Tag: Professional Development

Business and ManagementCulture & DestinationsEnglish and TechnologyMust ReadWorld View

The workplace setting in the 21st Century

By Academic Committee

Changes in the workplace are necessary to match the 21st-century skills demands. Global citizens today agree that as time goes by the place of work changes, but the competencies that go along with it should too. We cannot deny that the skills required in the 21st-century gear towards factors such as competitiveness, innovation, and creativity.

Workers nowadays need an advanced mentality, open mind and disposition to unlearn and relearn putting into practice soft skills such as time management, leadership, resilience, and self-direction, among others.

Workplaces are changing. Many workers are still illiterate when it comes to succeeding in the involving work environment, taking into account that company’s know-how goes hand in hand with technology.  The power of technology will promote modern devices and a more efficient communication network as the workplace setting improves. If a company wants to keep its quality and be competitive in its market, then workers will need to keep up with the latest technology trends and adapt rapidly to the changes that occur on a daily basis.

Companies have also seen the necessity to make adjustments in their infrastructure to promote spaces where workers can interact in different ways. Moreover, design places where creativity and innovation flourish. The need for spaces that nurture teamwork and discussion contribute to the development of creative solutions and distinct concepts gathering different opinions and points of view. Thus, generating change too.

As times change, society and minds also change. Back in the days having domain and knowledge in the core subjects at school were enough to be considered a successful person and prepared for the real world. Currently, this era takes much more skills than just being able to read, write and solve mathematical equations.

To gain success, we must now have a range of knowledge in diverse areas of expertise such as science, technology, and culture, as well as being creative, innovative, flexible, and possess the ability to work in teams, solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively.

Assumptions regarding success in the workplace have also changed. It is not just about inventing a product that allures people because it is not costly and it works. Now it has to be original, significant and prepossessing. Moreover, many jobs are being delegated to other countries because they can save money by having other people do the same job for less pay. Technology in itself poses dichotomy as it advances, the workplace changes in a way where humans compete against it for the same job. However, if the personnel can adapt, learn and innovate it will outsmart computers and avoid a worker’s replacement since jobs now demand specialization.

Employees need to keep pace with competencies so that managers and directors can see that they possess the skills from the 21st century. They have to prove and make visible, making the right decisions, using the right information and tools, that they can do the job right, come up with the best solutions and produce the most incredible and rewarding product or service. Many professionals have already embarked in these skills adopting technology and software as essential to getting the job done making them a limited, yet valuable source due to the attitude rather than their expertise on the subject.

 

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadQuick Tips

Blended Learning: Using technology in and beyond the language classroom

Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett

Macmillan Publishers Limited

Oxford, England

 

Review

Blended Learning introduces teachers into the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Though there is no doubt about the role of technology in our classrooms, it is rather a challenging task to search, combine, and take advantage of all the variety of tools and materials that one may find on the web. Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett have managed to put together a guide where they present different items of technology to be used in a language class. Their objective is to provide instructors with all the advantages of the tools, present possible problems and solutions that may come in handy, and examples of the way to enhance your classes, as they include a few model lessons plans for different levels of expertise.

If you are looking forward to introducing technology into your EFL classrooms and do not know where to get started, this book will take you by the hand on how to promote your classroom into the 21st century, engaging your students in different and diverse ways of learning.

  • It provides basic information for new technology users, though it also includes helpful websites for more advanced users too.
  • The book not only presents new technological tools, but also directions for the creation of new material.
  • It contains two appendices for beginners with detailed guidance for the use of Internet and the World Wide Web.

Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Business and ManagementCulture & Destinations

Nicaragua: Seeking talent in young adults

Academic Committee

In recent days, the Nicaraguan Foundation for the Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) submitted the results of a study carried out to determine the competencies Nicaraguan employers demand from employees younger than 24 years old.

In Nicaragua, employability for young adults under 24 years of age poses a serious challenge for companies given that applicants lack the required competencies to fulfill the position requirements. The Nicaraguan Human Resources Association participated in the study and provided insightful statistics in regards to employability and skills domains for young adults.

  • 93 companies took part in the study
  • These companies represent a total of 17,000 employees
  • 23.52% (4000 employees) are 24 years old or under
  • 75% (3000) possess the competencies required and are currently working

The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that the easiness with which young adults enter the labor market suggests the relevance of the competencies they acquire during their education. This reference highlights that either the educational system does not cater to the labor market demands or is not providing competencies from one level of education to the other. Somehow, university education is bridging the gap between the technical and cognitive competencies. However, it is leaving aside the emotional and linguistic competencies in dire need for young adults to be hired or opt for higher ranked positions within the companies.

Companies are proctoring their screening tests to applicants and investing more time in the hiring process due to the distrust in the educational system to train young adults in the competencies needed. This process then becomes arduous and time-consuming for both the applicant and the company. Thus, representing an economic inefficiency that needs stronger measures in the public policies related to education, relevance, and credibility of the qualifications of the labor market within the age range. “An employee is a company asset, and compensation is an investment in that asset.” (Jacob Baadsgaard) Companies want to hire staff that grows within the businesses and becomes an asset instead of adding up to their turnover statistics due to the lack of socio-emotional competencies that are key not only to performing the job but also to keeping it.

