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Teacher Training / Development Materials - Teaching English in Large Classes

Most of the materials below were developed by Mais Ajjan, Harry Kuchah and Richard Smith for a group of Malaysian pre-service teacher trainees in January 2012 and by Richard Smith for subsquent workshops and webinars with in-service teachers, especially in Nepal. We are making them freely available here for use by other teacher educators but please let us know and give us feedback and suggestions if you do use them (to R.C.Smith@warwick.ac.uk)).

We also encourage you to send in materials of your own for sharing here, to benefit other teacher educators and teacher trainees. Your contribution will be properly acknowledged.

You can access the main TELC network website and join the TELCnet Facebook group if you are interested more broadly in issues of large class teaching in developing/transitional country contexts. There are some resources more directly/specifically for teachers available on the main TELCnet website.

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New! Video resource Low-resource classrooms: Set of video resources for teacher development (with accompanying reflection / discussion activities) produced from a Hornby Regional School in Kathmandu. Teachers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan share success stories and collaboratively investigate issues they face in their low-resource classrooms. Overview by Richard Smith here.

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New! A booklet and a book by Jason Anderson

Anderson, J. (2015). Teaching large classes: A booklet for in-service teacher education.

Anderson, J. (2015). Teaching English in Africa: A guide to the practice of English language teaching for teachers and trainee teachers. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers. Further information.

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Talks for teacher educators

Web-conference presentation by Richard Smith and Amol Padwad on 'Collaboration to improve English teaching in difficult circumstances', British Council Teaching for Success Online Conference, October 2016.

Webinar by Amol Padwad, Prem Phyak and Richard Smith on 'Teacher Education for Difficult and "Super-difficult" Circumstances', IATEFL Teacher Trainers & Educators SIG, October 2015.

Webinar by Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo on 'Teacher-research as CPD, in practice’. British Council, November 2014. Recording.

Featured speaker talk by Richard Smith on ‘Teaching English in large classes: An enhancement approach to research and teacher education’. Teacher Educator Conference (TEC) 14, Hyderabad, India, February 2014. Associated interview.

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Challenges of large class teaching (option 1.)

Initial lecture notes (powerpoint slides for one hour session)

Challenges of large class teaching according to Hornby School participants (Shamim et al. 2007) (handout)

Challenges of large class teaching as summarized in Watson Todd's 2006 literature review (handout)

Task: Compare the two lists of problems and see which ones are common / which ones are unique to one list. Do you agree with the inclusion of all these as problems? Are there any advantages of large class teaching?

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Challenges of large classs teaching (option 2.) [5 minutes]

Elicit from participants what they think are the major challenges of large class teaching. Then compare with the following list (derived from here):

  • “I have too much homework to mark. It becomes almost impossible to give effective feedback for everyone.”
  • “Not all students participate, due to being in a large class.”
  • "It is difficult to get students’ attention to stop them working on a pair or group task."
  • “The noise level in my class is too high."
  • “Students in a large class often have mixed abilities. It is difficult to cater for students with such different levels and needs."
  • “It is difficult to achieve rapport with the students.”
  • “Students' individual responses are difficult to hear.”
  • “It is difficult to promote active learning in large classes when resources such as text books, story books, flash cards, audio and video tapes are limited.”
  • “It is difficult to know/use students' names in a large class.”
  • “I am sometimes in despair at my inability to manage a large class”

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Students' perspectives (option 1) (from memory) [30 minutes]

Some of the problems / challenges from teachers' perspectives have already been summarized. But what about students' perspectives?

From memory, what were your own experiences of being a student in a 'large' class (as opposed to a smaller one)

- How does it feel?

- what is different?

[build up a list of both negative and positive aspects of being in a large class as a student on the board]

Some pre-service Malaysian trainees' answers to this task

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Students' perspectives (option 2) (some research findings) [25 minutes]

According to recent research by Mais Ajjan, what makes for 'good teaching' in a Syrian higher education context?

A presentation of PhD research into 'Large class teaching in Syria: Students' perspectives': video-recorded talk by Mais Ajjan to BEd students from Malaysia at University of Warwick. January 2012. [approx. 15 minutes] Powerpoints here.

- large class size is not the important variable - the teacher can make a big difference

- 'interactivity' seems to be a crucial factor

To what extent do these findings resonate with your experience?; what kinds of interaction do you think are important?

