Honolulu, Sep 11th 2015
In 2012, when I started working with a group of pre-service teachers at TNU School of Foreign Language, Vietnam, I decided to try out some new ideas and techniques. One of those was to ask students to take notes and reflect on what I had talked and we had discussed in the class. The notes would be shared on a common platform so that other students on the same cohort could read and contribute their own reflections. The students were requested to write notes every week covering different topics in Primary English Language Teaching (PELT) from how children learn to lesson planning or ongoing professional development.
Some of my premises were that:
(1) writing is basically challenging and takes a lot of practice. For second language learners, writing is both the end and the mean. We write to learn (the target language) through practice, and we write to be able to write (learning to write). As such, Writing reflections/notes every week not only helps pre-service teachers to use the language, but also gives them a reason to write.
(2) writing is thinking in that we need to synthesize and organize information, so we could better understand the subject matter and nurture our own thinking. In the PELT course, it was challenging for me to monitor how much and how well students did their readings and engaged into the course, writing is one of the strategies I can learn about different levels of engagement and mastery.
(3) students are/will be my colleagues, so I don’t treat them as my students, but as my co-learners I can learn from. More importantly, I wanted to nurture a community of practice. How could students be able to learn and to sustain their desires for learning? The answer is to involve them in a community where they can share and learn from others. By leaving the site in the public mode, students were expected to demonstrate their professional identity. In return, what they have written can be used as evidences of learning so that they can share with their potential employers.
(4) students taking the course should be able to add values to the profession rather passively inheriting the efforts and contributions from other academics and professionals. At this level, they can create something that is relevant to their experiences and knowledge. Preparing lesson plans for a whole curriculum “Tieng Anh 3” or writing lyrics to teach vocabulary in different units are the great examples.
As a result, all the students wrote at varying length and quality, but they were really engaged into the course (via the course evaluation). Some of the student’s writings are of high quality in terms of English and content. Not only could other students in the same course learn from one another, but also they could connect with other teachers in different countries (Peru, Philippines, etc.). The statistics indicates that visitors to this site are from more than 30 countries including Europe, US, Australia and other South East Asia.
Looking back after 3 years, I think this could be a great start for young learner teachers to connect, exchange and learn from one another in a more professional manner, but not formal way. Writing and sharing practical, ready-to-use ideas, techniques, resources in plain English with a lot illustrations such as photos, videos could be a very productive way for professional development. PELT journal is a space for collaboration and growth.
That being said, I would like to extend my warmest invitation to all teaching professionals and academics. You can contribute your posts, help other teachers to improve their posts for better writing and many more…you can envision those.
Please let me know if you are interested in. Reach me at phunghuy dot elt at gmail dot com
Mahalo from Honolulu
Huy V. Phung