Tuesday, March 29, 2011

S.S. France and Multiple Choice Options

Daniel C. Four possible multiple choice options

1. Barry Tomalin's ECOLE stands for:

a. easterly/cruise/onboard/lifting/embark
b. establish/consider/organize/liberté/égalité
c. expectations/communication/organisation/leadership/etiquette


2. The questions, "What will the students be able to do?/How will you know they can do it?" concern:

a. communicative learning
b. task-based learning
c. process-product learning

3. Influences to business English learning include:

a. guided discovery/dogma(e)/total physical response
b. the silent way/lexical approach/I just make things up
c. all of the above

4. According to Pete Sharma blended learning...

a. can be defined in many different ways.
b. can only take place in the classroom.
c. always requires course textbooks.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's Next Action Plan

What's Next Action Plan

In review of Self Service Development (Hughes, 2009) I will proceed down the list in Teacher Development Action Plan:

I often formally meet colleagues to share ideas about teaching business English. False. I rarely do this. I have few close colleagues who specialize in BE teaching so take a lone wolf approach to it.

I often informally meet colleagues to share ideas about teaching business English. Somewhat true. There is another Canadian on campus in general studies taking his MA TESOL from Anaheim University. Form time to time over beer and chicken or whiskey we do discuss my classes and my methods of teaching.

I subscribe to a journal with ideas for business English teachers. True. I do now as I just joined Carl's BESIG.

I have a favourite ELT website I visit to get ideas. Not necessarily. I think every website has good points and bad points. I seek out bits and pieces from here and there.

I sometimes write an article or send in an idea to a journal/website. Not yet. But this is something I would not mind doing from time to time.

I attend workshops/teacher training at my school. Never.

I attend external workshops/conferences (eg BESIG). On occasion. KOTESOL but not recently.

I sometimes give workshops to other teachers. Not yet. But I think I would be good at it. KOTESOL rejected my first and only conference seminar proposal so without some great begging on their part I will be keeping some distance. They even spelled my name wrong in the rejection.

I participate in online teachers’ forums / discussion chats. On occasion. But Dave's ESL Cafe Korea section is ten times bigger than it was fifteen years ago and contains ten times the amount of whining and complaining it did then too?

I observe peers and invite them to observe me. Almost never. Usually limited to peaking in a door window and seeing the teacher doing all the talking. I call it, "bak bak bak..." I used to have a couple of Chinese teachers auditing my lessons just for the conversational practice.

I subscribe to a business magazine to improve my knowledge. True. I am usually a AIB list member on top of latest international business research but not learner focused.

I sometimes team-teach with a more experienced teacher. True. However the senior teacher in the general studies department has the same number of years in as me so hard to say he is more experienced. In addition these summer or winter school classes are in unrelated courses.

Two More Ideas

1. I have joined BESIG and become a member April 1st.

2. I am considering two learning development options at present:

A. Continuing to the diploma level in research commercialisation (and attendant thesis preparation) with QUT e-grad school if they will have me back (I requested a break since my mom died recently). I am basically already half way to a second masters degree.

B. Begin a Graduate Certificate in Mathematics with Charles Sturt University. This would assist me in developing some quanitiative skills in terms of a future PhD proposal submission in international business.

I do not feel I am avoiding further studies in BE teacher training by taking unrelated coursework. This CertIBET course is the first directly related teacher training development I have taken in over a decade. However I still see this career path as supporting a future in research and further higher studies. While I did wish to complete a DELTA while still under the age of forty I had once planned to take it in Moscow. At the moment however I would see these other courses as having more relevance to a future divergence where perhaps BE teaching will be my part-time job while I pursue a PhD full-time.

● I can put idea 1 into action in the next month.
● I can put idea 2 into action in the next six months.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

PhD Studentship in Marketing at ABS

The University of Amsterdam Business School (ABS) provides academic courses in accounting, finance, management, marketing, and strategy, based on international research carried out in these areas. Within ABS, the strategy and marketing section is involved in teaching at BSc and MSc levels, as well as in executive education. Staff members publish in top-tier journals including Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal.

The Amsterdam Business School’s Strategy & Marketing Section has a vacancy for:

PhD position in Marketing

1.0 FTE (38 hours per week)
vacancy number W11-055

In today’s competitive environment, innovation and new products are essential. Radical innovation is particularly key for the growth and long term success of firms. So far, research on radical innovation in marketing has mainly focused on examining the drivers of radical innovation. In this project, using patent data, we plan to look at the overall innovation portfolio including both radical and incremental to determine the configurations that garner superior performance in various competitive and market conditions. Certain theories indicate that in fact a balance of radical and incremental innovation may provide the greatest gains in performance and competitive advantage yet no research has tested this notion. In addition, the way in which incremental and radical innovation are linked and the role of marketing in this interface have not been addressed in research. The research will involve the analysis of data gathered from multiple sources including CRSP and patent data bases. Extensive preparation of patent data will be necessary to build the metrics required. Other primary data may also be gathered through firm-level surveys as necessary.


