The Visiting Scholar

The ‘How’, the ‘Why’ and the ‘What for’ of Speaking Rubrics…


Tony Gurr


On Friday 14th October (good job it wasn’t the 13th) I spent the day with those wonderful boyz and girlz at METU-MLD!

They’d asked me to pop down from big, bad Istanbul (via Cyprus) to do a session on Speaking Skills – and, being the terrible hoca I is, I decided to take my unwitting victims from ‘beliefs’ to ‘classroom practice’ to ‘assessment’ over the day. Actually, I was amazed so many of they stayed till the end – it was a Friday, after all!

Neyse, let’s cut to the chase – or the ‘püf noktaları’ if you will!

For the full-text version of the blog post, please click here..


The Hidden Curriculum in Our Images

Ksan Rubadeau


Many pre-service English language teaching programs include something about the ‘hidden curriculum’: those norms and values that are unintentionally transmitted in the learning environment through interactions and materials. Once we educators get to into the classroom and are part of a system, it is not always easy for us to see the hidden curriculum. But one thing we can try is to hone in on one aspect of it: stereotypical images.

As a textbook editor, I’ve come across a number of stereotypical images in English language textbook manuscripts. Sometimes it’s been mothers in aprons and fathers in suits. Other times the materials showed people from around the world represented only in traditional attire. I’ve seen physically disabled people in texts show up only in the unit about students helping those less fortunate. Heavy-set people have appeared in stories about weight or bullying, or often have not shown up in the text at all. I’ve seen numerous instances where Africans appeared only as recipients of aid or under words like “charity” or “drought.” Native English speakers often seem to be depicted as white people and shown eating foods like pizza and hamburgers. The list goes on.

I always ask if I can share my input into the images that will be used in the textbook manuscripts that I help edit. When it’s early enough in the editing process, it’s wonderful to be able to contribute to such discussions. But sometimes it’s too late or the senior editors don’t see a need for a change and the stereotypical images remain.

Once the images are already in the materials adopted by our programs, we English language educators are somewhat limited in our choices on how to deal with them. One thing we can do is to call out inherent stereotypes by directly noting them or by having students find them. We can also supplement the images, perhaps with images of dads in kitchen aprons or of heavy-set students who are happy protagonists in dialogues.

Fortunately, many teachers select and make our own materials, and we can take the time to consider the images we employ. This pertains not just to images we use with our learners, but also the pictures, photos, and videos in our visual aids at conferences or on our professional websites.

A little extra thought and time can go a long way. For example, if you’ve ever done a Google Images or stock photo search, you may have sometimes encountered a predominance of thin white models in the first page of images. Scrolling down to find other images may take longer, but could be time very well spent if we think about the hidden curriculum. When selecting a TED talk or Youtube video for listening practice, choosing an English language presentation in which the speaker is not white or male may take a bit more time (especially for topics related to engineering and science) but could add so much to your program.  Even simply going over all the images you include in two weeks of your course or in one PowerPoint presentation could be enlightening reflective practice. This extra time and thought may affect the way our extraordinarily diverse and exciting world is represented to our learners and to the next generation of teachers.

Ksan Rubadeau (M.A. Applied Linguistics, Concordia University, Montreal; Ed.D. Durham University, UK) has had the joy of being an English language teacher and teacher educator for twenty years, working in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea. Dr. Rubadeau facilitates TESOL International’s Training of Trainers course and is an award-winning professor at the Institute of Foreign Language Studies, Korea University, Seoul. Her research focuses on teacher educators’ cognitions and practices.

JUNE 2015

As you might know, our department hosted a former MLD member, Zeynep Erdil Moody from University of South Florida, to help her conduct her PHd study. Hale Kızılcık, Elif Şeşen and Filiz Başaran implemented the study in their classrooms as the experimental group teachers while Nilgün Nur Demirok and Seyhan Güneşer Göçmen contributed to the study by being the control group teachers. The study which was based on Dörnyei’s framework investigated how influencial motivational strategies were on students’ L2 motivation. At the end of the classroom interventions, Zeynep has given a workshop explaining her study and inspiring us about motivational strategies. We are indebted to Zeynep Erdil Moody for the inspiration she has given us and for accepting to share her expertise with our department. If you wanted to attend the workshop but could not, we have a suprise for you 🙂 Below is the recorded workshop session. We’d like to thank Pınar for suggesting us to record the session, Gülsüm and Alper for technical support, and administration for making it possible by arranging the equipment 🙂

Please click on the video files below to attend the workshop 🙂 Enjoy!

MAY 2015

Deniz Kurtoğlu Eken

deniz kurtoglu eken

Dear Yaprak, I would like to congratulate you and your friends for setting up this wonderful sharing platform to ‘stay connected and enjoy’! Ellerinize ve emeğinize sağlık.

