Archive for Professional Development

‘Awareness is the capacity to recognize and monitor the attention one is giving or has given to something. Thus, one acts on or responds to the aspects of a situation of which one is aware.’ (Freeman, 1989)

Awareness is an essential aspect of language teaching and teacher education, as it is, or should be, part of one’s everyday life.  Without awareness of a certain aspect in question, monitoring one’s (own) actions and/or behaviour in that area would simply be impossible.

One incident from everyday life made me aware of the unquestionable relationship and interconnection between knowledge, skill, awareness and attitude suggested by Freeman 1989).

One evening in March 2009, there was a knock on the door. I was surprised to see a man who said that he was my downstairs neighbour. He said that he had been living in that apartment since the previous July (for about 9 months), and then started to complain about the noise of my footsteps which, he called unbearable. He said he had never come upstairs to complain so far but that evening he had had enough. I was truly shocked to hear this :(, and could not believe that I had been the source of such trouble. I immediately apologised for disturbing him, thanked him for warning me as I wasn’t aware of this at all and promised to be more careful.

Since that day I have been attentive while walking in the corridors. Naturally, I do not always remember the warning; however, I have developed a kind of internal awareness which makes me monitor my steps and even my husband’s steps as well. At this point, it would be important to acknowledge my attitude as I could be a person who wouldn’t care for the warning. As an adult, I had the knowledge and the skill of walking in an apartment but I needed a warning which raised my awareness to correct or repair my behaviour. I responded to the warning by monitoring my attention to it since my attitude is responsive to this warning.

Without the direct intervention by a supervisor or evaluations on self or peer observations or any other reflective practices which would trigger one’s attention to a certain aspect of teaching behaviour, it is unlikely to change that certain behaviour even though the teacher in question is a fully prepared responsible person.

 I will continue to write about awareness and how important it is in teaching. There are aspects in our teaching that needs to be improved. Most of us are unaware of some of these. We keep going in our blissful unawareness. Until one day, we are made aware of tha,t and let to take a deliberate action  to repair it. Like my neighbour’s warning on my footsteps. The good news is, he has never come back :) so I can safely say that my deliberate action repared my behaviour that I was unaware of thanks to the fact that I was made aware of it.

Reference

Freeman, Donald (1989). Teacher Training, Development and Decision Making; A model Teaching and Related Strategies for Language Teacher Education TESOL Quarterly, Vol.23, No. 1, March 1989

 

I have been thinking and writing about my reflections on Penny Ur’s (1997) article on Teacher Education and Teacher Development for the last few weeks. Ur (1197) refers to Wallace’s Training Models and suggests the Optimal Training Module by combining Wallace’s Models and I cannot agree more. Figure 1 is a representation of how optimal teacher development can be reached.

Optimal

 Figure 1, Ur (1997)

Teachers have to reflect on their lessons but while doing that they get ultimate benefit if they make use of the many a resources out there to improve their teaching. What are at teachers’ disposal as  resources? Their students?  Their peers?  Their teacher trainers? Their supervisors? The research? Language learning theories?  Observations?  ELT conferences? The Internet?  

Teacher's chattingThey talk to peers and discuss some classroom issues with them. Teachers observe peers,  and they get observed by them. More reflection goes on having talked and thought about the observed classes. Teachers learn from their peers and they learn greatly from honest, objective and timely feedback on their lessons. Teachers learn from the literature. They have the chance to compare their experience with what research says.  Teachers learn from classroom research or action research when they are a little bit more experienced in their field.  Teachers learn their strengths and the areas they need to work on via appraisals. Teachers learn from anecdotes, metaphors and stories.  

In Your Hands So once teachers want to learn, once they have that motivation of doing their job properly and efficiently they find a way. As in the story told by Jane Ravell and Susan Norman’s  (1997) wonderful book; everything is IN YOUR HANDS.

 This link takes you to the fantastic story of IN YOUR HANDS :  

Reference

Ur, P. (1997). Teacher Training and Teacher Development: A Useful Dichotomy? JALT Publications, The Language Teacher Online, 19 October 1997

One of my trainers, Sheelagh Deller who taught me so much once said:

thinking‘There are three types of lessons:

  1.        1. The lesson you planned.
  2.        2. The actual lesson that you have executed.
  3.        3. The lesson you would have given.’

