OUTLINE OF TEACHING EXPERIENCE -- THOR MAY, 2012

1. SUMMARY

 

2. CURRENT SITUATION and LAST POSITION

 

a) Since January 2011 I have been living in Brisbane, Australia, funded by a pension. This has been a busy period for writing and editing. I do not consider myself retired, and expect to teach and lecture again, either in my own enterprise or for an employer. As a very fit person, I run 7km most days (and have been distance running for 50 years). Since my d.o.b. is 1945, a number of countries now make it legally impossible for me to work in them. This is irrational. I continue to look for opportunities to use my skill-set.

b) From September 2007 through December 2010 I was employed by an Australian tertiary college in a joint venture with a Chinese technical College in Zhengzhou, Henan, China. The program was preparatory English for nursing and logistics students who could later go on to complete their studies in Australia. The overall target was for the students to achieve IELTS level 6 (Australian visa standard). The program itself was broader than purely IELTS preparation, and supplemented other work by Chinese teachers of English. Program design, implementation and assessment was my responsibility. I also delivered some teacher training seminars for Chinese local staff.

Since I am extremely experienced, I prepared a great deal of my own teaching material in Zhengzhou (as I have in other locales), drew content from the Internet as well as my personal library, and encouraged students to develop assignments on their own equipment (e.g. mobile phones and players etc for MP3 speech recording). However, formal text books also available in these courses ranged from commercial IELTS manuals and the Interchange series (books 1 & 2; Richards, Jack & J. Hull, S. Proctor; pub. CUP), to the Tapestry series (books 1-4; Benz, C & K Dworak, pub. Heinle & Heinle).

In addition to the basic teaching program, I undertook several extra projects. As an experienced teacher trainer, I delivered seminars each semester for the Chinese English teachers in the college (see, for example, "Fluency Vs Acuracy OR Fluency and Accuracy for Language Learners?" at http://thormay.net/lxesl/fluency-vs-accuracy.html , "Basic Tips for Language Teachers" at http://thormay.net/lxesl/tips1_for_teachers.html  , and "Grammar forLanguage Teachers" at http://thormay.net/lxesl/grammar_for_teachers.html).

In 2008 I wrote a special Nursing Curriculum in English for Occupational Purposes. This curriculum preparation included matching the nursing curriculum of ZRVTC with the professional requirements for Australian nursing registration. It was done in consultation with senior Australian hospital staff, and drew on Australian EOP curriculum documents as well as Tony Grice (2007) Oxford English for Careers Series: Nursing 1, published by OUP (UK).

In 2010 I attempted an experimental optional course for the ZRVTC students in Critical Thinking and Study Skills. The focus of this program was to wean students off the familiar teacher-driven "push learning" model they are so familiar with, and prepare them for independent inquiry based learning. An outline of this project may be seen online at http://thormay.net/ZZESL_Holmes/2010EAP/index.html

Early in 2010 I was awarded a PhD by the University of Newcastle NSW. Through a series of case studies, this dissertation in language teaching productivity draws on many of the engagements outlined below.  At the end of 2010 the Chinese Public Security Bureau declined to renew my work visa on the grounds of being over 65.

 

EARLIER LANGUAGE TEACHING EXPERIENCE

 

3. LINGUISTICS

Linguistics is a very broad discipline. I have both studied and lectured a good slice of it at different times. As a doctoral student at the University of Newcastle, NSW, my original thesis focus (not the PhD awarded in 2010) was on GENERATIVE SYNTAX AND SEMANTICS (i.e. the field which Noam Chomsky pioneered). As well as lecturing undergraduates part-time in these areas for a number of years, I did a great deal of teaching in SOCIOLINGUISTICS, and some graduate seminars on HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS. The Faculty of Education in that same university also asked me to lecture a special series on APPLIED LINGUISTICS for their teacher trainees.

Later, at Southern Cross University, NSW, where the students were largely teacher trainees, I continued teaching APPLIED LINGUISTICS and PSYCHOLINGUISTICS (especially CHILD LANGUAGE ACQUISITION).