General managers within the 93 companies surveyed in the study agree that when hiring young staff, they focus on the following competencies:

  1. Honesty
  2. Follow company standards of conduct
  3. Show enthusiasm and proactivity towards tasks performed
  4. Listen and tender respect to superiors
  5. Demonstrate ability to collaborate and work in teams

All socio-emotional skills ranked higher than technical and cognitive competencies. Also, they are the harder ones to find among applicants; although these may vary from company’s levels of performance or educational background. In essence, this lack of competencies goes hand in hand with incapacity the educational system to cater the demands of the labor market and becomes a true challenge to Nicaraguan’s educational system to make the changes and address the cognitive, technical and socio-emotional competencies within their programs. As Nicaraguan economy increases, there are higher demands for a better-prepared labor force, thus if not ready, this lack will transform into an obstacle that Nicaraguans need to overcome if foreign investment is attracted to the country.

 

 

Works Cited 

funides.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/10/competencias_que_demandan_las_empresas_en_nicaragua.pdf.

Business and ManagementEnglish FactoidsLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadTopics

Talent Management vs HR

Adapted and condensed from the article by Susan M. Heathfield (2016), ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’

For those of us who are not so acquainted with the term “talent management”, it is a phrase used in the area of human resources to refer to a company’s or “organization’s commitment to recruit, retain, and develop the most talented employees available in the job market”. In other words, talent management is a strategy some companies have started to implement in the hopes of retaining their most talented employees.

What apparently sets talent-management-oriented companies apart from the ones that use the term “human capital” is the emphasis placed on the manager’s role instead of on Human Resources when it comes to the life cycle of an employee working for an organization. Therefore, in a talent management system managers take on a greater responsibility and play a crucial role in the recruitment process as well as in the ongoing development of and retention of top performers.

Some of the processes involved in the talent management system include recruitment planning meeting, credential review and background checking, on-the-job training, coaching and relationship building by the manager, just to mention but a few.

Most of the processes above mentioned are now part of the main responsibilities of managers in some organizations.  Human Resources’ role, on the other hand, is to provide support and backup, yet in terms of supporting, developing and coaching an employee comes from his or her daily interaction with the manager.

Talent management is a relatively new concept in the working world, and a consensus is yet to be reached, but certainly, it is a strategy worth trying out to contribute to the growth and well-being of any organization or company.

References

Heathfield, S. (2016). ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’ The Balance. Web

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Reaping the value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit

May 25, 2016

Updated 7 July, 2016

My goal as a classroom teacher is to do the best I can to make sure my content is meeting the needs of my learners. After fifteen years of teaching English, I know one thing to be very true: Every single group of learners I work with is different and will require different things from me. One semester I could have a group of students who have strong communicative fluency but are weak in complex critical thinking and contextual analysis of lectures and reading passages. The next semester I may have students who can easily ace a grammar, listening and reading test but struggle to speak in full sentences or respond outside of scripted conversation. This is the frustration and joy of teaching English: The classroom is a dynamic living space that supports the development of unique individuals with unique needs. But how do you know what’s truly working for your learners?

While observation is a valuable resource for assessing student skills, it is really tests, quizzes and tasks that provide enough evidence to understand a learner’s current abilities, strengths and weaknesses. So in any classroom, whether I’m following along with a textbook or creating a custom course, at some point, I need to stop and assess what is working for my learners so I can respond to their needs. Having a solid understanding of the level of ability of learners to perform with specific skills can help me target my teaching to utilize learner strengths to help build skills where learners are weak. This is where tools like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the Global Scale of English (GSE) become extremely useful.

How the granularity of the GSE is a valuable resource

Both the CEFR and GSE are tools that help communicate a learner’s ability to perform. For teachers and administrators, these tools are useful because of the external validation of performance indicators. I myself have spent countless hours creating lesson plans and objectives and wondering “Is this challenging enough?” or “Is this going to be too difficult?” Often, the arbitrator is running the lesson in class and observing the results: successful learning or Hindenburg-level disaster. I found the CEFR useful as a way to quickly gauge whether or not an activity was addressing specific skills that other learners at the same level could perform. The Global Scale of English goes further by drilling down more explicitly into the skills. Where the CEFR is more of a general collection, the GSE provides more granular insight into the explicit skills and functions learners can build to become more proficient in their skills. It’s like the difference between driving from X to Y with or without turn-by-turn directions.

The Global Scale of English starts with the CEFR and builds out 1,000+ descriptors of performance across all four skills. This provides better distribution of the language skills and supports the usefulness of the CEFR to describe learning performance. A word of caution: The descriptors are not designed to be prescriptive about the learning journey! Like the CEFR, the GSE is not an all-or-nothing collection of descriptors indicating that “in order to learn D, you must first learn A, B and C—AND in that order.” Anyone who knows anything about language education can easily see the problems inherent in that kind of thinking. That’s because each learner has unique needs and learning does not occur in a straight line.

So, it is its granular nature that makes the GSE such a valuable resource. As an educator, I feel quite confident in my teacher’s intuition and my ability to use reflective practice to observe what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom. I can be creative and know when to use practice activities and assessments that come with my courses. I also know when I need to add activities and create content that will engage my learners and perhaps add a challenge that is meaningful, but that my course book does not contain. In the past, I would build that content based on my knowledge as a teacher and my knowledge of my students and use the course materials and future assessments as a general guide for their level. When planning I might also consult with other teachers and colleagues in the field as a way of brainstorming ideas and validating whether the content I’m creating is at the right level for my learners. But sometimes, I wonder if I’m making the best decisions. Are my lessons and content truly built for the skills and needs of my students? Enter the GSE Teacher Toolkit: an interactive resource with all the GSE descriptors.

