Category: Teaching

Hawke’s Bay to London: supply teaching overseas and the time of my life

“In New Zealand, I was never going to get the kind of richness of experience that I’ve been exposed to in England”

Michael Day, International Candidate Manager at Prospero Teaching in the UK, writes on his experience of teaching in London and proving the naysayers wrong.

Hawke’s Bay to London: I’m not the first teacher to make the journey and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last. But now I’ve been here in the land of ‘pea-soupers’, top hats and Dickensian poverty (only kidding) for six years, I feel I’m ready to evaluate my experience and draw some conclusions.

So after two years as a music teacher what was the response of my NZ colleagues when I told them of my plans to settle in London? ‘Why would you want to do that?’; ‘You’ll get ripped apart’; ‘The kids are terrible’; ‘You’re mad’ were some of the more encouraging comments!

Luckily, I didn’t listen.

As for so many others, the decision to move to the UK was made easier by the fact I have family here: my parents are both originally from England and my brother lives here.

“For me, one of the main attractions of the English education system is the supply system whereby you can move from school to school, picking up new experience and ideas in a very small amount of time”

Career-wise, I seemed to have hit a brick wall. My problem was that I was struggling to find a job as a music teacher in NZ – and this was before the current problem of over-supply was anywhere near as bad as it is now.

My horizons felt very limited. For me, one of the main attractions of the English education system is the supply system whereby you can move from school to school in temporary roles, picking up new experience and ideas in a very small amount of time.

This could not contrast more with the situation in NZ. The system whereby each school – especially in rural areas – has its own own group of local teachers they can call on for supply cover meant that I was never going to get the kind of richness of experience that I’ve been exposed to in England.

When I started teaching in London, I was learning all the time from the different schools where I worked: I was meeting new teachers every day, swapping lesson plans, building up my own library of resources. I felt really energised and stimulated by the new environment.

But what about the kids? Well, what about them? Yes, there are challenging schools in London with challenging kids. But I’d taught in schools at home where there was no support to address bad classroom behaviour, where kids came from a very disadvantaged background and gang culture was prevalent. So no one can claim this is something that’s peculiar to London. And when you remember that there are more than double the number of people in London as in the whole of NZ, of course you’re going to come into contact with a far more diverse population.

“But what about the kids? Well, what about them?”

Coming to the UK can be a permanent career change. Or it can be the most fantastic overseas experience with career development attached. As a supply teacher you enjoy incredible flexibility, you can have days off whenever you want, you don’t do any lesson plans or marking – the work is simply handed to you when you arrive at school.

And you can leave the classroom on a Friday afternoon, head for the airport and be in Rome – or Paris or Athens or Madrid and hundreds of other amazing places – a couple of hours later.

But a word of warning: teachers in permanent posts work extremely hard in the UK. The education system has undergone a period of huge reform under the Coalition government in a bid to raise standards of teaching – and learning. Teacher training in England, too, is extremely demanding. Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is literally four times larger than mine was in NZ. And the amount of paperwork teachers have to do in England is, frankly, bananas.

“Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is four times larger than mine was in NZ”

But a word of warning: teachers in permanent posts work extremely hard in the UK. The education system has undergone a period of huge reform under the Coalition Government in a bid to raise standards of teaching – and learning. Teacher training in England, too, is extremely demanding. Having observed a friend training in the UK, I’ve been struck by the fact that his workload is literally four times larger than mine was in NZ. And the amount of paperwork teachers have to do in England is, frankly, bananas.

A recent survey shows that 73% of trainee teachers here have considered leaving the profession – mostly due to workload. But if teachers in the UK are being turned off teaching as a permanent career, the opportunities for supply teachers are even greater.

I’m now working for a teacher recruitment agency, helping people like me find the jobs they want and settle into new lives in the UK. I’ve had the time of my life – it seems unfair not to help other share the same experience!

Reimagine Education: how do we measure success in higher education teaching?

“There is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people… but its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down”

Martin Ince, Chair of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board, writes about how we measure success in higher education teaching.

What is higher education for? The answer depends on who you ask. For researchers, universities are the place where new knowledge is generated. For politicians, they are vital sources of innovation and economic growth.