During the three years that I lectured linguistics at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, the client interest again was especially in APPLIED LINGUISTICS (notably language teaching methodology), and PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, but also PHONOLOGY. Here I also paid some attention to DESCRIPTIVE LINGUISTICS since there is a continuing interest in the Pacific Islands in recording and analyzing area languages.

For many years while teaching or lecturing, I was concurrently researching one of several PhD topics. I formally withdrew from my first PhD candidature in 1988 ( I came to believe that the generative model was inadequate), but in the early 1990s took up a second PhD topic in COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS at the University of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia). This was later put aside as too ambitious a topic for a PhD, but I retain a strong interest in the fields it explored. The 50,000 words I researched and wrote on this can probably be compared to the American status of ABD (see a 2004 evaluation from Professor Nicholas Evans, my Melbourne doctoral supervisor).

Further direct teaching in linguistics occurred during 2003-2004 when I lectured graduate TESOL students in English Grammar and Second Language Acquisition at Pusan University of Foreign Studies, South Korea. These lectures are online at http://thormay.net/lxesl/tesol/index.htm .

 

4. ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, and ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING

 

In 1976 as a newly trained SECONDARY TEACHER, I taught for a year at Tangaroa College in South Auckland, New Zealand. The students at this college were 75% Polynesian, both local Maoris and immigrants from all over the Pacific (especially, Cook Islanders, Samoans and Tongans). Their diversity was amazing, and their English language skills equally various. The challenge was to integrate them into a regular English language high school curriculum.

Back in Australia in 1977 I worked for a year in the Adult Migrant Education Service (AMES), Melbourne. The task there was to give SURVIVAL ENGLISH SKILLS to immigrants from many countries. The favoured methodology at that time was called SITUATIONAL ENGLISH, which combined a heavy dependence on learning syntactic structures (we had to work from set texts), with a classroom technique of creating concrete situations to give those structures a memorable context. My own technical aptitudes later led AMES to ask me to conduct ENGLISH IN THE WORKPLACE programs around Melbourne. My assignments ranged from the LANGUAGE OF SHIP NAVIGATION for deep sea fishermen, to programs for AIRCRAFT CONSTRUCTION TECHNICIANS, and even for PROCESS WORKERS in a food factory.

From 1978 I was doing graduate linguistic work at the University of Newcastle, NSW, but also volunteered to run a NEW SETTLER ENGLISH PROGRAM for Vietnamese 'boat people' refugees. The Vietnamese community in Newcastle came to depend on me a good deal. Later these (unpaid) classes were taken over by a local technical college, and they asked me to continue with students from a wide range of countries. By this time I was PRODUCING MOST OF MY OWN MATERIALS, including many dialogue scripts.

In 1983, and again in 1985, I accepted yearly contracts at the University of Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea. The requirement here was ENGLISH FOR SPECIAL PURPOSES in a whole range of disciplines, ranging from SURVEYING to CIVIL, ELECTRICAL and MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, to BIOLOGY, to BUSINESS STUDIES. PNG has 800 languages, so out of the classroom these students rarely spoke English. They were best engaged by closely liaising with subject lecturers and their specialist course content.

As a lecturer in linguistics at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, from 1987 to 1990 my students nearly all spoke English as a foreign language, but their speaking & listening skills were generally quite high. I always left a transcript of my lecture notes in the library for those who were unable to follow at speed. These students did need help in ACADEMIC WRITTEN ENGLISH. Since most wanted to be teachers, they were also receptive to my lectures on ENGLISH TEACHING METHODOLOGY. The Pacific Islands normally have very limited resources, so I placed a lot of emphasis on encouraging the LOCAL PRODUCTION OF MATERIALS. These Island societies are also quite group oriented, so it made sense to suggest GROUP BASED LANGUAGE ACTIVITIES such as CHORAL SINGING and CHANTS.

When I returned to Melbourne for doctoral research in late 1990, I continued to support myself by working part time for the Adult Migrant Education Service. By this time the fashions in teaching methodologies had changed. Courses based on LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS had come and gone (though I prepared some materials with this focus). The prevailing style was a very eclectic COMMUNICATIVE SYLLABUS. The philosophy was good, but the practice amongst many semi-trained and poor teachers was not always effective. Then a new State Government, driven by ideology, imported a COMPETENCY BASED CURRICULUM from overseas. Again, competency (what you can actually do with a language) is an important concept. The implementation of the rather mis-named Competency Curriculum created many problems of in both teacher practice and student outcomes. These informal programs were forced for political reasons to place a great emphasis on EVALUATION, but the mechanisms employed had little TEST VALIDITY. I wrote some serious critiques of the whole process (see my website).