  • Master’s (MA, MSc or drs) in any relevant area with interest in marketing and innovation
  • strong quantitative skills (modeling, data preparation, and analysis)
  • survey skills, measure development and scale analysis skills are preferred
  • interest (and preferably experience) in marketing, innovation and new products issues at the organisation level
  • mastery of both written and spoken English
  • excellent presentation skills

Further information

Applicants who require further information about this vacancy, may contact the supervisor(s) of this project: Prof. Jean Johnson (j.l.johnson@uva.nl, +31 (0)20 525 4387) or Dr Mark Leenders (m.a.a.m.leenders@uva.nl, +31 (0)20 5256078). Further information about the strategy and marketing section, see http://www.abs.uva.nl/strategyandmarketing


The appointment will initially be for 1.5 years, to be extended to a total of 4 years upon excellent performance (two evaluations will be held, one after 10 and one after 14 months). The salary will be in accordance with the University regulations for academic personnel, and will range from €2,042 (first year) up to a maximum of €2,612 (final year) gross per month. The collective employment agreement of the Dutch universities will be applicable. The PhD thesis should be finalised within four years. In this period, the candidate will also be expected to do some teaching (20% of the time).

Job application

Applicants should send their CV and a cover letter to: applications-feb@uva.nl

Please include the job reference number in the subject line. The closing date for applications is 1 May 2011.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Human Resources and Company Feedback

Human Resources and Company Feedback

I think the most common or easy mistake to make is to forget how important a worker or student’s sense of self-esteem and contributions to the workplace/class and working/learning process also serves the proft/learning goals and objectives of the manager/teacher. A few years back I had a class of education students who literally bubbled over with joy as a collective group of forty during virtually every class. It was as if I was stepping out of a refreshing shower every time I walked out the door. I try to remember how this felt every day I walk into a classroom. While not every group can bubble over like that it does happen on occasion in my current work. When they are in any way appearing like drowsy or dropsy nocturnal animals I begin distributing the equivalent of quarters for dixie cups of green tea or instant coffee at break times.

I think the most important tip is to ask first or get the employee’s or students’ point of view before you state what you think should be done. For example I need to make up two weeks of lessons and have only two nights Monday and Thursday in which to do it. So I had roughly 90% attendance last night and expect roughly the same on Thursday because I asked students which day was preferable to them first. Luckily Tuesday/Thursday chose Monday and Wednesday/Friday chose Thursday. I extended this further to, “what dinner do you prefer at 7:00 PM with a show of hands sweet and sour pork or Korean fried chicken? Yes, it’s on me.” I will spend approximately four hundred dollars on feeding them as I am the one inconveniencing them. However their joy at consuming a few slices or a chicken leg here and there is often never forgotten.

In reports to management ways I would:

increase learner’s self-esteem: I would highlight examples of excellent work contributions, presentations or exam results to be noted to the learner and perhaps by direct supervisor or recommended for special merit. This would include significant increases in exam or performance results from the start to the completion of a study program. I do have “rags to riches” stories of improvement even among the “chicken heads” in the backs of my classes. These transformations from disengaged to engaged learners are often incredibly satisfying to witness and I often believe it is evidence of increasing self-realization among my learners that what they choose to put in to their studies in terms of effort does gain significant positive results at least in my class. Regular feedback throughout a course helps to enable this.

create a productive atmosphere for post-feedback progress: Revisit the students work a week or so later after written and spoken exams one to one with presentation work or as a group with written tests and check on whether or not they know what areas require greater attention in the study program with their current work through a brief face-to face interview at their convenient time. For example areas requiring refocus could include: short answers (more reading and writing preparation), more vocabulary practice (searching for and generating more sample sentences using the vocabulary as a study group) or simply more time spent pre-reading in class practice activities for written exams and content, organization or delivery review in terms of oral presentations. In terms of handing this information over to a supervisor and them revisiting learners in their working environment learners could be revisited post learning program with a brief interview and questionnaire follow-up to enable further task or JIT learning opportunities to be raised for future lessons.

handle the delivery and timing of feedback (would using the course wiki or private voice message be valid alternative to a face-to-face + written report? How often will you submit reports?): If the in company contract is ongoing a regular schedule of informal visits timed to learner availability the schedule could be flexible enough to allow face-to-face visits or conducting a large group follow-up NGT to seek out common frames of reference for what was useful in the past, what worked or didn't work and possibly flushing out future needs and lessons. A course wiki or voice messaging service and a written report might be useful however it would be dependent upon necessary time constraints and what management sought as well as what learners could provide in terms of two to three weeks following project completion. For my current PBworks wiki homework submissions I am visiting every other day or so to provoke feedback which assists learners in completing their tasks. Face-to-face interviews or office visits are usually at the students’ leisure or I request it in cases of absolutely lost sheep.

