This section looks at the roles and responsibilities of administrators, lead teachers and classroom teachers in PBLA implementation. It goes on to discuss strategies for supporting teachers and learners and ensuring PBLA is being implemented throughout the program.
The Role of Leadership
The effective implementation of PBLA relies on more than good program management; good leadership is also essential. Teachers look to their administrator for direction, guidance, and support during the implementation of PBLA. Effective implementation occurs when administrators see themselves more as leaders than managers and display efficacy in their:
Use of resources – Good leaders seek out resources that will benefit their students and staff. They recognize that their greatest resources are their staff and that teachers thrive on being appreciated and acknowledged for good performance.
Communication skills – Good leaders have good people skills. They listen well and have persuasive interpersonal communication skills. They use these skills effectively to inspire trust, spark motivation, and empower teachers and students.
Knowledge – Good leaders are knowledgeable about the field and connected to the “community” of language-training programs in their region. They are tuned in to all of the pertinent issues and current events.
Visibility and accessibility – Good leaders are a positive, vibrant, and visible presence in the school. They lead by example.
Planning – Good leaders have excellent planning skills and are reflective observers of performance in their program.
For an initiative such as the implementation of PBLA, administrators, too, need support. Being part of a community of practice reduces isolation, facilitates communication and resource sharing and provides a forum to address problems and strategize ways forward. Administrators are encouraged to find ways to stay connected and informed, such as:
Join the PBLA Administrators group on Tutela.ca for resource sharing, and problem-solving.
Form an administrators group within your community to discuss emerging issues, and share information.
Talk to TESL conference organizers about scheduling workshop sessions for administrators at conferences.
Once you have some PBLA implementation experience under your belt, be available to mentor fellow administrators new to PBLA implementation.
Administrator and Lead Teacher Roles
Administrators are responsible for PBLA implementation in their programs: that is, coordinating implementation, staying informed on developments, ensuring resources, scheduling, supervising, directing teachers (including the Lead Teacher), and monitoring implementation. The Lead Teacher is a support person, responsible for training and supporting teachers in PBLA implementation and advising the administrator regarding successes, emerging issues, and needs according to the job description set out by CIC. The administrator and Lead Teacher work as a team to implement PBLA (see the following table).
Table 1: Administrators and Lead Teachers: Roles and Responsibilities
Functions as the authority in the program responsible to CIC for PBLA implementation
Functions as the resource person responsible to the administrator for assisting teachers in PBLA implementation
Sets or changes program policies and practices to facilitate PBLA implementation
Advises the administrator on program policy or practice changes that may be required to facilitate PBLA
Provides PBLA training, supports teachers, advises on emerging issues, and strategizes solutions with the administrator
Schedules PBLA implementation and communicates with staff on program policy or direction in consultation with Lead Teacher
Advises on scheduling of PBLA implementation and policy communications; communicates with classroom teachers re: PBLA PD, support activities, or resources in consultation with administrator
Informs prospective teachers that PBLA is an expectation of employment in the program
Provide PBLA orientation, training and support to new teachers
Coordinates with CIC to ensure that resources are in place
Advises on needed supports such as PD or resources
Supports the Lead Teacher
Supports the administrator
NOTE: The Lead Teacher job description, including responsibilities and hours of work, are set by CIC and cannot be changed without CIC approval.
The Lead Teacher
PBLA Lead Teachers are resource teachers who are drawn from the programs to support but not supervise or manage their colleagues in the implementation of PBLA. Experienced teachers should be chosen by the program administrator for this role based on a demonstrated excellence in teaching, a range of experience at different CLB levels and contexts, and perceived leadership by their colleagues. The careful selection of Lead Teachers is considered key to the successful implementation of the PBLA project.
Knowledge and expertise in using the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) for tasked-based curriculum planning, instruction, and assessment
Experience in teaching in a variety of CLB levels and/or contexts.
Enthusiasm for teaching and learning
Intent to remain in the program for the duration of the PBLA implementation project (two years)
Demonstrated skills in the following areas:
Providing professional support to colleagues: mentoring, PD workshops, and so on.