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Identifying possible solutions to problems/challenges (option 1) (from memory) [20 minutes]

- What 'good' and 'not so good' large class teachers do you remember?

- What did the good teachers do, and why?

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Identifying possible solutions to problems/challenges (option 2) (sharing success) [60-90 minutes]

- Remember a successful teaching experience you have recently had and share it with others. What made it successful? How could you reproduce that success? [30-60 minutes]

- Either before or after the above, share Fehmina's success story ('A garage school') here and have participants discuss the accompanying questions (further similar videos of success stories will be uploaded to the British Council's TeachingEnglish website in 2016) [30 minutes]

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Identifying possible solutions to problems/challenges (option 3) (reflecting on a successful case) [20 minutes]

Read about Timilisena's experience in Nepal and reflect on / discuss this (see handout)

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Identifying possible solutions to problems/challenges (option 4) (brainstorming, and research findings) [20 minutes]

Check understanding of a handout with a list of problems/challenges of large class teaching as summarized by Watson-Todd 2006. Students brainstorm their own possible solutions to (some of) these problems. If time is lacking, ask different groups to consider different categories of problem.

If students are lacking in ideas, distribute a sheet of solutions/suggestions as summarized by Watson-Todd 2006, mixed up - students can pick from these if they like.

Both the handouts for this workshop segment are here

Follow up reading: Summary of teaching principles and suggestions made in literature in Chinese, as summarized by Wang and Zhang (2011)

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Engage participants in 'research' into other participants' ideas within the training room [1 day]

Have participants identify an issue which is particularly troubling them. Form them into groups around similar concerns. Get them to clarify the questions they need answering and display a poster representing these questions. All participants go around and view posters, and place post-it notes next to issues they feel they can help resolve. Group members interview those people, and add findings to the poster, which they then present to all.

Either before or after, participants can watch Joya's presentation on 'Handling several classes in one room' here (this is the outcome of the process described above, at a Hornby Regional School in Nepal in 2013), and have them answer accompanying discussion questions. Further similar videos of 'training room research' reports will be uploaded to the British Council's TeachingEnglish website in 2016.

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Further reading / further resources (10 minutes)

Refer students to TELC website, including list of references there, for further resources.

Mention some 'general' approaches to addressing large class teaching issues:

- project work (refer to Zakia Sarwar's experience in Pakistan)

- practitioner research (refer to or perhaps play talk at IATEFL Brighton conference by Mehvish Saleem (35.04-40.00; see her further clarifications in the associated blog below the video).

- pedagogy of/for autonomy as another general approach (see 'follow-up reading' below).

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Introduction to follow-up reading (15 minutes)

Pre-reading:

Play audio and show power points of Harry Kuchah's talk on 12 May 2007 at Warwick University - just the part where he refers to problems.

Harry Kuchah Kuchah's 12th May 2007 talk on teaching large classes - problems only (audio)

Harry Kuchah Kuchah's 12th May 2007 talk on teaching large classes - problems only (powerpoint slides)

Task: Note down all the problems Harry mentions. What do you think he and his students will do to address the problems?

Give out article below for them to retell next session.Read the remainder of the story in the article to see if your predictions are correct. Students only need to read pp. 120-127 ('Kuchah's story') at this point.

Kuchah, K. and Smith, R. 2011. 'Pedagogy of autonomy for difficult circumstances: Principles from practice'. Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching 5/2: 119-139. Pre-publication version.

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Another source

The following is a good source of further workshop activities: Shamim, F., Negash, N., Chuku, C. and Demewoz, N. 2007. Maximising Learning in Large Classes: Issues and Options. Addis Abbaba: The British Council. Available online: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/ELT-16-screen.pdf

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An idea for postgraduate research training, contributed by Dr Suzanne M. Griffin

For research training with incoming M.Ed. students at Kabul Education University, here is a handout of post-video-viewing questions authored by Dr Suzanne M. Griffin to accompany a video interview previously produced and disseminated by TELC (Dr Mais Ajjan, interviewed by Harry Kuchah, 12 September 2012)

Suzanne writes that she "had the students discuss [these questions] in triads (rotating 5 minute roles as speaker, listener-questioner and notetaker) after the video. [...] The students really liked the video and immediately asked to get the link or to copy it onto their flash drives. Not only did they spend a half hour discussing it, but we all referred to it throughout the day as we discussed research questions, variables and data gathering and analysis."

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