TESOLANZ Professional Standards Project:
Core Competencies Profile


BY: DANIEL HADDOCK
PROJECT OFFICER

Introduction


There is an increasing number of people who want to learn English in New Zealand. In primary and secondary schools over 21,000 students in 787 schools with minimal English are being funded under the ESOL Resourcing Package provided by the Ministry of Education (Lee, L. 1998). There are other students above this minimum threshold who require further assistance with the language demands placed upon them at school. Tertiary students with English as a Second Language are taking courses both at universities and private language schools to improve their English in order to obtain admission to and completion of the desired qualification. Refugees, those seeking employment or retraining and family members struggling to cope with social and legal demands in New Zealand need English Language instruction.


In light of this increased demand, ESOL teachers are required to manage a wide range of teaching responsibilities and to meet a diverse range of learner needs (England, 1998). Teacher capabilities are under scrutiny as institutions try to satisfy this demand by providing the high quality programmes and support these learners deserve.


There are no easy answers to the question: "What makes a good ESOL teacher?" Establishing a set of core competencies has been the international response to defining the teaching profession. These statements become the minimum standards of what a teacher should know and be able to do. Teacher competencies are the technical skills and professional capabilities that a teacher needs to bring to a position in order to fulfil its functions completely (Aitken, 1998). For example, the New Zealand Teacher Registration Board listed thirty competency elements under four major dimensions: knowledge, practice, relationships and leadership. (TRB, 1997)


Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is a highly specialised field which is in the process of further definition and in establishing competency and professional standards for its members. Its members can teach in a diverse range of sectors covering learners from pre-school to mature students and in diverse situations from migrant education to specialised academic and industrial instruction. Two countries are well along in this process of establishing professional TESOL standards. In January 1993, the Australian Council of TESOL Associations began considering the development of TESOL teacher competency statements (Hogan, 1994) and presented a document for discussion at the national conference the following year. These Core Competency statements have now been finalised and published. Canadian TESL began researching in November 1994 on the issue of "Accreditation/Certification for Adult ESL Instructors in Canada: An overview" (Keevil-Harold, 1995) in an effort to encourage its branches in different states to adopt a unified approach to these issues. These studies and the resulting discussion offer models for other national TESOL organisations who are anxious to establish a set of competency statements and to further define the attributes of its practising members.

This article presents an overview of the project commissioned by the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Association of New Zealand to develop a set of core competencies from within its membership for the TESOL profession in New Zealand.

 Establishment of Professional Standards Sub-committee


At the September 1994 Biannual Conference for Community Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages (CLESOL), Dr Winifred Crombie presented a paper entitled "Quality Assurance and Professional Standards in ESOL". Dr Crombie also submitted an item to the AGM agenda held in conjunction with the conference recommending that TESOLANZ make firm decisions on issues related to:

  • qualifications for teaching staff
  • minimum experience level required of a proportion of staff in all institutions
  • minimum hourly rates to be established
  • provision by institutions of resource library for staff and self access facilities for students
  • setting of course times and class sizes
  • the government responsibility for registering all ESOL providers.

The issues raised by this remit were extensive and the executive at that time decided to commission a Professional Standards Sub-committee to initiate consultation with branches regarding the key points raised in the remit.


A report from the Professional Standards Sub-committee appeared in The TESOLANZ Newsletter March 1995. Branch responses to 4 motions arising from the original remit were tabled. The four motions outlined specifications for institutions providing education in English as a second/foreign language which should be implemented by December 1998.


Motion One dealt with qualifications and experience levels for full-time teaching staff including a supervised practicum as part of all qualifications.

Branch responses indicated a strong feeling against the prescriptive nature of the motion:

reliance on qualifications only, need to discriminate between academic and other programmes, the difficulty of prescribing appropriate qualifications due to divergent requirements placed on ESOL practitioners, different qualifications offer diversity and are therefore a strength, prior/learning/experience not taken into account (McAllister, Hoang Macann, and Catt, 1995).


