Why do they all want a TEFL?

Many people are confused as to why international teaching jobs are persistent on applicants having a TEFL certificate. Many ask the question of how is it that I have a B.ED degree or a PGCE which takes longer than 4 weeks to complete but still need the TEFL certificate.

The answer is quite simple. The B.ED and PGCE do not provide what a TEFL, CELTA or even a TESOL provides. These are specialized teacher certificates of international recognition. These teacher certificates prepare teachers to step into a classroom to teach confidently. They provide hands-on practical and theoretical training on how to conduct lessons. Teachers who possess these certificates are always made a priority with schools.

Many teachers believe that their honors degree is a credible degree yet we need to understand that the honors degree is not very recognized overseas as the understood qualifications are usually in the following order, Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. Anything in between becomes questionable, and if you have to explain your qualifications then its best to not go there. In regards to an honors degree, a British curriculum school would accept it as it is a commonwealth degree, and so if you are applying to work in a commonwealth country or a system that does recognize the commonwealth degrees then this is fine.

The same can be said about higher diplomas and advanced certificates which in South Africa, for example, equates to degrees and some higher than your degree. This is fine if you intend to remain to teach in South Africa, but if you are looking to go abroad, please just focus on the degree and a teaching certificate.
People also ask about the PGCE, and while some countries may look at it (Commonwealth countries and British curriculum schools), this does not apply to the majority.

We need to focus on what the international community wants! Too often we focus on what the university dictates, and this is wrong because universities’ don’t even know how the various industries are progressing. Many people don’t even know how to write a proper CV.
My advice to people is simple; research your industry before even studying towards entering the industry.

Here’s a fact, many teachers overseas don’t even have a B.ED or even a BA degree, all they have is a diploma and TEFL, CELTA or TESOL and sometimes not even a tertiary qualification. Just the fact that they are from an English speaking country and possess one of the mentioned teacher certificates, is all they need.
These are specialized certificates that teach things like English for special purposes, meaning, teaching business English, Medical English or Engineering English. These certificates not only allow you to work at schools but also at universities, language centers or even companies who are in need of a language teacher. Does your BA, B.ED, PGCE prepare you in the way a TEFL would??

Methods to an inquiry based classroom

mind map

Image created by Nabeel Abed

What are provocations?

Provocations simply mean to provoke! They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity, and ideas. They can also expand on a thought, project, idea, and interest.

They could be in any form…

  • An interesting photo, picture or book,
  • Nature (e.g. animals)
  • Conceptual (e.g. light)
  • Old materials displayed in a new way,
  • An interest that a child or children have,
  • An object (e.g. magnets, maps)
  • New creative mediums,
  • Questions (from any source – e. what is gravity?)
  • An event (e.g. a presentation, a holiday)

Provocations can be as simple as a photo of a rock sculpture next to some pebbles or as elaborate as a table with an assortment of recycled materials next to a book on robots and resources to make upcycled robots. Often though, provocations are simple and displayed beautifully to provoke interest. Similar to strewing, they are usually created as an option, not as a premeditated activity.

Ultimately, the intention of provocations is to provide an invitation for a child to explore and express themselves. It should be open-ended and provide a means for expression where possible.


Effectiveness of Inquiry-based learning


Simple Scenario

A teacher walks into the class with the students who all see a praying mantis on the floor, they huddle around astonished as to what it is.The teacher gathers around with them and then the questions begin to fly out.

What is it?
Where did it come from?
Can we keep it?
Why are its legs so long? Why is it brown/green?
Where does it live?
What does it eat?

And you can imagine the many other questions that followed. The teacher calmly answered some of the questions and then said to the students who are in grade 5 that it’s for them as homework to research more about it when they get home.

The students then prepared a place for it in the class and gave it stuff they assumed it would need for the night. The next morning they arrive and only to find that the mantis was dead.

Again questions began to flow,

How did it die?
Why did it die?
Where does it go when it dies?
Does it now become part of the cycle of life? What happens at a funeral?

And so the teacher again answers the many questions and the praying mantis has a legendary send-off by the students.

The point we take from this is that the teacher, when discovering the mantis with the kids knew that she had a plan for the day and needed to finish, however, she did not push the questions aside or even the mantis, she welcomed it because it opened a whole new way to learn…INQUIRY.

Of course, once the questions were done, she casually continued her lesson.Perhaps later on the students would do a topic based on the life cycle of an animal and they would always be able to reflect back to what was researched in the praying mantis incident.

Inquiry-Based Mini Lesson Plan – Example

“Teaching with Material Objects” – Lunch pail

Developed by:
Dianna Accordino – Wilson School District
Stephanie Procopio Lancaster-Lebanon IUB
Name of the lesson: Lunch Pails Discipline:
Language Arts / Social Studies

Target grade(s):
K – 2nd

Pennsylvania Standards Addressed:
Begin to develop an understanding of historical interpretation

Lesson Plan Procedure
Show a picture of the object to your class prior to visiting the Freyberger School.

Be sure  to:
Determine students’ prior knowledge of the content.
Introduce the lesson and how you will motivate or capture the students’ attention.  Determine how you will assess if the learning objective(s) was/were met.
Follow the step-by-step procedures that engage students in inquiry-based learning.

Descriptive Analysis:
What is this object? How do you know?
What does it look like? Describe it.
Who would use this object?

Apply Prior Knowledge:
Have you ever seen one of these? Have you ever used one?

Raise Questions:
Draw and write what you think it is or what you would use it for.
Develop Interpretation/Hypothesis Based on Evidence:
show a short video that includes children eating their lunch at school from the  1900s

Discussion about the video and what object really is.

Apply Information:
What would you have them do with the new information centers:

  1. Compare and contrast using a Venn Diagram
  2. Packing a lunch
  3. Book hook (picture books from the [or depicting] 19th century)
  4. Create your own lunch pail/box using recycled materials “thrifty”

Share Information:
Pictures/writing pieces
Which lunchbox/pail they would choose (then/now)



Taken from the Nabeel Abed Handbook on methods inquiry-based based learning classroom
© Nabeel Abed 2017 – All rights reserved 




The Nabeel Abed Academy is committed to providing high quality educational development to schools and their teachers’ through internationally bench marked programs and disciplines


We endeavor to be a regional network of high quality training and development for schools and education facilities with an uncompromising commitment in our role to prepare teachers ,students and individuals with the skills necessary to be able to continue in their roles as leaders and mentors to the future generation. We strive to offer an educational environment where a teacher’s skills are enhanced and the focus of 21st century methodologies are emphasized. Teachers and schools are exposed to the latest methods of teaching through the medium of technology.

Our Beliefs

Every student is different, and has a unique learning style.

  • Every teacher should be trained and equipped to deal with the different levels of students’ within the classroom.
  • Professional development that leads to life-long learning
  • That a school has a collaborative responsibility with the community
  • Students and teachers should develop an appreciation, tolerance, compassion and respect for the rights and cultures of all people.
  • That the multi-cultural diversity of students and teachers is an asset to the development of any community.
  • In honoring the Universal Declaration of Human rights by not discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin or other status.


Peer Assessment

In peer assessment, a collaborative learning technique, students evaluate each other’s work. This technique is often used as a learning tool, which gives students feedback on the quality of their work, often with ideas and strategies for improvement.  At the same time, evaluating peers’ work can enhance the evaluators’ own learning and self-confidence. Such an involvement personalizes the learning experience, potentially motivating continued learning. blog-resource-pic.jpg

When used in grading, peer assessment can give the teacher the much needed information on each student’s performance. For large online classes, it may allow inclusion of assignments where students’ creative work could not be graded reliably through automation or efficiently by teaching staff.

Peer assessment techniques vary considerably, and are often best understood through example.  To give effective, valid and reliable feedback to fellow learners, students need clear guidelines, training on assessment criteria and scoring rules, and practice with examples.  Before students are ready to give feedback to others, their assessments should be compared to staff-grading of the same examples for quality assurance.

How does peer assessments help students?

  • It engages students in the learning process
  • working cooperatively
  • thinking critically
  • giving constructive feedback
  • learning from critical appraisal received from others
  • managing one’s own learning autonomously
  • developing interpersonal skills and
  • developing an awareness of group dynamics

Strategies for peer assessment

  • Make it clear for students to understand why they are being involved in such a task
  • Criteria for peer assessment needs to be set out clearly
  • Develop peer assessment skills
  • Make it anonymous

Complement peer assessment processes with a formal and explicitly stated moderation process so that students can see that grading is reliable even while students have a significant role in it.


To ensure that students reflect critically and early during a large, summative assessment task such as a report or essay:

  • Use cluster groups
  • Have students present to their group a short draft of their work to date
  • Ask the group to give informal feedback to their peers on their progress
  • You can also have the group provide a formal assessment based on, for example, how well points are supported by evidence, as well as the style and presentation of the draft.

Teacher Resources

All teachers have the daunting task of creating worksheets which are time-consuming and can be stressful at times when thinking of content to add.Compiled below is a list of websites you can use to get worksheets for your classes.All grades and subjects,.Some of the links below also include lesson plan ideas and templates.

Just click the on the titles below to get endless resources…


  1. Super Teacher Worksheets
  2. Teachnology
  3. education.com
  4. Teacher Planet
  5. TES
  6. TeacherVision
  7. Edhelper
  8. SchoolExpress
  9. BusyTeacher
  10. Student treasures



Voices in the classroom

Classroom management is all about procedure. Many like to say that you should have “rules”, but that right there is a problem. Students don’t like rules. A classroom should be a place where students should be free to express themselves within a controlled environment. Rules in a class just stifle students. Makes them feel as if they are in prison and a classroom is anything but a prison.

