I’ve spent the past two weeks in London studying the Cert IBET course at International House, and it’s been one of the most stimulating and inspiring periods of my career so far.
I was concerned before I started that I might find the Business aspect quite dull, but while the worlds of Finance and Marketing don’t particularly rock my world, I found the communication training element – integral to Business English – allayed my fears.
The content of the course was very comprehensive and covered all aspects of Business English training, from Needs Analysis and Course Programming through to Approaches to Business Communication Skills and Business Topics.
The most interesting elements of the course for me though, were the teaching methodologies, notably the Lexical Approach to language teaching and Task Based Teaching. Before the course I read ‘Implementing the Lexical Approach’ (Michael Lewis) which was very highly recommended by my colleague, Matthew – and quite rightly so. It was extremely thought-provoking and resonated with some of the instinctive feelings I’ve had about language teaching since I first embarked on this path. As we looked at these methods in more detail on the Cert IBET course, I found light bulbs switching on in my brain. These approaches seem so logical and sapient to me, and my brain is brimming with ideas which I’m eager to put into practice.
I’ve compiled a list of things I want to research in more detail when time allows, but in terms of where I want to experiment in the classroom, these are the areas that I find the most stimulating:
- Focus on Message before Form; Focus on Lexis before Grammar.
- Output / Reformulation and monitoring for the language gap rather than the error
- ‘Used’ language (emerging grammar) – noting real-world examples of spoken English
- ‘Grammaring’ activities – working on grammatical form in general
- Lexical Priming, encouraging learners to ‘notice’ language (e.g. with the ‘traffic lights’ activity)
- English as a Lingua Franca as opposed to English as a Native Language, and in particular prioritising the four core areas for intelligible pronunciation.
The course covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, so naturally we weren’t able to explore some areas as extensively as I might have liked, but I feel I’ve been given a solid foundation of knowledge and techniques that I can build on and feel more confident about the prospect of teaching Business English in the future. The tutors also provided us with invaluable materials and resources to take away.
I really enjoyed being a student for these two weeks, switching perspective to the other side of the desk, so to speak. I think it was a healthy reminder of what it’s like for our students as it reveals a little more clearly the multitude of frustrations they can feel and the amount of energy required to stay focussed – which highlights and gives some clarity to the challenges we face as teachers. We were fortunate on this course though in that both our tutors were extremely skilled, experienced, and likeable.
Another point worth noting in relation to studying is that I’ve recently learnt to hone my note taking approach, largely thanks to suggestions made by my wonderful ADOS, Jan. Rather than making overly extensive notes, I’ve now taken to using a categorised set of record cards to summarise and illustrate key points. This modification of my study techniques feels more effective and less time consuming than the meticulous note taking I was doing previously. By the time I come to do the Diploma later this year I hope to have pulled into shape and practised my study skills to a point where they’re at their most efficient.
To anyone considering doing the Cert IBET course, I’d say go for it. It was an invaluable two weeks for me in ways that I couldn’t have predicted, and I was more than satisfied with the school – particularly the quality of teaching, which was excellent.
Now, to turn my attention to the 4,000 word assignment: my chance to consolidate everything I’ve learnt.