Saturday, 21 July 2018

Reflections: Active Listening

Last week we had seminars after a lecture for presessional students to experience what to expect on their main courses. They brought their notes from the lecture and were encouraged to discuss the lecture with question prompts to react to. 

There was clear evidence that the students had taken notes and had assimilated some of the content. They also made an effort to respond to the questions, and to use their notes to refer to. They participated and there was some interaction.

However, participation in the seminar varied from pre-prepared 'reading' with little or no reference either to the questions proposed or in response to ideas proposed, to some evidence of interaction but this was minimal and certainly not sustained.

Reflecting on what happened highlighted the need for more practice as this was the students first experience of participating in a seminar. I think it also highlighted the need for lessening support in terms of the question prompts - maybe letting them come to next seminar with their own ideas for discussion after reviewing their notes and only offering question prompts if necessary to try for a more authentic experience with student-generated content. 

In terms of the minimal or lack of interaction, I felt they needed more support.

Having identified what was needed next, I found a short YouTube video
 on Active Listening  linked to MindTools website with more information and used this as listening and reading note-taking practice in the next lesson.  

These visualisations are what the students produced in the next lesson after the listening & reading input and I hope they are what will inform their speaking skills (and mine!).


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Learner-created visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension Part 2

The first formative essay submission date on the summer presessional was last Friday.  It's an introduction to criticality in the form of an exhibition review.  

Having marked the reviews, I was really pleased in terms of overall organisation, argumentation and critical awareness.  However, in the next summative written assignment, the students have to sign to say their work is their own and have to provide a list of references so it was time to focus on these areas.

I gave the students the following task:
  • What is plagiarism?
  • How can it be avoided?
   Create a poster to clarify your findings

The students used their mobiles to research and worked in groups to collaborate on their posters.  

Taking this approach meant that the content was learner-generated and then, once again, I could encourage co-construction using visualisation to highlight text comprehension -  see original post: Learner-created visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension

The students produced the following posters:



The posters showed that the concept of plagiarism still needed clarifying. I asked the students to identify which groups had produced content on their poster that they needed to reference in order to avoid plagiarism.  This prompted reflection and metacognition and the two posters below were identified. 

The next day, we focused on how to use the Harvard referencing system and the posters were amended accordingly:

This was great as their understanding of plagiarism and the need for referencing emerged from the content generated.  Further practice of referencing was provided by creating a bibliography from the list of sources the students had collected as they had been working on their exhibition reviews.

I'm looking forward to further practical experimentation and doing a TD session to share ideas with colleagues. I'm collecting related literature on the topic and would be very interested to hear of any open access research into this area of visualising reading that you may be aware of. 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Using a backchannel to encourage presentation feedback

Teaching on a presessional course involves helping students to develop critical thinking skills through inquiry, and asking and responding to questions is a need. On my course there are 18 students, who are predominately Chinese.  Part of the final assessment involves giving an individual  'Crit' - a crique to present their work - and part of the  assessment criteria of this is how the student responds to questions.  Practice so far, in group presentations, has resulted in very little or no interaction from the audience for feedback at the end and the provision of feedback criteria and instruction to take notes resulted in minimal engagement.

I wanted to know how much this was to do with confidence.  Asking questions and being an active learner represents a significant paradigm shift from the traditional Chinese model.  
On Friday, students gave their second group presentation for which they had been preparing for two weeks.  I decided to try using a backchannel, for students to comment and ask questions in a 'live' chat situation that we could address in feedback after each group presentation.

I was amazed to see the number of notifications coming in on my phone and by the end, there were 107 posts for the four presentations!

Ok, a lot the comments lacked in depth of inquiry but it certainly increased engagement.  I used Padlet and I think the fact that their posts were anonymous might have helped confidence levels too. I think seeing the stream of posts may also have been a motivating factor to join in.  The posts included advice for improvement in terms of delivery, body language and pronunciation and confidence boosting comments in terms of support.

All in all, a definite improvement in active engagement and food for thought...

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Learner-created visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension

This week I tried using an idea I'd read about a while ago by @seburnt Tyson Seburn: Learner-sourced visuals for deeper text engagement and conceptual comprehension p.79-88 - in The Image in English Language Teaching (2017).

I felt it was a such a great idea to ask for a visual interpretation of a text in an attempt to fully engage with the text and, as Tyson Seburn puts it (page 87), "learners are not only involved in their own learning, but also in the co-construction of text comprehension." I am currently teaching on a Presessional course with MA students about to study on various art and design and fashion courses in September, so they are mostly all talented artists. Consequently, rather than asking the learners to source related images, I decided to ask them to create visual interpretations.

