I have recently read A Practicum in TESOL by Graham Crookes, Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms by Jack Richards and Charles Lockhart, and am currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. One thing that both Crookes and Richards discussed, chapter four and chapter six respectively, is the framing or opening of a classroom lesson. This is something I have been thinking about in relation to Kahneman's work which talks about human judgement, intuition and decision making. It is quite fascinating and is the inspiration for my master's thesis question on anchoring student goals and study behaviors as well. The reason I bring up Kahneman's work here is that he devotes an entire chapter to the "priming effect".
The priming effect is basically a human reaction to a stimulus that people may or may not be aware of and how the they act subsequently. For instance, if a person is shown a high number, like 144, and then asked to guess the age of Gandhi when he died, they will on average guess a higher age than if they were not "primed" first. When I read about this psychological effect, I immediately began thinking about ways to use it in the classroom and the opening or framing of a lesson is what sticks out the most.
One of the most salient ways this idea could be applicable is by priming students to be in a good mood upon entering the classroom. This could be done with the use of funny or cute pictures on the overhead. By priming students with the picture and inducing a better mood, their creativity, intuition, and cognitive ease would all be better situated to learn. Cute pictures of babies and animals seem like the easiest way, as I have read that studies demonstrate this can release oxytocin in the brain and therefore activate the "love hormone", essentially putting you in a better mood by manipulating your hormones.
It's difficult to say just how well this particular approach would work, but it does seem logical from my readings that if I can successfully put the students in a good mood, whether with pictures or some other method yet to be thought of, upon entering the class they will be primed to learn better and also think better of me as a teacher, which itself would improve learning through the "halo effect", also discussed Kahneman's book.
Overall, the priming effect would seem as though it has huge implications for the classroom by a knowledgeable teacher.
Authors and summary: This was written by Davis et al. in 2004 for the Journal of Higher Education.
Thoughts: This article was interesting to me. I really liked reading the quotes from the interviews and hearing the stories, which was the main point. However, I disagree with the discussion that paints the results as particular to black students. These results are issues I've dealt with a multitude of time and believe are not unique to me. It also uses inductive reasoning from the results of an 11 student interview at one school that were selectively chosen. This is faulty reasoning. The student interviewees themselves stated several times that they did not like having to represent the "entire black population". The interviewers seemed to turn around and use the results of these interviews to do just that.
Authors and summary: This is chapter 9 in From Reader to Reading Teacher by Aebersold and Field. It discusses alternative methods of assessing reading, traditional methods, writing tests, and planning course-level assessment.
Thoughts: This text again makes reference to journals and portfolios. These are two strategies that are popping up all over the place and two ideas that I really like. Right now, I think that students should be taught how to summarize, classify, compare, and analyze texts. This is taken out of Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundary. The other skills that keep popping up are interpreting and synthesizing, which may overlap with some of Rose's four strategies.
I think one method for assessment that would be valuable would be to include reading passages of comparable difficulty throughout a course in which students mark unknown words, summarize, and analyze each text. Over time, the students unknown words per page should decrease and their summaries and analyses should improve.
To assess is to engage in an ongoing process that may include exams, progress tests, quizzes, exercises worked in class or at home, or any other kind of testing or learning instrument. To test, in contrast, is to administer a single instrument that tests one or more aspects of a student's learning. (p. 167)
Your group discussions of the worst test experience may have high-lighted the tendency of tests to make students feel inadequate and insecure. Shohamy's study The Power of Tests (1993) reiterates Foucault's (1979) argument that tests are "the most powerful and efficient tool through which society imposes discipline" (Shohamy 1993: 2). Societies' tests, from driver's license tests to civil service examinations, wield that kind of power. Within the classroom teachers have a similar power. They can use tests to punish and to exclude or they can develop tests that have the primary purpose of being teaching tools to enhance learning. (p. 172-173)
Authors and summary: This is chapter eight from Teaching ESL Composition by Ferris and Hedgecock.
Thoughts: I really like the idea of portfolio grading. It is much more inline with process oriented teaching and autonomous decision making on the part of the students. I want to learn much more about how to design courses around a portfolio, as I am not confident from this one reading that I could effectively implement in the classroom. However, it definitely hits me as a stronger option for assessing student work.
Authors and summary: This is chapter seven from Teaching ESL Composition by Ferris and Hedgecock. It focuses on teacher feedback and error correction in the writing classroom.
Thoughts: I agree with much of what is said in this chapter. Basically it comes down to purpose as most other aspects of teaching. If you cannot justify a specific reason for providing feedback on student errors, it is probably better to just leave it alone. At the same time, I think as a teacher I should provide the student with both what they want and what they need. If I don't feel they need feedback, but they are repeatedly asking for it, I will of course provide it to them. At the end of the day, I don't think it is very different from other aspects of life. Unasked for criticism is never really appreciated or assimilated into your thinking. However, when you are ready and willing it does have a role. I can remember clearly throughout most of my schooling never looking at the feedback seriously.
