Dr. Nina Spada is Professor in the Second Language Education program at OISE University of Toronto where she teaches courses in second language acquisition, research methods and instructed SLA. Dr. Spada’s research focuses on how second languages are learned in classroom settings. She is particularly interested in the effects of form-focused instruction on L2 learning. Publications based on her research regularly appear in Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Language Learning and The Modern Language Review. She is co-author of the award-winning textbook How Languages are Learned published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Spada is Past President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics.
For Çavuş, three advantages of this system are as follows:
-it makes you feel confident
-it guides you through the whole process of teaching at METU
-it helps you be creative
As for the disadvantages, she states only two items, which are:
-it might make you co-dependent.
-it can be time-consuming from time to time.
In general, she finds the system fruitful and rewarding, and she believes that she has benefited from it a lot.
In thanking Çavuş for her comments, we'd like to ask you to keep following us. More to come soon...
It was my first professional year as an instructor; therefore, mentoring system was fruitful for me in and out of the classroom. First of all, I could prepare and send my lesson plans to her before executing them in my lessons. My mentor’s and my trainer’s feedback provided me with new perspectives over my preparations. Secondly, I did not know how to cope with students’ problems and come up with some solutions for them. However, my mentor helped me find many ways through the journals we prepared weekly during the second term. At the end of each week, we met with my mentor again and checked the outcomes of our solutions of the previous week. Her experience with the students provided us with many examples and solutions. Thirdly, I was not familiar to METU and DBE culture. She helped me about the rules and regulations around DBE and I gained self-confidence in my workplace. To sum up, mentoring system helped me become a real member of this institution. Although it was a challenging experience with all the sessions and observations, mentoring program was an important step for my career as an instructor. I could apply the methods and techniques that I learnt and practiced during my probation and this year I can apply the successful ones in my lessons.
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Nicky is the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E (www.theconsultants-e.com), an online training and development organisation which helps teachers learn to use technology effectively in the classroom. Nicky specialises in online teaching and training via virtual learning environments such as Moodle. Author of several methodology books about technology in EFL, her latest book (to be published in 2012) is about digital literacies. You can read more about Nicky at:
I was a staffroom mentor for 2 semesters and I witnessed that my experience did not always match with other mentors’ experience. I believe that every mentor’s experience differs based on the mentee(s) they mentor. Each mentee has their own dynamics, some of which are their work experience, personality, and students, and so the mentor has to be able to read into these so as to guide them in the best direction possible.
I believe that the mentoring system is pretty advantageous because the mentee benefits from it in ways that we couldn’t when we were being trained. The mentor is there with the mentee 7/11 trying to guide or help them in areas they may feel insecure, i.e., how to seat students in quizzes and midterms, how to mark quizzes and midterms, how to deal with class management issues on the spot, enlightening them with the department’s unwritten culture and ease their adaptation period, etc. I certainly didn’t have that during my training and thanks to other colleagues in the staffroom, we felt safer and more at ease.
With this being said, when the mentoring program was introduced, it suddenly all made sense to me. Having someone you can trust in the staffroom with you was what my colleagues were doing during my training. Now, it has become formal, structured and planned. I’m sure as time passes, more and more people and maybe even other institutions will see the benefits of this system and would want to adapt it.
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"I would like to start from the end of the year, rather than the beginning of it. When everything was over, I felt as if someone had taken a burden off my shoulders. That burden was not the busy schedule, the many assignments we did or the observations we went through, as could be guessed. It was actually the burden of “being inexperienced”.
I had many real-life experiences here at METU where I could apply the techniques I have learnt as they are, or with little amendments. While I was doing my practice teaching at the senior year at university, I felt like a fish out of water. Real life was too real and what we learnt were stories from a fantasy land. METU was the first place where I learnt “real things” for real life.
In brief, I can say that all I know is, if I weren’t trained at METU, DBE; I would never be the teacher I am today, or I would have spent years for it. The trainees of METU come out as experienced teachers already for sure..."
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The mentoring system is beneficial for DBE since it is a way of helping the newcomers to understand the culture of the institution regarding administrative and academic issues while they try to adapt to the new environment. In this system, the mentees have the chance to get constant help and guidance from their mentors whenever they need, so they feel safe knowing that there is always someone near them for help. Moreover, the mentors can be of great help for the mentees in terms of their professional development through both sharing their experiences and encouraging them to try out new techniques in their classrooms. I think the system works well as the mentors work hard to help the mentees develop professionally and personally and also they are chosen on a voluntary basis. The mentoring system can be maintained for the coming years.
We'd like to thank Pınar Vardar for her comments.
