All you ever wanted to know about EAP

I have recently volunteered to plan and deliver a short workshop for my coworkers on academic writing. I’m very much looking forward to this because I do very little F2F teaching these days – I’ve just done my biannual two weeks and so am not likely to step inside a classroom until exam time in June, during which time any teaching I do will take place online.

Photo taken from ELTpics by Dace Praulins, used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

A little bit of background: our department has recently run a couple of in-house workshops on various aspects of conducting academic research, so my topic – academic writing in English – ties in nicely with the overall theme. I also have considerable experience teaching introductory EAP sessions to undergrads, which helps explain my readiness to volunteer. For those interested in what that experience entails, I wrote briefly about it for EAP stories over on Joanna Malefaki’s blog (along with six other EAP instructors from a range of backgrounds).

My usual EAP classes are different from the coming workshop in that I have 60 hours instead of a semester and roughly 30 undergrads as opposed to half that many adults (yeah, yeah, undergrads are also supposed to be adults and if you’ve followed me for some time you know how I feel about that 😛 ).

I’ve been thinking along the lines of “Everything you wanted to know about EAP (but had no chance to ask)” for the title of the workshop, with the idea of covering as much of the very basics as possible in 3 hours. Obviously, I already have some ideas – one of which is definitely to use that table with academic phrases and their actual equivalents (you know the one: sample size was small = I could only find one person to experiment on, that kind of thing) maybe as a matching activity for humorous effect.

If you were running a similar workshop, what is something (the one thing) you would definitely include? I don’t mean actual activities, but topics. The assumption is that the audience has research experience (and in terms of writing it up) but hasn’t had (many) EAP sessions. Your input would be very much appreciated, PLN – thanks in advance!

#ELTchat Thoughts and reflections

Some thoughts on how I use Twitter

There was an #ELTchat last week about how to use Twitter in class. I was hoping for a different topic, so I didn’t stick around, but a tweet (I forget who by) about how teachers seem to be on Facebook more than on Twitter caught my eye. I think that was the gist of it, anyway.

So I thought I’d do a quick post on what I use both of them for, but primarily Twitter. When I say ‘quick post’, we’ll see how that goes. I might get it out before Christmas. 😛 I’ve actually been meaning to do a post like this ever since David Harbinson’s here, and, well, it’s been two years since then.


fjomeroa: Twitter (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter. You might not say so just by looking at my tweet count, at least compared to people who have 50K+ tweets, but I do a lot more reading of what others have shared than sharing my own thoughts. Then, of course, a considerable chunk of time is spent on debating whether I should respond to a tweet, composing a message and finally deleting it. Or possibly sending it, which is less frequent.

My bio says, “ELT, elearning, highered, teacher training, translation. Partial to the island of Vis since the pre-tourist era”.  I settled on that when I started using Twitter regularly, which was about two years after I signed up. Management used to be in there as well, as a nod to the language school I technically still own. I’m most likely to follow (back) people with similar interests, and if they’re not spelled out in the bio, I’m probably not going to take the trouble to dig deeper, e.g., try to figure out their tweet to retweet ratio, or see how many people we follow in common.

In addition to accounts that can loosely be grouped as work-related, I follow some that are Croatian. Croatian teachers (primary, secondary, private language schools) are generally not on Twitter, or if they are, they have token accounts. They’ll have 30 tweets and they last tweeted six months ago. I suspect they’re mostly on Facebook. So the people I follow are either in higher ed, journalists, or in(to) politics or history. There’s also the occasional ex-student. I enjoy reading what they have to say, even though I probably won’t rt/comment on anything overtly political. My politics are my business. And also I’m too chicken to give trolls an incentive to come after me.

I also follow some Belgian accounts, mostly newspapers/magazines. These are in French, and serve the dual purpose of letting me keep up with the language as well as the news in Brussels and the rest of the country. Although, to be honest, if the accounts are in French, the news is not likely to be about Flanders. I don’t usually rt or comment on these. I suppose it would be excellent language practice, but I would need to be a lot braver to do it.

One of the things I really like about Twitter is the random character of what shows up in my timeline when I log on. Obviously, things were even more random when they didn’t have the “While you were away” feature, but even so, if you follow around 1,000 people, there’s always something unexpected. Even if a lot of them don’t tweet regularly. I don’t have a rule for what I rt/comment on; it has to be something I find interesting and/or relevant, plus I generally need to think of at least one person who follows me who will also find it interesting and/or relevant. I sometimes draw their attention to it by cc’ing them in on the tweet.