deal with confidentiality issues (will you provide both the learner and the company with the same reports, who will have access to the report?): A review of company policy for example might reveal a confidentiality issue and in reality learners might prefer to anonymously comment or feedback rather than have their suggestions open for public scrutiny. I hand back midterm written tests to the learners in a large group and if they seek to compare grades it is up to them. With speaking presentations I make notes on the grading sheet and share it with the partners in my office only. In a company situation I would seek out a compromise solution if necessary by which positive attributes and comments can be shared between staff and management while critical improvement points are of the anonymous variety. If for example the company faces known shared challenges requiring creative solutions to learning challenges I would make it a rewards-based challenge and offer a prize for creative fire-fighting or quick fix suggestions. Then publicly reward the best ideas. This should encourage more of them. For example, if the in company course was seeing voluntary but declining attendance I would want to seek out root causes and attempt to amend or eliminate issues related to planning, goals, teacher or course materials. At the same time I would expect some management incentive to ensure learners were participating in an assessment process by which we have noted many companies may perform rather haphazardly. While students are required to complete a survey questionnaire prior to receiving a final grade it is not often relied upon for actual assessment purposes here. I have created my first sample survey monkey questionnaire and I am considering using it this semester. However I more heavily rely on face-to-face suggestions for feedback.

change or modify previous feedback strategies you have implemented: This would reply upon asking questions of the management or learners or even coworkers particularly if the feedback requested, required or desired was somehow not being absorbed or integrated into a continuous learning improvement strategy. For example, I have abandoned the email system of homework submission in favour of a new wiki group worksite. While it is experimental it includes a flavor of adjusting feedback strategy that I may focus more on the “big picture” rather than individual output and as it is accessible to all students it may reduce anxiety or stress over productive capacities. Exemplary student generated homework content can serve as a template for the less confident readers and writers to replicate their own responses where substitution or creative alternatives may exist which may boost learner competence and confidence in reading and writing. What works well must be maintained and what does not must be discarded. While content or methods may change intentions and goals are often consistent over time and what is simple to achieve does not always come easily.

accommodate learners’ skills vs. learners’ attitude to learning: Teaching to the students inherent skills levels is essential and determining a reasonable degree of additional challenge is the only means by which to stretch and improve that skill level. Those with excellent study habits will perhaps innately embody all that a teacher sets out as objectives and goals in terms of improvements in learner skills and abilities or attitude. Regarding pre-experience versus experienced and currently working learners who require better BE skills to improve in their careers the difference may be in the self-awareness of needs of the student him or herself. The means by which the teacher is able to assist in motivating the learner to achieve objective can/do abilities is reached in a teamwork perspective. The important question is not only,” What do you think you need to know?” The other important question is,”What do you already find interesting in terms of business communication skills?” I once read that a class is only as good as its weakest student or to the effect that the progress of a group is determined by the member who makes the most difficult and slow progress. I do believe that good teachers besides being good planners provide relevant tasks and activities already of interest to the learner to borrow the intangible self-inspiration already present there. Activate that and build on that. Focus on the learner.

Learner Feedback Forms

Learner Feedback Forms

Computing@Aberdeen: This feedback form is so brief it barely merits the term feedback in relation to BE learners at the lower A1 to B1 scale in large classes and would be difficult to process all of the comments. Thankfully the comment box is quite small and limited to a few sentences for informational processing time. However the identity of the student appears known perhaps to moderate their comments and while there are only two classes the sample size could be small. There is only one multiple choice selection which does not provide any critical aspects of liking or disliking the courses so the lecturer must be assessing what proportion of the course should be one of the three choices: lectures, tutorials or practicals and perhaps these are meted out differently from semester to semester based on these results?

University of Liverpool: This feedback form appears to orient to a singular or one-off training event in a routine schedule of perhaps special events training programs. Specific courses and dates are aligned from a managerial perspective perhaps to direct the feedback to various contracted facilitators. It is interesting to note that ancillary services such as accommodations and venue are of interest rather than the learning itself. While I can attest that a comfortable night sleep can make all the difference to learning the next day as well as a suitably sized room it seems to be of extraneous detail. The two questions, “Was it useful/What could be improved?” are dissimilar in the nature of response. The first might more properly be addressed as a yes/no question while the second could be more thoroughly explored in a Likert scale approach with drill down to various learning topics that match can/do abilities or goals of the learning. The space left blank for writing comments is excessively large and could lead with large groups to be unmanageable and take much time to process.

University of St Andrews: This feedback form possesses more diverse use of questions and is the first in our list to respect the anonymity of the feedback in question. It appears the seminars offered have variation in timing and flexibility adding an adult oriented learning approach to the survey itself. Here one sees a first example of Likert scale in usage with five course design goals assessed by the learner. These topics include: appropriate length, interest and relevancy, clear/informative presentations, opportunities to ask questions, usefulness of handouts. But yet again the space given for short answer questions regarding most useful, least useful and suggested improvements or additional comments appear far too long. Overly verbose feedback could take far too long to assess as a tool to evaluate the quality of the course. Self-identification is also a multiple choice selection which is practical and the designated school is optionally included. Depending on the size of the group this might allow the instructor or management team to trace the comments made back to the apparently anonymous source which defeats the purpose of freedom of expression in terms of anonymity. It is not necessarily important to know who said what but whether or not points made are valid, useful and impact upon future quality improvements. I like to think of some of the courses I teach to be much like tinkering with an eighties style engine in which the compartment is large enough to get in there and make adjustments to the scale points of interest.

