ELT terms - defined and referenced!

Welcome to the NILE ELT Glossary


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We hope this is useful for you and your NILE Online course.

(Definitions written by Mary Spratt, edited by Alan Pulverness)

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Visual literacy

Visual literacy is the ability to interpret and make sense of information presented in graphic or pictorial form e.g. through diagrams, charts, images. Visual literacy can act as an aim in a language course or a means through which language is learnt. Visual literacy is also important is CLIL where visual organisers play an important part in scaffolding learning.


In a world in which we are surrounded by images, teachers often think it is important to include work on visual literacy in their classroom to help learners interpret and evaluate these images.

Further reading

Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT Course CLIL Module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Golstein, B. (2008). Working with Images. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.








Micro-teaching (also known as peer teaching), which originated at Stanford University in the 1960s, is a practice now widely used in general, as well as ELT, teacher training contexts worldwide. Micro-teaching practices vary in some respects, but essentially the procedure consists of teachers trying out short lesson sequences for an audience of their peers, some of whom adopt the roles of learners. These lesson sequences may be video-recorded, and the teachers receive oral feedback from peers and / or a supervisor, and written feedback from the supervisor.  In some versions of micro-teaching, teachers are given the opportunity to address the issues highlighted in the feedback stage by re-teaching the same lesson sequence.

[Alan Pulverness]


“I’m finding that, on my present course, the sessions in which we ‘workshop’ lessons as a group in a micro-teaching format, with the trainees teaching their colleagues and me intervening as they do so, are both less stressful for the trainees and (I think) more productive in terms of their developmental outcomes.”  from An A-Z of ELT, Scott Thornbury’s blog https://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/p-is-for-practicum/


Further reading

Bailey, K.M. 2006. Language Teacher Supervision: A case-based approach.Cambridge:   Cambridge University Press.

Brown, G. 1975. Micro-teaching: A programme of teaching skills. London: Methuen.

Geddes, M. & H. Raz. 1979. “Pupil-Teacher Interaction”. In Holden, S. [Ed] Teacher Training. London: Modern English Publications.

Gower, R., D. Phillips & S. Walters. 1998. Teaching Practice Handbook. Oxford: Heinemann.

Moore, A. 1979. “Microteaching without video”. In Holden, S. [Ed] Teacher Training. London: Modern English Publications.

Richards, J. 1998. Beyond Training. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roberts, J. 1998. Language Teacher Education. London: Arnold.

Tanner, R. & C. Green. 1998.Tasks for Teacher Education: a reflective approach. Harlow: Longman.

Wallace, M.J. 1979. “Microteaching: Skills and strategies”. In Holden, S. [Ed] Teacher Training. London: Modern English Publications.

Likert scale

A Likert /ˈlɪkɜt/scale (devised in 1932 by organisational psychologist Rensis Likert) and also known as a ‘summative scale’, is a bipolar psychometric scale used in qualitative research to record responses along a range which captures intensity of feeling about attitudes to a given issue. It is regarded as a balanced method of data collection as it features an equal number of positive and negative responses, usually separated by a neutral response in mid-position. However, some researchers prefer to produce a ‘forced choice’ by omitting the middle option. Generally, five possible responses are set along a horizontal line (although some practitioners use as many as seven, or even nine, which gives more scope to respondents who like to avoid extremes!)

A typical five-item response line is:

Strongly disagree  -  Disagree  -  Neither agree nor disagree  -  Agree  -  Strongly agree

As well as levels of agreement, Likert scales can also be used to record other variable responses:


Very frequently  -  Frequently  -  Occasionally  -  Rarely  -  Never



Very important  -  important  -  moderately important  -  of little importance  -  Unimportant


Almost always true  -  Usually true  -  Occasionally trues  -  Usually not true  -  Almost never true


Strictly speaking, a Likert scale is the sum of responses to a number of statements (‘Likert items’) and refers to the range of potential scores. So, in a 5-point range like the one below, if scores of are distributed in a range of 1-5, the Likert scale is 5-25:

Strongly disagree                   1

Disagree                               2

Neither agree nor disagree       3

Agree                                    4

Strongly agree                        5


To report on a Likert scale, the values for each separate option should be summed and a score created for each respondent. Scores can then be used to create a chart showing the distribution of opinion across the target population. Scores are very often plotted and reported using diverging stacked bar charts (see Robbins & Heiberger 2011). For results to be meaningful, all the items selected should belong to a similar category, so that the summed score produces a reliable measurement of the particular behaviour or attitude being investigated.

The advantage of Likert scales is that they provide quantitative data about personal attitudes whilst allowing for degrees of opinion (or no opinion). Possible drawbacks are ‘central tendency bias’, where respondents avoid the extremes, ‘acquiescence bias’, where they simply agree with the statement presented, and ‘social desirability bias’, where they give the response that they think represents them in the most positive light. Another potential disadvantage is that few options are on offer, and respondents may not easily be able to align themselves with any of them.  There may also be a problem within sets of items, whereby respondents are influenced by their own answers to earlier questions, either remaining consistent out of habit, or deliberately breaking the pattern. These issues can be resolved at the design stage by means of carefully designed and sequenced questions.

[Alan Pulverness]


"Example Likert Scale" by Nicholas Smith http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Example_Likert_Scale.svg#mediaviewer/File:Example_Likert_Scale.svg

Further reading

Bertram, D. “Likert scales…are the meaning of life” http://poincare.matf.bg.ac.rs/~kristina/topic-dane-likert.pdf

Bryman, A. 2012. Social Research Methods.  4th ed Oxford: Oxford University Press

Denscombe, M. 2014 The Good Research Guide: For Small Scale Research Projects 2014Maidenhead: Open University Press

Likert, R. 1932. “A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes” Archives of Psychology, No.140.

