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CPD News and Articles

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996, and is the world's leading and largest independent CPD accreditation institution operating across all industry sectors. The CPD Certification Service provides support, advice and recognised CPD accreditation for the Continuing Professional Development obligations and policies of professional bodies and academic institutes.

Thousands of CPD training providers are sharing their skills with the world: here below articles by ILE London.

The skills you pick up in one arena become your superpowers across the board.

Alright, picture this – me, contemplating entering a boxing class. Total newbie. The idea? Terrifying. I mean, who would've thought that stepping into that boxing ring would kickstart a journey filled with crazy enjoyment, total fulfilment, and a heap of self-discovery?



Learning or Teaching? That is the question 🤩

Learning a foreign language and teaching one are closely intertwined. 

One of the most stimulating ways to refresh and, sometimes, update your teaching skills is to take a language course yourself. Learning a new language or perfecting one you already speak is a fantastic way to start critically looking at your own teaching.

 

While learning, you became reacquainted with feelings of excitement and joy during classroom activities; at times, you may feel frustration and anxiety during others. These feelings are a wonderful way to build awareness around classroom dynamics and the effectiveness of classroom activities. Exploring in first-person learning can revolutionise how you teach.

 

Here are typical takeaways:

 

  • Start the lesson with a brief introduction of the lesson’s objectives. Check the list with students at the end of the lesson: close the cycle.
  • Contextualising when presenting new language allows for an easy understanding of register and appropriacy.
  • Clear and short instructions BEFORE starting an activity: as a student, you will be extremely critical during this stage. You want to know what the teacher wants you to do during the activity.
  • Monitoring vs correction: the importance of avoiding giving conflicting messages. As a student, you want to do well and know if you should focus on accuracy, fluency, or research.
  • Progression is vital to ensure students can achieve the lesson’s aims: a clear sense of direction and a gradual level of difficulty during the lesson ensure that students succeed. This is also true for block of lessons.
  • Positive reinforcement: as a student, you want to be happy and do well, especially after a challenging activity. Hearing your teacher's praises will add to that sense of achievement.

Learners are not empty glasses that need to be filled: they enter lessons equipped with their own skills and knowledge. Lessons which promote language learning through tasks, active research and coaching techniques allow learners to reach their full potential. Students are not passive unintelligent beings, they are rich of their own experiences and emotions, they are there to acquire more. This message will be loud and clear when you are yourself a language learner.

We all know how that learning a language is a completely unique experience from learning other subjects, as it requires many skills, it is not enough to learn grammar, it is about learning to understand when listening to native speakers, reading, writing and yes, SPEAKING. To ensure that learners are in the best possible place to learn, the environment needs to be safe, supportive, and rewarding.

Refresh your teaching and take a language course this year: one of the best decisions you can make to reconnect and engage with your own students.

Written by Lara Panzini

 

What is TAFL?

A few simple tips on how to choose your TAFL course.

TAFL means Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Teaching Arabic to non-native speakers is a fascinating profession which allows students to learn Arabic and its rich culture. Often people think that being a native speaker or an expert of the language is sufficient to be a language teacher, however subject knowledge is just not enough, pedagogy is essential in any classroom.

Grammar, grammar, and grammar

I personally experienced a variety of teaching approaches for Arabic as a student and sadly, some put me off. They were teacher centred and the expectation was for me to learn all the grammar before being able to say a word. Also, culture was introduced more like propaganda then a key to understanding and appreciating a new culture.

So, let’s try to turn the table and start from the student’s expectation: what does a student expect to learn during an Arabic course? To speak, to understand when listening and reading, to learn about the culture, and to learn grammar when needed. This is a generalisation and it’s based on my experience working in the UK.

If these are the expectations of a foreign student, then the teaching needs to be focusing on:

  • communication
  • interaction
  • cultural understanding, awareness

A successful Teacher Training model that delivers all the above, is the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). This course is popular around the world for its practical take on teacher training. It offers the tools to use to plan and deliver communicative and effective language lessons.

A truly practical TAFL course

The CELTA model is certainly a successful one but Arabic, like many other languages, has a much more complex syntax and some of the techniques for teaching grammar must be adapted to its complexity. 

Another very important difference between teaching English and teaching Arabic is that the classroom material available is very different. For English you have a huge variety of textbooks and resources both for students and teachers. The resources available to teach Arabic are not always relevant to the teaching context. Our TAFL includes how to bring to live textbooks and how to create your own material. This is possible only because the wide variety of classroom techniques covered in our course.

Over the past 30 years I worked to develop teacher training courses for languages other than English, delivering courses practical in nature but that also equip trainee teachers with the tools they need to teacher their native language. TAFL is one of them.

Our TAFL course offers the underpinning methodological knowledge taught through practical demonstrations, examples, and discussions. The entire course focuses on understanding teaching principles and putting them into practice. Like the CELTA, TAFL offers assessed teaching practice: this is an essential element of the course as it allows participants to try out teaching techniques and discuss the lesson’s effectiveness in a supportive environment.

TAFL Checklist

If you have been thinking about embarking into this wonderful profession, take a TAFL course. 

Things you need to check when choosing a TAFL course:

  • The methodology it offers.
  • Mode of delivery: in person or online
  • The number of hours of study.
  • The language in which is delivered.
  • Course components: input sessions, observation, assessed teaching practice, written assignments.
  • The validity of the qualification

 

For more information about our Online CPD TAFL Course, please visit our website or email us.

Written by Lara Panzini

Cat Sailing and Pedagogy

To celebrate my 54th birthday I decided to challenge myself with something completely new: catamaran sailing! I probably have more reasons NOT to than to go for something sooo new and challenging: I’m sea sick, have hypermobility, I’m not a good swimmer, but I wanted to really challenge myself, so I did.

