From: Andrew Blyth <ablythwinjeel.com>
Subject: Observation of Teaching
E-mail this message to a friend
Discuss this message
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-3104.html
EDITORS: Gloria Park, Handoyo Puji Widodo, and Andrzej CirockiTITLE: Observation of TeachingSUBTITLE: Bridging Theory and Practice Through Research on TeachingSERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Second Language Teaching 11PUBLISHER: LINCOM GmbHYEAR: 2010
Andrew Blyth, Faculty of Arts and Design (TESOL), University of Canberra.
This recent edition to the LINCOM Studies in Second Language Teaching seriesclaims to be 'grounded in postmodern perspectives on teaching', and 'offersfascinating insights into observation of teaching' (back cover statement). Thevolume assumes that there is disconnection between pedagogical theory andpractice, and claims that the observation of teaching can address this issue.The volume is a collection of essays and original research that can benefitteacher educators, as well as beginning and novice English Language Teaching(ELT) researchers. It is divided into five sections: I) Conceptual Framework ofTeacher 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 fourteenchapters, the volume includes 27 contributing authors from a variety of contextsand 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', byKathleen M. Bailey
Bailey begins the book with the purpose of detailing observations, as well asthe definitions of a classroom, observation, reflective teaching, data, andprofessional development. She focuses on professional development of the teacherand the classroom observer. Bailey gives brief descriptions of some observationinstruments, such as Foreign Language Interaction Analysis (FLint), andCommunicative Orientation to Language Teaching (COLT), and then adds two otherobservation options: open-ended note taking and electronic recording. She alsodescribes the advantages and disadvantages of these, whilst providing the readerwith essential references to expand his or her reading of the topic.
Chapter 2, 'Professional Development through Reflective Practice in and FORAction', by Thomas S. C. Farrell
Farrell focuses on teachers' professional development through beingself-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 teachingepisode). Farrell also provides a brief example of reflection done by one of hiscolleagues. 'Frank', an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, decided toreflect on his beliefs of communicative language teaching. To do this, Frankkept a journal for five weeks, and concluded that he should be writinginstructions for classroom activities on the board, and that the students shoulddiscuss the instructions ahead of the task, thereby facilitating studentcomprehension.
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 isboth collaborative and humanistic (50-51), and how AR can be used to resolve aproblem that might be 'puzzling' teachers. It provides a description of an ARproject 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 ofthe observations elicited from the project. One example includes how a teacherprovided 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 theobservation. The tutor reported that the learners were indeed able to completethe 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 atransition for the reader to become involved in his paper. He describes thehistory of ethnography and then provides clear examples of ethnographic detailand interview excerpts, with some details as to how these were obtained. Cirockiproposes some key elements for successful ethnographic studies, including beingnon-partisan, listening attentively, nurturing networks, building trust, andclearly reporting findings. Cirocki also briefly describes the ethnographic datacollection and analysis process suitable for EFL, and also provides a briefdescription of general ethical issues of ethnography and research, a topic thatis 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', byPisarn Bee Chamcharatsri
The chapter begins with the motives of observation, including training,learning, supervision, and even employment related issues. Chamcharatsriquestions the necessity of using observation for supervision or judgement making(85, 95). Chamcharatsri has the view that ''…observation is used as a tool inprescribing or imposing the way teachers are supposed to teach'' (85). He alsocites Rowe (1972, 85) stating that teachers have the ''right to be wrong'', asteachers 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, shortdescriptions, and video recordings.
Chapter 6, 'It's Not Me: A Teacher's Reflection of Self-Discovery throughDelpit's Culture of Power Theory', by Lynnette Mawhinney
This paper discusses Mawhinney's own personal classroom experience in the firstlanguage (L1) context. It describes how the author struggled withlinguistic-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, forinstance '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 aseat', which apparently is the effective means of communication in Raheem'ssocial class; the resulting effect is that Mawhinney becomes successful in classmanagement. Delpit claims that many teachers use this 'silenced dialogue' toreinforce their power over students of lower social classes and also describeshow teachers should speak to their students to avoid class management issues andencourage improved social relations and class mobility.
