ELT'oSpHere

Aslı Saglam's Blog about CPD in ELT

Blogging: An Adventure in Professional Development

June23

At the IATEFL 2015 Annual Conference I gave a presentation about potential contribution of blogging to professional development in a forum. It was the first time that I participated in a forum and it was a very enriching experience because all presenters focused on blogging from different perspectives.

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With the advance of technology and proliferation of Online Communities of Practice blogging has become a promising form of continuous professional development for the networked educators. Many researchers, educators and bloggers concur blogging may bring about opportunities for cooperative learning, connecting, sharing, and reflecting. I have been an avid blogger for more than 5 years and my blog had witnessed and accumulated accounts of my journey as a learning teacher. This presentation described a case study which explored posts of an academic blogger who had been utilising blogging as a form of professional learning and presented an approach which other educators might employ as a means for their professional development.

Affordances of Academic Blogging

Potential opportunities afforded by academic blogging involve exposure to insights and experiences of others in the blogging community, engagement with professional learning and networking. Blogs are instrumental for professional development because they enable networking which is an important asset in the digital age. It is often remarked that sharing-dissemination of information- is an important responsibility of the modern educator. In addition, blogs can support professional identity development by making one’s particular values and perspectives and thinking public and explicit (de Moor & Efimova, 2004 in Luehman, 2008) and by developing social alliances and affinity groups. Networked educators bond through shared practices, goals, endeavours, and interactions that support identity development (Gee, 2001, in Luehman, 2008). Furthermore, blogs provide opportunities for reflective practice which is characterised as “a process of internal dialogue facilitated by thinking or writing and through external dialogues and reflection together with others” (Gee, 2001, in Luehman, 2008).

Reflective writing was considered the major form of reflective action within reflection-on-action, that is reflection before or after teaching. The 5Rs Framework is suggested as an effective implementation strategy guiding reflective practices and triggering reflective writing (Bain, 2002).

Table 1

The 5Rs Framework for Reflection

5R Framework What is it? Critical Questions to Ask
Reporting A brief descriptive account of a situation / issue (ie. the reflective trigger) What happened, what the situation and issue involved
Responding Your emotional / personal response to the situation / issue etc Your observations, feelings, questions about the situation
Relating Personal and/or theoretical understandings relevant to the situation / issue Making connections between the situation and your experience, skills, knowledge and understanding
Reasoning Your explanation of the situation / issue Explaining the situation in terms of the significant factors, relevant theory and/or experience
Reconstructing Drawing conclusions and developing a future action plan Your deeper level of understanding about the situation- issue that is used to reframe reconstruct your future practice and further develop your understanding of professional practice

 

Using a case study approach, my study aimed to examine the content of 30 blog posts to ascertain the role of written reflection in improving my professional knowledge and my teaching. Guided by Hatton and Smiths’ framework (1995) for Levels of Reflection, content analysis traced verbal manifestations highlighting hints of change in pedagogical beliefs and practices.

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Figure 1 Hatton and Smiths’ Framework; Levels of Reflection (1995)

Findings

Blog posts which were categorised under “descriptive reflection” usually listed reasons why topic of the writing could be a challenge, referred to relevant literature, explored own professional practices and portrayed professional and personal reasons to instigate action. Blog posts bearing qualities of “dialogic reflection” often highlighted the process of making deliberate connections between my pedagogical beliefs and classroom practices. Some blog posts were identified as “critical reflection” because they triggered constructing and reconstruction of my understanding of realities of teaching and thus leading to a development of a deeper understanding of my own teaching as well as devising future action plans.

Conclusion

Blogging appears to offer a potentially rich and transformative means of continuous professional development since it may empower critical analysis for reflection. Consequently this dialogic reflection, sharing and cooperative learning may transform pedagogical beliefs and practices.

In sum, I think I learned a lot as a professional from reflective blog writing and I was happy to share my retrospective case study with other colleagues at IATEFL 2015.

You can find further details in my slides below.

Teachers as researchers: A strategy for professional development

November7

Kenan (Dikilitas) and Koray (Akyazi) are language teachers and teacher trainers at Gediz University. They are advocates of teacher research as a professional development strategy and they gave a workshop on different forms of teacher research at the 3rd ELT Malta Conference. I couldn’t attend the conference and I was very curious about their session. Luckily Kenan kindly agreed to answer my questions in the following interview regarding their workshop.