Because of this (liking the random factor), I don’t have any lists. I’m sure lists are really effective if you want to make sure you don’t miss updates from accounts you find more important/interesting than others, or to categorize those you follow, but I think that I would then tend to check some lists more than others and everything would be more organized. Although, who knows – I might like it that way too.

Occasionally I check hashtags, and I have these columns set up in my Tweetdeck: #ELTchat, #ELTpics, #corpusMOOC (which I half-did once and keep meaning to retake) and #EDENchat. Having done #ELTchat, which is sort of chaotic in a good way, I tried #EDENchat, but they’re way too organized with Q1 and A1, etc. There are a couple of other hashtags I could set up columns for, and probably will at some point if they keep coming up in my timeline often enough.

Some things I don’t like about Twitter are… well, there aren’t many, really. I don’t like it when people only plug their stuff, and especially when they don’t even do it manually. Like, I don’t have time to waste on Twitter, but you will have time to read about whatever it is I do. I’m not discounting the possibility I feel that way because I was never smart enough to schedule constant social media updates when I was trying to promote my school. I also don’t like annoying engagement updates. “32 awesome people followed me last week. Do you want to feel awesome? Get Social Media Engagement App.” I use Social Media Engagement App too. I don’t shout about it. Here I am discounting the possibility I feel that way because I wasn’t followed by 32 awesome people last week.

I was also going to say how I use Facebook and why I prefer Twitter, but as there is actually a chance of posting this today if I stop now, I guess I might save that for another post. I would be interested to hear what you use Twitter for, what you like or don’t like about it. If you have an account but don’t really use it, why is that?

Language school

Recruiting the right teaching staff

This is a very brief post – for me in any case (I think the WordPress Reader might even rate it as a 2-minute read, which has not happened yet. 😛 ). So, I was doing nothing useful clearing out my inbox, when I came across this task that we had to do in the Moodle MOOC I took in September 2013 and wrote about in more detail here.

The aim was to demonstrate how forum discussions work in smaller groups, or something of the kind. I think we had to try and get a discussion going with the other group members by explaining how a topic we (felt we) knew something about works. I ended up posting tips on hiring teachers, as at that time I still primarily saw myself as a traditional (or offline) teacher and school owner. No one ever responded – well, it was a MOOC. We had, I think, 10 people in the group and only one besides me came up with an opening post. It was something to do with cloud computing, I remember. I feel I’m about to digress again, and I do want this to be a brief post!

So here we go, I’m sharing the tips below and am not going to edit a thing. The title of this post is the title of the original discussion thread. Oh, and right, I thought I’d share these here after all this time because one of the topics I said I wanted to write about in my first ever post was – what do language schools look for in a teacher?


image: studiotdes | CC BY

What I would like to do in this discussion is share my tips for recruiting new members of teaching staff in a small language school. I can hardly claim to be an expert on the topic, but as I’ve been running a school for the last 7 years, I have had to hire new teachers quite a few times. Sometimes we were looking for full-time employees and sometimes for contractors, but generally I have found that the same principles apply if you want your business to run smoothly.

These are my five key guidelines in looking for new staff:

  1. Make sure that you advertise the vacancy at least a few days in advance, if at all possible. Ideally you want to be in a position where you have a few teachers to choose from, not to be forced to hire the first person who shows up because you need them to start teaching the very next day.
  2. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes for the interview. This is often hard in a small school where owners answer phones and send off invoices as well as teach, but it is crucial that you get the opportunity to talk to the candidate in a relaxed setting (you want to spend some time really listening to them).
  3. If you have a choice between lack of experience and a positive attitude on the one hand, and vast experience and a superior attitude on the other, I would advise you to go with the first combination. The new teacher will have a mentor and will gain experience. The one with the superior attitude will, unfortunately, not lose the attitude (at least not in my experience), which is not likely to make her/him a good team player.
  4. Try not to ask the candidate questions about their CV. Asking them things like, “So, I see you worked for X for 2 years..what did you do next?”, is not likely to give you any information that you don’t already have. Instead, ask them specific questions – how they would start a class at the beginning of a semester, how they would deal with a mixed-ability group, or what their favorite speaking activities are.
  5. It’s worth finding out how the candidate feels about CPD. If they don’t express any interest in training of any kind, I would suggest that you interview at least one more candidate. I don’t expect my teachers to spend all their time at work and work-related activities, but if they are uninterested in enhancing their teaching skills, I have doubts as to whether they will contribute much to the team.

Do you think these tips could apply to any small business to some degree? Which one would be most important to you if you were hiring? Are there any tips which you find out of place or disagree with?