I took a 3 day course in Soma Bay, Egypt. After a trial lesson I was hooked! What an exciting sport!!! The 3 day curse was morning and afternoon lessons, with an exam at the end for the certificate.

The excitement was quickly accompanied by pains, bruises and a tiredness…but I kept saying to myself: you can do it!!! And I did it!!!! I’ve got my certificate and, as soon as the wind allows, I’ll go for my first solo cat sail.

Although cat sailing couldn’t be more different from language teaching, I observed the structure and delivery of the course. These are some points, I believe, should never be ignored when teaching or training:

  • Know your students: get to know who they are, their fears and their expectations.
  • Present the course objectives: what are your students going to learn and how – theory v practice.
  • Introduce jargon: communication is always key!!! Teaching the necessary jargon is essential, especially if your students will be required to use it.
  • Be consistent in language: use the jargon and don’t introduce lots of other options.
  • Follow through: if the course ends with a text or exam, make sure you cover all the test’s topics.
  • Practice and consolidation: it’s really not enough to say something to your students and considered that as TAUGHT! Include practice and consolidation time in your course.
  • Constructive feedback: allow students to learn from their mistakes. This stage is key for students to understand and deepen their learning.

A course ending with a test needs to look like a circle, where your end point coincides with your starting point.

For sure, I truly enjoyed the experience and learnt so much about cat sailing and myself. However, had I not have the initiative and skills to study by myself between lessons, I doubt I would have passed the end of course exam. 

So “Lee ho!!!” go for your dreams, challenge yourself: it can be great fun!!!

Lara Panzini 



Why Differentiation? 

I came across this term for the first time, several years ago during an inspection; the suggestion to include differentiation in my lessons left me feeling overwhelmed with lots of questions and few answers: does it mean that I have to prepare several different tasks for each stage of the lesson? How do I monitor students’ progress if they are doing different things? What about my preparation time? So, what is it? The main aim of differentiation is to create an environment in which all learners reach their full potential: this means students increase their mastery of content and skills. This happens when teachers build trust, ensure learning tasks fit learners, strengthen students’ voice, and develop awareness. 

What is differentiation?

Differentiation is more of a mind set than a technique but please don’t be put off!

Differentiation can be super simplified in 2 stages:

  1. Building your students’ profiles: it all starts by looking at 3 characteristics in our students: readiness, interest and learning profile.
  2. Plan your lessons: content, process and products.

 

6 easy steps to implement differentiation

  1. Their readiness: this refers to their previous knowledge, so are they ready to move to the next stage?
  2. Interest: students are more likely to engage when topics stimulate their curiosity and passion.
  3. Learning profile: this is how a particular student learns best, for example offering choices for demonstrating learning: video, presentation, or project.
  4. Content: what do students need to learn? Concepts, principles, skills. Adjust the degree of complexity of activities so that all students learn the same but through different ways.
  5. Process: how do you teach the content? These are the activities through which students understand a new concept, principal or skill. This is achieved through different grouping: so group students either by readiness, interest or learning profile.
  6. Product: this is how students demonstrate what they learnt. Students should be offered a choice of how to demonstrate their achieved learning.
     

Main Challenges

Time to: 

  1. Draw students profiles
  2. Identify key concepts in the curriculum
  3. Design activities for different learners

The changing role of the teacher:

  1. Dispenser of knowledge
  2. Facilitator

Professional development:

  1. Teachers may require new strategies and techniques to implement differentiation

Conclusion

To make differentiation a reality, schools need to organise effective professional development programmes and support their teachers during the transitional phase. Differentiation has a massive impact on students’ learning, their academic achievements, and personal development. Developing confident and self aware individuals makes a huge difference to our future.

 

About the author: 

Lara Panzini is a qualified Primary School Teacher, holds a Diploma in Teaching Languages to Adults, and has been a Teacher Trainer for several years, including Teacher Training Courses for Cambridge University. She worked in several contexts, including in-company language training, study abroad programmes, professional development for language teachers, curriculum design and online teaching. Her main passion is to enable people to solve problems!

 

This article was based on the following readings:

An Analysis of Elementary School Teachers' Knowledge and Use

of Differentiated Instruction. Alixa Rodriguez, Olivet Nazarene University.

Classroom strategies and tools for Differentiating Instruction in the ESL Classroom. Anne Dahlman, Patricia Hoffman, Susan Brauhn.

Differentiated Instruction Adjusting to the Needs of All Learners. Maryann Corley, American Institutes for Research.

Differentiation: Lessons. Jennifer Carolan and Abigail Guinn.

IMPROVING STUDENT MOTIVATION IN MIXED ABILITY CLASSROOMS USING DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION. Jamie Danzi, B.A., Kelly Reul, B.S., Rana Smith, B.A.

Perceptions about Implementation of Differentiated Instruction. Lora Robinson, Ed.D., Nancy Maldonado, Ph.D., Jerita Whaley, Ed.D., Walden University

The Goals of Differentiation - Differentiated instruction helps students not only master content, but also form their own identities as learners. Carol Ann Tomlinson

The Influence of Differentiated Instruction on Academic Achievement of Students in Mixed Ability Classrooms. Mazen Muhieddine Kotob, Malak Ali Abadi

 

 

8 classroom activities to teach your students how to approach challenge and pressure with positivity

In this article I will explain how these 8 simple activities, if included in your lessons, can help your students develop long-term strategies to cope with challenge and pressure. 

Let’s see how we can develop positivity and a proactive approach to pressure in our students. 

The recent pandemic forced educators to look further afield for different tools to engage and support students. I took inspiration from Terry Orlick’s work “In Pursuit of Excellence”: Terry Orlick is an internationally acclaimed sport psychologist, who helped hundreds of Olympic and professional athletes maximise their performances and achieve their goals.

Why is mindset for learning important?

