“Having seen the way you work, I know the trainees will be in good hands.”
— British Council project manager, 2017

Case studies

British Council, Iraq

I have been involved with ELT in Iraq for some years now and have visited the country several times, working on four different projects. The security situation in the country presents a very particular set of circumstances for teacher development work - much of Iraq is too dangerous for external trainers to visit. Other challenges were that there is a lack of experienced teacher trainers in the country and a wide variety of qualifications and types and lengths of experience amongst the teaching community as a whole.

To help meet these circumstances, the rapid development of local trainers able to cascade content across the regions was a pressing need. My most recent project with the British Council in Iraq in 2017 required me to train a core group of Master Trainers able to cascade the British Council English for Teaching course to classroom colleagues. The 30 teachers to be trained by me in two cohorts undertook a  selection procedure that included the British Council APTIS test. The ten-day course I designed was based around the British Council Trainer Development Course and had four key elements:

trainer development skills, to give the teachers the fundamental ideas and best practice as they  made the transition from teacher to trainer,

methodology update, to ensure the teachers themselves were confident with the application of the core ideas in English for Teaching to their specific classroom settings,

language improvement, to ensure the precision and accuracy of the teachers’ language, especially in terms of its use in the training context,

micro-training, each afternoon was dedicated to sessions that allowed trainers to develop the morning input sessions and apply them in short peer-training sessions.  Focus was also put on the skills and language around giving feedback to teachers.

The programme was repeated with a second cohort later in 2017 and as of December, the teachers were beginning to cascade the training across the country. The final objective is to train over 6000 teachers.

British Council, Sierra Leone

I was involved in this project in late 2016. The context was that one of the legacies of the Ebola epidemic was that many school students had missed 18 months or so of their education, and the need for them to catch up with their work  compounded the pre-existing challenges of very large classes with low resources. In this context, ‘low resources’ meant there were no course books available to teachers or students in many schools and the only equipment in class was a blackboard.

The task of the team that I was part of  was to use an extant lower secondary ELT syllabus to construct simple one-page lesson plans to allow the teachers to deliver the content from, using only the blackboard. The challenges largely revolved around the content of the syllabus itself. The main issues were that it was very dated and the sequence moved very fast through a combination of language and (largely UK-centric) literature work. This content seemed to be detrimental to the  motivation of the students.

The solutions that were developed were around the need to place the teaching material in the West  African context with, for example, local and regional  short stories and poems to replace the less relevant existing texts as a way of enhancing student engagement. The lack  of course books for this project made writing the content very difficult, especially as the classes were very large and any text had to be copied onto the blackboard by the teacher. There was no opportunity for handouts or photocopies. Texts thus had to be kept fairly short and content that could be delivered by the teacher orally was incorporated, within the constraints of the syllabus. The material was put into use soon after it was written, and the responses from the teachers were very positive.

Hong Kong street life, 2017.

Private Language School, Italy

My client was a long-established private language school in Italy teaching English to children, teenagers and adults. The small teaching team was well-established and settled in the school, and largely came from a CELTA background. The school directors approached me with the idea of running two days of CPD with their team at the commencement of the new academic year 2015-16, with the objective of providing some motivation and morale-boosting as teaching began.

A simple needs analysis was conducted and I designed two workshops and also agreed to observe some lessons. The two key challenges that emerged from the needs analysis were mixed-ability classes and teenage motivation issues. The first workshop thus had a focus on differentiation, looking at how level differences manifest themselves, the challenges that this generates and a series of ways of managing these challenges.  The motivation workshop looked at some motivational frameworks in ELT, explored issues around teenage motivation and self-confidence and examined some humanistic and digital approaches to enhancing motivation.    

These fairly small-scale projects with just a few teachers are immensely satisfying as ideas and support can be closely targeted.  The feedback from the teaching was also very encouraging.