Online support for classroom language teachers: research summary

My general interest in improving language learning opportunities in state school settings has led me to research different dimensions of classroom contexts, including the use of technology and teacher development. There is an overlap between these research interests and my professional responsibilities in university Masters in Teaching programmes and my involvement in collaborative teacher education projects.

IMG_0018I have been involved in teacher education with

  • MA courses FL teaching, research and ICT for pre-service secondary EFL teachers in France;
  • MA courses in ICT for pre-service secondary language teachers (German, Italian, Spanish) in France;
  • FL teaching and IWB-mediated teaching in-service language teachers and teacher trainers (local courses and invited workshops);
  • informal EFL and ICT teacher professional development in institutional and independent projects.


We’ve tried a number of different free tools to allow teachers to test out ways of identifying and sharing teaching resources, communicating with one another in group projects, and learning to use tools which may be appropriate for direct use by their learners.

  • Google+ circle (Whyte, in press; Whyte & Alexander, 2013)
  • curation sites (Whyte, 2012)
  • social networks (Facebook, Twitter; Whyte, 2014a, 2012)
  • Google sites (Whyte, 2014a, 2012)
  • Weebly (Whyte, 2014b)
  • Google drive (in preparation)


We’ve also experimented with a number of types of activities for professional development, including:

  • video diaries (Whyte, in press; Whyte & Alexander, 2013, 2014)
  • teaching resource websites (Whyte 2012, 2014b)
  • CALL task design (Whyte, 2014a, 2014b).


These projects have shown some of the following results:

  • even inexperienced teachers with little class contact can benefit from collaborative teacher education initiatives with technologies;
  • professional development with technologies takes time and effort:  “slow-burner” approaches seem to have greater chances of success;
  • the integration of technologies in language teaching practice involves a number of different dimensions, including
    • a practical/technical dimension
    • a pedagogical dimension
    • a reflective dimension
  • collaborative action research involving academics and practitioners work best with teachers who have
    • already advanced in practical/technical and pedagogical terms
    • defined specific professional objectives (independent professional development agendas).

Current projects

  • videoconferencing in English as a lingua franca (France-Germany)
  • pre-service EFL teacher telecollaboration on task design (France-Netherlands)
  • peer collaboration on task design with pre-service EFL teachers (Whyte, 2015)
  • iTILT 2: interactive teaching in languages with technology (Erasmus Plus, 2015-7).


Whyte, S. (2015). Taking to task(s): Exploring task design by novice language teachers in technology-mediated and non-technological activities. XVII International CALL research conference. Tarragona, Spain, 4-6 July 2015.

Whyte, S. (in press). Implementing and Researching Technological Innovation in Language Teaching: The Case of Interactive Whiteboards for EFL in French Schools. New Language Learning and Teaching Environments. (Series editor: Hayo Reinders). Palgrave Macmillan. April 2015.

Whyte, S. (2014a). Bridging gaps : Using social media to develop techno-pedagogical competences in pre-service language teacher education. Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité – Cahiers de l’APLIUT, 33(2):143-169.

Whyte, S. (2014b). Course design for pre-service secondary school teachers: collaboration and reflection in a short, multilingual CALL course. Teacher Education SIG symposium, EuroCALL, Groningen. slides

Whyte, S. (2013). Teaching English for Specific Purposes: A task-based framework for French graduate courses.  Asp 63 (9), 5-30. DOI : 10.4000/asp.3280

Whyte, S. (2012). Curation and social networking for pre-service language teacher development. EuroCALL Teacher Education SIG Symposium – Pecha Kucha, Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-25 August 2012. slides

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2014). Implementing tasks with interactive technologies in classroom CALL: towards a developmental framework. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 40 (1), 1-26. PDF

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2013). Learning to Use Interactive Technologies for Language Teaching: Video Diaries for Teacher Support in the iTILT Project. Atelier didactique SAES, Dijon, 18 mai. slides

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck, S., & Oberhofer, M. (2013). Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project.  Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27 (2), 122-148 doi: 10.1080/09588221.2013.818558

Peer observation: mutual support for language teachers

Perhaps one of the most direct ways of improving your teaching is through peer observation, where teachers watch colleagues in action in the classroom.

IMG_0046Peer observation can help teachers become more aware of the issues they confront in the classroom and how these can be resolved. Observation can also help narrow the gap between one’s imagined view of teaching and what actually occurs in the classroom. By engaging in nonevaluative classroom observations, the responsibility of professional development can also shift from others (supervisors, peers, etc.) to the individual teacher.

Richards & Farrell (2005, p. 94)

Many teachers dread observations.  Often evaluative observations take the form of inspections, organised in a spirit of quality control and with consequences for the teacher’s career (qualification, promotion, or pay).  But observations can also be much less formal, and involve individual teachers simply watching each other teach.  Sometimes a teacher educator or supervisor can oversee this process:

Instead of individual post-observation conferences between supervisor and teacher, the supervisor may lead a post-observation focus group to allow teachers to share their experiences observing colleagues’ classes.

Marshall & Young, 2009, p. 2

Teacher educators tend to agree that well-implemented peer observations can be more “benign and constructive” than traditional observations (Cosh, 1999, p. 24), as well as encouraging greater autonomy in professional development.


British Council (2012). Guide to continuing professional development: peer observations. PDF

Cosh, J. (1999). Peer observation: a reflective model. ELT Journal, 53(1). PDF

Davidson, G. (2013). Observation and your teaching staff. British Council webinar.

Marshall, B., & Young, S. (2009). Observing and providing feedback to teachers of adults learning English. CAELA Network. PDF

Richards, J. C., & Farrell, T. S. C. (Eds.). (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Ernst Klett Sprachen.(Chapter 6)