Mental skills help students when facing challenges like learning new things or performing under pressure during an exam. All students are required to learn a set of knowledge during their studies; including a positive mind-set will enable students to realise their potential across different contexts, helping them to achieve their full potential.

What teaching techniques can be used to grow these psychological characteristics?

To help our students succeed and even excel in their studies, we can include in our lessons short activities to encourage students developing 10 Psychological Characteristics:

Commitment 

Planning and Self-organisation

Focus & distraction control

Goal setting and self reward

Realistic performance evaluation

Quality practice

Role clarity

Effective and controlled imagery

Self-regulation

Seeking and using social support

 

No matter the subject you teach, you can easily include these short activities to develop the mentioned characteristics. 

1. Modelling: this is the development of values and behaviours through the imitation of others. For example:

  • use of students in similar situations - Peer role models
  • use of slightly more experienced students - Proximal role models
  • use of social media for advanced role models who are like your students - Vicarious role models
  • use of experienced professionals - Experienced role models

 2. The Shepherd Approach: a range of teacher          behaviour used in combination to meet individual      needs. For example:

  • use a model student for others to imitate highlighting rewards from desired behaviour - The lead sheep
  • the teacher encourages students to move in the best direction through social prodding - Good pasture
  • encourage students who may need bigger challenges or recognition to make steps in the right direction - The sheepdog

 3. Worked Examples: a way to show students            how to solve a challenge. For example, the                  teacher describes how they tackled a problem to      highlight the approach and how to weigh                    different options before choosing the best way          forward.

 4. Guiding Practice: this is when you get students to work on material that gradually requires less and less guidance from you as students master the topic.

5. Articulation: this is a “thinking aloud” exercise. The teacher asks students to verbalise their thoughts as they face a challenge. Encourage them to make a list of possible alternatives (like the model offered in Worked Examples) including pros and cons so to make an informed decision on how to best solve the problem/tackle the challenge.

6. Feedback: this allows students to focus on performance enhancing information. There is an infinite number of  ways to run feedback: choose the one most appropriate to the age and context of your students.

7. Questioning: seeking solutions from students. This can often follow the feedback stage to encourage students to reflect and plan.

8. Debrief: offer time and space for students to reflect on their performance. Similar to feedback but the focus here is the  promotion of critical reflection to promote autonomy.

I’m sure you are very familiar with these activities, the main difference is the purpose: they are used to develop confident, positive and resilient students.

Your turn to share

If you have been using these techniques in class, share your experience: I’d love to hear from you!

Lara Panzini 

Transferable Skills

Can skills you learn in one context be successfully transferred to another? 

Now, more than ever, having an attractive professional profile is key. Whether you need to refresh your LinkedIn profile and your CV, make sure you showcase your skills. During Covid, many took online courses to explore new horizons or simply to stay active. The question is: When choosing a course, do you consider how transferable are the skills that you will learn? 

First of all, what are transferable skills? “Transferable skills are exactly what they sound like: the skills that you use in every job, no matter the title or the field. Some transferable skills are “hard,” like coding or data analysis, and some are “soft,” skills like communication and relationship building.[1]” The most common transferable skills that employers find desirable are:

Let us consider what skills people who attend a teacher training course leave with. For example, during a TAFL course (Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language ), you will cover a number of skills, essential within the classroom situation but that can be easily transferred to other professional contexts. Interestingly, the main skills required in teaching[2][3] are also listed as amongst the most desirable by employers. Let us see what they are:

During a teacher training course, trainee teachers learn very quickly how important these skills are to be able to teach effective lessons. A teacher is required to plan lessons within a programme and a deadline, create teaching material, use technology in the classroom, deliver engaging lessons through up to date techniques, manage a group of students, the list is endless. Now, all these skills are also so important in other roles, in fact a teacher knows how to be organised, do a presentation, deal with conflict, lead a team, adapt. 

So, next time you complete a course, please take a moment to reflect about the skills you acquired and how they can help you in other situations.

Now, it’s your turn: What are the skills that helped you most when changing roles or industry?

Share with us your experience :-)

 

[1] "15 Transferable Skills That Companies Want: Examples - FlexJobs." https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/transferable-skills/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

[2] "Important Job Skills for Teachers - The Balance Careers." 17 May. 2021, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/teaching-skills-list-2062488. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

[3] "How to develop the 10 key skills you need to work in Education." https://www.brightnetwork.co.uk/career-path-guides/education-teaching/key-skills/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

Lara Panzini 

Free apps to learn foreign languages

Are they any good?

Can you really become fluent using just an app?

What are the best features of these apps?

These apps are very easy to use, most of them offer a free service, and they all have courses for complete beginners. The exercises are easy to understand and they are all based on a simple formula to help you memorise words.

Some are supported by visuals, which make understanding easier; some instead, are supported by translation in English.

Do they offer a sense of achievement?

Most of them have cute ways to celebrate completion of activities or levels: for example a growing plant in a pot or a little character celebrating your new level.

Do these gimmicks work? Actually, they do! Being celebrated for completing a level is very nice and it energises you, you feel you want to do more. Positive reinforcement is very powerful.

 

What are their common pitfalls?

The most common pitfalls, in the free versions, are linked to gaps in grammar clarifications. For example, if you start learning Arabic, first you need to learn the script: I found Duolingo is actually fairly good with this stage as it includes the visual and the sounds with lots of repetitive practice.

However, when you move to learning simple sentences you start questioning the programme:

- The simple sentences are not useful to say on a day to day basis, like “My fish is beautiful” ...unless you have a beautiful fish :-)

- As mentioned, I tried Arabic which, like many other languages, has gender (masculine, feminine and neutral) and number (singular, plural, etc). However, there is no explanation nor examples to focus on these morphological changes, they are just there. If you are not familiar with how languages are structured, then you would probably get lost fairly quickly.

How can we make the most of these great apps?

