Tag: feedback dialogue

Marking Writing: Feedback Strategies to Challenge the Red Pen’s Reign – IATEFL 2016

By popular demand…

My handout from my presentation held at IATEFL 2016 in Birmingham, with the above title.

Clare IATEFL 2016 presentation

Abstract:

This talk provides teachers with time-efficient alternatives to traditional ‘red-pen correction’, by demonstrating and evaluating several effective feedback strategies that are applicable to giving feedback on writing in diverse contexts, and presenting summaries of published research which explores their efficacy. Issues including learner autonomy, motivation, and the role of technology are also briefly discussed to underpin the practical ideas presented.

Handout can be downloaded here: IATEFL 2016 conference Clare Fielder Works Cited handout.

Clare IATEFL 2016 presentation 2

Advertisement

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 4) Peer Observation

Day #4 of my series of posts on CPD for ELT teachers! If you’ve missed the first three ‘Days and Ways’, you can find them by clicking these links:

  1. Blogs (1st March)

  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks (2 March)

  3. Magazines & Journals (3 March)

And now for number four:
  • Peer Observation

Don’t run away scared just yet!! 🙂 

 

I know that even just hearing (or reading) those puts the fear of god into some people, and conjures up nightmarish observations and evaluations that had to be endured on initial training courses!! But that was then. And this is now. And peer observation can be a very useful tool to use to enhance your development as a professional teacher. 

Peer observation can be ‘either way around’, so to speak. So either you can observe one/some of your peers teaching, or you can invite one/some of them to come along and observe one of your lessons. The main difference to observed lessons on training courses is, of course, that now you are PEERS, on a level, not judging each other and giving grades – so a non-threatening and (hopefully!!) far less scary set-up altogether! 🙂

IMG-20160223-WA0005

One key advantage of this kind of CPD activity is that it is local – you don’t need to travel anywhere but to your normal place of work, and it is free! Of course, it might take some careful planning to fit it in to your schedule, but where there is a will there is a way! And a boss or DoS who cares about their staff should be understanding of your endeavours and at least try to accommodate you, if you ask nicely!

Observing your peers…

gives you a clearer idea of what actually happens in colleagues’ classrooms and may serve as a more concrete basis on which to base your reflections and considerations surrounding your own teaching. This is probably much easier to work with than theoretical or abstract descriptions of teaching practices in textbooks and in other resources; and much more authentic than the ideal scenarios you might otherwise be led to imagine when thinking about other teachers’ lessons! I remember the first time I went and watched a colleague’s lesson, and being so relieved that some of her students were distracted, spent ages blankly staring at her when she asked a question, didn’t have their materials, etc. etc. Not because I would wish anything bad upon her!! But because this also happens with my students, and I’d previously thought I was doing something wrong as my lessons never seemed to work out as textbooks/online lesson plans/etc. said they should! I had my eyes open to the reality, and decided the best thing to do was to observe various colleagues and how they actually dealt with these situations, rather than thinking I had to magically try to avoid them! 

Likewise, being observed…

and getting feedback from a trusted colleague might give you a fresh perspective on your own teaching practice and help you identify more areas you would like to develop. The danger, of course, is that the colleague you ask might fall into the ‘expert’ role and try to get you to do everything their way! Try to stay constructive and reflective when they tell you their thoughts on your lesson; ask them to remain neutral, too. You could ask them just to describe what happened, hearing how someone else saw your lesson might already give you enough food for thought! Or if you’d like their slightly more evaluative opinion, make sure you always ask for justifications and don’t simply accept that ‘their way is best’!! It is YOUR CPD journey, so make sure you stay in control of it! (Yes, I’m talking from experience here. But I hope that your colleagues are all more supportive!)

IMG-20160303-WA0003 

To make peer observation most effective…

you can make the whole thing as in/formal as you like – with forms to complete, or just noting down whatever occurs to the observer. But it is important to have something to base the post-observation discussion on – again, as formal/informal as suits you! However, I would suggest that you have some sort of focus before you start. Especially if you want to work with a colleague and observe each other’s lessons, it should be clear from the start what the focus and purpose of the observations will be. Some example aspects I’ve look at through peer observation include:

  •  instructions for tasks 
  •  response to / feedback on students’ oral contributions
  • explaining aims of activities
  • encouraging oral participation
  • how many times I say “OK” ((worringly often, and for about 500 different things!! Oops!!))

 To come back to the framework I introduced in post #1 (Blogs), structuring peer observation around

Reflect – Plan – Evaluate – Act

can make sure that it has an impact on your development. So reflect on your own teaching and an area you’d like to focus on developing, plan to observe/be observed, evaluate the findings of the observations, and try to act on them and implement what you have learnt. This process will obviously be cyclical – then reflecting again on how well you’ve applied what you learnt, and using observations to evaluate this again, until you’re happy and would like to move on to focusing on another area of your CPD. 

Ultimately, involving your peers in observations means opening up the communication about your teaching practices, and that is developmentally very important and beneficial for all of you!

If you’re still apprehensive or would like specific ideas for how to set up observations, please feel free to ask questions or comment below or tweet to @Clare2ELT! And after you’ve done an observation or two, please let me/other readers know how it went!! Look forward to hearing from you all! 🙂

How to Mark Written Work Effectively – Involving the Learners

Peer Correction

Learners proof read their classmates’ work and give feedback on language (if their own abilities are strong enough), structure and/or content. One problem here is that many students are not yet able to identify such errors on their own, although this method does provide practice in proof reading which may benefit their own future writing, and they will still be able to take on the role of “real audience” to make comments on structure and content. Feedback can be given orally, based on notes students make whilst reading, or they can write a letter expressing their feedback. Example peer feedback guidelines and questions are:

  • When giving feedback on peers’ work, please consider the questions below and write your responses on a separate sheet in a letter to the author. There’s no need to answer the question individually, but please respond to them in one text. Remember, you are not expected to be an expert, but simply to offer as much constructive criticism and helpful feedback as possible.
  •  What are the words, phrases or sentences that stand out to you as strong points in the piece of work?
  • Does the introductory sentence / paragraph tell you what the piece of writing is about? Is it clear what to expect from the work when you read the opening lines? Do they inspire you to read on?
  • Are you confused by anything in the paper? Or is there anything you think the author should phrase differently to make it clearer?
  • Does the piece of writing end with a sense of completion, having logically moved through the points and tying up the main ideas of the paper in a conclusion?
  • Are there any spelling or grammar inaccuracies the author should be aware of?
  • What do you like best about this piece of writing?

(These guidelines are adapted from Guidelines for Giving Peer Feedback by L. Hutchinson)

Re-drafting based on the feedback is the most logical next step – and means that by the time the writing reaches the tutor, it’s already been proof read by the author and one peer. This should save time in two ways: a) the tutor doesn’t have read the drafts, only the final versions b) there should be fewer areas of difficulty since they will have had feedback on the most obvious weaknesses already.

Respond to Students’ Individual Queries

  1. Many errors students make are due to ‘experimenting’ with new language, which is part of the learning process. Getting students to write a number of questions (poss. 3-5) on their essay when handing it and responding in particular to these when marking the draft, helps them make the most of their own learning. Example questions might be, “I wasn’t sure how to join these paragraphs, does this transitional phrase really work here, or are there better alternatives?”
  2. This approach may be particularly useful if students are required to submit drafts of their essays, and also helps tutors save time marking drafts and re-drafts in detail.

(Cottrell, S., Teaching Study Skills & Supporting Learning (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001))

Start a feedback dialogue

The dialogue can be based on students’ individual questions (above) and can take a number of forms, for example by email, audio recordings, face-to-face meetings. This method allows the student writer to maintain control over their piece of writing and ensures that their ‘voice’ is not co-opted by the teacher reformulating their phrasing and sentences. The aim of the dialogue should focus less on ‘correcting’ and more on guiding the learner to identify and fix the problems in their writing, to check their new ideas and edits, and to grow in confidence as an independent writer.