

(Richards 1985:203)

Although the situation may be changing, it is still not an ideal one. Finally, in view of the types of listening my students were involved in outside of class, this research is concerned with examining one-way interactional texts, meaning texts where more than one speaker is present and the students are effectively eavesdropping.

To view the article:

And the accompanying lesson plan:

Preliminary Information

Level: Advanced

Timetable Fit: In previous classes we have worked on discriminating among the distinctive sounds of English and the students are familiar with phonemic script.

In a recent lesson one particular extract from a graded listening text proved particularly difficult for the students to understand and in the following lesson we analysed some ‘chunks’ of connected speech taken from it. The ‘chunks’ were transcribed using the IPA and the students were invited to match these to the corresponding phrases, practise saying them and recognise them in spoken text before reading the text along with the audio tape. Work was also done on recognising the reduced forms of words.

In the first ten minutes of this class the students will be prepared to anticipate the content of the text through activation of schemata. They will take part in a role play in which A has hidden something from B, B has found it and A is inventing stories to explain themselves. I will also explain the aims and stages of the lesson to the class.

The students will have the opportunity to provide written feedback in their learner diaries at the end of the class.

Their homework will involve finding an extract from a song or film which contains a chunk of connected speech and presenting it to the class in the next lesson. This will also increase exposure to the target language.

In the future I plan to further heighten the students’ awareness of aspects of fast connected speech in post-listening sessions throughout the year. I also aim to continue to introduce and encourage students to use other compensatory strategies as appropriate to the individual’s learning style. For example, I plan to do some work on sentence prominence and extracting meaning from key words. I also plan to use dictagloss as a vehicle to raise awareness of how syntactical knowledge can be used to help with listening.

Main aims:

i) To develop students’ ability to use real-world knowledge and experience to work out goals and procedures in a listening text (stage 1)
ii) To raise students’ awareness of some aspects of fast connected speech as an aid to listening (stage 3)

Subsidiary aims:

i) To encourage students to guess the meanings of words from the contexts in which they hear them (stage 2)
ii) To highlight some features of natural spoken English, such as ungrammatical forms and the discourse marker, “What happened there was..”. (stage 3)
iii) To encourage students to predict outcomes from a listening text (stage 4)

To view the lesson plan:

Back to the index

Thanks to Frank & James.


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Articles on learning Mandarin – Time Asia.
‘jVLT is a vocabulary learning tool. Examples containing one or many of the vocabulary words may be specified. jVLT also can perform quizzes using a flash card system which is similar to the selective learning system proposed by German psychologist Sebastian Leitner. During a quiz, jVLT shows the examples of each word, letting you better memorize its usage.’
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‘The leading international award honoring excellence in Web design, creativity, usability and functionality.’ Check out the winners from 2006. An ‘ Official Honoree’ is:
Special English from the Voice of America – ‘The Special English Web site is an excellent tool to practice and improve your American English. VOA Special English radio programs are broadcast every day of the year on the VOA network. Each broadcast starts with world news, followed by a short feature report and a 15 minute feature. Throughout this site you will find radio scripts from these feature programs and the matching audio file of the text as it was delivered on the radio. We also offer both RealAudio and MP3 downloadable audio files that you can save and play over and over again. Find a report that interests you. You can find our scripts by topic or by the name of the radio program. Read along and listen to the audio report. At the same time you will learn new information about a variety of subjects from issues in the news to American history.’
Business Talk Radio podcasts for your business students.

If you have visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would like your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.

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A few days to plan your lessons around in July:

1st - Canada Day
International Joke Day
4th - US Independence Day
14th - French Bastille Day
Tour de France bicycle race

To see the list of Days:

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.



There’s a review up on the site of the Primary Box Series in the Cambridge Copy Collection series of books. Each is highly rated in the review you can read at:

Primary Communication Box: Reading activities and puzzles for younger learners

Primary Activity Box: Games and Activities for Younger Learners

Primary Vocabulary Box : Word Games and Activities for Younger Learners

Primary Reading Box: Reading activities and puzzles for younger learners

Primary Pronunciation Box: Book and Audio CD Pack

Primary Grammar Box: Grammar Games and Activities for Younger Learners

If you're going to or then please go through our Books page. You will pay the same & we will receive a few pennies to keep the site & newsletters free. Thanks.

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6. PS - Internet/computer-related links

A few computer use rules of thumb:

- make copies of all-important files
- run scan disk & then defragment the hard drive
- use firewall software
- use a virus scan & update the files every week
- install security patches that software providers offer
- update your DirectX files regularly
- don't open attachments without scanning for viruses first
- don't respond to spam - just delete & forget
- don't send personal or bank information by email
- turn off your computer at night
Spanish castle (Manzanares el Real) optical effect.
Happy morning – one way to wake up.
Learn a few card tricks to impress your friends.
How observant are you?
Diet Coke & Mentos experiment.

How much do you know about the world?
An Unfair War – Sims video download – 32mb.
The World’s top 100 wonders. – ‘the finest tv ads selection.’
Lots of videos from YouTube.
Quiz - find out which OS suits your character.
If you’re interested in interesting buildings…
The 10 Weirdest Things Ever Sold On eBay

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