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1.       In your opinion how can teacher research contribute to the continuous professional development of teachers?

I should absolutely say yes to this question. Depending on my 4-year experience of conducting teacher research with teachers from varying degrees of experience, it seems that they benefit from engagement in research. There are concrete evidences for teacher development. The teachers generally report that they promote deeper understanding of the research focus they study and can talk about the problem under research very confidently.

This is related to the long engagement and deeper involvement in planning research, discussing critical issues, writing up an account of the research and sharing it with a wider audience in a conference.  Areas of development they highlight in the interviews are:

  • general professional development
  • experience in research skills
  • developing a critical eye
  • promoting reflecting skills
  • improving classroom practices
  • gaining insight into teaching
  • learning how to optimize student learning
  • evaluating the context they work in

Though it is demanding and challenging process and leads to development slowly and in the long run, conducting teacher research is a strong and well-established way of creating deeper impact on one’s understanding and teaching.

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2.       In your institution you apply teacher research as a form of professional development. Could you please give some background about this project? How did you started off? What alternative applications of teacher research do you use in your context?

I started to conduct teacher research projects in 2010. Having seen busy schedule and intensive work teachers were doing, I opted for a flexible professional development program.

 

Other reasons for choosing teacher research  are that it is;

  • practice-based
  • classroom-oriented
  • student-focused
  • process-based
  • reflection-integrated
  • exploration-oriented

When the teachers are going through so much cognitive activities such as thinking, understanding, exploring, deciding, creating knowledge, sharing and discussing, it is inevitable that they process new knowledge in a way that will have impact on them.

The project I am conducting also involves planning, conducting and writing up research as well as presenting it at the annual conference held in June in the institution.  These conferences, though they started as an institutional event, turned into national and international ones in four years where other teacher researchers and academics as well as project participants come together. This year I am helping more than 30 teachers in the project who are aiming for writing up and presenting their teacher research studies. Although it may seem an easy activity from how it is written here, teachers’ personal commitment play the key role in the accomplishment of the project.

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3.       In 3rd ELT Malta Conference, your workshop focused on different forms of teacher research. Could you please give some information about different forms of teacher research?

For MALTA ELT Professional conference, I collaborated with one of the skillful teacher researchers and prepared a workshop. Our major purpose was raising teachers’ awareness towards understanding teacher research as an umbrella term which includes exploratory practice, reflective practice and action research. The workshop introduced these concepts with hands-on activities by focusing on the following key characteristics:

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4. What could be the criteria or points to consider when thinking about selecting an appropriate form of research and applying it to a local context? What should be considered?

These three forms of teacher research are complimentary though they seem as different research activities because teachers generally start with an exploration process where they try to understand the context they are teaching and clarify the issues they want to understand. Following this they think about the specific issues they explored and theorize from their experiences. These two initial stages may help them develop a research plan especially when they identify a problem in their teaching and a practice they want to change or improve. This is where they decide on a particular action research by which to solve particular problem they have in mind.

My suggestion could be for them to decide whether they have a question in mind or problem. If they have the former, they can carry out an exploratory practice combined with a reflective practice. However, if they have a problem in teaching, they should also conduct an action research.

For those who are interested in any of these forms can contact me for further questions and help.

kenandikilitas@gmail.com

Thanks for the interview and valuable information.

 

Reflections on IATEFL ReSIG Workshop; “Quality Research in ELT” by Simon Borg

October28

1Professor Simon Borg gave a pre-conference workshop entitled “Doing Quality ELT Research” at the onset of 3rd ELT Malta Conference “The Learning ELT Professional”. I was fortunate enough to attend it in sunny and beautiful Malta with more than 50 participants. It was great to see that many educators are into research. The workshop had a 360-degree look at the research process and focused on traits of a good researcher, dimensions maintaining quality in research, essentials steps to be considered in planning the research, objectives and research questions, points to consider while conducting research, analysing data and reporting.Throughout the workshop Professor Borg challenged participants’ preconceptions  about conducting research and encouraged reflection on assessing research quality through a criteria. I have to say that I really enjoyed being in the audience and benefitted a lot from the workshop. I would like to reflect on some highlights accompanied by some quotations that lingered in my mind at the end of the day.

