a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
Because I’ve been away from TEFL for a month or so, I decided that I should do some CPD as a way to get back into the game. As luck would have it, the British Council hosted their Teaching for Success Online Conference, so I’ve watched a few of the sessions and will write a few blog posts about them, and hopefully my creativity will be restored.
The first session I watched was Practical Reflective Teaching: A guide for working English teachers by Jeremy Phillips.
I’ll be honest, reflection is not one of my favourite topics and I think it’s because I do it quite naturally by now but nothing much seems to come out of it. And I’m more likely to pay real attention to it if it’s a good lesson, which is ok but kinda defeats half the purpose of reflection. If I walk out of a not-as-good lesson, I’ll give it a few moments thought to try to figure out where it went wrong, but then close the case and move on to the next lesson. You win some, you lose some, right?
I don’t think I’m alone in this; I think a lot of teachers don’t enjoy reflection – possibly because they don’t deal well with criticism, but also maybe because if they feel they are good teachers (which hopefully we all do), they subscribe to the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it school of thought and so miss out on opportunities for improvement or at least change.
Besides, who actually has the time to write in a journal?
Then when I was taking a TEFL course a few months ago, I was reminded how hungry new trainees are for constructive criticism and advice. Having them watch themselves on video and hearing their discussions in peer feedback showed me how sometimes it can take some time for us to identify our own weaknesses.
These TEFL trainees were like children learning language: open and not afraid of making mistakes. If I contrast that with more experienced teachers who are capable of executing a lesson and feel they don’t have much more to learn, I can clearly see in which camp I’d prefer to fall.
Which is why I decided to watch this session – hopefully to get some good ideas for reflection activities so that I can get back in the habit of reflecting. While the talk itself offers nothing new in terms of background to reflective practices, he gave some good ideas on ways to think about reflection and questions to ask yourself about your teaching.
So here they are.
The bus ride home
Just like you think about the day on the bus ride home from school, so you should take a few moments and think about a particular lesson. Identify one good thing that happened and one bad thing. Then come up with an aim that comes out of that reflection, be it a knowledge aim or a skills aim.
What I like about this is that it won’t take long and something concrete comes out of it – not just a recognition of the reflection but an action to be taken.
Then he offered a few ideas of questions to ask a bit later after the lesson. There are a few of the usual questions, but these were the ones I really think would be effective:
Think about the lesson as a whole. What was the highlight for you?
What do you think was the highlight for the students ?
Was there any time you remember when some of the student looked confused?
Was there a part of the lesson when students were more/ less challenged ?
Did anything unplanned happen? What? Was it useful or a problem?
The 4 Square
Finally, on a more general level, he introduced the 4 square method of reflection, in which we think about our teaching in terms of high and low, and strong and weak The high and low refers to your knowledge and past experiences, while your strong and weak refers to your positive feelings associated with it.
Thinking about it like this makes reflection more realistic (we can’t be knowledgeable or enjoy everything!) and an outcome more manageable and likely.
Will I make use of these in my future lessons? Only time will tell.
Will I introduce them to my next batch of TEFL trainees? Without a doubt. 🙂
Stay tuned for another summary soon.