What makes an effective teacher?

What makes an effective teacher?

By Linh Phung

English Language Program DirectorEnd-of-term June 2016

ELP teachers and students celebrating the success of summer 1

At the end of the first summer session, teachers in the English Language Program gathered to share their thoughts on English language teaching. One research-based finding from Alina’s presentation is that the “variable” that impacts students’ learning the most is the teacher in the classroom. Then what characteristics make an effective teacher? Does the teacher need to be a native speaker of the language that they are teaching? Marina’s presentation convincingly argues that the answer to this question is “no.” What makes teachers effective is not their nativeness. What is more important is their language expertise, professional training, and how they can create learning opportunities for students.  Rachel describes a lesson where she was in a “teaching grove.” In that lesson, her passion and energy merged with the students’ and brought them all to a state of “flow.” This is a psychological state when everyone is totally absorbed in what they are doing and greatly enjoy themselves. Brigette brings up the idea that extensive reading for pleasure may be a good way to engage students and even help them to experience “flow.” In addition, when students enjoy reading, they may seek more opportunities to do so on their own. What can be a better outcome than that? Clearly, there are certain characteristics that good teachers and good teaching should exhibit, but teaching cannot be done to a formula. Teachers need to continuously reflect on and examine their practices to understand how they affect students’ engagement and learning.

Language Learning Strategies

By Oksana Moroz, ELP Intern and Instructor



“The more languages you know, the more times you are a person,” said a Ukrainian philosopher. However, before knowing a language, you should learn it. Learning a foreign language can be a tricky, frustrating, annoying, and time-consuming process. But it also gives you enjoyment, satisfaction, and the world of opportunities. In this post, I will elaborate on my strategies to learn a new language, and maybe some of them will be useful for you.

  1. Ask yourself why you want to learn a foreign language.

Always have a goal in mind. Is it for traveling, shopping, communicating with other people, or understanding the words of your favorite song? The purpose will make your learning meaningful.

  1. Do not learn a language alone.

Learning a language on your own is boring. Find a friend or a conversation partner that you can talk to and practice the language with. Together, you can help each other to improve.

  1. Mistakes are OK.

Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do not let those mistakes discourage you from speaking. The more you speak, the better your language becomes. If your tongue becomes numb and you are unable to open your mouth to produce a sentence because you do not want to make mistakes, think before you speak. Speaking slowly will also help to avoid mistakes.

  1. Immerse yourself in the language.

Try to surround yourself with the language you learn as much as you can. Watch movies, videos, listen to the music, read short novels, news reports, and so on. All of these activities will contribute to your language learning.

  1. Practice, practice, practice!

Language needs to be used in order to be remembered. If you stop practicing, you’ll lose it. Practice a language you learn every day and wait for that “aha” moment when you master a foreign language.

Developing Women’s Leadership through Study Abroad!

Chatham University is very fortunate to be part of the Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Program for Women in Global Leadership.  In addition to a $5000 scholarship to be used toward study abroad during the summer after sophomore or junior year, this leadership program provides up to three Chatham undergraduate women with a comprehensive leadership development program.  Entry into the program is competitive and students must meet eligibility and application requirements. Awardees agree to participate in pre-departure and returnee retreats, as well as participate in a Community Engagement Experience in the fall semester following studying abroad.  During summer of 2016, the three Chatham VIH awardees are studying in Iceland, Scotland and Cuba.

Applications for the 2017 cohort are due on November 1. To learn more, including eligibility requirements, please see http://www.viraheinz.pitt.edu/.

Meg Scanlon summer 2016 Italy

VIH awardee (2015) and Chatham graduate (2016) Meg Scanlon in Italy

Academic Cheating: Is It That Dangerous?

