Liana Berkowitz, an academic relations specialist, greeted her workshop’s participants with a cheery smile that belied the morning’s gray skies and wasted no time in launching into her material for the day leading the Propell® workshop. This workshop is a one day, professional development program designed to help English-language teachers meet the challenges of teaching English as a foreign language; it does so by providing instructional techniques and strategies for using an integrated-skills approach to teaching the language and preparing students for success. The workshop is also an opportunity for teachers to interact with peers and provide feedback to help TOEFL improve and develop assessments that meet their needs.
A chipper and dynamic speaker, Liana readily supplied anecdotes about her experiences working with TOEFL around the globe and encouraged the assorted group of Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and Belgian high school English teachers to do the same. TOEFL, an abbreviation for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is “a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities” (ets.org/toefl) and a household name in the world of language education.
The attendees encircled the conference room, united in their understanding of the importance of this test despite varying degrees of experience. Their day began with a quick round of introductions before Liana asked her participants to write their responses to a series of posters sprinkled about the room – a gallery walk with questions such as “what writing skills are needed in an academic English environment?” and “what are your thoughts on the TOEFL?”
The open forum setup of the event gave attendees the opportunity to speak with one another about the topics at hand; chatter abounded as Fulbright ETAs mixed with more senior English teachers and greetings and ideas were exchanged in turn.
After everyone had ample time to piece their thoughts together and contribute to each poster’s query, Liana reunited brought the group and guided the workshop to an open dialogue-based structure that carried on throughout the day. Together, she and her participants discussed the questions posed by each poster, offering a space for advice to be given and resources to be shared. Significant time was given to addressing techniques for developing stronger reading, writing, and listening skills in English with a lengthy discussion surrounding the role that accents play in foreign language education.
The remainder of the day was filled with an extensive presentation regarding the format of the TOEFL exam, with chances for the workshop attendees to discuss – and complete – some of the exercises given to students as well as grade sample responses according to the exam’s rubric.
A huge thank you to Liana Berkowitz for leading a wonderfully successful Propell workshop and a round of applause to the workshop’s participants for a lively and welcoming environment. The journey towards language proficiency, and hopefully fluency, is one fraught with challenges and requires a teacher who has the tenacity necessary to help their students succeed. We believe that by simply attending this workshop, these English teachers have already demonstrated a fierce dedication to their craft and we cannot wait to see where this takes them: Fulbright ETAs or not! Good luck to all of those who attended today’s event, we wish you nothing but the best in tackling your 2019-2020 school year.