The fourth speaker we’d like to introduce to you is Ana Garcia-Stone. Ana works for the British Council in Madrid, Spain. She is an experienced teacher trainer, having trained teachers in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Vietnam and India since 1996. She also teaches young learners aged between 10 and 18 with an English level from elementary to advanced. She is currently Lead Tutor on a Diploma level qualification, and shares some that experience here with us today, on the subject of teacher self-awareness. We’re very proud to have Ana as part of our SIG Day on Monday April 13th!
Happy Reading 🙂
Developing teachers’ critical skills in lesson feedback
by Ana García-Stone
I was very interested to read Karen Waterston’s blogpost where she advocates practice before theory so that teachers can see and feel the impact of the changes in their practice before they see or hear about the theory. For the moment at least, Diploma level courses work the other way round. Candidates are also practising teachers with a Certificate level qualification but who on a Diploma course are given dense input both on theory and practice which they have to digest and apply as they deem appropriate. It is that thinking process of applying theory and seeing its effect on the classroom and from considering what to teach to envisaging what the students will learn that is the Diploma journey.
As a Diploma trainer part of my role is to give feedback and clearly some teachers are more insightful than others but is it possible as a trainer to develop self-awareness in trainee teachers? Or is it a personal quality a candidate has or doesn’t have? I didn’t consider this much until we had a candidate who seemed unaware of the students and the impact the lesson had on them. Feedback seemed to go well until the next lesson where all the same problems arose and it seemed that none of the feedback or post-lesson conversation had been processed.
One of the key moments for me when I trained as a teacher over 20 years ago was my diagnostic lesson which unravelled despite careful planning. It was the end of the day, some students arrived late, they were tired and none of the tasks and activities aroused their interest. However, the key to my understanding the classroom and learners was the feedback session held straight after which gave me real insights: thanks to my tutor I understood what had gone wrong and why. Based on this experience, I felt feedback sessions could contribute to developing self-awareness so I started to research them, investigating possible frameworks.
I decided to carry out an Action Research project and wrote a proposal which came out of an MA Module I followed on research, which gave me the discipline to be systematic in my reading and research methods. The beauty of AR is that it moulds itself to your situation and findings – you are not bound to a question but rather to a discovery path. Based on over 15 years’ experience of giving feedback, I was convinced the key to developing candidates during feedback was asking the right questions so my initial framework was based on questioning techniques. When I recorded feedback sessions and analysed them, I found that questions were only necessary in certain situations so I looked for a different approach and found a framework which made me focus on the candidate and choose an appropriate response. In a focus group with candidates who had completed the Diploma I also learned about some of the differences between candidate and tutor expectations.
It was also eye-opening to see what a positive effect carrying out AR had on my work in general. The fact that you are questioning your practice and reading about teaching or teacher training is re-energising. Everything is linked up. If I want to help candidates become more self-aware, how self-aware am I? If I expect Diploma candidates to go from planning teaching to planning learning, to what extent is that the case in my own teaching?
When I decided to apply to speak at IATEFL I realised that my project was more suited to a workshop as ultimately the proposal is a practical one: how best to respond to candidates in feedback in order to develop their self-awareness. I also like the idea of a circular path where we would talk about talking and perhaps through talk, learn something! So we will try to define self-awareness and critical reflection before looking at possible stages in developing candidates’ self-reflection skills. We will discuss the framework I have been using (based on Hatton & Smith, 1995) and through case studies acted out as role plays we will try to place an imaginary candidate on the framework and gauge how we respond.
I hope everyone who comes will find it at least thought-provoking. Carrying out this research has given me the opportunity to think in more detail about what teacher learning is and has given me the opportunity to develop as a Diploma tutor.