One of their next formative assessments involves choosing an art and design movement and giving a group presentation. I had set a reading text on Cubism as a homework task for them to check understanding of unknown vocabulary. The next morning, I put them into groups and gave the following instruction:

They worked together and produced the following visual interpretations:



They were engaged throughout, collaborated well and clearly enjoyed the task. Then I asked them to give mini- presentations to explain and expand on how their visuals connected to the text.

Their visual representations and subsequent explanations clarified that learning had clearly taken place and I think the task definitely promoted a deeper text engagement and supported both language learning and text comprehension.

This is definitely an approach I will use again and an idea I'll work on developing.

Friday, 20 April 2018

#IATEFL Day 4 Friday 13 April

Teacher Training in the 21st Century - Is CELTA still relevant? Claire Harrison

Claire Harrison started her session by stating her research  aim: to ensure CELTA remains fit for purpose now and in the future - a great aim and a great session.  

Changes to the CELTA syllabus:
Topic 4

Topic 5

Topic 1

(CELTA Syllabus and Assessment Guidelines 5th Edition)

12:05 You're Watching Them - Who's Watching You? Reflecting on Feedback Jo Gakonga

Another great session. Jo shared her research with us by example, using audio to reflect on practice - specifically recording herself giving a trainee feedback after teaching practice. Using a mobile phone to record yourself giving feedback and then when reflecting, Jo recommends listening once, listening again and transcribing. Her interactive session can be found on her website: ELT

12:50 That was the final session of the Brighton #IATEFL2018 conference. My first IATEFL conference, and what an amazing experience it was.

#IATEFL Day 3 Thursday 12 April

10:20 Video-based training and development for language teachers Steve Mann

Steve Mann set out his research aims: to map the current use of video and visual media in language teacher education and to build a community of practice among practitioners in teacher education in order to share good ideas and options.

This research includes interviews with over 40 teacher educators to elicit details of ways video practices support teacher education.

He referred to his book Reflective Practice, written with Steve Walsh, which takes a data-led, dialogic approach and the use of appropriate tools.  He also told us about video platforms to address concerns about privacy:

This project is mapping the use and sharing examples of the different ways in which video is being used in language teacher education and is now live on the Video in Language Teacher Education ViLTE website and YouTube channel.

11:05 Pronunciation in Action: reflections from two teacher trainers Nicola Meldrum & Mark McKinnon

Nicola and Mark told us how they went back into the classroom in response to hearing repeated issues around pronunciation.  They team taught on an A1 class deciding to help the learners decode rather than by grading the language.  They did this by listening and noticing, by picking up and responding to problems, and by focusing on decoding listening activities to provide a supportive listening cycle:
Meaning Form Sound (MFS) + Feedback Focused Planning (FFP)  + Supportive Listening Cycle (SC) = Fully Integrated Pronunciation (FIP)

They shared their results by including a video of a learner's very positive reflections on the course.

12:05 Forum on Effective & Personalised: the Holy Grail of CPD

Creating a culture of CPD, centre -wide, brand-wide, company-wide Oliver Beaumont & Duncan Jamieson

Using the analogy of a garden, Oliver and Ben look at the difference between CPD and creating a culture of CPD as in a growing community, and differentiating the two, by saying it's not so much about what, it's more about how.  They shared their provision of how as bottom-up, participant-driven CPD for teachers to collaborate, look at their current practice, input practical ideas on how to be better, reflect on practice and feedforward for follow-up action.

Are we really supporting new teachers? Alistair Roy

Alistair began by quoting figures that suggested the answer is a resounding 'No' - 91.7% of teachers have never been assigned an official mentor.

He suggested that it would be a good idea if mentoring was considered obligatory in EFL as it is for newly qualified teachers in the state sector.

He talked about the fact that new teachers seem to like a mentor that has just a little more experience than them rather than a lot and a mentor that teaches in the same department. He suggested setting up a buddy system with weekly meetings built into schedules. He gave the following advice to managers:

What can managers do?

  • invest - not just economically
  • dedicate time and resources
  • support
  • understand
  • a good teacher is the best resource

Personalised Development Groups - a framework for collaborative, teacher-led CPD Josh Round & Andrew Gaskins

This session began by looking at the traditional approach to CPD: a one-size-fits-all, top-down, passive consumption with little follow up and the need to move away from this to a fresh approach to CPD that is less top-down and more personalised.

They told us about their initiative of setting up personalised development groups (PDGs). An idea to benefit schools and support teachers by finding a balance between autonomy and choice by providing a supportive framework for an action research cycle. Providing example research questions, ideas for observation tools and clear follow-through options.
 They evaluated the scheme by asking for feedback and shared results.
 Why they sometimes don't work so well: lack of structure, lack of follow through - absences/ sickness , contributions can be uneven
Successes: inspirational feedback presentations, new stronger relationships, ongoing conversations about teaching

Follow up seemed to be the key word in all three sessions.

