Making the most of online training

The EAL Academy joins the #naldic28 conference as one of our Gold Sponsors. In this guest post, the EAL Academy describes how they met the challenge of providing training during the pandemic with their series of online courses.

2020 – what a demanding year for everyone. It has certainly tested our team. We prefer an on-the-ground approach to training and consultancy: spending time in classrooms and meeting with staff and pupils to get a real feel for the school. It has been almost impossible for us to visit schools this year and the pandemic forced us to rapidly develop alternative methods of remote support. 

Fortunately, we already had a well-established six-month online EAL course accredited by the University of Greenwich. Participants work through four compulsory units (beginners, advanced learners, assessment and EAL data) before choosing from a range of elective units. The content was refreshed in April 2020 and new elective units added to allow participants to tailor the learning to their circumstances. 

You can contribute to the online discussion forum and read responses from other participants or the tutor at any time of day. Tutor support for assignments is conducted by email and supplemented via Zoom meetings where the ability to share screens is especially useful.

We believe the most effective online learning happens when:

  • you are engaged through interactive and collaborative activities that reflect on your real-life practice
  • you can choose to complete the course activities when it works best for you
  • the diversity of participants’ collective experience is broad (across phase, type of school, country for example) and their input used to enhance course content

Our first participants were Swansea Council’s EAL team back in 2012. We contacted them to ask what they remembered about the course. Cath Ratcliffe told us:

“There are some key points such as the importance of parental involvement and pupils’ literacy skills in their home language which have stayed with me. I would highly recommend the course for EAL specialist teachers who are struggling to find time to develop their specialism.”

Cath also suggested that we add an optional unit about EAL in Wales – there is another dimension to EAL in a country which has two official languages. Cath is now the unit tutor.

We view the course as both providing key information and supporting teachers’ reflection on their classroom practice. Can an online EAL course really make a difference in your classroom? Course alumna Lynsey Irish, a teacher based at Eastover Primary School in Somerset, said:

“It improved my own knowledge of key issues in the achievement of pupils learning EAL. It enabled my school to consider the different ways in which we plan for beginner and advanced EAL pupils and how we identify any special educational needs. As a school we are much more aware of factors that may affect the emotional and social side of a newly arrived pupil and their families. We have put strategies in place to support our pupils which we have found highly beneficial.  We have also developed our own structured approach to assessing pupils learning EAL with clear targets and next steps.”

Using this successful model, we have launched a range of shorter online courses, which take approximately 12-18 hours to complete.

EAL Academy is a Gold Sponsor of NALDIC’s National Conference 2020. This post is an advertisement.