This article reflected on five habits of students at the "number one ranked high school in the nation". The habits included:
Looking at the list of five habits is no surprise. The more I delve into what makes people successful, the more these habits tend to pop up. Sometimes they are referred to by other names depending on the topic of discussion (read "networking" in business), but they do represent the basic skills needed to work hard and expand awareness.
I personally believe that number five, questioning, is what gets the ball rolling on the other four habits and is most likely the lynch pin to most success. I know that I personally read, prepare, and collaborate with others after I have already formed some sort of question that needs answering. Writing is usually the process that cements and clarifies whatever has been learned along the way. Furthermore, this only emphasizes how important literacy is today, regardless of subject specialization or interests.
Designing A Course Syllabus
Preparing A Class Policy Sheet
The First Day of Class
Purposeful Writing Assignments
Designing Effective Assignment Sheets
Aspects Of Teaching Open to Reflection
The following was taken directly out of the Instructional Assistant Manual for Miramar Community College.
IA Tutoring Philosophy•
The last two weeks have included a total of six articles or textbook chapters for my Methods for Teaching Literacy in ESL at USD. Included in the readings were chapters two and three from Teaching ESL Composition by Ferris and Hedgcock. Also included was chapter 20 from Brown's Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy on how to plan a lesson, Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe, Teaching for Meaning and Understanding - A Theory of Underlying Theory and Research by McTighe and Seif, Section D Instructional Practices from the RP Group's Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success in CA CCs, and chapter 9 and 10 from Larsen-Freeman's Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching.
Chapter 2 from Teaching ESL Composition is focused on extensive reading for the development of both reading and writing literacy. It points out that both skills are essentially the same or at least highly dependent on one another. A good reader will be a better writer and a good writer will be a better reader. I believe this to be very accurate and this will affect my future pedagogy very heavily. I plan to include as much English reading as possible in order to "flood" students with input and various models of acceptable English usage. I know from Krashen's Input Hypothesis, polyglot Steven Kaufmann, and my own experience with reading voraciously that reading extensively greatly contributes to literacy and do not know of a more efficacious way of helping students become independent and capable English users. This reading was the most valuable and memorable to me as it connects and explains what I have already believed to be true and therefore has a much stronger connection to myself than the rest of the readings.
Chapter 3 from Teaching ESL Composition covered syllabus design and lesson planning. It focused on creating goals, objectives and a needs analysis in order to shape the course schedule and lesson planning. This related to heavily to what I know about strategic planning in business or lifestyle design and because of the common language made the material easy to digest. I really like the logical flow of each component and cannot wait to actually plan out a real course in the future. I will definitely refer back to this resource when I tackle the real thing. For now, it is a great way of thinking meta-cognitively about the classes I am in and observing. I am beginning to ask much more frequently why a teacher is doing something and what the hopes are for the class or activity.
Brown’s chapter on lesson planning essentially provided me with a template to follow in lesson planning. I love templates. Not because I like to copy them exactly, but it takes much of the cognitive strain away from reinventing the wheel. I also believe that with exposure to many different templates, you can associate a common theme and pattern and begin to develop your own. It makes beginning the process much easier and acts as a model. I am now actively looking at my lessons through this template, similar to the meta-cognitive analysis of my classes I mentioned in the previous paragraph. It all just acts as one window which you can look through to see a new perspective on class design.
The Understanding by Design article focused on a three step process: desired results, evidence, and learning plan. This is considered “backwards” design by the authors, but to me just represents a logical approach to teaching. A business executive would not spend money on a project without the desired results and methods of measurement in mind. A personal trainer also would not “spend” client energy on a workout without the desired results or ways of ensuring desired outcomes were measurable. Why should teaching be any different? I do think that learning is much more difficult than the two previous examples in that measurement can often be much more problematic. Business is measured in dollars and exercise is measured in weight on a bar or time to completion in conditioning. These are highly quantitative and education is not always so easy to convert to numbers. So while I do firmly believe in measurement (absurdly so in most cases), I do think there is more room in learning for simply exploring and “strolling” about a subject. That is not to say a desired result is not expected, just that manifestation of learning can be delayed or offset by many factors. I believe that thinking about measurement is something that will drive me crazy in a good way for the rest of my career. I also hope that measurement in my mind will never be confused with testing, as judging and measuring abilities in a student does not have to be done with a formal standardized test.
Teaching for Meaning and Understanding was exactly what its title implied. Teachers should focus on teaching that leads to greater understanding and meaning for students so that it can transfer to real world applications and experiences. I could not agree more. I find more and more that teaching students how to ask questions, monitor their own understanding, and think critically about source information is far more important than facts. Ideally, I would like to use this approach to teaching at all times in the classroom. However, I find that in some cases students are reluctant to engage in this type of pedagogy because they are not interested in the class material and simply want to move on to another subject. This is where rapport and meaning are very important. Mike Rose stated in Lives on the Boundary that teaching is about romancing the students and that most failure was the result of social, not intellectual reasons. I agree with this. There are very few things in life that are inherently meaningful. It is up to the teacher to make them meaningful to the student through a “romance” with the subject.