Section III, Conducting Observation of Teaching: Viewing Teaching from the OtherSide
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 writingprocess, as cited from Elbow (1994, cited on 111). The authors state thatcatering to the variety of views and abilities of students is incompatible withmaintaining academic standards. The article discusses the use of online toolsincluding 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 anUndergraduate Research Writing Course', by Nawwaf Alhazmi, John Grant, andTakako Shimoda
The authors describe a teacher and her interactions with her class in theInitiation, Response, and Evaluation (IRE) framework. The IRE framework wasfirst devised to describe and observe teacher-student classroom interactions,mainly through a question-answer pattern. It also describes how the teacher usesher racial identity (Korean-American) to support her authority, whilstencouraging classroom participation, which has mostly positive in-class socialimplications.
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 howshe turns a seemingly quiet class into a communicative class. The descriptionincludes the teacher's pedagogical nuances that lure students into speaking andspeaking confidently. The chapter explores Ferguson's beliefs, her strategiesfor 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 aSupervisory Observation of an EFL Teacher's Classroom in Turkey', by AlevÖzbilgin, 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-equippedsupervisor-observer administrator, Jane Smith (actual nationality uncertain).The power struggle Danyal describes contrasts the university’s stated aims ofbeing progressive and student centred with administration, represented by JaneSmith, who is test-oriented and rigidly bureaucratic. This description clearlyshows the flaws and dangers of lesson-observation for use for employmentdecisions and the negative impact observations can have.
Chapter 11, 'Dialogic Talk in the Post-Observation Conference: An Investment forReflection', by Steve Mann, and Fiona Copland
This paper presents original research conducted in an adult college of educationin the UK during a Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)course. The course involves teaching practice and feedback sessions betweentrainers and trainees, during which the use of dialogue in knowledgeconstruction of trainee teachers in post-observation feedback sessions aredescribed. The authors describe in detail the turns taken in a conversation,demonstrating how trainees analysed a teaching moment through the elicitedguidance of their trainer, collectively reflecting on a teaching act, andconstructing their pedagogical knowledge system.
Section V, Promoting Critical Praxis in Teacher Education Programs
Chapter 12, 'Crossing Borders: Interdisciplinary Collaboration among TeacherEducation Faculty', by Margo Delli Carpini, and Amanda Gulla
The authors describe a project where teacher candidates (TCs) from both TeachingEnglish as a Second Other Language (TESOL) and English (L1 mainstream education)collaboratively worked together. TCs were required to teach their own class, aswell 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 deeperappreciation of each other's disciplines, and thus improve their own pedagogicalknowledge and collaboration skills. The programme claims success and has beenexpanded to TESOL and Science, TESOL and Social Studies, and TESOL andMathematics. Suggestions for ensuring success in cross-discipline teachereducation are also given, including careful planning and extensive literaturereview, and ensuring opportunities for TCs to engage in collaborative experiences.
Chapter 13, 'Developing Cross-Cultural Competence through Observation andDialogic Teacher Inquiry', by Melinda Martin-Beltran
This paper describes how Martin-Beltran used an observation instrument to assistin 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 arefrom both international and domestic (US) contexts. The instrumentMartin-Beltran used was a melding and adoption of SIOP (no explanation given intext) from Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2004; cited on p. 216) and Pranksy andBailey (2002; cited on p. 216). Teachers were to observe their own teachingpractice, their classmates' teaching practice, conduct interviews with actualstudents, and maintain a research journal. The chapter concludes that thisobservation instrument was successful in developing cross-cultural communicativecompetence, and also has other benefits.
Chapter 14, 'Building Evidence-Based Teacher Education Through a Continuum ofClassroom-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-serviceteacher education for teacher candidates (TC), demonstrating that teachersbenefit 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-linesocial networking platforms like blogs and forums for reflection andcommunication, and to elicit feedback and support. In one case, a TC was able tolearn how to effectively intrinsically motivate her students, whilst expandingher 'instructional toolbox'. Results from the study show that suchobservation-reflection is beneficial to pre-service teachers despite theirinitial reluctance.
