By Melanie Butler
MB: Congratulations on winning the Excellence in Business English Training award Ed!
Ed Pegg: It’s a great honour to win the first Ebet award. It’s been a wonderful experience, and the personal growth opportunities are massive. For the past three years or so, I’ve been attempting to combine best practice from management training, cultural competence and linguistics to help international professionals manage their professional lives better. They come away from the training knowing that the English they use gives them the highest possible chance of getting the results they need.
MB: Pete, as director of courses at the London School of English, which is a member of Business English UK, how do you feel about the award?
Pete Thompson: Well, first of all I’m absolutely delighted that Ed has won the inaugural Ebet award. Another of our trainers, Claudia Marr, was just pipped at the post but unfortunately in the end there can only be one winner. As a school we are very keen to support and contribute to new incentives and developments within the industry. I personally think this award is an excellent one, providing an opportunity for our trainers to demonstrate their skills and for us as a school to showcase the wealth of talent we have here and to highlight their achievements.
MB: LSE is just over a hundred years old. How do you keep at the forefront of business English training?
PT: We’ve been around since 1912 and introduced courses for business executives in 1962, though of course what we do now is light years away from what we did then. For example, the integration of soft skills training into language training along the lines of what Ed is doing would not have been thought of as important back then. But former principals Peter Fabian and Timothy Blake were never interested only in a narrow view of what this business is all about. And I think it’s really important to listen to your clients. We gather feedback and ideas and hold regular focus groups with them while they are with us. This way we know we’re giving them what they really need.
It’s also essential to develop your trainers and provide them with continuing professional development opportunities as well as a chance to share best practice. We have regular in-house trainer development sessions and our trainers regularly present at conferences, including Business English UK. We also invest a considerable time in R&D so that new ideas can be given a chance to grow. We have recently created a new role of courses development manager to oversee new developments.
EP: There’s such an amazing group of trainers at the London School of English and we’re really pushing the boundaries of professional English training. There are so many people doing so many things, combining best practice from the worlds of EFL, business training and coaching. It’s a really exciting place to work and we’re given a huge amount of support in terms of professional development opportunities, allowing us to reach our full potential.
MB: Ed, we report in this issue (page 7) that you think the award has already changed your teaching. Would you elaborate on this?
EP: I think the award has already changed my teaching. I got a lot from just writing the proposal. When you are teaching every day it is difficult to find time to reflect. Writing down specifics of what I do is a brilliant way to focus on what I am doing, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what I could do better. I would definitely encourage people to apply.
PT: I completely agree with what Ed has just been saying. I think it is very important that trainers find time to reflect on what they do. In my view, this can only make them better trainers.
MB: Two LSE teachers were shortlisted for the award. What makes working at LSE so special – or are you just lucky?
PT: Of course, Ed and Claudia are just two of our trainers and we could have nominated any number of them. Many of our trainers are working on different aspects of business English training. For the Ebet nominations, Ed, through his interest in soft skills, was examining the issue of feedback with four very experienced business managers on an international business communication course. Claudia’s focus on the other hand was a project-based approach to teaching business English to students who do not have much direct experience of the business world. We have other trainers who are interested in using corpora for materials design, for example, so that we can build in examples of language used in the real business world.
We provide our trainers with the possibility of teaching a wide variety of course types, which I firmly believe helps keep them engaged and motivated. We also provide them with training opportunities to move into new areas of development that they have a real interest in. This can often lead to the creation of an area of special responsibility within which a trainer can further develop their interest and help disseminate knowledge and good practice. Ed’s special responsibility for soft skills included a mentoring role intended to inform his colleagues about his approach and hopefully fire up their enthusiasm for it. Trainers with special responsibilities are given extra financial incentives.
EP: I came to the London School of English several years ago for a training day and was blown away by the atmosphere and the facilities. I’ve worked in a number of places and this is really the only one I’ve found that truly respects and rewards teachers, both in terms of their professional development and financially. I strongly believe that LSE attracts so many talented teachers for these reasons.