What counts as data, what’s research and who is a good researcher?

We started off by framing our own questions that we hope to be answered in the workshop at the end of the day. Mine was about having a framework or a blueprint for conducting research. I mean, where do you start from? What aspects need to be examined and monitored?

2We worked in groups shared our views about what counts as data. One example was a research study which examined impact of pre-service English language teacher education on trainees’ beliefs through an innovative visual methods study at the University of Barcelona. Discovering alternative kinds of data that could be used in a study, including photos and drawings, was very beneficial because being aware of the full range of data can enable researchers to make informed choices among a greater spectrum of data collection.

“You can be subjective as long as you can support it in an objective way”

Also, we discussed traits that a good researcher should have such as being self-critical, patience, and perseverance in addition to the ones outlined by Zoltan Dornyeri (2007) such as experience, academic expertise, curiosity, common sense, good ideas, discipline, reliability and social responsibility. In the end, the researcher sounded like a Marvel character with super powers but it’s all in the name of maintaining quality in research and it’s definitely worth the try.

One area that we talked about was the concept of objectivity. Is it possible for the researcher to be objective in a research study? The overall conclusion was that researchers need to be disciplined about subjectivity since it’s very difficult to completely divorce the personal dimension and human element from research. In other words there is always an element of subjectivity but it should be controlled and monitored in order not to direct the research and findings towards the results you were hoping for as the researcher. Therefore the cure is “disciplined subjectivity” as Professor Borg stated.

“You don’t fall out of bed and say I’ll do research”

As for what research is Professor Borg suggests a generic definition which states that research is planned, systematic, purposeful, empirical, analytic and made public. During our discussions planning stage received the utmost attention because as Levine says: ‘There is nothing more practical than a good theory,’ (1952).  These characteristics are important because these differentiate research from reflective practice.

Quality in Planning, Conducting and Reporting Research

Planning

A number of tasks were mentioned as prerequisite agenda items for the planning stage. These tasks involve defining the focus of the study, developing a rationale for research, conducting a literature review, specifying research objectives and questions as well as design of the study. We were presented with common critical comments made by journal reviewers when papers were rejected and these comments highlight some common deficiencies that stem from lack of a critical literature review. It was stressed that literature review should provide a theoretical context rather than a historical one. Professor Borg provided couple of on-line resources as well. On-line resources for language education research 

“Original doesn’t mean no one in the universe has ever thought about it before”

Choice of topic is of vital importance for a quality research and discussion about writing good research questions provided good insights. It was concluded that topics should be;

  • timely (aligned with the current ELT trends and/or current school policies and strategies),
  • focused, original (understudied),
  • relevant, and
  • practical (value of the topic with respect to offering practical solutions to educational world).

“Why do weak students get low scores?”

After examining the suggested criteria to assess quality of research questions we went over example research questions and screened them against the given criteria.

It was concluded that research questions should be clear, specific, and answerable, interconnected, linked to previous research, worth of the effort and knowledge extending in order to contribute one drop of water to the knowledge ocean.

Conducting the study

Regarding research design the workshop stimulated quality discussion about dimensions of research that should be taken into consideration. These range from determining the research philosophy, methodology (qualitative, quantitative, mixed method), research approach (case study, experiment…etc.), participants, ethics, data collection methods, time (longitudinal, cross sectional …etc.) to approach to data analysis. Some of the buzz words that guided our discussion were validity, reliability, generalizability, and objectivity. Then, Professor Borg introduced certain ways in enhancing quality in collecting and analyzing data such as being aware of data collection methods in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, evaluating methods in relation to the purposes of the study and devising strategies such as prolonged engagement, triangulation, member checks, inter-reliability and avoiding poor coding of qualitative data among many others to overcome validity threats.

Reporting Research

In this section of the workshop we delved into strategies to make research public, maintain and increase credibility as researchers by providing thick description regarding how the research was conducted and having a good discussion session critically weaving previous research with findings and extending knowledge in some way rather than repeating previous findings.

