Unique conference connects up-skilled language teachers

Issue: Volume 93, Number 1

Posted: 27 January 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctw

The ILEP conference “Meeting the Challenge: Building on TPDL”, held in November 2013, engendered much thought provoking discussion around the future language needs of our young people.

Do Kiwi kids and teens learn enough foreign languages to get future-fit for the globalised job market? How do teachers interest, motivate and inspire their students? How does language learning encourage higher level thinking?

Task-based language teaching and learning in the classroom through real life tasks as well as exploring other world views were key topics at the conference “Meeting the Challenge: Building on TPDL”. Among more than one hundred participants were over 80 primary and secondary teachers from around New Zealand who had completed the one-year TPDL (Teacher Professional Development Languages) programme. The symposium took place on 14 November 20014 at Waipuna Conference Centre in Auckland and was hosted by ILEP (International Language Exchanges and Pathways) through which the Ministry of Education provides professional learning and development opportunities for teachers of languages.

Since 2005 the TPDL programme has been supporting teachers improve or update their pedagogy and improve their own language skills in ways that positively impact on their students’ learning in languages. TPDL is an important professional learning and development programme strengthening Learning Languages in The New Zealand Curriculum. It is run by UniServices and funded by the Ministry of Education for Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, Samoan, Niuean, Cook Islands Māori, Tongan and Tokelauan.

“Students love cracking the codes,” said the Ministry of Education’s Francesca Black in her opening speech about facing New Zealand’s challenge to expand language learning in schools. Gail Spence, Director of Te Kauri Research Ltd, asked in her keynote address How Smart is your PLD? what do teachers need to know beyond their students and the curriculum? She encouraged teachers to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

The fresh thinking graduates of the TPDL programme have mastered various personal and academic challenges: having had outsider experts observe their language lessons and facilitate evidence-based discussions about the effectiveness of their teaching; doing a 300-level University of Auckland course whilst being mostly full-time teachers; and, last but not least, learning a language themselves – and in some cases a completely new language, and teaching this language to their class!

During the two morning panels at the conference ‘Teacher as language learner’ and ‘Teacher as practitioner’, teachers shared stories, experiences, highlights and successes. Creative classroom projects combined with theory were presented during parallel sessions.

“The challenge is to create interesting tasks,” said Bianca Parker from Cobham Intermediate in Christchurch, “to motivate the students.”

Examples of successfully implemented projects included Bianca’s in-class Spanish restaurant for parents and Eunice Driller’s cross-curriculum environmental protection campaign in German at Bombay School. Highlights for the media generation kids in Amber Paterson’s school (Amber is DP at Outram School) were using apps to create animations, comics and videos in Japanese or Samoan.

Another inspiring example came from Robin Hartley, St Heliers School in Auckland, who turned to the TPDL programme in his first year of teaching Mandarin. “The fact that I am a beginner of Chinese myself created empathy between us and encouraged everyone to work together. There’s an understanding that we can all make mistakes and that can create some very healthy competition.” As a group task the students chose pictures they liked and used the imagery to make a book to teach younger children. Common words and phrases were used across different subjects taught in the same class – so the expressions became useful in everyday situations.

Conference participants wore chest buttons with “Ich liebe Deutsch”, “Wo ai Zhongwen” or “J’aime parler français” to help open conversations with others including the ILEP and TPDL team members. The multilingual, inspiring conference was moderated by Wendy Thomson, TPDL Project Director and ILEP Manager.

“Meeting the Challenge: Building on TPDL” was a unique opportunity to present, reflect and share new insights and successes, network with colleagues NZ-wide and discuss with the national adviser in German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish “what next?”. The panel discussion “Teachers as leaders” covered topics such as: going on immersion scholarships overseas and taking up leaderships roles in their schools or in the wider Learning Languages community.

The “Teaching Pasifika languages” panel featured Lata Langi, teacher of Tongan at Southern Cross Campus, Gordon Gallop, learner and teacher of Samoan at Baradene College and Christine Nurminen, Director of the Pasifika Education Centre. They highlighted the challenge faced particularly in Auckland – the world’s largest Polynesian city – in providing more opportunities for school students to learn Pasifika languages.

In the final address Dr Rosemary Erlam, Academic Director of TPDL and senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics at the University of Auckland, demonstrated “Tasks in the New Zealand language classroom” by showcasing the work of teachers and turning the conference room into a classroom. The audience were engaged to solve questions as ¿Qué es?, Qu’est-ce que c’est?, Was hat sechs Beine, läuft aber auf Vieren? or Zhè shì shénme? The inspiring presentation, delivered together with a panel of four teachers, promoted interactive discussion and a high level of enthusiasm amongst conference participants. It highlighted how to meet the challenge of teaching foreign languages in a more interesting, effective and sustainable way.

Some teachers reflected that the one-year TPDL programme was a positive turning point.

“My life changed dramatically through TPDL. It encouraged me to use my network and to ask for help,” said Janelle Wood, teacher at Opaheke and Ramarama schools.

“TPDL forced me to re-evaluate my teaching style,” added Gillian Gordon from Otaki College.

“Instilling passion in students makes them want to learn more,” said Manu Menard, St Matthews Collegiate.

Alison Kroon of Papatoetoe Intermediate added: “As long as you are learning, you can excite the students’ learning!”

Interested primary and secondary school teachers, whether new to teaching languages or very experienced, can find further information about the TPDL programme(external link) and the application form on the website.

The next TPDL programme will start in February 2014.

The Teacher as Practitioner panel. From left to right: Nathalie Bourneville, Gillian Gordon, Janelle Wood, Manu Menard, Alison Kroon

Conference summary

The Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) Conference on 14 November showcased teachers’ enthusiasm for the programme.

The conference brought together past participants of TPDL to share their journeys and learn from each other.

Themes discussed were:

  • “TPDL transformed the way I teach”.
  • Students’ engagement with languages, and their achievements – developing knowledge and understanding of cultures as well as language.
  • TPDL helps to make Languages Learning vibrant, relevant and rewarding.
  • The scope and value of task-based learning

Teacher’s case-studies and learning were shared:

  • Pasifika and ESL students were amongst the most enthusiastic and confident language learners.
  • “The results have been incredible”.
  • TPDL has been the catalyst for teaching a second language.
  • TPDL, “a fabulous year”.
  • Task-based learning helped teachers see how they could achieve their language teaching goals 
  • Teachers report improved student access to Learning Languages.
  • Community engagement – families learning Spanish vocabulary so they could participate in a class activity.
  • TPDL is a full-year programme for teachers of languages throughout New Zealand.
  • TPDL programme includes language study, SLA Pedagogy and in-school support.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:15 pm, 27 January 2014

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