Tuesday, 13 November 2007

What would that lesson look like?

A newly qualified EFL teacher took over an IELTS class last year which included a conversation class. The first few efforts they flung at it were pretty dire, following a predictable format and mode of delivery. Equally predictable was that the class quickly got fed up with it all. So, for the rest of the term the teacher tried to vary their source material. Things improved a bit, but it was still a pretty bumpy ride for all concerned.

From this though, came the recognition that as a teacher one can generate only so many different types of lesson. Many teaching books out there seem to follow set patterns, whether of content, or of layout, or of presentation mode. It seems clear that there is a mindset at large here, one that understands a recognizable pattern as being a good thing. But good for who?

As creatures of habit, we can find familiarity to be a thing of comfort, arousing feelings of safety, of warmth and of well-being. As students in a classroom these psychological elements can foster a productive learning environment, the proviso being of course, that the familiar relationships involved are positive ones. Clearly in the example above, the students were living out the opposite state, one of familiarity breeding contempt.

And so developed the idea of teachers planning a lesson as if by someone other than themselves, of taking on the persona of Einstein, of Plato, of Joan of Arc. Or that the lesson be inspired by something that fires their imagination, lending structure, suggesting presentation strategies. Now what would that lesson look like? 

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