A classroom needs to be a place where creativity is exchanged; students learn and develop skills that they will take with them into the future. Education today is all about collaboration. If kids are not collaborating, they are not as effective. Many teachers fear that group work brings about noise. Nevertheless, there are many techniques that could be followed to facilitate an effective, collaborative classroom.

One of these techniques is the 6-inch voice. What is the 6-inch voice? This is a technique used among students were by if you were speaking to anybody other than the teacher you are required to use a 6” voice. So how this works is that if a teacher is standing 6 inches away from the student, they should not be able to hear any voices. This technique is perfect for group and pair work. If students fail to use the 6” inch voice then it would result in them not being part of the group or pair activities.

From the first day of school, the 6’voice should be modeled to students, describe how it should work, and have them practice it.Before any group activity begins, remind them of the 6’ voice and over time if need be, put up some signs in the class so that it is always a reminder. Another good way of reminding students of the 6’ voice is to make little cards for each group and stick it on their table which would remind them of the 6’voice and also the fact that if the 6” voice is not used then they would have to complete the group work on their own.

Teachers need to remember that always using a loud voice isn’t as effective as using a softer voice or even whispering. Using a lower pitched voice will always grab attention faster. Teachers also need to remember that preparation is key. Students tend to get bored fast and so preparing well ahead of time is always best.

13 steps to creating an effective learning environment

  1. TTT – 30 %  (Teacher Talk Time)
  2. STT – 70 %  (Student Talk Time)
  3. Teachers position in the class is important – don’t be stationary – walk around
  4. Students seating – More group work – Collaboration
  5. More meaningful activities
  6. Stop lecturing
  7. Allow students to question
  8. Provoke students using appropriate provocations
  9. use the 6 Inch voice policy
  10. Time management is important. Stick to it
  11. Explain well
  12. know how to grab attention
  13. Students must evaluate each other

Technology in Education


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The big question today is; does technology benefit or hinder a child’s learning process? It is universally understood that technology has its benefits, however, there are those who believe otherwise.A quick search on google would pull up a plethora of information related to technology.
As we know, in theory, we can say whatever we like but in reality, proving our views is a totally different ball game all together.Some research shows that students who use technology actually perform worse than those who don’t and some studies show that technology is actually beneficial.

Many argue that social media can have many negative effects.Such arguments have been going on for many years now and will never end. What we do need to realize is that in everything that we do in life, there is good and bad, how we engage would ultimately categorize it for us. Today we look at social media as a blessing for the simple reason that we can easily connect with friends and family who are far away from us. We have the ability to make a video call, voice call, easily share our daily activities with video or photo, we can even have group chats and group calls.

Businesses today use social media as it has enabled effective communication.Technology in education has arisen in recent years in the form of E-schooling, and online applications that are created to streamline education. There is an abundance of apps related to education online. From online libraries to apps for math or science, even comprehensive tools to assess students’ progress, yet with all of this there is still negativity around the use of technology.

I love technology, I work through my phone as I am always on the go. Some choose their laptops while others may prefer their tablets. Classrooms and boardrooms are now equipped with smart boards to effectively enhance their experience. Schools take it a step further by creating an application that would allow teachers, parents and students to interact even while not at school. Students can submit their homework through the apps and teachers can provide feedback almost instantly. Parents can easily send teachers messages about their kids and vice versa. However, with all the capabilities we would still find a lot of negativity.

Many say that technology is a distraction. Kids have become anti-social, kids are facing eye-sight problems because of the constant use of mobile devices. I could say the same when the television had first come out, or when the radio had first been introduced. We need to be able to draw the line somewhere.
Technology is vital in today’s world. It is how the world operates now. However, we have to realize that we must set boundaries. Both teachers and parents need to play an important role. While the effects of technology are alarming, we cannot turn a blind eye to the actual benefits that it comes with. Students should learn to read a book, they should learn how to hold a pen and write. Students should be able to easily switch from technology and this is where parents and teachers come in. There needs to be limitations, there needs to be understanding.
Reading a book on a kindle is fun. But let’s remember that before we teach kids to read, we must teach them to imagine. Technology in education can be fun. Even social media can be fun and educational if used correctly.

Parents need to monitor tech use at home. Time must be equally divided. Teachers also should promote this. Parents need to constantly monitor what their kids are doing while using technology. Don’t just come home from work and then relax. Pay attention to your kids, monitor them, engage them and guide them. The issue today is that many kids don’t really have such a system at home. They are merely left to do as they please when they get home so that their parents can go out and enjoy themselves. If your child spends too much time on technology then yes they would develop eye sight issues, they would become anti-social, however, creating a balance, giving them other forms of activities to do, encouraging social development outside of technology may just help in strengthening their abilities to be responsible and be aware of the world around them.

Technology in education is establishing its place. Today the teacher is just the guide. In the past a teacher was the source of information, but today technology has changed that. A teacher’s job now is to facilitate the learning process and to facilitate in the best ways possible. Facilitation also includes regulating the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Schools must develop proper after-school development activities for students. Don’t just offer sport programs but other programs such as art, dance, drama, debating, community service, after school trips to the community to further develop their understanding and help them grow to become better independent thinkers who can also work in collaboration.

While I may be an advocate of technology, I am also a firm believer that education should also be facilitated through various means.
We all have different abilities and capabilities. What appeals or works for one may not, for another, but to conclusively state that technology is negatively affecting our kids is wrong. To everything in life, there must be a balance and if we can effectively balance our use of technology in and outside of school, then I think we would have no issues.
The biggest issue with the doubts surrounding technology today is the lack of parents’ regulation of their kids’ use of technology.

Encourage creativity in children

Every child is born with the potential to be creative individuals, but their potential can be stifled if teachers and parents are not careful to nurture and stimulate creativity. Creativity shows one’s uniqueness. It is the individual saying that they are who they are, unique, individuals who can do. Isn’t this what we want for our children? Creativity is the ability to see things differently, to see problems that no one else may even realize exist, and then come up with new, unusual and effective solutions to these problems.

Adults are often amazed by young children’s unexpected cognizance of the world and the unique ways in which they express their imagination. We also know, however, that children usually need adult support to find the means and the confidence to express their ideas and present them, day after day, to teachers, parents, and friends. This digest considers both teacher-initiated and child-initiated strategies for enhancing young children’s self-expression and creativity.
The most creative of people are those who have the ability to switch easily between primary and secondary unconscious thought processes. Kids find this easier to do because their frontal lobes are less developed, as a child matures they are able to assess whether instinctual desires are a good idea or not, the rules and inhabitations begin to creep in.
Spontaneity and self-confidence are essential to a child’s creative spirit. Parents and teachers who choose to constantly control their children actually do more harm than good. Stop controlling kids! Allow them to think, allow them to be free, allow them to be kids. Creative expression is vital for development. If the product of creativity is not seen through then their creative energy is just waste. Allow them to be creative and follow through with their ideas. Kids need to know that it’s ok to make a mistake because that is how we learn. It is not always important to have the correct answer but innovation and unique ideas are very much valued. Like anything we do in our lives, we need the right atmosphere or it just would not feel the same, likewise, with our kids, they need an environment that would stimulate them, an environment that is creative, and friendly to them. Materials within the environment need to child-friendly and stimulating. Building blocks, books, pens, pencils, crayons and objects that they would be able to make sounds with are just a few examples.
Never stop a child from daydreaming! Many parents often make this mistake. Daydreaming is an imaginary process, some of what goes on in daydreaming is really just problem-solving.

Often parents think that they need to teach their children to first read and this is the wrong approach. Kids must first learn to imagine, they must learn to visualize and create their own understanding before they can even read.Don’t stifle creativity, promote it.If you, as a teacher or parent, truly believes that every child is different and is unique in their own way, then practice the belief by allowing creativity, allowing them to be kids.Don’t just say you things, mean it.Teach kids to look at alternatives, evaluate and then decide how to carry them out successfully. Stop overcrowding them with activities and orders with the thought that you will be cultivating their creativity, you are only holding them back. Allow your child some alone time so that they can develop the creativity that is within.

Educating parents on education

With education drastically changing, parents need to educate themselves on the different approaches to learning. These days many parents take it for granted that their kids are “angels” and are very smart. While their kids may actually be very smart, there may be reasons as to why their true potential is not being shown. Parents need to stop walking into schools and flaring up with teachers when they actually don’t know much about education itself.
If you are one of those arrogant types of parents who tell teachers that you “pay their salaries”, then please find a better school for your child, which 9 out of 10 times, this never happens. Parents do love to rant and rave when they know absolutely nothing about the system. They love to make threats and say that they would remove their kid from the school and move them to another. This never happens because they know that they put their kids in that particular school for a reason.
To me, parents who make such threats add no value to society.

It is sad to see school headmasters and heads of department just fall at the feet of parents and also turn around and blame teachers. Most schools do it.When a parent complains about a teacher, the principal is quick to call in the teacher and discipline them without finding out the issues from the teacher. Such stupidity by principals needs to stop. Parents need to stop blaming people for their lack of parental guidance over their children, as said before, many times over, your child is not who you think they are when they are away from you! Parents let that sink in!
Parents often like to say that the school does not know what its doing, let me ask parents this question. Do you even know what a school is supposed to be doing? It is very easy to sit and talk when you have no clue.I’m not saying that all parents should go and study education, all I’m saying is before screaming at teachers, before talking down about schools, perhaps try to understand what they are supposed to do and what are your rights of a parent, because only when you do this can you properly be a critic of a system.