Section D Instructional Practices discussed the basic skills and techniques that teachers should implement in their practice. The last three sections stood out the most to me. These sections were stated that faculty should routinely share strategies, closely monitor students, and provide comprehensive student support. The most meaningful quote explained, “A key finding of this study stated, “Students who find something or someone worthwhile to connect with in the postsecondary environment are more likely to engage in educationally purposeful activities during college, persist, and achieve their educational objectives.” (3)” (p. 51). This directly relates to the ideas of Mike Rose referenced above. It appears more and more clearly in my mind that becoming someone a student finds worthwhile as an individual, rather than just a teacher, is possibly the most important aspect of my future job as an educator.
Finally, chapter 9 of Techniques and Principles of Language Teaching discussed communicative language teaching or CLT. “One of the basic assumptions of CLT is that by learning to communicate students will be more motivated to study a foreign language since they will feel they are learning to do something useful with the language.” (p. 130) This idea of useful or meaningful connects immediately to the article on teaching for meaning and understanding. Doing anything without a strong purpose is very difficult to persist in. If a student does not see meaning, purpose, or that I as an educator am worthwhile to listen and learn from, the entire process becomes wasted. Therefore, focusing on the function of language (i.e. communication) is more important in the overall picture than drilling form through grammar practice. This will be how I hope to situate all my future classes. By utilizing goals, objectives, CLT methods, meaning, purpose, and being a person students see as worthwhile to learn from, I hope that the time spent in the classroom will be valuable and enjoyable for all.
Authors and summary: These chapters are taken from Teaching ESL Composition by Ferris and Hedgecock.
Chapter 4 - Text Selection, Materials Development, and Task Construction in ESL Composition
Thoughts: I really like the section on planning and drafting heuristics. The rest was good to have available to me for the future, but seems less useful immediately. If and when I have to actually select a textbook and develop materials, this will be a good reference to have and be a strong source for selecting materials. I also agree that the textbook should be used as a supplement instead of the primary course material. If you stay too closely to the textbook, it makes it impossible to match the students' level or needs.
Chapter 5 - Teacher Response to Student Writing: Issues in Oral and Written Feedback
Thoughts: This chapter was similar to the last in that it is very "hands on" information. I will likely use and apply much of it when I actually begin teaching, but until then it is mostly mentally logged as a resource to come to. It mentions how we can give feedback in various situations and the different methodologies available.
How confidently can you predict that the book's approach, design, content, and tasks will enable your students to achieve your learning objectives? (p. 134)
The process of supplementing a core textbook or materials pack age typically begins when an instructor inevitably notices a gap in existing course materials or perceives a mismatch between those materials and student needs and capabilities—or between materials and course goals (Byrd, 2001). (p. 136)
Before constructing and integrating a new task or assignment into a lesson or unit, the teacher should first consider the extent to which the exercise will enable students to practice one or more aspects of the composing process(i.e., prewriting, drafting, revision, editing, and so forth) and to test their developing composing strategies (Skehan, 1996; White, 1999). The checklist items in Fig. 4.3 target both general and specific features to consider in selecting content matter, narrowing pedagogical expectations, writing directions and procedures, and operationalizing the task. Elements of this checklist can be used selectively for devising day-to-day in-class and out-of-class tasks as well as more formal writing assignments (i.e., those that will require extensive advance planning or undergo formal assessment). (p. 139)
Cubing similarly provides a tool allowing writers to select an effective and appropriate way of approaching a topic, or to combine methods of understanding and developing a topic. In procedural terms, cubing requires students to examine an idea or proposition from six perspectives, each corresponding to one of the six sides of a cube.In cubing, writers are encouraged to look quickly at their topic and to construct a statement or position corresponding to each side, or rhetorical perspective, so they generate multiple approaches from which to choose before undertaking planning or drafting. As Fig. 4.7 shows, each side of the cube corresponds to a rhetorical angle and set of focus questions, which are not unlike the classic "journalists'questions"(i.e., who,what, why, where, when, and how) (Tarvers, 1993, p. 83).
Lengthy texts in many disciplines, for example, require a table of contents. Meanwhile, the exercise of preparing an outline can give the writer a sense of the hierarchical and linear structure of the themes, propositional content, and rhetorical links that bind the prose text on which the outline is based. Our point is not to discourage the use of written outlines, but to situate them more broadly as rhetorical and analytic tools'to be applied after drafting, not necessarily as indispensable prewriting heuristics or planning devices. Moreover, as Sharpies (1999) pointed out, for school-based genres such as essays and summaries, "making an outline or list in the head may be just as successful as doing it on paper" (p. 88). On the other hand, writers planning more extensive and complex texts (e.g., novels, business reports, research articles, theses, dissertations) are much more likely to need and use a hierarchically structured, formal outline. (p. 157)
It has often been reported, for example, that Ernest Hemingway rewrote the final page of A Farewell to Arms
On the other, it is daunting to realize that, because our students likely will not ignore our comments, the burden is on us to make sure that our feedback is helpful, or at least does no harm!