Time to Raise Questions: Back at Past Reflective Experiences

quote about reflection

(Quoting with the permission of Vicky & Nora – Thanks! I love it. “A way to distance ourselves from the class… and come up with FRESH and CREATIVE ideas.”

Before I can actually start going over what students wrote at the end of the semester (Classes took place from August to November), I thought of raising some questions in order to guide me through the endevour of finding out what to keep and what to change as I stated in Background facts post. Whatever the conclusions that come out of this reflective process, they will only serve as a way to start new endevours and that is fine and helpful for the next term, right? Hopefully in the near future, I will be asking the right questions, engaging and encoraging students to answer or as John Fanselow suggested Students asking questions themselves about their learning journey.

That was what I was really hoping for with these posts and because of that I started THIS post few days ago  with the paragraph above and guess what happened…. nothing

(Image from The bottom of our Heart blog)

Today I started wondering why it was so difficult for me to reflect on the students feedback at the end of the semester. Then, something hit me – the Observational Points that I learned in 2008 from our Global coordinator, a big follower of Madalena Freire educational practice and of her father also of course – Paulo Freire. 

“To observe a teaching situation is to look at it, admire it, to been lightened by it. To observe a teaching situation is not to guard it, but yes, do vigil it, that is,being and staying awake for her complicity in the construction of the project, complicity in teaching.” Madalena Freire

So “Observational Points” as methodological instrument to investigate reality, that were followed by registering and reflecting introduced us to the practice of giving students a reflective role during the classes and that was expanded to all sectors of our school – from elementary to college levels. The approach was a bit complex for me at first, but I learned a lot during that period, especially about giving students questions that would make them think critically about the classes. Unfortunally our global coordinator left us in 2009 and we were left just with the ideas that soon died off.

And even though students are the real judges and through observational points could be given 3 specific questions to focus on:

  • who was leading the group (in class in this case the teacher. It could be given the same question to one or two students for reflecting on two different point of views);
  • on the whole group (the responsability to answer the question given by observing the group);
  • and, on the learning aspect.

and the method is really effective, for me it is also very hard to keep up without the support. Besides, we get so busy and there are so much to do that I often find it difficult to give that spare time for students to come on board and fully participate in the process without sacrificing the time that they ought to be practicing the language.

Now that this came back to my mind and I tried to recall the experiences I’d had, even gave another look at the reflective material produced by our teaching team at the Language center back in 2009, and because the relevant questions are to understand reality, and therefore to take action, observation, registering & reflection is required on a daily basis.

Now the big question is:

Is it really worth making the effort to analyze the tasks chosen last semester and what effect they had on students productive skills considering that I will have different students next term? And if so, how it should/could be best done based on their already given feedbacks?

Thanks for coming & I look forward to reading your thoughts. 

Previous Posts

Feel free to add your thoughts on my Student’s feedback. They will be highly appreciated.

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19 thoughts on “Time to Raise Questions: Back at Past Reflective Experiences

  1. I wish I had more time to dive into your blog Rose. You raise great questions about student and teacher reflection as well as feedback. I am so happy to see you out there putting this discussion forward for us.

    I just wanted to say that this part really resonated for me: “Besides, we get so busy and there are so much to do that I often find it difficult to give that spare time for students to come on board and fully participate in the process without sacrificing the time that they ought to be practicing the language.” I also struggle with this. Many times over the past semester I have encountered this conflict. I really need to create a clear space in my lessons for reflection and processing, otherwise it gets pushed to the side for the language tasks at hand. Learning is such an organic process. Stopping one form of learning (language skills) to focus on another type (process) seems to defeat the purpose. Carving out processing time is a balance I still struggle to create.

    Again, thanks for asking these questions. Your blog is at the top of my to-read list for the new year. :)

    Josette

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    • It has been an amazing journey for me Josette to take this trip alongside you guys. It has given me lots to look forward to and organize my thoughts. Whatever time you have, It is appreciated. Knowing that there are so great teachers out there and that we all go through similar challenges and have similar feelings at times really motivates us. Tks for encouraging me to keep writing.

      I’m going to borrow the “top of my to-read list” for a new page name to organize the blogs that I want to access on a weekly basis. ;) If you don’t mind. :)

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      • What a great idea! I might just follow your lead!

        I just love how encouraging and supportive the blogospher/twitter/facebook is for all of us. We encourage each other just by being out there. This is also a great comfort and inspiration for me. Thank you!

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    • Hi Josette revisiting the comments and reflecting further here. :D

      Some things come to mind re balancing process versus skills teaching. One of the questions that came to mind is what is more productive bring students onboard and take co-responsibility for the learning process or focusing on teaching alone? The main question for me right now is how to work on the process while developing the language more so. After taking BR course with John F. and recently participating in Willy’s webinar ( http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/webinars/willy-cardoso-classroom-based-teacher-development ) gave me a better idea on HOW to. Even though his webinar was classroom-based development for teachers, it touches students as a source of teaching/doing better. Have you watched it? He also touched the time issue we face and gave a very objective reason why it should not be. So worth watching.