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 onpersonal or academic experiences, but at times the choices of what was includedin the volume seem inconsistent with the stated aims (see comments on ChaptersSix 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 professionaldevelopment. The volume as a whole does not seem to offer much that isspectacularly new (except maybe Chapter 10); however, Chapter Eight does includean 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 Sixwas 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 andEFL education. Mawhinney explains how her own middle-class language (especiallythe use of indirect questions as classroom commands) was the inadvertent causeof behavioural problems with a particular student of a different social class.Whilst this is a great lesson for beginning teachers in the L1 context, itsrelevance to L2 teachers, who are linguistically more sensitive, is notdemonstrated. Mawhinney explains how she taught Raheem the 'silenced dialogue',a term to describe hegemonic language, by using L1 literary texts. However, inthe L2 context, many teachers prefer explicit or modified comprehensibleclassroom language, and so the problems and solutions that Mawhinney describedare 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, whichwas taught by an instructor who is Korean-American. Whilst the chapter doesdiscuss the power of classroom observation, it is focused on classroomdiscipline and classroom participation of mainly L1 students. Again, thepertinence of this chapter to L2 specifically is limited. Furthermore, whilstthe chapter focuses on what is observable, it does stray momentarily intospeculation 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 canbe more useful.
I was looking forward to receiving this book but after starting to read it, Ifelt it lacked a certain quality and academic rigour. Chapter One appears to bean unstated introduction of sorts, and is merely a summary of the currentliterature on observation, and an abbreviated version of Bailey’s chapter inCarter and Nunan (see Bailey, 2001). Chapter Three utilised Kemmis andMcTaggart's four moments of an AR project: Planning, Action, Observation, andReflection (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1986). However, Murray suggests a superficialmodification beginning with Reflection, then Planning, Action, Observation,Reflection, and repeat. In fact, Kemmis and McTaggart now suggest a moreelaborate and cyclic model of these four moments (ibid 2005). Murray thenprovides samples of the observations elicited from the project not reportedwithin the Kemmis and McTaggart framework, and does not provide clear examplesof how the four moments were used in data gathering and interpretation. ChapterSix spoke of a critical incident of self-discovery in teacher development, yetfailed to list a single critical incident related reference. Chapter Seven alsodiscusses critical incidents, and at least references Pennycook (2001 & 2004).However, no link between these two chapters was attempted despite in-volumecross-referencing being the norm in a collection of papers such as this. Thisdisconnection between papers is illustrated through the example of Bailey'sfirst chapter referring to observation models like COLT, FLint, and others.Though some authors had referenced Bailey’s previous papers, none of the othercontributing authors referred to her opening chapter even though it was highlyrelevant. Furthermore, only a few chapters (3, 8, 13, and 14) demonstrate orrefer to literature-based observation models.
In contrast to some earlier inclusions in the volume, Chapters Eleven andThirteen seem to be two of the few chapters that are clearly laid out in afamiliar research report format, and are complete with a clear description ofresearch methodology and reasoning for its choice. This may be a reflection ofinconsistent editorial decisions, or the freedom given to authors. However,given the lack of cross-referencing between papers in the volume, it appearsthat this volume has received very minimal editorial involvement. For example,the editors should have insisted that in Chapter Ten, ''Jane Smith'', whoapparently has weak English language skills, have her nationality defined (165).Furthermore, some basic proofreading of the final draft by a professional editorwas perhaps needed before going to press, as some grammarians may find somepassages 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 meetthe aims of the book. According to the back cover statement, this volume assumesthat a gap exists between theory and practice, and that observation can bridgethis gap. To give credit, no other chapter demonstrates this gap moredramatically than Chapter Ten, which provides a rich description of the misuseof observation that impacted the employment of a teacher, as well as ChapterEleven, which demonstrates how observation can be effectively used to bridge thetheory-practice gap in teacher education.
Despite the above criticisms, the volume carries a lot of breadth, albeit, atthe expense of depth. In fact, I admit I have many post-it notes sprinkledthrough the book marking useful quotes.
Bailey, K. 2001 Observation. In R. Carter, and D. Nunan (eds). The CambridgeGuide 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: CommunicativeAction and the Public Sphere. In N. Denzin, and Y. Lincoln (eds). The SageHandbook of Qualitative Research (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, USA: SagePublications.
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
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.
Page Updated: 07-Nov-2011