Using various modes of digital technologies for communicating: Skype, web conferencing, email, and so on
Participation in online courses
Lead Teacher Activities
Following successful completion of the PBLA Lead Teacher Foundation Course and two terms of classroom application, Lead Teachers draw on their classroom experience and professional knowledge to provide PBLA training, guidance, mentoring, and support to their colleagues, program, and students. Their time commitment as Lead Teachers is the equivalent of five hours per week.
Some activities that Lead Teachers carry out in their role (depending on factors such as expressed needs, available time, etc.) include the following:
Deliver workshops related to PBLA implementation
Provide new students with an orientation to PBLA and begin collecting some of the personal information, such as the needs assessment or goal statement, for the portfolio section of the Language Companion binder after the initial start up of classes
Meet one on one with teachers to discuss PBLA-related topics (including the CLB, task-based instruction, and task-based assessment)
Facilitate informal small-group discussions
Observe teachers and provide feedback and/or suggestions as a peer and colleague (not as a supervisor)
Team-teach on occasion
Take over a teacher’s class to free the teacher to undertake language assessments. (NOTE: Lead Teachers should NOT carry out assessments in place of the classroom teacher. It is the classroom teacher’s responsibility to carry out language assessments of their own students.)
Give demonstration lessons
Communicate with the administrator to keep him or her informed about the progress of implementation and any needs or concerns
Participate in meetings with other Lead Teachers as necessary (generally once a month).
Allocation of Lead Teachers
The number of Lead Teachers allocated to a program is based on a calculation of one Lead Teacher for every 10 classroom teachers, with a minimum of one Lead Teacher per program.1 The number of Lead Teachers allocated to a program will be rounded up or down as needed.
For PBLA to be implemented successfully, it is essential that staff see you as leading and championing implementation. Field tests in Ottawa, Edmonton, Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton demonstrated PBLA’s potential to enhance student language learning and autonomy, to focus instruction, and to enhance accountability. Teachers tend to follow an administrator’s lead and behaviour. If you are enthusiastic about PBLA’s potential to enhance learning, your teachers will be as well. If you are ambivalent or resistant, staff will be too. Staff need to be reassured that although there may be growing pains as PBLA is introduced, all staff members will work together to resolve any challenges. It may be helpful to emphasize that teachers and administrators in the field tests reported that students and teachers benefitted from consistency in teaching and assessment. Collaboration and sharing increased, and teaching became more focused. In some cases, attendance increased. Students like PBLA.
Teachers need to know that PBLA implementation is a requirement of the funding agreement and is therefore an expectation of employment; everyone will participate. You, as administrator, are accountable to CIC for PBLA implementation; teachers are accountable to you and their students.
The following implementation strategies have been suggested by administrators across Canada:
Before PBLA implementation begins in earnest, bring teachers together to discuss the initiative. Make it clear that all teachers in the program will be implementing PBLA. Field their questions, answer those you can, and resolve to find the answers to outstanding questions. Have teachers express their concerns. List them and strategize solutions.
At the outset of PBLA implementation, conduct a needs assessment among staff to explore their readiness for PBLA. Some things to determine are the following:
Familiarity with the CLB standard and need for CLB documents and tools
Current approach to teaching (skill-based, grammar-based, task-based)
Current approach to CLB assessment and resources used
Familiarity and experience with task-based instruction and assessment
Comfort and ability with computers for basic teaching and communication
Experience in planning for instruction
Hidden skills and talents
Support or training needed
Work with the Lead Teacher to develop a plan to address identified gaps, possibly through brown-bag lunch sessions, CCLB online boot camps, collaboration, and mentoring.
Work with teachers to brainstorm implications of PBLA implementation on the program and strategize solutions.
Get all teachers signed up and active on Tutela.ca. Ask each one to find a teaching or PD resource on Tutela.ca and tell colleagues about it.