Remember how we have 1,000+ descriptors for the GSE? Well, the GSE toolkit allows a teacher to drill down into all the descriptors quickly and easily to look for specific skills and to determine the level of challenge those skills will present learners. For me, there are three distinct ways to use the toolkit that will benefit English teachers:

The toolkit helps teachers access the GSE as a tool to validate institutional student learning objectives (SLOs)

As a model of descriptors of performance useful for creating rubrics and assessment tools

As an inspiration for interesting and unique content that will engage and excite learners

Of the three pieces, the last is the most useful starting point. Why? Let me give you an example.

The GSE Teacher Toolkit as an inspiration for content

For this example, I’m going to step into some very familiar shoes, those of a language teacher at a local college. My goal is to quickly improve my learners’ levels of ability in English to move students into an engineering class (a great example of teaching English for specific purposes). My coursebook has several strong reading passages and does a great job of building the reading skills with a focus on understanding words from context and using textual analysis to answer questions and describe the process of answering. I provide some authentic content and follow the same skill-building techniques that are outlined in my coursebook, as this is what my student are learning. The students work well, meet the expectations of the course and are working towards the learning objectives. Even with all this work and progress, at the start of the second semester I see many of the same faces in my classroom when I was expecting them to move to a higher course. I have to ask myself, What’s missing?

This is where the toolkit first became an eye-opening resource for me. When I searched the skills I was developing with my learners, all appropriate reading skills, all encapsulated in my SLOs (skimming, scanning, comprehension and basic inferencing), I found that I was teaching right at the level of ability of my B1 learners. The toolkit shows the skills at the B1 level and also at the B1+ level and the B2 level. As I started reading through descriptors of performance, I realized there were some higher-level skills that I had never explored in the classroom with my students, challenges my students were not being prepared for. Suddenly, by looking away from “where my students are now” to “where I’d like my students to be,” I was overwhelmed with ideas for content I could build to supplement my course book.

The GSE provided a new strategy for planning. My course book can cover the basic work and I’m free to generate interesting ideas for classroom activities that will really challenge my learners. Even though the group I’m working with is at a B1 level, I planned a B2-level activity around a GSE descriptor. At the B1 reading level, my students would read and process information from a problem-solution essay. My course book provides several good examples and structured activities to build the skill, reducing the work I have to do.  Now, for the challenge. I selected the following B2-level skill from the GSE toolkit:

Can critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay (GSE 61, B2 (59–66)).

This will allow the class to go beyond the surface application of the skill. For the activity, I selected a piece of authentic content, an op-ed piece from the newspaper, a great example of someone explaining a problem and presenting their argument for the best solution. The lesson plan practically wrote itself.

SLO: Students will be able to read and critically evaluate the effectiveness of a simple problem-solution essay from the opinion section of the newspaper.

SLO2: Students will describe which supporting details were most effective to support the author’s solution.

Steps

1) Read and review several shorter structured problem-solutions essays in the course book. Have students skim, scan and read to answer the specific question. Have students identify where the answer is indicated in the text and note why the answer is most appropriate.

2) Solo: Introduce seven selected vocabulary items from the op-ed piece and review.

3) Provide a gist question: Read the title. What solution do you think the author will provide to address the problem? Elicit predictions to check after the reading.

4) Have students skim. Check predictions.

5) Provide a set of comprehension questions. Have students scan and answer questions. Check answers in groups. In groups, have students discuss how they found the answer and why the text indicates this is correct. Check as a class.

6) B2 Skills: Evaluate the Effectiveness—Have students individually answer if they agree or disagree with the author’s solution. Students describe answers and why. Allow time for students to develop answers. In groups, have students share their ideas.

7) Building from the previous: In groups, have students discuss what aspects of the author’s solution were most effective. Have students list what additional details or examples could be provided to help others agree with the solution. Share ideas as a class.

8) In class [if time permits] or homework: Have students find an article, column piece or reading passage that provides an example of a problem solution that effectively swayed the student to agree with the solution for review in the next class.

The toolkit enables me as a teacher to be creative and provides additional validation that I’m working to challenge my learners appropriately. Steps 6 through 8 of my lesson will stretch my learners and, most importantly, help to provide skills that will hopefully see them transition out of my class and into general courses without the need to come back to me again. Being able to conveniently sort through and see descriptors specifically aligned to skills, area of study (professional, academic or general) and level of ability makes the tool particularly useful. No longer do I need to try to comb through and break down the very chunked description of performance in the CEFR to make it manageable and relevant for my learners. Additionally, I don’t have to search by reading through thousands of descriptors. In a few seconds, I can free my teacher planning brain to find new, fun and appropriate ways to challenge myself and learners to do new things together, proving that I am meeting my primary goal as a teacher, which is to support my students’ learning and support them towards success at their level and beyond.

With the new GSE toolkit, I feel as if I have just expanded my ability to discuss potential activities, assess skills and sense check the challenge of my activities with my peers across the world. The GSE certainly won’t replace my particular teacher “Spidey” sense or that of some of my best friends and colleagues in the field, but it certainly opens up a whole new world to what is possible in the classroom.

Reference

Davila, Sara. “Reaping the Value of GSE and the GSE Teacher Toolkit.”Pearson English. N.p., 25 May 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust Read

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessments

July 6, 2016

The Global Scale of English has been a great support and a positive change for my practice. As I previously discussed, the GSE can be used in a variety of ways, but my three favourite uses are as a tool for validating my students’ learning objectives, as a tool to enhance and improve my assessments, and, finally, as a tool to create content. In this discussion, I’d like to look at how you can use the GSE and the Teacher Toolkit to create custom rubrics and also explore the potential of the GSE Assessment Framework for teachers. First up, a refresher on rubrics (please skip to the section titled “Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics” if you’re already familiar with the concept).

