Not scared of large classes anymore!

[An account of the course on large classes by a participant- Uzma Abdul Rashid]

 

The first module of the course on Teaching and Researching in Large Classes has come to an end. It was led by Dr. Fauzia Shamim and was aimed at enhancing participants’ skills and understanding of teaching in large classes.

And, it did. Participants were teachers of English at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels so this was one group with quite a lot of diversity. Everyone had a different experience to share. But, one thing was common to us all- we had ‘suffered’ large classes. We were the victims. Large classes were a menace for us all. It was, of course, the first day of the course. It didn’t end on the same note though. We came to an understanding of how the concept of large classes did not revolve around numbers. One participant felt that her class of fifteen students was large because she had the same problems in it that someone teaching a class of fifty students faced. Coming to the threats that large classes pose to teachers, we were facilitated into putting ourselves in place of the learners and picturing a large class. This change of perspective helped us understand large classes from the eyes of the most important stakeholders in the whole process of teaching and learning. How did we do this? We wrote ‘instant’ poems. One poetic way of imagining and expressing the feeling of being a learner in a large class. Turned out that it was quite opposite to that of a teacher’s. All participants thought that as students, often they found it easy and fun losing themselves in “the sea” of so many students. The anonymity provided by the large class allowed them to be the “unknown miscreants” in “the crowd” and get away with almost anything. As they were the “nameless faces” or “faceless names” in a large class, they never expected to be individually acknowledged or appreciated. Students’ picture of large classes brought out the real issues which teachers of large classes need to focus on in order to find ways of addressing them. This led us to start thinking of strategies which could be used to make teaching of English in large classes more effective. The best part was that we, the large class teachers, thought of strategies ourselves for different language-skills activities, the principles underlying those, and the factors that needed to be taken care of while conducting them in a large class. Since this was a course which focused on both teaching and researching in large classes, some research studies about the same were also shared. Understanding the gist of these, participants seemed to be even more convinced that other than the ‘largeness’ of a large class, there are many more variables at work which cannot be disregarded. The last day was dedicated to discussing action research. This meant ensuring that teachers went back to their institutions and used the insights gained through this course for undertaking systematic inquiry on their teaching practice to improve it.

At the end of this course, one thing was still common to us all- we were out of the fear of large classes!

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SPELT Research SIG

Professional Development program 2008-9

 

Exhausted by the experience of teaching English in large classes and don’t know what to do? Here’s a chance for you to confront the challenge and change the way you look at your large classes.

 

Research SIG proudly offers a 45 hour modular course on

‘Teaching & Researching in Large Classes’

Course Leader: Dr Fauzia Shamim, University of Karachi

This modular course aims to enhance the participants’ skills and understanding of teaching English in large classes. Participants will also be supported for conducting action research in their own classrooms.

Module 1: 10 hours

Dates: 21-25 December 2008

Timings: 2.30-5.30 p.m

Venue: SPELT House

Module 2: 15 hours (January- May 2009)

During this module participants will undertake action research in their own classes. Monthly research clinics will be held to provide the participants the much needed space to share their research issues and get advice from peers and tutor.

Date & Timings: 3rd Saturday of the month, 3.00-6.00 p.m.

Module 3: 20 hours (June 2009)

Dates & Timings: To be negotiated with the participants

 

Course fee: Rs 4000 only!

 

Please note that Module 1 is also open to participants who may not wish to enroll for the entire course.

 

Enrollment forms available at SPELT house.

Last date for enrollment: 5 December 2008.

 

Research SIG report

SPELT, since its inception in 1983, has played a leading role in bringing together ELT professionals in Pakistan.  For some time now it has been felt that time is ripe now for SPELT to launch Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to provide space and opportunities for teachers to meet with like minded colleagues in their specialist areas of interest such as ‘Communicative Teaching of Grammar’,  ‘Testing and Assessment’, and ‘Research in ELT/Applied Linguistics’.

 

Currently, a number of academics in Pakistan are engaged in research on issues in Applied Linguistics and ELT. Similarly, student research is burgeoning in post-graduates programmes in ELT and Applied Linguistics offered by different universities.  However, ELT researchers in Pakistan do not have a platform to share their work and/or discuss issues with like minded people. Hence, Dr Fauzia Shamim of the University of Karachi, along with several colleagues including both novice and experienced researchers (see appendix 1) sent a proposal to SPELT for setting up the Research SIG to help develop, and support, a culture of research amongst English language teachers, teacher educators and applied linguists in Pakistan. The proposal was accepted by the SPELT Working Committee.  Subsequently, the Research SIG was invited to organize sessions at the SPELT conference held from 17-19 October 2008 in Karachi.