Fourteen Steps to Writing an Effective Discussion Section  

Writing a research article: advice to beginners 

As a wrap up, we were asked to revisit the initial question we had in mind at the beginning and reflect on ‘to what extent it had been answered’. Mine was answered comprehensively.

Now, I wonder how widespread research is as a professional development strategy. I mean, how many of us in our own context conduct research or are asked to carry out research as a strategy for professional development. How can research contribute to teaching practices?

I really wish that teacher research will flourish as a strategy for continuous teacher development…

Other Resources that could be helpful

References

Dornyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Lewin, K. (1952). Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers by Kurt Lewin.

London: Tavistock

Insights from Richard Kiely

October17

Prof.Richard  Kiely gave a webinar that was organised by British Council Turkey and delivered a plenary speech on “The learning of new teachers in TESOL” at Marmara University International Symposium, “Foreign Language Education and Its Applications in Prep Classes” last week.

His book on course evaluation was one of our course books at my doctorate program at Yeditepe University, and therefore, it was my pleasure to meet him at the conference.

He kindly accepted to answer a few questions.

  1. 1.       You looked relaxed and totally in control when you were presenting virtually on ADOBE Connect and I know that it was your first webinar. What did you think of this virtual event? Do you think webinars, on-line communities of practice and MOOCs  could be the future of teacher education?

 Yes, it was my first webinar, so thanks for observing that I looked relaxed. It was not my first tele-conference, so I am accustomed to speaking to groups via the computer. Perhaps two factors facilitated my relaxed participation: first I was in my office at Marjon in Plymouth, UK, my usual workplace, and second, I was speaking about a topic area and research study with which I am familiar.

2.       What should ideal pre-service and in-service teacher development encompass in your opinion? How do teachers learn best? How can teacher experience turn into expertise?

Difficult questions, and really important ones: all institutiona and governments would like the ‘magic bullet’ to address these questions. In my view there is no magic bullet, in terms of a technique, or single course design. The focus is on developing the people, and this is likely to be achieved in a social learning situation:

where novice and expert do things together,

talk about what they are doing,

the experts shows and talks through,

with the novice observing and asking for tips and explanations,

with opportunities for the novice to practice, which is evaluated in a constructive way,

and a desire for a high level of achievement becomes part of the novice’s plan for life.

 

This kind of process ‘furnishes the imagination’ (Kiely & Askham TESOL Quartlerly Sept 2012)

 

3.       In your research study “Trinity College London Cert TESOL Impact Study” you examined the impact of a four-week teacher training programme. You mentioned the significance of “performance in professional identity, which has the potential to lead on-going, situated learning”. Can you further expand this point?

I supppose the key point from our research participants is the extent to which they wanted to know, to be good at TESOL, to identify with the kind of practices they had come to admire. It is these affiliating goals which shape the identity.

 

4.       What were some of the other striking findings?

Many findings, but one striking one was the challenge of dealing with the range of materials in TESOL work contexts. Especially where e-learning platforms and the internet are taken into account, the task of becoming familiar with available materials is a huge one for novice teachers. Many wanted to select their own materials, not just follow the coursebook, but were overwhelmed by the range available. An additional issue here is the time required for scanning electronic resources: we just cannot do that (listen to or read through  materials such as videos, for example) as efficiently as we can printed materials.

 

5.       Finally, in your opinion how can research (in-class as well as following the literature) contribute to teacher education?

My basic position – pro teacher research – is informed by two axiomatic points:

  1. We are in a post-method period in ELT. Teachers have to develop their own practice, which involves iunderstanding what works for them in their different classroom contexts. Research is a tool which can help teachers in that understanding.
  2. What teachers do when they teach is complex – too much going on in classrooms for teachers to remember everything and use what happened in the normal cycles of reflection and improvement. Research provides tools to look more closely at classroom interaction, such that teachers become more aware of the features of their practice, and over time develop professionally by extending what works well, and minimising what does not seem to work well.

Thanks a lot for your time and I really hope that you enjoyed your trip to Turkey.

I look forward to returning to Turkey – I met such fascinating people.

Collaboration as the Bedrock of Professional Development

June14

I don’t know if you would agree with me but I think that best learning opportunities are the ones which encompass collaboration.


