This year I attended the IATEFL conference as one of the moderators. I wouldn’t have made the face-to face conference , so I’m grateful for this opportunity to moderate online sessions and get a free ticket. It was a truly rewarding experience and I felt really appreciated before, during and after the conference. We received training, got constant support, thank-you emails and a great shoutout at the end of the conference, as well as this lovely picture- see cover photo. The green lines are me representing Greece and Spain. 😊
Huge thanks to:
Shaun Wilden for his patience and support! I needed Shaun’s help on several occasions and he was always there with a smile and a solution. 🏆
Key takeaways from TT talks:
When I was not moderating, I prioritized talks on teacher training (hence the TT), as I’m about to reach the end of the Trainer Development course and needed fresh input and ideas for my coming assignments (3!). Here’s what I found useful:
- Jason Skeet & Maria Heron introduced 3 brilliant activities to get Pre-service teachers to critically reflect on their learning/teaching. The ladder, the wall, and the roots of learning.
Observation and feedback
2. Jo Gakonga -Holding up a mirror to classroom observation
Jo says: Record thyself when giving feedback! Unless we listen back to what we said, we’re not going to reflect on and improve our feedback skills.
How: Use otter.ai. There is a free and paid version. The free one includes 600 minutes of transcription per month! Not bad. If you record yourself giving feedback , you can import the audio file into otter.ai and get the transcript in a couple of minutes.
I’ve been using it as well and it’s indeed very good.
Why : To focus on your use of language. How exploratory, judgemental, supportive it is. To check you use hedging strategies or sound too directive. Jo shared some examples:
- Would you like to use that idea I gave you before? Encouraging teachers to think about a suggestion but giving them the choice. They decide if they want to use it.
- You could.. hedging strategy
- How could you do that? encouraging the teacher to reflect and come up with a solution.
- Or you can even.. Provide alternatives in a supportive way.
- I think you’re doing well . Is I think really a hedging strategy here? I agree with Joe that it modifies praise, thus making it less effective.
- You’re doing well. Sounds more positive and the observer sounds more certain.
- Good point: not specific praise.
- Good strategy, good to check understanding: the observer makes more effort to praise specific aspects.
3. Pat Iger – Observing experienced professionals: teacher perspectives on an HE observation scheme
Observation feedback can reveal more about the observer than the observee.(Baxter, 2010)
- Beware of judgementoring, i.e. trying to be judgemental and developmental at the same time. Judgementoring is an obstacle to professional learning and develoment. It can put stress on the observees and result in them producing lesson plans that meet the criteria but do not reflect day-to-day teaching practices.
- It’s important to maintain the pre and post-observation meetings.
- Use peer observations for developmental purposes, with informal feedback (observee setting the agenda)
- Observations for appraisal should be carried out by distant colleague/line manager.
- Feedback can’t be just a personal feel for what makes good teaching. The criteria have to come out of research literature around effective teaching practices.
- I thought frequent observations cause more stress but it was interesting to hear Pat say that research suggests the opposite, as one-offs are usually not indicative of teachers’ typical performance. Pat recommended more frequent observations to eliminate the performance-on-the-day factor.
- observer training is important.
4. Amanda Howard – Observation and feedback: where are we now?
Sometimes the tensions rises to the point where trainer and teacher are squaring off as though it’s a duel! One or both may go on the attack, go on the defensive or tiptoe around each other with nothing to say but polite words and a look in their eyes, as though their weapons can be drawn at any given moment!
- Amanda did some research for this session and found that supervisors dreaded observations even more than teachers! We can see one of the responses above, which refers to what Randal with Thornton (2001) call pussyfooting (not confronting) and clobbering (attacking).
- Most of the times , the post-lesson feedback session is a negative experience.
- Many observers tend to assess observations on the basis of their own practice.
- Teachers get accused for not taking risks; they don’t, because they know they will be judged more harshly if they take risks than if they don’t.
- Amanda mentioned that observation sheets that go through in massive detail all the thing the observer should be looking for in the lesson are not observer-friendly either. It’s hard to see how we can observe a lesson with such an extensive list of criteria to read while observing.
- Observer training is key- counselling books can also be very useful. Something I absolutely agree with.
- Generally speaking, Amanda argued there have been very few changes in the way observation and feedback are carried out in the last 10 years.
5. Martin Oetegenn talked about integrating translanguaging practices on teacher training courses by:
- Making space for bilingualism and students’ bilingual identities.
- Avoiding restriction on languages used in learner interviews.
- Welcoming interaction between trainee teachers and learners before and after assessed lessons in any combination of shared languages.
- Using day-one warmer tasks/discussion prompts, such as : What is English? Does everyone in the room think of English as the same thing? What types of English are you aware of? Are any Englishes thought of as superior in any way and why? This can help trainees who are worried about their versions of English feel more comfortable, feel that recognition is taking place.
Martin kindly answered my question about allowing teachers to conduct group discussions or reflection tasks in L1; he said he would absolutely do it but we just need to be aware of the context we’re in, as using L1 might be frowned upon. So it’s not just up to us, but up to the directors, or even trainees as well.
6. Simon Marshall & Emma Taylor focused on including CELTA TP students in the feedback process. I particularly liked the session title : Guinea pigs exclaim “No CELTA without us: more inclusion, please!”
The research for their presentation was based on a questionnaire and some interviews that they did with TP students.
They explained to students that their goal is not to train teachers to be lecturers, but to teach English in a communicative manner.
They asked TP students :
- to write and talk about the main areas of progress the see trainees make throughout the 4 weeks of the course (they were provided with a list of examples).
- to choose 3 personal qualities from a list that they think are the most important for a teacher of English to adults and add 2 of their own.
- which aspects of their teaching they think trainees need to improve the most.
According to TP students, the areas for improvement were the following:
7. Tatiana Polovinkina & Anna Kashcheeva shared what they do to create a positive CELTA experience and promote continuous professional development. Some of their ideas were:
- provide sample self-evaluations written by the tutor. Very useful in my opinion; I remember struggling with that on CELTA.
- first lessons observed are not assessed.
- removing the above standard grade and just having a pass or below standard- less unhealthy comparison and competition.
- Using real-time online chats for peer observations (WhatsApp) to keep a record of lessons observed. Trainees observe and give feedback by sending messages in a WhatsApp group. These chats also helped make the feedback more positive, as trainees knew the observee would read the comments later, so they chose their words carefully. One of my peers on the TD course is already using WhatsApp chats and she says they really work!
More links to IATEFL 2021 posts
8. Sandy Millin shared with us what 2019-2020 taught her about teacher training. You can (and should ) read her post here . Sandy has also written summaries of all the IATEFL 2021 talks she attended, which I found very useful. Special thanks for her notes on Martyn Clarke and Melissa Lamb’s talks which I missed! You can read them here: Day one, day two, day three.
9. I also attended the TT ED Sig PCE, another useful and very well organised event. I look forward to using padlet for collecting teacher’s contributions and recording oral summaries, like Russel Stunnard showed us. Jim Fuller also attended and published a detailed summary on Sponge ELT which you can read here.
I look forward to the recordings!
So many I missed and want to watch, including talks given by scholarship winners, such as Andre Hedlund, Chiara Bruzzano and Olivia Price Bates, lovely ELT colleagues from whom I have learned a lot in the last year. And of course pronunciation-focused talks, like Adam Scott’s Discovering phonology and exploring personal pronunciation aims, Taylor Veigga’s Pronunciation and social justice: bridging the gap, as well as Marek Kiczkowiak’s How to teach pronunciation for global communication.
Hoping for good health in 2022, so I can make it to Belfast for my first face-to-face IATEFL conference!