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Unis take teaching to a new level

Matt Salusbury surveys the options for overseas teachers who want to study on summer methodology courses at UK universities

Many UK university English language centres now offer summer methodology courses for overseas teachers. We contacted many of these centres, and nine replied that they currently do or recently have offered such courses, while a few other university departments responded to say that they don’t.

Two centres already use the EL Gazette to advertise their methodology courses for Teflers, and one other centre asked us to tell them how Erasmus+ funding worked. What’s the focus of these courses, where do their participants come from, and how do they find their way there?

The University of Brighton’s Patrick Brook says his Language Institute runs closed courses of four to twelve weeks for English school teachers from China and English lecturers sent by universities in Japan. While some of the Chinese intake are recruited by UK-based agents, most come to Brighton on government scholarships via the National Basic Foreign Language Teaching and Research Centre, which is based at the Beijing office of the influential English Coaching magazine. Brighton’s courses focus on ‘methodology with language’ – mostly methodology.

De Montfort University’s (DMU) Centre for English Language Learning in Leicester has been running specialist summer courses for closed groups including EFL teachers, kick-started by a 2007 summer course for out-of-work nuclear scientists from former Soviet countries.

DMU now runs a seven-week course with an emphasis on methodology for English lecturers from Chinese universities – two groups of eighteen trainees each – recruited via agents and via the DMU’s Beijing office. When the first intake arrived from China they were already at a surprisingly high level. They knew all about communicative language teaching, the lexical approach and so on, so the Centre had to ratchet up the content to ‘almost a PGCE level’ (the UK’s Post Graduate Certificate of Education for state secondary school teachers).

The University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education has two ELT methodology summer schools open to all. The Oxford Teachers’ Academy Summer School (OTA) at Worcester College is run in collaboration with Oxford University Press. It includes options such as mentoring, extensive reading and ELT management, several of which are now available online. Forthcoming OTA courses will include teaching with technology and teaching students with dyslexia and special educational needs.

There’s also Oxford’s English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar (ELTSS) at Exeter College, which has been running for twenty years. Oxford courses include meals in college dining halls and daily guest lectures by ELT stars – Adrian Underhill, Russell Stannard and Marie Delaney have featured so far. OTA participants come mostly from Spain, Turkey and the US.

This year’s Summer Seminars are on topics such as English as a medium of instruction, assessment and critical thinking. Argentina, Brazil and Colombia are the top-three sending countries. There’s also a closed course for thirty secondary school English language teachers which focuses on engaging learners and teaching with technology.

They’re recruited via the department’s website, English in Britain, findcpd.com and ELT industry publications including the Gazette. Some participants secure Erasmus+ funding.

Lindsay Knox of the University of Edinburgh’s English Language Teaching Centre told us that since the late 1990s they’ve been running two-week open courses that feature methodology, language learning for young learners, teaching grammar in context and pronunciation for teachers. The classes of twelve are ‘mainly European teachers’, the majority Polish or Spanish but with some from South East Asia. They come to Edinburgh via its listing on the Erasmus+ database or ads in English Teaching Professional or the Gazette.

The University of Liverpool’s English Language Centre has run bespoke courses since its foundation way back in 1987. Course length and content reflect client demand, and they tend to be general methodology, teaching ESP or teaching EAP and teaching academic subjects through the medium of English, aimed at building the confidence of university lecturers.

The University of Aberystwyth’s International English Centre’s Rachael Davey says it’s been running open general ELT methodology and language development courses (currently for two weeks) for over fifteen years, as well as closed groups on demand. There are on average around eleven participants on each open course. Students arrive via agents or Aberystwyth’s website.

Leeds Beckett University has since 2010 run courses of two to eight weeks in general ELT methodology, Clil, bilingual education, British culture and teaching. These are for closed groups – cohorts of between sixteen and forty teachers. They recruit most trainees via their website, or by responding to invitations to tender from UK Trade and Investment or the British Council. Most participants are currently from Panama (from where enrolments are up), Spain and Japan.

Keele University’s Language Learning Unit currently offers a Cert Tesol course in the summer. Its programme director Russell Clark told the Gazette it previously ran summer teacher development courses for ‘staff from our partner universities in the EU’ – Nicholas Copernicus University in Poland and Cordoba University in Spain. These combined ELT methodology, language development and cultural studies with funding ‘based on sending Keele students to these universities as part of their Study Abroad programme’. However, changes to that programme meant that after five years Keele had to discontinue these programmes.

The University of Glasgow’s School of Modern Languages has in the past offered summer courses for EFL teachers with Clil and IT components. These ran for five years ‘sponsored by the Spanish ministry’ until the funding stopped, according to the School’s Carol MacDairmid. Glasgow has since had approaches from Russian universities to offer similar courses.