Connect, Grow, Thrive

Teaching English to Teenagers

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 32 No. 2 Spring 2016

Oxford Teachers' Academy

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2015)

ISBN: 978-0-19-403175-2

The Oxford Teachers' Academy online course Teaching English to Teenagers offers a 30-hour immersion in fundamental teaching strategies and ideas to engage students of this critical age group. One receives a participant code card to login online – instructions are clear and in a few easy steps the platform for this highly flexible self-study course opens. Alternatively, a school can apply for a moderator who guides teachers in a series of sessions which could form a part of Continued Professional Development programme. One advantage of an online course is that you have access to the materials 12 months after its completion, and it is entirely up to the participant to complete tasks and read supplementary material in a time frame which suits them. Participants also receive a certificate at the end of the course, should the tasks conform to the assessment criteria and standards set by the Oxford Teachers' Academy.

Teaching English to Teenagers consists of eight sessions which focus on classroom management, provide an overview of basic strategies to apply when teaching teenagers, include discussion of all four key skills students need to develop their English language competence, and conclude with a succinct summary of CLIL and cooperative learning projects that should form a part of any English language lesson. The course also looks at assessment and what I found particularly well-designed was the section on 21st century skills; in fact, one of the strengths of the course is its up-to-date material embedded in references to recent research and methodology. Generally, each topic is divided into self-study units: aims, activation, discovery, activities, and evidence of learning.

All tasks and input material are interactive and there are some useful tabs in the programme such as Session Resources or Discussion where exchange of ideas and furthering of knowledge are well-supported. A large number of assessment tasks as well as activities during the Activation and Discovery stage are quiz-like with drag-and-drop and multiple choice. After each session, a choice of two tasks is available and its completion leads to the final result; I particularly appreciated the option as it allows more experienced teachers to experiment with their class, or new teachers to analyse information in depth first before applying knowledge in their lessons. The first task is to try out a lesson plan with your class and then reflect on it in a journal; the second choice is to write a report on a lesson plan provided. Success criteria are clearly communicated in the overview section of the course, and a particular strength of this part is that you can analyse a model response which is compared to a less successful one.

It is, therefore, clear that the structure of the course reflects on good teaching practice itself as the tasks are designed in a way that a teacher should design study material for their students. It needs to be emphasized, however, that Teaching English to Teenagers is aimed at teachers with initial teaching qualification and only some teaching experience in the ELT. As a result, the information provided does not go beyond general knowledge and assessment relies too often on drag-and-drop type of activities as well as multiple choice. One of the other disadvantages of the course is the technical side: compatibility with Apple devices is lower than with other Windows-based systems. Even though answers can be checked immediately, the results are not case-sensitive. Lastly, it would be beneficial if you could download answers to questions to save for further reference, and if notes were available for print or download. Similarly, there is a bookmark option, which allows you to highlight particular sections of the course, but there is no option to print off slides from the input.

On the other hand, it is important to note that the programme itself is highly interactive and includes a range of useful and up-to-date resources and links. In each section an 'extra information' tab is available which allows you to engage in further research and explore scholarly articles, some of which are available in PDF as direct links embedded in the relevant sections of the course. With Oxford Dictionary link and glossary of key terms, the course is user-friendly and will undoubtedly be a helpful initial training for teachers of English who need to engage teenagers and enable them access language in an interactive way for the strategies are not only explained, but applied directly in exercises the participant needs to complete.

Jana Pridalova