Saturday, November 15, 2014

TESOL France Plenary - Carol Read "Reflections on How To Be a Highly Effective Teacher"

The (First Draft - to be edited later)

The first plenary session for TESOL France is delivered by Carol Read, the President of IATEFL (The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). Read is a teacher with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher, teacher educator, academic manager, materials writer and consultant. She has taught all ages and has a lot of experience with primary classroom teaching, having written a number of books including “Bugs” and “500 Activities for the Primary Classroom”. 

The purpose of her talk is to explore and share ideas of being a highly effective teacher in a time of social and technological change in most of our classrooms. Her talk is intended to apply to all levels, from Very Young Learners through to Teacher Education.

She begins her talk with a story about a woman who has a drippy faucet in her house. She looks for solutions and in the end hires a plumber to fix it. The plumber comes and pulls out a little hammer, taps a pipe lightly and the problem is fixed. The woman gets charged £50 for the service and is outraged. A detailed invoice was:

·      Tapping on the pipe - £5
·      Knowing where to tap - £45

This is a metaphor for teaching, where we spend most of our lives learning “where to tap” on our students to provide language development. We do this by:

·      Observing
·      Asking for feedback
·      Listening to students
·      Etc.

The ultimate goal is reflective practice. Going through a reflective cycle as below from Pollard (2005):

She also shows this diagram from Pollard and Tann (1993), which describes the macro and micro dilemmas where we make decisions about the courses we teach and follow paths and methods that are imposed on us. Taking into account a number of factors and relationships to come to a final classroom outcome.

The Conscious/Unconscious, Competence/Incompetence model attributed to Bardwell (1969) shows a table that stages of development in sequence from not knowing anything to knowing something and using it unconsciously.


She applies this to students, and then extends it quite aptly to teacher education and professional development and how we learned to work with new student groups, new methods, and even new technologies and progress through these stages ourselves. We are given an opportunity to reflect on our own stages of development in our teaching and our work, considering to what extent it’s natural and easy for us to apply different skills. I personally know that I went through all four of these stages in sequence last year during my first ever experience teaching Very Young Learners, passing through complete panic through my IH CYLT course and by the end complete and natural comfort with my group of kids who I grew to love. I now find myself somewhere between 2 and 3 as I enter new duties managing professional development for a language school, where I am working hard to train myself to be competent and effective at what I do.

Reade them moves her talk onto a discussion of the features of teaching in the 21st century. Issues that we as teachers run into in the modern age of ELT. Namely:

·      Knowledge of Technology Explosion
o   Where we need to learn to filter and pick things up as they are useful to us.
·      Status of the profession
o   Where we as a profession find ourselves often slighted by the societal role that teachers have been denigrated to in most countries.
·      Public scrutiny and accountability
o   Falling standards and educational issues end up getting pinned on teachers themselves.
·      Perceptions about “good” teaching   
o   Fighting against ideas of a “good” teacher as a fountain of knowledge delivering knowledge to attentive, note taking students.
·      Essential need for Continuous development and learning
o   The fact that nowadays with the changing landscape we as teachers are never finished training, and must constantly keep up with current methodologies and attitudes to education.

In essence, what we’re seeing is a change in the language of educational discourse. Articles of educational technology, among other innovations come through with buzzwords like:

·      Personalization
·      Interactive

All of which have changed in meaning from human-focused definitions to technology-focused definitions.

She then shows us her “Reflective Teacher Wheel” showing the 8 letters on the wheel that represent factors for reflections for teachers to filter and adapt to their own teaching.

The above showing the following points:

·      Mindset
o   The importance of our beliefs, underpinning what we do as teachers and impacting the ways we bring about change to student lives in our classrooms. How the typical habits, behaviors and attitudes of teachers impact lessons. Things like:
§  Resourceful
§  Knowledgeable
§  Dedicated
§  Flexible
§  Engaging
§  Available
§  Caring
§  Etc.
o   All of these habits and behaviors being informed by our own principles and beliefs as in the below diagram, and related quote:

o   Reade makes the point about the importance of Growth Mindset informing motivation, citing a researcher from Stanford (Carol Dweck (sp?) dividing students into “helpless oriented” and “mastery oriented”, showing that students either give up when they face a problem and take it as a reflection on themselves choose to persist and look for a way to succeed.

·      Rapport
o   The ability to build a state of trust and respect with our students. This is highly individual and varies from teacher to teacher. A study that was done with primary school children in Spain, where they were asked “What makes a teacher special for you?” The student responses included:
§  Patient
§  Kind
§  Funny
§  Treats you as a person
§  Makes you work
§  Tells you off when necessary, but doesn’t get angry or shout
§  Can explain things clearly
§  Doesn’t have favorites
§  Doesn’t go on and on
o   Matching and mirroring is another aspect that builds rapport where being able to find common ground and empathize with people this way can be used (for better or worse) to match interests and relate to our students.

·      Engagement
o   The crucial element, underpinning everything we do. “Engagement is the soil that makes learning sustainable” is a quote from (SOMEONE, Look it up) about education.
o   This connects directly to Stephen Krashen’s talk yesterday about the importance of Flow as a state students will get into in an ideal world that will drive their emotional involvement in what they’re doing. This is illustrated nicely by this graphic:

o   Six foundations of flow  based on Csziksentmilhayi’s concept include:        
§  Appropriate level of challenge
§  Opportunities for collaborative work
§  Learners have the necessary skills and strategies
§  Clear and worthwhile goals
§  Feedback is integral to the process
§  Tasks are intrinsically motivating

·      Support/Scaffolding
o   This is used in the sense of helping learners move through “the zone of proximal development” from Vygotsky’s theories of language acquisition – supporting the difficulty and challenge of tasks.
o   This also includes taking a backseat and handing tasks over to students to manage. This was designed for young children, but researchers have investigated and found that it works well for adult EFL/ESL classrooms at global, activity and local/interactional levels of classroom activities and interactions (Van Lier, 1996).
o   A further point on scaffolding is “distancing” strategies to move back and open up the thinking about topics to provide more opportunities for discussion.

·      Impact
o   Having to do with feedback, paying attention to the impact you’re having on learners at every stage beyond test scores and on to non-verbal signals like eye-contact, fidgeting, and other telltale signs that inform where our students are and how they are dealing.
§  The crucial thing here is acting and reacting to these signals.

·      The Language of Learning
o   Learner autonomy!! A personal favorite of mine. This point deals with developing our learners knowledge of strategies and skills that we are working on together. Informing their ability to talk about their own learning in these terms:

·      Expectations
o   If we have mediocre expectations of our learners – they will be mediocre. The way we treat our students and interact with them ultimately affects dynamics more than most anything else.
o   She gives an example of teaching the story below to a group of 30 Croatian students in a recently post-war environment while being observed by 60 teachers at a conference. Amazed at the ability these children had to express their thoughts and memories of the war with her in this context.

·      Collaboration
o   Working with each other, sharing ideas with other teachers and focusing on where we can get ideas and how to share ideas is the best way to be a highly effective teacher. Attending conferences is part of this, but sharing in a staffroom is just as effective.
o   For our students this means providing them opportunities to share ideas and strategies in class based on their common experience as students in the class.

Reade concludes by encouraging us to make our own wheel and modify it to suit our needs then use it to reflect on our own teaching and development.

For more information about Carol Read's ELT writings and ideas, find her here:

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