I graduated from a really small university, so this mentoring programme was the best thing that could happen to me. I learnt how to prepare effective lessons and what to expect from my classes while doing that. I learnt all about METU and our student profile. We shared all the materials we had with each other throughout the year and had a great time together. We had meetings every week and tried to find solutions to our problems in and outside of the class. Besides, we had the classroom mentors who gave us a better idea of the different level classes we have at DBE. As for the so called disadvantages, the programme was extremely demanding. There were times I couldn't spare any time for myself. No pain no gain, though! Right now, I can say that the "kid" who arrived is not the same "guy". I've learnt a lot.
Dr. Harsch is currently an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Claudia Harsch researches and teaches at Warwick in the field of language learning, teaching, testing and assessment. Her research interests focus on the analysis and implementation of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), on qualitative methods to develop and validate language tests, on constructing valid tasks and rating scales for assessing writing, on teacher training in the field of assessment literacy, on the role of learners' self assessment, the role of assessment across cultures, and on conceptualisations and possible approaches to assessing intercultural communicative competence. She has presented at international conferences and published widely in the area of language testing and assessment.
Claudia studied and worked in Germany before she joined Warwick. She was scientific project director at the Institute for Educational Progress at the Humboldt-University Berlin from 2007 to 2009, where she was responsible for the training of item developers, the development and administration of a standard-based test battery for English as foreign language, and for test validation and standard setting. Her research focused on instruments for assessing writing, on standard setting, and on the usability of the CEFR in foreign language test development. Before this, she worked as research fellow at the University of Augsburg between 2002 and 2007 in several language testing projects, researching for example the construct of the C-test, and the alignment of rating scales to the CEFR. At Augsburg, she conducted her MA and Dr Phil studies in Applied Linguistics and Didactics of English and German as foreign languages. Her doctoral thesis investigated the relevance of the CEFR for various aspects of language assessment.
Claudia is member of several advisory boards in test development projects, think tanks, and professional societies. She has given lectures and seminars for undergraduate and postgraduate students and conducted numerous workshops for in-service teacher training programmes. She also taught German as foreign language in Huddersfield, UK and Augsburg, Germany.
Recent selected publications:
Claudia Harsch & André A. Rupp (2011): “Designing and Scaling Level-specific CEFR Writing Tasks.” In: Language Assessment Quarterly 8(1), 1-34.
Claudia Harsch, Hans Anand Pant & Olaf Köller (Eds.) (2010): Developing Standards-based Assessment Tasks for English as a First Foreign Language. Standard-setting Procedures in Germany. Münster: Waxmann.
Claudia Harsch (2009): „Das Nutzen externer Evaluation im fremdsprachlichen Unterricht“. [The use of external evaluation in the foreign language classroom]. In: Praxis fsu 01/09, p.9-14.
André Rupp, Miriam Vock, Claudia Harsch & Olaf Köller (2008): Developing Standards-based Assessment Tasks for English as a First Foreign Language – Context, Processes and Outcomes in Germany. Münster: Waxmann.
Claudia Harsch (2007). Der gemeinsame europäische Referenzrahmen für Sprachen. Leistung und Grenzen. [The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Attainment and Limitations]. Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.
I believe the mentoring system should certainly go on as “genuine help” is one of the urgent needs that a new instructor really needs especially in the first weeks of the term. It really helps these instructors to survive in their new working environment. Before the term started, I was quite worried about what to do and how to overcome the difficulties I’d have especially about the procedures of the institution. However, from the first day of the term on, I’d felt quite lucky to be a mentee who had genuinely helpful mentors around her. That new status didn’t affect my daily routines. Actually, since I didn’t have any worries about what to do, I was not under pressure, so it made my daily life easier. Moreover, it really helps new instructors feel “safe” while teaching in addition to adapting to the new atmosphere. Seeing the satisfacton at the end, I really want to take part in this program in the following years to be helpful to my new colleagues who are really in need of support as I can easily put myself into their shoes and try hard to help them deal with these depending on the experiences I’ve had. I also feel quite lucky to have been involved in that kind of a system, which “inspired” me a lot, seeing that each and every day I learned something new and I’d go on learning more and more thanks to the support I got from my trainer, my mentors, and my colleagues/the other mentees.
After going through this tiring but extremely beneficial program, I firmly believe that each and every institution should have that kind of a program to help the newly-recruitted teachers to learn about the dynamics of the new instution and effective ways of teaching different skills keeping the student profile and materials used in mind. Especially if a sincere atmosphere is created from the very beginning of the program as in ours, cooperation and collaboration among colleagues with the traner’s guidance and the staffroom and classroom mentors’ constant support can teach and assist a new teacher a lot, which can be clearly realized at the end of the program as I do right now. Thanks a lot for this inspiring atmosphere, fruitful meetings, and constant support. I hope I can also be a member of this program when I am equipped enough with the necessary skills to be able to achieve it.