University of Leicester: Eight courses across three academic years are being assessed through feedback with one form. This is quite a large number of cadres and it would be interesting to note how all of these comments are being collated, reviewed or read. The first four questions seem to avoid Likert scale approaches to drill down of course goals or can/do abilities statements substituting instead what appear to be nearly limitless answer boxes much too long to afford a quick glance at results. The first question might be better assessed with a rank order of key course topic highlights to allow future adjustments. The second question would be better as a self-assessment tool for the instructor if his/her perceived strengths were listed and mixed with other adjectives to give a view of students’ perception. The third question might better be addressed with a selection of weaknesses which the instructor if self-aware already knows he/she possesses. The question about developing the course should include a few selections of possible adjustments that the instructor has already considered or intends to implement. The fifth question is a little underwhelming and appears to be an imperfect Likert scale as the range is insufficiently extensive to provide a reasonable response. For example is good the penultimate form of reference of quality? Good versus average versus needs improvement? It appears inappropriate. The open ended question on suggestions for improvement again indicates an overwhelming review of these materials might be necessary. Question six on the face of it appears sound in a Likert scale approach however again the range does not satisfy this reviewer. Why not include “excellent” at the top of the list rather than “very good” and if you “don’t know” (or didn’t experience) the instructor’s teaching in terms of: performance, expertise, interaction then why would be commenting on it? The further two Likert selections contents (of a teaching style?) and course material would be better served in another course goal question rather than mixed in with assessment of teaching. The open-ended question comments continue and round out in a strange way regarding equality and diversity without a self-declared identification of status of the student in these regards. I would not want to have to review such a possibly extensive list of endless comments boxes.

BusinessBalls: While I liked the first six questions I felt the remainders (all short answer) would take a long time to check?

My Own Sample Feedback Form

I decided to access the Teacher and Class Evaluation Questionnaires at The Internet TESOL Journal to design my own learner feedback form based upon some of their questions and mostly from those listed by Aichi Institute of Technology. Surprisingly I have always avoided filling out "Survey Monkey" questionnaires however they appear incredibly easy to design and adapt as well as edit. However one sticking point, when will size limited short answer text boxes be invented? I would see these text boxes limited to two or three lines if I had my choice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Measuring Objectives

Measuring Objectives

Course goals: In my own experience this has often been led by my boss’s expectations to give the students an opportunity to engage speaking activities in business English and gain confidence doing so. I have relied upon the old and new editions of Market Leader Beginner and Pre-Intermediate to support the twelve weekly learning goals as well as collecting a small sample of international business key vocabulary (about five items for each week) disbursed over the twelve weeks.

Benchmarking: In terms of many of the subjects we have covered in this course I would expect to align the students’ real levels of ability to coincide greatly with A1-B1 range of ALTE skills in a parabola of average learners possibly falling in the upper A2 range. Therefore a beginner level text like Market Leader elementary reviews and reinforces prior learning while a pre-intermediate text is challenging their skills levels. However there are benefits to doing so and it is my belief that the performance abilities of international business students should contain motivational and learning desire which outstrips general English students. One semester I assigned the intermediate level text rather than the pre-intermediate text to confirm for myself whether or not it was actually above their collective abilities (which it was).

Can-do statements: While I am glad to review them I have never used them in terms of reviewing course goals or benchmarking but intend to give them more credence and attention in future. It fascinates me to think that there is the possibility that the can-do statements possess possible overlaps from level to level and that the progressive nature of these statements in assignment to various levels of proficiency might be a learner motivator at the bottom of the pyramid. For example I observe a very select percentage of students who a) graduate and proceed to utilize English on a daily basis for their work or b) further proceed beyond a B1/B2 level of skills and abilities to actual academic studies abroad. For the majority of my students this takes place in the US at one of my employer’s transfer program-partnered institutions such as Murray State University in Kentucky or University of Missouri St Louis/Rolla campuses but increasingly they are branching out to other academic programs such as those at The University of Malaysia. While the spots for these seats are competitive in the last five years their numbers from our department have increased hopefully due in some small part to my own efforts. A new partnership program with my own alma mater UOW may have been assisted by my own recommendation. Therefore I may review them more often in future in revising course goals.

Self-assessment: As we learned in Unit 3 there are measures for students to engage as an audience during student presentations and I hope to implement Cleve Miller’s presentations assessments during my next round of midterm speaking presentations to indirectly assist students in monitoring self-assessment. Furthermore I have done away with emailed homework assignments in favour of group based homework submissions on PBworks website. This should assist students in reflecting upon their own homework in terms of comparability with others as well as orient their reading and writing above and beyond internet websites and the course text to actually process language based on observing and commenting on the work of their peers. While this may not strictly consist of self-assessment it certainly increases and encourages peer assessment and influences self-determination. In concert with peer group speaking activities outside class it gives less teacher-fronted approaches to these assignments which I hope has positive influence on their self-motivation/assessment skills.

