Saturday, 19 May 2018 marked the inaugural session of Teacher Talks, the first professional development series for the English teaching community in Vietnam organised by RMIT Vietnam.
Jake Heinrich, RMIT Vietnam Head of School of Languages & English, said the series was built on the success of TESOL Talks, a professional development series for language educators in Vietnam founded in 2014 by the teachers from the School of Languages & English at RMIT and various local partners.
“Teacher Talks is a professional development conference series for local and international members of the English Language Teaching (ELT) community based in Vietnam,” Mr Heinrich said.
The sessions are all run at RMIT campuses and Mr Heinrich noted that “the conferences facilitate best-practice dialogue and brings teachers together for mutual learning and networking opportunities.”
“The overarching aim is to provide attendees with practical, relevant tools that they can apply immediately in their own teaching contexts, and to build a community of teachers in our field who can collectively improve pedagogy and ultimately bring a better learning experience for their students,” he added.
Entitled Innovation in Teaching and Learning, the first conference at RMIT Vietnam’s Saigon South campus included five workshops run by several of the University’s English-language educators, all focused on sharing ways to utilise new approaches to enhance teaching and the student experience.
“The attendees were from varied backgrounds – including local schools and universities – but all left with a range of new skills and mindsets, able to readily apply novel techniques in their classrooms,” said Ronnie Hill, Head of Department (New Initiatives) in the School of Languages & English as well as Teacher Talks event manager.
Senior Educator Julie David emphasised the importance of preparing students for work by instilling 21st century skills such as collaboration and team work, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, and problem solving. She shared with participants ways to incorporate these skills in the classroom through both task-based and blended learning approaches to teaching.
The Task Based Language Teaching (TBLT) approach was analysed during Educator Matthew Coster’s presentation. He suggested that the TBLT method could change the dynamic in classes and break up old routines. He offered participants practical experience in adapting materials and planning basic TBLT activities.
Participants also learned how to engage students in reading activities by applying a personalised reading method called 4-Square Reading, which can increase student interest in reading lessons, give them choices and chances to deal with ambiguity, and make course book material more relevant to local contexts.
In terms of professional development for teachers, Senior Educators James Barnett and Stuart Turner presented a personalised approach called the Pineapple Chart, a system that allows teachers to invite one another into their classrooms for informal observation. The two examined a case study conducted by the School of Languages & English through which participants could consider how this scheme could be adapted to suit their own educational needs.
Meanwhile Educator Ellen Campbell encouraged participants to use online tools to improve teaching. Resources such as lesson materials are available, as are blogs for sharing great ideas and social media pages for networking. Ms Campbell suggested Padlet, a virtual bulletin board where students and teachers can collaborate, reflect and share links and pictures securely.
Mr Le Cong Trung, an English teacher from the Vietnamese American School System (VASS) and attendee at the event, said: "The conference offers many innovative yet practical methods that language educators can use to improve teaching.”
“I am personally looking forward to applying Julie David's task-based and blended learning approaches, especially peer observation, to practice and see how they would work in my classes."
Around 100 local language educators attended Teacher Talks at Saigon South campus, while events in Danang on 26 May and Hanoi on 2 June expect to attract 70 and 60 participants respectively. Two additional Teacher Talks series will be held at these locations later in the year.
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