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Review of  Observation of Teaching


Reviewer: Andrew R Blyth
Book Title: Observation of Teaching
Book Author: Gloria Park Handoyo Puji Widodo Andrzej Cirocki
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 22.4434

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Review:
EDITORS: Gloria Park, Handoyo Puji Widodo, and Andrzej Cirocki
TITLE: Observation of Teaching
SUBTITLE: Bridging Theory and Practice Through Research on Teaching
SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Second Language Teaching 11
PUBLISHER: LINCOM GmbH
YEAR: 2010

Andrew Blyth, Faculty of Arts and Design (TESOL), University of Canberra.

SUMMARY

This recent edition to the LINCOM Studies in Second Language Teaching series
claims to be 'grounded in postmodern perspectives on teaching', and 'offers
fascinating insights into observation of teaching' (back cover statement). The
volume assumes that there is disconnection between pedagogical theory and
practice, and claims that the observation of teaching can address this issue.
The volume is a collection of essays and original research that can benefit
teacher educators, as well as beginning and novice English Language Teaching
(ELT) researchers. It is divided into five sections: I) Conceptual Framework of
Teacher Research; II) Conducting a Critical Self-Reflective Inquiry; III)
Conducting Observation of Teaching, Viewing Teaching from the Other Side; IV)
Lessons Learned from Post-Observation Discussions, Forms of (Dis)empowerment;
and V) Promoting Critical Praxis in Teacher Education Programs. In its fourteen
chapters, the volume includes 27 contributing authors from a variety of contexts
and cultures including (predominately) the US, as well as Australia, Japan,
Poland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK.

Section I, Conceptual Framework of Teacher Research

Chapter 1, 'Observing Classroom Lessons for Professional Development', by
Kathleen M. Bailey

Bailey begins the book with the purpose of detailing observations, as well as
the definitions of a classroom, observation, reflective teaching, data, and
professional development. She focuses on professional development of the teacher
and the classroom observer. Bailey gives brief descriptions of some observation
instruments, such as Foreign Language Interaction Analysis (FLint), and
Communicative Orientation to Language Teaching (COLT), and then adds two other
observation options: open-ended note taking and electronic recording. She also
describes the advantages and disadvantages of these, whilst providing the reader
with essential references to expand his or her reading of the topic.

Chapter 2, 'Professional Development through Reflective Practice in and FOR
Action', by Thomas S. C. Farrell

Farrell focuses on teachers' professional development through being
self-critical. He defines different types of reflective practice, such as
'Reflection IN Action' (reflection during teaching), and 'Reflection ON Action'
(after teaching), and 'Reflection FOR Action' (pre-empting the next teaching
episode). Farrell also provides a brief example of reflection done by one of his
colleagues. 'Frank', an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, decided to
reflect on his beliefs of communicative language teaching. To do this, Frank
kept a journal for five weeks, and concluded that he should be writing
instructions for classroom activities on the board, and that the students should
discuss the instructions ahead of the task, thereby facilitating student
comprehension.

Chapter 3, 'Learning by Doing: The Role of Data Collection in Action Research',
by Denise E. Murray

This paper begins by highlighting the nature of Action Research (AR), which is
both collaborative and humanistic (50-51), and how AR can be used to resolve a
problem that might be 'puzzling' teachers. It provides a description of an AR
project conducted within the Australian Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP),
a government English language-teaching programme for newly arrived migrants.
This chapter rehashes Kemmis and McTaggart's four moments of AR (1986):
Reflection, Planning, Action, and Observation. Murray then provides samples of
the observations elicited from the project. One example includes how a teacher
provided paper-handouts to EFL learners on how to find and navigate a website.
The following lesson, the teacher was ill, but a tutor carried out the
observation. The tutor reported that the learners were indeed able to complete
the task with little to no support and felt a sense of accomplishment.

Chapter 4, 'Classroom Ethnographies: Doing Teacher Research', by Andrzej Cirocki

Cirocki provides a simple and clear background to ethnography, which serves as a
transition for the reader to become involved in his paper. He describes the
history of ethnography and then provides clear examples of ethnographic detail
and interview excerpts, with some details as to how these were obtained. Cirocki
proposes some key elements for successful ethnographic studies, including being
non-partisan, listening attentively, nurturing networks, building trust, and
clearly reporting findings. Cirocki also briefly describes the ethnographic data
collection and analysis process suitable for EFL, and also provides a brief
description of general ethical issues of ethnography and research, a topic that
is so rarely discussed in Applied Linguistics.