Robbins, N. B. & M. R. Heiberger. 2011. “Plotting Likert and Other Rating Scales” https://www.amstat.org/sections/SRMS/Proceedings/y2011/Files/300784_64164.pdf

Uebersax, J.S. “Likert scales: dispelling the confusion”  http://www.john-uebersax.com/stat/likert.htm

Needs analysis



Needs analysis is primarily a process of investigating the specific linguistic needs of learners in order to design or adapt a course specifically for them. Needs analysis can also be used to find out other information about your learners including motivation, preferences, and learner styles which can help design or tailor the course to the profile of the learner. Data collection can be done through formal and informal interviews, questionnaires and questions will often relate what kind of things the learner will ultimately do with the language which can help formulate learning objectives


I used the results of my needs analysis to create my speaking and listening course from scratch

Further reading 

Harding K (2007) English for specific purposes; Oxford 

Jordan R.R (1997) English for academic purposes; Cambridge University Press 

Evans T and St John M (1998) Developments in English for Specific Purposes; Cambridge University Press 




Pedagogical theory (n.)

This can be summed up as the philosophical, sociological and psychological considerations that provide teachers with a sound basis for their classroom activities.

Well, Sue is OK in the classroom but I don’t think we can make her Head of Department as she has no real understanding of the thinking behind our policies and syllabus.  

Professionalism/professional/professional skills (n/adj./n.)

The concept of there being particular strategies and approaches that help teachers to improve their own work and also to develop their department, school or the whole profession. Some definitions of these terms also include skills that are not teaching skills but which could help teachers do their job better, for example interpersonal skills or computer skills, while others add generally desirable employee characteristics such as reliability, honesty, conscientiousness and a suitably smart appearance.

John is the most professional teacher I have ever met. So can you timetable him to be teaching in that room opposite the Head’s office when the inspectors come next week? ‘Cos they’re bound to pop into that room. 

Plenary (n./adj.)

Part of the lesson in which the whole class works together, led by the teacher.

After the group work the teacher brought the whole class together for plenary feedback.


Sentence stem lecture or reading (n.)

A way of encouraging participants to listen or read carefully and of checking their retention of input. In this technique participants are required to complete sentence beginnings (stems) with selected parts of the input contents. 

Mariella was a skilled lecturer who often gave her students a sentence stem lecture to ensure they stayed awake throughout the hour.   

Buzz lecture or reading/buzzing (n/n.)

A way of encouraging participants to listen or read carefully and of checking their retention of input. In this technique the lecture or reading is paused from time to time and participants talk in twos or threes to summarise to each other what the lecturer has just said or the section of the article that they have just read. 

The students seemed to enjoy buzzing as it was much more active and fun than having to remain quiet throughout the lecture.


Pyramid (n.)

A classroom interaction pattern in which learners work in twos on a task and then come together with another pair to compare and reach a consensus on their results. Each group of four then joins another group of four and the group of eight must negotiate to produce a result that represents both groups of four. Finally, the products or outcomes of the work are shared in plenary.

Robert wanted them to come to a decision about the class outing while practising their English and decided that he would set up a pyramid task to achieve both aims. 

Pinboard plenary (n.)

An activity type that allows task results to be shared amongst the whole class in visual form. Each working pair or group puts their points on to a small card, one card for each point. The cards are then stuck up on a pinboard and read aloud. The whole class decides which points are similar and those cards are moved so that they are close to each other. Points can also be evaluated in plenary.  

Sandra decided to get her trainee teachers to work in pairs and write what they knew about giving good instructions as a series of tips on small cards. Then all the small cards would be put up in a pinboard plenary.


Review circles (n.)

An activity type in which the class stands in two concentric circles of equal numbers of learners. The inner circle face outwards and the outer circle face inwards so that each learner is facing one of their colleagues. The teacher or teacher trainer remains outside the circles and gives the class a topic or word to discuss or define with their partner. At a signal the inner circle members move one place to the right so that everybody has a new partner. The teacher decides if they will discuss or define the same topic or word, or a new one.

Tim frequently gets his classes to revise the vocabulary from the last lesson by means of a 10-minute review circles activity.


Supervisor (n.)

A name often found in the literature of lesson observation for a person who knows how to analyse teaching and learning, and who works in a professional way with a teacher, observing a lesson or lessons, and giving feedback to the teacher. The goal of the supervision process is to help the teacher reflect fruitfully on their teaching in order to modify or improve it.   

A teaching practice supervisor is supposed to be able to observe and assess student teachers objectively. 

Schema/schemata (n. sing/pl)

The organisation of experience and/or knowledge into conceptual frameworks in the mind or brain. Schemata allow the brain to reference and integrate new knowledge or situations through making connections with what is already known.

Different readers bring different schemata to a text and these are also often culture-specific.


Summative assessment (n.)

Teacher assessment that is carried out at the end of, or after, a training course. Its purpose is to see how much the teachers have learned from the course.  

Sue decided to test the teachers on their knowledge of lesson planning by getting them to fill in the forms they had studied in the course for their next lessons, and she would grade them. She thought that would provide appropriate summative assessment. 

Summative evaluation (n.)

Evaluation of a training course at the end of, or after, the course. Its purpose is to find out how effective and/or successful the course was.  

The ministry conducted exhaustive summative evaluation of the new teacher training course using a variety of instruments, some on the last course day, and others by email to the participants three months after the course.

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