After completing two trainer-training courses, studying hard, acing my assignments and doing lots of volunteering, I have officially started working as a teacher trainer. It’s already been two months (!) so, time for a ”short” reflection.

1) Tutoring on TEFL/TESOl courses

Notting Hill College runs business, language and teacher training courses. At the moment, I am tutoring on their online TEFL/TESOL courses, running live sessions which are recorded and then uploaded to an LMS. These are input sessions, as well as opportunities for students to interact with each other and a trainer.

Not a day goes by that I don’t notice how much I’ve been influenced by what I learned in the Trainer Development module. I constantly think of all the things my tutor said and Wright and Bolitho wrote.

If I had to choose one word to describe my approach, that would be ‘dialogic‘. The atmosphere is that of a staffroom where I am/may be a more experienced colleague. Not an expert. Not the source of all knowledge for sure. Just like Bolitho wrote. Building group support. Just like Martyn said.

So the sessions usually have this structure:

  1. introducing the agenda

2. opening up students’ beliefs and attitudes about the target area using questionnaires or sentence stems. What Wright and Bolitho call going fishing, in search of past experience, diving in the lake, disturbing the depths.

3. Discussion/sharing where students justify their opinions and become aware of their personal theories and how these influence their teaching. There is often a there-is-no-wrong-or-right-wrong-answer comment from me. I sometimes share my own beliefs or experiences, as part of the group. This is disclosure, not input, not a prescription.

4. New content/input is introduced in a variety of ways:

  • mini lectures followed by pause and summarise activities: these serve as a free recall, where students can use the chatbox or padlet to write mini summaries (key words or phrases from each section.
  • videos
  • reading articles and discussing them
  • reading or watching different articles/videos, exchanging info and comparing the two opinions (jigsaw).

5. Processing input: As Wright and Bolitho put it, teachers are encouraged to find their voices, i.e. critically engage with the content. I create a series of tasks that require both lower and higher-order thinking skills from Bloom’s 2001 Taxonomy revised by Anderson et al. (2001).

Listing (understanding)

Discuss pros and cons (analysing)

Creating an activity (applying)

reflecting on usefulness (evaluating)

concretizing: summing up/identifying what has been learned.

I love this processing part- I’ll stick to the water metaphors and say it’s like throwing a stone to create ripples.

I am really enjoying these sessions. The teachers I work with are open to discussion and new perspectives. We are learning so much from each other. They always show their appreciation before they leave the meeting by telling me things such as: thank you for an interesting session, this wasn’t a lecture at all, everything was clearly explained. So wonderful to get these organic thoughts from teachers, without having requested feedback.

2) Individual consultations for LanguagEd

I am very excited to be collaborating for the second time with Chiara Bruzzano from LanguagEd. Chiara asked me to create some quizzes on methodology for LanguagEd last summer, which I really enjoyed doing. She also gave me access to the methodology course she has designed and I was highly impressed (as well as inspired!) by the content and format. Going over it has been a great way to remember and consolidate what I have studied in the last couple of years and courses.

So this month, I’ve been holding individual consultations with teachers preparing for their teaching exam in Italy. They need to present a lesson plan to a committee and justify their procedures in relation to learning theories and their students’ needs.

Teachers send me their materials, I review them and then we meet on Zoom where I give them constructive feedback on their work. The approach here is quite different. We only have 60 minutes at our disposal, during which some teachers like to rehearse their presentation to get feedback on their oral presentation skills. They need guidance, they need to know which section needs to be stronger, what possible mistakes they may have made, such as misusing ELT terminology for example. I try to involve them as much as possible in the process, but there is not much time, therefore my feedback style tends to be directive. So far, testimonials have been positive and teachers are appreciative, which is of course encouraging and motivating for me. I’ve been described as creative, resourceful, thorough, helpful, professional and serious.

Nevertheless, I often worry about hurting their feelings when I point out some changes that need to be made, so I pay a lot of attention to things such as my tone of voice, the speed and volume, to make sure teachers remain calm and open. In my experience how we use our voice can make or break the feedback session. It needs to convey both empathy and expertise, which is not an easy thing to do!

That’s it for now! More will follow, for sure! Thanks for reading 🙂

References

Anderson L (Ed), Krathwohl D (Ed), Airasian P, Cruikshank K,Mayer R, Pintrich P, Raths & Wittrock M (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman

Wright, T. and Bolitho, R. (2010). Trainer development. La Vergne, Tenn: Lulu.