What do ELT Consultants Actually Do?

Several months have passed since my last blog, where I promised to follow up the discussion of what matters most in rasing national standards of English by discussing some features of effective pre-service teacher education programmes. I will post that blog today. But I thought it would also be interesting to first review what it is that has kept me away from my blog for so long.

One of the hardest questions my family get asked is ‘what exactly does Simon do’? My daughter tends to blurt out something about ‘teacher cognition’ (see here for an important early paper) and this remains an area of interest; for example, colleagues at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences are studying metalinguistic awareness in Norwegian primary schools and I am leading the part of the study which examines teachers’ understandings of metalinguistic awareness and how they promote it in their lessons. But I am not a full-time academic and the bulk of my work these days involves consultancy work. But what exactly does this involve? Recent projects are listed here but let me provide more detail about some of these to explain how I spend most of my time.

The status of teacher education and development in Nepal (Aug 2022-Feb 2023). The report for this project was actually launched today (read it here) at an event in Kathmandu and due to the time difference I did a Zoom presentation about the report at 0600! With support from colleagues at the British Council and the local research team from Vertex Consult, this project examined current approaches to initial teacher education and CPD in Nepal. Qualitative case studies from three provinces in the country were compiled, and along with a a national teacher survey, provided the basis of 32 recommendations for improving pre-service and in-service teacher education in the country.

Review of pre-service teacher education in Iraq (Sep 2022-Mar 2023)
This project was mentioned in my last blog. Building on research I carried out with Tony Capstick in 2021, I have been working with representatives from the Ministries of Higher Education in Iraq to revise the pre-service teacher education for English teachers. Most of the work has been conducted online, though I was also able to visit Erbil for a two-day workshop in December. The goal of this project is to move from a curriculum which has traditionally placed more weight on literature and linguistics to one which has teaching English as its main focus. The working groups have submitted proposals for revised curricula and this afternoon we are meeting to discuss these.

Professional inquiry for foreign language teachers in higher education (Jul 2022-Mar 2023). This has been a very interesting smaller-scale and more localised project. In 2020 I was invited to the Language Centre at the University of Bochum to run a workshop on professional inquiry (which is now my preferred term for practitioner research). The Language Centre wanted to promote this further as a new form of professsional development and I have been supporting five teachers as they design, carry out and present their own professsional inquiry projects on mediation in language learning, the flipped classroom and online writing tools. We are all looking forward to the final presentations at an event in Bochum next month.

Evaluation of the British Council’s ELTRA scheme (Nov 2022-Mar 2023). Much of my work as a consultant involves evaluation, most commonly evaluating the impact of CPD programmes (answering questions such as ‘what do teachers learn from CPD?’ and ‘does CPD lead to any change in what teachers do in the classroom?’). Occasionally, though, evaluation work has a different focus, such as in this project. With my colleague Nicky Hockly, we are looking at the impact of a research scheme – what kinds of impacts on knowledge, policy and practice do the ELTRA research projects funded by the British Council have? We are surveying researchers, interviewing them, and looking at their research reports to seek anwers to these questions and make recommendations for how the impact of research on teachers and policy makers can be strengthened.

These are just four examples of projects that keep me busy as a consultant. Perhaps I should share a link to this blog with my family so that next time they are asked what I do they have some answers!

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