What’s a rubric?

If you aren’t familiar with it, a rubric is a tool that we can use to assess learning performance. A rubric can be used with any skill and with any kind of learning content. A rubric does this by providing descriptors of performance at different levels. Rubrics provide a clear roadmap for what performance is expected at a higher level of achievement. It’s the difference between saying “do better” and saying “Right now you are working at this level and if you concentrate on these skills you will see yourself working at the next level.” A rubric provides a clear indication of what needs to be improved in order for a learner to excel.

The great thing about rubrics comes from their clarity and consistency in assessing performance. A solid rubric helps me look at the specific performance of any given student and capture the information I need to know about the level at which that student currently is while providing feedback that is both summative and formative. The downside of rubrics is the challenge of creating a solid assessment rubric, one that provides a good formative roadmap, while also being reliable as a summative assessment. With practice, trial and error, anyone can create a good rubric. However, practical tools can help save a lot of time and frustration for administrators, teachers and learners.

Most of the rubrics used in the classroom look like this basic example of a rubric used to assess speaking performance:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Speaking Short sentences with some mistakes. Longer, compound sentences with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences. Able to expand on ideas with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences, clearly organized. Able to expand on ideas and clarify concepts with few mistakes.

You will notice that there is no specific context for the speaking component in this rubric example. Depending on how a rubric will be used, you may want a very granular rubric tied directly to the context and content of learning, or you may want a rubric that can be used for a broader assessment. My example rubric could be used as part of an end-of-semester performance assessment, whereas a more granular rubric would be useful as an end-of-unit assessment or even a units-review assessment where I am looking at performance with specific content.

This rubric contains three specific parts: the scale, the performance to assess and the descriptors of performance. The scales for a rubric can vary across the globe; some teachers will use 1–5, some will use Poor to Excellent. When it comes to selecting the scale, use what will work best in your learning environment and help them communicate the rubric to others in the field, to your students and to your administrators. My personal preference is for a scale that indicates the current level of performance, without implied judgement. Once you have your scale in place, you want to figure out what you will be assessing. This will be largely driven by your course. What are you teaching? What performance do you need to assess? Performance of the skill is key.

For example, if you are teaching a grammar-focused class, you would not develop a rubric to assess the students’ grammar knowledge. It’s much easier to use a more traditional test to check for knowledge of rules. However, if you want to see how well a learner is correctly transferring the grammar they are learning into conversation, a rubric can provide direction. Such a rubric might look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Answer questions about the past and future Answers in simple sentences. Frequently mismatches verb tenses. Easily answers in simple sentences. Uses a few complex sentences. Mismatches verb tenses a little. Does not monitor or correct mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Makes few mistakes with verb tenses. Occasionally able to monitor and correct some mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Elaborates on answers without prompts. Consistent use of verb tenses with few noticeable mistakes. Demonstrates ability to monitor and correct when an error is made.

The final stage of your rubric construction will be the descriptors. The descriptors define what it is you will observe when students are performing. In a speaking assessment, you would be listening to students speaking in a conversation. In a writing assessment, you would look at the organization and cohesion of the students’ writing. The descriptors, then, describe the performance you would expect, aligned to your scale. The descriptors provide information that helps to clearly distinguish between each performance type. Using our writing example, you might have something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Presents personal information and details with little organization. Presents personal information with details. Selection of some details is clear. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned to the information and arranged in logical order. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned and organized. Specific examples clarify connections.

As you can see, a rubric builds from the bottom and works upwards. This way I can tell a student who Needs Development what they specifically need to work on in order to get to consistent, proficient and masterful use. This is something that can be planned for, and over the course of a semester, we can revisit this and see how their performance is improving and what next steps to take. A rubric helps to provide that kind of clarity. The greatest challenge in creating a rubric is usually in developing the descriptors of performance. What do I need to describe so I can both observe performance and define what the next level looks like?

Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics

A rubric is a pretty basic tool that a teacher uses to assess performance … but where does the GSE fit into all of this? For me, the most obvious place is in helping to define performance and create descriptors. As the GSE largely describes the use and application around the four English skills  without providing a specific context. This makes it a great place to start for understanding the performance I want to see in my classroom. Rather than the coursebook deciding, or my using my general sense of performance, the GSE gives me a clear indication of the difference in performance at different points along a learner’s learning journey aligned to a specific stops along the CEFR scale. Using the GSE, I could redraft my writing rubric so it would look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

(GSE 31/A2)

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

(GSE 40/A2+)

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

(GSE 47/B1)

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

(GSE 67/B2+)

From the perspective of a teacher, this gives me a good starting point to add further details to my rubric that would allow me to further align with my curriculum and the learning outcomes defined by my institution. This might look something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

 

 

(GSE 31/A2)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

 

 

 

(GSE 40/A2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

 

 

 

(GSE 47/B1)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

 

(GSE 67/B2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Using the GSE, I can also see the progression of skill development and get a sense of how long it will take for learners to improve their performance[1]. Knowing that the difference between Needs Development and Consistent Use is a move from A2 to A2+, I might expect that a student starting at the bottom will get to Consistent Use by the end of a semester. If I have a learner starting at Consistent Use, my goal would be Proficient Use, and Mastery would be a stretch goal. A rubric using the GSE not only helps me get a solid description of the skill performance, but it can also improve my expectations of what learners will achieve based on the length of my course and the number of hours of input and study that will be accessed.

