Can an online EAL course really make a difference in your classroom? (Take 2)
When I last wrote about this subject at the end of November 2019, we had just one online course. I was celebrating the seventh birthday of our six unit EAL course accredited by the University of Greenwich. Since then a lot has changed.
In 2020 we had three times as many course participants as in 2019. The numbers from international schools and UK independent schools doubled. The number from English state schools quadrupled. A revised and updated course with a completely revamped assessment process received renewed accreditation from Greenwich in April. We changed the order of the units (the hardest one is now fourth instead of first). We halved the number of assessment tasks, but doubled the length of each one, allowing for greater depth in the responses to the course. We introduced Zoom tutorials.
Of course, last March the delegate courses we ran regularly in a range of venues in different areas cane to a very sharp halt. As we already had an online platform and well established expertise in online training, we decided to move most of our training offer online. We started with EAL and SEND and quickly added two courses on leadership and EAL. Most recently our course specifically for teaching assistants joined the online offer. We have gone from one online course to ten in the last seven months. Here’s the full list:
We have new courses in the pipeline covering Science and EAL, Maths and EAL and EAL in Wales.
There have been two other interesting developments. We thought our courses would be taken by individuals from different schools at the times each individual could manage. Then an international school in Vienna asked us if all of their EAL Department could do EAL in an International School Context together. They did, starting on a day immediately before pupils arrived for the Autumn term and finishing the day after school closed for pupils. We discovered that our online courses are a ready made, school based two day training session. If someone is ill or can’t make it, they can do the same course a few days later. The best ideas in education come from schools.
The other step forward we made was in finding the right tutor for Leading EAL in Primary Schools. We wanted someone who understood online learning and leading EAL in primary schools. We were about to start advertising for someone when we realised that not only did we already knew the perfect person, but we had already trained her. Lynsey Irish leads EAL in a primary school and is a graduate of our extended online course, about which she told us:
“The online course improved my own knowledge of key issues in the achievement of pupils learning English as an additional language. 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 now 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 English as an additional language with clear targets and next steps.”
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