paper is the result of a seven-year program developed
at Associação Alumni, a binational center
in São Paulo, as part of an agreement with both
the Secretaria Estadual de Educação – Diadema
and the Secretaria Municipal de Educação
in São Paulo.
We aim at both fostering the teaching of English in
the public sector and engaging in a collaborative process
of sharing concerns, experiences and multiplying knowledge
about theory and practice in the English language classroom
at different levels. Along with a program ultimately
designed to address teaching methodology, teachers
also have their language skills enhanced in language
classes, which also serve as a model for the issues
discussed in the methodology component of the course.
One hundred teachers every year, who seek professional
development and growth, meet once a week for four hours
of intense instruction, discussion and collaboration.
So far we have reached around four hundred public school
teachers (in the beginning, fifty teachers participated
in the program yearly; since 2000, a hundred teachers
have been participating yearly). These four hundred
teachers have, in turn, transmitted the knowledge acquired
in the program to over 22,000 students in the public
Bearing this in mind, one of our main goals is to
familiarize teachers with a variety of teaching methods
and techniques and engage them in a process towards
communicative instruction and competence. Rather
than setting a model, we want to help the participants
to think critically about their practice, to share
experiences and discover alternative solution to
the problems in the public system that are pertinent
to most of them .
Karen Englander (quoted Reagan, Fox and Bleich 1994): “collaboration is an underlying
social orientation in which the participants share
a general sense of purpose and orientation.” Under
this definition, the teachers who participate in our
program undergo a process of collaboration, bringing
to class their experiences and worries, interacting
with peers and, thus, discussing and implementing what
is really meaningful to them. This interaction has
also helped the affective factors; it seems to have
reduced teachers’ anxiety and enhanced their
self-esteem, empathy and motivation. Therefore, teachers
who were at first self-centered, worried, insecure,
passive and problem-centered, after having undergone
our one-year program, seem to have become more student-centered,
aware, confident, active and solution-centered.
sessions dedicated to theoretical and practical issues
about methods, approaches, techniques, skills,
lesson and activity planning and course design, participants
are encouraged to formulate questions about some aspect
of their teaching, which will serve as the springboard
for an action research project to be developed throughout
the course. This project engages teachers in collecting
and analyzing data from a variety of sources, such
as students’ interviews, analysis of students’ questionnaires,
and dialogue journal writing with students. These tools
are used as a means of addressing the issues that have
been brought about both in our sessions and in their
research questions, such as assessment, teaching strategies,
motivation, and interaction. The project can also be
undertaken collaboratively, thus involving two or more
participants interested in looking into coincidental
or complementary issues.
While these teachers develop their projects with
a particular group they have chosen, they also write
weekly journals that serve a two-fold purpose: first,
to provide us with feedback on the course, which
could give us a chance to reconsider its content
so as to meet the participants’ specific needs,
and second, to give them an opportunity to express
themselves and reflect upon their beliefs and practices,
pursuing solutions for their daily classroom environment.
As a result,
both their journal writing and project development,
along with a process of constant sharing
with colleagues, seem to have promoted a greater understanding
and awareness in these teachers, besides having offered
them the possibility of trying out new alternatives
and strategies that will address their students’ needs
and boost their teaching.
Overall feedback so far has presented very enlightening
data which suggests that we are on the right track
to achieve changes and improvement in the public sector,
as well as to gain knowledge about a different teaching
environment and reality.
ENGLANDER, K. (2002). Real Life Problem Solving: A
Collaborative Learning Activity. Forum, 40 (1), 9.
REAGAN, S., T. Fox, T. and D. Bleich, eds. (1994).
Writing with: New Directions in Collaborative Teaching,
Learning, and Research. Albany, NY: State University
of New York Press.