Interview with IELTS Expert, Don Oliver from IDP

The Best Teacher Team had the opportunity to interview one of the leading IELTS Expert, Don Oliver. There are 14 pages to this interview.

~Index~
About Don
Page 1: Why did you become an IELTS Expert?
Page 2: The tasks of an IELTS Expert
Page 3: The tasks done for IDP
Page 4: Teaching experience in Oman and Vietnam
About IELTS
Page 5: The factors that helped IELTS establish its worldwide trust
Page 6: Test design process for IELTS
Page 7: The linguistic studies and observations used for IELTS
Page 8: About IELTS’ scoring system
Page 9: The importance of IELTS’ Speaking Task
Page 10: The drastic changes in the history of IELTS
About second language acquisition
Page 11: Important factors for second language acquisition
Page 12: Important factors for beginner-level learners of English
Page 13: Important factors for mid-level learners of English
Page 14: Important factors for advanced-level learners of English

In the first segment of the interview, Don tells us why he became an IELTS Expert and shares his philosophy towards English Education.

1.Why did you become an IELTS Expert?

Interviewer: Why did you decide to build your career as an IELTS expert?

Don: That’s an interesting question! I did not really like teaching to begin with, because my experience with teaching was in high school. It’s quite a difficult job in Australia. I don’t know about it in Japan. So then, I decided to be a serious painter, exhibit paintings and things like that. But I never made any money out of it, and then I started to have children, so I found that I had to actually get a proper job, so it was a teaching job. And then very early on, in the history of IELTS, they were training people to become IELTS examiners and that was in 1990. So nearly, thirty years ago, I became an examiner. I became a teacher who taught students to prepare for IELTS.  And more and more my life was revolving around IELTS. And then, 10 years ago, I started working for IDP, which is one of the owners of IELTS, along with British Council and Cambridge University and that was when my whole career was really a matter of working in the IELTS field. So, for the last ten years, I’ve worked entirely with IELTS! But I am very happy that that is the case because it’s given me a chance to travel a lot and come to Japan as I’ve said five times so far. In fact, I think it’s a very good test and I’m very happy to be promoting it.

Interviewer: It’s interesting because I had the impression that you already had interest in education and started to build your career around IELTS ever since you graduated university.

Don: That’s far from it. [laughs]

Interviewer: I guess that explains why you are interested in music as well.

Don: Yes! Very much so. That’s my passion at the moment! You know, this is maybe more common in Australia than it is in Japan but a lot of people who are working in the English language field are people who do the job because they are very interested in something else [laughs]. So, you meet actors, writers, artists and people like that very often in an English language staff room. It doesn’t mean that they are not doing their job or not good in teaching. In fact, it actually makes them become better teachers because it makes them have a broader sense of what human beings can do.

Interviewer: That is very true! I also like music. I tend to buy records a lot and play the instrument a little bit as well.

Don: Oh, what do you play?

Interviewer: I can play the synthesizer and also sample the records to make my own music.

Don: That’s very modern! In fact, one of my sons is in a band, playing in Melbourne. He plays keyboards. He has a Korg synthesizer and does stuff like that. It’s a bit of a mystery to me. I just play a guitar and a banjo.

Interviewer: I guess I’m more in the digital era.

Don: I guess that’s just the way it is.

Interviewer: Yes, but I really agree with what you mentioned about a person being a better teacher because they have a certain interest outside of education. I think people will learn more things if they are geared towards a certain interest and not in education itself. Education itself is an approach and not a goal of a person. Do you agree?

Don: Yes, I agree. There is lots of research to back up the idea that a classroom that is focused on content, like English for a particular purpose, meaning English not being the primary focus of the lesson is very effective. You can learn a lot of English just by studying music. I think that that is important.

Interviewer: As for me, another interest I have is working out. I read scientific articles regarding effective muscle training methods and that eventually helped me be better at academic English. I think if you have an interest in not just English itself but more so in other specific fields, it would help you absorb English much faster.

Don: Absolutely! I think that is a good message to give to your students. That they will or should have a passion and that passion may not be learning a language but if they can combine those two ideas, learning the language with their passion, then I think they’re halfway there.

Interviewer: Thank you for the very insightful message! I heard that you were working on an IELTS song.

Don: Yes, well…it’s not something that should be performed in public. [laughs].

Interviewer: Have you finished that song?

Don: Just two verses, I don’t have a melody yet. The lyrics are something like this…[recites the lyrics].

Interviewer: Is that an official IELTS song?

Don: No, I don’t think it will be. [Everybody laughs]

~Index~
About Don
1: Why did you become an IELTS Expert?←you’re here
2: The tasks of an IELTS Expert
3: The tasks done for IDP
4: Teaching experience in Oman and Vietnam
About IELTS
5: The factors that helped IELTS establish its worldwide trust
6: Test design process for IELTS
7: The linguistic studies and observations used for IELTS
8: About IELTS’ scoring system
9: The importance of IELTS’ Speaking Task
10: The drastic changes in the history of IELTS
About second language acquisition
11: Important factors for second language acquisition
12: Important factors for beginner-level learners of English
13: Important factors for mid-level learners of English
14: Important factors for advanced-level learners of English

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