I used to write a lot of poems as a child and later as a teenager. Then for decades I did not write anything. After losing my mom in September 2009, I felt an unstoppable need to write again. What I’d like to share with you here is one of those poems. Warm wishes to all colleagues..


Why is it that for so many of us
Reality consists of our own worlds and lives only?
Why is it that our problems, worries, concerns, unhappiness, dissatisfaction and the like
Are nothing comparable to any other’s?
How come we often feel it’s the other person’s fault and not ours?
Why is it that we feel we are individually the most helpless, the most injusticed, the most wronged?
Hmm, is there a competition as such?
The one with the worst problem; the one who’s the helpless of all
The unhappiest, the most miserable of all times?
The least fortunate and the most deprived
The biggest sufferer on Earth?
And so, the award goes to…?
Why is it that we cannot treasure and cherish what we already have?
Why can’t we grow and learn to grow stronger as persons?
Or is it because
We simply cannot let go
Of the weird content
That our unhappiness yields
Though at the same moment
It screams
‘Who is to blame for it all?‘                                     

(Kurtoglu Eken 26/12/11)

Deniz Kurtoğlu Eken (PhD in ELT) has extensive experience both in teacher training and in teacher education. In terms of her trainer training experience, Dr. Kurtoğlu Eken has previously designed and run the Bilkent University School of English Language Trainer Training Course (BUSEL Diploma in Teacher Training) in 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000 and 2001-2002; the Bilgi University English Language Programs Trainer Training Program (İstanbul Bilgi University Certificate in Teacher Training) in 2001-2002; and has worked as a trainer trainer on the British Council International Networking Events in Cambridge, UK in August 1999 and August 2000. Since 2003, she has also been running the one-year award bearing Sabancı University School of Languages Trainer Training Program (SU SL Certificate in Teacher Education) and the Sabancı University School of Languages Trainer Education Program (SLTEP).


Bill Snyder

Let me tell you a story.

 Just yesterday, a former student stopped by my office to let me know that through the process of some online courses in international relations he was taking, he was being nominated for an internship with a large international organization. And he credited this nomination to the reception of his final paper in the online courses. And he credited that, in part, to the work that I and other teachers in my program had done with him on academic writing. And he wanted to say thank you. This is the kind of thing that every teacher appreciates.

 But he also said two other things that made me think a little more. First, he mentioned that what he had really gotten from me was knowledge of the technical details of formatting — basically, how to apply APA standards in his writing. And second, he mentioned how much he hadn’t liked it when we did it. He felt it was constraining and arbitrary it was (and he’s right, it is). But now he had gotten back an important paper with compliments on how professional it was and he valued the fact that I had required that kind of work.

 And all of this exchange made me think some about my work. Recently I have been thinking a lot about the need to explicitly teach students the things we often assume they just know or will just figure out. Like formatting. Or how to use their word processing programs more effectively. I used to get frustrated with students’ failure to know about these things or just figure them out. And I came to see that my failure to teach these things was the source of my frustration.

 These days, with my teacher learners, I spend some time on the first day of class on how to use the apps that come with our university’s e-mail system so that they can communicate more effectively with each other and with me. I feel like this kind of work helps increase their technological literacy and helps them with doing the more content-based work I assign later. I’ve come to see this as a basic part of my teaching, to the point that I have created a teaching mantra to remind me of it as I design courses: Teach The Assumed.

 Why am I telling you this story? Well, this bulletin board is, as the cover says, a place for sharing, exploring, and learning. And I hope that in sharing my story, it will lead you to think a bit about your own stories from work, hopefully about some stories where you have wound up feeling good about the successes of your students. And maybe also some stories about what you have learned from frustrations that you have had in teaching and how you improved your teaching to overcome them. And maybe as well about how you use teaching mantras to help you organize your work and to remind you of what you think is important in your work.

 These are all important things. Even more important, though, is that you share them with each other. It is through building community and creating shared social capital (as Hargreaves and Fullan have termed it) with our individual reflections that we might make the biggest impact on teaching and learning.

 Dewey suggested that two essential qualities of the reflective teacher were open-mindedness, a willingness to consider the views of others and to change oneself upon reflection, and wholeheartedness in making this reflectivity a constant aspect of their practice. And it is reflective practice for the self and shared in the community that are the basis of long term professional development.

 I was honored when my former MA student Elif Sesen asked me to contribute to this community of Modern Languages Department teachers at METU. I believe wholeheartedly in what this bulletin board is trying to do — to provide a space for sharing, exploring, and learning in ways that promote the professional development of all members of the community. And I hope that all of you are willing to undertake the work of making this space work for you. And I recognize that it is extra work, taking time to participate here. But what I hope you will see in sharing your stories, your beliefs about teaching and learning, your successes and failures, is that there is a reward to be gained in the feeling of understanding what you do and why you do it a little more clearly. And that feeling is the feeling of professional development.

 I’m looking forward to reading your responses, interacting with you, and learning something from participating here.

