Thursday, 24 May 2012

Participation Precedes Learning

This was the title of the third presentation at the recent Cambridge Day I attended.  The speaker was Tim Murphey and what follows is a summary of his workshop.

Just as in his morning session, Tim began by telling us the first half of a 'split story'.  I was really taken with this technique as a way to engage students and intend to write a separate blog post about it.

Tim also advocates the use of speed dictation with the aim of teaching a set phrase which is the answer to a question prompt.  This can then be used at regular intervals throughout the class.  For example, when the teacher has his back to the class whilst writing something on the board, he can ask the question thereby giving the students something to do and say in what would otherwise be an unproductive few minutes.  In this session, Tim gave us the phrase, 'super, happy, optimistic, joyful and prodigious'.  He said it at normal speed a couple of times and we had to write down what we heard.  We then had to work collaboratively with our group to ensure that we had all written the phrase correctly (see my previous post about the benefits of collaboration).  The phrase was the answer to the question, 'How are you?', which Tim asked roughly every five or ten minutes throughout his presentation.  We all had to remember to say, 'I'm super, happy, optimistic, joyful and prodigious'.  He made it easier for us by putting a tune ('Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' from Mary Poppins) and a rhythm to the words.

So these two techniques, the split story and the learned phrase, are both perfect examples of ways to get students engaged, to get them participating fully in the classroom.  Research in the US has shown that students retain:
  • 10% of what they read
  • 26% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they see and hear
  • 70% of what they say
  • 90% of what they say and do
Therefore, who learns the most in the classroom?  Probably the teacher!!

Students need to do things for themselves: just hearing about something or seeing something won't make it stick.  Students have to:

WANT TO          ____    KNOW HOW TO      ___   HAVE THE CHANCE TO
(motivation)                                                               (opportunity)

Tell me and I'll forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I'll understand
Have me teach another and I'll know

Old Chinese proverb adapted by Tim Murphey

Total Physical Response (TPR)

As a way to engage students and to help them to retain what they are learning, we should encourage TPR within our classrooms.  This can be done in a number of ways:
  • Use music and rhythm - get students clapping or tapping their feet as they speak.
  • Use shadowing - get students to shadow (repeat back or summarise) what they hear when speaking to someone or when listening to a recording or watching a video clip. Shadowing can be complete, partial or interactive.
  • Use proto conversations - for example, get students to say mundane words (numbers, months of the year, etc.) in sequence, but change the style in which they say them - go from happy to sad to angry, etc.
  • Use intonational contours - song like language.
  • Walk and talk - get students moving around as they are speaking.
  • Use reformulation - have a maximum of ten minutes teacher talk time and then get students to reformulate what they have heard by peer teaching, completing questionnaires, correcting and comparing answers, mimicking their teacher, etc.
  • Play with the language - for example, watch this video of talking babies and get students to write a dialogue for the children.

Tim's message was certainly a powerful one expressed in a memorable and convincing way.  My colleagues and I have certainly implemented some of his techniques in the classroom, something I will write about in another blog post.


Tim Murphey's site where you will find recordings of his affirmation songs for speed dictations.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Adjusting the Control: Management of the Teaching and Learning Process

This was the title of the second presentation of the recent Cambridge Day I attended. The speaker was Stuart Vinnie and what follows is a summary of his workshop.

'Teachers open the door. You go through it by yourself.'
Chinese proverb.

This was the focus of the session: teachers as facilitators, encouraging learning through motivating both their students and themselves. A learner-centred classroom doesn't mean that learners are running the show, but rather considers the interaction between the learners, their interests and their needs, and the teacher. It allows learners to contribute, share and take an active role in the learning process. Likewise, a teacher-centred classroom doesn't necessarily mean that the teacher always leads; a teacher needs to behave in different ways throughout the lesson in order to successfully engage their learners. The key is in finding the middle ground.

Here are some of the roles that teachers adopt:
The teacher….
prepares and reflects on the lesson before teaching, anticipates problems and selects, designs and adapts materials.
organises the learning space, makes sure everything in the classroom is running smoothly and sets up rules and routines (i.e. things which are done regularly) for behaviour and interaction.
goes around the class during individual, pair and group work activities, checking learning and providing support as necessary.
provides opportunities for learning, helps learners to access resources and develop learner autonomy.
works out the cause of learners’ difficulties.
can be used by the learners for help and advice about language.
evaluates the language level and attitudes of the learners by using different means of informal and formal assessment.
tries to create a good relationship with and between learners.
thinks about the class after it has ended.
finds out why something worked or didn’t work.
uses PLNs through, for example, Twitter and Facebook to share ideas with other teachers throughout the world.