I moved to the Technical & Further Education (TAFE) colleges, and for several years developed and ran a specialist course called ENGLISH FOR MECHANICS. In 1998 my employer asked me to conduct a specialist LANGUAGE CONSULTANCY for a large mining company in Indonesia. The aim was to set up a TECHNICAL ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE program for Indonesian mechanics and technicians. My employer paid me a site license fee for my book, "English for Mechanics", which was used as a basis for the program. This book is still sold commercially.

By 1998 I had let my PhD research in cognitive linguistics lapse; (I had planned to resume this when various technical problems in computer programming had evolved to a solution, and continue to have a strong interest in the area). I decided to extend my life experience by working in China, even though the money there is very poor. Most of my work in two Chinese universities, 1998-2000, was with MA and PhD students. That is, they were bright people and enjoyed language content which contained substantial IDEAS, as well mere language practice. Some of the PROJECTS which I developed for these people may be seen on my website at http://thormay.net/lxesl/lastmessage/lastmessageindex.htm.

In September 2000 I was contacted and invited to teach by Sungsim College of Foreign Languages (since merged with Youngsan University), Busan, South Korea. The Sungsim/Youngsan students were very different from the Chinese experience. These young people had low scores on every index : academic ability, intelligence, motivation ... Their language skills after six to ten years of school English were minimal, and the teaching they had encountered had been (mostly still is) unimpressive. In other words, they were a significant professional challenge.

I gradually evolved a number of techniques to engage the Sungsim students. We did regular work on INTONATION as a fun thing; ( Korean is more or less syllable-timed, quite unlike stress-timed English). I found that although they would not innovate, they were happy to memorize. This was a starting point. I created engaging SCRIPTS & DIALOGUES to learn. I HAM-ACTED, and coaxed them to follow. I realized that sitting behind a desk was associated with failure for them, and made everyone STAND UP around the edges of the room. Then I would go from student to student, forming a PERSONAL BOND and challenging them to perform. This was a great success. The materials I used were almost all my own, and may be seen at http://thormay.net/lxesl/bones/default.html .

In September 2003 Dr Brian King and I founded the TESOL Unit at Pusan University of Foreign Languages. We worked hard to build a professional program designed to articulate into international Masters courses, and a number of American universities are cross-crediting the program. The content was Applied Linguistics and TESOL Methodology for Korean graduate teachers. My own part of this - English Grammar and Second Language Acquisition - may be viewed online, including a series of Grammar and SLA lectures in Powerpoint slides.

The PUFS TESOL program was academically and commercially successful. It ran through two cycles of my courses, and doubled the number of student intakes. Although this program ran under the auspices of Pusan University of Foreign Studies, unknown to the students, the Korean government or initially to the lecturers, the TESOL program while I worked there was a private venture by a Korean businessman. This non-transparent arrangement was somewhat problematic.

In August 2004 I moved to Chungju National University, South Korea where I taught English to freshmen engineering and technical students. The student profile at Chungju National University was rather similar to the student profile at my earlier location, Sungsim/Youngsan University. The materials and methods evolved at Youngsan proved suitable for Chungju students. I also experimented with bilingual materials as a way to get from the known to the unknown. This proved rather popular, especially an interpreting game between paired students as a prelude to full dialogue performance. Another very popular experiment was with mini-dictations at normal speech speed of sentences chosen for their intonation contours. Even low-level students enjoyed figuring out what was said, and their responses gave much diagnostic feedback. Chungju itself is a rather attractive small city in a mountain lake area. The university administration and most of the academic staff sadly had little interest in or knowledge of language teaching. Student exposure to native English speakers was often limited to 2 hours per week for 15 weeks of a degree program. At one point I was responsible for 600 students in this regime. In 2007 I decided that it was time again for some fresh challenge.

From September 2007 I returned to China in a joint venture program, as outlined at the beginning of this summary.

 

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