Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ELT Live #7: Questions from future English language educators

ELT Live #7 is scheduled for tomorrow where my applied linguistics group will have their second opportunity this semester to participate in a live hangout on air (HOA) - see their first attempt from last month.  Questions from the show notes have been percolating all week as educators from around the world have been both asking and answering questions related to TESOL.  Our friend Maria Colussa even posted to her blog a detailed reflection!

Once the recording has been posted to YouTube, I will embed the recording to this blog post as well as to the ELT Live archive page. You are also encouraged to visit the ELT Live main page to find a more complete video archive along with Twitter feeds for each talk.  If you wish to find out more about ELT Live, you are encouraged to join the ELT Live Community.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKgpGPD_8Hs&w=560&h=315]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Matching the needs of the learner with the expectations of the teacher (@teachpitch)

TeachPitch asks, @bnleez thank you for tweeting! We'd love to hear your take on how we best map & match the #learning needs of #teachers. Do let us know:)

Let's assume a formal educational context where course objectives are stipulated beforehand, based on curricular goals.  Create a learning map (e.g., Google sheet) that is shared by all students.  In it, course objectives and any other expectations the teach has can be included.  Then, set up column titles that students can fill out (one row per student): student name, interests, needs, goals, strengths, weaknesses, individuals or public websites students feel comfortable with for getting additional help, any social media contact information, etc.  Depending on the maturity level of the students, this information might be a public document or private, and teachers may wish to obtain this same information by having students respond individually.  But there should also be a way for students to periodically check in with the teacher about how the class is going: particular things students like, dislike, find easy, find difficult, and suggestions as to what students need or how they prefer to engage.  This allows the teacher to "check the pulse" of the class throughout so that changes to teaching practice and/or learner tactics can be made more promptly.  

This is one way to map and match learning needs with the expectations of the teacher.

English Language Teaching (ELT) Lesson Planning and Assessment (#eltlive, #keltchat)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJtjIpwVqNE]

I enjoyed today's #eltlive discussion on lesson planning.  The main takeaway for me was how to associate lesson planning around the idea of assessment.  One of the questions I posed was how can lesson plans be assessed, which shifted the conversation to the importance of assessing students during the implementation of the lesson plan (i.e., formative assessment).

Assessing students

Comments were made about how we receive feedback from students and how we typically reflect in action, to borrow from Schon (1983). The conversation included the dichotomy of covering content by strictly sticking to the lesson plan and being flexible with the lesson plan based on how students are performing in class.  And although this relates to assessing students indirectly, it doesn't exactly reveal how we plan lessons around the assessment of students.

I tend to think of lesson planning as being a backward design (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005; Popham 2008).  We plan our lessons around assessments first (presumably based on course objectives), then decide on the most appropriate learning sequence.  By deciding on assessments first, we prepare a "road map" that frames the journey students are to take in order to achieve particular outcomes (whether these outcomes are part of the curriculum or pre-determined by the language teacher and students).  This approach to assessment is the opposite of planning a lesson sequence first, then thinking later how to assess students on what was covered in prior classes.  In a backward design, the point is to "uncover" content and not merely cover it.

Assessing the lesson plan

Throughout today's discussion, I also kept thinking about how others might assess their lesson plans (I ask because I don't do nearly enough of this).  Assessing lesson plans can take on three forms: 1) assessing the lesson plan before implementing it, 2) assessing the lesson plan while implementing it, and 3) assessing the lesson plan after implementing it.  Assessing before the class might involve sharing and collaborating around a lesson plan with colleagues, students, admins., or any other education stakeholder around course objectives, materials or technologies used, among others.  Assessing during the class is not necessarily the same as assessing students as mentioned earlier, but rather would include reflection in action in terms of students' actual behavior and how one originally planned students would behave before class.  And finally, assessing after the class would not only be an individual reflection (reflection on action) on students' actual behavior vs. planned behavior, but could also be a shared experience with others (e.g., via social media).  All three ways to assess a lesson plan include distinguishing between intentional and incidental student behaviors that are either favorable or unfavorable.   

One idea I heard repeatedly was that many of us know when students are engaged, on task, etc. which we then can assume to mean that the lesson plan went well...and this quite often might be the case.  But I have oftentimes been surprised to finish a lesson, think that all went well, only to find out (after asking students) that it did not go quite as well as I had originally hoped.  It's not a stretch to acknowledge that misinterpretations can exist when it comes to the signals students provide in class and assumptions we place around those signals.

I always appreciate those who take part in these open, online discussions (like #eltlive), whether they are HOAs, Twitter feeds,  or through some other means because it gives me perspective and awareness that teaching in isolation does not have to be the norm and that professional learning opportunities continue to be at our fingertips.

(Language) Learning is Mainly About Engagement.

A recent response about my current feelings about (language) learning and purposeful engagement...

Let me start by saying that I have not seen Lingua.ly in action, and am only commenting on the post made in EDUKWEST.

I guess that I am a little surprised to see that the three key trends seen by EDUKWEST are personalized, effective, and efficient learning. I get effective and efficient learning, but it seems that personalized learning is practically inherent in any open, online experience. One trend that I am surprised not to hear much about is engagement.

The main problem that Lingua.ly addresses is the difficulty in using authentic content based on research that supports the notion that learning must be organized in order for it to be efficient (and I don't doubt that such research exists). But is systematic learning through authentic and purposeful engagement realistic?

If language learners want systematic language learning experiences they can go to school for that. Perhaps more startups should focus on the authentic (and purposeful) engagement piece more and the value of learning an additional language much in the same way one learns the mother tongue. If they get the engagement right, the effectiveness, efficiencies, and personalization (which have more to do with the individual learner) will fall into place.

Looking at learning in general, the trends favor engagement (how we communicate with each other and for what reasons) over effectiveness, efficiencies, and personalization. I would argue that language learning is no different.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What are your suggestions for changing a "teacher-centered class" to a "student-centered" class?

I read with great interest the LinkedIn forum thread of What are your suggestions for changing a "teacher-centered class" to a "student-centered" class? I was curious what I might find by using Dedoose (Dedoose Support) to conduct a discourse analysis on the entire thread.

I include my brief analysis in the video below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PISuFq0jOBI]