Well, even though they can be great fun, they tend not to be enough on their own. If you use them alongside some tuitions with a professional teacher, then they are a great way to practice and memorise vocabulary.

For sure they are a simple way to find out if you like a particular language, an easy way to test yourself before committing to a course.

Can you really become fluent using just an app?

The answer is no, you can’t, not using just an app. This is not because the apps are not good but simply because to be able to speak a language you need to acquire knowledge and skills: 

  • knowledge means learning about the structure, the rules
  • skills means learning to speak, read, write and understand when listening

This is why learning a language is such a unique and amazing experience.

Lara Panzini 



Study Abroad: get ready to relocate

Is it possible to learn the basics during the first few weeks in a new country?

Yes, yes, yes!!!!! 

Not only is it possible but recommended. If you focus on learning the basics of the local language as soon as you arrive, then you’ll be able to advance quite rapidly as your foundations will allow you to build your knowledge. These days some of our clients use the quarantine period for their lessons which helps manage the boredom and fills the day with something interesting.

We arrange all our language courses to include elements of cultural awareness: this is an aspect that cannot be separated or removed from learning a language. Cultural awareness and language go together.

Whether you are relocating or just going abroad for a change of scenery, language courses are a great way to make new friends and learn something new while exploring a new place. Personally, I’m quite an introvert and I find very challenging making new friends but while teaching abroad (yes, I’m a language teacher) I found that with my group of students I would go for excursions, to the opera – as I teach Italian, or simply for a meal and a few drinks after class. Because of the course, it was effortless and incredibly enriching as an experience. 

If you wish to find out more about this option, please get in touch!

Ciao!

Lara 

Lara Panzini 

 

 

How translation can change the intended message?

 

Squid Game is a TV series on Netflix and people can’t stop talking about it. This unexpected hit is generating a lot of conversations about violence, capitalism and a growing craving for non-English stories. The series made headlines, not just because of its violent content, but also because of its poor subtitling.

Why are subtitles important?

Because, unless you speak the language, subtitles are the only way to understand the dialogues. However, the poor subtitling Squid Game changed its original message about anti-capitalism. Instead, non-Korean viewers may think that the series is simply entertainment based on violence. Netflix has been criticised in the past for poor subtitling and lack of care when dealing with non-English productions. As this trend seems to be here to stay, Netflix and others will need to up their game.

What are people doing about it?

Not surprisingly people speak a limited number of languages. But this does not prevent them from wanting to watch foreign productions. In fact, we seem to be very curious and interested in foreign stories and realities. Google and YouTube saw a dramatic rise in the number of people looking for the translation of slang they heard on TV. This shows the real desire to get the real message, the real feel of a conversation!

How do you know that the subtitling is not accurate?

Whether you are a fan of Squid Game or hate it or have no opinion about it, foreign productions are becoming more and more popular. Subtitling is becoming more accepted and viewers are becoming more sophisticated when reading subtitles. This is because we read so much into what we see on the screen. Often we are left with a disappointing feeling when reading the subtitles: we know they don’t match!

Why compromise when subtitling?

Subtitling is an extremely challenging type of translation. The translation needs to be short (time limit), easy to read and understand. Subtitles are written with the reader in mind. As a viewer, you don’t want to miss the action to read a deep and complicated message.

Foreign productions are widening our understanding of the world, they offer us different perceptions of time, work, relationships. These are challenging times, dividedness is been promoted and yet, the most popular TV series are foreign. May this be a positive sign for the future?

Lara Panzini 

What are Intercultural Differences?

Intercultural differences refer to the variations and distinctions that exist between different cultures and the ways people from various cultural backgrounds perceive, interact, communicate, and behave. These differences can arise due to factors such as language, religion, customs, traditions, values, social norms, and historical experiences. Intercultural differences are often the result of the unique histories, geographic locations, societal structures, and belief systems that shape each culture.

Some common areas where intercultural differences manifest include:

1. Communication Styles: Different cultures have varying norms for communication, including verbal and nonverbal cues, directness, use of gestures, and appropriate levels of formality. Misunderstandings can arise when individuals from different cultures interpret these cues differently.

2. Social Norms: What is considered acceptable behaviour in one culture might be seen as inappropriate or offensive in another. These norms can pertain to topics such as personal space, greetings, expressions of emotion, and gender roles.

3. Values and Beliefs: Cultures often hold distinct values and beliefs about topics like family, individualism vs. collectivism, hierarchy, work ethic, and the role of religion in daily life. These differences can influence decision-making and social interactions.

4. Time Perception: The concept of time can vary across cultures. Some cultures prioritize punctuality and view time as a valuable resource, while others have a more relaxed attitude toward schedules and deadlines.

5. Cultural Traditions: Ceremonies, rituals, holidays, and other cultural traditions can differ significantly from one culture to another, influencing social dynamics and daily life.

6. Personal Space and Touch: Notions of personal space and acceptable levels of physical touch can differ between cultures, affecting interpersonal interactions.

7. Conflict Resolution: Approaches to resolving conflicts can vary, with some cultures favouring direct confrontation and open communication, while others may opt for more indirect or harmonious methods.

8. Dress Code: Attitudes toward clothing and appearance can differ, ranging from conservative to more liberal, and can reflect cultural values and social norms.

9. Cuisine and Dining Etiquette: Food preferences, mealtime customs, and dining etiquette can greatly differ, leading to potential misunderstandings during social gatherings.

10. Work Environment: Work-related behaviours, such as leadership styles, communication with colleagues and superiors, and the balance between work and personal life, can be influenced by cultural norms.

Understanding and respecting intercultural differences is essential for effective communication, collaboration, and building positive relationships in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. Embracing these differences and practicing cultural sensitivity can lead to greater cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

Lara Panzini 

Private lessons 
(one to one)

Advantages and disadvantages from the student perspective

Ever thought about taking one to one lessons?