Section II, Conducting a Critical Self-Reflective Inquiry

Chapter 5, 'When the Mirror Reflects Two Faces: Critical Self-reflection', by
Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri

The chapter begins with the motives of observation, including training,
learning, supervision, and even employment related issues. Chamcharatsri
questions the necessity of using observation for supervision or judgement making
(85, 95). Chamcharatsri has the view that ''…observation is used as a tool in
prescribing or imposing the way teachers are supposed to teach'' (85). He also
cites Rowe (1972, 85) stating that teachers have the ''right to be wrong'', as
teachers have the freedom to plan and teach lessons in their own way.
Chamcharatsri instead prefers to use observation for collaboration, exploration,
and reflection on teaching practice (87). For observation data collection,
Chamcharatsri suggests using tallies of particular behaviours, short
descriptions, and video recordings.

Chapter 6, 'It's Not Me: A Teacher's Reflection of Self-Discovery through
Delpit's Culture of Power Theory', by Lynnette Mawhinney

This paper discusses Mawhinney's own personal classroom experience in the first
language (L1) context. It describes how the author struggled with
linguistic-culture related problems in the L1 context, and how she used Delpit's
(1995) work to 'revolutionise [her] pedagogy and interactions with students'
(100). Mawhinney describes how her English native-speaking student Raheem
(pseudonym) could not interpret indirect questions from his teacher, for
instance 'Can you have a seat?' as being a request which had to be obeyed.
Later, she realises that she should re-frame such requests as 'Raheem, have a
seat', which apparently is the effective means of communication in Raheem's
social class; the resulting effect is that Mawhinney becomes successful in class
management. Delpit claims that many teachers use this 'silenced dialogue' to
reinforce their power over students of lower social classes and also describes
how teachers should speak to their students to avoid class management issues and
encourage improved social relations and class mobility.

Section III, Conducting Observation of Teaching: Viewing Teaching from the Other
Side

Chapter 7, 'Humanising Pedagogy and the Personal Essay', by Hayat. Messekher,
John Leonard Reilly, and Marlen E. Harrison

This paper discusses the apparent competing needs of student-centred pedagogy,
maintaining academic standards, and empowerment of students through the writing
process, as cited from Elbow (1994, cited on 111). The authors state that
catering to the variety of views and abilities of students is incompatible with
maintaining academic standards. The article discusses the use of online tools
including blogs, experienced peers, and auto-ethnography as means to include the
'self' in the course of study, thus empowering students.

Chapter 8, 'Teachers' Identity in Practice: A Study of a NNES Instructor of an
Undergraduate Research Writing Course', by Nawwaf Alhazmi, John Grant, and
Takako Shimoda

The authors describe a teacher and her interactions with her class in the
Initiation, Response, and Evaluation (IRE) framework. The IRE framework was
first devised to describe and observe teacher-student classroom interactions,
mainly through a question-answer pattern. It also describes how the teacher uses
her racial identity (Korean-American) to support her authority, whilst
encouraging classroom participation, which has mostly positive in-class social
implications.

Chapter 9, 'Magic in ESL: An Observation of Student Motivation in an ESL Class',
by Chikako Hara, and Whiney Tudor Sarver

This paper describes an observation of a teacher, Ferguson (pseudonym), and how
she turns a seemingly quiet class into a communicative class. The description
includes the teacher's pedagogical nuances that lure students into speaking and
speaking confidently. The chapter explores Ferguson's beliefs, her strategies
for engaging her students, her implementation of Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT), and her relationship with her students. To encourage students to speak,
Ferguson aims to reduce anxiety and insecurity by providing positive feedback,
asking open-ended questions, and focusing on meaning.

Section IV, Lessons Learned from Post-observation Discussions: Forms of
(Dis)empowerment

Chapter 10, 'The Parameter of Particularity: A Critical Analysis of a
Supervisory Observation of an EFL Teacher's Classroom in Turkey', by Alev
Özbilgin, and Dan J. Tannacito

Chapter 10 provides a rich description of a power struggle between Danyal
(pseudonym), a beginning-novice teacher seeking promotion, and an ill-equipped
supervisor-observer administrator, Jane Smith (actual nationality uncertain).
The power struggle Danyal describes contrasts the university’s stated aims of
being progressive and student centred with administration, represented by Jane
Smith, who is test-oriented and rigidly bureaucratic. This description clearly
shows the flaws and dangers of lesson-observation for use for employment
decisions and the negative impact observations can have.