Motion Two specified qualifications for ESOL teachers in secondary schools.

Branch responses echoed those outlined in responses to Motion One generally rejecting the strictures imposed by the motion.


Motion Three stated that previously obtained qualifications of teaching staff be reviewed in terms of a practicum component which must be completed if necessary by all staff.

Branches felt that this was unnecessary as teacher training, staff development and assessment are of equal value and strongly objected as the quality of the qualification should be reviewed not the person holding it.

Motion Four suggested the establishment of a professional group representative of all TESOL sectors in New Zealand to state which qualifications from which institutions are acceptable.


Branches' responses centred on questions such as:
Will accreditation be voluntary/compulsory?
Who will the assessors be?
Who will enforce/check that schemes are being adhered to?

General comments from the Branches at this point gave an indication of future direction for the establishment of professional standards:

(i) The enhancement of professional standards is more likely to be encouraged by support rather than through regulation;
(ii) TESOLANZ should foster on-going professional development e.g. handbooks, workshops, seminars;
(iii) (standards) need to be more thoroughly researched by a representative cross section of the industry.


The dialogue on the issue of professional standards had been established and a committee set up to develop a procedure acceptable to the membership.

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FUTURE DIRECTION ESTABLISHED


The procedure of establishing professional standards by the sub-committee continued under the direction of chairperson, Dr Cynthia White. The following remit was passed at the AGM, Conference '96.

That the functions of the Professional Standards Sub-committee of TESOLANZ are to:


1. Assume responsibility for the articulation of TESOLANZ philosophy on professional standards.
2. Produce and update a directory of training options for TESOL within New Zealand, including information on the kinds of teaching contexts which the qualification specialises in.
3. Maintain links with international counterparts within TESOL on professional standards.
4. Inform areas of practice of TESOL within NZ on the TESOLANZ philosophy of professional standards (Killip, 1996).

The formulation of two projects arising from these remits suggested that steady progress on the key issues was being made. The first of these two projects has led to the present report.


The brief was to:
Survey membership regarding qualifications and experience so that a profile of ESOL teacher competencies can be drawn up with a flexible core and a list of specialised skills needed in particular areas.


The focus of the process had shifted away from a qualifications emphasis to that of a generic base to competencies for the TESOL profession. The competencies should be able to be applied to teachers in any educational setting. Given the wide variety of TESOL settings, it will then be up for the more specialised sectors of the profession to specify additional skills and capabilities. (Aitken, 1998).

 

PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS PROJECT COMMISSIONED


"ESOL teaching is a specialised, distinct professional field. Experience, training and ongoing professional development are all important as contributors to professional standards within the field. Teachers within the profession require particular knowledge, skills, attitudes and experience for the context in which they work."

(TESOLANZ Draft Philosophy of Professional Standards)

The Professional Standards committee argued that work up to this point had taken place in the absence of any articulated philosophy on professional standards for TESOL in New Zealand. In the July 1997 TESOLANZ newsletter, the Draft Philosophy of Professional Standards was published (White, 1997). An important proviso to the Philosophy was that it referred to standards among professionals delivering ESOL programmes and not to standards within the programmes themselves.


The key points stated in the philosophy reflected membership wishes as expressed through the consultation process over the last three years:

  • An inclusive approach to TESOL encompassing all sectors in NZ
  • Diversity within the profession is seen as a strength of the profession in its bid to establish standards and quality
  • The right of ESOL learners to receive instruction from qualified, experienced professionals
  • ESOL teachers in New Zealand should be encouraged to belong to TESOLANZ as a way of continuous professional development
  • TESOLANZ will establish a set of competencies ESOL teachers should exhibit as a tool for monitoring their own skills and continued professional progress.


In the next newsletter, the first TESOLANZ project was advertised. The parameters of the Core Competencies Profile were to:

  • survey members in order to guarantee that the profile was directly relevant to the ESOL profession in Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • develop a core competencies document to complement the TESOLANZ philosophy on professional standards.
  • An appointment was made in November 1997 with a project completion date prior to CLESOL 98, 25-28 September. The project also included a profile of the TESOLANZ membership which is discussed in a separate document.

