Background: you might have already heard or read about Reflective Group Meetings where teachers discuss a challenge or question they face and think critically and analytically about some possible reasons, formulate their own teaching and learning beliefs and come up with action plans to try out in the future.
I learned about (and attended two) such meetings in Daegu (South Korea). I am also in touch with inspiring and reflective colleagues in Japan and USA. Well, I decided to make a step myself and ran our first meeting here in Dnipro, Ukraine.
The first meeting was more of an introduction, and ‘test-drive’ of this idea: I invited my former colleagues and course participants, and some of them brought their reflective friends and colleagues. We had a small circle of 10 people and discussed how a reflective cycle can be applied, experienced a short non-language demo activity and reflected on it, and reviewed the stages of the Experiential Learning Cycle. We agreed to meet again, and created a group on Facebook to stay in touch.
Now I am planning our second meeting, and this is what this post is about.
My intro message about this meeting says:
Let’s start with something simple, and complicated at the same time: Your Student. Choose a student whose learning manner, behavior, needs or personality you would like to reflect on. Keep an eye on this student in the coming weeks, maybe take brief notes of specific situations and behaviors you would like to share.
I am thinking to structure the meeting around the theme of One Student, and will share my ideas below. Your comments and insights are very welcome (there are still a couple of days left before the meeting)
Think (and/or take notes) about the student you are thinking about. You might choose to share some of this with your reflective peers today.
Some helpful questions:
- Why does s/he stand out for you?
- Why do you think the student needs English? Why is s/he in your classroom?
- What makes this student special? Unique?
- What can you learn from him/her (personally, and as his/her teacher)?
This is something your reflective peers will need to know if you want them to understand your situation better.
Some helpful questions:
- How old is the student?
- What is his/her level according to CEFR, and how balanced are the four skills?
- What kind of class/group/course is this?
- How does thinking about this student makes you feel?
Choose ONE situation/event/interaction where your student took part (a recent one, or the most memorable one). Imagine that you are making a picture of this scenario, or telling about this episode to someone who has never been in your classroom, and describe it in as much detail as possible. Please remember that we talk about a situation rather than the whole lesson. This piece, or moment, can be 5-10 minutes long.
Some helpful questions:
- Where was the student sitting?
- Where were you (the teacher) standing or sitting?
- What were the other students doing?
- What was the task/the activity that this student was doing?
- What exactly did you, and/or the student say (write)?
Look at the answers you wrote and think about a feeling you had at that moment. Please note that you might not remember all the feelings right now, because the event took place some time ago. Also, your feelings from this distance might change the ‘color’ (something you were angry or frustrated about at that moment may seem different now)
Re-read your description again. If you did not know the student, or your classroom, what else might you want to ask the teacher? Add 1-2 questions, and answer them.
Now, read the description of a situation provided by a reflective teacher Anne (at the moment of writing this blog post she was based in South Korea and was writing about her student; she gave me her kind permission to use this post in our session)
- What did you notice about the way she described the scenario? How does it compare to the description you created?
- What would you like to ask Anne about Josh? Write 1-3 questions.
- Compare with the questions her readers asked in the comments. Mark the questions you were also interested in.
We are using the Experiential Learning Cycle for structured reflection. Which of the five stages have we just been though? – Experience and Description.
Which questions asked by the readers do not fall into the Description stage? – Depending on the time available and the number of people present we might only look at several examples of the questions asking for interpretation (analysis or generalizations). Some examples are:
- You mention that you were frustrated during the encounter. Do you think that the frustration showed in your voice/body language?
- He wouldn’t follow your instructions straight away as the others did. Does he need to be asked differently?
- What motivates him? How does he respond to praise? What kind of praise?
Back to Your Student
- Are there any questions you would like to add (and answer!) to make the description of your student fuller?
Exchange the descriptions with the reflective peers in your group and be ready to ask and answer further descriptive questions about him/her.
Reflection on Reflection
- Why is the Description part important?
- How did it feel to be describing one particular scenario?
- What information for further reflection do you now have?
If time allows, the small groups will take the experience through the complete Cycle analyzing some possible reasons for specific actions or words, formulating their learning/generalizations about learning and teaching, and coming up with possible action plans to apply.
I am wondering if there is enough time for the complete cycle, or not; whether or not to change the groups (every time there are new listeners the person has to describe the whole thing all over again); whether or not to keep the same focus (and the same student) for the following meeting, or to switch the focus and continue to explore the other stages of the Cycle in more detail.
Looking forward to reading your thoughts and ideas. Thank you for reading! 😉