Aslı Saglam's Blog about CPD in ELT

Insights from Richard Kiely


Prof.Richard  Kiely gave a webinar that was organised by British Council Turkey and delivered a plenary speech on “The learning of new teachers in TESOL” at Marmara University International Symposium, “Foreign Language Education and Its Applications in Prep Classes” last week.

His book on course evaluation was one of our course books at my doctorate program at Yeditepe University, and therefore, it was my pleasure to meet him at the conference.

He kindly accepted to answer a few questions.

  1. 1.       You looked relaxed and totally in control when you were presenting virtually on ADOBE Connect and I know that it was your first webinar. What did you think of this virtual event? Do you think webinars, on-line communities of practice and MOOCs  could be the future of teacher education?

 Yes, it was my first webinar, so thanks for observing that I looked relaxed. It was not my first tele-conference, so I am accustomed to speaking to groups via the computer. Perhaps two factors facilitated my relaxed participation: first I was in my office at Marjon in Plymouth, UK, my usual workplace, and second, I was speaking about a topic area and research study with which I am familiar.

2.       What should ideal pre-service and in-service teacher development encompass in your opinion? How do teachers learn best? How can teacher experience turn into expertise?

Difficult questions, and really important ones: all institutiona and governments would like the ‘magic bullet’ to address these questions. In my view there is no magic bullet, in terms of a technique, or single course design. The focus is on developing the people, and this is likely to be achieved in a social learning situation:

where novice and expert do things together,

talk about what they are doing,

the experts shows and talks through,

with the novice observing and asking for tips and explanations,

with opportunities for the novice to practice, which is evaluated in a constructive way,

and a desire for a high level of achievement becomes part of the novice’s plan for life.


This kind of process ‘furnishes the imagination’ (Kiely & Askham TESOL Quartlerly Sept 2012)


3.       In your research study “Trinity College London Cert TESOL Impact Study” you examined the impact of a four-week teacher training programme. You mentioned the significance of “performance in professional identity, which has the potential to lead on-going, situated learning”. Can you further expand this point?

I supppose the key point from our research participants is the extent to which they wanted to know, to be good at TESOL, to identify with the kind of practices they had come to admire. It is these affiliating goals which shape the identity.


4.       What were some of the other striking findings?

Many findings, but one striking one was the challenge of dealing with the range of materials in TESOL work contexts. Especially where e-learning platforms and the internet are taken into account, the task of becoming familiar with available materials is a huge one for novice teachers. Many wanted to select their own materials, not just follow the coursebook, but were overwhelmed by the range available. An additional issue here is the time required for scanning electronic resources: we just cannot do that (listen to or read through  materials such as videos, for example) as efficiently as we can printed materials.


5.       Finally, in your opinion how can research (in-class as well as following the literature) contribute to teacher education?

My basic position – pro teacher research – is informed by two axiomatic points:

  1. We are in a post-method period in ELT. Teachers have to develop their own practice, which involves iunderstanding what works for them in their different classroom contexts. Research is a tool which can help teachers in that understanding.
  2. What teachers do when they teach is complex – too much going on in classrooms for teachers to remember everything and use what happened in the normal cycles of reflection and improvement. Research provides tools to look more closely at classroom interaction, such that teachers become more aware of the features of their practice, and over time develop professionally by extending what works well, and minimising what does not seem to work well.

Thanks a lot for your time and I really hope that you enjoyed your trip to Turkey.

I look forward to returning to Turkey – I met such fascinating people.

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