 

CORE COMPETENCIES PROFILE : Developing the Statements


TESOLANZ has undertaken to investigate and describe the competencies which the experienced ESOL professional exhibits. Such competencies relate to the kinds of appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes and experience required for ESOL Teaching contexts.


This project began the task of selecting the key indicators of competence within the TESOL profession. Using Australian (Hogan, 1994; Commins, 1995) and Canadian (Keevil-Harold, 1995) procedures for establishing minimum competency standards, the project officer and director put forward some examples of competency statements as the first step prior to consulting sector representatives and TESOLANZ branches. A minimal number of categories and statements included in each category was supplied in order to encourage effective consultation without being too directive or prescriptive.


Under the following headings a list of attributes was provided for each sector representative to challenge, endorse, change or delete. Respondents were also encouraged to alter or add to category headings and individual elements. Branches were also asked to use brainstorming to develop key elements of competency.


The original category headings and examples of the suggested statements were:

An ESOL teacher in New Zealand will be expected to understand:

1. The process of second language development
2. Current TESOL methodological approaches (up to a total of five statements).

An ESOL teacher in New Zealand can:

1. Use a language level appropriate to student's ability.
2. Provide models of spoken and written language in context, followed by guided practice and opportunities for language use (continued for a total of 11 statements).


An ESOL teacher in New Zealand can apply principles and techniques for the assessment of spoken and written English which use:

1. A range of second-language assessment techniques
2. Appropriate documentation systems (only two statements were provided).

Extensive responses were received from both sector representatives (Tertiary, Polytechnic, College of Education, Private Language Schools, Secondary schools) and eight branches. Based on the number and conceptual nature of these suggestions, the number of key categories increased to six and the number of statements from 18 to 54. Responses were analysed and classified as the basis for the core competency ranking exercise. According to the project parameters, members would be asked to respond to the inventory, rating each competency on a five point scale from 'of no importance' to 'very important'. The final categories and examples of the statements were grouped under the following key categories:

A. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should have:

  • TESOL training
  • qualifications in TESOL
  • experience in learning another language (8 statements in all)


B. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand is expected to understand:

  • the process of second language development
  • the broader principles of teaching and learning
  • current TESOL methodological approaches (7 statements in all)


C. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should also have an understanding of:

  • bilingualism
  • biculturalism
  • different learning styles (8 statements in all)


D. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should recognise the significance of :

  • a classroom environment conducive to learning
  • a classroom centred research
  • teacher-student rapport (9 statements in all)


E. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand will be able to:

  • use a language level appropriate to the student's ability
  • provide appropriate models of language in context
  • select and use a range of TESOL methodologies
  • facilitate independent learning (11 statements in all)

F. In relation to assessment, an ESOL teacher in New Zealand should be able to:

  • select and apply a range of second language assessment techniques
  • follow and use appropriate documentation systems
  • use both formal and informal methods of assessment
  • develop suitable assessment tasks for the level and goals of the student group (11 statements in all)


(A list of the Core Competency statements and responses of members is provided in Table A)


The final format for membership response was a booklet posted out to all members with the TESOLANZ Newsletter, April, 1998: TESOLANZ Project: Core Competency Statements.

FINDINGS

Branches were urged to encourage members to complete the core competency exercise. All ten branches were represented by the 194 members who responded. This is a response rate of 32%.

BRANCH RESPONSES

Branch Responses

Statement Ratings

Table A presents the findings with competency statements ranked according to the support they received from TESOLANZ membership. The rankings reveal which particular qualities, knowledge and skills are judged to be of most importance for an ESOL teacher. Each statement has been listed by the particular category it represented (see page 9-10) and the mean result in a range of 1-5 assigned from member responses.