Also, I learn much better from informal learning opportunities in comparison to formal learning opportunities.

Let me explain my point further: Formal learning opportunities are characterised as structured learning environments with a specified curriculum usually in the form of graduate courses and mandated staff development.  Formal learning opportunities usually reflect the “traditional training model” and operate under the assumption that teachers can brush up their knowledge and skills through exposure to workshops and courses given by experts who disseminate information (Feiman-Nemser, 2001 cited in Richter et. al. 2011).

Informal learning opportunities on the other hand;

  • Do not follow a specified curriculum
  • Include individual activities (e.g. observations) as well as collaborative activities, (e.g. conversations with colleagues, mentoring, teacher networks & study groups)
  • Encourage teachers’ own initiative in participation
  • Encourage peer learning and reflection because they are embedded in classroom or school
    context

In short informal learning is a cooperative process which provides the opportunity to learn from experience of other colleagues.

My Colleagues spreading light like a firework

At my school, just before the summer school begins, I had the golden opportunity to participate in workshops and sessions delivered by my colleagues in a two-day ‘Symposium’ and I have to say that I had so much fun and insights. Thefore, my metaphor for our symposium is “firework”.

Participating to the Symposium was on voluntary basis. Organisers invited everyone who wanted to share their previously delivered conference presentations, reserach results or teaching ideas.

There were a wide variety of topics ranging from ICT in ELT, blogging with students, using images to boost learner creativity and motivation, reading enrichment, using facebook, grammar activities, conflict management and effective communication, using document camera  to improve students’note-taking skills,how to incorporate newly learned lexis and grammar into writing, the impact of using wordlists in the language classroom on students’ vocabulary acquisition, communicative activities, portfolio assessment, to peer observations.

After all, considering my happy mood stemming from the acknowlehdegment that I am surrounded by a warm network of colleagues, I felt that uptake of the learning opportunity was high for me. I really believe in the mighty power of collaboration. I learn the most in this way!!!

SELI SYMPOSIUM on PhotoPeach

References
Richter, D. et. al (2011). Professional development across the teaching career: Teachers’ uptake of formal and informal learning opportunities, Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 116-126.

Hi-Tech Approaches to Teacher Development

May28

Yesterday with my lovely friend Elif (Soltay), I gave a workshop at a joint event of  IATEFL Teacher Development SIG and Learning
Technologies SIG at Yeditepe University.

The Conference happened to be a fabulous event with superstar keynote speakers, involving Scott Thornbury, Lindsay Clanfield, Duncan Foord, Gavin Dudeney, Graham Stanley, Nick Robinson among many others.

Furthermore, there were many workshops loaded with highly beneficial ideas for the interaction between educational technologies and newly emerging forms of teacher training networks (e.g. CoP, VIA, EVO…etc.).Many thanks go to Burcu Akyol and her team for organising such a stimulating and fruitful event.

Our session was entitled “Hi- Tech Approaches to Teacher Education”. Our purpose was to showcase possible chances for teacher professional development on the internet within the frame of constructs in the TPACK framework from Mishra and Koehler (2006) in Graham, 2011. So on one hand there is teacher’s cognition and on the otherhand, there is effect of technology. Our beloved colleagues supported us by voicing their opinions on VoXoPoP. We asked them whether they received any training about using educational technologies in ELT either in pre-service or in-service training and whether they use technology in their classes. This is what they said:

Discussion » Welcoming remarks and Asli’s reflection 🙂

Also, we would like to thank the participants of our workshop who crowned our efforts with their positive feedback.

 

Teacher Development with or without Technology; The Teaching Unplugged Experience by Scott Thornbury

May26

Today I attended Teacher development SIG and Learning technologies SIG joint confernece at Yeditepe University. The event has a very interesting theme, examining intercation of technology with teacher development.

The first keynote session of the conference “The Teaching Unplugged Experience” was given by Scott Thornbury.

He started off eliciting the perception of the audience about ‘Dogme’ and then listed what some people have said about it. There was a wide variety of comments; from ‘it doesn’t work for the beginners (non-natives/ advanced/ young learners…etc.)’ to ‘it doesn’t work in Japan’. However, according to Mr. Thornbury, heart of the matter is that; Dogme is a platform, an engine for teacher development since ‘it invites teachers to question some of the received wisdoms about language teaching’.

