Saturday, March 28, 2015

How #creativity

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dogme language teaching…what is it?

Hashtags: #dogme21 #elt4 #clivage3 #polqc2 #thatcher2 #bêtise1 #croyance1 #méthode1 #dégâts1 #eltchat #dogme
Trying to seek a better understanding of Dogme language teaching…
Dogme language teaching is considered to be both a methodology and a movement - a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher (Wikipedia, 2015). Dogme has ten key principles:
  1. Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
  2. Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves
  3. Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed
  4. Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills
  5. Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.
  6. Affordances: the teacher’s role is too optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
  7. Voice: the learner’s voice is given recognition along with the learner’s beliefs and knowledge.
  8. Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
  9. Relevance: materials (e.g. texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners
  10. Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases.
The Twitter hashtag #dogmeelt was active from April 15, 2015 through June 21, 2014, but hasn’t seen much action since. Presumably, Twitter activity has migrated to the hashtag #dogme. Top hashtags include #dogme21 #elt4 #clivage3 #polqc2 #thatcher2 #bêtise1 #croyance1 #méthode1 #dégâts1 #eltchat1, while top languages include French and English (#dogme statistics, March 14, 2015).
It seems that the main reason Dogme came about was that English language teaching (according to Scott Thornbury)...
had become similarly dependent on a constant fix of materials and technology, at the expense of the learning possibilities that could be harvested simply from what goes on “within and between" the people in the room (to borrow Stevick's phrase). ELT needed a similar kind of "rescue action". (as cited in Meddings, 2003)
Others seems to agree. An ELT Dogme Yahoo Group was formed that shows an active message history being primarily between 2002-2011. Trending topics include ELF workshop and teaching project-based learning. The Yahoo group was founded in 2000, currently has 1,564 members, and includes a website link to Scott Thornbury.
I recently had a discussion about Dogme in LinkedIn where the following manifesto was presented as follows (derived from Dogme 95)…

  1. All teaching and practice of language must be done "in situ", in the real location. No fake props or sets but only using real language in a real location.
  2. Teaching is holistic. There must be no separation of function and form and language is treated not in discrete parts, nor dissected but rather as it is used.
  3. Technology must be simple and hand driven. Chalk, pencils, pens etc.... No use of electronic devices; computers, screens, CD players and so on. The speaker, the human being, is the focus.
  4. Teaching must be real. It can't be a play, a scripted event. The plan is that there is no plan other than the main objective to start things off. No fakery, no lying on the part of the teacher.
  5. Extrinsic motivators are forbidden. The class must not be tainted by point systems, rewards and competition.
  6. There should not be any role playing in the classroom (this is artificial). All language takes place and arises from a real need and impulse.
  7. No use of video to show learners language used in a different time and place. It all happens in the here and now.
  8. The teacher can't be an actor or use different teaching styles. Nor are there any different types of English to be taught (business, global studies, finance, hospitality and tourism etc...). The only English used is that of necessity that comes from the learner, there is no imposed structure given from the instructor.
  9. The class must be 10 or less students to facilitate real use of the language and proper instructor intervention.
  10. The teacher is part of the class and a learner. Credit goes to the whole class for any success, not just the teacher.

In summation, I can’t quite connect the Dogme 95 list to the Dogme Manifesto list above, and can’t quite reconcile the Dogme Manifesto list above with the ten principles listed at the beginning of this post. I´m willing to reservedly accept a definition like… 
a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher…(emphasis added)
but can’t quite accept a definition like Dogme ELT is a materials light methodology (What is Dogme ELT?, n.d.).
The main problem I have with the notion of Dogme is the uncertainty in the use of the term "materials".
I use terms like authentic learning using authentic materials to describe many aspects that Dogme seems to embrace. This would also include the Socratic Method and many principles from Mortimer’s Paideia School. At this point, still am not compelled to use the term Dogme as a “rescue action”, although such action is definitely needed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

MOOCs, PR, and Popularity

Hashtags: #mooc #education #pedagogy #distancelearning

Read OP-ED: MOOCS AND THE ROCKSTAR LECTURER and thought differently...

So the argument is that quiet professors are at a disadvantage when it comes to teaching in MOOCs (but not in face-to-face scenarios) because incompetent but popular professors have more opportunities given the high production teams that promote this type of online delivery? The argument is that society places more value on extroverts regardless of knowledge/pedagogical competence?