The key to managing both the teaching and the learning process is in understanding these roles and recognising when and how they should be used in different parts of a lesson. It is important to analyse and reflect on activities we use in class in order to improve them for future use. A pro-forma like this is very useful:

Skills used?
Language focus?
Teacher’s role?
Learner’s role?

Let's take a question and answer activity as an example. Give students a picture of a famous person or cartoon character (David Beckham, Harry Potter, Minnie Mouse, etc.) and tell them to imagine that they are a journalist going to meet this person for the first time. They have to think of ten pertinent and interesting questions to ask. A second student is given the same picture and they have to imagine that they are the famous person. A role-play follows between the journalist and the celebrity.

If we analyse this activity:

Skills used?
  • Listening
  • Speaking
Language focus?
  • Question formation
  • Tenses
Teacher’s role?
  • Supervisor
  • Motivator
  • Facilitator
Learner’s role?
  • Thinker
  • Imaginer
  • Pretender
  • Yes
  • Change roles
  • Use different pictures

We also need to think about the interaction patterns of each activity and consider whether traditional patterns can be changed to put the onus more on the learner than the teacher. We need to encourage student collaboration and student autonomy as much as possible.

Some activity ideas:

1.   Pyramid discussion - start with students talking about a topic in pairs. Then the pairs join with another pair to discuss the same question in a group of four. Then these groups join with another group to share their ideas.
2.   Dictation exercise - students work in small groups. The teacher dictates a sentence. The students write the sentence on a piece of paper and then pass their paper to the person on their left. The students look at the sentence written on their paper and circle any errors. The teacher reads the second sentence. The student writes this sentence down and then passes on the paper again. Every time a student gets a new piece of paper, he or she looks at the sentences already written on it and circles the errors before writing the new sentence. At the end of the activity, the collaborative error correction is consolidated so that all students know the correct sentences.
3.   Homework choice - allow students to choose their own homework. For example, they could pick four exercises from two pages of a workbook, or seven questions from an exercise of ten.

'Students can't be taught - they can only be helped to learn ...... our role is to help and encourage students to develop their skills, but without relinquishing our more traditional role as a source of information, advice and knowledge. Together our role is to make sure everyone benefits from the lesson and supports one another.'
Leo Jones, 'The Student-Centred Classroom' (CUP 2007)

'....everyone has a unique perspective on the world and their place within it. Each of us will approach language learning tasks in a different way as a result of this. Thus, the teacher must seek ways of enabling their learners to take control of their learning. By empowering them in this way, we can help learners to become truly autonomous.'
Marion Williams & Robert Burden, 'Psychology for Language Teachers' (CUP 1997)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Introducing CPD to Dinosaurs - an #eltchat summary

This is a summary of the #eltchat which took place at 12 noon BST on Wednesday 2nd May, 2012. The full title of the chat was:

Practical ideas to introduce workshops on CPD to dinosaurs :-) - what is important and how to go about setting up a programme.
The chat was lively and thought-provoking as usual and was expertly moderated by @Marisa_C and @rliberni.

What is CPD?

Continuous or continuing professional development.

What is a 'dinosaur'?

For the purposes of this chat, we were using the term 'dinosaur' to mean those 'difficult' colleagues who resist any kind of CPD; the kind of person who asks these questions:
  1. Am I getting paid for it?
  2. What do I get out of it?
  3. Are you telling me I have to do this?
  4. I've been doing this for years - what is there to learn?
The dinosaur is recognisable by his or her:
  • reluctance to embrace new ideas, especially if they are proposed by colleagues who are younger and less experienced than they are.
  • smugness.
  • pity for colleagues who care about their CPD ('Why bother?'  'Why are you papering your walls with certificates?').
  • lack of passion for teaching.
  • fear of anything beyond their comfort zone.
  • stubborness.
  • 'know-it-all' attitude or, alternatively, 'couldn't care less' attitude.
  • conviction that technology (or anything new!) has nothing to add and is just a load of hype.
  • blinkers and earplugs! (This was my somewhat flippant remark, but it seemed to resonate with several of the #eltchatters and prompted @Marisa_C to ask if anyone could draw this 'dinosaur' we were all describing! Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I have seen no such artwork!)
Perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on such people, though.  As @teflerinha said, 'dinosaurs' are often quite insecure and fearful of being found out, of being exposed as not being good enough.  Their prejudice against CPD is probably based on their fear of stepping into the unknown.  Alternatively, as @reasons4 suggested, their attitude may stem from years of being chronically underpaid, stupidly overworked and neglected.