He stressed his discontent with the idea of reducing teachers’ role into knowledge transfer and someone who is serving and argues that Dogme, as a self-initiated teacher development initiative, can lead to new forms of teacher development ; colloborative networks. He named some blogs including ELT STEW and Unplugged Reflections which illustrated reflections of such collaborative teacher development endeavours.

Finally, in order to make a difference and ‘matter’ (instead of being just a cog in a machine), the following advice from Atul Gawande  (A surgeon’s Notes on Better Performance) might be adopted to ELT and these may help all of us;

  1. Don’t complain
  2. Ask an unscripted question
  3. Count something (e.g. class-based research)
  4. Write something
  5. CHANGE (not necessarily embracing all new trends but looking for the opportunity to change)

My favourite was the number 5…What do you think?

 

(Cross-posted at IATEFL events)

Highlights from Akdeniz University Language Studies Conference 2012

May23

Akdeniz University hosted the “Language Studies Conference” between 9-12 May with the participation of more than 600 participants from a variety of countries involving Turkey, Macedonia, Iran, and Germany. More than 300 presentations were given and we had the opportunity to participate in many informative sessions and listen to the reports of educational research. The confernece was organised around a variety of topics.

 

 

I shared the results of a small scale research study which was about participation of students in course evaluation.

It was entiled “Using students’ evaluations to measure educational quality” and data was collected by Students’ Evaluation of Educational Quality Instrument (SEEQ), focus group interviews and field notes.

If you would like to have more detailed info please click here.

 

I had the opportunity to listen to some very interesting sessions and meet devoted professionals. I would like to talk about Veronika Kareva, who presented a research study focsuing on teacher education and CELTA training.

I don’t know if you would agree with me but, I feel that learning about teaching and teacher education in different social contexts is very mind opening. Therefore,  I asked Veronica if she would feed us in about ELT in Macedonia. She kindly accepted to answer my further questions send throgh e-mail.

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Veronika Kareva, Director of the Language Center at the South East European University (SEEU) in Tetovo, Macedonia and a professor at the English Teacher Training Department with the Faculty of Languages, Cultures and Communication.

What are the opportunities for teacher training and development in Macedonia?

Our University has only English Teacher Education Program. Speaking about this program, the impressions from students and the perceptions from those involved in the teaching process are that there is not enough practical implementation of the knowledge students-teachers receive during their formal education and that they are not prepared well enough to start teaching at schools immediately after graduation. This is especially true, with the new model of studies, 3 + 2, according to Bologna agreement.

After graduation, those teaching at state schools receive further continuoustraining through different seminars and workshops organized by the Ministry of Education and supported by the British Council.

You made a comment about how people view ELT profession in your country and therefore I would like to ask: What’s the society’s perception of English language teaching and ELT teachers in Macedonia?

Traditionally, English teachers have had higher status in the society compared to other teachers. This was due to the fact that their education required visiting foreign countries and contacts with the international community and somehow this program used to be elitist, as it was very difficult to enroll at university and graduate from the English Department.

Nowadays, with the massivization of the education in Macedonia (secondary school made obligatory and about 85% of the total number of pupils finishing secondary education enroll at universities), there is a hyper production of English teachers and it results in lowering  their status and position in society.

In your opinion what should be done to improve teacher training and development in Macedonia?

As I mentioned previously, there is a need for providing more and better organized opportunities for practical work before graduation.

Can you please briefly talk about your research that you presented at Akdeniz University Antalya? What was the most significant finding in your study? Why?

My research presented at the Akdeniz Language Conference aimed at providing answers directly related to improving the practical component of the English Teacher Education. It dealt with the question whether introducing CELTA courses as obligatory courses in preparation of future English teachers would result in better learning outcomes. There were no statistically relevant findings in favour of this statement and therefore some other ways were recommended based on literature review in this field.