Goal setting: By selecting a coursebook which I feel confidently delivers generic BE goals in its lessons design I hope I am delivering materials which support and enhance course goals. By being realistic about students level of benchmarked can-do abilities I am hoping to match their skills levels with relevant and "doable" training goals. By setting more learner-determined goals at outside class peer group speaking activities I am hoping that students develop more internalized approaches to BE learning. Using my google news presentations tasks for middle and final exams I am hoping students are pursuing topics of greater personal interest than course texts and teacher fronted lessons can provide. In revising homework from individual to group submissions I am hoping for intangible collaborative skills already inherent in Korean culture and society to transfer to their BE reading and writing abilities.

Using “I learned” statements: These are a new approach I am hoping to integrate above and beyond lesson exit activities. For example at the end of many business English correspondence classes I do ask learners to answer the question, “What did you learn here today?”

Learning journals: Hopefully integrating PBworks into homework assignments will provoke some journal approach to review of reading and writing by students in the courses I teach with it particularly in preparation for short mid and final written exams. While at lower levels I require a daily diary entry on routine events I do not often request or require a learning journal from second year students. It may perhaps be useful however I must plan carefully to avoid students’ worst complaint of too much homework.

How new media can help in monitoring progress (audio/video folios): At the moment video progress while perhaps desirable is still not within my reach in terms of practical application. However at my current rate of digital or blended learning applications enhancements integration of audio/video folios might be a part of the future of my smallest classes. However at the moment this would be inaccessible.

Teacher Appraisals

Teacher Appraisals

While I am reviewed every two years for contract renewal in my current position I have yet to be fired for a poor appraisal? While I am on my third two year contract (five years and a month in) it is my longest held position in fifteen years. I am also my most satisfied with my employers and managers so there appears to be some mutual benefits to positive or possibly few appraisals.

Two points to consider for transfer to teaching when considering appraisals. The first was a Gallup Poll on workplace disengagement in the US brought to my attention by Renée Cormier in her blog that as little as 29% of employees are actively engaged in their work, that 71% are completely disengaged and as many as 17% are engaged in sabotaging the work of their peers. This recalls for me the movie Office Space (with official trailer included) a comedy about the same nation and a comment my boss made once that only 30% of our students really care about their studies. I have a tendency to agree with him.

The second point recalls a course I took in positive versus negative rewards and their influences upon intrinsic motivations. The balance of the topic of annual appraisals were described as being poor at delivering motivational improvements based upon negative comments or events simply because most workers cannot recall a year’s worth of appraised performance. The conclusion was made that when a manager needs to encourage motivational changes based on poor performance the review and appraisal needs to be made as soon as possible after the event to assist employee ownership and identification of the problem. I would say the same thing regarding assessments in the classroom. No news should be good news and bad news should be delivered as soon as possible to be useful in changing a student’s performance?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Past Assessment Experiences

Past Assessment Experiences

As a learner:

When I was doing my CELTA in Seoul in 2000 I found the post-teaching practicum feedback assessments discussions to be at times excessive bordering on beyond my memory of the actual events during the team teaching sessions. The most challenging peer reviews came from classmates with less (at the time I had four years in) or no experience which were some of the most critical in terms of "constructive criticism." While the CELTA is often sold as a pre-experience training program the majority of those who take it in Korea are already working. I recall one Australian diplomat's housewife who was constantly critical with nary a positive feedback to share. That whole month and a half is a dreary memory of long nights toiling over lesson plans and a classmate from the States somewhere named "Lyle" who wandered the dormitory halls at all times with a raggedy and shaggy bearskin cap from China who eschewed using computers until the final night's deadline when he was scratching at my door like a lost goat. Our teams weren't rotated very often and I remember feeling it wasn't really fair to always have to carry this guy because he was like an assessment albatross and completely unpredictable. I remember one of his sample lessons consisted of asking the same question to each of the students in turn, "Are you OK?/Are you alright?" ad infinitum regardless of what we may have planned on paper a little like Senor Wences?

As a teacher:

I am consistently surprised at the number of students I give an A or A- to who are adamant that they deserve higher grades. I recall my own university days when a lot of blood,sweat and tears went into even a B or B+ in some classes as in English Literature in general and Dr. Edward Eagles' 16th Century Literature in particular which included loads of Shakespeare's Sonnets, The Fairie Queene by Edmund Spenser, etc. Here in Korea each final grade assessment is followed by a "grade discussion week" during which various desperate souls beseech, cajole or attempt to brow beat me via emails to up their grades for one reason or another usually related to continued scholarship endorsements (Daejin University has one of the highest rates and ranges of scholarship students in the country) usually by a flurry of emails. On positive notes in more recent times one student used to encourage me to relax at the end of long days worth of assessing ppt presentations with full back massages after she finished her own work. I am also amazed how many (rare as they are) failed students (due to poor attendance usually) show up a couple semesters later with completely reformed attendance records, attitudes and kindliness to the teacher most notably young Korean men who have returned from completed military duties as genuine gentlemen. Even one sly and foxy shirker known to sit in the front row with micro-mini skirts squeaked by with a pass and a prayer completing her last exams with an untreated broken rib rather than be absent. That one is much perkier nowadays and is really quite pleasant most recently. This is most surprising to me as I almost hated to pass her last time around on a second try in a required course but she convinced me that she cared enough to make a final lunge at the quite low bar.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Business Negotiations

Business Negotiations

How good are you at negotiating?

