This is part of the series Cambridge Train the Trainer.
So, what have I done this week? Why don’t you take a guess?
This week on the course we spoke about how __________ and feedback intertwine, looked at another procedure for delivering __________, identified aspects of __________ written feedback, and wrote up the __________ for the lesson we observed last week.
I’ll expand a little more on exploratory language and the oral feedback procedure here below. But, before I do that, I wanted to write about my time commitment to this course, something a number of people have been asking about. When you sign up for this course, they say it takes about 4 hours a week to complete, and to be fair it has been around that (some weeks I spent more, but that is because I like to delve deeper and research). I will say that I have been working full time as well as planning and delivering training sessions in the academy where I work – I feel like I’ve had a lot going on. I guess my advice for anyone who is thinking about taking on this course at a later stage is to ensure that you set aside the time to complete the content as well as time to synthesise the information and get your thoughts together. With this in mind, I would say the rough ‘hours per week’ would be around 6, but that’s just me!
As trainers, we are always on the lookout for what goes well in observations and what goes not so well. In fact, in the case of what goes not so well, we are expected to identify the potential cause and what should/could be done. However, how we go about this in our feedback is very important, not only with regard to the intended effect on teaching, but also with regard to response of the observed teacher. This week we spoke about the idea of Exploratory vs. Judgemental language, and the pros and cons of using exploratory language. So what is exploratory language, and why do we want to utilise this more so than judgemental language? Let’s take a look at two examples of written feedback:
- Your aims were not specific enough. Aims should be specific to show what learning objectives are to be met. If they are too broad, how are we to know what is actually being focused on in the lesson and if the lesson was successful or not?
- I had some doubts with your lesson aims. What do you mean by practice speaking?
Both these provide information to the teacher that something was wrong, however the second asks the teacher to go a little deeper in their thinking and come up with their own answer. This is not to say that the trainer won’t go back and say why they should (in fact, most teachers will probably ask why), but what is important is that teachers are given this chance to voice their thoughts and have time to think about what could be done or to answer the necessary questions (rather than always being given the answer).
You might be thinking, ‘well, isn’t this just beating around the bush?’. And, to be honest, sometimes I think it may fairly be seen as this. Sometimes it may not be practical to always lead with such exploratory questions – some teachers even respond negatively to them being used all the time. This being said, I am not saying that questions such as these need to be used for every action point in every observed lesson no matter what the purpose of the observation. Rather, these types of questions and this type of carefully chosen language should be used as often as possible without being pedantic to ensure that teachers are given room to voice their thoughts and discover the possibilities on their own (much the same as we want with our learners).
In all honesty, I thought that I had always been doing this in my feedback, both oral and written, but after looking at the examples and the videos of others giving feedback, I realised that my use of these questions and this type of language could certainly be improved. For example, I am a big fan of leaving questions in written feedback, but I realise that the ‘quality’ of these questions is perhaps lacking. That is, are they as effective as they could be in getting teachers to reflect and notice what is wrong? Perhaps not. So, this is one of the things I intend to change.
Oral feedback procedure
This week we also looked at another way of running the oral feedback session.
- Lesson background: Once the session has started, get the teacher to think and talk about the lesson background, e.g. why did they choose the lesson? What were the aims?
- Good things: As the heading suggests, the teacher is asked what they think went well in the lesson. The trainer here asks questions and elaborates on certain points if need be.
- Thing that could be improved: Here the teacher is asked what they think they could improve upon, what could be changed for future lessons, etc.
- Feedback points: Here is where the trainer really steps in and gives their opinion based on what the teacher has said and what they have recorded from the lesson.
- Teacher-led summary: Here the trainer then asks the teacher to summarise what they have spoken about throughout the session and what they will take away from the observation process as a whole.
Thinking about my own approach to oral feedback sessions, I would say that it mirrors this – except for the last stage, the teacher-led summary. I really think this is a worthwhile addition and look forward to implementing it as I do think there is a need to see what teachers are consciously taking away from the session.
The final week
This week was really interesting as I was able to see very clearly where I can improve with regard to both oral and written feedback. The final week of the course is now upon me, and we will be looking at planning development programmes and setting development goals, two things I am heavily involved in – I think there is going to be a lot to take in!