When we went back to class in March, my students appeared larger than life. More human, tangible. Lots of smiles, welcoming faces, laughter, and excitement. They had a willingness to learn and interact with each other, as well as with the teacher.
I was curious to see how teaching would function in a “post-COVID-19” period. I was happy to see them in class.
I developed a learn-as-you-go approach. I didn’t know who would attend on a day-to-day basis and hoped more students of various backgrounds would join.
Like many others in the field, I am always looking for new ways to improve my teaching. My research as a PhD student at York University led me to examine teaching from a critical pedagogical approach. The guiding principle of this approach is to construct equitable and democratic classrooms with a goal to positively transform students’ lives (Canagarajah, 2005).
While I was doing my research in an ELL classroom, I uncovered many ways in which ELL environments contradict the goals of critical pedagogical approaches. In many cases, planning and preparing ahead to foster a classroom environment that supports critical learning can overcome these challenges, but at times, there may be a dynamic need to shift classroom spaces towards empowering teaching and learning. I have developed a strategy I call critical pivoting to address this problem and would like to share it with you.
As we continue with online teaching and learning, I think all of us have discovered the importance of building community in the online spaces in which we spend so much time. I suspect that we have all also discovered that it’s more challenging to build a community in an online environment than in a face-to-face class. #CdnELTchat hosted a Twitter chat to talk about this ongoing challenge.
If you’re a Twitter user, join the next #CdnELTchat on Tuesday, January 12, on Hopes, Goals, and Priorities in 2021. Below is a recap of the December 8 chat written by #CdnELTchat moderator Bonnie Nicholas.
In a virtual or distance learning environment, social presence is essentially the feeling of being together. It can be quite challenging for both learners and instructors to project emotional and/or physical experiences in online learning, and this is a much-studied phenomenon. However, if we as instructors can consider this dimension of online learning in how we conduct our courses and interact with our students, we can help mitigate the stress and uncertainties of the sudden changeover to online delivery. Continue reading →
Like many of my colleagues, I was teaching online this summer using Zoom. My adult ESL class (CLB 4) had about 14 regular students. By the end, we had become quite close and it was sad to see them go. Along the way we had a few adventures related to online learning that I’d like to share with you.
I have been lucky enough to work with students from a myriad of cultures over the years. Had anyone asked me if I promote intercultural skills in my students, my response would be swift. Yes, of course!
After all, I have initiated plenty of culturally themed discussions, readings, presentations, digital narratives, and other activities. But after reading more about Intercultural Competence (IC) and, more specifically, Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), I realize that I am not going far enough.
What is ICC?
Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) derives from Intercultural Competence (IC). Both refer to the ability to interrelate with people from different cultures. According to Byram (as cited in Bickley, Rossiter, and Abbott, 2014), being interculturally competent means you can communicate effectively with people from diverse cultures in your own language. ICC, however, focuses on the “additional knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities” to do so in a second or foreign language (p. 138). For EAP, obviously, this distinction is important.
Welcome to the world of Covid-19 and online teaching! Do you like teaching this way? Is it working for you? Are your classes synchronous or asynchronous? At the University of Guelph, we’re using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous EAP classes. This means that every week I meet my class online at a set time while they are located in Guelph, in Korea, in Japan, and in China. These students have never met me or one another face-to-face. Is it ethical, therefore, for me to require them to turn on their video and show their face to the class?
Many teachers who have questioned portfolio-based language assessment (PBLA) have been wrongly described as “resistors” by PBLA administrators (for a discussion, see Desyatova, 2020). The students in my classes are not resistors: They are keen observers who have seen something that has not been raised before about the portfolio. In one particular class, my students have observed that the “culture of assessment” inherent in PBLA (Desyatova, 2020, p.11) has features reminiscent of their lives under rule by the former Soviet Union, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).