What are the advantages and the disadvantages?

Here are a few tips based on our experience.

Advantages

Studying by yourself has a number of advantages. The most frequent are:

  • The course will be designed around your language needs, your interests and your learning style. This means that the lessons will be organised to cover precisely what you need, about what you like and what you are interested in, and will offer activities to maximise your learning.
  • The pace of the lessons will respect the pace of your learning.
  • The programme is not set in stone so, if while you’re learning your needs change, the programme will change too.
  • Lessons will take place at times that suit you.
  • You have the option to reschedule free of charge by giving 24-hour notice.

Disadvantages and solutions

Studying by yourself can have some disadvantages. The most frequent can be:

  • You may not know what you need to learn. We offer a free consultation before starting the course: this allows you and your teacher to explore in detail your level and your needs.
  • The attention is all on you! This is both an advantage as we have seen earlier and a disadvantage because when you are particularly tired it can feel too much. Our expert teachers are able to quickly reorganise the sequence of the lesson or modify the dynamic of the activities to actually offer you resting times and revitalising activities to restore your energy level.
  • Too many options can be overwhelming at times: how do you choose the topics, the time, etc? Your teacher will make suggestions based on your needs: learning on a one to one basis doesn’t mean that you are on your own; you and your teacher are a team!
  • Lessons are more expensive than group classes and the reasons for that have been listed above. Your time and efforts will be channelled to achieve your goals and your potential. Hiring a professional is expensive…but not too much, considering the benefits.

So, if you have been thinking about taking one to one lessons and you have a question, contact us at lara@ilelondon.com.

We offer Arabic (MS and a variety of dialects), Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish at all levels.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Lara Panzini 

How long does it take to learn a language?

Your questions answered

The question

I’m often asked: “How long does it take to learn a language?” I so wish there was a straight answer: here is a simple way to approach this.

A reliable approach

Although many factors will determine the time required by and individual to learn and master a new language, here one way to make an estimate: the number of words you are able to use!

The mail language levels

Using the main frameworks in this industry, this is a fairly accurate estimate for European languages:

With 500 words, what can you talk about?

You can have simple everyday conversations. This is equivalent to A1: basic user.

With 1000 words, what can you talk about?

You can have slightly more complex everyday conversations. This is equivalent to A2: basic user.

With 2000 words, what can you talk about?

Work! This is what you need to apply for a job in most European countries. This is equivalent to B1: independent user.

With 4000 words, what can you talk about?

Specialised topics. You can talk about more technical and specialised topics in your field. This is equivalent to B2: independent user.

With 8000 words, what can you talk about?

Everything! This is what is normally used by a native speaker. This is equivalent to C1: proficient user.

With 16000 words, what can you talk about?

Welcome to eloquence: this is what is used by a highly educated native speaker. This is equivalent to C2: proficient user.

What can you learn in one hour of lesson?

So, the next question is: how many words can you realistically memorise and use in one hour of lesson?

Well, typically the teacher will prepare a lesson in which you will come across around 50 words in each hour; the beauty is that you need to keep active just 20-25 words!!! Now, that is very doable :-)

This means that if you join one of our Beginner Taster Courses, in just 4 weeks you should be able to use around 400 words, enough for you to interact in the most common situations: now, isn’t that amazing???

This is because our teachers focus on communication so everything you learn during your lessons is there to scaffold your learning and facilitate your speaking.

Do you have a question?

Send me your question

Lara Panzini 

Au revoir ma chère Marilyn

Saying goodbye to a dear colleague

Last night I received a text message which I just could not believe: Marilyn Dhissi passed away on Sunday 29th of November 2020. I am still in shock.

I met Marilyn a few years ago, she was one of my fabulous French teachers. I was enchanted by her professionalism and happy personality from the day she came for her interview. After that, colleagues and students appreciated her as much as I did. She emanated positive energy and she was always so generous with her time and talent. Whenever we bumped into each other, we always stopped for a chat and, even though we didn’t know each other outside work, she could really see me: she understood what I needed, so she would smile and made sure that I took a minute to just breath.

Marilyn was an amazing teacher because, a part from having excellent teaching skills, she had a unique sense of empathy and she never judge: she took her time to listen and helped. She was able to establish sincere connections with people and this made her a special teacher and an extraordinary person.

I would like to share her family’s appeal on GoFundMe, https://gf.me/u/zciv3g 

Please share with them your memories of Marilyn and make a donation if you can.

Thank you.

Lara Panzini November 2020

 

 

 

Dealing with loss

When a part of you goes forever

Dealing with loss: what does it mean? You deal with loss when you lose a person or something very dear to you. The pain that loss causes is personal and a natural response to change. This type of pain manifests itself through physical or emotional symptoms. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it; however, loving and respecting yourself is a rule that helps you throughout life.

I lost my father precisely 8 years ago today (26 August 2012). He was the centre of my universe and I miss him every day. I miss him because, a part from been my father, he was a man with a brilliant mind: he was deeply curious, he knew no boundaries, he pushed for social change, he was extremely educated and knowledgeable, he was very funny, he was truly exceptional in so many ways, including his quirks.

As young children, according to Piaget's theory of cognitive development, we develop the process of reversibility (the ability to recognise that numbers or objects can change and return to their original condition) and this is what moves us from living is a perpetual forever status to one in which things change. However, this does not mean that as adults we are fully equipped to deal with big changes, like for example losing someone dear to us, or something important to us like a job, a role, etc.

So, what is the origin of this pain? According to Mark Manson it is linked to meaningfulness. We need our life to be meaningful, surrounded by meaningful people, events, etc. when one of these meaningful pieces is gone then it affects our perception of how meaningful our existence is. Imagine that every meaningful person in your life holds a mirror in which you can see a partial image of yourself; when that person is gone from your life then you also lose a part of yourself so you are forced to reconsider yourself and what does living meaningfully means without them. It probably sounds terrifying and at times it is, but it is also one of the most natural processes in life: it is a fact that eventually everything is lost. But before that there is so much to live for and enjoy!