The GSE Assessment Framework

Of course, all of this is a lot of work, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the Global Scale of English team had developed a set of agnostic course rubrics that describe performance, contain descriptors, are aligned to the CEFR, cover all four skills and, most importantly, are available for teachers to download.

123

Download the full set of rubrics in the GSE Assessment Framework here: http://bit.ly/29t7RAO

The GSE Assessment Framework would not replace all of my classroom rubrics nor stop me from developing rubrics in the future, but it does provide a nice functional rubric that I can use to assess all manner of performance tasks in my classroom using a tool that is externally validated. That end-of-the-semester speaking test would be a perfect test case for the use of the GSE Assessment Speaking Framework rubric. A mid-term writing assignment could be assessed using an internal rubric with the GSE Assessment for Writing Framework for a secondary reference.

Additionally, the frameworks could be handed out to students at the beginning of the semester and used as a way to help students with personal goal setting. As many of my students have test scores that report aligned to the CEFR, it is a simple matter of having students use the GSE Assessment Framework to see how their current level is described and have them look towards the future to make a personal learning plan to continue to improve their English skills and concentrate on problem areas. The Global Scale of English Assessment Framework doesn’t replace all of my assessment tools, but it certainly becomes another time-saving feature to add to my assessment grab bag.

Having access to something as value packed as the Global Scale of English ecosystem, I realize that improving assessments is one of the first steps when it comes to the functional use of the GSE. With over 1,000 descriptors of performance and an assessment package to boot, I’m excited to think of what I can accomplish by utilising these tools and the impact this will have for me and my future students as we continue to work towards our shared goal of communicative fluency.

References

Davila, Sara. “How to Use the GSE to Enhance and Improve English Assessments.” Pearson English. N.p., 6 July 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

English Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMultimediaPodcasts

Podcast – Continuing Professional Development

In this podcast, Alejandra Mora addresses what is Continuing Professional Development; the features needed when carrying out CPD and provides alternatives of CPD teachers can do.

 

 

MAMMaria Alejandra Mora (MSc. TEFL, SPLITT, TBI, and TEFL Certified) has over 18 years of experience as a teacher, teacher trainer, academic consultant and curriculum developer and has led teacher training workshops in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Peru. She has a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and has a wide range of interests including program development and training and project work. She is currently working as program developer for the International Language Institute in Keiser University Latin American Campus.

 

Business and ManagementWorld View

The Glass-Ceiling for Non-Native English Speakers

by Academic Committee 

Managers, recruiters, and applicants are aware that English proficiency is a critical factor for the professional advancement of individuals in virtually every industry, especially in business and management. Not speaking the language hinders employees at all levels to develop themselves fully and excludes them from a wide array of opportunities inside and outside their companies. English has such importance that employees who do not speak it are left in a stagnant position and are relegated and eventually replaced. However, a bias against non-native English speakers in the business and entrepreneurial world has become a more pervasive problem that has created a glass ceiling for a valuable segment of the workforce, and a non-native accent is one of the most prominent ways in which this challenge manifests.

Non-native English speakers can face communication and cultural barriers that might be difficult to overcome depending on the attitude and level of immersion with the language and culture. These barriers provide some insights regarding the existence of this glass-ceiling. For instance, they can face difficulties in interpersonal relationships with vital people, in negotiations and preliminary talks, and selling themselves and their ideas, among others. However, the problem has a more intricate background. Even though the degree of globalization the world experiments nowadays both in academics and business has triggered a steep increase in the number of highly-qualified workers non-native of the English language, they still face difficulties being promoted, finding executive-level jobs, and even obtaining funding for entrepreneurial ventures. Hence, there are also other roots to this problem that transcend communication and cultural barriers and even performance. These are more related to an implicit, subtle discrimination towards foreigners, and they have deep psychological and evolutionary roots which affect the foreign labor force at a macro level.

Laura Huang et al., (2013) explain this phenomenon and states that companies and venture capitalists are shifting away their focus from the quality of entrepreneurs’ and workers’ ideas and knowledge to the quality of their English. However, she concludes that even though communication per se is not a significant factor causing the glass ceiling, political skill is. Ferris et al. (2005) define political skill as the ability of an individual to change his or her behavior according to the situational demands to influence or control other’s responses. An important aspect of political skill is that it expresses sincerity, which allows the person to hide ulterior motives. Furthermore, according to Ferris, it is independent of general mental ability but related to personality traits. Although a non-native accent can undermine opportunities for promotion, lower political skills provide a better explanation to the glass-ceiling problem since it is an essential skill for executives.

The existence of this bias against non-native English speakers poses some problems for the labor force, regulators, and also for companies. The most visible problem is the limited opportunities for professional advancement this segment of the population has despite their intelligence and performance. Moreover, regulators might have to establish stricter policies regarding the hiring of foreigners. Besides, due to the changing dynamics of the labor force, it creates tension for companies related to the recruitment of either national applicants with excellent political skills but lower expertise or foreign applicants with lower political skills but greater expertise. This tradeoff can significantly affect their organizational culture and profitability.

Professor Huang presents two possible solutions to this problem. The first one consists of training to help non-native English speakers develop an accent more in tune to the standard and requirements of their society, Nevertheless, this solution might not be as effective due to the difficulty in changing a person’s accent, especially at an older age. The other solution entails directly addressing this bias and the implicit assumptions related to it during interviews or job-seeking activities and taking advantage of opportunities to demonstrate high political skills despite a foreign accent.

