Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


Leave a comment

Watching Students Find Success With The Oxford Test Of English

Oxford Test of English: Dr Ahmad Khalil Abdelqadar Awad“When I hand my students a certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford, it really is something amazing.”

Dr Ahmad Khalil Abdelqader Awad, an English Language Instructor and 2020 Headway Scholar from Saudi Arabia, has seen firsthand how taking the Oxford Test of English has impacted his students.

“It gives some students the confidence to pursue studies in English-speaking countries; others use their results to prove their English proficiency when they move into their chosen career. Our university requires students to have a good level of English to register, so taking the Oxford Test of English means they don’t have to take other English courses, and they can focus on their specialism.”

And it’s not just his students who have benefitted from taking the test –

“We also welcome people in the wider community who want to take the test, to help them get a promotion at work.”

An affordable, personalized test

With so many other English language proficiency tests on the market, what makes this one so special?

“We were impressed by how easy it was to use, how it adapts to students’ personal abilities, and how relaxed students were when they took it. I’ve seen students get very anxious about taking other English exams, but they actually enjoy the Oxford Test of English. They say it runs very smoothly, too.”

Dr Ahmad’s institution also made history – becoming the first Approved Test Centre for the Oxford Test of English in the Middle East.

The number one selling point for his students, however, was the price.

“What I hear most is how happy students are about the cost of the test. Having an affordable English test means a lot to them because many don’t work. For our students, the cost of the Oxford Test of English is what makes it number one.”

How is it changing students’ lives?

Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s also a worthwhile investment! Each student’s certificate will stay with them for the rest of their lives. And they don’t just receive any old certificate – they are awarded the only English language proficiency certificate in the world issued by Oxford University.

Everyone knows the University of Oxford. So when I hand my students a certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford, it really is something amazing.”

 

Like this? Find out more about how the Oxford Test of English is changing students’ lives here! 

You can read more success stories and learn how the Oxford Test of English could benefit your students on our website.

 

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.

 


Leave a comment

Top Tips To Keep Your Students Motivated During Online Learning

bored student in an online lesson

Who would have known, this time last year, that online learning and teaching would become such a huge part of our professional lives? If only I’d bought some shares in Zoom…

Everything has moved onto online communication; family catch-ups, work meetings, lessons, lectures, theatre plays, even criminal trials. Whether this is a temporary replacement during the days of COVID, or the reality of the future in the age of COVID, a huge number of education professionals and students will be delivering and accessing learning online for a while yet.

As a teacher, many of us have used technology as part of our courses. But for the majority of us, physical teaching in a classroom has been the heart of our offer. It’s what we trained for, what our students love, and we know how to do it well.

One of the biggest issues teachers have faced is keeping students interested in and motivated by their online courses and lessons. Under 50% of all students regularly attended online lessons, and while the reasons for this might include technological issues, connectivity, family issues or other factors, it’s clear that we can all benefit from thinking about how we can get our students motivated to learn online, and how we can keep them motivated. I’ve spoken to many teachers over the past few months about this, and I’ll share with you a few “top tips” which have come up.

1. Understand your students

Just like in a “normal” classroom, we want to know what our students react well to, what they enjoy doing and what they find interesting. We can ask them to vote on the activities they have done in online lessons. One teacher had primary students make and decorate large emoji-style paper cutouts (a smiley, 😊, a thumbs up, a thumbs down and a question mark) and use them for collecting feedback on the activities. This way, the teacher gave students an opportunity to understand the students’ perceptions of the lessons and activities.

Another teacher encouraged teenage students to choose the topics they wanted to study during the online lessons, to make sure that topics were engaging and interesting for students. Online lessons can be great for encouraging students to prepare presentations to deliver for the whole class on a topic of their choice.

2. Think about communication

One of the great features of tools we use for online teaching is the ability to easily communicate to individual students and the whole group. We can send individual messages to students (Well done! / Concentrate more / Is everything OK?), and we can also break groups up into rooms for group work. Many teachers have successfully used communication tools the students are already comfortable with, such as WhatsApp and Facebook groups, while some teachers are using a platform which has similar functionality. Whatever communication tool works best for you and the students is the right one to use. Primary teachers have also used Whatsapp groups to communicate with parents, usually in their language, to report on what has been studied in classes on a weekly basis.

3. Patience…

WiFi issues? Your computer suddenly decides it’s time for a software upgrade? Someone doesn’t know how to mute? Whatever the reason, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Many teachers have told me that they recorded their lessons with the content they wanted students to focus on, and then used their synchronous lessons for communicative activities. The ability to communicate well in a video call setting is a skill in itself – and one that our students are practising in their online lessons. We, the teachers, are also learning, and we need to remember that, sometimes, things can be tricky.

Don’t beat yourself up about it! If your son or daughter decides that they would like to interrupt the lesson, let them come in and have the students ask them a question. If poor connectivity is preventing your teenage students from understanding each other, have them communicate in chatboxes. We all need to be patient and try different possibilities to find the best solutions.

