The Certificate in Academic Management and its impact on my role
By Mark Lawrence
It is clear that many managers in English Language Teaching are teachers firstly and then managers secondly. This is the way it should be as it is crucial to understand the role of the people you manage.
I have been Assistant Director of Studies of the Departmental Language Programme at the English Language Teaching Centre in Sheffield for about three years. Prior to this role, I had no experience of managing and no real inclination to do it. However, after being in the position a couple of years, I decided that I would undertake some training to help me in my role. This would also enable me to see if I had a real interest in this side of English Language Teaching and if I wanted to take this further in the future.
Enrolling on The Certificate in Academic Management
I decided to enrol on the Certificate of Academic Management. The course was a gentle introduction to management and had three key modules that were each ten weeks in length. The first module was on an overview of educational management; the second on observation and feedback and the third was on provision of in-service training. The modules all consisted on eight weeks of input followed by two weeks to write a 2,500-word assignment based on the learning. The course was run on Moodle, which is a very user-friendly interface, particularly when compared to services such as Blackboard. During the eight-weeks of input, there was a lot of reading, videos to watch and discussion with fellow professionals who were based all over the world.
Module 1: An Introduction to Management Practices
After finishing the course, I have taken away many useful ideas and feel that it has helped me both theoretically but, more importantly, in a practical sense too. The first module was an introduction to management and areas such as what is management, management styles, timetabling, time management and dealing with difficult people. This module provided a good overview and some key practical tips that I took away were the different ways of managing different people and how to manage my time. During the course Crawford (2007) introduced the Cycle of Conflict and this was interesting in that it showed how problems can spiral out of control if the manager does not address the situation correctly at a specific time. There were also some ‘Golden Rules’ introduced on the course that included ideas such as saying the core message to people without padding and also having a fall-back position (Anon, 2017).
Time management was also a key area that I learnt about in that the initial fifteen-minute planning at the start of the day can really help to organise and prioritise work. I have included these two concepts in my working day and always now plan at the start of the day by creating a prioritised list. I also ensure that when dealing with people I really listen, am positive and follow the Golden Rules. These strategies have really helped me in my day to day work. However, perhaps the most interesting and useful idea to take away was managing by walking around. It was the idea of being seen and also being approachable (Marinuzzi, 2017). This was a real eye opener as I realise that in many situations managers are not seen and possibly not seen as approachable. This strategy would negate that. Of course, you would still need to have the people skills but it is something that I feel is extremely worthwhile and something I try and do by regularly meeting individuals.
Module 2: Observations and Feedback
The second module had a clear focus on observations and feedback. This module taught me a number of important ideas and through the discussions a paradox arose. Teachers always suggest that observations are crucial whether they are for appraisals or development. However, they are not commonly held or seem to be valued. From the course a few key ideas were given. The idea of a dual observation is an interesting concept and can be done as Tilstone (1998) suggests from someone within the organisation or outside. This could be two managers or two peers but it would give the benefit of having two pairs of eyes and so more of a fair review with regard to a formal observation. With peer observations it was suggested that we could focus on areas such as the teachers’ motivation and presence in the class as this is not normally done. It would also be beneficial to ensure that observation gets the status it deserves and so teachers get time allocated to do this as part of their contract. Another very interesting concept was the idea of training teachers in observation practices; this could be done by teacher trainers who are very experienced in this area. This point was crucial as I know that many teachers have no training in observing. Marriot (2001) states that observation is similar to teaching in that it takes time to develop and as a result I feel should be a key consideration in every centre.
Module 3: In-service Training
The third module looked at in-service training. This was an extremely useful model as it is an area I feel is very important. At Sheffield where I work we have an excellent system, but there is always room for improvement. The most useful part of this module centred around the idea of developing those who are standing still or have been in the profession years and are stuck in their ways. Where I work there are several teachers who you could describe in this manner. The hard thing here would be to motivate them and help them see that teaching is all about growth and development. Some good discussion occurred on the forum and some good ideas were given. These included as Spacey (2018) stated getting the experienced teachers involved in the learning process for two reasons. They could firstly be given a developmental role in which to show their full range of skills and impart their ideas to others. It would also hopefully motivate them by giving them a certain amount of developmental influence.
The course has proved extremely useful and I have gained a lot of practical ideas from it. Probably the most useful part of the course has been the chance to discuss and share ideas with likeminded people and learn from them. I feel more confident in my role now after doing the course. I would recommend the IH Certificate in Academic Management to other people who are thinking about moving from a teaching to management role. This summer I am taking on a team leaders position in our Summer School Programme and this will give me a further chance to practice what I have learnt from the course. I am already thinking now about the next course to possibly start in September.
Author's bio: Mark is a language teacher with fifteen years of experience in several countries on a range of programmes. He has taught in the UK in three different tertiary establishments in the past decade predominantly on English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP courses). He is currently part of the English Language Teaching Centre at Sheffield University where he has taught on in-sessional and credit-bearing courses for the last five years.
Anon., (2017). Discussion on difficult situations. [online forum] (Personal communication, 27 March 2018).
Crawford, B., 2007. Dealing with Difficult People. [video online] Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-AJviZ8Itk [Accessed 23 March 2018].
Marinuzzi, B. 2017. The Power of Trust: A Steel Cable. [online] Available at https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_46 [Accessed 2 March 2018].
Spacey, J. (2018) Teacher Standing Still Forum. [online forum comment] Message posted to http://elearning.ihlonline.co.uk/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=27562 [Accessed 22 February 2018].
Tilstone, C. ed., 1998. Observing Teaching and Learning: Principles and Practice. London: David Fulton Publishers.