The bias against non-native speakers, and the glass-ceiling it creates, poses difficult challenges for knowledgeable professionals, as well as for companies and regulators. This bias has deep roots beyond communication and performance issues, which makes it difficult to solve shortly. Political skill is one of the factors that best explain the problem. Hence, accent-reduction training and demonstration of political skills are possible solutions at a personal level to help mitigate the problem and increase professional opportunities within the labor force.

References

Ferris, G. R., Treadway, D. C., Kolodinsky, R. W., Hochwater, W. A., Kacmar, W. A., Douglas, C., & Frink, D. D. (2005). Development and Validation of the Political Skill Inventory. Journal of Management, 31(1), 126-152. doi:10.1177/0149206304271386

Huang, L., Frideger, M., & Pearce, J.L. (2013). Political Skill: Explaining the Effects of Nonnative Accent on Managerial Hiring and Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(6), 1005-1017. doi:10.1037/a0034125

Business and ManagementMust Read

Book Review – Give and Take

41VatwrWCeL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Book Title: Give and Take
Author: Adam Grant
Year of Publication: 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books

 

 

 

 

Review by Academic Committee

Adam Grant is Professor of Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of Business. He has been recognized as Wharton’s top rated teacher for five straight years and as one of the 25 most influential management thinkers among other distinctions. His research focus includes leadership and culture, job design and meaningful work, and work motivation and success. Adam Grant holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Organizational Psychology.

His second book, Give and Take, was listed as one of the favorite books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal, as one of Financial Times’ books of the year, and as ideas that shaped management by Harvard Business Review.

Prof. Grant states that success not only depends on motivation, ability, and opportunity, but on the ability to interact with other people and nurture this network, more specifically on how much value an individual contributes and how much it claims. He discusses three types of people according to this premise: takers, givers, and matchers. Takers put their own interest ahead of others’ needs, they like to get more than they give, and they make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. On the other hand, givers like to give more than they get, and they focus more on what others’ need from them. In the middle ground, he places matchers, who try to keep a balance between what they give and what they take.

Giving and taking preferences are not about money, instead they are related to attitudes and social dynamics. In all areas, these preferences have their own benefits and drawbacks, and professionally they present highly complex interactions. Individuals with either of the three preferences are able to achieve success, but there are important differences in its degree and spread. The book emphasizes there must be a balance between these approaches, but giving allows individuals to maximize their abilities and leverage opportunities to achieve higher levels of success and well-being. Giving is both a powerful tool, but it can also be dangerous.

Dr. Grant presents unique approaches on how giving works in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing. He presents solid research and cases on how to manage each of these domains strategically to achieve greater levels of success. Furthermore, he presents possible drawbacks and problems and how to deal with them. Finally, the book explains practical actions to apply the principles presented, and it provides tools an resources for their incorporation and evaluation.

 

Business and ManagementWorld View

Business Challenges and Implications of the English Learning Curve in Central America

By Research Committee, Keiser International Language Institute

Companies have always required human capital with a vast knowledge in diverse fields and people with a plethora of skills, but these requirements have evolved and have become more complex throughout time. These needs present a high degree of correlation with the changes in technology, globalization, economy, and easiness of access to information, which makes them highly dynamic. Nevertheless, the ability to speak English and, more importantly, be proficient in the language, is a particular skill that has gained strength throughout years and has shaped businesses and economies in a subtle yet powerful way. In Central America, the importance of the English-speaking labor force deserves particular attention due to its critical role in the countries’ development and the challenges governments face to foster this development.

Not so long ago, English proficiency meant a considerable advancement at a personal and professional level that gave individuals a significant advantage over the rest of the job seekers.. In fact, it enabled them to have access to a wider array of employment opportunities. Moreover, it allowed them to obtain better positions with higher salary ranges in their home countries and abroad. However, the effect of English has evolved and now companies in all countries where English is not the native language have steeply increased their demand for a labor force that masters the language, making it an indispensable requirement for employment. Business leaders and policymakers are aware of the fact that English has become a lingua franca in many fields and a critical factor in the growth of their companies as well as for the economic development of their countries.

Different strands of research conclude  that there exists  a direct relationship between English skills  the population has developed and the economic growth of a country (McCormick). In countries  where English proficiency has improved , the income per capita has increased as well. The great importance of English derives mainly from two aspects: information and key players. English represents access to information vital to decision-making, strategy creation, and policy making.  Two cases worth mentioning  include academic and practitioner-oriented literature,  the vast majority of which and the most relevant ones are in English. Furthermore, English grants companies and countries access to key players necessary for their development, profitability, and growth. Countries with a large number of English-speakers combined with high levels of proficiency generate more negotiations and trade besides attracting more foreign investment.

The demand for people with specific language skills in a country and the companies within it directly relate to the number of countries and people outside it that speak its mother tongue. Moreover, demand for a particular language depends on the economic relevance of the countries with which  a nation engages in negotiations and trades that speak the language in question.

These factors help explain the development of the English skills people  in Central America develop. On the one hand, historically the trade of Central American countries has taken place with one another , which reduced the need of English in these countries. On the contrary, over the last decades, Central America has expanded its borders and has been increasingly trading with the U.S. and other developed countries.  In other words, these countries are now highly dependent on developed countries, and the most direct method to bridge them is English. This has created a radical increase in the demand in Central America for a labor force that masters English.

