PRELIM 2: learnings from the teacher training project
PRELIM, the pioneering British Council-funded scheme pairing accredited ELT centres in the UK with English teacher associations (ETAs) around the world has now run twice, supporting hundreds of teachers to improve their skills and confidence.
The second project PRELIM (Partnered Remote Language Improvement Project) scheme had £500,000 funding, supporting 35 Accreditation UK language centres to work with 40 ETAs. It was run in partnership between English UK, the British Council and Iatefl, with support from ELT teacher training organisation NILE. A third phase of the project opens next week.
Michael Connolly, Director of English Programmes at the British Council, said: "At the British Council, we aim to grow the UK's reputation as a leader and trusted partner in quality English language education by driving for innovation and improved standards of teaching and learning. We are delighted to work with our partners and support the PRELIM programme which has UK-international partnership and innovation at its heart.
Reflections from the project partners
"A standout feature of PRELIM has been the focus on co-creation and mutual learning linked to real-world needs in a wide variety of international contexts. As well as international collaboration, it has been wonderful to see the deepening of relationships and networks within the UK English language teaching community. We look forward to the next phase of PRELIM and continued collaboration in the UK and with our overseas partners."
Annie Wright, marketing communications director of English UK, said PRELIM 2 and 1 had been a valuable experience for member centres. "This unique project has been embraced across the spectrum, from the smallest to the largest language centres. They have found it extends their skills and experience, gives valuable CPD and responsibility to staff and for some was a lifeline during Covid. On a personal level, they have relished the rich and valuable experience of working with fellow teachers in very different contexts. It has been a great opportunity and much has been learned – we and our members are also looking forward to seeing where the next phase takes us."
Thom Kiddle of NILE commented: "The NILE team was delighted to be able to take the learning from PRELIM 1 into double the number of partnership projects in PRELIM 2, working with enthused and motivated English UK members and inspirational, dedicated English Teacher Associations around the world, to promote confidence and competence in how teachers use English in the classroom. Truly a highlight of our professional year, and our careers!"
Jon Burton, IATEFL Chief Executive, added that, as with PRELIM 1, teaching associations from around the world had been keen for teachers in their own countries to benefit from this opportunity. This resulted in them developing innovative and targeted training proposals, liaising with their UK partner language centre and with other IATEFL Associate teaching associations taking part in the project, as well as recruiting and liaising with the teachers who would benefit from the opportunity presented by this project. This helped ensure each project was relevant and valuable and, as a result, popular and successful.
What were the outcomes of the project, and what worked best?
The PRELIM 2 project report details the outcomes in different areas and what was learned during the project.
"The project courses were notable for the variety of their digital solutions, the creativity of their instructional design and the flexibility of their management and delivery in responding to the changing realities of the everyday experiences of the participants."
- Flexibility was vital - across the 40 partnerships, there was agreement that: "adapting to circumstances as they arose was crucial" and that "flexibility on the part of both the ETA and UKI partners is a key to success on this type of project' … at times this meant "out-of-hours calls were required depending on ETA board members' availability".
- Establishing clear channels of communication was important, including email, WhatsApp, Telegram, and voice notes. "Partners recommended managing expectations around frequency of communication from the outset, e.g. 'establishing that instant responses are not expected (or necessarily required)'."
- Meeting summaries were useful
- It was overwhelmingly positive to work collaboratively with a partner from a different background and teaching context. "Working closely in partnership in coordination and exchanging ideas to design the course was a highly rewarding experience, as was the opportunity to build on the lessons of PRELIM 1' and 'In terms of the working relationship between the … training team and the [overseas teachers], I can't be positive enough. It was an incredibly valuable learning experience for the … team to be able to build and deliver this course to such an engaged and motivated group of teachers.'"
- Strong relationships were forged between UK institutions. "An opportunity to work more closely on a good-will basis with one other UK-based organisation was a very fruitful extension to the 'partnered' element of the project as it provided a deeper dive into another project's course design and CP learning outcomes".
- Language testing was replaced by diagnostic profiling in many partnerships to avoid a negative impact on teacher confidence
- PRELIM 2 had a positive impact on teachers' linguistic confidence. 'This course helped me to become a better teacher in pronunciation, grammar, listening and vocabulary because we discovered new things which can help us to be better teachers in English," said one. One UK teacher said: "By creating a safe space, CPs were able to open up about their concerns which led to an increase in confidence in a non- judgmental environment". Another added: "The teachers were very concerned about accuracy, particularly with regards to pronunciation. It was a relief to them to understand that intelligibility is the key thing, that an idea of perfection is limiting and ultimately flawed". There was some evidence that students also benefited: "A teacher mentioned a specific student who rarely spoke in class because they were embarrassed of their accent, but after being exposed to different accents in the same way she had been, and understanding there was not one English accent, they started participating."
- PRELIM 2 courses affected overseas teachers' professional confidence, in addition to their language abilities. Some reported changes in their teaching style and/or approach "to incorporate more student-centred and communicative activities' "After each session it was very difficult for me to continue my old teaching approach and practices. I discovered new, amazing things that could make my teaching more vivid and active." Another common theme was confidence in lesson planning and adaptation of lesson materials: "The course has made me more aware about the new approaches in the teaching of foreign languages ... the course has strengthened my confidence as a teacher. I think more about the tasks in the textbooks. I am not afraid of changing them for my needs."
- Teachers' confidence using digital tools in the classroom increased.
- One of the most frequently mentioned positive outcomes was the opportunity to connect and collaborate with colleagues in other parts of their country.
- English Teacher Associations were strengthened by access to membership, membership activity and engagement and enhanced networking.
- UK teachers reflected on their own teaching, appreciated the challenges of non-native speakers. "I am really grateful for this experience as it was really fulfilling to see how the course empowered a bunch of fellow teachers. In my opinion this initiative is the quintessential of what education should stand for; caring and sharing for others!"
previous entry << >> next entry