Friday, March 20, 2015

April PIGATE meeting: Nicole Gallagher

Hi PIGATE! My name is Nicole Gallagher and I have lived in Kumamoto since 2010 when I joined the JET Programme as an ALT. I spent three great years teaching English at Seiseiko High School, Kumamoto Commercial High School, and Kuroishibaru Special Needs School, and I am now in my second year working at the Kumamoto Prefectural Board of Education as the ALT Prefectural Advisor where I provide work and personal support to the ALTs in Kumamoto. During my time as an ALT, I began and completed a Master’s in TEFL/TESL with the University of Birmingham. My dissertation topic focused on SHS teacher beliefs on conducting classes in English and using communicative language activities in class (the main revisions of the new Course of Study for English in 2013). I am interested in hearing what teachers think about teaching, and I believe that is the first step in understanding how to improve English education. As I continue my journey of teaching in Japan, I look forward to having some great conversations about teaching with all of you! 

Here's what I'll be talking about, I'd love to hear from you before the meeting, so please feel free to add comments below!

Teacher beliefs on conducting classes in English

TEFL trained educators often take it as a given that conducting English classes in English is necessary and appropriate, and indeed, the Senior High School Course of Study for English (MEXT, 2013) has established that English classes be conducted primarily in English. Yet how this mandate is adapted in the classroom is strongly influenced by the beliefs of teachers and their subsequent actions. In this presentation, I would like to have a discussion about your beliefs about conducting classes in English and explore how your beliefs may be shaping how the new Course of Study will be realized in the classroom.


  1. Hi Nicole,

    It's great to hear how you've been doing since I left Kumamoto 4 years ago. I am happy to see the progress you have made and you continued efforts to improving and developing English language learning at SHS in Japan. I'm afraid I won't be at the meeting as I am currently in Guatemala, but I would have loved to hear your ideas. During my 2 years here working at a private bilingual school as the HS and SHS English programme coordinator, I have established and put into practice an English teaching methodology aimed at maximising English language aquisition. Although culture and the students' native language plays an important role in establishing reliable and workable ESL teaching methods, there are a few things that I find transend both cultural and linguistic barriers. These are in my humble opinion the following:

    1. All of the lesson should be conducted in the target language so that students are always encouraged to "think" in English. This also helps avoid language mixing i.e. Japanglish or Spanglish.
    2. Application of newly acquired language must be realized in practice within the context of the lesson. This is so the students see the purpose behind what they are learning.
    3. Language should be introduced along with cultural knowledge and information about English-speaking countries. This is something I found that ALTs were pretty good at in Japan. I also find it gives students the incentive to travel to English speaking countries, which lets face it is the best way to learn any language.
    4. Fluency should be desired over accuracy at first, and should be the goal of any ESL teacher.
    5. Within the context of SHS, focus should be on communicative English e.g. lots of conversation practice, speeches, presentations, roleplays etc... What good is having perfectly accurate written sentences if you can't hold a basic conversation in Englis for 5 minutes?

    That's pretty much the framework that we are operating within in Guatemala, but I think some if not all of these points could be useful for teachers when conducting English classes in Japan.

    I wish you the best of with your dicussions and with all of your work with improving English in Japan.

    Kind regards,

  2. Teachers' beliefs and how they may influence classroom behaviours here in Japan, the topic that Nicole Gallagher is going to talk about next month (April PIGATE meeting: Nicole Gallagher) sounds fascinating!

    The announcement about the April session on the PIGATE Blog (20 March 2015) has piqued my interests in beliefs about learning and teaching multiple languages. I'm really looking forward to attending.

    Since that announcement came out, a couple of British Council Voices blog posts by Nayr Ibrahim have come to my attention. I'd like to point them out here:

    A few myths about speakers of multiple languages (05 February 2015), &
    A few more myths about speakers of multiple languages (10 March 2015).

    Since I've heard parents and teachers express concerns related to myths that Ibrahim mentioned in those posts, I hope reading them may provide a bit of background for discussion next month.


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