In 2013 American Language Academy (ALA) launched its first international teaching program in the city of Duhok, in Kurdistan, Iraq. An ALA teaching team was invited to provide a six-month intensive English language program to selected graduates of the University of Duhok (UoD).
The graduates were eligible candidates for the Kurdistan Regional Government Human Capacity Development Program scholarship, and their goal was to travel to English-speaking nations to further their education, principally at the graduate level, while enriching their cross-cultural awareness. To fully qualify for the travel abroad, the candidates had to pass and graduate from the language program prepared by ALA and successfully score at least a 5 on the International Language Test System, better known as the IELTS examination. The program was highly successful, as eighty-six (86) out of ninety participating students graduated from the program, and sixty-six percent (66%) of the students scored a 5 on the IELTS exam taken two (2) weeks later. This is a far higher rate of success than other English language programs in the area, where only twenty-two percent (22%) or fewer of the students earned a comparable score.
Toward the end of the program an executive decision was made by the scholarship committee to modify the required IELTS score to 4.5. This raised the ALA success percentage even higher, as ninety percent (90%) of the scholarship candidates in the program earned a 4.5 on the IELTS exam. Congratulations to the ALA team!
The model of instruction created for Duhok mirrored that which is used in all ALA branches. In other words, classes centered around instruction which integrated the four major language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Also, the Duhok classes were built around constructivist learning theory, with regular implementation of the Communicative Language Teaching approach and the Task-Based Teaching approach. All instruction was learner-centered rather than teacher-centered, which promoted the students’ engagement in the learning process. Participating in this style of teaching was a new and challenging experience for the students, who nevertheless took away from the program an enhanced sense of self-confidence and self-esteem which grew from the student-oriented focus in the classroom.
The six (6) month teaching period was divided into three (3) sessions of eight (8) weeks each. Classes occurred four hours (4) hours daily, five (5) days a week. Teaching integrated skills was a daily occurrence, though writing and vocabulary development did receive special emphasis for the Duhok program, at the request of the university. Instruction was offered for five (5) sequential levels of English, and students were expected to pass two (2) of the three (3) sessions taught, one of which was required to be the final session. Supplemental instruction opportunities were offered to best prepare the students for language competency. These included:
- Differentiated instruction for both in-class and out-of-class work;
- After-class special tutoring aimed at lower level students which convened twice weekly;
- Student-teacher conferences where detailed feedback was given to the student on his work;
- Use of the English language learning website English Central, which was used extensively for in-class activities and for individual student practice;
- A one hour (1) daily open session was provided which gave the teacher and student additional interface time for language practice;
- A special evening program entitled “English Night” was held on Tuesday evenings. This was designed to offer activities such as viewing English language films, listening to presentations on the American education system, discussing controversial topics, creating skits in English and other language- and culture-centered events.
Upon successful completion of the program the scholarship candidates received a certificate of graduation signed by the ALA program director, the UoD director of Training and Development and by the Vice President of Scientific and Academic Affairs. Student response to the program was very positive overall, especially in light of the IELTS scores resulting from their having participated in this program.
American Language Academy was honored and delighted to be invited to Kurdistan to provide intensive English language instruction to the UoD graduates. The ALA teachers who participated worked very hard for their students, and the results of both teachers’ and students’ efforts are reflected in the IELTS scores. The teachers also cherished the intercultural exchanges they experienced while in the country and have wonderful memories of their time in Kurdistan. The ALA faculty are ready to return to the University of Duhok when their services are next requested.
Type of program: six month intensive English course preparing students for continuing academic studies in English-speaking countries.
- Location of program: Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq
- Date(s) of program: February 10-August 5, 2013
- Name(s) of program director and instructor(s): Khalid Ibrahim, program director; Charlie Wilson, April Hutchison, John T. Connors.