What should parents know about schools?
Parents need to understand that many private schools operate as a business. Private schools at the end of the year first calculate their profits and losses then look at why they have made the losses they did, as like any other business, and in business terms it logical.However, you have to know but that alone that your child is not the first priority of the school. Private schools before spending any money would first look at how it benefits them financially before how it benefits their students. Is this a type of school you really want to send your kids to?
Public schools, on the other hand, are just outright sorry excuses for schools. Funded and run by the government, no stationary, lack of funding, overcrowded classrooms, teachers not properly trained and some schools don’t even have basics needed to run a classroom.

Not all private schools behave in this way, some actually do have their students’ best interest at heart which is shown through the year on their academic and social developments. Schools must put their students’ before anything.The continuous assessment must take place and must be done correctly. A true reflection of a student’s performance must be given to the parent. Many schools love to boast about their use of technology in the classroom, about how their school doesn’t use textbooks but rather uses tablets. While it all sounds fancy to the parent, the parent themselves are in most cases clueless about how it should work when it comes to using technology in the classroom effectively.

What should parents know about teachers?
Most importantly, teachers are not robots, teachers are not slaves and they do not work for parents. So parents, please stop assuming such things. Teachers are humans, and they do have lives outside of school! It always amazes me that when kids bring home their report cards are parents aren’t happy with what they see it automatically is the teachers fault and the next day they headed off to school to deal with the teacher who is “not doing their job”. Parents, you don’t know a teacher’s job so please educate yourself. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe your child is the issue, maybe your child is not paying attention? Maybe your child is not coping and needs a different strategy?

Parents are not always wrong but the way you handle certain things with teachers is disgusting. You need to first understand what teachers should be doing. You have every right to question a teacher, just do it respectfully and not in a way that makes a teacher feel inadequate.

A teacher is there to guide and facilitate your kids learning. When something goes wrong they supposed to immediately notify you and not wait for you to turn up at school. For example, if your child does not do their homework or project then they should be notifying you immediately and keeping a record of it.Your child is late to class or doesn’t show up at all should prompt a teacher to call you immediately and make a note of it.
If your child fails a test, what measures have they taken to improve the mark? Was there a retest? Were there any revision worksheets?
Such questions must be asked before playing the blame game. Maybe also ask, what’s going on at home that could be playing a negative role? Are you, as the parent, spending enough time with your child?

Parents you need to understand your role as parents. You must also understand how schools work, how curriculums work and most importantly understand that your child is not always the angel you think they are, trust me when they are away from you, they are anything but an angel. Take the time out to understand things from both sides. You have a right to question but do so after doing your homework. Research the schools, check up on their assessment methods and approaches to teaching and learning, check up on the extracurricular activities they have that will help you develop your child socially. Check up on what your kids are being taught, are they being dictated to or are they being developed with lifelong skills that will make them better global citizens?Are your kids being spoon fed or being encouraged to become critical thinkers?

Don’t just walk into schools to play the blame game!


SACE in a state of confusion

downloadThese days there seems to be confusion is regards to the definition of the word qualification. We must understand that this word, qualification may refer to both academia as well as practical qualifications (experience). We need to stop using the word as we please and use it according to the correct definitions. What qualifies a teacher to enter a classroom or even label them as such? Is it the paper they possess which states that they have completed a 3 or year diploma or degree? Is it the number of years’ experience or is it the level of competence?
When looking to analyze these questions we need to take into account that many people have very many different opinions on these questions and all opinions must be respected.

After a period of three to four years (depending on course duration) a student would receive a diploma/degree to certify that they have now successfully completed their modules of study and have passed and been awarded a diploma/degree to be able to go out into the real world and work as a teacher or a better word to use is an educator.
However, the newly graduated teacher enters looking for a job only to be told that they must be registered with a body known as SACE (South Africa Council for Educators) and receive a SACE number in order to practice as an educator. SACE seems to have become the all powerfull of education in South Africa, with nobody really understanding what they really do.
In many countries today, especially countries who are leading in education, their teachers are directly registered with the ministry of education in those countries, yet in South Africa, it does not happen like that.There must be a middle man- SACE.
The procedure to obtain a teachers license from SACE is one of the most questionable procedures currently.

To ellaborate, if you are a South African citizen applying you must personally go into the SACE office within your province and apply by filling out a pointless form, submit your ID along with qualifications and experience letters, note that this must all be South African ( if you are a South African applying for the license).Your teaching at schools, as well as experience letters, should all be from South African schools not overseas, however the SACE website does not specify this,To me this is ridiculous because any teaching experience from any school should be accepted provided the applicant submits official documents from the school they worked with, and right now, any teacher with international teaching experience should be accepted considering South Africa’s disastrous ranking in world education.
In addition to the submission of required documents, applicants must also pay a fee of R200 for South Africans and R400 for foreign educators with an annual levy of R120.

What has SACE really done since its opening? Professional development topics have no relation to what it needs to be.The SACE points program from 2014 is still in its pilot program which is evidently failing.Professional development needs to be based on what is happening global education.Effective classroom environments that work well.Understanding students of the 21st century rather than assuming topics that would work which has just failed.
In order for our education system to improve, in order for our teachers to thrive, we must pay attention to increasing the hours of professional development that both engaging and modern.We must stop focus on whether or not the Professional development course is accredited or not, but rather does it ad value to teachers and can it, in turn, reflect in students behavior and performance in class? We must stop being brainwashed by “accreditation”.It isn’t about points or certificates but about adding value.

How is SACE assessing teachers in order to award a teaching license? they are just taking for granted that a teacher is competent because they have studied a teaching program.This I feel is the biggest mistake they are making and it is because of this that we have so many issues in schools today.The department of education seems to be more interested in teachers compiling paperwork rather than whats really going on in the classroom.Paperwork needs to be forgotten, we live in the digital age now! Teachers need to spend their time enhancing their capabilities within the classroom and not on pointless paperwork.SACE needs to effectively evaluate teachers before issuing a license.They need to perhaps have newly graduated teachers, teach for at least a year and then have them apply for their license.The application for the license needs to be a rigorous one, their needs to be a portfolio of evidence submitted with the application in order to prove a teachers competence in order to qualify for the license.If a teacher fails to meet the criteria for the portfolio then they should revisit the sections they are facing difficulties in.Along with a portfolio of evidence should be an interview with the teacher.The process needs to be a logical one, not an illogical one just to make money.
It’s like obtaining a drivers license, I cannot just go into the driving school office and submit documents, pay my fees to wait a few weeks and then get my drivers license.There are logical processes and assessments in order to deem an applicant competent.Once all evaluative procedures are passed a license is issued.

We must understand that no matter how many degrees and certificates a person may accumulate over time, it does not necessarily equate to practical competence. What we mean by this is that when we look at the ministers of both education departments, and I still fail to understand why the department was broken down into two separate divisions as it makes no sense. Both ministers maybe well qualified for the job academically however they do not know what is going on in the classrooms. They would speak as if they know but they fail to really understand what is really going on because if they did there would be a substantial improvement already.It is and will always be the practical experience that proves to be more successful.

Those in power assume they know what’s going on however the sad reality of the situation is that they know nothing about what’s going on. They pass laws and policies according to the degrees they hold which are now outdated and by this, I mean that the content that is being taught at the B.Ed. level of study is terrible.I ask many new teachers to talk to me about the education systems in other countries and they just cannot do it.I ask them to talk to me about the different examination boards and different curriculums and they simply cannot answer me, I also ask many who study early childhood development to discuss the emerging and successful approaches to ECD and they cannot tell me about them. I ask about methods of differentiation and why are they not interested in using them and the answer I get is that these methods take up too much of the teachers time. Such an attitude is an attitude that must be done away with and can only be done at a tertiary level. The most shocking thing about my findings is that it is not only new teachers but also many experienced teachers.

Teacher training needs to be brought back immediately.We need to follow the systems of the most successful educational systems being Singapore and Finland.We need to follow the model of the IB Curriculum.We need to develop our students to become critical thinkers and not spoon fed.We need to enstil responsibility and independence into them.We must assist their social development in more meaningful ways and together with parents, we must encourage family time so that they may bong and experience the sense of togetherness which makes them less selfish and more caring.



What is IELTS?

IELTS is the International English Language Testing System which is governed by the British Council, University of Cambridge and IDP: IELTS Australia. The test is to assess English language proficiency and conforms to the highest standards. The IELTS is taken by those who wish to live and work where English in the main language of communication. 



IELTS is made up of four components:  

Speaking, listening, reading and writing. Each has a band score of their own which is totaled at the end. A candidate is required to meet a specific total according to their desired countries requirements. IELTS is also separated into two different modules that candidates may choose from according to their needs. These two modules are the academic module and the general training module. The Speaking test may even take place a day or two later at some centers. 

IELTS Listening test lasts for about 30 minutes. It consists of four sections, played on a CD, in order of increasing difficulty. Each section might be a dialogue or a monologue. The test is only played once, and the questions for each section must be answered while listening, Time is given for students to check their answers 

IELTS Reading test lasts for 60 minutes. Students are given an Academic Reading test, or a General Training Reading test. Both tests consist of three sections, and in both tests the sections are in order of increasing difficulty. 

IELTS Writing test also lasts for 60 minutes. Again, students take either an Academic Module, or a General Training Module. Students must perform two writing tasks, which require different styles of writing. There is no choice of question topics. 