 

The first business meeting of the Research SIG was held on 19 October 2008, i.e., during the SPELT conference in Karachi to select a coordinating committee and devise an activity plan for the years 2008-2009.  The meeting was open to all conference participants.  Twenty one  people attended this meeting and signed up as members of the Research SIG. (Please note that Research SIG membership is free for all SPELT members for 2008-2009).To learn more about the Research SIG activities please visit the SPELT web site www.spelt.org.pk

 

Goals

The Research SIG has been formed to promote research in English Language Teaching (and Applied Linguistics) in Pakistan. More specifically, the goals of the Research SIG are as follows:

  1. To identify issues for indigenous research such as teaching English in large classes
  2. To support novice researches through providing opportunities for training and discussion on research processes, including formulating research questions, research design and methods of data collection and analysis
  3. To discuss and share ways of using research findings for improving the teaching-learning of English in Pakistani classrooms
  4. To build a community of researchers for mutual sharing and dissemination of research findings, identifying funding opportunities for research, and supporting each other in conducting quality research on ELT issues in Pakistan

Coordinating Committee

The following members were selected as the Research SIG coordinating committee for the years 2008-2009.

  1. Dr Fauzia Shamim, Dept. of English, University of Karachi (Coordinator)
  2. Dr Ayesha Bashiruddin, Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Karachi
  3. Dr Hina Hussain Kazmi, Iqra University, Karachi, and ED-Links Project
  4. Ms Rabail Qayyum, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.
  5. Ms Bushra Khurram, Dept. of English, University of Karachi
  6. Mr Najeeb-us Saqlain,, Textile Institute of Pakistan, Karachi
  7. Dr Sajida Zaki, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi
  8. Uzma Abdul Rashid, Dept. of English, University of Karachi

 

Research SIG Activities for 2008:

  1. Research SIG sessions in SPELT conference 2008 (17-19 October, Karachi)

Research SIG organized ten sessions overall.  This included eight paper presentations, one workshop for novice and aspiring researchers on ‘Developing Research Questions’ and a research clinic for researchers who may be facing some problem during their research process and looking for some advice on issues such as data collection or analysis of data.  In addition, the Research SIG provided a forum for graduate students to share their research in progress and research findings.  Five students from Iqra University, led by their supervisor Dr Hina Hussain Kazmi, shared their recently completed M.Phil research work in a colloquium, while learning to present and disseminate research findings through a conference at the same time. Also, Dr. Ayesha Bashiruddin along with her masters’ students made a presentation about the English Language Teaching Enhancement Project (ELTEP) which is initiated this year in the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development.

 

  1. Modular course on ‘Teaching and Researching in Large Classes’:

The first modular course on ‘Teaching and Researching in Large Classes’ will be offered for a group of 20-25 teachers.  The course aims to enhance the participants’ skills and understanding of teaching English in large classes as well as empower them with a tool for continuing professional development, i.e. action research. 

 

The course will comprise 3 modules with 45 contact hours spread over a period of six months. An important component of this course is the opportunity for the participants to conduct supervised action research on problems in teaching-learning English in their own large classes. In module 1, participants will begin with sharing and discussing their problems in teaching-learning in large ESL classes. Next, they will plan to conduct action research in their classes to address one or more of the identified problems.  (Module 1  will also be open to a limited number of other teachers who may not wish to enroll in the entire course.) During module 2, the participants will conduct action research in their own large classes.  During this time, they will be supported by the tutor and peers through five monthly research clinics. Finally, in module 3, the participants will meet again for five days during their summer break (June 2009) to write up their research studies and share them with their peers for critique and evaluation.

Enrollment forms for this course are available at SPELT house. Last date for enrollment is 5 December 2008.

 

  1. Research SIG Activities for 2009:

During the Research SIG business meeting, participants identified a number of needs which, they suggested, could be addressed through ongoing workshops and research clinics during 2009.  Details of these activities will be available at the SPELT web site and Research SIG blog soon.

 

Appendix 1

 

  1. Dr Fauzia Shamim, Professor, Department of English, University of Karachi (Coordinator)
  2. Bushra Khurram, Lecturer, Dept. of English, University of Karachi
  3. Uzma Abdul Rashid, Cooperative teacher, Dept. of English, University of Karachi
  4. Rabail Qayyum, Lecturer, IBA, Karachi
  5. Dr Ayesha Bashiruddin, Assistant Professor, AKU- IED, Karachi
  6. Haleema Younus, Assistant Instructor, AKU- IED, Karachi
  7. Dr Rafique Memon, Director, Centre for English Language and Literature, Sindh University, Jamshoro
  8. Dr Mashoori, Chairman (Incharge), Dept. of English, Khairpur University, Sindh
  9. Dr Hina Hussain Kazmi, Associate Professor, Iqra University, Karachi
  10. Dr Sajida Zaki, Associate Professor, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi