Lesson study for teacher teams

Apparently, generations of teachers (especially in Japan) have been using this great CPD approach, but I only found out about it several months ago, in a random article on materials writing. Here is a great resource to start with: What is Lesson Study? at Teacher Development Trust. The gist of the idea is that several teachers get together, plan one lesson, teach it in turns and meet up regularly to discuss, make modifications and reflect. What makes it different from, say, regular action research? It’s very much a team effort where several heads are put together and different strengths and weaknesses of the teachers can compensate each other (and it’s also more fun). Also, because one and the same lesson is re-taught again and again, you can address the tiniest details and get to very interesting conclusions. I suppose some products and syllabi lend themselves better to this approach, but the idea is definitely worth exploring!


Stacking your talents

Here is a very interesting idea to consider for professional development in the broader sense: it’s hard to reach the absolute top in one area, but it’s much more realistic to be in the top 25% in two areas that, taken together, give you a unique profile. Kyle Kowalski describes the idea in detail in this longread and then applies it to his own work experience, qualifications, personal strengths and interests.

Applied to the ELT world, good ‘stackable’ skills could be teaching exam preparation classes, being an examiner – and perhaps something less usual, like statistical analysis or universal design… For my own part, I’ve been focusing on very similar, language-related skills (translation, interpreting, teaching) So, perhaps it’s time for a professional audit and a venture into a totally new, but complementary area?

The contrast between performance-based and information-based training

I’ve been thinking a lot about the right balance between giving information and improving the learners’ skills in language lessons. My current view is that all stages of Bloom are very important – Captain Obvious much? ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, Tom Kuhlmann at the Rapid E-Learning blog draws a distinction between the two in the context of corporate training: information-based training is ok when we simply need to inform participants about a policy but don’t need to change their behaviour. Performance-based training is different: or rather, it has to make a difference.

Tom suggests several questions to ask yourself before designing this type of training, e.g. What do you expect the learners to do after the course that theyโ€™re not doing today? or What training do they currently receive (if any)? Why hasnโ€™t it worked? And of course, How is success going to be measured? So, lectures and non-interactive webinars and websites won’t cut it if we expect any results. It’s so simple, and yet so easy to forget.

Surviving and thriving


What a trite thing to say – but it doesn’t become less important because it’s been said so many times. I was listening to this podcast and thinking: do we really know how to balance our life and work? So I came home and worked a bit more ๐Ÿ™‚ And then I googled and found this great post by Terry Heick, where he lists ten principles of being a happy teacher, from being creative to knowing when to shut your door.

The teacher trainer in me has already cut up the principles into strips and handed out to a group of participants for jigsaw reading, it’s that good.

Work that room


Here is another gem from the Cult of Pedagogy about best practices for teacher trainers. The focus is on tech trainers and academic managers, but the advice will be useful for anyone who finds themselves in front of a room full of teachers ๐Ÿ™‚ So – run a needs analysis if possible, or work the room, i.e. talk to the participants before the session; use ‘force multipliers’ (get teacher leaders on your side, have edCamp sessions to use the participants’ expertise, involve real learners); be as hands-on as possible; use teaching methods (formative assessment, differentiation etc.) and stay connected after the training session. You could say it’s just common sense, but how often do we really think of all this in time?

Avoiding analysis paralysis


Here is a bit of consolation for trainers and teachers who sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed about collecting data they have collected to inform the course. The post is about e-learning, but can be easily applied to face-to-face as well.Perhaps a simpler pilot or a proof of concept would suffice, or even – God forbid – no needs analysis. I really like the idea of meeting the course participants and finding out about their needs informally, as well as building smaller-scale pilots first. What do you think, is it a dangerous idea, or it makes sense? ๐Ÿ™‚

Is your training session just common sense?


Here’s another great post by Tom Sherrington about how participants tend to put up defences in the training room. Instead of thinking how their teaching practice could be improved even further, some people decide it’s just common sense and what they’ve been doing anyway – even though it’s probably not consistent or deep enough. Guilty as charged! I do this sometimes as well, and I know it takes a lot of effort and courage to admit there’s always room for development and growth, especially after so many years of teaching…

The soft skills conundrum


I’ve been thinking a lot about soft and professional skills: what they mean for people and what classification to use. Here is an article to read about it, with examples of soft/professional/workplace skills and hard/core skills. For example, coding and other computer skills are hard skills, and it’s all clear enough. Communication and teamwork are examples of soft skills (another great article, with quotes from experts) which are very important for the workplace. And then there’s a bit of confusion: if you need to manage your team or communicate with a prospective buyer, you can’t just rely on hard skills to do your job, can you? So, I’m still looking for a perfect classification ๐Ÿ™‚

How trainers are chosen


I was researching criteria for evaluating training providers the other day and stumbled upon this little gem: a list of questions to ask a training organisation (compiled by a training organisation – take it with a grain of salt). It’s an incredibly comprehensive booklet covering such areas as quality management, learning pathways, previous experience and price policies.ย  How can it help English language teachers? Well, if you have a new corporate client or a very discerning private tutee, you might want to imagine them asking you these questions and prepare good answers – or think what else you might need to develop. It’s certainly made me think!