Note to the reader: this post originally appeared on the IATEFL Teacher Development SIG website. As a year has gone by and I like having stuff in one place, I’m republishing it here.
I recently started shaving with a straight razor. No, this isn’t going to be a post about how manly I am.
It’s going to be about how I decided to make this change, and what this has to do with my becoming increasingly mistrustful of innovation as a force for positive educational change.
I took a few minutes to record some thoughts about the past week on my current Celta course for my trainees, focusing on the question of what makes good controlled practice.
I focus mainly on the problem of making controlled practice more than a mechanical exercise, and how to make it easier to check whether students really understand what they are doing.
It’s under 8 minutes long, audio only, so make yourself a cup of tea and let it run in the background.
If you find this useful, give it a thumbs up, and feel free to leave a comment. Or just do the old fashioned thing and talk to me about it on Monday!
I just made a short podcast for my current Celta trainees up here in Hamburg, where I talk a bit about our general approach to training, teacher talk, language grading, task-setting, work management (less generally interesting unless you are on the course) and tips for passing the Focus on the Learner assignment (these tips may be generally useful for anyone). It was recorded for a very select audience (you eight people know who you are!), but perhaps it’s interesting for anyone who likes reading my posts.
00:00 – introduction
01:27 – Using problems to drive learning
05:25 – teacher talk, keeping instructions simple, and task before text
11:50 – workload management and tips for passing the FoL first time
14:23 – closing
I’d be interested to hear what you think if you give this a listen (especially about whether you would like an audio version to accompany any future blogposts), so drop me a line if you do!
Back in September, I was honoured to be invited by Varinder Unlu to give a short talk for her colleagues at International House London about unplugging teacher training.
IH London record these sessions and so – thanks to their efforts and the magic of the internet – I can share this with you all!
Huge thanks to Varinder and all of her colleagues who showed up, took part and made me feel welcome.
You can also find the video and a short synopsis over at the IH London Blog.
A short Q & A session in which I give my view on frequently asked questions about the initial teacher training course commonly known as Celta.
Grades have become so closely associated with education these days that is is quite easy to forget that they are – historically speaking – a relatively recent phenomenon. They were unheard of in the days of Socrates, and would have seemed alien to Comenius.
Unbelievable as it may sound, we didn’t always bother with grades while going about the task of educating and becoming educated.
This being so, it is natural to ask the question “what are grades for?”
If you search the internet using this question as a search term you find at least 37,000 hits, and the hits generated are interesting reading for those of us working in education.
I suspect, however, that these answers are not really important for the simple reason that they are answering the wrong question.
We shouldn’t be asking what grades are for; we should instead be asking who grades are for?
I spend almost all of my professional life doing one of two things: observing the work of trainee teachers on Celta initial teacher training courses, or observing the work of Celta tutors in my role as an appointed Assessor for the Celta award.
Both of these jobs present various challenges and raise many questions, but in the end it boils down to this:
“Is what I am looking at any good?”*
Answering the question of whether or not a lesson being taught by a trainee teacher is any good, or whether or not a training course being run by a team of teacher trainers is any good, is obviously not as straightforward a question to answer, as it is to pose.
Dogme ELT has been around (in the sense of having a name and a movement of people who recognize it as a legitimate and defined approach to teaching languages) for the best part of 15 years at this point of writing; what this means is there are a significant number of teachers working now who never experienced a world of ELT without Dogme – for the simple reason that they entered the profession, were trained, and developed their careers after the emergence of what has been termed the Dogme collective.
However banal this observation may appear, its significance is worth exploring.
Movement is the destruction of balance.
I don’t know who I originally heard this from, but it was in the context of running theory.
The idea is that in order for a physical body to move in any direction, it cannot be in a position of balance. That is to say, it cannot be maintaining a given position against the pressure of gravity.
For movement to occur, this balance needs to be destroyed, if only momentarily and if only slightly. In order to run, all we need is a very slight forward lean from the ankles, and gravity takes care of the rest. We realign ourselves with gravity by bringing our feet up fast enough to catch ourselves from toppling, and repeat the process.
This got me thinking about learning. It made me realise the following: learning is the destruction of knowing. Continue reading