Even though English represents such a crucial tool for companies and economies, Central American countries has been unable to leverage and fully exploit it because  their respective populations  lack a strong base of English skills; as a result,   these nations face a shortage of workers who are highly proficient in English. . In its Globalization of English Report, McKinsey & Co., and Global English state that only 13 percent of graduates from emerging economies are suitable for employment in multinational corporations, and the number one  reason is the lack of English skills (2). The English Proficiency Index 2015, a global ranking of English skills per country, serves  as a useful indicator of the consequences  that may ensue as a result of the lack of English skills in the Central American workforce. In this index, Venezuela and El Salvador rank in the Very Low Proficiency range;  Costa Rica and Panama, in Low Proficiency, while Argentina ranks in High Proficiency, which correlates to their respective economic performances. Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras do not even appear in the ranking.

The core of the current state of English skills in Central America lies in the dynamics and difficulties the education systems in  most of the countries have experienced , which has left the region with significant challenges to overcome. To begin with, historical events such as wars and political distress in the XX Century hindered the economic development of countries and hence access to quality education, especially knowledge and skills  that went against the political priorities of the time. Even though countries have been able to overcome  these issues  at different levels and have implemented policies to promote education, they still lack sound strategies for the teaching of English; they face deficiencies in primary school, and they have scarce trainers regarding quantity and qualifications. Moreover, Central American countries have been unable to integrate adequately technologies in the teaching of English, which has hindered the effectiveness and reach of efforts in education of the language.

Furthermore, this type of Central American Dark Age left significant gaps in what has become today the top management of the most prominent companies. Only a small percentage of the generation of leading managers in most countries today can speak English, and a smaller percentage has an advanced level of proficiency. This means that organizations and economies are unable to achieve higher levels of growth and investment because they lack the human resources to get involved with the key players in the world economy and business world. Digging deeper it is possible to analyze some ramifications of the problem. Top management with insufficient English skills creates tension between themselves and the emerging graduates that up to some degree are entering the labor force with a higher level of English. At the same time, it is mostly the people with relatively high income who are capable of affording (quality) education in the language, which in the end widens socioeconomic gaps.

The lack of English skills raises another red flag for Central American countries as is the adequacy of English and technical skills or specific know-how and training. English helps individuals obtain better jobs within their scope of  study. This fact poses issues whether these individuals are the best fit for these posts or if they possess the knowledge to outperform those competitors that do not speak English. Hence, this evidences a necessary tradeoff between English skills and specialized training that jeopardizes companies’ profitability and growth and the need for training that addresses both aspects.

Business leaders, policy makers, and educational institutions are confront with the difficult mission to fill the gaps and improve the education of English in the Central American region.  By doing so, they will  be able to  achieve higher levels of development and investment. They should  provide a foundation for elementary education, create effective strategies for the teaching of English that ensure the number and quality of trainers, as well as the integration of technologies. Also, stakeholders need to create training programs that prepare the labor force with the technical knowledge in specialized areas and the English skills to accompany it.  This would mean a substantial enhancement of the labor force and, therefore, the development of the private and public sectors as well as the economy of the countries in the region.

References

Education First. “EF English Proficiency Index”. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Global English. “The Globalization of English Report: Globalization Accelerates Need for Business English Communication Skills”. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

McCormick, Christopher. “Countries with Better English Have Better Economies”. Harvard Business Review, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Business and ManagementEnglish Language Training

The Ins and Outs of Continuum Professional Development (CPD)

By James Cordonero

Were we to know what the future holds in store in our teaching careers, and were we to have foreseen all the challenges that lay ahead, there would be no need for in-service training in today’s world. This gap is where continuum professional development comes to provide instructors with opportunities to keep abreast of new and emerging trends in teaching practices and theories.

In Nicaragua, opportunities for career competency growth may not be as ubiquitous as in developed nations, but some educational institutions strive to offer workshops and other types of related meetings as part of the professional development experience, which is praiseworthy considering the many budget constraints that many schools face. Nevertheless, there is research evidence suggesting that “teacher development has moved beyond simple in-service workshops and has expanded into a more robust system of continuing education” (Quattlebaum, 2012). This trend in teachers’ competencies development is gaining new ground and having an impact on the quality standards of education worldwide.

The OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, defines professional development as a series of “activities that develop an individual’s skills, knowledge, expertise and other characteristics as a teacher” (2009). According to Hassel (1999), professional development is “the process of improving staff skills, and competencies needed to produce outstanding academic results for students” In other words, this new approach to teachers’ training proves essential in meeting today’s educational demands. But what clear goals can continuous professional advancement serve beyond pre-service training? The OECD establishes the following:

• to update individuals’ knowledge of a subject in light of recent advances in the area;
• to update individuals’ skills, attitudes and approaches in light of the development of current teaching techniques and objectives, modern circumstances and new educational research;
• to enable individuals to apply changes made to curricula or other aspects of teaching practice;
• to allow schools to develop and implement innovative strategies concerning the curriculum and other aspects of teaching practice;
• to exchange information and expertise among teachers and others, e.g. academics, industrialists; and
• to help weaker teachers become more effective in their practice

For professional development to be effective, it has to be ongoing and in-depth, include practice and feedback, and provide adequate time and follow-up support. It should not be brief and shallow as it currently happens with some of the single training sessions most instructors receive.

