Adapted from a report by Richard Smith and Amol Padwad for the British Council Nepal website
A five-day Hornby Regional School was held in the leafy surroundings of Park Village Resort, Kathmandu, from 28th October to 1st November 2014, on the theme “Learning in Low-resource Classrooms” (see here for a photographic record). The school was attended by teachers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and was led by Richard Smith, UK, and Amol Padwad, India, with Jovan Ilic (Acting British Council Country Director, Nepal) contributing a morning session on the third day. This school was a follow-up to a Hornby Regional School in Kathmandu in November 2013, which had focused on “Teaching in Low-resource Classrooms”.
Almost all participants had attended the 2013 school, during which important issues were identified and explored together, with a focus on learning from one another’s ideas and experiences (videos of participants’ stories of success will shortly be made available on the British Council’s TeachingEnglish website, as will videos of presentations where they reported on what they had discovered from interviewing one another. Samples are already available here.
At the beginning of the 2014 school, participants reported on actions they had taken during the year. They also worked on writing up their experiences. As a preparatory task, participants had collected some data from their learners, which proved to be a valuable starting point for discussion of learners’ points of view and other issues relating to learning in their contexts. For most participants the whole experience of collecting, analyzing and interpreting learner data was a new and revealing experience. Perhaps the most important lesson from the School overall was that as teachers we often have a very limited understanding of our learners and their learning, that we too rarely bother to explore their thinking directly, but that it is crucial to engage learners’ as well as teachers’ own resourcefulness, particularly in otherwise ‘low-resource’ contexts.
The school was managed in an informal and participatory way which allowed participants to build on their existing capabilities. It was clear that over the preceding year many participants had progressed from being ‘just teachers’ to seeing themselves as ‘trainers’ and even ‘researchers’. Indeed, this second school focused on building capacities for training and researching as well as improved teaching. By the end of the school participants had worked out concrete, systematic research plans which they would carry out with their learners on return to their teaching contexts, as well as plans for disseminating their learning and experience with their colleagues, other teachers, and the ELT community in general.
Overall the school was perceived by participants as a very enriching and enjoyable experience. The school hugely benefitted from the diversity of participants and backgrounds and the range of skills and knowledge they brought to the school. There was so much to learn from each other, and the sharing did not stop with the school. Carrying on from what they did after the last school, participants are collaborating with one another and the course tutors via email and a dedicated Facebook group with a view to submitting joint research reports in 2015.