I enjoyed the BBC exercise because it was fairly non-punitive and there was no way to get 60% as one must just begin again and do it again until you get it right. Isn't that a little more like life long learning? Is it really about the grades for adult learners? To me this type of activity accords with adult learning principles in that even when you get it wrong you still learn some important points for getting it right hopefully next time. In some ways the rewards of such an activity exceed an outright score or grade.

Expanded (Excessive?) Aside and Preamble/Digression

First of all, it is wonderful to see all of these resources on negotiation gathered in one location. Do I have permission to duly pilfer these materials? When I completed my negotiation certificate from Notre Dame it was with the intended purpose to proceed to design a course based on my boss's expectations that it be a case-study based approach. That was four years ago and over that time I have cobbled together selected resources and made small incremental improvements to meet his demands as well as my own view of perceived needs in combination with those of the students at pre-intermediate levels.

For example, do you have any idea how hard it is to find short, two or three page case studies that address some of the essential topics at Harvard Business Review and do not scare off half of the class in the first week? It took weeks to find even as few as half a dozen I felt were useful for BE learners. What I have done is blended many materials together without any official course book. Through student feedback I made concentrated efforts to collect various short warm-up activities and negotiation role plays from online sources including some of those listed here. It is reassuring to see such a collection.

The body of each lesson of my negotiation class covers four essential areas:

1. Negotiation Role Play/Warm Up

Strengths: Students love these activities and it gets more spontaneous discussion and reflection generated than virtually any other course I teach.

Weaknesses: We can't count and trade chickens, sheep or goats indefinitely. We need to tackle the results and discuss the wrap-up actually using target vocabulary.

2. Post Activity Discussion/Review

Strengths: Students are much more likely to have realizable "take aways" following a warm up activity whose concept and learning points are easily made and enjoyable.

Weaknesses: If the warm activity is too complex its learning points will be lost making it difficult to discuss. Multi-party negotiation practices take more prep time and are more challenging.

3. Formal lecture style simplified slides of basic negotiation concepts supported by short two or three page case studies. I try to provide or elicit real world examples for every concept in class.

Strengths: Contains target vocabulary, expressions , humorous or provocative visuals and concept building which may assist in retention of previous points and gives time for reflection, and further questions.

Weaknesses: Lectures are often just bloody boring. But there is a good book on developing better lectures called, "The Art of Lecturing: A Practical Guide to Successful University Lectures and Business Presentations" by Parham Aarabi which I picked up a couple of years ago and which I do glaze over on occasion.

4. Case studies combined with country profile presentations as previously discussed form the basis for general comprehension questions and students group work presentations followed by short Q & A sessions.

Strengths: Short two page case studies are easily reviewed with comprehension questions on key concepts written by leading negotiation experts.

Weaknesses: Bare minimum of usable information and pretty thin meat on these bones and not exactly communication practice.

The Meat of the Original Question

The ESL resource centre has to be one of my preferred collections of activities not only because it contains one of my students' favourite warm-up games the "zoo animal exchange negotiated role play" but also because I like the manageable short length of these activities. Strengths include easily printed half-pages saving the trees a half page at a time. Any of these would be set as warm up activities and/or the useful phrases and expressions worksheet as well as a consistent reference for the students as conversation starters repeatedly for other various activities throughout the course. As mentioned before the weaknesses amount to warm-ups level of success being dependent upon how much wrap-up and follow-up discussion of cognitive learning points can be bridged from the game to self-assessment across lecture vocabulary, case studies and country profile presentations.

A Little Karmic Give Back

One useful resource I do not see listed here includes Dr. Mary P. Rowe's excellent notes and warm up activities from Sloan Business School. I would also give a list of my entire warm ups wrap sheet but I sent the collected works/stash off to be bound. As a result of my added numbers (the Chinese are swamping my lifeboat) I may even need to multiply my case/country schedule.

Barnard and Cady's Business Venture One: Module 7.6 Culture File Job Mobility

Barnard and Cady's Business Venture One: Module 7.6 Culture File Job Mobility

Part 1: Cultural awareness test

Do you feel this kind of quiz can raise cultural awareness?

This kind of quiz probably requires a lot higher level of reading comprehension, fluency and/or work experience than most of my beginner and pre-intermediate students possess. For higher level learners possibly very useful as they may be able to discuss opposing viewpoints concerning the test answers and why they may have selected one moreso over the other. My own score was in the 60% range but possibly a result of hubris. I even had the Korean question wrong.

•How could getting learners to find out more about their home culture and comparing this information with a host culture of their choice help business relations?

