Last Friday I had the opportunity to take part in the first Braz-Tesol’s Teacher Development SIG event in São Paulo. I’m going to summarize the highlights of the workshops I attended and also share something I do in order to develop my English whenever I attend seminars or conferences.
If you don’t live in São Paulo, some of the same speaker will be at the Braz-tesol’s local chapter event in Goiania this Friday.
Opening Plenary – Luiz Otávio Barros
Luiz was brilliant, as I’ve come to expect. He talked about oral correction and made a point for on the spot correction to be used more often by teachers. This doesn’t mean correcting students mid-sentence, though. He advocates using correction at the end of the sentence or at the end of a thought, and then giving student(s) an opportunity for retrial (trying to say the same thing again, but using correct language).
Among other things, the teacher should also take into account how likely the mistake being made is to resurface in the future. Is it a word, grammar structure, chunk that the student is likely to repeat in the future? If so, you should probably correct it.
If all of this sounds interesting, Luiz Otávio is going to give a webinar on October 22nd at 10:00 pm. Visit BrELT for details.
More than meets the eye: perspectives in observation – Marcela Cintra
I think the key point in Marcela’s presentation was the difference between training and development. Training is external, and often comes from the institution whereas development comes from within. Marcela than talked about what can be done to foster an environment where teachers can develop.
One way to do so is to encourage teachers to ask their peers to observe them and give feedback on particular points they are unsure about (i.e. “Is this type of activity working?”, “Do I correct enough?”, etc.) This would be a different type of observation than the one done by the institution, which is top-down and usually has a checklist to assess what the teacher is doing right or wrong. Encouraging teachers to do the former has the added benefit of making the former less stressful too.
Are you testing literate? A quick and dirty introduction to language testing – Natália Guerreiro
Natália tackled some testing myths, which I though were really interesting.
1. Tests are inherently summative.
In fact, whether a test is summative or formative depends on how it’s used. A portfolio can be summative if it appears at the end of the course to certify a level of achievement. On the other hand, a test can be formative if it’s used during the course to help students.
2. If a teacher is serious, he/she will fail lots of students.
Tests are often used as an instrument of control, which shouldn’t be the case.
3. Tests are not compatible with the communicative classroom.
It’s important that the assessment criteria be the same one used during the lessons. If lessons are communicative, tests should have more open-ended questions, rather than gap-fill exercises.
4. Teachers already know how to develop, deliver and grade tests.
Teachers are rarely taught how to grade tests, and this is even more important when you move from discrete item testing (multiple choices) to more open ended questions. Teachers need to be trained how to grade communicative tests so that everyone adheres to the same standard.
5. A test is a test is a test.
Test scores are often seen as the be all end all. It’s dangerous to assume that if you have good test results you are smart.
Natália’s session gave me a lot of food for thought and as it’s usually the case after a session on assessment, I feel I don’t know enough about it.
Beyond ‘good enough’: a challenge for teachers and learners – Daniel Shiro
There was a really interesting discussion about Dogme (a.k.a. teaching unplugged) in particular. What I said was that, in my experience, having Dogme moments in my lessons, where emergent language is explored, works better than having a full-on unplugged lesson. The same goes for Demand High, as both of these demand a lot of effort from the teacher.
I ended up missing Vinicius Nobre’s closing plenary, but I’d like to leave you with something I do whenever I attend a seminar or conference.
Besides taking notes of the workshops, I also take notes of the language the presenters use. At the bottom of the page I write chunks or phrases I hear that I wouldn’t have said myself.
Here’s a sample from the TDsig event.
My objective is to try to turn this from passive vocabulary (things I understand but don’t use) to active vocabulary (things that I use). Some of these I had to look up in the dictionary when I got home and now I will try to make a point of using them in my lessons or when I’m writing for the blog.
Thanks for reading
Photos 1 and 2: Higor Cavalcante
Photo 3: Myself
Photo 4: Natália Guerreiro