IELTS Speaking test consists of a one-to-one interview with a specially trained examiner. The interview is recorded and has three separate parts: 

An introduction and interview, an individual long turn where the candidate speaks for one or two minutes on a particular topic, and a two-way discussion thematically linked to the individual long turn. This interview will last for approximately 11-14 minutes. 

How are IELTS band scores calculated?  

Each skill (listening, reading, writing and speaking) is awarded a band scores. These scores range from 0-9 and you can also score a .5 for example, 6.5 or 8.5. Aside from a band score for each skill, you will also receive an overall band score. 

Below is an example of how the scoring works:  
Listening: 8
Reading:  7.5
Writing: 7
Speaking 7.5
Overall: 7.5 

With band scores, your scores can also be rounded up or down to the nearest .5 or whole number, example:  

  • If you get an overall score of 5.25 you will the move to a 5.5 score 
  • If you get an overall score of 6.75 you will then move up to a score of 7 
  • If your overall score is 5.1 then you will receive a total of 5

Listening and reading scores:
In a listening and reading test with a total of 40 points you are only scored on what you have got correct. Wrong answers are not scored. 

Writing Assessment:
The two tasks of the written assessment are assessed on the following four criteria
Fluency, Lexical resource, Grammar range and accuracy,  

Speaking assessment:
Speaking, like writing is assessed on the following:
Fluency, Lexical resource, Grammar range and accuracy, pronunciation.

It is strongly advised that one reads through the band descriptors clearly and has a thorough understanding of them.

 IELTS Band Descriptor

Bandscore Skill level Description
Band 9 Expert user You have a full operational command of the language. Your use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and you show complete understanding.
Band 8 Very good user You have a fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. You may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. You handle complex detailed argumentation well.
Band 7 Good user You have an operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally you handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
Band 6 Competent user Generally you have an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. You can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
Band 5 Modest user You have a partial command of the language, and cope with overall meaning in most situations, although you are likely to make many mistakes. You should be able to handle basic communication in your own field.
Band 4 Limited user Your basic competence is limited to familiar situations. You frequently show problems in understanding and expression. You are not able to use complex language.
Band 3 Extremely limited user You convey and understand only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
Band 2 Intermittent user You have great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
Band 1 Non-user You have no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
Band 0 Did not attempt the test You did not answer the questions.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning is a student centered pedagogy where by students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge is more about knowing and doing. Project based learning students take advantage of technology to produce high quality collaborative products.

Teachers are not in school to impose habits or ideas into kids but is there as a guide for the kid to be able to select influences that would best affect the child.

The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke critical thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. A teacher is the facilitator, who would work with students in their tasks to frame meaningful questions and together find solutions that they need answers to.


Projects are focused on student learning goals and include Essential Project Design Elements:

Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management.

Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.

Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.

Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.

Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.

Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.

Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.

Public Product – Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the  classroom.


Why accreditation is such a mess

Accreditation agencies have been forced to play a regulatory role for which they were never designed—we need a new model going forward.

Everyone knows that institutions of higher education need to be accredited. Accreditation serves both students and the public good by providing the first indicator of a legitimate institution of higher education. But recent investigations of for-profit colleges and universities have revealed a problem in the accreditation process. Far from being an ironclad guarantee of higher education excellence, accreditation represents a binary evaluation of whether or not an institution satisfies the standards of an independent, non-governmental agency. Moreover, the agency is a membership club, a fraternity where obscure rules and rituals define the process. With the stakes being incredibly high—success equals access to federal financial aid programs—it is no wonder that accreditation has been accused of failing to protect students from the excesses of the for-profit sector.

We need, however, to look at the history of accreditation in the United States to provide some insight into current events.

From Peer Review to Agency Gatekeepers

The basic outlines of accreditation were established in the late 19th and early 20th century when the definition of a university was not yet settled. Accreditation provided clarity on what constituted higher education at the time by having existing institutions identify and endorse their peers. In other words, college was defined by other colleges. The standards focused on admission requirements, faculty qualifications, academic resources, and financial stability. The purpose was to make sure a degree at one institution would be recognized by another institution, especially for the purposes of graduate admission.

Fast forward to World War II. The new GI Bill required the federal government to identify the institutions that veterans could spend their tuition benefits on. Lacking any mechanism to do it themselves, the job was given to the states. It became a confusing disarray, with fly-by-night operators popping up to gain access to the financial windfall, and then disappearing with the profits. So the federal government tried again. In the 1950s, they decided to replace the states’ role in the original GI Bill with the accreditation agencies that had been around since the turn of the century. At the time, though, not all institutions were eligible for accreditation from existing agencies. So the federal government set up standards for recognizing accreditation agencies for the purposes of accessing aid. A set of new agencies emerged in compliance with the new rules. Accreditation brought order to the system. The federal government endorsed accreditation agencies, and the agencies endorsed higher education institutions. An innovative path to financial aid was forged.

Since the partnership between the federal government and accreditation agencies seemed to work for veterans aid, the same solution was used in the 1960s and 70s for determining eligibility for the student loan and grant programs under the Higher Education Act. Almost immediately, however, problems emerged. A system designed to collegially identify similar institutions to facilitate degree recognition and student transfer was being asked to serve in an increasingly regulatory role. Rather than assisting colleges in their natural drive for self-improvement, accreditation agencies now were expected to serve as gatekeepers for financial aid and safeguard the investment of the American taxpayer. The problems with this arrangement weren’t as immediately obvious as the states’ failures in oversight after World War II, but these accreditation agencies were equally unsuited to serve as the government’s eyes and ears for financial aid eligibility.

With no other option—creating a whole new bureaucracy to replace accreditation was never seriously considered—the federal government used its power to recognize agencies as a lever for change. Agencies were pushed to provide more transparency in their operation. They were encouraged to move away from input measures like numbers of books in the library and square feet of classroom space, to output measures that focused on the student experience. They were asked to document their procedures and provide methods for appeal of negative decisions. When technology and online learning came to the forefront, accreditation was expected to adapt its campus-based procedures to the virtual environment.

The Fundamental Problem Remains

But the underlying architecture remained unchanged. Accreditation is still fundamentally a private non-governmental body that sets its own standards and membership rules. Its regulatory role sits uncomfortably on top of an academically oriented culture that values collegial consultation over enforcement of external rules. The for-profit scandals of recent years demonstrate the problem. The recent collapse of Corinthian Colleges, for example, highlights the challenges inherent in the independence of accreditation. As lawsuits and investigations swirled around the school, and access to financial aid was curtailed by the federal government, Corinthian remained in good standing with its accreditation agency up until the moment it declared bankruptcy. How was this possible? The accrediting agency was applying its own standards, none of which were impacted by the problems that state and federal oversight identified. More broadly, of the dozens of problematic recruiting behaviors and poor graduation rates identified by a Senate committee investigating the for-profit education industry, few of these issues had previously been noticed or publicly revealed in any accreditation review process. And no for-profit institution lost its accreditation after the Senate findings were published.

Future Directions

The effectiveness of accreditation as a regulator is now under review. As a result, serious proposals have been put on the table to bypass accreditation and develop alternative procedures for access to federal student aid. The chummy nature of accreditation, in which currently accredited institutions get to sit in judgment of new institutions, is under attack. The secretive and opaque processes of institutional evaluation are viewed with suspicion. Policymakers and entrepreneurs alike are questioning the legitimacy of accreditation as a gatekeeper in higher education.

The bottom line is that accreditation is not set up to do the job it is being asked to do. But that is a problem as much with the expectations of government as it is with the capability of the accreditation agencies. Calls for reform and restructuring of accreditation have been regularly repeated over the last forty years. But the agencies have always been able to mollify their critics by demonstrating responsiveness to concerns and arguing for the value of their model of institutional assessment. This time seems different.

Accreditation could go in one of several directions. Agencies could continue their traditional role as gatekeepers for financial aid but act much more explicitly as an arm of the government. Collegial reviews would get replaced with compliance reports. Another path would involve accreditation opening up its eligibility requirements to include new and innovative educational providers alongside the more familiar colleges and universities. This would require the agencies to adopt a competency-based approach, for example, that focuses on whether learning occurs rather than where and how it occurs. A third option would be simply to reject the government’s attempts to change their purpose and relinquish their role as financial aid gatekeepers. The government, then, would need to either develop a new oversight bureaucracy for the task or find some private sector entity other than the accreditation agencies to do it.

Each one of these options represents a dramatic shift in the role of accreditation in higher education. Quite simply, the partnership between the agencies and the federal government, formed out of convenience in the 1950s, is breaking down. It’s not that accreditation failed at its job, but rather the job itself has changed to something accreditation was never designed to do. A new model needs to emerge to clean up the mess.

Kevin Kinser is an associate professor of educational administration and policy studies in the School of Education at University at Albany, State University of New York.



Early Childhood Development of today


Montessori and Reggio
Looking for creative and colorful classrooms? Do a google search and you would find that your inspiration may come from either a Montessori or a Reggio school, which both would give you beautiful classrooms that are serene, filled with light and extraordinary.However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find, However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find yourself being left speechless with the amount of information being brought up. Information such as names in foreign languages, regions and a plethora of other research for each.All individuals who are considering the path of an early childhood development teacher MUST be familiar with the different educational philosophies for ECD. It helps guide you to understand the exact ECD path to follow. An individual wishing to start ECD should first do their own research and then look at the curriculum’s of various universities first, look for the methods that you are taught and then go on from there. In my opinion, if the universities do not cover all philosophies, you should look elsewhere.

So what are Montessori and Reggio schools about?