Since a great deal of effort in specialized training and development has been diluted in the elusive pursuit of achieving higher standards of education in many developing countries, some scholars have argued that the term “professional development” is a misnomer and that we should be thinking about “professional learning” instead. The former, meaning that teachers passively acquire knowledge intended to “influence their practice”, while the latter denotes “an internal process in which teachers create expert knowledge through interaction with colleagues and other educators in a way, that challenges previous assumptions and creates new meanings.” Hence, professional learning is what will enable instructors to overcome deeply rooted problems that call for “transformative rather than additive change to teaching practice” (Timperly, 2011).

Thus, if we want to achieve qualitative changes in our educational system, “professional learning” is what we should be aiming for. To achieve such a goal and to reach higher standards, radical changes must also take place in the scale and quality of development opportunities available to teachers. High-quality professional learning for teachers should not be the exception but the rule. Teaching should be a learning profession where schools or institutions should provide plenty of opportunities to keep their academic knowledge and practice fully up-to-date.

We are at the dawn of new era, witnessing the start of a culture change in the English teaching profession. Professional development or learning, for that matter, may not be the panacea that will solve all the pedagogical issues that arise in our respective classroom settings, but certainly it is a step in the right direction, and instructors should grasp with both hands every opportunity for professional growth whenever it comes their way.

References

Hassel, E. (1999). Professional development: Learning from the best. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).

Quattlebaum, S. (2012). Why professional development for teachers is critical. The Evolution.New Jersey Public Schools. Retrieved from http://www.evolllution.com/opinions/why-professional-development-for-teachers-is-critical/Sheppard, B. & Dibb

OECD. (2009). Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Timperley, H. (2011). Realizing the Power of Professional Learning. New York, NY: Open University Press.

World View

Lessons for Educators: Which Countries are Miles ahead in CPD?

Adapted and condensed by James Cordonero

There is a growing number of teachers in different subjects trying to hone their pedagogical skills, and those who want to go the extra mile turn their eyes to other countries to find ideas about continuous professional development (CPD).

According to David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, we should keep track of what is taking place abroad in terms of professional development. However, he further states, “It takes a number of different levers to change what’s happening in a large complicated system, but professional development is going to be an important one.”

Bearing that in mind, the following is but a small sample of the world’s education success stories:

Languages: Malta and Sweden
The route to success in language teaching lies in a complex multitude of factors, from the curriculum to the culture and geography of a country. But, despite the caveats, teachers can still take ideas and inspiration from abroad.

In 2011, the European Survey on Language Competences highlighted Malta and Sweden as leaders in pupils’ foreign language achievements. The reason is simple: they speak the languages at home. In both countries, English is spoken by nearly 90% of the population and the media is in both native and foreign languages.

Nevertheless, it’s not all about home-schooling: effective teaching supports the multilingual culture. In Malta, for instance, language teachers report high levels of funding and, for pupils, it’s given prominence in the curriculum. Students’ attitudes may also make a difference to learning approaches: in Malta and Sweden, students say they find learning English easy – an attitude not found in other countries.

It is almost impossible to replicate the same level of language immersion that students in Sweden and Malta experience, but the techniques have nevertheless begun to emerge in the some countries such as the UK. In Bohunt School in Hampshire, for example, each new year a group is assigned a language, be it French, Spanish or Chinese. Then, lessons in ICT (Information and Communications Technology), art, PE, social studies and after-school activities are taught in that language.

Teacher’s professional development: Japan
Japan has become a notable case study for CPD, with a system that was a well-kept secret for decades. The Lesson Study scheme originated in the nineteenth century, and provides a structured program for peer-to-peer development.

Collaborating with a group of teachers, a lesson is planned, observed and analyzed. Together, the teachers learn from each other, and share insights into their pedagogy. The result is a more open and public forum for education, where there may be as many teachers as children in a classroom.

Critics say it creates an unnatural environment in schools, but the Japanese system has already been adopted by teachers across Asia and is quickly finding its feet in Europe.

Furthermore, the Lesson Study model has itself become internationally collaborative, as the system evolves in unique ways in each new country. Japan’s most important lesson is the importance of collaboration in professional development.

Maths: Singapore
Along with other East Asian countries, Singapore has been hailed for its innovative maths education, producing world-class results.

In Singapore, learning times tables parrot fashion is frowned upon. Children are encouraged to develop core maths skills in creative, noisy classrooms, using props and diagrams to explain abstract concepts. The system, which was developed in the 1980s, couldn’t be more different from the traditional approach used in other countries where students s are still encouraged to do rote-learning without making sense out of how time tables work.

Singapore’s success has caught the attention of schools in the USA, where some have adopted the system and it has enjoyed rave reviews. As always though, teachers’ pedagogy is only part of the equation. A recent study, which highlighted Singapore’s success, also claimed: “An early start is crucial in shaping children’s numeracy skills.”

Social and emotional learning: Sweden and USA
A British scholar recently explored classrooms in the US and Sweden to find out how they approached social and emotional learning.

“The classrooms are full of mood meters and feelings charts as well as quiet areas that pupils can go to think, problem solve, reflect and resolve disputes using clearly-defined steps,” she writes about the US. “At the heart of the American school day is the importance of patriotism, national pride and the American flag.”

Although the approach stems from classroom culture, schools also use more formal frameworks to develop emotional learning, such as the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP). At the heart of the scheme is strong CPD, with a focus on teacher training and classroom management.

It’s a far cry from the freedom and autonomy found in Swedish schools. There, social and emotional learning is tied up with an emphasis on self-motivation. Pupils are encouraged to think independently, and have individualized guidance from teachers.

Source:
The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/oct/10/lessons-educators-countries-ahead-cpd