It’s good to talk, isn’t it?

18 03 2014

English UK Management Conference 2014

It is becoming a commonly stated view that among all the possible forms of teacher development, having a good chat about teaching, with both colleagues and teachers elsewhere, is perhaps the most effective. Schools should be providing spaces, and academic managers looking for opportunities, to facilitate this. And beyond the school walls, the last couple of years have seen an explosion of teacher communities online – on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – where weekly discussions on teaching best practice, materials-sharing and problem-solving abound.

But what about this kind of activity for managers? Do similar opportunities exist? If they do, where are they? And if they don’t, what’s stopping us? If having a good chat is good for teacher development, shouldn’t it also be good for manager development?

This session will look at ways for academic managers and directors of studies to get beyond their solitary existence! We’ll share some burning issues, consider what makes a successful community of practice, and see how we can join the ELT management conversation.

Questions to consider (please post thoughts in the Comments section):

  1. What opportunities exist for ELT managers to meet and chat?
  2. Do these opportunities meet our needs?
  3. Would ELT managers in the UK benefit from being part of a CoP?



11 responses

18 03 2014
Sarah ter Keurs (@terkeurss)

Hi Josh–great presentation. Love the LEGO! I’ve tried several channels for connecting with other administrators (through our ELT association), Twitter, LinkedIn, and conferences. By far, the most fruitful efforts have been at conferences. Here (Vancouver) there are very few admins who seem to be able to commit to meeting outside of conferences. I think that it ends up being an informal group who meet up to discuss current topics. I’d love to see more for academic managers, but it just doesn’t seem to fit into so many people’s busy admin schedules. I just haven’t figured out a way to get my colleagues connected! I am still working on finding those “champions”!

I do think that more online opportunities would be welcomed by others. What you do here on your blog is amazing! It always gets me thinking about issues. If there is a UK group that connects (online) I’d love to be a part of it. To be honest, I’m not as involved in ELT in my current position, but nonetheless find myself homeless, but still with instructor issues, student issues (Continuing Education) and think that, regardless of the content, there is much to be gained from admins connecting.


22 03 2014

Hi Sarah, thanks so much for your comment and feedback. I have 2 boys who recently took me to the lego movie and it inspired my prezi!

Yes, I agree that face to face meet-ups (conferences, local events) are always the most valuable, if only to establish and build the relationships which may lead to further and more regular connections.
Time, busy schedules, and distance are definitely perceived obstacles which get in the way of meeting up more frequently; I met several managers in Bristol who, like you, have tried to encourage local colleagues to form local groups and found it hard to maintain any momentum. So you definitely need the numbers to achieve a critical mass for a vibrant and engaged CoP.

I think the online opportunities for academic managers will grow; dare I say it, but we are lagging behind the communities of teachers around the world who have embraced social media to connect and develop. I suppose it is an obvious point to say that there are more teachers than teacher-managers, and so these communities have evolved more quickly. This will change, and ELT management CoPs will start to form or grow, but it will take time.


19 03 2014

Hi Josh. Very much enjoyed your talk, very wise words. I think you’ve inspired a seminar I might give our teachers this week, I’ll let you know about it if it is a success!

Thanks for the AISLi shout-out too! On the strength of the AISLi DoS group on Facebook, we’ve also started an IH DoS group and this too is proving a very useful tool for sharing ideas and benefitting from the wealth of experience of other managers around the world.

I’ve mentioned this post on my blog and added a link to it and your talk here: Hope that’s okay.

All the best,



22 03 2014

Hi Jonny, thanks for stopping by – how did the seminar go? And thanks for sharing my post on your blog! I watched the video of your talk too, some really nice ideas there for building your school’s community.

From the outside, it appears that IH is very good at connecting its members, and I’m not surprised that an IH DOS group has been started on facebook; IH certainly have the numbers and, it seems, the culture of sharing and swapping ideas. How many members are on the IH DOS group, out of interest? I know, for example, that some Londosa members were not keen to form an online group using facebook, seeing that as too much of a social, private space – not an opinion I share.

Anyway, thanks again, and hope to see you at a future AISLi event perhaps – I’m hoping to get invited back!


22 03 2014

Hi Josh,

Seminar went very well actually. Bought in some tea and biscuits, showed the teachers the first 5 mins of your talk and then got them in groups to have a chat about teaching with some discussion questions to guide them. It seemed to go down well and they valued the opportunity to devote time to this, and perhaps to chat with teachers they don’t always chat with. It really highlighted the wealth of experience we have in the staffroom.

