Workshop teaches University community about nuances of teaching English abroad

Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 9:31pm

Participants engaging in an interactive activity at the Effective and Sustainable Teaching Practices workshop Thursday night in North Quad Residence Hall.

Participants engaging in an interactive activity at the Effective and Sustainable Teaching Practices workshop Thursday night in North Quad Residence Hall. Buy this photo
Cat Mykolajtchuk/Daily

Teaching effective ways of communicating with other students in foreign countries and addressing safety concerns while traveling abroad are common topics of interest for students planning to study out of the country. These topics were also much of the focus of The Quito Project’s interactive workshop held Thursday.

The Quito Project is a student organization that sends University of Michigan students to Quito, Ecuador every summer to teach English. LSA senior Marina Ross, co-president of The Quito Project, said the goal of the workshop was to provide both students and the general public with the resources and tools to effectively teach English in a foreign country. These goals transfer to The Quito Project’s overall mission.

“We recognize that a lot of our tutors, since we work with undergraduate students, don’t have the formal background in teaching,” Ross said. “We also realized that our situation wasn’t unique to us, a lot of other student orgs that go abroad to teach don’t have any training whatsoever, so we created these workshops. And so basically what this is is just how to teach ESL abroad in an effective way that is sustainable.”

Martha Epperson, a doctoral student at the School of Education, gave an interactive presentation on strategies for effective classroom teaching. She first discussed lesson plans and objectives. Epperson claimed there are three things to consider when making a lesson plan: what the students have learned, what they should be able to do and what evidence there can be that the students have learned. She advised attendees to be cautious about simply teaching students about something without ensuring they learned it.

“Sometimes you’ll see students learning about, and I’m going to really caution you to not have that objective,” Epperson said. “Remember, we want to know what they’re going to do with this information, because if they just learn, for example, the history of South America, how am I going to know that they learned? What is my evidence there?”

Epperson also discussed the connections that should be made between clear instructions, student learning, student motivation and classroom management.

“Instructions for activities really are the absolute foundation of your lesson,” Epperson said. “Your lesson really will fall apart if your instructions are not clear.”

Epperson claimed clear instructions can give students a sense of purpose and accomplishment, as well as reduce anxiety. She gave five strategies for giving clear instructions: use simple language, make the instructions shorter, write them out and use visual aids, demonstrate the exercise and then check for understanding. Epperson emphasized checking for understanding, as students will often not ask if they are confused.

The event also featured a safety presentation from Jennifer Chizek, a student outreach specialist from Global Engagement, and Katie Wiggins-Gawlik, the global education adviser from Ross Global Initiatives. Chizek and Wiggins-Gawlik advised attendees to take action before departure in order to ensure a safe experience. Chizek recommended all students register their trip through the University travel registry system.

“One of the most important things you can do is register your travel,” Chizek said. “It really allows the University to contact you in case there is an emergency. It allows us to support you when something might be going wrong overseas.”

Chizek also suggested students make an appointment with the University Health Services' Travel Health Services to get specific information about any immunizations and medications they might need for their destination.  

Epperson concluded the event by advising attendees to not be discouraged by the amount of work teaching English in abroad can take, because it will get easier with time.

“They kind of seem like a lot (the strategies), especially at the beginning, but they are an investment,” Epperson said. “And as your time goes on with your students, you’ll find that you have to do less and less.”

LSA freshman Kelly Delgado said as a STEM major, she has not had the opportunity to learn how to teach, and this workshop has provided her with the necessary tools to manage a classroom.

“I’ve never had any training in education so it was really nice to hear some strategies for how to get a classroom going,” Delgado said. “I’m a science major, so I’ve never had any formal training in any type of education so it is nice to have something to base off of when I go abroad over the summer to teach kids ESL.”

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