TABLE A:

MEAN RATINGS OF CORE COMPETENCY STATEMENTS

E2 provide models of language 4.97
C5 understand factors affecting language learning 4.86
D7 significance of non-racist, non-sexist behaviour 4.80
E9 able to accommodate varying levels and abilities 4.72
A1 should have TESOL training 4.71
E1 use a language level appropriate to student's ability 4.66
D1 significance of classroom environment/learning. 4.65
D3 significance of teacher/student rapport 4.65
F8 be able to provide constructive feedback 4.64
D6 significance of students knowing what they are doing 4.63
E5 use a variety of teaching strategies 4.60
E10 able to provide a balanced programme 4.57
B2 understand the broader principles of teaching 4.54
A7 should have ongoing Professional Development 4.52
E3 able to facilitate independent learning 4.51
E7 able to assess and use appropriate resources 4.49
D5 significance of monitoring learner progress 4.47
B1 understand process of L2 development 4.46
C4 understanding of different learning styles 4.46
E6 able to carry out a needs analysis 4.44
F9 able to ensure assessment is valid 4.42
E4 able to use a range of TESOL methodologies 4.41
A2 have qualifications in TESOL 4.40
F4 develop suitable assessment tasks 4.36
B3 understand TESOL methods 4.35
B4 understand phonological features of English 4.31
C3 understand multiculturalism 4.27
A8 understand sociocultural context 4.25
B5 understand principles of material development 4.23
F3 able to use both formal and informal assessment 4.19
C6 understand impact of L1 on language teaching 4.12
F1 able to apply a range of L2 assessment techniques 4.10
D9 significance of using a range of functions 4.09
D8 significance of contributing to PD programmes 4.06
A5 have experience in learning another language 4.04
B6 understand principles of TESOL course design 4.01
C2 understanding of biculturalism 3.98
A3 have experience in TESOL 3.97
E8 able to use appropriate technology 3.94
F6 able to apply techniques for evaluation 3.93
D4 significance of moderation 3.91
F7 able to assess competencies 3.83
C1 understanding of bilingualism 3.81
F10 able to develop learner profiles 3.78
D2 significance of classroom centred research 3.78
F2 able to follow and use documentation systems 3.72
C7 understanding of curricular issues 3.64
F11 able to use fixed criteria assessment 3.62
A6 have membership in a TESOL organisation 3.55
E11 able to carry out administrative responsibilities 3.51
C8 understanding of Govt policies which affect TESOL 3.49
B7 understand the Qualifications Framework 2.88
F5 able to assess to Qualifications Framework 2.83
A4 have experience in a community language 2.74

The statements which received the most support can be classified under the following key categories:


A. An ESOL Teacher in New Zealand should have:

  • TESOL Training
  • Ongoing Professional Development
  • Qualifications in TESOL


B. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand is expected to understand:

  • the broader principles of teaching and learning
  • the process of second language development
  • current TESOL methodological approaches
  • the main phonological and structural features of English


C. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should also have an understanding of:

  • factors and conditions affecting language learning
  • different learning styles
  • Multiculturalism


D. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should recognise the significance of:

  • behaving in a non-racist, non-sexist and professional manner
  • a classroom environment conducive to learning
  • teacher-student rapport
  • ensuring that students know what they are doing and why
  • monitoring learner progress


E. An ESOL teacher in New Zealand will be able to:

  • provide appropriate models of language in context
  • accommodate varying levels and abilities
  • use a language level appropriate to the student's ability
  • use a variety of teaching strategies
  • provide a balanced programme
  • facilitate independent learning
  • assess and use appropriate resources
  • carry out a needs analysis
  • select and use a range of TESOL methodologies


F. In relation to assessment, an ESOL teacher in New Zealand should be able to:

  • provide constructive and sensitive feedback to facilitate learning
  • ensure that the assessment is valid and understandable by the student and other stakeholders
  • develop suitable assessment tasks and for the level and goals of the group
  • Cornerstones of TESOL Competency


The TESOLANZ Draft Philosophy of Professional Standards stated that "Teachers within the profession require particular knowledge, skills, attitudes and experience for the context in which they work." The support given to particular core competencies by members reflects this pattern as shown by further analysis of those items with a mean rating of 4.97- 4.01.

