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Using The In-service Feedback Session To Actively Promote Teacher Self-Development
by Henny Burke
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Part 1

Situation: In-service Feedback On Observed Classes In A Language Academy

The teachers at the British Language Centre, Madrid, where I work, receive six observations throughout the academic year as part of an in-service development programme. As all the teachers hold the RSA/UCLES CTEFLA (now named CELTA), there is a tendency for these observations to resemble an official Teacher Training course. The teachers put into practice techniques they were exposed to on their CTEFLA courses and feedback sessions are spent discussing these techniques. Teachers find observation by a supervisor stressful and feel safer sticking to tried and tested ground. However, in this article I intend to show how supervisors can use in-service feedback sessions to move beyond discussion of techniques and towards the active promotion of teacher self-development.

Defining Development

According to Freeman, development encompasses, "aspects of a teacher's teaching that stem from attitude toward, and awareness of, self in the classroom." (Freeman 1989:40) In order to help the teacher to develop I believe the supervisor needs to allow the teacher to speak in the feedback session.

"We learn by speaking: by trying to put our thoughts together so that someone else can understand them." (Edge 1992: 6)

The feedback session is the ideal place for a teacher to express him/herself about teaching and to put his/her thoughts together. However, due to the power differential that exists between supervisor and teacher, it is normally the supervisor who does most of the talking in a feedback session. Therefore, it is necessary for the supervisor to use a structured feedback framework and adopt strategies that will allow the teacher to express him/herself.

A Three Phase Framework For Feedback

I propose the following three phase framework:
1) Post Lesson Task
2) Focussing
3) Prescription

Phase One - Post Lesson Task

The first phase consists of the teacher talking through a Post Lesson Task. This task is given to the teacher before the actual observation and the teacher is asked to complete *now named CELTA it after the lesson and bring it along to the feedback session. It consists of six questions and is designed to encourage the teacher to reflect on the lesson.

1.How do you feel about the lesson you taught?
2.Did anything(s)happen that you had not planned for or anticipated?
3.How do you think your students felt about the lesson? 4.How did this observed lesson compare with one of your unobserved lessons with this group?
5.Could the observer have done anything to help make you feel more comfortable? Did the observer do anything which made you feel uncomfortable?
6.Any other reflections?

The six questions are constructed so as to restore some power to the observed teacher. Question 4 gives the teacher the chance to discuss how the class is normally, when there is no change in the dynamic caused by the presence of an observer. Question 5 is also designed to restore more control to the teacher.

As mentioned above, the feedback session begins by the teacher talking through the Post Lesson Task. It is important that the supervisor does not just take it and read it as the aim of this part of the feedback session is that the teacher expresses his/her views orally. Having written something down earlier, there is less possibility of the teacher "drying up" or feeling stuck for words. While the teacher talks through the lesson the supervisor should adopt the role of understander and "actively listen" to the teacher.

In a normal conversation or discussion the speakers listen to each other mutually, but they have a tendency to concentrate on what they themselves are going to say and how this will fit into the interaction. In active listening the interaction pattern is distorted as only one participant acts as speaker and the other participant acts as understander and concentrates on helping the speaker to clarify his/her ideas.

When a supervisor acts as understander in a feedback session (i.e.actively listens) the teacher is encouraged not only to speak, but also to hear him/herself. I find it useful to use the interactive skills of attending, reflecting, focussing, thematising, challenging and disclosing as outlined in Julian Edge's Cooperative Development (Edge 1992: 21 -64).

(nb:although these interactive moves are partly derived from Egan(1 986) the idea of using them in teacher development is very much Edge's own interpretation (Edge 1992: 92-93))

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