Initially, the learning curve will be steep. Encourage teachers to start with some basics of PBLA and to add elements as they become comfortable. Remind teachers they don’t need to do everything or know everything all at once.
Be sympathetic and supportive. If teachers show anxiety about change and see it as a criticism of their current practice, remind them to treat themselves with the same patience and understanding as they would their students who are learning something new. If teachers are struggling, listen to their concerns and anxieties, and with the Lead Teacher, help them to create a plan to overcome their difficulties. It is important that teachers have an opportunity to express their concerns; however, at some point, change must occur. When teachers complain about a difficulty, ask what you can do to help them. If, however, they suggest an idea that is inconsistent with PBLA, such as that the Lead Teacher assess their students, make it clear that using PBLA and assessing their students is their professional responsibility. Resistant teachers need to be told explicitly that although they will be supported in learning how to implement PBLA effectively, using PBLA is a condition of employment.2
Celebrate successes. As PBLA implementation reaches various milestones, acknowledge staff efforts and accomplishments – and don’t forget support staff and child minders who have also had to adjust to new practices. When a teacher learns something new, tries a new strategy, or develops a resource, make sure they get positive feedback. Encourage them to share their ideas or resources with colleagues, either at the program level or on Tutela.ca.
Look for hidden talents and skills among your staff and showcase their skills. In one program, for example, a colleague was particularly good at developing assessment rubrics. If you have staff who are experts in a certain area, encourage them to provide PD for colleagues.
In data collected during the PBLA field tests, students consistently reported that they like PBLA. They say it “feels more like a school.” They find it helpful to have a better understanding of the CLB levels and what they need to do to reach new CLB targets. They report benefitting from regular assessment and feedback on their strengths and challenges. They appreciate having concrete evidence of their learning.
Initially, however, students may be unclear about PBLA – what it is and how it works. If students are from countries that rely heavily on traditional assessment methods, they may be hesitant, even resistant to PBLA. They may not immediately see its benefit and may be concerned that time spent doing PBLA-related activities is taking away from learning English. They may not initially appreciate that the language and metacognitive skills they develop and the information collected through regular assessment and feedback will enhance their language learning and raise standards. Students need to be encouraged about PBLA’s potential to help them progress in English. They also need to understand that PBLA is the authorized assessment protocol in government-funded ESL programs. Participation in the program entails participation in PBLA. A student’s progress in learning English cannot be evaluated if they do not participate in PBLA. The following suggestions may help you to support students in their participation in PBLA:
Express support and enthusiasm for PBLA to students whenever possible.
Visit classes regularly (even two or three classes a week for 15-minute visits is supportive) and ask how things are going. Ask to see the portfolios of some students. Talk to them about their goals, the language skills they are learning, and the progress that is shown in their portfolios.
If students are resistant to PBLA, talk to them about the benefits. (See Benefits to Students in this guide.) Tell them that portfolio assessment is common in education and in many professions in Canada. Research shows that students who participate in regular assessment make better progress. Through PBLA, they will get regular feedback on their progress so they can focus their learning. Their teachers will be able to see immediately how they are doing and will be able to adjust their teaching to meet student needs better. Students will develop skills to increase their language-learning autonomy and monitor their own progress. They will also develop useful language skills that are transferable to other learning and work contexts.
Most students report that they like being able to take their Language Companion home so they can review their lessons on the bus or in their free time. Sometimes, however, students don’t want to carry their Language Companion back and forth between school and home. They may be carrying their children’s daycare gear, for example, or they may be going straight from school to work. There are several points to make to students in this case:
Students in Canada – whether in K-12, college, university, or skills-training programs – carry their school resources back and forth with them.
They are adults. In the workplace or other educational settings, they are expected to take care of their own materials and tools. Supervisors or instructors will not take care of these things for them. The Language Companion fits into backpacks to facilitate transport.
The classroom is only one small opportunity to learn English. To make progress, it is important that students use English outside class, do homework, and review lessons. Their Language Companion helps them to do that.