In the 21st century almost every student is ill! An epidemic of students’ cheating in education throughout the world is expanding at a frantic pace.  All around the world, many children now perceive cheating as integral part of a quiz, test,  or exam. A particular form of cheating, plagiarism – using other people’s ideas without proper acknowledgement, is also very common. “Statistics shows that only 5% of students prefer writing their own original works, while the other 97% more or less often plagiarize other works” (Dr. Scott Hamilton). In the U.S., plagiarism is a serious matter. Students who commit plagiarism may get 0 for their assignment, fail a course, or even get expelled from their school.


There are ways to avoid plagiarism. Here are some that may be useful for students, especially those who are not familiar with the U.S. education system.

  • cite, paraphrase, quote, or reference any words, phrases or sentences that  have been said by someone
  • write from your notes of the main ideas instead of copying and pasting from your readings
  • ask your instructor to understand what is acceptable
  • go to the library to learn about how to cite sources
  • go to the writing center at your university to receive feedback on your assignment

In conclusion, continued cheating will  lead to intellectual and moral degradation of individuals and even the decline of nations. If cheating and low educational standards are tolerated, the intellectual level of future educators, doctors, engineers, and other professions will decrease.

International Education Symposium 2015: A Participant’s Perspective

By Faith Cotter, MA Student in Professional Writing, English Language Prom Tutor

I am a tutor in the English Language Program, and I’ve been working in this position for over a year. A lot of my work, even outside of the tutoring center, focuses on clients who are multilingual. Aside from a few courses in Spanish, though, English is the only language I speak. The International Education Symposium inspired me to learn a new language and highlighted the importance of learning multiple languages in the United States and how we can implement the teaching of multiple languages into U.S. schools. It gave me a lot to think about!

Of course, it was easy to feel inspired by the talented speakers who talked to the audience about their experiences with language and culture. Mohammed Almalky’s presentation was hilarious! I still laugh at the jokes that he told. The other presenters were very informative as well. From a woman who learned English while growing up in Mexico, to three American students who either lived abroad in the military or for school, or who formed close friendships stateside with people from other countries, the Symposium gave the audience a wide range of experiences to learn from.

I am glad to attend a university that encourages friendships between people of different backgrounds. I know that I’ve learned so much from the students I have worked with at Chatham. The International Education Symposium was a wonderful celebration of the friendships that a Chatham education—or just taking the time to get to know one another—can create.

My Italian Study Abroad Experience

By Emily Schmidt, BA Visual Arts, 2015

The opportunity to study abroad twice during your college career is definitely not typical, and I knew I needed to carefully think about my decisions of where to go. It seemed counterproductive to go to the same city for the same experience, and I even considered choosing a different country, in some weird effort to soak up as much worldly knowledge and culture as possible. However, upon further thought I decided to go “an inch wide and a mile deep” rather than “a mile wide and an inch deep”. In other words, I’ve chosen to focus on Italian culture and language with the hope of becoming an expert and effectively making Italy my home away from home. To do this, I needed to stay away from the ultra-touristic cities such as Rome and Florence the second time around to round out my understanding of Italy.

My time living in Florence was the typical study abroad experience. For one summer month, I lived with a host family, took a couple classes each week, and saw almost every site and city of historical or cultural importance that Italy had to offer, including Rome, Venice, Milan, Verona, and Pisa. We hit 6 cities (2 per day) every weekend, and the month went by in a flash. Coming to Italy the second time, I felt that I had the cliché “must do” experience out of the way, allowing me to focus my energy on the people rather than the places. While in Viterbo, I’ve realized that the reason I love Italy so much is due less to the art and history (as incredible as it is) and more because of the people and culture. I’ve become accustomed to the easy-going lifestyle here, and no doubt I will begin to miss it as soon as I step on the plane home.

I’ve only recently realized just how much I love the people of Italy and I attribute that to my unique perspective of having studied here before and getting the “important” things out of the way. I am less worried about having to see all the famous sites and am now able to sit back, observe, and find my place among the people living in Viterbo. Studying abroad twice has also given me a unique perspective in watching my American friends discover Italy for the first time. I had a bit of an outsider’s perspective for the first two weeks as everybody around me oohed and awed at things that a short month in Florence had already hardened me for. I also realized I had once been in those shoes, and it was fun noting the things that made them gasp and laugh that I had forgotten about. I feel that in this way I’ve gained an interesting perspective on the experience of studying abroad, not just on the country itself.

