‘Article Notes’ is a set of blog posts in which I write down my notes about articles that I read. These notes are not meant to be ‘academic’ or ‘formal’; rather, they are my ramblings and immediate thoughts in reaction to the content I read. I’ve written them up to help me remember the article, and to share my thoughts with those who are interested. I welcome your feedback and comments!
Summary and notes
So, I’m currently about a quarter of the way through the NILE Trainer Development module, and we are focusing on ways of delivery input (and the pros and cons associated with these). In one of the final tasks, we have been asked to read Ian McGrath’s article, which focuses on processes as opposed to input. I’ll aim to summarise his points and then add my own thoughts along the way.
McGrath begins the article by talking about some feedback he received from another trainer. This is what the trainer said:
“Personally, I profited more from the way in which you structured your ‘input’ than from the content itself. Surprised?”McGrath, 1997, p.162
He continues the article by emphasizing that rather than always preparing sessions from the standard objective —-> Content —-> Processes model, we could approach it like this:
In this model, “content may be selected because it is a suitable vehicle for carrying processes and simply vice-versa” (McGrath, 1997, p.163). In effect, content and process share a relationship, with one not determining the other – rather they work in tandem.
McGrath puts forward four quadrants of processes:
Before we take a look at the quadrants in more detail, let’s first analyse the two axes. The vertical axis indicates if the process is more knowledge-oriented or action/experiential-oriented, while the horizontal axis looks at the idea of the processes being more teacher/trainer-centred (with participants have less say/power over what occurs) or learner/participant-centred (with participants have more say/power over what occurs).
One final note before the goodies. McGrath notes that there are categories (the processes we’re going to see now) and options. In effect, the categories/processes are ‘macro’, whilst the options are ‘micro’. That is, feeding, for example, is the category, and an option, or a way of ‘realising’ this process, is a lecture.
Now, the processes:
- Feeding: McGrath (1997, p.165) says that this refers to the “transmission of information or opinion about” something. This clearly rings of the ‘transmission’ model associated with the ‘good ol’ days’ – something that is often frowned upon now. This being said, McGrath writes that it can skillfully be used – and perhaps even should be used – by trainers. Options under this process include things like lectures and readings.
- Leading: This refers to “the process by which course participants are guided towards knowledge or awareness or towards a conscious or analytical understanding of what they already know” (McGrath, 1997, p.165). In effect, we use options such as sentence stems, questions, etc. to help participants come to their own understanding of a concept, or raise their awareness of their values, attitudes, beliefs, etc. Something interesting that McGrath (1997, p.167) writes is that “participants who are led towards what appear to be predetermined answers may resent being asked to the tutor’s mind, to find the word or the solution because they feel they are being manipulated”. Takeaway from this is use leading, but be careful not to have a predetermined answer (at least not all the time).
- Showing: This is our first ‘doing’ process, and in effect it “involves the provision of models or examples of language, for instance, or teaching techniques” (McGrath, 1997, p.165). Basically, trainers provide a model of how something could be done, and then this experience might be analysed. Interestingly, McGrath talks about the gap between trainer and participant knowledge, and asks us to consider if models are really that helpful for all participants. Options under this process include the blatant ‘model’, loop input, and mirroring (i.e., “exposure to a process and awareness-raising in relation to relevant features of that process” (McGrath, 1997, p.168) – in effect, walking the walk. An example of this might be I.C.Qs – if the session focuses on instructions, the trainer should be providing I.C.Qs).
- Throwing: The ‘doing’ process that is much more participant-centred. McGrath (1997, p.165) writes that this “is a matter of exposing participants to the realities of everyday life, in real or simulated situations, giving them an opportunity to perform one or other of the roles associated with teaching or training”. Options under this process include things like microteaching/training, teaching proper, running a workshop, etc.
In terms of putting a session together, McGrath writes:
“…it seems to me both possible and desirable that within a (trainer) training session there should be a movement from one process to another and that this movement should not always be predictable in its direction”.McGrath, 1997, p.170
So, we shouldn’t be afraid to mix it! Don’t only go from feeding to leading to throwing (for example) – the reality is we are more likely to be going back and forth between the processes. McGrath (1997, p.170) writes that the decisions that govern these choices will be “influenced by perceived needs or wants of participants or the topic being dealt with”, and he encourages us to remember the following saying:
I hear and I forget. I see and I understand. I do and I remember.
Towards the end of the article, McGrath writes that all of this needs to be (or at least should be) combined with reflection. This seems logical.
Reflecting on this article, I found McGrath categorisation of processes quite interesting. I’m currently planning a number of sessions for the development programme, and so I decided to break the session down into stages that connect with the processes from this article. The session I did it with is titled Games in the ELT classroom, and, as one would expect, there are some games for teachers to engage with. This being said, the session starts with a leading stage in which teachers discuss their opinions, then a feeding stage – I plan on using a short article with teachers to get them thinking about ‘criteria’ for principled game use in the classroom. Then we go into a process of showing and then leading, with the former being the ‘game’ as learners, and the leading being some analytical questions for teacher to discuss. When I was planning this, however, I wasn’t too sure when ‘showing’ ends and ‘leading’ starts – is the analysis part of the showing, or is it separate (like I’ve put it)? So, whilst I like the processes and can see their importance, I can also see that perhaps it is not always going to be clear cut.
This article was really interesting. I think it actually is a good ‘introduction’ to planning workshops, and I wish I’d found this when I started out planning and delivering workshops. Well worth the read.
McGrath, I. (1997). Feeding, Leading, Showing, Throwing. Process Choices in Teacher Training and Trainer Training. ELTRS: Learning to Train. Prentice Hall