Some teachers spend time on the lesson, and think about it when the lesson is over.  These teachers can be described as teachers who ave begun to be Reflective teachers. What do reflective teachers do? They recall an activity or process, they consider it thoroughly and they evaluate it. Following that they make a decision and conduct an action plan. Only then, the reflection on the lesson when it is over becomes meaningful. Otherwise just thinking about it, and not doing anything about would not be productive. As Joel A. Barker says;

‘Vision without action is merely a dream.

Action without a vision is just passing time.

Vision with action can change the world.’

In my previous blog post, I wrote about Wallace’s (1991) Craft Model and Applied Science Model in teacher training. As a third model, Wallace suggests Reflective Model. In the Reflective Model teachers apply the received knowledge, i.e. methods and techniques that they acquire during their training and have the chance to develop an understanding of actual teaching where they gain the experiential knowledge. You can find an analysis of all three of these models with pros and cons in Tanvir’s Blog.

Wallace’s Reflective Model (learning derived from reflection on practice), corresponds with “teacher development.” It can be represented through the model of experiential learning provided by Kolb (1984). (Ur, 1997) Figure 1 shows the cycle.

wallace 2

Figure 1, thinking1from (Ur, 1997)

The teacher is much more active in this model (compared to the other two models). The teacher applies what s/he  learned, reflects on the experience, thinks through the experience, implements a new or adapted approach based on the conceptualisation of the initial experience and goes to the classroom and experiments his/her new plan which leads itself to repeat the whole circle one more time. 

 In the Reflective Model what the teacher experiences seems to be the only way to learn. In other words, the teacher happens to experience something in his/her class, and bases his/her actions on what s/he experiences. It appears that the teacher ignores the other sources of information and knowledge in the field that s/he could make use of.  Taken to an extreme, it implies that the incoming teacher has to “reinvent the wheel” on their own (Ur, 1997).

So what is the best model? This is the next blog topic:)

Reference

Ur, P. (1997). Teacher Training and Teacher Development: A Useful Dichotomy? JALT Publications, The Language Teacher Online, 19 October 1997

Wallace, M.J. (1991). Training foreign language teachers: A reflective approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Teacher Education

As far as I know, in order to become a teacher, a person needs some kind of formal education all over the world. In order to become an EFL or ESL teacher, one needs to complete a 3-4 year BA in Teacher Education or a 100-120 hour TEFL certificate course such as a CELTA or TESOL on top of a BA that could be in a different field. We call this pre-service teacher education and teachers-to- be receive the bare minimum of the knowledge and skills to become an English teacher.

I think, Wallacewallace 1’s (1991) description of the Craft Model in teacher training fits this stage of teacher education very well. The trainee is in the middle receiving knowledge; pretty much passive intake goes on.

 

Figure 1: Trainee’s role based on Wallace’s (1991) Craft Model (Ur, 1997)

During Teacher Education (TE) Future teachers take basic methodology, lesson planning, language terminology and teaching techniques as well as some micro teaching opportunities with some peer observation. They read books by the ELT gurus such as Scott Thornbury and Jeremy Harmer.

According to Wallace’s Applied Science Model, teachers in the first years of their teaching career are busy with applying what they have learned from the literature and their trainers. (Figure 2) This may give little or no scope to teacher’s own creativity and inventions.

applied science model

 

What about observation during TE? Most of the renowned TEFL courses offer a number of guidedobservations during these courses, others neglect this component which is a real problem.  I think observing other teachers or even teachers-to-be is one of the most useful things for a teacher.

And at the end of the TE period, future teachers are certified and are ready to take their first “real” classes and….

 

Teacher Development

The real story starts when they encounter their first group of 40-48 pairs of eyes looking at them :) :), there are in-service teachers who never have further voluntary or compulsory training in teaching but this number should be either really rare mainly due to lack of finances or these teachers are either lucky to be equipped with a godsend talent or totally unaware of what to do to improve their teaching skills.  

The majority of the English teachers feel the need of further in-service training and continue their professional development by voluntary courses or they are offered compulsory training by the institutions they work for. Naturally, neither the Craft Model nor the Applied Science Model alone makes them competent ELT teachers. What does then??? This will be the next blog post.

Reference

Ur, P. (1997). Teacher Training and Teacher Development: A Useful Dichotomy? JALT Publications, The Language Teacher Online, 19 October 1997

Wallace, M.J. (1991). Training foreign language teachers: A reflective approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.