Chapter 11, 'Dialogic Talk in the Post-Observation Conference: An Investment for
Reflection', by Steve Mann, and Fiona Copland

This paper presents original research conducted in an adult college of education
in the UK during a Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)
course. The course involves teaching practice and feedback sessions between
trainers and trainees, during which the use of dialogue in knowledge
construction of trainee teachers in post-observation feedback sessions are
described. The authors describe in detail the turns taken in a conversation,
demonstrating how trainees analysed a teaching moment through the elicited
guidance of their trainer, collectively reflecting on a teaching act, and
constructing their pedagogical knowledge system.

Section V, Promoting Critical Praxis in Teacher Education Programs

Chapter 12, 'Crossing Borders: Interdisciplinary Collaboration among Teacher
Education Faculty', by Margo Delli Carpini, and Amanda Gulla

The authors describe a project where teacher candidates (TCs) from both Teaching
English as a Second Other Language (TESOL) and English (L1 mainstream education)
collaboratively worked together. TCs were required to teach their own class, as
well as act as assistant teachers with their partner from the other discipline,
and vice-versa. It is claimed that this allowed new TCs to gain a deeper
appreciation of each other's disciplines, and thus improve their own pedagogical
knowledge and collaboration skills. The programme claims success and has been
expanded to TESOL and Science, TESOL and Social Studies, and TESOL and
Mathematics. Suggestions for ensuring success in cross-discipline teacher
education are also given, including careful planning and extensive literature
review, and ensuring opportunities for TCs to engage in collaborative experiences.

Chapter 13, 'Developing Cross-Cultural Competence through Observation and
Dialogic Teacher Inquiry', by Melinda Martin-Beltran

This paper describes how Martin-Beltran used an observation instrument to assist
in the training of pre- and in-service English as a Foreign Language (EFL) /
English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, in an M.Ed TESOL course, who are
from both international and domestic (US) contexts. The instrument
Martin-Beltran used was a melding and adoption of SIOP (no explanation given in
text) from Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2004; cited on p. 216) and Pranksy and
Bailey (2002; cited on p. 216). Teachers were to observe their own teaching
practice, their classmates' teaching practice, conduct interviews with actual
students, and maintain a research journal. The chapter concludes that this
observation instrument was successful in developing cross-cultural communicative
competence, and also has other benefits.

Chapter 14, 'Building Evidence-Based Teacher Education Through a Continuum of
Classroom-Centred Reflective Practices', by Divonna M. Stebick, Carol R. Rinke,
Mara M. Fedeles, and Lindsey A. Kowalsky

The authors reflect on the use of observation and reflection in pre-service
teacher education for teacher candidates (TC), demonstrating that teachers
benefit from moving from a 'which may work' to a 'what do[es] work' (231)
evidence-based approach to decision making. TCs are also asked to use on-line
social networking platforms like blogs and forums for reflection and
communication, and to elicit feedback and support. In one case, a TC was able to
learn how to effectively intrinsically motivate her students, whilst expanding
her 'instructional toolbox'. Results from the study show that such
observation-reflection is beneficial to pre-service teachers despite their
initial reluctance.

EVALUATION

This volume is a collection of mostly essays and some original research reports,
providing only cursory content on each topic. Some of the essays are based on
personal or academic experiences, but at times the choices of what was included
in the volume seem inconsistent with the stated aims (see comments on Chapters
Six and Eight below). Most of the papers are quite brief, which, if anything,
provides the reader with a starting point in their own reading and professional
development. The volume as a whole does not seem to offer much that is
spectacularly new (except maybe Chapter 10); however, Chapter Eight does include
an example of original research.

Whilst some chapters are very relevant to current issues in second language (L2)
education, Chapters Six and Eight were not related to L2 learning. Chapter Six
was about issues of class, hegemony and the use of language in an L1 context.
While this may be relevant in the US, it has at best some relevance in L2 and
EFL education. Mawhinney explains how her own middle-class language (especially
the use of indirect questions as classroom commands) was the inadvertent cause
of behavioural problems with a particular student of a different social class.
Whilst this is a great lesson for beginning teachers in the L1 context, its
relevance to L2 teachers, who are linguistically more sensitive, is not
demonstrated. Mawhinney explains how she taught Raheem the 'silenced dialogue',
a term to describe hegemonic language, by using L1 literary texts. However, in
the L2 context, many teachers prefer explicit or modified comprehensible
classroom language, and so the problems and solutions that Mawhinney described
are not completely compatible with the L2 teaching and learning context.
Consequently, many teachers may find this chapter to be of limited value.