Learning more about one’s own culture can do no harm in terms of self-identity and awareness. In particular I find historical references useful as Korean students generally have a well prepared selection of national heros, legends, myths and folktales to draw upon which among other cultures helps project a sense of humour especially across the generations and generation gaps where due to recent jumps in economic progress often one generation of Koreans has quite little in common with the next especially since the Korean War. As Tomalin, JJ and DB share similar opinions regarding necessary interpersonal skills among cross-cultural learners the best place to inculcate these might be in respect to one’s own individual self and perception of “home culture” first whereby new approaches to perhaps old business relationship problems could be addressed.

Are the resources listed on Kwintessential useful? Why or why not?

This website has been useful to me however I have had to trim the materials especially in the culture sections I use for one of my courses in global negotiation to suit the learners pre-intermediate level of English fluency. In addition this website has been regularly improved over a number of years with more and more features. For learners however I would think that their level of fluency would need to be quite high to maintain interest or utility.

Part 2: Culture as a business English topic

Barnard and Cady (Oxford, 2009) Business Venture One: Chapter Seven, Company and Personal History, Module 7.6 Culture File Job Mobility (page 46): This staged speaking activity focuses on first review of a four country comparison study graph/chart (Germany/Japan/Korea and USA) which plots the percentages of full or part-time employment among 18-24 year olds in response to the survey question, ”How many times have you changed jobs?” Adverbs of frequency were chosen from a Likert scale-like range which included: never, once, twice, three times, four times or more.

The second stage uses the graph information to fill out five answers to which countries have the highest percentages of each level of job changing frequency.

The third stage poses a discussion question regarding the advantages/disadvantages of changing jobs for both employers and employees in either staying in a job long-term or changing often. Useful gambits and starter expressions are provided such as:

I think it’s a good/bad idea to change/stay in one job because…
Employers like workers who…
If you change jobs many times…
If you stay at one company your whole life…

Classroom Utility: To be honest I have used this activity as “filler” and as it is tagged on to the end of the chapter it is a slight departure from the company and personal history lesson. What I generally do is group the students into fours while they look at the chart and then chalk up the board into large sections while they are preparing their written responses.

Then I divide the class into two groups. The first is to debate the employer opinion regarding pros and cons of long-term or short-term employees while the second is to debate the same on behalf of young employees. Generally I have about five groups on the employer side and five on the employee side so there are often overlaps in terms of opinions and points. Each group must nominate a “writer” to plot up to about three responses each on the board. Then as an exit activity students must select an opposing viewpoint from a different group and agree or disagree with it giving a unique reason. Each time a new point is selected it is removed from the board. Remaining students must scramble to adapt their answers as fewer and fewer possible points remain. I use this activity in this way because I have always felt asking a question which includes advantages and disadvantages as well as employer and employees is asking an awful lot of beginner learners in terms of topics and multiplicity of subjects.

I hope I have painted a reasonable picture of this activity which I have used frequently in an annual beginner level business English class for which Business Venture One has provided the “just right” approach to my learner groups as my copy and scan facilities are next to nil. Some days I feel lucky to have a functioning computer and internet connection in my office (I spent untold hours attempting to get an MS word trial program over the last week). I also appreciate it when such textbooks include South Korean data and can only suspect that the editors have marketing teams helping them to find new target markets on behalf of Barnard and Cady. The previous edition of this series seemed to take a heavy Japanese content approach and I can only suspect that the book gained popularity in Korea over the last half decade since. I have been employing it while remaining in the same job at the same time. On an aside it has come to my attention that in the western world many if not most of those workers perceived to be in any way ambitious by HR recruiters remain on average about six months in any given position. I really cannot imagine leap-frogging from job to job in such a manner and would think one year contracts are as short as I would be willing to take abroad. The other dynamic which I have noticed especially over fifteen years ago are the increasing numbers of pre-experienced students that actually have part-time jobs in Korea. Sadly the minimum wage remains around $3.50 USD an hour.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Culture As Fifth Language Skill

Culture As Fifth Language Skill

  • What did you learn from the article or what did it confirm for you as a teacher?

Barry Tomalin’s articles Culture - the fifth language skill and Making culture happen in the English language classroom (2008) from The BBC THINK webpage help confirm for me that the teaching of English as a second language around the world has not fully embraced the aspects of Hofstede’s descriptions of cultural differences, cultural awareness or cultural sensitivity to the same provinces that teachers approach grammar, lexis and task-based language learning activities. Tomalin considers culture to be a sort of “missing link” in the chains of international role and impact of globalization upon English as a possible necessary life skill for all learners hoping to conduct business around the world over the next generation.

  • How relevant is this for your business English training?

There is content relevancy in my business English training as Korean pre-experienced learners often have had few international work or study opportunities. In my global negotiation class I most closely attempt to address cultural differences among several of Korea’s top trading partners in a blend of lecture, presentations, case study readings, and negotiation simulation exercises. I agree with Nair Alvares Domingues Guimaraes’ comments regarding the need for a minimum level of communicative competence or fluency in English for these cultural topics to add relevancy to language learning among Korean learners. Tomalin also mentions in his slideshow that some cultures are more interested in friendship and relationships than just getting the job done in English. This is important in Korea as it can often seem that English is just a means to getting ahead rather than really building international relationships. Among pre-experienced learners there can be few opportunities to experience other cultures at all especially without good English language skills. Catch 22. Double edged sword.

