Excerpt from an interview with: K. Lynn Savage
INTERVIEWER: Cuba Miller
DATE: April 2, 1998
So, as you set out with your new license [and a new name], did you have a vision
for what you wanted? What guided you in shaping the Institute, starting in 1985?
I don't know if I had a vision. I had a concern, and it was a concern that I
had developed from '80 to '82, which is: to be successful, it's important that
the people who are doing the training have some consistency, that it's not dependent
on the personality of the trainer. And so I felt that materials. … We talk
about books that are teacher-proof, and that's a bit of an insult and I don't
like that term, but I would take that term and transfer it to training. I felt
that the materials needed to be trainer-proof. We all have good days and bad
days, and if your materials have it there, then if the trainer for some reason
has forgotten something or missed something, the trainee still has the opportunity
to get it. So I guess my vision was beefing up the training materials.
Okay, and you modeled the training materials on one model of staff development.
Do you want to tell us about that?
Well, actually, from '80 to '82, what we tried to do is the trainers would demonstrate
a technique, and they would use the workshop participants as students in order
for them to experience the technique. After I got exposed to video through the
San Francisco State project, I realized the potential for video. It's also very
difficult as a trainer to be constantly switching between modeling, teaching,
and then speaking as a trainer to a group of teachers. So what we started doing
was putting the things that we wanted to model onto video so that the trainer
would not have to play two roles in the training process.
One big change from your Friday night/Saturday, which, although it was over
two days, it was still a one-shot deal, you made a major change in that approach
What we had found through research, from reading the research, the literature,
is that you need staff development over time. And so what we did is we took
the content that had been packaged from '80 to '82, laid a CBE [competency based
education] component on top of it, because that was the direction the state
was going, and then we divided it into three sections so that trainees would
go three different times to get their training. I have to say that the trainers
were very skeptical about how successful we would be, they were very concerned
about drop rate… . They really were quite nervous about that approach, and
it worked just fine.
All right, let's go into some detail now about the project and about the modules.
Certainly you went through many steps before training actually began, but I
still think that's the best place for us to start. Describe the training for
us and how it exemplified elements of successful staff development that you
said that the research pointed out. So, just describe the training program in
a lot of detail for us.
Well, basically, if I were a teacher going to one of these workshops, there
would be a four-step process actually, initially a three-step process. We would
provide some information, which would be a presentation. We would model what
it was we were talking about so they could observe it. Then we would give them
some kind of task so they had an opportunity to work with it, to practice. What
was missing initially was there was no opportunity for them to discuss what
happened after they left the training. So, by divvying it up so that they came
back, then they got an opportunity to discuss their experiences in their own
classrooms, and that was a way that we began to incorporate some feedback
Impact of Project
In the early '80s, I had the opportunity to work with the refugee camps in Southeast
Asia, and I worked with a lady who ended up employed by the Peace Corps in a rather
significant leadership role. She's the one who made the decision that Peace Corps
volunteers needed a competency based approach to their language instruction, that
what they really needed was survival skills, a competency based syllabus. She
was responsible for an area called PACEM, which stands for Pacific, Asia, Central
Europe, and Mediterranean countries. She asked me to look at the training that
had been provided by a variety of contracted service providers, and she sent me
three different training packages. I looked at them and I made a recommendation.
So the Peace Corps decided to use ESL Institute as its training, and we have a
number of people who have trained, who are certified ESL Institute trainers.
I started in Poland, the next year Leann Howard and I went to Hungary together,
Norma Shapiro and Joanne Abing [Los Angeles Adult Education] have been to Russia,
Bill Shoaf [City College of San Francisco] went to New Guinea, I've been to Fiji,
Marilyn Knight Mendelson has done several countries in Africa. Basically, we've
been in Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, including Fiji and all the various
islands in the Pacific, probably forty-five to fifty different countries.1 What we did was we trained the people who were going to provide language training
to the Peace Corps volunteers. So we trained the people who were going to teach
Hungarian to the volunteers, the people who were going to teach Polish to the
volunteers, the people who were going to teach Sri Lankan, or whatever the language
is there, to the volunteers. And what we would do is we would use the ESL Institute
product. We would model for them in English, then they would take that model and
develop their own mini-lessons of their language using the techniques that we
had modeled. So they would end up with a series of lessons using dialogue drill
for teaching Polish, a series of lessons using language experience for teaching
1 See Appendix D for a complete list of international trainers.