Learner-Centred observations of teachers Christian Tiplady

Christian spoke about the aim to create a learner-centred approach when teaching but, when observing, asked the question, "How learner-centred are the criteria?". He highlighted the fact that the criteria for assessment do not match a learner-centred approach.  He suggested that by focusing on the behaviours of teachers when observing, we are reinforcing a teacher-focused approach and disconnecting from learner outcomes.

He conducted a case study and showed us how he had changed the usual observation template to make the criteria more learner-centred in liaison with the teacher and he shared the results. He remarked on how little literature there seems to be out there on this topic.

I think a refocus in observation practice on learning rather than on teaching sounds like an extremely beneficial move for both the teacher and the learner.

Developing Learner Independence through Online Platforms Russell Standard

Russell Standard started by telling us that his own language learning experience had inspired this talk. He spoke about learning platforms / VLEs and used Edmodo as an example to highlight the vast numbers who sign up - 70million users on Edmodo - but pointed out that these figures do not reflect active users. He talked about how easy it was to overload the content on a platform and suggested it was far better to have less content and fewer tools and to exploit what you have more effectively to keep users active.  

He suggested linking the lesson to the platform in the lesson plan to integrate the platform into the classroom saying the community feeling does not automatically happen and emphasised the need to build teaching and learning around a few technologies so that everything is related and integrated.    He said skilful integration helps focus on pedagogy and helps put the ELT back into technology.

Delivered with a passion, it was an engaging and inspiring last session of the day.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

#IATEFL2018 Day 2 Wednesday 11 April

10:20am Taming of the Feedback Shrew Angelos Bollas

Angelos Bollas began his session by setting up a scenario with an example of a trainee he had on a course who had had previous teaching experience and who presented themselves as knowing-it-all. They were making feedback sessions difficult both in the way they were giving feedback to the other trainees (and tutors) and in receiving feedback.  

Angelos said that if / when this occasion arises, a reaction can be that the tutor ends up feeling bullied and can also become defensive. 

He then offered practical ways for tutors to help trainees lower their defences and become receptive to feedback:

  • become less of a tutor and more of a mentor for experienced trainees
  • establish a colleague/ colleague relationship
  • remove the power relationship
  • consider the holistic experience
  • ensure methodology is routed in context to assist the trainee in making links
  • follow more descriptive rather than evaluative observation
He cited Malderez & Bodoczky (1999) and provided a list of the following references:

He finished his presentation by suggesting tutors adopt the following stance in reference to Jason Anderson's talk:

 We are not here to tell you how to teach.
                 We are here to help you gain the qualification.
                 You decide what you can apply to your context.

A great presentation offering a practical and supportive approach to both trainer and trainee.

11:05  Ms Holistic vs Mr McNugget Marisa Constantinides

Marisa used storytelling effectively to contextualise and highlight affordances and constraints when taking either of the two approaches to grammar teaching.  As in the story, a happily ever after outcome is possible by using a combination of both approaches as appropriate.

12:05 Make Critical Thinking Part of your Everyday Teacher Toolkit John Hughes

John Hughes suggests critical thinking needs to be embedded within everyday practice rather than a separate entity.  He gave practical examples of how critical thinking can be included in planning and delivery and how activities can be more motivating and foster learner independence.

He stressed the importance of ensuring students have the language they need for problem solving, giving opinions, etc. and he graded the language accordingly - *A1 **A2 ***B1  He also spoke about using both inductive (higher order) and deductive (lower order) approaches.

He gave examples of activities from Cengage coursebooks: Life, Infocus and finished by saying: "Let critical thinking lead to creative thinking."

14:15 Forum on CPD for Teacher Trainers

Professional development for teacher trainers: a neglected area? Teti Dragas

Teti referred to a lot of relevant literature with the aim of addressing this neglected area to encourage discussion and facilitate change. Some of the literature referred to was: Julian Edge, Donald Schon (1983), Bax (1997) and Dewy.

She concluded by suggesting that teacher trainers need to
explore and start talking to each other because we are the developers in our field.

Teacher Development: What about trainer development? Sinead Laffan 

This session was a practical response. Sinead Laffan told us about a closed group on Facebook that she had created with three Trinity Cert TESOL trainers who had decided to support each other online by addressing individual areas of concern and working collaboratively to consider how they could perform better.

Sinead closed her session by saying that coping and being capable is hard, and unnecessary if we can find time to be present for each other.

16:45 Empowering teacher trainers towards equity Diane Hoggins

Diane Hoggins began her talk by quoting that 50% of CELTA trainees are now classified as non-native speakers.  Her session aimed to raise awareness of this fact to all trainees and to empower those from other language backgrounds by examining teachers' beliefs and exploring varieties of English - specifically English as a Lingua Franca.  She shared activities she had put together to address these issues:
  • teachers' beliefs
  • ELF
  • NESTs & NNESTs
  • Employment