Thanks a lot Veronica :))

I think that the best part of attending conferences is enlarging the strong network that we teachers have…

Don’t you think so? 🙂

 

INSET; Imagining Never-ending Support for Education of Teachers

March8

I hope that you liked my explanantation for what INSET stands for :))

In my mind I have a metaphor for in-service training (INSET) which is that of a beehive. I think that a beehive represents the benefits and rewards that could be associated with an effective INSET such as working together towadrs and aim cooperatively. In the end there is honey…

But also there are some points to consider in order to have the optimum conditions for a group to share common goals and walk towards the same direction. Therefore in my mind INSET has the picture of a beehive.

Definitions of INSET

There are various focus points when scholars provide definition of in-service training (INSET) courses. Cited in Bayrakci (2009),
Locke defined INSET as continuum of the teacher’s education upon receiving their certification, highlighting the life-long learning aspect of teacher training (p.10). Cimer et. al (2010) reported Bolam’s definition which perceived  INSET as a series of training
activities that engage secondary and primary school teachers and principals, and these professional endeavours are intended to further their professional knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to provide children with more effective instruction. Also INSET is commonly perceived as teacher training which aims to bridge discrepancy between theory and practice as well as operationalizing
the curricular innovations.

Professional development and INSET

After pre-service training, many teachers feel the need for further training because teacher knowledge is multi-faceted demanding life-long
learning and pre-service training is often inappropriate to provide the teachers with real-life skills in the class. Keiny (1994, In Simsek 2007, p.32) defined professional development as “a process of professional growth” and claimed that professional development requires teachers to examine their practice in order to build their own theories of teaching. Simsek (2007) cited the following to stress this continuum:

“Lange (1990, p. 253) states that teacher development is a term used in the literature to describe a process of continual, intellectual,
experiential, and attitudinal growth of teachers. This growth is caused by the pre-service and in-service programs teachers attend. However, development is when teachers continue to evolve in the use, adaptation of their art and craft.
It is the continuance of that evolution that teacher education programs seek but rarely establish” (Simsek 2007, p. 32).

Knowledge for Teachers vs. Teacher Knowledge

Connelly and Clandinin (2000, In Simsek 2007) make a distinction between knowledge for teachers and teacher knowledge. “The
teachable knowledge is labelled ‘‘knowledge for teachers’’ and can be identified, put into a curriculum, taught so that it becomes an inherent
characteristics of the teacher, and may be tested”(p.32). As teachers gain experience in the profession this kind of knowledge merges with teachers’ self-perception and their personal practical knowledge. Simsek (2007) equates this transformed knowledge, teacher’s personal practical knowledge, ‘‘teacher knowledge’’.

Why is INSET important?

According to Cimer et. al (2010, p. 31) “teachers are provided with the knowledge and skills required for teaching in schools during their pre-service education. However, there is no pre-service education or training programme that can offer a codified body of knowledge or recipe to warrant success during the teaching career in different contexts. Therefore, in order for teachers to accommodate changes and innovations and to keep informed about developments in education, they need to be educated during their career too”.  In this sense, in-service training (INSET)
courses are of vital importance not only in catering for gap in teachers’ knowledge but also in introducing changes and innovations to teachers and facilitating change.

Do you have INSET courses at your institutions? If not, what could teachers-US- do to support development? How?

Would you agree that INSETs benefit us in terms of professional development? Which conditions are necessary for optimum environment that is conducive to learning? It would be great to hear different voices.

 

 I hope that you share your experience… 🙂

 

 

References

Cimer, S., Cakir, I. And Cimer, A. (2010) Teachers’ views on the effectiveness of in-service courses on the new curriculum in Turkey
European Journal of Teacher Education, 33 (1), 31–41.

Bayrakcı, M. (2009). In-Service Teacher Training in Japan and Turkey: A comparative Analysis of Institutions and Practices. Australian
Journal of Teacher Education, 34(1), 10-21

Simşek, H. , Yıldırım, A. (2001). The Reform of Pre-service Teacher Education in Turkey.”Challenge and Change in the Euro-Mediterranean Region: Case Studies inEducational Innovation”, 411-432

Hinder rather than Help?

February16

Yesterday I attended a very good workshop about “Having Classroom Observations” that was given by our director at our institiution. We started off by thinking about a scenario of the worst timing for a class observation We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a teacher who had been teaching all day and at the very last minute s/he was asked whether the line manager could drop by to conduct a class observation. I have to admit that I had the goose bumps and felt the cold sweat on my neck. I have never experienced such an unplanned and haphazard class observation but my personal history associated with observations dates back and it brought about entertaining, exciting and enriching experiences.