Members stated through their choices that ESOL teachers needed:


KNOWLEDGE OF:

  • factors affecting language learning
  • broader principles of teaching
  • the process of L2 development
  • different learning styles
  • TESOL methods
  • phonological and structural
  • features of English
  • the principles behind materials
  • development and selection
  • the impact of L1 on language teaching
  • the principles of TESOL course design and curriculum development

 

SKILLS TO

  • provide appropriate models of language in context
  • accommodate varying levels and abilities
  • use a language level appropriate to the student's ability
  • provide constructive and sensitive feedback to facilitate learning
  • use a variety of teaching strategies
  • provide a balanced programme
  • facilitate independent learning
  • assess and use appropriate resources
  • monitor learner progress
  • carry out a needs analysis
  • ensure assessment is valid and understandable by the student and other stakeholders.
  • select and use a range of TESOL methodologies
  • develop suitable assessment tasks
  • use both formal and informal methods ofassessment techniques
  • select and apply a range of second language assessment
  • use a range of functions to enable students to participate in New Zealand society.

 

ATTITUDES which

  • mean behaving in a non-racist, non-sexist and professional manner
  • create a classroom environment conducive to learning
  • encourage teacher-student rapport
  • ensure that students know what they are doing and why
  • ensure contribution to Profession Development programmes when possible.

 

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE which includes

  • TESOL training
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • Qualifications in ESOL
  • Learning another language.

 


RECOMMENDATIONS


There is a need for ELT professional associations to provide clear guidelines for academic and employment settings (England, 1998). The Core Competency Statements discussed in this report will be of interest not only to ESOL professionals but also to signal that ESOL is a specialised profession which requires more than lay knowledge. It is vital that TESOLANZ assume this role of professional guidance. Therefore, it is recommended that the competency statements be:


categorised under the following headings:


An ESOL teacher in New Zealand should have

KNOWLEDGE of . . .

SKILLS to . . .

ATTITUDES which . . . , and

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE which includes . . .


included in general material about TESOLANZ

published as a separate booklet available to all interested parties

recognised as guidelines which suggest the baseline characteristics of ESOL teachers

 

References


Aitken, J (1998) The Capable Teacher, number 2, summer 1998


Burgess, F (1997) Unit Standards for developing biliteracy in your children attending Pacific Island language nests. TESOLANZ Journal, 5, 27-35.


Commis, L (1995) Minimum skills/competency standards for LOTE teaching. Language testing and curriculum centre, National Languages and literacy institute of Australia, Griffith University, Queensland, Commonwealth of Australia.


England, L (1998) Promoting Effective Professional Development in English Language Teaching, English Teaching Forum, 36, 2, 18-23.


Hogan, S (1994) TESOL teacher competencies document. ATESOL, NSW.


Keevil, Harold, D (1995) Accreditation/Certificate for Adult ESL Instructors in Canada: An Overview. TESL Canada Journal, 13/1, 37-63.


Killip, M (1996) Report from the Professional Standards Sub-Committee. TESOLANZ Newsletter, 5/3, 7.


Lee, L (1998) Fact Sheet and Questions/Answers on 1998/1 ESOL Allocation, Ministry of Education.


Johnston, B (1997) Do EFL teachers have careers? TESOL Quarterly, 31/4, p 711.


McAllister, S (1995) Second report from professional standards sub-committee of TESOLANZ. TESOLANZ Newsletter, 4/2, 18-19.


Teacher Registration Board, A Satisfactory Teacher, 2-10. (1997)


White, C.J. (1997) TESOLANZ draft philosophy of professional standards. TESOLANZ Newsletter, 6/2, 15.


Williams, L (1995) Policy on language teaching and learning in secondary schools. New Zealand Association of Language Teachers.


 

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