by Tyson SeburnIMG_0692

The highlights of our TDSIG PCE day for me were inspired by its overarching theme from the morning talks which fueled much of the afternoon Open Space sessions: the development that can derive from problematisation. Why? How? Yes, those are the essential questions.

Problematising isn’t about looking for the negatives to correct or identifying something to be solved (though that can be an outcome too), but rather about identifying a puzzling aspect of your practice that can be worked with, leading to awareness raising, investigative exploration, or avenue for reflection. It’s through problematising bits of our practice that we afford ourselves opportunity for authentic development, whether that results in solutions or not.

Mike Harrison (@harrisonmike) began with a nice story with nice description in response to his students’ (not so) nice vocabulary variety during their writing tasks. The problematisation: why this was happening and how methods he uses contributes to their use of vocabulary variety. What resulted was experimental practice i.e. trying out an approach to his lessons that he’d not before to see its effects.

Fiona Mauchline (@fionamau) subscribes to an unplugged teaching style with her learners, yet in her teacher training, she like many of us, continue to operate on the front-of-the-classroom style, with an novel of notes and slides. The problematisation: why she doesn’t take the same approach in teacher training and how she could. As a result, with her next training course, the syllabus and methods for completing course tasks were bottom-up, not top-down, which led to lasting change for both her and her trainees.

Higor Cavalante (@teacherhigor) focused on non-native English speaking teacher involvement in the global ELT community, particularly like as international conference talks and publication on English platforms. The problematisation: why these teachers aren’t more heavily involved and how can they be encouraged to do so? His exploration discovered fear based on inadequate language proficiency (both by the teachers themselves in making mistakes and by the rest of the global ELT community in directly pointing out that this is what keeps them only localised).


Anthony Gaughan (@AnthonyGaughan) noted a recent teaching context where he and his colleague had refined their training lessons to become a well-oiled machine, perceived as “perfect”. The problematisation: why perfect lessons are an ideal and how they may have unintended effects on trainees. In the end, the “human messiness” caused by going with the flow and working with lessons when the wheels come off, can lift the stress to be perfect all the time from both trainees and trainers.


So how does this follow for me? There are many incidences in my classroom where I often wonder why they happened or how I contribute to their occurrence. By problematising these more actively (and perhaps more systematically), following through by exploring these questions can contribute to my ongoing teacher development.