Our Experience

When I was a novice teacher, a fresh graduate from ELT department I had great difficulty in adapting to teaching in the real classroom as well as having assessed class observations as a requirement of COTE course that I was doing. I remember thinking to myself; “Well, I am actually teaching, but at the same time, I am being told that I failed the observations. Then, maybe, I was not cut out for being a teacher”. Luckily in time my practical knowledge,content knowledge and all other kinds of teacher knowledge and reflective skills started to increase as well as my confidence and I developed a much more positive attitude towards observations. I won’t deny that I learned a lot from all those observations that came at different times and in types; video, peer, unseen, formal observations. (I have to say that video observations were painful for me because I couldn’t help picking up on my voice, hair and how fat I looked on the screen…Ugggghhhh!!)

When we shared our experiences about classroom observations it emerged that there were a variety of approaches. For instance my friend Elif told me that despite her negative feelings about her observer, the process made her think about the things that she had never thought about, such as possibility of the teacher table being a barrier between the teacher and students and better classroom use. Many ideas emerged in our discussion;

  • Definition of observation

The suggested definitions were; “Judgment day”, “looking at a mirror”, seeing things from another perspective, a tool to be encouraged” and looking at your back- that’s the part you can’t normally see on your own”.

  • Pop quiz approach to observation

Class door was opened and the observer declared that an observation would occur to the surprise of the teacher who learned about it there and there. Vice president was sitting at the back of the room when the teacher stepped in.

  • Person of interest

Who may conduct class observation? Line
managers, directors, teacher trainers, freelance program evaluators, and researchers.
Well, how about parents? A colleague from Canada, Lilian, shared an interesting
anecdote about having observation with parents of a prospective student. Isn’t
that interesting?

  • Personality conflict

The observer (mentor/ teacher trainer/ a line
manager) acting like a student and challenging the teacher by asking questions
(e.g. “What about the other word forms teacher, or hushing the teacher or standing
up and checking our students’ production that is posted on the walls, or typing
session notes loudly at the same time giving the attitude.

  • Rationale behind

Whether the observation is done for training, development, or evaluation (of the teaching, curricular objectives, the program) makes a huge difference.

  • How it’s done

The observation cycle with pre, while and post meetings benefit the process and the parties involved. Also it was suggested that when classroom observation is done as a routine, ripped of its reflective quality, it may bring about boredom.

  • How natural is class observation?

For the teacher; often there are feelings of excitement, at times anxiety. Depending on the circumstances many of us also have felt (feel) positive towards observations.

For the students; They may try to be too helpful acting out incredibly involved and active. At times react against the observer implying “I don’t care about this visitor in class I am being as I am”. Also it turned out that we had often experienced students’ confusion regarding whether this observation was done to observe the students’ performance or the teacher’s.

  • Product and Process orientation to Observation (and the intersection)

We also discussed the difference between observations that were conducted for training and development purposes. When observations are done for developmental purposes they may take tecahers from where they are and lead the way  to where they would like to be in a process in terms of discovering your weak and strong areas and working on improvement. On the other hand, training means meeting a cerating criteria and it involves product orientation. There is also no dispute that there are gray areas and points of intersection.

A tool for professional development

Class observations can help the novice teachers to raise awareness about teaching practices and gain reflection skills into one’s own teaching. They can provide experienced teachers with refreshed perspective enriching their repertoire. Provided that class observations have certain supervisory and guiding principles established and communicated with the teachers.

Class observations can be a very powerful professional development tool when they encourage us to reason (1) the factors that made us satisfied with our teaching, (2)challenges that we experience in our classes and (3) possible actions to be taken to foster better teaching and learning.

At the end of the workshop I personally felt that having peer observation would act like a window to bring me fresh air. It will open up to new worlds, enabling me to take a look at my friends’/ colleagues’ teaching spheres and welcoming others to mine.

Afterall one of the best parts of being a teacher lies in the collaboration and the supportive network we have, in my opinion.

 

So, what do you think about class observations?
How about your experiences?

 

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