4. Progress

Recording, demonstrating and celebrating progress is a key factor in motivating students. Online learning fits beautifully with video and audio recording. Some primary teachers have made video recordings of their students practising a song, and then made a final video of a well-rehearsed song. Children don’t instinctively know that “practice makes perfect” – they need to learn this. By seeing, hearing and then sharing the result of their hard work students felt a sense of pride, having learnt that this is the result of hard work. Online platforms allow teachers to easily track students’ progress, allowing intervention where necessary. Teaching online can be used for assessment extremely successfully.

The principles of teaching don’t change with different settings. Take time to understand your students, make lessons engaging, show students the value of what they’re learning…These are all factors which help to get and keep students motivated. There’s no magic formula, but one thing for certain is that by sharing our experiences as teachers (and learners!) we can all learn something.

 

Are you ready to explore digital tools for teaching and learning?

Do you need help getting started with the digital tools in your Oxford course?

Or are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching?

Find out more

 


Nick Cherkas is an experienced educator with a background in teacher training, academic management, project management and materials writing. Educated in the UK, he has been based in North Africa since 2011. He is DELTA and MA qualified, and passionate about helping teachers and learners achieve their goals. He enjoys training teachers on working with limited resources and mixed ability groups, and making the classroom a more enjoyable place.


2 Comments

The Power Of Proficiency: How English Changed My Life

Valeria: "It has given me confidence."

Valeria, a 22-year-old computer engineer and programmer, first started learning English from her father at home in Costa Rica.

“He spent time in Canada and the States. But I think I’m better at English than him now – don’t tell him, though!”

English proficiency for a brighter future

Her father saw the opportunities that can come from learning English during his travels overseas, and now Valeria has seen them firsthand too. “I have better job opportunities, and I get paid more because I can prove I have a great level of English.”

This became clearer when she landed her dream job — working for a company whose headquarters are based in Atlanta, making English language skills a must for any member of staff. “Most of our clients and vendors are in Atlanta, so we have to use English every day.” Luckily, she was able to get her B2 certificate while at university. Knowing she could prove that she had a good level of English gave Valeria the confidence to apply for the role in the first place.

It was all made possible when her professor arranged for her class to sit the Oxford Test of English at the end of their course. She found the experience of taking the online test quite relaxing and was able to complete all the modules in two hours. And, unlike other English proficiency tests, the students didn’t have to learn a particular way to answer the questions, which Valeria appreciated.

“I could focus on my English instead of learning how to take a test.”

It also didn’t hurt when she learnt that her Oxford Test of English certificate is valid for life.

“Whenever I need evidence of my English proficiency, I can show my Oxford Test of English certificate. You can use it for business or travelling – the possibilities are endless. It’s amazing for anyone who needs to prove they have a good level of English.”

Like Francisco, for example – a Mechanical Engineering Student & Basketball Coach from Spain.

Proving English proficiency to study abroad

Francisco: "It takes just two hours."Francisco needed to prove he had a B2 level of English when he was applying to spend a year studying abroad in Finland, as all his classes there were in English.

Once he arrived, he found his English also came in handy when he was socialising too, as not that many of the locals or other foreign students spoke Spanish.

 

“I realized that if you can speak English, you can communicate nearly everywhere you go.”

Just like Valeria, Francisco certified his English level with the Oxford Test of English, and also enjoyed the fact that it was online and adaptive.

“The structure of the test is great; it adapts to your ability, getting harder or easier depending on your answers. It’s nice because you’re being tested during the whole exam.”

So would he recommend it?

“Yes, absolutely! The test takes just two hours, and then the certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford stays with you and remains useful for your whole life. It’s ideal for people who need to prove to a company they can operate in English, and it looks great on a CV.”

Not to mention, it helped open the doors to a once in a lifetime experience of studying in Finland –

“I think it was probably the best period of my life. It was just four months, but they were so special. I travelled around the Nordic countries and Russia and met people I’d never meet in any other situation. I’m so glad I was there – and all because of the Oxford Test of English!”

 

You can read other students’ success stories and find out more about the Oxford Test of English on our website.

Find out more

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.


2 Comments

Remembering Ritsuko Nakata

Ritsuko NakataWe were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Ritsuko Nakata, co-author of the best-selling Let’s Go series and founder of the IIEEC Teacher Training Center. Ritsuko’s career was dedicated to the teaching of English to young learners.

Born and educated in the USA, Ritsuko moved to Japan early in her teaching career, where she began experimenting with more practical, effective ways to get children to learn English.  Her focus on getting students to ask questions as well as answer them and to thus be able to engage in more natural dialogue is a cornerstone of the Let’s Go approach.   The series was a pioneer when it was first published in 1992, setting the standard for many others that followed; now in its 5th edition, it remains a market leader. In fact, one of Ritsuko’s great pleasures was meeting English teachers who had studied with Let’s Go when they were children and who were now using the series in their own classrooms. She was a wonderful mentor and teacher trainer who could get roomfuls of teachers on their feet and practising her signature action-based routines. Always kind and always enthusiastic, she was especially skilled at inspiring new teachers, putting them at ease, and helping them to feel confident in their teaching.