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  2. Hi Rose,
    I think your questions are so interesting.
    A couple years ago I had to teach a group of students for just one week – 30 hours – using a textbook. The next week I had to do the same with a different group. And the next. I did this for three semesters (36 weeks of teaching the same material week after week after week after week). I collected feedback from the students each week and I also adjusted the tasks. I found this was useful even though the students changed (and so the results), because they trended towards improvement and they gave me feedback on tasks they enjoyed and what they enjoyed about them.
    Your students seem to have given you a lot of feedback about certain tasks you have done in class. I would suggest you organize it by topic rather than by class and see if there are any common attitudes or opinions. It might be easier to ask questions about the feedback if you look at the information this way. Some questions I would ask are: what do students find motivating/ demotivating? Why might they feel this way? What do I want to do about it? I’m sure you will find other questions.
    I hope this is helpful for you.

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    • Hi Anne,

      Your experience reminded me that it is key that students develop the right mindset when comes to “learning”, the mind of a learner versus of a X . But then, the question would be how to get them…. motivated to learn? Then comes the whole discussion on intrisic motivation versus X. Either way, the fact is “you can take the ( complete the sentence with your favorite animal) to the water pound, but you cannot make it drink the water.” My most successful groups were the ones where most of the students were really serious (serious as motivated to learn and willing to do what it takes) about learning English (I’m sure we all have had groups like that). And with those groups classes are really enjoyable and fun to work with. Like Adam say it becomes so easy that we may even believe we are not really responsible for all the good good that is going on. I find his point on taking responsability as the leader of the group a valid point to. I found his post really interesting and give some good tips on what to do when some of the students are not on the same page as us and the rest of the group.
      Very good for reading and tips to take into the classroom.
      http://www.teachthemenglish.com/2011/05/why-is-my-class-going-so-well/

      Thanks again for sharing your experience and raising more questions for me to work with. I wrote them down to help me analyze the feedbacks.

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      • Hi Rose,
        Thank you for the reply and for directing me to Adam’s post. I had missed it in the chaos of my current work situation. I really connected to what you said, “it becomes so easy that we may even believe we are not really responsible for all the good that is going on”. I’ve experienced this on occasion and it always leads me to reflection – what is working and why and how can I use it/ duplicate it? Motivation is always a serious matter and there’s only so much we can do – the students have to meet us part way.
        A quick story: tonight in my class a student was refusing to write her diary. I tried giving her ideas, I asked her about what she did during the day. I asked her about her feelings. She just put her head down and said “no”. I told her she needed to write ten lines and I left her for a moment to help another student. Soon enough she shouted out “Teacher! Finish!” and when I went to check it she’d written “I’m sad.” ten times – one on each line. My point is, sometimes student motivation has very little to do with what the teacher does in the class.

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        • What a story to illustrate the other side of the coin. So true Anne. That is why the thing is said to be pretty organic right?

          That is why I take the word “Dialogue” so seriously. The act of thinking/reflecting can imply just what the teacher thinks is best and then it becomes a monologue instead which I find difficult to achieve much if you take the journey basically alone. Dialogue on the other hand generates reflections in a more effective way because it is more than guessing work. Not sure I am making anysense here. Your story may help illustrate my point I think. The interactions that you two had explains more than a teacher ever dreamed of if she just gets on with the program.

          Thanks for sharing it with me. Adam’s post is a series of reminders which I found interesting to keep in mind during the reflection period. And I totally agree with you that students have to meet us half away. I was tell them is a 50/50 deal and the focus is learning. We can make it enjoyable all the way through depends of all of us.

          Thanks again!

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          • Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I completely agree about the importance of dialogue – and with reflection, the dialogue between teacher and students is as important as the dialogue between teachers in the PLN. All the things that help us learn.
            Have a lovely week!

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  3. Hi Rose,

    Love the way you opened the post – wıth the tweet from Vicky and Nora (so true)!

    I think what you have hit here is what I call the “LEARNing TEACHer’s Dilemma” – our “job” is to “TEACH” but in order to become a better TEACHer, we have to become better LEARNers and so the question becomes how do I balance my “scare resources” (time and energy) between “looking back” to become a better LEARNer and “looking forward” to plan “actions” that promote student LEARNing – and then, of course, looking back at that action (once it has been implemented) to start the whole cycle off again.

    I was workıng with a group of TEACHers some time back and one of them told me “Tony, of course all this reflection stuff is great…we know this…but we also have to find time to cover the curriculum!” (you and I have swapped many a tweet on this very topic) ;-)

    As you say, it comes down to questions. When a TEACHer is getting to grips with the whole issue of “TEACHing and LEARNing Balance” (work-life balance at the same time) and things that need to be “done”, I find three questions really useful:

    How will “this” (action or process) help to expand and improve student LEARNing?
    How do I know this?
    What needs to “change” to make this happen?

    The first makes sure we put LEARNing (of the students and our own) at the heart of our decision-making, the second helps us evaluate the options we have in front of us – and the third keep us on track with “action” (rather than procrastination – something we all struggle with when issues of balance arise) ;-)

    Reflection is the “oil” that lubricates everything a TEACHer does and every aspect of LEARNing (for both students and TEACHers). The “trick” is to find the questions that work best for you.

    T..

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  5. Hi Rose.

    I’m glad to have finally made my way here, to your fantastic blog. This is a flying visit, as I’m off to take part in a webinar in a few minutes, but I wanted to say thanks for mentioning one of my posts in your comments.

    I’ll definitely be back soon!

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