But there is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people. Students may leave university with a degree that opens up a lucrative and satisfying profession, or they may have improved their minds rather than their earning power. They may be 21 or 91. But in either case, the key to their university experience is how well they were taught and how much they learned.

The only problem is that it is tricky to see how well this vital function of universities is being carried out. Higher education is still provided largely by “destination” universities using time-honoured teaching methods. But these techniques now exist alongside distance learning, and blended methods that use a mixture of these approaches. But whatever combination is in use, its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down.

“This issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale”

I chair the advisory board for the QS World University Rankings, and this issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale. Even within the UK, it is captured only indirectly, by surrogates such as student satisfaction. This does not work internationally, because a course that satisfies someone in Chicago might not go down well in Seoul. And we are well aware that despite the validity of traditional methods, teaching is being transformed by new approaches and new technology.

This is why QS was delighted to back the suggestion by Professor Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of our advisory board, for a global competition to recognise innovative approaches to teaching in higher education.

The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education has assembled a distinguished panel of judges from around the world to examine evidence-based claims for innovative approaches to higher education pedagogy. They welcome evidence of distance, presence and blended approaches to teaching, from any type of institution and in any subject. There may also be awards for the top innovations in specific regions or in subject areas.

A specific feature of Reimagine Education is that entrants have to show that students feel the benefit of the innovations they have made. They are encouraged to complete a student survey to prove the claims they make for their improved pedagogy.

We are sure from the response so far that Reimagine Education is timely. Please do spread the word about it, and consider entering yourself. The inaugural awards will be presented at a major conference at Wharton in December, and publicized heavily by QS and Wharton.

There is more about the competition, and our motivation for launching it, at www. The site also has entry details and the timetable.

Using the internet to shape language teaching

As a French language teacher I am always looking for ways to better engage my students with the language and support their learning needs.

And as I work in a British university in China, teaching French to students from all over the world, using English as the instruction language, it can be a challenge to find an approach that appeals to all.

One thing my students do have in common is the internet and their ability to use it effectively. And as language teachers we should be harnessing this ‘Generation Y’s’ digital know-how.

The internet is changing how young people learn.

Young people today, for the most part, are more tech-savvy than they have ever been.

They are actively involved in the internet’s participatory cultures like joining online communities, producing new forms of creative work such as video or digital sampling, working in teams to complete tasks and develop new knowledge, and shaping the flow of information by creating blogs or podcasting.

Being literate today doesn’t just mean knowing how to read and write on paper, but knowing how to read and write across multiple media platforms – books, videos, social networks, blogs, text messages etc.

And being fluent in another language also means being able to navigate, and contribute to, these platforms.

How can these skills help us teach young people languages?

Alongside my teaching, I have conducted research into how the internet’s participatory culture can be used in student-centred learning environments and found that transmedia storytelling – telling a story across multiple media – can be an extremely effective method of teaching.

My research involved asking students to create multiple media products to investigate, and help others learn, lexical and grammatical teaching points in French, Japanese and English.

Once they had created their products, the groups then commented on others’ products using Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and blogs moderated by their tutors. They used these comments to improve their own products and to practice writing and reading in the respective languages.

The results showed that the students were able to create sophisticated media products ranging from multi-genre films to remixed songs and computer games, and that from the comments posted on the blogs, and elicited after the project, they had fun while also improving a number of important key competences that are often outside the domain of language learning.

I found that if well moderated, transmedia storytelling can provide students the opportunity to engage in projects that tap into their own experiences of social networking and digital creation.

Teaching the teachers.

The key to this, of course, is ensuring language teachers have the knowledge necessary to create these kinds of learning environments.

I recently shared the findings of my research, and trained secondary school teachers to use transmedia storytelling, at the V International Convention of Reading and Writing in Bogota, Colombia, which explored new ways of language teaching.

I found that the teachers who attended the conference from all over the world were keen to explore teaching methods that ensure the language skills young people are developing are relevant to them in the real and online worlds.

Meanwhile, my colleagues in the Language Centre  at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China are engaged in research and course development that investigate new ways of using technology to enhance learning.

