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Creighton provides English language teacher-training course in 19 nations

Oct 27, 2021
5 min Read

In 19 nations across the world, in refugee camps and cities where roadside bombs and kidnappings sometimes restrict their ability to participate, teachers eager to improve their understanding of English language instruction are finding a lifeline through Creighton University’s Intensive English Language Institute (IELI).

Since 2018, the Omaha-campus based IELI has taught a Global English Language teacher-training course to about 250 students scattered among nations categorized by the United Nations as “developing” or “least developed.” The least-developed nations include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 14 nations considered by the UN as “developing” include India, Jordan, Malawi, Myanmar, South Sudan, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Togo. Kyrgyzstan, the 19th nation served, is considered by the UN as “in transition.”

It’s a network of nations that Carissa Loughrey says illustrates the hunger that exists in the developing world for knowledge, education and professional contact. Loughrey is one of three Creighton instructors who partner with Jesuit Worldwide Learning to provide post-secondary (or “tertiary”) learning to people and communities existing on the margins of society whether due to poverty, location, lack of opportunity, conflict or forced displacement.

“I am always impressed with all of our students, as evidenced by their writings and their blogs, just how much they cherish education,” Loughrey says. “I don't think I have a single student on this course who takes it for granted because they worked so hard to attain this.”

Making Connections

The course satisfies a craving for learning and friendship, Loughrey says.

“One thing they really like about this course is that they are making connections with educators all over the world,” she says. “Really beautiful friendships and relationships blossom. They're just interested in knowing about each other. And improving their ability to teach English improves their ability to pursue employment opportunities.

“This certificate from Jesuit Worldwide Learning will help them get ahead and progress in their careers as educators.”

The Global English Language “students” are in fact already teachers of English, recruited by Jesuit Worldwide Learning to provide instruction to their communities. The problem is that these English instructors — even those who hold college degrees — do not yet master the English language. The Creighton program seeks to enhance their English as well as their teaching proficiency so that they might become more effective teachers.

“We get really great feedback,” says Jill Fox, PhD, director of Creighton’s Intensive English Language Institute. Fox, along with Isabel Barros, are also program instructors. “I think sometimes that we at the IELI don’t realize the impact we have. We don’t see the students in their real lives. It can be frustrating, sometimes there are technical difficulties, and participation can be hard.”

“But we hear regularly and increasingly from people who work with these groups for JWL, a lot of positive feedback about how this helps the teachers, and, down the line, their students.”

The 28-week course is presented on the internet and is usually, given the frequent lack of computer infrastructure in their nations, accessed by the teacher-students on their cell phones. Presentations are viewed, papers and blogs written and submitted, and conversations conducted with instructors and fellow students, primarily on cell phones though some students might be fortunate enough to access full computers.

Some of the challenges these students face are inconceivable to students born and raised with the conveniences and comforts of developed nations.

“We had a student who said, ‘Well, my work is going to be a little bit late because my nephew was just kidnapped,’” Fox says. “These are things that we just don’t even begin to fathom. When there was a coup in Myanmar, the internet was cut off for some weeks and we lost connections with those students just like that.”

Creighton Partners with Jesuit Worldwide Learning

The Intensive English Language Institute has been part of the Creighton family since 1979 when it was formed to help Creighton students from different language backgrounds enhance their English proficiency. The idea of joining forces with Jesuit Worldwide Learning to promote English language instruction across the world was born in the fall of 2017 when JWL leaders, concerned that many of their English language instructors lacked specific teacher training, approached Creighton. Specifically, they approached Fox and René Padilla, PhD, vice provost for Global Engagement at Creighton.

“They felt that many of the teachers in their Global English Language program were teachers only because they spoke some English,” Fox recalls. “Most had not received any teacher training. So, we designed a 150-hour online course over 28 weeks that introduced participants to the characteristics of a Jesuit education and Ignatian pedagogy, to theories and methods of teaching English as a foreign language, to lesson planning, and to cultural sensitivity.”

The program was launched in February 2018, with a second cohort beginning its studies in the fall of that year. Other cohorts commenced in the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020. Another 50 students constituted the fifth cohort, which commenced its studies in the fall of 2021.

Response has been encouraging, ranging from a participant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo thankful for the motivational and organizational skills conferred by the program to a participant from South Sudan praising the effectiveness of Ignatian pedagogy.

“The important lessons I'd like to mention were the ones that didn't necessarily focus on teaching English, but interacting with the students,” said a participant from the Philippines.“How to involve them in the discussion, cater to their strengths, and motivate them in such a way that gets them invested in the class.”

Jesuit Values and Teaching Pedagogies

As might be expected, given the Jesuit identity of Jesuit Worldwide Learning and Creighton’s identity as a Jesuit university, the propagation of Jesuit values and teaching pedagogies are inherent in the IELI program.

“I think what motivates me to assist in coordinating the Creighton teacher-training program with JWL is the belief in the value and traditions of a Jesuit education and the Jesuit charisms,” Loughrey says. “The partnership between Creighton and JWL flows naturally from this.

“This program brings together a diverse group of teachers from a beautiful array of cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds, all finding common ground through their love of education, teaching and the desire to improve the lives of their students and themselves. “

From Nepal to Afghanistan, Haiti, Malawi, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere, Creighton is partnering with Jesuit Worldwide Learning to offer post-secondary training to more than 200 English-language instructors living in communities on the margins of society.