What does this process look like?

  • The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. However, like Elisabeth KĂĽbler-Ross explained herself, it doesn’t mean you will go through all of them or that you experience them in this sequence. In fact, you may experience none of them. They are simply a point of refence in understanding common feelings when grieving.
  • Common physical symptoms are insomnia, nausea, weight change, aches and pains.
  • Common emotional symptoms are fear, anger, shock, sadness and guilt.

So, take positive actions. The key here is to recognise what you feel or do that is not your normal and work on that; often is easier to look after ourselves physically more than emotionally. For the emotional aspect it is important to love and respect yourself. You can achieve this by 1. Acknowledging your pain 2. Recognise your triggers 3. Seek help when you need it.

When do you know that the grieving period is over? The grieving period is personal and there are no rules about its length. What is difficult is the sense of guilt that you may experience when you are ready to let grief go. Why? Because in the back of your mind there is the thought that moving on means forgetting. You can never forget so don’t worry: you can safely let go and move on. The memories you build will always stay with you and the meaningful moments you spent with them will remain unreplaceable, special.

So, today I enjoyed a day with him: I went through some old photos, some videos, some articles he wrote and enjoyed the company of his memories, the warm comfort of feeling loved, the gratitude for having him in my life. I love him now as I always have. 

Lara Panzini 

Appraisals

Looking back to look ahead

What is an appraisal? An appraisal is a meeting between an employee and the line manager to review performance; in some places it is referred to as a performance review.

Appraisals can be an exciting event to look forward to or a one to dread. It all depends on how they are conducted and what their outcome is. My experience is limited to the educational sector and these are my main suggestions to avoid obvious pitfalls:

Frequency - Good practice: Appraisals should take place yearly with a review after six months. Poor practice:  This often doesn’t happen for a long list of reasons, mostly linked to the workload of line managers. This has a negative effect on teachers, who generally look forward to their one to one with their director of studies (DoS) to receive a well-deserved pat on the back. 

Preparation - Good practice: Often teachers receive from HR or their DoS a form or a list of questions to prepare for the meeting. This helps them to focus on their past achievements and challenges. Poor practice: Those teachers diligent enough to do it should not be disappointed by a conversation that excludes all the preparation required. The preparation form should be in line with the actual meeting.

Meeting - Good practice: The aim of the meeting should be to record all achievements, challenges and plan further development. Poor practice: The meeting should not be hijacked by the line manger to “punish” the teacher. There should be no surprises or hidden agenda. 

Report - Good practice: Appraisals are recorded and mostly they are written by the line manager. As this is a formal document kept in your file, it is important that it is accurate and that you agree with its content. Poor practice: The manager doesn’t write the report so there is no formal record of the meeting and training plan. 

Development - Good practice: Appraisals are a great opportunity to plan the future based on past performance, to look at training, development, opportunities. Poor practice: Far too often the training plan is not followed up because the resources don’t allow for spending, training is not available, or it doesn’t match the direction of the school. And what happens if after the meeting none of the promised training takes place? Well at best disappointment and disengagement.

Appraisals can be the event that formalises an employee’s achievements, a celebration, and yet so much disappointment can be generated in a one-hour meeting! So, is there anything we can learn from other industries?

Teachers should be in charge of their development: Research suggests that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is characterised by the importance of reflecting on practice and the individual responsibility to develop (Megginson and Whitaker, 2007), with continuing as key to the scheme (Harding, 2009). This is an important shift because it puts teachers in charge of their development.

Development in line with strategic objectives: To ensure staff is ready to deliver future services, managers need to draw development plans in line with the departmental objectives and the training required should feed into the organizational training plan as recommended by Guskey (2000). Organising development sessions disjoint from individual development plans means that organisations miss an opportunity to align service objectives with the development of their staff.

Purpose: Highly qualified and experienced staff are offered no real incentive to further develop (Sparks, D., 2002); in fact, Claire Whitehouse (2015) states that “schools need organisational structures and managements that encourage and facilitate on-going professional learning, rather than focusing on monitoring and regulation.”

Frequency: Frequent and informal chats are very much in line with a new fad in management, according to James Baron, Professor of Management at Yale School of Management, “Evaluating an employee’s job performance should consist of more than an annual chat.” (Knight, 2011) and this is supported by a radical change in performance management style which suggests that “regular conversations about performance and development change the focus to building the workforce your organization needs to be competitive both today and years from now. Business researcher Josh Bersin estimates that about 70% of multinational companies are moving toward this model” (Cappelli, 2016). This seems to suggest that, even though in schools PDIs may not take place regularly, staff satisfaction may be generated by all the other informal conversations that take place naturally during their work between staff and managers, even in the absence of formal PDIs.

In conclusion, looking at other industries, appraisals should be frequent, have a clear purpose, should be flowed up by appropriate training in line with the company’s direction and the individual should be in charge of this process. The pandemic made us work remotely like never before and these three points are more relevant than ever.

Further Readings

Cappelli, P. and Tavis, A. (2016). The Performance Management Revolution. Harvard Business Review. October 2016 Issue. https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-performance-management-revolution 

Guskey, T. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, California 91320: Corwin Press, Inc.