 Bill Snyder is Specially Appointed Professor and Assistant Director of the MA TESOL Program at Kanda University of International Studies in Tokyo, Japan. He previously worked for seven years in the MA TESOL Program at Bilkent University. Between Bilkent and KUIS, he has worked for American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Hanyang University/University of Oregon in Seoul, South Korea, and for Teachers College, Columbia University, for five years as Director of the Teachers College MA TESOL program in Japan. He is interested in reflective practice, teacher education, teacher narratives, and the messiness of the classroom.


If you don’t feel like commenting here, you can reach him at <>. Or try Facebook, where he posts a bunch of teacher-y stuff, along with other things <>. Send a note along with a friend request; I check the Other box in my messages regularly.

5 thoughts on “The Visiting Scholar

  1. Dear Bill,
    It’s a pleasure and also an honour to see you here 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience with us here… I hope we’ll be in contact more in the future…
    I read your article with great interest… I’ve also been thinking about the idea of “Teaching the Assumed” for a while, but, to be honest, I was not able to word it so beautifully – “Teaching the Assumed”. I loved the way you expressed it 🙂 I believe just like we think of our New Year’s Resolutions, we, as teachers, need to identify some “New Term’s Resolutions” at the beginning of each year and integrate some teaching practices to teach the assumed in class that term because most of the time it is all these practices that help our students more in real life… I once read in an article: “One of the best things about teaching is that every school year offers a fresh start.” I believe “Teaching the Assumed” deserves to be considered more while listing our “New Term’s Resolutions”…
    Burçin Hasanbaşoğlu


  2. Hi Burçin,

    Thank you for your comment. And I’m glad to hear that you like the idea that we need to teach certain basic skills directly. I agree that these may have greater longer term value for students than many other things. Still, I’d like to see them become things that they don’t think about, that have become second nature to them. And the real question for me, that I’m still working on, is how to integrate teaching these things into class effectively so that I can still spend time on other things I think are important.

    I like your idea of a New Year’s resolution at the start of the teaching year. I hadn’t thought of it that way but when I was at Bilkent, Julie Mathews-Aydinli would meet at the beginning of each year and choose one thing we wanted to focus on improving in our students’ theses. And it became a goal to work this point into lessons and feedback. So, yes, I think setting a clear improvement goal for ourselves each year as teachers and thinking through how we are going to work on it is an important part of professional development. And I think it is even better if we can do it with a colleague or two (or more).

    Best wishes,



  3. Dear Bill..As I told you earlier in my e-mail, I cannot express how much I was inspired by your reflection in your “column”..Reading something that makes me sit down and think is great and that’s what you always let happen..through articles you post on Facebook or through your written discussions as you did here on our bulletin board..thank you..
    I wanted to be silent for some time to give people some chance to read the posts on our “board” ..and my dearest friend Burcin participated in the discussion! That’s what I have been waiting for 🙂
    When reading your column, I highlighted many points, too. The idea of “Teaching the Assumed” gave me some kind of relief actually as we sometimes feel depressed thinking that we are spoonfeeding our students..But I really liked the mantra and the idea. Students actually need such guidence most of the time..For example, we assume that they know how to do research on the Internet as they live online most of the time, but when we mention databases, they appreciate it. Some of them even don’t know how to double-space their, we should go more for future expectations than assumptions, I guess..As for how we can find the time to do other more important things, I think using tecnology might be the answer. Like encouraging students to learn outside the class and using the valuable class time more effieciently..
    And Bill, you are also teaching APA citation! How do you do that? I know this is not the point of discussion here but I am really willing to learn:) We do it explicitly, you know, by showing examples and somehow teaching the basic rules..And maybe more curious I am about the question: why do they keep changing the norms?! we’re tired of revising the materials 🙂 anyways..
    Bill, thank you again for “visiting” our page which my colleagues hopefully one day see as their own “space” to reflect on..and hope you keep following our bulletin board..


  4. Dear Bill,
    Thank you for sharing your insights with us. “Teaching the assumed” is a great idea ! Having been through university a looong time ago, it’s easy for me to forget what it was like and expect more and more as the years go by from my students. It seems like I’m teaching the same thing to a student that somehow hasn’t learned the subject over the years and many lessons 🙂
    Joking aside, as I review my teaching with feedback from students, I have discovered that they actually didn’t know some of the things I had learned by uni and so assumed that they had. Every once in a while I ask students something – if they had written an essay or composition of some sort in highschool, for example – and discover that a very small minority had. Amazing! This changes the way I look at what I need to teach directly.
    Though I have improved on several aspects of my teaching since I started doing that, I must say there are quite a few problem areas I feel needs work. Also, our student profile and the world keeps changing.
    Sharing ideas with colleagues and friends in the same boat 🙂 brings quick relief and lots of new ideas and perspectives to benefit from. So I’d like to thank you and our PDUs for starting this platform for us to share ideas and solutions.
    Cigdem Mekik


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s