Actually, our mentoring system does not have disadvantages, but it can be more effective if mentors and their mentees are ‘perfect’ matches, if the mentoring system is established on ‘voluntary’ basis, and there are not so many ‘strict’ procedures to follow as both mentors and mentees have a stressful and tiring program to deal with.
We'd like to thank Sevde for her notes. More to come soon - keep following us!
Martin Dewey will be joining us on the11th METU International ELT Convention. Dr. Dewey is lecturer in Applied Linguistics at King's College London, UK, where he teaches courses in Sociolinguistics, World Englishes, Teacher Education, and supervises PhD students investigating the globalization of English and English language teaching. His primary research focuses on the use of English as a lingua franca (ELF), especially concerning the implications of ELF for curriculum change in pedagogy, including reconsiderations of contemporary practice in language teacher education and conceptualizations of teacher knowledge. He has written numerous articles on ELF and is co-author with Alessia Cogo of Analysing English as a Lingua Franca: A Corpus-driven investigation (Continuum, 2012).
For the difficulties of the mentoring program, however, she states a few points: "Last semester, I had to allocate some of my free time to certain issues related to my new status, which sometimes caused some time constraints for my other duties and daily routines. For instance, arranging weekly meetings in particular and having to go over the lesson plans more than once were challenges I faced due to the hectic schedule my mentees and I had at school. This sometimes hindered my own classroom practice and other duties I took on in the institution, and limited the time we allocated for weekly meetings."
Nevertheless, she still emphasizes the fact that the whole mentoring process is an exciting, fruitful and satisfying experience for the parties involved as it gives everyone a chance to question, analyze and change different aspects of teaching practices.
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"I can only compare it to the system I was a loyal subject to when I just joined the institution. That system, though totally different, was also great, I think. First of all, I love direct input, and we had a lot of it, which I sincerely enjoyed. To be sure, we had plenty of hands-on-task activities at that time, too. It wasn't unbalanced at all. Secondly, we had four incredibly devoted and loving teacher trainers who were always there for me and for all of us. I will never forget Yesim Hoca, Zeynep Hoca, Irem Hoca and Alev Hoca. They will be my teachers for as long as I live. They shared their vast knowledge with us so generously, eagerly and selflessly that they became an icon of devotion to profession for me. Third of all, I was highly motivated despite tough schedule and many assignments and TPs because I did feel that I was learning something new every day thanks to that system and people who implemented it. So, I think, styles may differ but the core never will. Love for what one does is the core, I believe. I felt a lot of love back then. I feel a lot of love now,
too. The team has become bigger, so, obviously, love is growing, too. It feels great! Chinese proverb says 'Change is always for better.' God bless our teachers!"
Here is a list of advantages of the mentoring system for the mentees as summarized by Sobolev:
- firsthand experience as to real life classroom atmosphere with its problems, ups and downs;
- watching other teachers overcoming (hopefully!) some problems mentees face in their classes - thus, learning coping strategies;
- gaining a third-person prospective by watching other people do what they (mentees) do in their own classes; this may give mentees a chance to reflect on their own performance and approach their problems with a problem-solving mindset rather than with a panicking attitude;
- watching mentors going for very challenging lesson plans may encourage mentees to take some risks in their own practice;
- a chance to ask questions to people who are willing to share what they have learnt;
- a chance to visit the same mentor again if needs be to see development of an idea or of a method.
Sobolev also lists the things she truly likes about the system, including personal and professional benefits alike:
- a chance to be observed in class by attentive and highly-motivated people who are well prepared by their trainer to notice many things about your class performance. They are also eager to discuss their observations with you and you do happen to feel enlightened by their comments. Being observed by such people is a privilege and a huge motivational tool for professional and personal growth, I think. Well, at least for me,
it is like that.
- the system motivates you to exert. For me, this is the most valuable advantage of the whole establishment.
- the system bonded me to my “inner teacher” like nothing had ever been able to; this was achieved through exertion and desire to help others, I think.
- the system opened new professional horizons for me by clearly demonstrating me that I could do better things than I had ever expected; I will continue challenging myself.
- the system clearly demonstrated plenty of imperfections in my performance which I am determined to eradicate.
Clearly, the system seems to have proved useful not only for the mentees, but also for the mentors. More to come about the mentoring system... Keep following us!
Teacher Cognition is one of the hot topics of the 11th METU International ELT Convention. Simon Borg will give a plenary talk and a workshop on Teacher Cognition.
Simon Borg is Professor of TESOL at the School of Education, University of Leeds. He has been involved in TESOL for 23 years, working as a teacher, teacher trainer, lecturer, researcher and consultant in a range of international contexts. He specialises in language teacher cognition, teacher education, research methods and teacher research and has published widely in these areas. Full details of his work are available at http://www.education.leeds.ac.uk/modx/people/staff/academic/borg.
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