The Montessori approach
was founded in Rome- Italy by Dr.Maria Montessori in 1907.Her aim was to see an educational system that involved the whole child. Maria Montessori’s work became a global sensation and spread across the world. Anywhere you go today, they’ve got a Montessori school. The system groups kids into multi-aged groups to promote peer relationships and learning between the different ages. The Montessori approach believes that a child can naturally absorb knowledge from their surroundings and through exploration self-direct what they have learned. The curriculum is very much like today, with the very many subjects involved. The Montessori Method also focuses on observing a child. These observations are meant to guide the teacher on what to present next. Based on the observations, lessons and materials will be decided.

Reggio Emilia approach 
came about after world war 2.There was a desire for a new educational system. It took an Educational psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi to bring about the change with a new method to ECD. Founded in 1950, in an Italian city known as Reggio


 Emilia. The main idea behind this approach is that the child should be an active participant in their education. There is no set curriculum as opposed to the Montessori Method. The curriculum moulds itself according to the child by their interests and responses. Malaguzzi collaborated with parents within the area to develop the new childcare. The Reggio approach focuses on documentation whereby a teacher documents both the work and words of the child, using everything from pencil and paper to audio and video equipment. The Reggio approach documents both the academic and social progress of a child.

In both methods students use their senses to explore and direct their learning, however in the Montessori approach students are free to choose from pre-planned activities to work independently and use movement. Montessori kids pace themselves and decide when to have a snack, and play with each other. In the Reggio approach, on the other hand, collaborative education is the main focus, any student can direct the learning, and using their many languages kids direct their curiosity and inspire lessons through questions and answers and questioning again. Students use the environment as the teacher and the teacher as their guidance.

The key to any successful system is the environment, in particular, the classroom which needs to be friendly welcoming and ready for learning. In the Montessori approach, the classrooms contain specific material that’s required and set up accordingly to allow students to choose how to use them. Instead of desks tables are put in place and is at eye level with the kids, in fact, everything is at eye level to accommodate the little ones and make things easy for them. This approach also allows for the use of the floor if they feel comfortable to learn on the floor rather than their tables, but keep in mind cleanliness is also a key factor in Montessori.
With the Reggio approach, the classroom is also very important. However here we find that teachers would set up different sized tables according to the different sizes of children in their classes. The Reggio approach is a very hand on approach and so we find that in Reggio classrooms the tables are different in textures and colors in order to inspire students more. Efforts are collaborative and documented throughout and as such on a walk around a Reggio classroom you will find displays of the children’s work. The idea of displaying their different works I actually like because it encourages them, and also allows for reflection which is important at any stage of development.

In both methods students do not take assessments or exams and are not graded, they work on a portfolio system where they are documented according to their levels of success and participation level. It must also be mentioned that while Montessori groups different age groups together, Reggio would group the same ages together as in a more traditional style. In a Reggio classroom, you will find that students will learn directly from their environment meaning that their environment is created to be an extension of the children’s world. Whereas in the Montessori approach there are age-specific tools of learning which are also self-correctable whereby if a child makes a mistake they can go back and correct the mistake.

For parents, the decision to send your child to a Reggio school or a Montessori school is a hard decision. However they both offer unique experiences, and both have their benefits and are similar in ways to the subtle differences that can lead you to make the decision that you need to make. The Reggio approach is a very collaborative method, parents are active in their child’s education, not just at home but are also invited to the school to be part of it. The Reggio approach to early education reflects a theoretical kinship to the ideology of constructivism. The Reggio approach, in my opinion, is a modern-day early childhood development.

For teachers, if your path is traditional, I would suggest going the Montessori way, but if you are a modern day teacher who, like me, believes that kids need to be kids, they learn to learn lifelong skills that they can actually use, that kids need to socially develop and become critical thinkers and should ask questions, then is suggest look at going the Reggio Emilia approach.

Reggio Emilia Approach to ECD


An education philosophy based on the image of the child, and that of human beings processing strong potentials for development, and as a subject of rights who learns and grows in the relationship with others.The Reggio approach was developed after World War 2 in Italy by a young and inspirational teacher called Loris Malaguzzi.He promoted the idea of children as active participants in their own learning in a unique reciprocal relationship with their teachers. Learning is an active process and not a transmission of pre-packaged knowledge. Rather, the child has a hundred languages. Suggesting that children have multiple ways to express themselves.

100 Languages of children
What’s unique to the Reggio approach philosophy is the belief that there are 100 languages of children. Every child has 100 languages that they can learn in all of these forms of expression whether it’s by the use of clay, paper making, dance, drama, musical instruments and much more. Being Reggio inspired means that you have great faith in children.

In the Reggio approach, the educator is considered to be three things. Teacher, child and the environment. Teachers are given non-contact time to give them the chance to talk about the children and to be able to write their observations and plan what will be offered to the children next. The value and encourage child initiated activities, they challenge and provoke the ideas of the child. They allow the child to make his/her own mistakes learn from them. They closely observe children to document the child’s progress and to judge appropriate moments to intervene.
A Reggio school aims to create a welcoming, nurturing a home-like environment that’s recognized for its potential to inspire children. It is a place of encounter and connection, interaction, and dialogue. The Reggio teacher is a keen observer, documenter, and partner in the learning process. The teacher allows the children to make their own hypothesis, test their hypothesis and share what they’ve learned.
Documentation plays a critical part in children’s learning. Children revisit their ideas and get a new perspective. A teacher works on projects with small groups of children while the rest of the classroom continues to involve itself in other self – selected activities and explorations.

Reggio Provocations
Reggio inspired provocations are activities prepared by the teacher to extend the child’s way of thinking.These inspirations
provoke a child to use their senses, ask questions, solve problems and think further.


According to the Reggio approach, the environment is like the 3rd teacher. It must be inspiring with natural light, order, and beauty. Make sure to de-clutter your room and have clearly defined spaces. If you need to redefine your spaces make sure they respond to children’s interest.
An example would be chandeliers which are very common in Reggio inspired environments. They can be made out of recycled and natural materials as well as bits and pieces from around the house.

The curriculum should be fluid, emergent, dynamic and unique. It stems from the child’s own interests and curiosities.
The child is a researcher trying to answer the questions of life. Children learn documentation techniques that give them tools to express their ideas.
The school combines a lab and art studio in one for the developing and valuing the research process of the child. The classroom is designed to be aesthetically pleasing to the children. Teachers take great care to keep it organized and attractive. Natural lighting from large windows and open spaces give the environment a relaxed feel. Collaboration in such a process should be highly valued.

How to get started?
‘The wider range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense their motivations and the richer their experiences.” Loris Malaguzzi – Reggio Emilia founder.

Reggio Inspired Materials

Take a look around your classroom. Get rid of as many plastic materials as possible. Choose open-ended materials instead.Open-ended materials are the ones that can be transformed and that require the children to use their imagination and their own experiences.They must be natural, inviting, sensory and aesthetically pleasant.Use objects and materials children would find in their own homes.

Some examples of materials…
Loose parts, Mailing cardboard tubes, Playdough, Fabric scraps, Paper, Stones, Cotton Wool, Buttons, Beads, Bark, Corks, Elastic bands, Plastic figures.

Source: Nabeel Abed teacher development handbook: Reggio Emilia Approach to ECD



Kids need to be kids! Education is still prehistoric


Education today seems to be the only thing that has yet to evolve like the many things around us. Food, clothes, communication and our lifestyle have all evolved, but education.
While there are some countries who have implemented change and have done well with the changes that they have made, others seem to have fallen way off the tracks with educational development. We look at Finland and Singapore who have become the leaders of global education simply because they understand what education is all about. They understand that education is all about learning through experience and having fun. It’s not about the testing and grading that happens so often and it certainly is not about the daily homework that pins students down until it’s time for bed. They also understand that technology is now a big part of our daily lives and that resources don’t have to be just a prescribed textbook but that there is a myriad of information available to students via the World Wide Web. Therefore they have found that it is in the best interest to use what students like, not what they assume but what is preferred by the students in order to engage them and interact with them in order to get the message across and reach the ultimate objective which is to educate their students.

However, in some countries, we still find that the old methods of teaching still dominate the classrooms. Teachers walk into the class, stand in front and speak nonstop for 45 minutes, expecting students to note down as they speak. There is no student interaction, no peer assessments, no engaging activities and certainly opportunity for students to dictate the pace of their learning. Today, we still find classes with a student capacity of no less than 30 students per class, sometimes more. Students are still given homework; they are still being dictated to and are still expected to be quiet in class. Students are still using textbooks and are still forced to sit and write tests every so often and then followed up with exams in the middle and end of the year.

Education needs to become more enjoyable, less dictated.Students need to be able to learn content of relevance, they need to learn pure life skills.Content from textbooks and being told how to learn and what to learn, when to learn and why to learn it at this age or at another particular age makes no sense, we are only making them stupid and narrow-minded.Children are becoming rebels today because of how education is being delivered to them.Why do they need to follow so many rules that play no importance in today’s life?They need rules, yes.But they need rules that would shape them for reality after all is that not what a school is there for? To mold kids into the real world?
Schools today have become questionable, nationalizing schools makes no sense in South Africa’s case.Private schools claim to be better but also still follow some of the same ideologies that should be thrown away in today’s age.

Kids need to be free, curriculums need to take shape according to the needs of students, kids need to learn better communication rather than learning heavy content that they may never use because some of the content they learn is just pointless and sometimes becomes irrelevant.They do not need homework, they need more time to spend developing social skills whether it is an activity given by the school or just free time at home.Kids need to be developed according to how they learn and education systems need to understand this and not enforce stupidity.



