Ok, I’ve cheated a bit: the Hofstadter’s Law is affecting not only the time I need for the Sense of Progress series, but also the number of posts! Apparently, this is not the last one.
I have had ten respondents on social media so far (thank you all!): not exactly ‘big data’, but very interesting results nonetheless. So: when we think about our own progress, most people look back and try to compare their present achievements with the past. Making lists of tasks and crossing them out is the most popular tool. As one of my colleagues said, ‘There is always progress if you’re moving, the trick is to learn how to notice it’. Some people rely on others (feedback from students, spouse’s help), others prefer to evaluate their own progress themselves. Finally, some see a strong connection of the sense of progress with motivation: tangible results and recognition are important markers of achievement, and acquiring new knowledge and skills provides a sense of mastery and purpose.
Speaking about teaching techniques, the most popular approach is to record student work at the start and the end of the course and provide opportunities for comparison. Quite a few teachers use can-do checklists (could it be our personal habits affecting our teaching?) and reflection tools like metacognitive discussions and learner diaries. Sometimes it’s hard to demonstrate progress: in one of the discussions we decided that ‘it’s easier in sports than ELT’! That is why some teachers also use praise to encourage students to use new language, and lesson menus that can be ticked off as the lesson progresses – so that learners see value in the process of achieving their goals.
What do you think, does this ring true?