What can we learn from neuroscience and learning to apply to English language teaching?
I spoke with well-known Business English language and communications specialist Rob Howard about the 4th International Neurolanguage Learning Conference taking place in London later in April 2020. Rob and I talked about his training in Neurolanguage Coaching and what it means for his professional practice.
Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center, partner at Business Language Training Institute and founder of EFLtalks – which is all about teachers teaching teachers.
An entrepreneurial type, he ran successful businesses in the United States and Brazil, which has really added depth to his particular focus on Business English. He has taught in multiple international companies, over 50 of the largest and most prestigious law firms and financial institutions in Rio de Janeiro, as well as working with university professors.
Rob is now focusing on Russian IT professionals online. He is a speaker worldwide on Teacher Development, Continuing Professional Development, Online Business Retention and Image Presentation. In 2016 British Council’s ELTon Awards nominated him for Innovation in Teacher Development.
If that’s not all, Rob is Joint Coordinator for the IATEFL BESIG Web & Online Team, founder and former president of the BRAZ-TESOL BESIG, Online and Video Coordinator for the Visual Arts Circle and has authored and co-authored several books for EFL.
He is a one-man start-up and has channelled this passion for self-starters into co-founding with Dorothy Zemach the Independent Authors & Publishers which is a popular spot each year at IATEFL. Oh, and he’s a musician.
What is Neurolanguage Coaching®?
Neurolanguage Coaching is a brain based, professional coaching method that uses basic coaching skills blended with principles of Neuroscience to help learners develop language skills. The students achieve their language goals more effectively, efficiently and quickly in a calm, comfortable and customised environment.
What interested you about Neurolanguage Coaching after so many years as a English language teacher in the field?
Back in 2017, as a member of the IATEFL Business English SIG online team, I was attending our annual international BESIG conference in Malta. I was charged with simulcasting a session with Rachel Paling, the founder of Neurolanguage Coaching. Not a session that I would have chosen to attend at the time, I was soon captivated by Rachel and realized that much of what she was presenting were methods that I used in my teaching. This validation of best practices along with the impressive relationship Rachel made between the brain and learning immediately drew me in. I was an instant fan.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time speaking with Rachel in depth about her ideas and my personal teaching experiences. Coming from a business and management background before becoming a teacher gave me a different view on how to train, interact and successfully build a relationship with employees and clients, and I could feel how Neurolanguage Coaching embraced many of the same principles in its core values.
What’s the difference between teaching and coaching?
Having taken several Educational Psychology courses as part of my undergraduate Secondary Ed minor, I had a vast base of knowledge of how people learn. Upon becoming an EFL teacher in Brazil, I soon realized that the methodology used there was flawed. Conventional teaching courses like CELTA and DELTA concentrated more on massive group learning with little room to help the individual. These methods do nothing to discover the individuals’ blocks that exist in learning and in many cases, are responsible for forming these blocks.
Where traditional education tends to stifle learning, Neurolanguage Coaching stimulates it. A much more productive and effective model. Working within strict guidelines of professionalism, ethics and a code of conduct are also great reasons to pursue a coaching credential as opposed to other advanced credentials.
After doing more in-depth research into the field, I decided to take Rachel’s next course online. What an eyeopener. Working together with Rachel and a group of wonderful international educators really helped me develop and I felt blessed to be working with some incredible colleagues and learning in a friendly, comfortable environment. A perfect model for what Neurolanguage Coaching is.
How has it changed your training and coaching approach?
Well, being the headstrong and unconventional person that I am, and having used many of the methods in my teaching already, I was on the right track. One reason I believe in Rachel and her method. As I said, validation. I do feel that a traditional teacher, without experience or knowledge of coaching, will benefit and change immensely by taking this course. It has afforded me the freedom to more effectively empower my students to succeed at their own personal objectives. Coaching methodology empowers learners with the knowledge to achieve autonomy and to truly become lifelong learners and more importantly, lifelong users of language.
What are you going to be talking about at the Neurolanguage Learning Conference?
My presentation, entitled “Your Neurolanguage Compass – Finding your way without GPS” will look at my own personal journey as a Business English trainer. For me, many times the course I sail with my students requires differing roles as teacher, tutor, mentor, manager and coach. To be effective as a “communications facilitator”, one must be cognisant of all methodologies. One must also be adept at using whichever tool is appropriate at the time.
It’s like being a golfer. You need a bag full of clubs to make the right shot at the right time. Whether a short putt or a long drive, the right club, or tool, at the right moment of play is essential. This is what I love about the Neurolanguage Coaching course, it has all the tools you need in one bag.
What ways can this area of study influence us as English language teachers in our case?
One thing is finding out that learning is not and should not be treated as a one-way street. This will be a key. As an EFL teacher, the gurus would have us believe that this year’s method is the only way. We hear this at conferences all over the world. The methods are not much different from the methods from thousands of years ago. They just get makeovers with new names and speakers get famous for promoting them. There are however, new tools, new ideas and new insights.
Neurolanguage Coaching is one of them and should be added to any professional toolbox. As you know Emma, from our work together on the Visual Arts Circle, art, visuals, video and movies can add so much more to the learning process, but how many educators use any of them properly, effectively or at all to reach success? Visual Arts usage like Neurolanguage Coaching should be at the forefront of today’s teaching development.
These new tools have so much more to offer and can and do, work easily in conjunction with existing methods. Also, making us better functioning and trained facilitators of learning will guarantee a better outcome for our students. This why they have come to us to begin with.
There are going to be a range of speakers at the Neurolanguage Learning Conference applying this knowledge across disciplines. What areas are they involved with and how do things cross over?
Crossover should be immense. The diverse collection of speakers that will be at this conference is impressive. So, their outcomes, goals and journeys may all differ, but the common thread should be interesting in comparing the tools, the ideas, the tips that have made each one successful in their own practice. So, this to me is exciting and I am looking forward to the chance to learn, share and grow together.
The 4th Worldwide Neurolanguage Learning Conference will take place in London 29th April to the 1st May 2020.