10 Misleading Claims By TEFL Course Providers

As in shopping and business generally, the things that you should be especially careful of when shopping for a TEFL course are the times when the course provider is not actually lying but is nonetheless playing the truth in a way that is only designed to deceive. This article should help you spot the most common such traps.

1. How happy their “graduates” are
It is a general rule in education that people are much more likely to complain about the air-conditioning and transport problems than they are about whoever is training them, and the same is true of TEFL courses. Course providers getting these basic things wrong would be a bad sign, but a lack of complaints says nothing about the actual standard of training. If it did, we wouldn’t need accreditation of any educational establishments or qualifications, would we?

2. Hours of instruction (for online courses)
A basic level TEFL certificate should have at least 100 hours of instruction. For a face-to-face course, the hours of instruction are the hours you spend with a trainer actually being trained. On top of this, you will do reading, lesson preparation, etc. Many online courses not only include reading as part of the hours of instruction, but seem to make up arbitrary lengths of time for how long it will take you to do things like reading and online questionnaires. More generally, you have to consider very carefully whether the things they are asking you to do online for 250 hours would have the value of the things you would do in a proper face-to-face course for 100 hours.

3. Links to universities
Some TEFL courses in universities are run by university staff who are well qualified and also have years of practical teaching experience. Some of those are Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL courses. Ones which aren’t might have problems with recognition, especially outside the country where they are based, but a genuine university course can be a good indication of the quality of instruction in some places, e.g. the USA. A link to a university, especially one that is loudly trumpeted on the course provider’s website, might not always be such a mark of quality. For example, some “university TEFL courses” have a tenuous link to the university whose name they are using. The trainers are often far less qualified than the proper university faculty, and it might even be that the TEFL course providers are simply renting premises in the university or paying to use the name without having any institutional or academic links to the university.

4. “Meets the criteria set by the British Council”
The British Council sets out some very basic criteria for something to be considered an introductory-level TEFL certificate (TEFL-I level, as against TEFL-Q for the Cambridge Delta etc). A course must have at least 100 hours of instruction and 6 hours of observed and graded teaching practice, and be accredited by a recognized exam board or university. This is often claimed by TEFL courses even when at least one of these, especially the final one, is missing. Even when that statement is true, that doesn’t mean that British Council inspected schools in the UK and British Council schools worldwide accept all certificates that meet those basic standards, let alone that employers would consider them equivalent to certificates from Cambridge, Trinity or SIT. It also certainly doesn’t mean that the British Council accredits or inspects all such courses. In fact, the British Council doesn’t even inspect or accredit teacher training courses in British Council accredited schools in the UK, as their school accreditation is strictly limited to the actual teaching of English. When British Council schools in their own worldwide chain offer TEFL certificate or diploma courses, they are always accredited by other organizations such as Cambridge.

5. The term “Diploma” or “Advanced course”
Although people can call their qualifications anything they like, the standard industry definition for a TEFL diploma is a course for people with basic training and at least two years’ (and very probably more) relevant full-time experience. Calling any other kind of course a “diploma” is misleading at best, and although “Advanced course” is not a term used by any well-respected certifying bodies it would probably mean something similar. Schools that ask for a TEFL diploma almost always mean the Cambridge Delta or Trinity DipTESOL. See TEFL Diploma FAQ for more details.

6. “All our graduates find jobs … Guaranteed job placement … Lifetime job placement service”
Any native English speaker with a degree can find a TEFL job. It is obviously true that the kinds of employers who accept twenty-three year old native English speakers with any old degree will not suddenly reject them because they have a weekend certificate, have done an online course, or have done some random four-week TEFL certificate in someone’s kitchen. However, those things are unlikely to get you the kinds of jobs that you could get with a well-known and well-respected TEFL certificate such as the Cambridge CELTA.

7. “TESOL / IATEFL institutional member”
This simply means that they send a cheque to said organization once a year and get a few magazines in return. Literally, anyone, including people with no connection to TEFL, can become an institutional member. No one has ever had an application for institutional membership (which is anyway just a form asking for your address and payment details) rejected, and it is therefore zero proof of standards. In fact, any mention of this is a pretty good reason to avoid a school. If the school has trainers who have been high up in the management of one of those organizations or regularly give major workshops at their events, that might well be something to be impressed by. Well-respected training organizations generally find no need to boast of such things even when true, however.

8. The use of logos
IATEFL has the simple policy that no one except themselves can use their logo, and any other organizations doing so are almost always trying to add some respectability that they do not have. The same is true of most organizations with half a page of logos of NGOs, big companies, organizations for teachers, etc, even when they are unaccompanied by actual lies like “accredited by”. The mixing up of accrediting agencies, business partners (whatever that means), schools that accept their teachers etc all on one page is a particularly bad sign.

9. Famous people
The same schools that turn once using the services of a company into a logo on their site tend to do the same thing with the names of people who are famous in the world of TEFL. Some of these people get used unwittingly when they give a workshop there once and are given a brief tour of the building, while others simply sell out and are willing to put their names to anything that pays well enough (the Beckhams of TEFL?) The other possibility is that the people mentioned might not actually be that famous – how, after all, are most people who haven’t yet entered the profession to know?

10. Cambridge exam centre / Cambridge exam centre number
This one is rarer than the bogus claims of special links to IATEFL and TESOL, but some organisations do try to use the fact that Cambridge is willing to use their premises for a KET test (a low-level test for learners of English) once a year as some kind of proof of standards of their teacher training courses. It is not.



Cambridge Home-school

A Cambridge home-school matric is one of the options for South African high school home-school students to get a matric certificate with university exemption.

Who is Cambridge?

CIE is part of Cambridge Assessment, Europe’s largest assessment agency and a department of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Assessment was established in 1858 as the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

What qualification does your student get?

In South Africa most students do two courses:

IGCSE (International General Certificate of Education) takes 18 months – 2 years to complete and is for students from 14 – 16 years of age. This is the same as grades 10 and 11 in local schools although the subject content is different. Your student will take 7 subjects on this level.

Following this South African high school students do the AS Levels normally from about 16 – 19 years of age. This is also an 18 month – 2-year course and is the equivalent of Grade 12 in South Africa. Your student will take 5 subjects on this level.

NOTE: If your student does very well on a subject at IGCSE level (B or A) they can “carry” it over as an AS level subject. This means that they will only write for 4 subjects at the end of their AS course and one of their IGCSE subjects can count for the 5th.

To achieve the equivalents of “A Levels” the South African student needs to complete a Grade 13, but most students do not take this option as it is not necessary for matric exemption and university exemption.

What subjects must your student take?

According to the guidelines set by the exemptions board of South Africa, your student needs to choose subjects according to the groups laid out. For example:

Compulsory Subjects
Afrikaans (or another second language)
Maths or Maths literacy

Discretionary Subjects (two from the following list)
A third language or Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics;
Art, Economics, Geography, History, Music
Accounting, Business Studies, Computing, Design and Technology or Further Mathematics;

However, practical subjects are not available to some homeschoolers who prefer to do the Cambridge Homeschool Matric independently i.e. without the help of a private college. While Cambridge offers over 70 subjects at IGCSE and AS level, not all can be taken in South Africa.

Where does my student get their textbooks?

Once you have chosen your subjects you will refer to the list of resources for each subject on the Cambridge website. Take special note of resources with a check mark next to them. These are endorsed by Cambridge and should be your first choice. These books can be bought directly from the publishers but we have found that online stores are just as reasonably priced and quick to deliver.

Where and when does the student write exams?

Exams are written twice a year either through the chosen college or if you are an independent student at a Cambridge examination venue. Some private schools allow independent examinees to sit and write with their students or you can write at the British Council in your town.

Exams are written in May/June and November each year. Cambridge will charge a per subject exam fee of about R450 which you have to pay in advance. There may be other fees on top of this according to where you choose to write the exam.



Home Schooling Process

Step 1: Decision

It is important to know that, when you start homeschooling your children, either part time or full time, you as a parent is going to take up the responsibility to ensure your children is having the needed education.

If you are not able to educate your children full time, you could always get assistance from some private learning centers/tuition centers in your local area. But please bare in mind that these private learning/tuition centers are there to help, they are NOT a formal school.

Home education is a marathon. You can’t give up halfway before reaching the finish line; for example wanting to send your children “back to school” when you feel you cannot or do not have time to continue the responsibility anymore. Chances are, your children would get rejected due to the absence of formal primary school certificates.

So you may wonder, when/what is the finish line?

The finish line is the final exam at the end of the secondary level education - IGCSE / O Level.

It is NOT at the primary level. Most parents make this mistake, thinking they could home educate their children up to the primary level, then send them to a formal secondary school later.

This is called ‘halfway marathon’. The primary level is not the finish line.

So, make up your mind that you will finish the marathon. You can also take the ‘halfway marathon’ - continue reading to find out how to do that.


Step 2: Choose Your Curriculum

You can always follow your local government school’s curriculum. Otherwise, IGCSE / O Level is a good choice for homeschooling.

IGCSE syllabi are written for the current international audience. You will find interesting content addressing the global arena, as opposed to the more locally oriented curriculum such as O Level and GCSE.

Children who learn global facts at an early age would be more likely to be open-minded and able to mix with and respect other cultures.


Step 3: Plan Your Teaching Programmes

Once you have chosen your curriculum/exam board, you need to plan your teaching programmes from start to finish.

It might sound intimidating for a start, however, if you plan well, it would be very fun and rewarding.

