This is the first post in a series that highlights TESOL’s participation in the English Speaking Nation Secondary Teacher Training Program, where we designed blended learning opportunities for secondary public school English language teachers from several regions of Uzbekistan (read more here). Following are some ways we adapted the design and delivery of our blended TESOL Core Certificate ProgramTM courses.
We adjusted our content and delivery to consider diverse English and digital proficiencies, access to resources, and local teachers’ varied experiences with active and communicative language teaching pedagogies.
Email was not as central to communication as texting for many teachers in the regions, some of whom created email accounts just to join our course while others used family members’ emails to log in. Email addresses were changed regularly as passwords were lost or forgotten or accounts stopped working. As teachers regularly interacted across multiple languages, different spellings of their names were used interchangeably. This created some barriers in the registration process, teacher access to digital platforms, and our ability to communicate and provide technical assistance when our systems connected everything to an email and a particular spelling of a name.
- Telegram Messaging App: We enrolled everyone in a Telegram channel for sending group announcements and a Telegram group for course discussions, voice messages, and file sharing. Telegram is used widely in Uzbekistan and connected to teachers’ phone numbers, so we could reach them easily there. This created opportunities for authentic interaction in English and a digital community that lasted well beyond the course where content could be shared quickly and easily without taking up space on teachers’ phones. We used Telegram as a bridge into the online platform by communicating initial course information and technical assistance and starting each module with an informal discussion there before formal course assignments were due.
- Synchronous Orientation: We met on Zoom the week before the online course began to demonstrate how to use the course platform, introduce the team, and answer questions.
Supporting Access to Content and Enhancing English
Internet access and data were unreliable and expensive, and Microsoft office and other digital tools were not always available. Low bandwidth increased the time needed to download course materials. Our existing online courses relied heavily on academic readings to teach theoretical foundations of TESOL, and course modules were asynchronous for independent learning with limited opportunity for speaking practice. We supported digital skill building, access to materials, and increased opportunities for language enhancement in the following ways:
- Google Classroom: Delivering the course on Google Classroom allowed everyone access to slideshows and documents without Microsoft Office and provided virtual storage so content didn’t need to be downloaded. It is also free, so teachers gained experience with an online platform they could use later.
- Synchronous Interaction: We added weekly Zoom sessions to provide opportunities to model course activities and maximize speaking and listening practice. Zoom sessions were recorded for anyone who couldn’t join or who wanted to rewatch later.
- Language Support: Summarizing key content from academic readings into narrated PowerPoint video presentations reduced language demand and provided listening opportunities with a variety of English speakers that could be accessed multiple times and paused throughout for reflection and processing. Digital flashcard activities and games on Quizlet provided opportunities to practice new vocabulary. Course materials were redeveloped at an intermediate level (B1 on CEFR).
- Scaffolded Course Assignments: Some assignments required teachers to produce original content in formats that were sometimes unfamiliar. We created assignment templates and examples to model the format, and instructors facilitated collaborative practice assignments in small groups in Zoom so teachers could practice with new formats.
Bringing New Teaching Practices to Life
Many teachers were used to traditional teaching models focused on grammar. Learner-centered communicative activities were often unfamiliar and hard to imagine. We used in-person classes to model and engage teachers in learning through best practices.
- Experiential instruction: Teachers learned course content as participants in communicative activities that modeled routines they could use with their own students, including lineups, pair and small groupwork, and jigsaw activities. They experienced classroom management, monitoring, and comprehension checking techniques. Our assessments were authentic. Teachers engaged in reflective discussions in small groups on how and why the activities were used and how they supported language practice and acquisition, and how they could be adapted in their context.
- Building on existing resources: We incorporated local textbook materials into assignments that engaged teachers in building communicative activities and assessments that extended from lessons they use every day. New content was developed to include teaching English with limited resources, and both high- and low-tech options were modeled.
- Team microteaching: We added a collaborative microteaching component to support the planning and teaching of a scaffolded communicative lesson. Teachers engaged in providing peer feedback following the lesson to prepare them for the practicum.
Supporting the Teaching Practicum
Teachers had to negotiate translating new methodologies from the course to classroom practice while balancing local expectations that often called for quiet students and textbook compliance. We scaffolded the 20-hour teaching practicum by providing coaching and collaborative opportunities for reflecting on the observation and teaching process. Read more in our next post, in April.