The following are warrants that I don't fully embrace:
  • If teachers lack professional competence but are outgoing, have a “MOOCish style” (?), and are “splashy” (?), then students (or society) will place them on a pedestal and will have a professional advantage over “quiet” teachers.
  • “Quiet” teachers are inherently placed at a disadvantage that exists in MOOCs that do not exist in face-to-face scenarios.
  • “Quiet” teachers are modest and MOOC teachers are not.
  • If a professor teaches a MOOC, a certain pedagogical style is a given.
  • If the production value of a MOOC is high, then so too is its educational value (and vice versa).
  • If the production value of a MOOC is high, then so too are the odds of hiring a “MOOC-style”, “rockstar” professor.
  • All teachers are qualified and/or have an interest in teaching in a MOOC.
  • If teachers are quiet and competent, no student will appreciate them, if they teach online although they may if the same teacher teaches face to face.
Further phrases that obscure…
  • …they’ve raised the status of the rock star lecturer to the point where normal teaching looks shabby in comparison. [What is “normal” teaching?]
  • But there are also quiet teachers who are just as effective for other reasons. [Just as effective for other reasons suggests that rockstar professors are effective for reasons other than their love for the subject, the clarity of their explanations, etc.]
  • It’s important to me that we not leave these teachers behind. [Who are “we” and what exactly are “we” to do? Whose responsibility is it?
  • …not all MOOCs have documentary-style pizazz, but those that do create unrealistic expectations about what online courses should look like. [So MOOCs with “pizazz” create unrealistic expectations - an anthropomorphism…about what online courses should look like? Are looks all that important? Or does this refer to all aspects of an online course?]
  • “Quiet”, “splashing” and “MOOC-style” teachers…vague.
I get the sense that there is actually some underlining problem here that is being glazed over by making broad claims with little evidence (i.e., details, examples, etc.) and shaky warrants. If a certain group of teachers are being neglected for specific reasons, have that discussion. Getting past the hyperbole, I have a genuine interest in getting to the root of this argument so to better understand what truly distinguishes teachers between those who succeed online and face to face, or if there are more similarities than differences.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Teachers as doctors...

Due to word count limits in LinkedIn, I am posting my response to Teachers, focus on preventative medicine! in its entirety here...

Thanks David for your followup and welcome to blogging in LinkedIn...was curious about how it would appear and what kind of interaction (if any) would result.  Let me say that your post is certainly not inflammatory (and applaud you for being idealistic) and have come to recognize your style as one of provocation...a good thing. Having had the pleasure of conversing with you in the past, I'm certain we agree more often than not. The only real difference in opinion that I see is what kind of language best provokes a change in another.

What caught my attention of your post were two things: attempting to decipher your own beliefs and (more importantly) envisioning how others might interpret your message.  I'm constantly curious about how language is used and spend a fair amount of time discussing this with teacher trainers.  As I tell my students, my interpretation is only one and should be placed among many others before attempting to understand the "true" message (intent), the person who wrote the message, the target audience, locutionary/illocutionary/perlocutionary forces, etc.

Your point about "playing teacher" could very well be true.  My point is simply to ask, should we generalize this idea as fact or idealistically look at it as a potential problem and make suggestions towards fixing it.  Unless they are conclusions from empirical evidence, I tend to avoid blanket statements about groups of people...but that's just me.  Perhaps in your post on preventative medicine you might clarify what you mean when you say "teachers should prescribe".  For me, prescribing is saying that a group of individuals (e.g., teachers) should do the same thing in different contexts: same teaching techniques, methods, approaches, strategies, etc. - I'll admit that teacher-doctor analogy falls a bit short in this regard.  My point is that we should attempt to expect similar student outcomes regardless as to the technique, method, etc. teachers employ.

Regarding your reply on $$$...I completely agree with you.  My only point is whether or not this message addresses a slightly different target audience than the target audience you sought for the overall post - teachers. This shift in audience seems to cloud the intended message...again, one that I completely agree with.

Always appreciate your point of view and will continue to follow your ideas and perspectives that continue to help further my own understandings.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Assessment-based instruction...always applicable?

Hashtags: #assessment #formativeassessment #summative assessment #testing

Inspired by a Google+ chat on a discussion of assessment and instruction, I felt compelled to discuss how I see the relationship between the two terms.

I’d like to address what Seburn finally concludes in his last post:

I would suggest rather the assessment and instruction are working off each other, not one driving the other so black and white. While I agree assessment should not simply be an afterthought, which really dismisses its value (as though it’s simply tagged on to the end of a course out of necessity), I don’t think it’s what should be made first either, before the instructional content. That lends to the danger of simply teaching to the test and not allow for the flexibility of adapting instruction to emergent student needs.

There are few things in life that I feel are black and white, right or wrong, better or worse, etc. But when it comes to assessment and instruction, my belief is that assessment should come first…I’ll explain.

Formal education

A common reality in formal education, or learning in schools, universities, etc., is that goals, objectives, and values, and usually expressed in terms of a curriculum. The written curriculum states what learning outcomes can be expected. The taught curriculum (which can differ from the written curriculum) involves a great number of variables that influence how the written curriculum is interpreted and employed within each classroom. If a curriculum is evaluated, then some attempt is made to reconcile any possible disconnects between the written and taught curriculum.  Most often this implies a change in the taught curriculum more than a change in the curriculum. So, at the level of institution, the premise that outcomes are planned beforehand is fairly straightforward: instruction has yet to be implemented in this scenario. Instruction, in fact, is designed later as a means for achieving certain ends, ends that are articulated in the written curriculum, interpreted by individuals (teachers) in the taught curriculum, and (hopefully) reflected upon later to evaluate any discrepancy between the written word and human discernment.