Here are some suggestions you could use:

Primary Stage:
Generally, primary Year/Grade 1 would start from age 6/7, depending on which country you are residing. In our example, we will stick to age 7 as the standard Year/Grade 1 age for most of the countries worldwide.

You may choose to educate your child for 6-year primary programme - that is a normal practice and minimum requirement internationally.

Your child would finish primary programme at age 12.

Your child would NOT obtain any primary school leaving certificate, nor any formal primary exams certificates.

If you think these certificates are important, you may plan to enter your child into a formal primary school at Year/Grade 5, just to proceed to Year/Grade 6 and sit for the formal primary exams.

The reason why you should do it in Year/Grade 5, that is because no schools in the world would take new students in Year/Grade 6.

These certificates might be helpful if you suddenly can’t cope with the teaching nor have any more time to complete the secondary programmes by yourself, and want to register your child with any formal secondary schools, you certainly need those certificates.

This is the ‘halfway marathon’. Please put this in mind from the start.

Lower Secondary Stage:
Once you have accomplished primary programme, it’s time for you to start ‘Lower Secondary’ programme. At this point in time, it would be Year/Grade 7 for schooled children.

The lower Secondary programme can be quite flexible if your child has very strong basic and could cope faster.

The general Lower Secondary programme lasts for 3 years - Year/Grade 7, 8 and 9.

If you think your child could do 2 years only, then proceed to the Upper Secondary programme, you are more than welcome to do so.

But please know that we do not encourage speedy zooming through this stage just to get your child graduate faster. What’s the point at the end of the day? Is entering university at very young age a vital and meaningful goal to achieve? Guess not.

If your child follows the normal 3-year Lower Secondary programme, he/she would be 15 years old at the end of the programme.

If you make a shortcut, just do a 2-year programme, then your child would be 14 years old at the end of the Lower Secondary programme.

Again, your child would NOT obtain any formal Lower Secondary certificates, nor this is required for the final exam in IGCSE / O Level.

This is where the stamina to keep going on for home education gets low, and problems would arise if you want to send your child to any formal second school. Since your child does not have any formal primary certificates (assuming you did not get one for them from the suggestion above), no schools would accept him/her.

Upper Secondary Stage:
This is a 2-year programme, generally. This is where the IGCSE / O Level programme starts. For the schooled students, it would be Year/Grade 10 and 11.

Again, you might accomplish the whole IGCSE / O Level programme in just 1 year - that is entirely up to the capability of your child (not how parents want it, sorry 🙂 )

Once your child is ready to sit for the final exam, search for the nearest exam centers in your local area. Your local British Council is the best option for private candidates. If you can’t find any British Council near you, you can always try to approach any Cambridge School which accepts private candidates to sit for the exams HERE.

It is always good to know all the exams registration key dates, so you don’t miss out the registration closing dates. Bookmark this exams registration key dates page, and know all the dates by hand.

If your child follows the normal route, he/she would be 17 years old when he/she sits for the final exams. Otherwise, cutting short a year would make him/her sitting for the exams at age 16 - that’s the benefit of being home educated.

Finally, this is where your child obtains the official IGCSE / O Level certificates as a home-educated child. This marks the end of your journey in home education for your child - congratulation!

So you see. Home education is a marathon actually. You need to have the strength and stamina to keep going for 10/11 years (starting from Year 1-Year 11) until your child obtains the one and only official exam certificate in your child’s life, that could be used for further studies - either A Level or any other equivalent level.



Assessing level of competence rather than grading

Education is changing every day. Methodologies are changing and so are policies. One thing that has yet to change is how we assess students’ performance. We are still grading students.Achievement is still based on a 0 – 100 % system.

I find it strange that we go on about policies that should change and in-class implementation that needs to change yet grading is still very common and that a student is given a percentage for his/her performance. Grades do not provide a true reflection of a student’s mastery. Grades actually do more harm than good.

Today we find that majority of teachers are forced to inflate grades because if the grades do not meet the parent’s expectations then there will be a showdown at school between the parent and teacher because as you know these days, the teacher is always wrong!
Students are expected and pressured by parents to perform to achieve an acceptable grade, yet what they don’t know is that this is only going to do more harm than good. Grades are not a good communicator of performance despite what many would like to believe. It only adds stress to a student.

Standardized testing itself needs to go. We must start assessing students according to their level. We know that we have very different levels of students in one classroom, so how can standardized testing accurately indicate each student’s performance? Assessments need to be tailored to the levels of each student in order to get a clearer picture of their development. It is after all only fair to assess according to their individual levels. Teachers must be able to assess whenever they want and not at specific times. We need to follow what is being done in Finland. We need to develop a culture of trust. Teachers must be given flexibility and autonomy.

We must start assessing competency, we must assess based on growth and not just a test.We must assess through a portfolio of evidence and not tests. Portfolio’s show consistency in students work, it shows understanding, it motivates them to push harder to show off their best.Rubrics must be used and assessed according to levels of competence.
We must learn to assess positively and in a non-damaging way. Portfolios also allow for differentiated assessing. As mentioned before that every class has a wide range of learners with different needs who all need to be addressed differently.
We can only unleash a student’s true potential when we teach and assess on their level and not on a standardized level because this means nothing.

True wisdom is when you are able to speak to somebody on a level that they understand, therefore teaching and assessing all kids, in the same way, means nothing.
In order to become more successful and really make a difference in the lives of our students, we need to change the way we not only teach but also the ways in which we assess.

Injustice through education

The South African education system has just had some changes made to it and while I may support one or two of these laws, I am still very shocked that they are not seeing the big picture. I still am obviously shocked that SACE is still active.

One of the many new changes to the system is that teachers will now have to deal with at least 60 students in a class. How does a teacher who is newly qualified, untrained, and with no experience deal with such numbers in a class? Has the minister lost it completely? She apparently holds a master’s degree in education, however, looking at the current system and its rankings globally I must question the legitimacy of her qualifications.

Are they not seeing that the global trend of education is that classes are getting smaller, classes are now comprised of two teachers rather than one, technology plays an important role and of course there is no homework?
The idea to nationalize education and get rid of governing bodies is utterly ridiculous! Every school needs a governing body, it needs active role players and one of the key role players are the parents.
To be a successful educational system both parents and students need to play an active role in education. Unfortunately, parents do not understand education because when authorities speak about education they speak in a language that sounds completely foreign to parents. It is vital that parents understand completely what is going on in education, it is important for parents to understand that while a school using technology is the way to go, they also need to understand how this technology is being used, because till today many schools still do not use technology in the correct way.

Parents need to understand why homework is a thing of the past and does not work anymore. Homework, as mentioned, is a thing of the past; it does not work because it takes away the social development aspect of the child. Today’s generation of kids is far different than the generations before. Kids today need social interaction in order to develop. Students are in school all day, from as early as 7 am and end school at latest 4pm.They need time to relax, to bond with their families and not still come home to do more school work. They are already going to school to do this work, why do they need to still come home and d more?
One of many changes to the new amendments is that of homeschooling, It is still a very unclear topic among everybody and while there are some respected organizations doing their best to assist those who want to get involved in homeschooling, the government itself is still unclear about it.According to the constitution, every child has the right to an education and how they receive this education be it at a school or at home is entirely up to the parent and should remain as such. There should be no intervention. Parents can choose to go the IEB route or perhaps an international route such as Cambridge. It has to be left up to the parent!

The biggest issue for me with these new changes is that the biggest picture is being ignored! Relevancy to in-class teaching! While policies are important and there for a specific reason. We must also understand that what happens in class is equally important. Teachers need to be trained according to international standards. We cannot and should not be happy with being ranked as 91/95 globally for general education.SACE has done absolutely nothing in developing teachers. The process to obtain a SACE license is a joke. There is no method to assess a teacher’s level of competency. The SACE teacher development workshops need to focus more on topics of relevance and what is assumed.

Classrooms need to be built to accommodate students and not stuff them all into one class, we are not dealing with sardines, we are dealing with our children, our future!
No school has the right to turn away any student, if a parent is criminalized for denying their child a right to an education, then a school turning away a student should also be criminalized.

We need people of competence to make the decision and unfortunately right now partitions will not work, what needs to happen is that parents need to be educated thoroughly on what’s going on and parents need to take the stand. Educators will not succeed because the system pins them down. It is parents through proper training and education about the system, its changes and what it should be, who can actually make the difference right now.


Inquiry- Based Learning

Students learn more due to the fact that they take action and apply the skills that they learn.IBL is a fancy word for curiosity, every child is curious. Teachers need to allow this curiosity within a controlled environment. The best way to learn is to question. Human nature is to question therefore questions by students should always be welcomed by the teacher. IBL is about igniting passion and relevance and not just about finishing the routine. We need to assess knowledge and understanding and not memory and speed. IBL is about student exploration.

The basics of IBL are to come up with rich questions for students. Questions that don’t already have the answers in it. This enables thinking. The student will begin to do things related to passion and excitement, they become inspired and motivated, they struggle at times but this is the meaning of a true education. The IBL method allows for students and teachers to go far and beyond the expectations of the curriculum. Students become invested in their learning and are able to transfer what they learn in school to the real world.


How does an IBL lesson begin?

A teacher begins with the idea of where they would want to end in mind but gives the students the opportunity to drive it to that point.

Guided Inquiry – Teachers guide the students through the curriculum and gradually shifts the focus to a student based inquiry.

Student-based Inquiry– Students use what was guided by prior knowledge and begin to build their own inquiries, thus making them critical thinkers.

Teachers develop the guided inquiry based on the curriculum, however, students shape how and where they want to go with it.