Harding, K. (2009). CPD: Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is not new but it is increasingly seen as necessary in ELT in the UK and around the world. Modern English Teacher, [online] 18(3). Available at: https://business.highbeam.com/437580/article-1G1-205985086/cpd-continuing-professional-development 

Knight, R. (2011). Delivering an Effective Performance Review. Harvard Business Review. October 2011 Issue. https://hbr.org/2011/11/delivering-an-effective-perfor 

Megginson, D. and Whitaker, V. (2007). Continuing Professional Development. 2nd ed. London: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Sparks, D. (2002). Designing Powerful Professional Development for Teachers and Principals. National Staff Development Council, Oxford, OH. Available at: http://www.nsdc.org.ew 

Whitehouse, C. (2015). Effective Continuing Professional Development For Teachers. Centre for Education Research and Policy. Available at: www.cerp.org.uk 

Lara Panzini 



One family’s soft skills

Useful lessons with my stepdaughters

A become a stepmom at the age of 43. This was a totally new experience, one filled with joy, fear and a billion questions: what if they hate me? what if I hate them? what if I’m not what they expect? what exactly do they expect? 

I met my stepdaughters for the first time in Cairo, shortly after their father had proposed to me. I was super anxious and so very excited to meet them and finally they arrived: Nour was 14 and Ganna was 11 (our millennium!). We had dinner and the following day we left Cairo to go on a beach holiday in Makadi Bay. It was a first for so many things: their first beach holiday, my first time with 2 kids, my first time in Egypt…the list was long. 

Since then we became ONE FAMILY, this is our nickname. Our family is full of differences: 4 nationalities, 3 languages, 2 religions, 1 large and diverse family. We learnt very quickly that our differences attracted a lot of attention whenever we travelled. People will often approach us and ask “Where are you from?” and most of the times they leave confused because our family doesn’t fit the stereotype.

Over the years, the kids went through some challenges as growing up can be very difficult. Fortunately, we went through these difficulties with an open heart and we navigated through them using some very needed soft skills. What did we learn on the way?

A warm welcome

The kids welcomed me with a beautiful smile and open arms. They adapted their behaviour to help me fit in while in Egypt. We reviewed things we took for granted because our family was different from what we knew and we needed to create new rules to fit our needs. The ability to learn from experiences and change accordingly is key in today’s world and complex family dynamics = adaptability

This is how we’ve always done it

The kids made a leap in challenging their believes as they were facing a different role model (me). They didn’t judge me, they adapted to a new family shape and together we looked at things from different angles to include and understand our different perspectives = critical thinking

Understanding feelings

Empathy was there in abundance from the beginning however, the little one went through a very difficult time when Ash and I got married. Showing her that I saw her for who she was and validating her fears allowed us to move forwards and consolidate our relationship. She showed strength and understood the importance of empathy, something that the kids have naturally, it guides them so well in their interpersonal interactions = empathy

Good manners

Old fashion good manners proved also to be a bonus in our family. It is easy to cut conversations short because we think we know everything. Normally it is over dinner that we discuss more serious topics and this allows the girls to 1. present their point of view 2. acknowledge the point of view of others 3. review their believes 4. adapt their behaviour staying true to themselves = integrity and consistency

End of holiday blues

The last 3 or 4 days of our holidays used to be filled with sadness as the kids started thinking about not seeing their dad for a few months. This was heart-breaking for all and we had to find a solution to turn so much unhappiness into a special moment. So, having discussed the reasons why they fell into this pattern and explored our feelings we now celebrate our time together and look back at the funniest moment, the best food, etc and this injects happiness into the last days of our holiday. An important step for the kids was to understand that we build our beautiful memories in the present. Being present allows us to breath, relax and enjoy each other = optimism

Baby steps

We live in a competitive world in which young people are under the constant scrutiny of social media; this persistent pressure can break some of them. The idea that only perfection will do, always and at any cost is a hard rule to follow. Teaching the kids that yes, they are free to set their own standards, that learning happens in stages, and that sometimes failure is a valuable lesson not the end of the world was stage one. With little guidance the kids became stronger in themselves and now remind us when they see us struggling that “baby steps” are ok = proactivity

Bouncing back

Teaching the kids the importance of mistakes, coupled with planning and reason, helped them to be stronger when facing uncertainty. The ability to bounce back is particularly difficult for high achievers as they experience little failure. Unexpected poor results at school on your final year at high school is an example or moving to London for your first experience away from home are two examples of what our kids went through but learning about learning was a valuable lesson, one which allowed the kids to support each other and ask for support when they needed it. The support we offer to each other allows us as individuals to take risks because we know that we have a safety net: a strong family behind us = resilience

Soft skills are a popular topic and when I tried to explain what they are to my mother she looked at me as if I had just discovered that you need to breath to stay alive. These skills are nothing new and yet they are sold to us as if they are the greatest novelty ever. Maybe some of these skills left the professional context as they are not measurable (hard skills are) and because so many managers say things like “It’s nothing personal” or “It’s just business”.

Soft skills are personality traits and behaviours that allow us to interact with other successfully. The number of soft skills varies depending on authors, for example in “Leadership” by Diane Lindsey Reeves and Connie Hansen they reduced soft skills to 4: savvy, integrity, inclusivity, influence; in Emma Sue Prince “7 skills for the future” they are: adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive, resilience. 

In conclusion, the number of soft skills is not important. What is important is that interacting with others is a skill that can be improved and refined. The quality of the interaction an individual has affects their mental wellbeing and the perception an individual has of him/herself. So, what I learn from my stepdaughters is to be kind, respectful and try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you behave like this at home, at work and when you socialise, I think you will soon feel better about yourself and others.

Lara Panzini 

CPD: How to organise Group PDI (professional development interview) 

The ultimate guide for academic managers with big teams and limited resources

Hello! My name is Lara and I’m the founder of International Language Experts Ltd, formerly known as Impact Services International Ltd. I worked in the educational sector since 1992 in the UK where I manage large academic teams and even larger student populations.

The aim of this article is to introduce the idea of Group PDI and why they may be a good option for you. Managing staff performance, designing and managing performance review systems is one of the many tasks an academic manager or DOS has. It is not uncommon to call these meeting either PDI meeting or appraisal, they usually take place at least once a year and they are a great opportunity to record teachers’ progression and successes. Any academic manager will be familiar with the time pressure associated with rounds of PDIs and how easily they can turn into a box ticking exercise, losing their true value.