Other colleagues who are reluctant to embrace CPD may not be 'dinosaurs' at all.  They may, as @JoshSRound said, simply see teaching as the day job and have no interest whatsoever in developing their skills.

Why should we care if colleagues embrace CPD?

What's the point in teachers being forced to attend CPD sessions if they're not engaged?  There are interested teachers and those who are there because they have to be.  Why don't we just concentrate on those teachers who want to develop and leave the 'dinosaurs' to their own devices? 

The consensus in answer to these questions seemed to be that we want to work for professional institutions that implement good, effective CPD programmes.  We don't want to work in organisations that tolerate lazy practitioners persisting with fossilized teaching methods.  CPD prevents burnout and motivates teachers.  You can't teach if you don't learn!!

How do we encourage 'dinosaurs' to take part in CPD?
  • @teflerinha tells us to use the carrot rather than the stick.  She believes that the key is in understanding their fear and then helping them to see CPD as a perk, not a pain - something that they can get out of the job that will improve the quality of their working life.  All teachers need to feel valued.
  • @timjulian60 thinks schools need to have a written internal agreement that states explicitly that teachers are expected to take PD seriously.
  • Make it part of the contract.  @harrisonmike gave us the example of UK FE contracts which oblige full-time teachers to do 30 hours of CPD in each academic year.  @cioccas told us of a similar scheme operating in Australia (36 hours a year).
  • Where CPD is NOT a requirement, it should be promoted by management.
  • Make CPD sessions relevant and interesting.  @teflgeek told us that he resents having to go to sessions where he knows the topic well.  I and @NikkiFortova were surprised that anyone could feel that there was nothing left to learn, but, if that's the case, then why not share your knowledge with less experienced colleagues?  Surely, part of effective CPD is passing on your expertise to others?
  • Have a wide range of CPD options available and allow teachers to select what they want to do (but don't give them the possibility to choose nothing!!).
  • Make CPD hours self-directed and give teachers some autonomy in how they develop.
  • CPD is best when it comes from within, such as teachers forming their own co-operative development groups (suggested by @teacherphili).
  • Allow CPD to happen organically - for example, teachers meeting informally in groups to talk about classes and share tips (suggested by @harrisonmike).
  • CPD needs to be challenging according to @teflgeek in order to keep teachers motivated, a sentiment shared by many #eltchatters.
  • Encourage peer observations so that everyone can learn from each other.  After doing an observation, teachers can be encouraged to fill in a reflective practice questionnaire.
  • Ask teachers why they are against CPD - perhaps bad experiences in the past have put them off.
  • Introduce some kind of reward system for teachers who take part in CPD.  @timjulian60, for example, told us that in his institution, teachers are paid double the hourly teaching rate if they lead a PD session.
  • Link CPD opportunities to the conditions of pay rises or contract renewals. 
  • Get teachers who have benefitted from CPD to share their experiences with their colleagues.
  • Not every teacher needs to do the same PD - they can do different things and then share their learning back at school so that everyone benefits.
  • Have teachers make up a community of practice (see link below) to pool resources and brainstorm ideas (via @jankenb2).
  • Use guile - ask the 'dinosaurs' for help with your class! (via @AlexandraKouk).
  • Don't overwhelm them.  Introduce CPD little by little - in manageable chunks.
  • Be there for your colleagues in the same way as you are for your students!
  • Don't call them 'dinosaurs'!!

Can 'dinosaurs' be converted?

The consensus seemed to be that they can, but that the metamorphosis from dinosaur to passionate educator is a very slow process with lots of resistance to overcome along the way.  @NikkiFortova said that she had met a few converts, but the key was that they had wanted to change and saw that the process wasn't hard or painful.  I myself have a 'work in progress', but don't want to go into detail just in case my encouragement so far means that he is now reading my blog!! :-)

At the end of the day, if the culture of an organisation encourages CPD, then teachers will embrace that culture or leave of their own accord!


Differentiating Professional Development: The Principal's Role - a book highly recommended by @cioccas.
A cross-curricular activity on dinosaurs!
A sharing blitz for CPD via @cybraryman1
A questionnaire for teachers to suggest workshops via @Marisa_C
Plenty of ideas on different forms of CPD via @AlexandraKouk
My CPD page by @cybraryman1
Communities of Practice via @jankenb2
Co-operative development via @teacherphili
The Peter Principle via @esolcourses