Incorporating IBL into the classroom

The incorporation of IBL into a classroom may seem expensive, too open-ended and time-consuming but there are ways of avoiding this. IBL is a very good method as research has shown that it increases motivation and deepens a student’s understanding. Many ask the question of what if a teacher hasn’t ever been introduced to IBL or rarely incorporates it into his/her classroom, what steps can be taken to fully integrate IBL into classes so that it becomes a normal routine?

Firstly teachers need to be familiar with their content and topic for the lesson by looking through the curriculum which will help their understanding of what the students need to learn and also what is not part of the curriculum.

Teachers, as we know, have limited time so to brush up on content understanding teachers could use resources such as textbooks which are useful but in the age of technology sites such as YouTube, Google and Wikipedia saves time and is very effective. Teachers do need to be careful of sites such as Wikipedia as Wikipedia may have information that may be too intense and not relevant to that particular grade. Colleagues also can be helpful as a form of resource.

Once the teacher is confident about his/her research of the topic, the teacher should then come up with a rich inquiry-based activity for their students, again the internet is a great place to find activities and ideas. A teacher may want to change the activity a bit to fit the level of the students and of course one that fits the curriculum as well as links the activity to society.

Find activities that don’t require materials of a big budget, the important thing to understand here and implement is the concept of making do with what you already have before looking elsewhere.

Spreading the class into groups of not more than 6 groups allows for collaboration. Choose activates that are comfortable for both the teacher and students to do in class. Make sure that any activity done ensures the safety of students which is of paramount importance.

The teacher should begin the lesson by laying down the foundation with the basic content. This means that the teacher is going to teach.Teaching the BASIC CONTENT to develop the interest early on. Once the basic fundamental concepts have been presented the teacher may move onto some STRUCTURED INQUIRY.

Structured Inquiry

With structured inquiry the teacher provides students with a question to answer or a problem to solve and also gives the students a procedure to follow in order to arrive at a solution, the teacher does not provide students with a solution. The solution is what students have to figure out.

Structured inquiry helps students go over the content they had learned during the basic content phase of the lesson. Using groups allows for all students in the group to become active members. Every student in the group has an important role to play thus teaching responsibility. Teachers should then challenge students with a guided inquiry activity.


Guided inquiry

With guided inquiry, the teacher asks a question to the class presenting what they have learned thus far.It is now up to the students to figure out the procedure and come to a solution. Guided inquiry gives the opportunity for students to be creative and inquisitive therefore allowing them to ask the many questions they would develop. To stimulate this, the teacher can come up with creative scenarios.

Guided inquiry can be very rewarding as it ignites emotion when students arrive at the solution through the procedures they have created.Guided learning gives the balance of freedom and constraint. Meaning that they should solve a specific problem with specific resources but are given the freedom to use their own strategies. The end result is that they take ownership of their work and arrive at the conclusions without being overwhelmed by too many options and going off track.


Open inquiry

During the guided inquiry, students ask questions which would lead to open inquiry. Open inquiry is the bi-product of the other forms of inquiry.

In open inquiry, the teacher does not provide the solution, procedure or question. Students come up with the question, the teacher at the start of the lesson had already provided the foundation and guided them through as well as scaffold questions to them, students have the ability and confidence to answer questions from their peers. They do this by experimenting and making predictions with some teacher assistance.

Because questions come from the students there is a level of motivation to reach a solution, Open inquiry leads to powerful, teachable moments and is satisfying for both the teacher and students who can both take the opportunity to learn something new.


How to get your students to become critical thinkers?

Critical thinking has always been an important issue in education. All students will need an exercise critical thinking well beyond their school years. Experts agree that in keeping up with the ever-changing technological advances, students will need to obtain, understand, and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. It is our job as educators to equip our students with the strategies and skills they need to think critically in order to cope with these tech problems and obstacles they face elsewhere.

Fortunately, teachers can use a number of techniques that can help students learn critical thinking, even for children enrolled in kindergarten. Here are some teaching strategies that may prove immediately effective:

To Encourage Creativity

Traditionally, elementary teachers prepare templates for art projects before they give it to their students. By doing so, it levels the creative playing field and can, in some ways, help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s snowflake looks the same.

I know it may be a bit unnerving to relinquish a bit of control, but rest assured that not having everything prepped in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all of the supplies needed to create a snowflake, and let them do it on their own. This will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to use their prior knowledge to consider what a snowflake looks like, how big it is, what color it is, etc.

Do Not Always Jump in to Help

It’s too easy to always find a solution for a student who needs your help. Kindergarteners especially will get very upset when they can’t find their crayons or scissors. The easy way for a teacher to answer is “It’s OK, you can borrow a pair of scissors from me.” Instead of always readily finding a solution for your students, try responding with “Let’s think about how we can find them.” Then, you can assist the student in figuring out the best possible solution for finding their lost item.

Brainstorm before Everything You Do

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get young children to think critically is to brainstorm. Regardless of the subject, have students think about what they’ll be doing, learning, or reading— before actually starting each activity.  Ask a lot of questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me three things you think you will be learning in this lesson about space?” Give students every opportunity you can to be critical thinkers.

Classify and Categorize

Classification plays an important role in critical thinking because it requires students to understand and apply a set of rules. Give students a variety of objects and ask them to identify each object, then sort it into a category. This is a great activity to help students think and self-question what object should go where, and why.

Compare and Contrast

Much like classifying, students will need to look closely at each topic or object they are comparing and really think about the significance of each one. You can have students compare and contrast just about anything—try this out with the book your class is reading now. Compare and contrast the weather forecast for today and yesterday. Compare the shape and color of a pumpkin to another vegetable. Compare and contrast today’s math lesson with last week’s—the ideas are endless.

Make Connections

Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.

Provide Group Opportunities

Group settings are the perfect way to get your kids thinking. When children are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think and that their way is not the only route to explore.

When this valuable skill is introduced to students early on in the education process, students will be capable of having complex thoughts and become better problem solvers when presented with difficulty. It’s important for students to possess a variety of skills, but it’s just as important for them to understand the skills and how, and when to use them.

A humble question is an indispensable tool: the spade that helps us dig for the truth, or the flashlight that illuminates the surrounding darkness. Questioning helps us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change.

That makes it a most precious “app” today, in a world where everything is changing and so much is unknown. And yet, we don’t seem to value questioning as much as we should. For the most part, in our workplaces as well as our classrooms, it is the answers we reward — while the questions are barely tolerated.

To change that is easier said than done. Working within an answers-based education system, and in a culture where questioning may be seen as a sign of weakness, teachers must go out of their way to create conditions conducive to inquiry. Here are some suggestions (based on input from question-friendly teachers, schools, programs, and organizations) on how to encourage more questioning in the classroom and hopefully, beyond it.


How to Encourage Questioning

  1. Make It Safe

Asking a question can be a scary step into the void. It’s also an admission to the world (and more terrifyingly, to classmates) that one doesn’t know the answer. So teachers must somehow “flip the script” by creating an environment where questioning becomes a strength; where it is welcomed and desired. The Right Question Institute, a nonprofit group that teaches inquiry skills in low-income schools, encourages teachers to run group exercises dedicated entirely to formulating questions (no answers allowed!) — with clear rules and guidelines to ensure that students’ questions aren’t judged or edited, and that all questions are written down and respected. There are many variations on this type of exercise. The second-grade teacher Julie Grimm uses a “10 by 10” exercise, in which kids are encouraged to come up with 10 great questions about a topic during a 10-minute span. But the bottom line is, designate some kind of safe haven in the classroom where all students can freely exercise the “questioning muscle.”


  1. Make It “Cool”

This is a tough one. Among many kids, it’s cool to already know — or to not care. But what if we could help students understand that the people who ask questions happen to be some of the coolest people on the planet? As I discovered in the research for my book on inquiry, questioners thought of many of those whiz-bang gadgets we now love. They’re the ones breaking new ground in music, movies, the arts. They’re the explorers, the mavericks, the rebels, making the world a more interesting place — and having a heck of a time themselves. How cool is that?

  1. Make It Fun

Part of the appeal of “questions-only” exercises is that there’s an element of play involved, as in: Can you turn that answer/statement into a question? Can you open your closed questions, and close your open ones? There are countless ways to inject a “game” element into questioning, but here’s an example borrowed from the business world: Some companies use a practice called “the 5 whys,” which involves formulating a series of “why” questions to try to get to the root of a problem. Kids were practically born asking “why” questions, so why not allow them to use that innate talent within a structured challenge? Or, show them how to use the “Why/What if/How” sequence of questioning as a fun way to tackle just about any problem. Whatever the approach, let kids tap into their imaginations and innate question-asking skills in ways that make inquiry an engaging part of a larger challenge.

  1. Make It Rewarding

Obviously, we must praise and celebrate the questions that are asked — and not only the on-target, penetrating ones, but also the more expansive, sometimes-offbeat ones (I found that seemingly “crazy questions” sometimes result in the biggest breakthroughs). Help create a path for students to get from a question to a meaningful result. A great question can be the basis of an on-going project, a report, an original creation of some kind. The point is to show that if one is willing to spend time on a question — to not just Google it but grapple with it, share it with others, and build on it — that question can ultimately lead to something rewarding and worthwhile.

  1. Make It Stick

If the long-term goal is to create lifelong questioners, then the challenge is to make questioning a habit — a part of the way one thinks. RQI’s Dan Rothstein says it’s important to include a metacognitive stage in question-training exercises wherein kids can reflect on how they’ve used questioning and articulate what they’ve learned about it, so they can “pave a new neural pathway” for lifelong inquiry.