I’ve learned a lot while abroad. Any tourist or student will find that learning Italian in a city like Rome, where everybody speaks English, is not much different than learning Italian in Pittsburgh where you speak the language for a couple hours per week and quit as soon as you leave the classroom. Living in a small town like Viterbo forces you to use what you know. I’ve also learned so much about Italian culture in general. I’ve seen the faster pace of the big city where everyone is doing something and going somewhere, and I’ve now seen the slower pace of a small town where tractors cruise down the main streets and people seem to have nothing to do but live la dolce vita. I’ve rounded out my understanding of culture and people in a way that would not have been possible in a singular experience.

Studying abroad has made me appreciate home in many ways. For one, I’ve realized how stable our economy is compared to Italy’s. Every Viterbo native I’ve talked with has spoken of the impossibility of finding work in Italy, allowing me to appreciate my silly summer job at McDonalds. Also, after my first trip abroad, I found myself in awe of the beauty of my own home. Italy is unquestionably a beautiful country and upon seeing it for the first time, it can leave you in shock. However, upon returning home, I realized the beauty of my own country, which I had previously taken for granted having lived there my entire life. I could compare the rolling hills of Italy to home, and even the Pittsburgh skyline had a new sheen I’d not previously realized.

The biggest advantage to studying in two different cities is being able to compare and contrast your experiences which allows you to constructively evaluate your time abroad. It is important to break it down and define your experiences to yourself, as this allows you to get more out of your time abroad. Living in two different cities in the same country will allow you to round out your understanding of a people and a culture, something I value greatly.

My Experience as a Swedish Exchange Student at Chatham University

By Delphine Mubiligi, Exchange Student at Chatham University

Before coming to Chatham University, I had no idea what to expect. I had no previous knowledge about the University, nor Pittsburgh. The few assumptions I had built throughout the years about college life in America, were all shaped by the way students were portrayed in Hollywood movies. Chatham have proved to be very different from the crazy-party-student-life-image presented by the movie industry. The campus might be a bit small and quiet, but it is cozy and filled with warm and friendly people. There are many fun and interesting activities that make getting to know other students easy.

Before coming to Chatham University, I had no idea what to expect. I had no previous knowledge about the University, nor Pittsburgh. The few assumptions I had built throughout the years about college life in America, were all shaped by the way students were portrayed in Hollywood movies. Chatham have proved to be very different from the crazy-party-student-life-image presented by the movie industry. The campus might be a bit small and quiet, but it is cozy and filled with warm and friendly people. There are many fun and interesting activities that make getting to know other students easy.

The students here at Chatham are very friendly, open-minded and willing to help other fellow students, when needed. The environment is very relaxed. Students can dress however they please and be themselves, without being judged. People respect each other and also the quiet hours. The fact that there are no big parties organised in the dorms makes it a good place to concentrate on the workload and making academic progress.

After spending nearly four months in USA, I have gained a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge. Studying abroad has enabled me to improve, not only my English skills, but also my problem-solving skills and cross-cultural communication skills. I have had the opportunity to interact and connect with American students and staff, as well as students from different parts of the world, which have enabled me to make this progress.

When talking to other exchanges students at Chatham University, I have come to realise that many of us share a common fear. This is not an all too serious fear, yet it raises concern amongst many international students. Many are concerned of returning to their countries of origin, not being the same people as they left. Many go through changes, often times positive changes, yet, they fear that it might take a while for some friends back home to get used these changes.

My experiences so far have been very positive. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience Chatham while it is still regarded as a female college. I have meet many inspiring young ladies here. I have also learned much about notable female academics and writers that have inspired and will continue to inspire women for generations to come. Although Chatham University will cease to be an all-female college, I strongly believe that it will remain a great place to advance academically and as an individual.

Chatham University

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