Re the Facebook group, got about 60 members at the moment but it’s very much in its infancy. I think it’s a great way to connect with peers; responses to comments and questions come in far more quickly and voluntarily than other forums.

Would be great to have you back at a future AISLi event. Can’t beat a conference in an agriturismo!

Ciao. Jonny


24 03 2014
24 03 2014

Great! lovely post, very nice to see your session working so well. Just giving teachers the time and space to share is very beneficial. And I didn’t realise Lizzie worked with you, I think I’ve been following her on twitter for a couple of years now!


20 03 2014
Fiona Thomas' ELT Blog

Hi Josh, great talk.
Here’s hoping that you are one of the champions that is going to help a management CoP happen :-). And hopefully, from a personal point of view, one which reaches beyond the UK.

Fortunately there seem to be a few more management strands at ELT conferences now, at least I managed to persuade the ELT conference held by IH Barcelona to hold one this year, and from all accounts the strand was very popular. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

I work in Barcelona and as far as I know there are no DoS support groups here or even in Spain and goodness knows there are enough language schools to support one. I wonder whether it has something to do with the fact that most language schools in a non-English speaking country / area are competing with each other for local clients so why would DoSes want to help their competitors to do their job better if it means that they might get more clients? (a mistaken view in my opinion but it is a factor). I don’t think this applies so much in English speaking countries where most students come from abroad. But maybe this is one of the reasons why there are more support groups in the UK and Australia?

In addition to this, my added complication is that I manage an online school and have literally no contact with the equivalent type of DoS. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think what a DoS does in a bricks and mortar school has no relevance to what I do, far from it. And I also think a lot of DoSes will need to learn to extend their management skills to online practices in the very near future (I will be talking about this at the ELTJam anniversary party at IATEFL if anyone is going) and have a book coming out on the-round in the next two weeks on Managing Education in the Digital Age which also talks managers through all these issues (sorry, little plug there).

Blogs are a great way of sharing ideas but unless you are the Secret DOS, they are public and you cannot write completely openly which tends to neutralise to a certain extent issues that need to be raised and discussed. This, I think is why the Brighton LAMSIG conference was so successful. It put management practictioners together in a supportive and safe environment. “What happens on tour, stays on tour”.

I, for one, would love to take part in more events of this type but currently do not have the time, energy or low enough stress levels to organise one myself – maybe some time in the future (Maureen and Jenny :-)) and I fear this may be the reason why few of us champion the cause. Management jobs are, after all, pretty time-consuming stressful things!

Finally, to pick up on your key points for successful CoPs, I think there are the people, there is loads of interesting content but few champions. I would also add one more point to that list: Publicity / Marketing. If people don’t hear about events, they can’t attend them, I find it’s often difficult to find out about interesting events.

Thanks again, Josh.


23 03 2014

Hi Fiona,
Thanks very much for your comment.
That’s really interesting that there are no DOS associations as far as you know in Spain, I wasn’t aware of that. With the hundreds of schools across quite a big country, there is a lot of potential there I’d imagine for managers to get over the worry of local competition and look nationally for connections and support.
I’m looking forward to learning more about your imminent book, I heard a little about it from Andy. As I mentioned in my reply to Sarah’s comment above, I think the take up of digital channels by ELT management has been slow and low, and I’m not sure why that is. If you look at the cpchat hashtag on twitter, it is widely populated by educators from mainstream US education, but there doesn’t seem to be anything similar among the ELT community. The US administrators/principals must all have very busy, stressful jobs but they somehow find the time and space to connect and share their stories and experiences.
You make an interesting point about blogs and their public nature, it is true that perhaps complete openness is hard to achieve, and so events like the Brighton LAMSIG one are important opportunities for really sharing and learning from each other. Let’s hope we do see more of these events, and more regularly, in the future.
Thanks – and hopefully see you in Harrogate!


27 04 2014
“How to be a good Director of Studies?” – Some useful links! | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

[…] has been inspired by Josh, and gave us a brilliant CPD session, which idea he got from this post/talk of […]


25 09 2016
The Power of Collegial Conversations for Teacher Development: A Dialogue in Progress – Muddles into Maxims

[…] And in the comments section of that post, Jonny Ingham mentions that the session was inspired by this post on “Be the DOS” here: […]


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