To understand why Group PDIs may be a successful option for you, first we need to clarify what these meetings are:

Are they appraisals or professional development interviews? Appraisals focus on assessing performance so they look at the PAST, PDIs focus on developing skills and growing knowledge so they look at the FUTURE. It is common to use appraisal and PDI as interchangeable; however, they set to achieve two very different aims.

In some institutions you may find that the scheme is a hybrid so it includes a part that looks at the past and one at the future. If you organise individual meetings this is probably no much of a problem but if you have a large team, your time will not really allow for 60+ individual meetings a year plus reviews half way. But even if you manage a team of let’s say 15 teachers, Group PDIs are still a valuable option. Let’s see why.

Looking at teachers’ training needs and professional development is one of the most fascinating aspects of my job, it’s when I have the opportunity to look at the future with my team both from their perspective and mine (strategic objectives) because, when looking at the future, you should not miss the opportunity to upskill your staff to get your school ready for future projects. Here how to organise Group PDI in three simple steps:

  1. Before the meeting teachers received their PDI form and complete with what they achieved in the last 12 months, achievements need to be evidenced plus a review of training undertaken
  2. The Meeting is one hour long and is attended by 4 to maximum 6 teachers. 
  3. After all meetings have taken place, every teacher receives the product produced by the process.

Looking at past achievements and successes during the group meeting is a great way to celebrate teachers’ learning and achievement while sharing their experience with the rest of the group. This sharing has several positive effects: it allows for celebration in a public setting, it allows teachers to learn what colleagues have been working on, it inspires them for their own plan, it encourages mentoring.

During the meeting teachers also look at the future to shape their personal development plan and here you have to consider a number of factors, depending on the requirements of where you work:

  • Do you have departmental or school’s objectives? If so, you probably need to include them in your CPD programme
  • Will you be inspected? If so, you need to include improvements and targets into the plan.
  • Do you have a budget to deliver CPD? If you do you will need to prioritise spending, if you don’t you will need to find creative ways to achieve your targets through other means.

But let’s go back to the Group PDI. Over the years I experimented with different formats of Group PDI and this is what I learnt:

  • Professional Development Interviews need to take place at convenient times. This may sound obvious but often meeting are arranged to fit the manager more than the teacher. My pro-tips are: offer a number of options, offer the meeting during downtime in the timetable, offer meeting remotely.
  • Agree with your team what the purpose of the interviews is: are they evaluative, developmental or both? These are fundamental questions and both sides need to agree on the answer.
  • Agree with your team what the main focus of the developmental part will be. This can be taken from past inspections, teachers’ needs, students’ feedback.
  • Review the form, sometimes called Individual Report. In my experience the report is written by the line manager and then stored in HR. I learnt that shifting the ownership of the report from the manager to the teacher is a game changer: the teacher is the best person to describe their successes and struggles, what they learnt and what their gaps are, their direction for further development.
  • Make sure the process produces a product like a report, a list of activities, reflection on practice, etc.

Group PDI offers all the benefits listed above plus the fact that you reduce the total meeting time by 4 to 6 times, which should not be underestimated. However, not all teachers will adapt to this instantly so it is important to offer the individual meeting where necessary and allow the enthusiasm of the team to gradually persuade them to join one of the group meetings.

I hope this article inspired you and if you need any help, get in touch lara@ilelondon.com.

 

And as always, show your team your love!

Lara Panzini 

The Importance of Articulated Roles

 Why some roles are alienating and why we should do something about it

As a customer, when you have a question about a service or a problem, have you ever experienced your call or email been put through to an endless number of people? How does that make you feel?

When a customer is made to feel like a pinball, this is often the manifestation of staff disengagement and the alienating effects of jobs “subdivided into petty operations” (Braverman, 1974). So what are the barriers today to making admin roles more interesting? Why haven’t these roles been made more engaging?

I have been working in the educational sector since 1992 and admin roles changed dramatically with the introduction of more sophisticated databases and IT systems. In 2018, while studying at Birkbeck University, I researched the effectiveness of the professional development scheme and since then I continued observing how job roles are created and how performance is measured, focusing especially on administrative roles and roles that are admin-heavy.

These roles, according to Harry Braverman, in “Labor and Monopoly Capital. The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century” (1974) were a byproduct of technology,  which was expected to improve the work conditions of some roles but instead caused them to become even more mindless and perceived as unimportant; he wrote: “work has become increasingly subdivided into petty operations that fail to sustain the interest or engage the capacities of humans with current levels of education; that these petty operations demand ever less skill and training; and that the modern trend of work by its “mindlessness” and “bureaucratization” is “alienating” ever larger sections of the working population.” This means that admin jobs are there to cover the tasks that system can’t.

The main consequence of this is that job descriptions for administrative roles tend to require minimal competences. This in turn means that progression and the possibility of promotion is close to nil (Rodriguez-Muñoz, 2012). The lack of intellectual challenges and of any opportunity for advancement manifests itself through disengagement, so what can a company do to alleviate their negative impact on its customers and, just as importantly, on their staff?

During the research I conducted in 2018, administrative staff expressed need for training on time management, stress management and an opportunity for ownership of their tasks so to make them efficient. This showed that people have a natural disposition towards reflecting on practice, one essential element of professional development (Megginson and Whitaker, 2007) but the professional development schemes analysed during the research failed this category as they focus on the evaluation of performance and do not include any opportunity for professional development; there is a tendency to focus on the past rather than the future.

In conclusion, mindless jobs have a negative impact on customers, staff and ultimately on society. I would encourage any employer to move away from creating cheap and alienating roles and instead move towards more articulated roles in which staff have the opportunity to grow professionally and as individuals.

Lara Panzini 

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