Workshop Prepares Volunteers to Teach English as a Foreign Language

Feb. 5, 2009

by Lauren Venegas, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

In late January, 33 participants of the Baylor University School of Social Work's "Beyond Our Borders" program gained not only knowledge of how to teach others the English language, but a genuine model of compassion and ministry to others. The workshop prepared short-term volunteers to use Teaching as a Foreign Language (TEFL) as a tool for building relationships.

"The Center for Literacy in the Baylor School of Social Work focuses on research, education and publication," said Dr. Robin K. Rogers, director of the Center for Literacy in the School of Social Work. "'Beyond our Borders is an innovative model for teaching EFL that the Center is interested in evaluating and refining over time. By sponsoring training sessions such as these, the Center is not only learning more about the model and how to teach it, but is also disseminating these materials to others who will use them for ministry."

The program, held at the McLane Student Life Center on Jan. 16-17, modeled an interactive, task-based and learner-centered approach. Participants learned to create culturally appropriate lessons related to students' needs and interests in varied settings around the world. The workshop concluded with small group presentations of original lessons, as participants applied the principles and techniques they had learned in the workshop.

"'Beyond Our Borders' combines process and content by employing 35 teaching techniques in the presentation of the basics for communicative language teaching," said Doris Edwards, the author of the manual and teaching guide for Beyond Our Borders. "Rather than being textbook driven, the 'Beyond Our Borders' approach upholds important principles of instruction that guide the writing of original lessons to meet any need, anywhere, any time. Its inherent flexibility and 'portability' make it ideal for settings outside the U.S."

Edwards said that English is not only the official language in 87 nations and territories and the language of the international marketplace, it also is rapidly becoming the language of diplomacy, as well. Students are eager to learn English primarily to enjoy better jobs, social status and the pursuit of academic goals and world travel.

"When I attended a national meeting for teachers of English to speakers of other languages, I once heard a speaker say, 'There is a new 'ugly American' image abroad--the ill-prepared, unprofessional volunteer teaching English,'" said Edwards. "In that moment, I determined to do whatever I could to change that image. This was my interest in developing the BOB manual and workshop training."

For more information, contact Kretcha Roldan-Rodriguez, associate director for the Center of Literacy, at (254) 710- 3884.

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