 It’s no exaggeration to say that through her work, a lifetime of teaching, authoring, and training, Ritsuko has touched the lives of millions of primary teachers and students — in Japan where she lived, across Asia, and around the world. She leaves an amazing legacy and her loss will be keenly felt by the staff at OUP and all those who knew her.  Ritsuko touched so many lives here at OUP and in the world of ELT, and she will be missed by all who knew her. We send our deepest condolences to her husband and two daughters, as well as to her fellow Let’s Go authors.


Leave a comment

How To Increase Your Team’s Change Resilience | ELT Together

Colleagues laughing in a team meetingSupporting a team effectively through a change is an invaluable skill for any manager. And, with the Covid19 pandemic affecting all of us in some way, it has never been more relevant. Some changes can have huge impacts on people’s mental well-being and their ability to perform in their role. Therefore, supporting people to develop greater resilience to change is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it also helps to protect your team’s productivity.  

To effectively support people through a change, it’s important to understand why change can be so difficult. All change is emotive – it doesn’t matter if a change is regarded as positive or negative, it will still create an emotional reaction in the people affected by itModels such as the Kubler-Ross Change Curve attempt to illustrate the psychological journey a person has to go on when faced with a change. Opinion is divided as to how accurate the particulars of such models are, but the truth is that everyone has to process their emotional reaction to a change before they can accept it and move forward. 

So why is change so emotive?

One reason is that change brings with it something humans find particularly difficult – uncertainty. Neuroscientific research has proven that the state of uncertainty is the most stressful state for humans to be in. Apparently, uncertainty registers as an error in the human brain and we feel compelled to resolve it. Some changes can result in people experiencing uncertainty for an extended period of time which can be very draining. Another reason change is so emotive is that a common reaction to it is a fear of loss. In a work environment, this could be a fear of a loss of job security, job satisfaction or simply the ability to perform activities to the same high standard.   

The good news is that an effective and supportive line manager can make a hugely positive difference to a person going through a change. Below are some strategies you can put into practice: 

1) Encourage people to talk 

Humans fare much better when they articulate and process their emotions, and so give your team members lots of opportunities to share how they’re feeling about the change. Don’t assume that they have someone they can talk about their feelings with outside of work. Vary the forum to give everyone the chance to open up – some people flourish in a group setting, others prefer one on one. 

2) Talk openly about resilience 

Talk with your team about the importance of protecting and building personal resilience, and be clear about what you believe resilience is and importantly isn’t. Remind people that resilience isn’t about being strong and pretending everything is fine when it isn’t. Resilience is about practising healthy habits – both physical and mental, recognising how a situation is affecting you and asking for help when you need it. 

3) Be open about your own challenges

Sharing your own struggles with your team members will encourage them to open up about their own. This is not only a bonding experience for a team, but will give you insight into what support people need. One idea is to invite everyone to share a highlight and lowlight from their past week. If people are nervous to share, start with your own. What you’re doing is acknowledging that it’s OK not to feel OK all of the time. 

4) Model healthy habits 

Encourage your team to reflect on what healthy habits – mental and physical – will give their resilience a boost. What helps them feel stronger and more able to face challenges? You could run a team session where everyone shares and discusses the habits that are important to them. Again, be open about your own healthy habits – whether they’re eating well, getting more exercise, meditating and/or keeping in touch with friends.  

5) Keep people informed 

Feeling like they’re being kept well informed about a change will help people to cope with it better. Make sure you communicate regularly with your team and pass on any relevant company updates. Give team members a chance to ask questions and discuss any updates. Remember, if no information is available, people are more likely to speculate a worst-case scenario than a best-case, so use regular updates to keep rumours to a minimum. Where relevant, remind your team of the company strategy that’s driving change and the benefits you’re working towards. 

6) Remember we’re all different 

Remember that everyone’s experience of change is personal, and so will need different support. Your team members’ situations will vary and so will their emotional reactions. The best way to find out how someone is really feeling is to be a great listener – ask open questions, don’t interrupt or change the subject and show a genuine interest in what a person is saying. Make use of open questions, such asHow are you feeling/did you feel about that? Can you tell me more? What was it that you found challenging? What was your experience? 

7) Remember you’re a person, too! 

And lastly, don’t forget that you’re a person as well as a manager and you need to build and protect your own resilience. Be sure you practise your own personal healthy habits, and to reach out to your own manager if you need support. 

 

Interested in the wellbeing of language teachers and students?

Join any ELT Together session and receive a certificate of attendance and free professional development resources:

Register for ELT Together!


Kirstin McCreadie is a change consultant at Oxford University Press based in Oxford. As well as being involved in overseeing the implementation of changes across the organisation, she also develops and delivers training in change and resilience. Kirstin also has experience of line management and leading teams through changes.


ELT Together Banner

References 

https://www.ekrfoundation.org/5-stages-of-grief/change-curve/