It is really through our own continual learning, and sharing of knowledge, that we can hope to teach young people the language skills that will help them navigate the online world and achieve true digital literacy.

Filippo Gilardi, is a French tutor in The University of Nottingham Ningbo China’s Language Centre. For more information on his transmedia storytelling research contact him on

Online short story competition gets language students writing

During an economic crisis, resources (books, budgets, infrastructure) are limited but high standards and qualifications are required so that learners can survive on the job market. Can the use of technology help learners and teachers overcome this problem? If so, how?

Why not try the Extremely Short Story Competition (ESSC) for a fun, free, online writing activity for your students?

The project is the brainchild of Peter Hassall a professor at Zayed University Dubai who has run the competition for several years.

Language students have to write a short story on any topic they like in exactly 50 words and enter it on the ESSC administrative website. They can add a title which is not included in the 50 words and even a visual, if they wish, but it must be the exact number of words. The competition is free and students can enter as many stories as they like, but they must undertake that the work they enter is their own without help from anybody else.

The competition can be run through language schools who have to find prizes and arrange a prize-winning ceremony, but that offers great scope for publicity, coverage by local media, and exhibitions of students’ work. Basically the administration (processing, editing, judging by an international panel of judges) is taken over by the website which relieves the teachers of any work: all they have to do is encourage students to write in English. The ESSC can be done as a class activity or done privately at home, especially where students get enthusiastic about expressing their thoughts in the target language on any topic. There are a lot of exercises available too to help language teachers make use of the activity.

The material on the website shows where this writing activity originates. It is also the best website for seeing the potential of the project. The Facets material (in fact an anthology of short stories produced with sponsorship as a result of a recent run of the competition) shows the use of nicknames to provide anonymity so entrants can express themselves freely, a feature that is important in the Arab World, as many of the writers are female.

As an international project, the ESSC has also been run for several years in Japan with high school students. With translation of the short stories, there is a rich source of teaching material as well as displayable material to show how good the students are.

So why not try the ESSC for your language students? For more information, contact or if you want to give it a try.

After teaching in Saudi Arabia, UK, and Singapore, Ken Collins acquired extensive ESOL teaching experience. The last part of his working career was in Dubai where he eventually became Head of the Centre for ESL at the University of Dubai until 2007. He was also Middle East consultant for EAQUALS (Evaluation & Accreditation of Quality Language Services). He now is Project Co-ordinator for the Extremely Short Story Competition in Europe and resides in Southwest France. 

Continuing Education While Overseas

Each year, the number of students exiting a four-year university has been on the rise. As more college graduates make their way into corporate America, employers are faced with choosing from a larger applicant pool. The number of job candidates vying for the same position can often be a discouraging realization for someone who is fresh out of college. Because of this, an increased number of graduates are turning to other options as a means of either bolstering their resume for future work or finding employment elsewhere while they wait for the economy to straighten itself out. In the last three years, many recruiting companies that specialize in placing teachers overseas have seen an increased number of applicants, some even reporting growth of more than 60% than in previous years.

But as this previous rare occurrence in employment gives way to being more common (chances are you either know someone personally or have heard of someone who has taught overseas) an even newer trend is beginning to occur. While teaching overseas, many of these teachers were still thinking to the future and their eventual return to the United States. Even in a competitive job environment, certain factors will always be an essential component of being a successful candidate, one of which is education. While working as ESL teachers more and more E2 visa holders are pursuing graduate level certification abroad. Many institutions in Japan, Europe and South Korea have programs in place which allow for teachers who are working in their country to apply for spots in their respective programs. These programs often accommodate a wide variety of schedules with courses offered both in the morning and evening. With a few courses a semester, that two years abroad has the potential to not only give you valuable skills that will be transferable to many workplaces back home, but also the chance at receiving your master’s degree (often at a much cheaper price than institutions back home). Below is a list of countries that employ the highest amount of ESL teachers and the graduate level programs which they offer.

Seoul, South Korea
Arguably the most popular (and highest paying) of all the countries who utilize ESL teachers, South Korea has a myriad of Universities and colleges that not only offer graduate courses to foreigners, they readily encourage foreign applicants.

