Empowering future educators: Integrating the GSE into pre-service teacher training

Belgin Elmas
A teacher helping students at a table. The GSE ambassador logo is to the left of them.
Reading time: 6 minutes

When we used to go somewhere by car, my son, who was just three years old, would repeatedly ask me, "How far do we need to go?" every five minutes. He was curious to know where we were and how close we were to our destination. Even though the answer was just a number, it would satisfy him and relieve his curiosity.

For language learners, it is important to maintain a high level of curiosity about progress and the distance needed to cover in their language learning journey. This can help identify areas for improvement and help them stay motivated. For teachers, it is also important to have a tool that can assist their students in visualizing their language learning goals more concretely. The Global Scale of English (GSE) is a valuable resource for this purpose. It not only indicates learners' current proficiency levels but also provides learning outcomes to help them progress in their abilities. The scale ranges from 10 to 90 and offers a personalized pathway for improvement in each individual skill based on global research. By using the GSE, both learners and teachers can work together to achieve language learning success.

I believe the GSE is one of the most valuable resources a language teacher needs in teaching English; the learning outcomes provide clear guidance on what to teach, tailored to the specific needs of learner groups. With five options designed for pre-primary, young, general adult, professional and academic English learner groups, the GSE offers educators clear paths to customize their teaching strategies effectively. It also assists teachers in motivating their students by showing their progress regularly, which provides precious support throughout their learning journey.

I also believe that the sooner we introduce teachers to this valuable tool in their teaching careers, the better equipped they will be to help their learners. With this belief in mind, we integrated the GSE into our pre-service teacher education program, making it the cornerstone for lesson planning and assessment. This blog aims to explain our implementation process at TED University's Education Faculty English Language Teaching Department, hoping to provide a model for other programs interested in adopting a similar approach.  

Implementing the GSE

Our implementation process started with conducting in-service training sessions for the faculty members, many of whom were also unfamiliar with the GSE. To ensure comprehensive understanding, we organized meetings with the teacher trainers responsible for teaching the methodology courses. These sessions consisted of in-depth discussions on the nature of the GSE, its significance in language teaching and practical guidance on integrating it into the curriculum we were following.

As the second step, we designed a lesson plan to be used for the first methodology course our pre-service teacher trainees would undertake for the same objective we had for in-service teacher training sessions. In this initial lesson, we started by discussing the aims of CEFR and GSE, highlighting their differences.

Then, we facilitated discussions on how GSE helps to monitor the progress of learners, what the main features are that the GSE has been built upon, and most importantly, we focused on increasing our future teachers' consciousness on how learning objectives can help a teacher. The lesson proceeded with an introduction to the GSE Toolkit, clarifying its categories, contained skills, and the target language learners it caters to. After providing diverse samples across various skills and outcomes, we demonstrated how our pre-service teachers can find learning objectives within the scale and how they can use them. 

The lesson then transitioned into practical exercises designed to familiarize the teachers with the toolkit. Through guided instructions, such as selecting a target group, a skill, and a proficiency range, we prompted them to engage in activities aimed at perceiving the usefulness of the toolkit. We then asked them to report on some chosen parameters, such as the selected range, the number of objectives identified, and the potential text materials applicable to the chosen skill (e.g., reading comprehension). We followed a similar process for the other skills. 

The second part of the lesson illustrated how different teaching materials were mapped with the GSE framework, utilizing sample coursebooks like Speakout, Roadmap and Startup. The lesson concluded with getting reflections from the pre-service teachers on their perceptions of the GSE. We gathered their insights on its usefulness, including its impact on curriculum design, teaching methodologies, and skill assessment practices.

After being introduced to the GSE, we asked our pre-service teachers to integrate it into all their teaching-related courses. They now plan their lessons based on the learning outcomes provided in the toolkit, benefitting from the additional resources it offers to enhance their instructional practices. Teaching Skills, Teaching English to Young Learners, and Material Development can be given as samples of the courses the GSE was integrated into; there is no need to mention that all teaching practicum-related courses are in the integration part as well.

The benefits 

What did we gain by integrating the GSE into our pre-service teacher education program? Quite a few significant benefits, actually. Firstly, it standardized the language and terminology used throughout the department; when we refer to terms like 'learning outcomes', 'proficiency of language learners' or 'learner progress', everyone understands the set of terms uniformly across our department. No need to mention that our pre-service teachers gained the privilege of being introduced to a widely recognized toolkit in the field. While their peers may not yet be familiar with the GSE, our students gain early exposure to this valuable resource. Incorporating the GSE into our program also has allowed our pre-service teachers access to a range of valuable resources.

In addition to the GSE Toolkit, resources such as Text Analyzer or instructional materials aligned with the GSE help our future teachers plan and deliver language instruction more effectively. As a result, our pre-service teachers enter the field with a deeper understanding of language assessment, proficiency levels, and learner needs.

Next steps

What's next? There's still much to accomplish and a considerable journey ahead of us. Currently, our primary focus is on making our initiatives more public, aiming to share our experiences with other pre-service teacher education programs considering integrating the GSE into their curriculum. In addition, introducing the GSE to in-service teacher programs in Turkey and globally could also be valuable for enhancing language teaching practices and the professional development of language teachers worldwide.

Publishing articles, presenting at conferences, hosting workshops, or developing online resources might be some of the sources for sharing our practices. Increasing the awareness of policymakers, school administrators, and language teachers on the GSE and highlighting the benefits of using a standardized granular framework like the GSE can encourage broader adoption and implementation across educational settings. Collaboration opportunities with other institutions and stakeholders in language education will help all of us to reach our destination more quickly and efficiently. Finally, research on the impact of the GSE in language education is required to refine our approaches.

As a result, we are very pleased with the integration of the GSE into our teacher education program, as it has paved the way for significant advances. While recognizing there's still a considerable journey ahead, we also celebrate the progress we've made thus far and are curious about the other possible opportunities that lie ahead.

About the author

Prof. Dr. Belgin Elmas, Head of the Department of Foreign Languages at TED University Faculty of Education, has been elected as Pearson GSE Ambassador for Turkey. The Global Scale of English (GSE), developed by Pearson to contribute to English language education, aims to measure the level of English in reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, and shows what learners should learn in each skill according to their level. GSE is a guide for program and material developers, measurement, and evaluators as well as students and teachers. Developed with the input of more than 6,000 academics and teachers from over 50 countries around the world, the GSE is now available in French, Italian, Spanish and German in addition to English.

Pearson has selected ambassadors from different countries to support its work in introducing the purpose of GSE to a global audience. Ambassadors will guide teachers and students, and share their own experiences in using the GSE. Prof. Dr. Belgin Elmas has been supporting the GSE for many years in Turkey and has now been officially selected as the GSE Ambassador for Turkey.

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