  • How can teachers become more adept at helping learners acquire this “attitudinal change that is expressed through the use of language”?

For example I’ve met many worldly and well-travelled Koreans who have often made similar statements to the effect that they think Canada and the US are mostly the same culturally. To me this is indicative of cultural insensitivity and merely scratches the surface of the question, “When does a person successfully become aware of cultural differences? How long does that process take? What needs to be brought to the surface of that awareness? What knowledge, values, behavior or skills will help achieve this awareness?” While Canadians and Americans share one of the world’s longest undefended borders, the US shares a similar language to Canada as well where we absorb massive doses of American media and marketing messages which may well dilute our cultural identity as a nation. What is often definitive to Canadians to defining their own culture often appears as simply as, “We know we are not Americans.”

Too few Koreans appear to share a similar awareness of the extent to which Japanese components are required in the production of Korean products for export or other cultural and linguistic similarities between Korean and Japanese which are often described as two cultures which share a large number of similarities beyond language differences. I am sure Koreans would find me to be quite insensitive if I were to suggest that Japan and Korea were mostly the same?

Attitudinal change or affective change is the most difficult to encourage and/or measure. Any teacher will have their hands full with this question.

  • What training do teachers need to be able to integrate cultural awareness activities into their business English syllabus?

The course we are on appears to be making good progress towards educating “the choir” of business English instructors with some of the knowledge and awareness activities to broach the topic among our own learners. Comparing and contrasting cultural values is a useful pursuit to assist learners in the recognition that culture could be a necessary fifth skill or “soft skill” in business management and language training as Tomalin indicates.

My own personal experience taking Matt Ngui’s Cross-Cultural Management Behaviour course at UOW as an elective to my MIB was enlightening, enjoyable and illuminating. I would recommend similar cornerstones be in-built to most teacher-trainer courses to assist teachers in becoming more cross-culturally aware and gain greater interest in and thus the knowledge to experimentally approach integrating such inter-cultural activities into their learners lessons. In Tomalin’s slideshow he describes key interpersonal skills to develop include: openness or non-judgment mentality, ambiguity or comfort with uncertainty, flexibility or local adaptability, curiosity, empathy, and language adaptability. These are all challenging skills to develop in any native language or culture let alone in business English at an intermediate or upper elementary level.

Defining Culture - Canada vs. Korea

(Image from Kwintessential.co.uk)

Defining Culture - Canada vs. Korea

1) and 2) Canada scores moderately lower on power distance than Korea which suggests that Canada possesses a less rigid social hierarchy in terms of workers and bosses communicating and making each group perhaps more approachable in terms of the other than in Korea. Korea also seems to have a lot more riot police around when they end illegal strikes. Canada's individualism score is about four times higher than Korea's. This appears to correspond well with the social setting and relationships which determine the group mindsets here which often permeate Korean culture defining itself often as us versus them. Even observing population density expresses the spatial constraints which may help reinforce social versus individual choices. Canada = 3.3 people per kilometre according to The Atlas of Canada (2001) while Korea is described in some statistics as over 460 people per square kilometre. I have often though people have to accord social and group decisions more often because they have to live together. Edward T Hall also wrote a book about architecture and its effects on culture.

Canada's masculinity score is slightly higher than Korea's which is surprising because I perceive womens' rights and level of independence to be much higher in Canada than in Korea. However this is a personal opinion. Korea also demonstrates much higher uncertainty avoidance but this may hinge on differences in perception of risk management. Often Koreans would prefer to go along with the crowd rather than stand out. This aspect seems quite tied to social hierarchy as well.

3) I agree with these descriptions mostly. The dimensions which define a person as an individual with perhaps much variation from the parabolic averages or the two extremes of every parabola need to be kept in mind to avoid generalizing above and beyond usefulness. Horacio Falcão appears to indicate people over or under generalize and miss meeting and listening to the person him or herself who will reflect personal experiences and traits which may break the cultural rules of their origin. I was similarly taught to expect to find in every good negotiator regardless of cultural origin the ability to gain information from good questions and to ask more questions and do more listening through greater experience. I have been taught to expect to find individuals from various cultures with excellent negotiation skills which often reveal dissimilar individuals who share more in common with other individuals from other countries than with many of their own "general" compatriates.

I heartily agree Korea as a nation divided or whole seems to often defy historical odds culturally and economically where there is a strong core of nationalism (not always negative but at times highly xenophobic) which also perceives Korea itself as a shrimp among whales. I have heard it said that Korea was invaded over four hundred times in its own declared four thousand year history.

Oh yes, William Ury is one of the authors I have had a lot of experience with reading and being taught about. I even bought an autographed copy of Getting Past No (for a dollar at a second hand clothing store back home) which I gave to a best friend.