Seoul National University: Perhaps one of the most esteemed institutions in Korea, and ranking 4th from US News and World Report for universities in Asia, Seoul National offers the most variety in terms of courses and degrees offered. While the application and entrance for Korean nationals is quite competitive, the process for expats is slightly more relaxed. Individuals heralding from the United States have a slew of scholarship options that the Korean Government has made available. Spots at Seoul National are still very competitive and fill up quickly, so being proactive about enrollment is usually a good thing. To get the ball rolling while you are still in the US, head on over to their admissions page and inquire with the email address that is listed there.

Korea University: Located in the heart of Seoul, this university offers a robust selection of graduate degrees from courses offered in international studies to bio-medical science. The KU campus sprawls some 182 acres and boasts an eclectic mix of nearly 10,000 graduate students from all parts of the world. Filling out an application is relatively easy and can be done both overseas and in the individual’s home country. The form, located on their website can be submitted via the internet, fax or mailed. Prospective students of KU simply need to indicate which area of study they are interested in and ensure that they have a letter of recommendation from a professor in their undergraduate program back home, a copy of their transcripts and although a cover letter/letter of interest isn’t required, it’s generally a good idea.

Charles University in Prague: A popular destination for ESL teachers in Europe is Prague. Known for its beautiful architecture and abundance of teaching opportunities, prospective ESL teachers who wish to attain a job in Prague must first pass a TEFL course as set out by their government. Once certification is obtained, a wide variety of jobs open up both at the adult and adolescent level. Charles University offers graduate degrees in the areas of chemistry, geography, geology and environmental protection. Depending on your program of choice, up to three years may need to be devoted to the degree, but with the abundance of history and architecture that Europe has to offer, it’s sure to be some of the best years of your life.

Prospective candidates of CU need to make sure that they have cleared all the necessary legal hurdles before applying to the program. These include proper visa documentation, notarized school documents such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and proof of undergraduate work will all be necessary too. The application process can be started via their website but will need to be mailed in once completed.
Sophia University: Sophia University, located in the Chiyoda-ku district of Tokyo, is the perfect University for the English minded graduate course seeking expat. Offering one of the few programs in linguistics, Sophia University, students will also have the option of pursuing a Ph.D after completion of their graduate work.Tuition prices can be steep though, with about $15,000 for the first year and $13,000 for each subsequent year, most students will want to explore scholarship options in order to offset fees and the relatively high cost of living in Japan. Luckily, there are plenty of scholarships available, to see which ones you might qualify for, take a look here.

After obtaining degrees in English Literature and English Secondary Education,Sean Lords packed up his bags and left to Seoul, South Korea where he lived for three years teaching English abroad. Sean has since returned to the States and is currently at work on his Master’s degree.

Teaching Abroad Is a Viable Option for Qualified Teachers

“Teaching abroad is not a new idea or career option, but with the growing demand for western teachers in developing countries, combined with a difficult job market in western economies, it is easy to understand why so many qualified teachers are now seeking teaching jobs abroad.

This trend is due to continue with the growing developments of international schools and education campuses in the Middle East, as well as ongoing investment in language centres and international schools throughout East Asia.

Inexperienced university graduates still have the option to travel the world and teach English – mainly in South Korea, parts of South East Asia and central America – but the international market for qualified, experienced school-teachers now makes it possible for those qualified teachers to earn a good salary and live a great quality of life in a foreign country.

It’s not just private organisations that are trying to tap into the education boom in developing countries. Governments from Saudi Arabia to Singapore understand the importance of educating their young populations for the changing future economies. The investment in education in these countries is resulting in new schools being built, new curriculums being implemented, and new teachers being hired.

“A quick glance at the increase in numbers of schools in China pays testament to this boom in education”

In addition to government investment in education, the increase in the global mobility of international companies and their workforces is also resulting in new schools and higher student numbers enrolled in already established schools. A quick glance at the increase in numbers of schools in China and other parts of East Asia in the past 10 years pays testament to this boom in education.