Chapter Eight refers to a mainstream university writing class in the US, which
was taught by an instructor who is Korean-American. Whilst the chapter does
discuss the power of classroom observation, it is focused on classroom
discipline and classroom participation of mainly L1 students. Again, the
pertinence of this chapter to L2 specifically is limited. Furthermore, whilst
the chapter focuses on what is observable, it does stray momentarily into
speculation when it attempts to explain the lack of participation of students,
which may be one of the limits of observation, where other forms of research can
be more useful.

I was looking forward to receiving this book but after starting to read it, I
felt it lacked a certain quality and academic rigour. Chapter One appears to be
an unstated introduction of sorts, and is merely a summary of the current
literature on observation, and an abbreviated version of Bailey’s chapter in
Carter and Nunan (see Bailey, 2001). Chapter Three utilised Kemmis and
McTaggart's four moments of an AR project: Planning, Action, Observation, and
Reflection (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1986). However, Murray suggests a superficial
modification beginning with Reflection, then Planning, Action, Observation,
Reflection, and repeat. In fact, Kemmis and McTaggart now suggest a more
elaborate and cyclic model of these four moments (ibid 2005). Murray then
provides samples of the observations elicited from the project not reported
within the Kemmis and McTaggart framework, and does not provide clear examples
of how the four moments were used in data gathering and interpretation. Chapter
Six spoke of a critical incident of self-discovery in teacher development, yet
failed to list a single critical incident related reference. Chapter Seven also
discusses critical incidents, and at least references Pennycook (2001 & 2004).
However, no link between these two chapters was attempted despite in-volume
cross-referencing being the norm in a collection of papers such as this. This
disconnection between papers is illustrated through the example of Bailey's
first chapter referring to observation models like COLT, FLint, and others.
Though some authors had referenced Bailey’s previous papers, none of the other
contributing authors referred to her opening chapter even though it was highly
relevant. Furthermore, only a few chapters (3, 8, 13, and 14) demonstrate or
refer to literature-based observation models.

In contrast to some earlier inclusions in the volume, Chapters Eleven and
Thirteen seem to be two of the few chapters that are clearly laid out in a
familiar research report format, and are complete with a clear description of
research methodology and reasoning for its choice. This may be a reflection of
inconsistent editorial decisions, or the freedom given to authors. However,
given the lack of cross-referencing between papers in the volume, it appears
that this volume has received very minimal editorial involvement. For example,
the editors should have insisted that in Chapter Ten, ''Jane Smith'', who
apparently has weak English language skills, have her nationality defined (165).
Furthermore, some basic proofreading of the final draft by a professional editor
was perhaps needed before going to press, as some grammarians may find some
passages idiosyncratic and may also be amused by a 67-word long sentence (195).

In contrast to some sections, it seems that only sections IV and V clearly meet
the aims of the book. According to the back cover statement, this volume assumes
that a gap exists between theory and practice, and that observation can bridge
this gap. To give credit, no other chapter demonstrates this gap more
dramatically than Chapter Ten, which provides a rich description of the misuse
of observation that impacted the employment of a teacher, as well as Chapter
Eleven, which demonstrates how observation can be effectively used to bridge the
theory-practice gap in teacher education.

Despite the above criticisms, the volume carries a lot of breadth, albeit, at
the expense of depth. In fact, I admit I have many post-it notes sprinkled
through the book marking useful quotes.

REFERENCES

Bailey, K. 2001 Observation. In R. Carter, and D. Nunan (eds). The Cambridge
Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.

Delpit, L. 1995. Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.
NY, USA: New Press.

Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R (eds). 1986. The Action Research Planner. Geelong,
Australia: Deakin University Press.

Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. 2005. Participatory Action Research: Communicative
Action and the Public Sphere. In N. Denzin, and Y. Lincoln (eds). The Sage
Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, USA: Sage
Publications.

Pennycook, A. 2001. Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pennycook, A. 2004. Critical moments in a TESOL praxicum. In Bonny Norton &
Kelleen Toohey (eds.), Critical pedagogies and language learning, 327-345.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Andrew Blyth is a doctoral candidate at the University of Canberra, Australia. He currently lives in central Japan and teaches at various universities. He specialises in teaching listening, pronunciation, and teaching methodology.

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