Let’s move now to the level of the individual classroom or teacher. Based on the curriculum, a syllabus, scheme of work (e.g., weekly schedule), and more detailed lesson plans are all planning devices that ideally align with each other. The goal however remains the same: to provide a (written) predetermined “roadmap” as to what can be expected in terms of learning outcomes. Lesson plans will include instructional designs, but only after assessments have been established beforehand that articulate the learning outcomes that align with the scheme of work, syllabus, and written curriculum. Assessments are where expectations (of learning outcomes) are revealed and may appear in the lesson plan, scheme of work, syllabus, and the curriculum.

So, lesson plans follow the same logic as the scheme of work, syllabus, and written curriculum. In formal education, planning for expected outcomes drives instruction. Planning for performance tasks, creating academic prompts, and factoring in different types of formative assessments beforehand creates the “blueprint” for instructional design. Taking into consideration both formative and summative assessments collectively guide teachers and students to the end goal. I'll all for heavy formative assessments, but the absent of summative assessments create a lack of goals (expected learning outcomes) which will lead to detours throughout the learning journey.

What happens when assessments are planned after instruction? A teacher begins instruction (with no specific end in mind) and after a few weeks decides to think about assessment. Perhaps formative assessment was employed, but with no clear performance task, academic prompts, etc. being considered, there is more of a likelihood that assessments end up aligning more with instruction than aligning with the scheme of work, syllabus, and/or curriculum.  In other words, summative assessments get tweaked to accommodate prior instruction.  An alternative is planning assessments with students (an option) which can serve as a motivation tactic that allows students to establish an end goal collaboratively before beginning instructional activities. If assessments are planned afterwards, it’s as if the logic behind planning a lesson plan differs from the planning that goes into each week, each course, and each school-wide program.

Assessment-based instruction does not equate to a “cookie-cutter” approach to education. Differentiated instruction (DI) provides opportunities for a more democratic way of learning. DI affords learners choices in what content they interact with, how they decide and ultimately interact with such content and with others, and what products they will create.  Teachers create this learning environment based on students' readiness levels, interests, and learning preferences. Negotiating performance tasks with students (before instruction) is an example of DI which permits students to invest in their own learning. Depending on the context, students can even have a say as to how they will be evaluated. DI works when teachers and students are co-creators within an overall learning design, one which still plans for assessment before instruction.

Today, high-stakes exams (or standardized tests) are a reality. A common misconception is that assessment-based instruction is the same as teaching to the test. Teaching to the test is preparing students for the test items that appear on a standardized test. Assessment-based instruction is not about teaching to the test; it’s about assuring that instruction allows students to gain the understandings, skill sets, and disposition that standardized test items set out to measure.

Informal education (intentional)

Informal education that is intentional, or teaching and learning typically occurring outside of school for a particular purpose, may differ from formal education assessments in how they emerge, but still should be designed before instruction. When one sets out to learn something (intentional learning), goals are set. There may be no restrictions to time and place, but setting goals helps one reflect on one’s progress. Goals align with the overall purpose and can be the driving force behind instruction. It’s important to note that instruction (whether in formal or informal educational contexts) means one person or group imparting understandings, skill sets, and dispositions onto another person or group.

Informal education (incidental)

People are always learning, whether they are aware of it or not. But I would argue that incidental learning alone seldom occurs - for the most part, incidental learning co-exists with intentional learning since humans usually behave around a certain purpose or for a certain reason.  I'll just say that my thesis pertains to intentional learning only; if someone else wishes to build an argument solely around incidental learning and assessment/instruction, have at it.

I agree with Seburn when he says, I would suggest rather the assessment and instruction are working off each other...only as it applies to formative assessment and only if what is meant by "working off each other" means making adjustments to instruction and learning tactics during designated times (as opposed to some fluid exchange happening continuously).  Education should be heavy in formative assessment because it promotes learning, I concur.  But I don't agree with no forms of summative assessment being put to use.  Summative assessment tends to get a bad rap because many associate it with tests, quizzes, etc. where these are the primary forms of assessment (i.e., with little-to-no formative assessment). But measuring learning (i.e., summative assessment) also helps students (and all educational stakeholders) see where they've been and where they've ended up.  It also provides criteria for goal setting and purposeful education (as in the case of performance tasks where rubrics are used).  In other words, both formative and summative assessment complement each other.  In order for them to complement each other, assessment-based instruction needs to replace assessment that emerges after instruction has emerged.  Most enter a car knowing where they will end up and prepared to take an alternative route if necessary.

So, what do you think? What's the relationship between assessment and instruction? 

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