The goal of TeacherPort is to make it easy for teachers and new graduates to find out about these international opportunities. We feel that teachers should be able to understand what opportunities are available to them outside of their home country, and especially in the current teaching job market. Whether you want to teach primary school in the UAE or teach English in South Korea, we hope TeacherPort will have the right teaching job for you.

If you are interested in learning more about your teaching abroad options, head over to TeacherPort’s free Teaching Abroad Guides. Once you have narrowed down the type of position you would like to pursue, you can find a number of recommended positions found on our Teaching Jobs Abroad section.”

Greg Rogan works for TeacherPort, a free online resource for qualified teachers and new university graduates to find suitable teaching jobs abroad. Connect on Twitter @TeacherPort

What is the role of the teacher as leader in this complex international environment?

“In a globalised world and with the rapid expansion of information technology, schools across the globe need to ensure that they are developing the right skills in students that will equip them to be happy and fulfilled, but also ready for a competitive  international environment fraught with challenges and uncertainty.

Business as usual in the classroom will not lead to the adaptability, innovation, resilience, critical thinking (especially discernment and information analysis) and creativity that researchers, philosophers and organisations are showing us are more and more needed in an interconnected world.

While many argue that it is the entire schooling system that is at fault or that we need to re-design curriculum, I believe that the real question is not in the structure or the content of education (although these factors are still important) but in the teaching and learning.

What is the role of the teacher as leader in this complex international environment?

If we look back, the expression of leadership reminds us of the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu’s belief that a good leader is someone who does not take centre stage.  As such the teacher is not a “sage on the stage” but a “facilitator”, someone who stands in the wings and gives the student as much freedom as possible.

In pedagogy this model is still very popular with Discovery Learning programmes across the United States, world-wide web-based learning projects that allow the student to take full ownership of the learning process and many inquiry-based Primary School educational programmes. The word “facilitator” is used more and more and the word “teacher” less and less.

The word “facilitator” is used more and more and the word “teacher” less and less

Whilst educational philosophy might correspond with our beliefs and tastes, it is not scientifically researched and does not necessarily benefit from any hard evidence to back it up. Does the research in education tell us that the best model of learning is one where the teacher is a facilitator and the student is at the centre?

Arguably the most comprehensive study of pedagogical practice in schools is John Hattie’s 2009 publication Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Hattie’s work synthesises thousands of studies and looks at effect size (a calculation of the benefits using statistical data) of a large palette of strategies for learning.

The findings are not always what one would expect and make us step back and re-think the way we do things. The greatest effect sizes, indicating the greatest change after the use of a chosen strategy, do not come with the student at the centre and the teacher facilitating on the side, but on the contrary with what Hattie calls “active” teaching: the teacher drives the learning, makes learning objectives very clear and uses punchy techniques such as remediation (catch-up), mastery learning (the idea that a student should not move on to new material until the previous parts have been mastered), direct instruction (explicit sign-posting of learning objectives) and setting the students challenging goals.

So the research is telling us that the teacher as leader needs to be in control of the class and showing the way with a challenging, carefully structured pace, not letting students fall behind as they try to figure it out for themselves.

“We need to provide them with a reliable compass to navigate the storms”

Hattie’s synthesis shows that quality feedback is the single greatest creator of improvement. The teacher needs to sit down with the student and explain exactly what needs to be done in order to improve. It seems obvious but how often is the teacher so hard pressed to get through a pile of marking or finish a syllabus that this vital coaching technique falls by the way-side? If we want our students to improve then we have to make sure they have understood and internalised how this can be done.

Our students are entering a turbulent, chaotic era in a competitive globalised world and we need to provide them with a reliable compass to navigate the storms. As teachers, let’s use the benefits of research to make sure that we have empowered them to do so by teaching for learning and not being afraid to lead the way. After all, the Greek word Pedagogy means “to lead the child”.

Dr Conrad Hughes is Director of Education at the International School of Geneva and recently delivered a speech on the ‘Teacher as a leader’ at the annual Cambridge Teachers Conference, run by Cambridge International Examinations.

Works Cited
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxford: Routledge.
Rousseau, J.J. (1762). Emile ou de l’Education. Paris: Garnier.