NOTE: In some special circumstances, accommodation might be temporarily extended to students: for example, one program has a number of students who are in a temporary shelter for abused women. Things go missing, so the students are allowed to keep their Language Companions at school only until they are in permanent housing.
Monitoring PBLA Implementation
PBLA is a required component of LINC and is included in the activities outlined in the program’s contribution agreement. Administrators are therefore responsible to monitor PBLA implementation in the classroom to ensure that all teachers include PBLA sufficiently and appropriately in their instructional cycle.
Feedback from Your Lead Teacher
Get regular updates on PBLA in the various classrooms from your Lead Teacher on PBLA implementation. Identify any teacher who may be having difficulty. Schedule a meeting with the teacher to explore the reasons for the difficulty. Work with the Lead Teacher and classroom teacher to develop a plan and schedule of action.
Feedback from Classroom Teachers
Get feedback on a regular basis from staff, including support staff, on PBLA implementation comfort and level of confidence. Also get feedback from staff on your leadership.
Conduct ‘walk-throughs.’ Typically, walk-throughs are used to engage an administrator and teachers in reflective practice. The classroom walk-through model consists of a series of frequent, unannounced classroom visits during which the observer looks for specific practices that have been discussed with the teacher beforehand. Walk-throughs are usually short: three to five minutes is typical. A walk-through is intended to be a non-threatening, purposeful observation that gives a quick snapshot of activity in the classroom. Feedback may or may not be given after each visit. However, periodically, the observer may follow up with a face-to-face question to prompt reflection. Questions may begin with “I noticed…. Why …? How…? What could you do differently?”
Walk-throughs can easily be adapted for PBLA implementation. Before undertaking walk-throughs, tell teachers that you will be conducting informal walk-throughs to monitor and support PBLA implementation. Ask teachers what you can expect to see in the classroom as evidence of PBLA implementation and task-based teaching aligned to the CLB.
Together, you and the teacher should develop a brief list of indicators that would be consistent with the practices being focused on. These indicators are often called “look fors.” The following is a list that an administrator might have created. Typically, the administrator will select just a couple of look fors so as to focus a particular classroom walk-through.
Students seem engaged in their language-learning activities. Everybody seems to know what to do.
The teacher is not doing all the talking.
Teacher-talk is relevant, comprehensible, purposeful, and focused on learning.
Students have their Language Companions with them.
The teacher or students are using the Language Companions to support learning.
There is evidence of a lesson plan and the agenda or learning intents for the day has been shared with students.
There is evidence that students have information about the CLB and their language level.
There is evidence of a focus on real-world language tasks and themes relevant to students’ needs and goals.
Students can explain how and when they use their Language Companion.
A sampling of several randomly selected portfolios contain the following:
A needs assessment and goal statement
An inventory for each skill section
Evidence of recently added artefacts to one or more skill area
Evidence of self-assessment and learning relflections.
The walls have interesting, relevant, and motivating information that reflects the CLB standard and shows evidence of current themes, language support, and skills.
It is unnecessary to follow up after every visit unless you observe something that is of concern. If things seem on track, you may wait until 8 to 10 visits have occurred before offering feedback or engaging in dialogue about how things are going. Do NOT leave notes. A conversation about the teacher’s PBLA practices is preferable and more informative than the one-way communication of a note. Helpful questions to ask the teacher include the following:
Continuous intake is a factor in this program. How are you introducing PBLA or the Language Companion to new students?
You have a multilevel class. How are you managing assessment?
What are you doing differently as a result of PBLA implementation?
I noticed this student has not added anything to his portfolio since X. Is this typical of all the students? What could you do differently to ensure that students are engaged in PBLA and ongoing assessment for learning?
What questions do you still have about PBLA?
How could I support you in PBLA implementation?
1Lead Teachers are allocated on the basis of individual classroom teachers, not on the basis of the number of classes (one teacher may teach several classes). This allocation may be changed to accommodate multiple program sites.
2All new teachers hired after PBLA has been implemented need to be informed that PBLA is a expectation of employment. The Lead Teacher is responsible to orient and support new teachers in PBLA implementation.