I’m so sorry guys about missing out on our yearly ISI inspection. Really, I am ;). I read the report and recommendations though. The one which rings alarm bells is about each individual lesson plan including procedures to evaluate students’ progress. Does this mean testing? Certainly sounds like more paperwork, less teaching. One of the reasons I left Adult Learning (state sector).
It gets worse. According to the report (my interpretation) if students achieve measurable objectives within a lesson, I can be assessed as an effective teacher. Really? So, if all my students can use the present perfect or pronounce comfortable with three syllables rather than four by the end of the lesson, my performance will be deemed ok. Fortunately, those observing us have a more informed view of both teacher and student assessment. They know, as Donald Freeman pointed out in his recent talk, that learning as a direct cause of teaching is a myth. Our wonderful senior TT says she would prefer us to be spending time thinking about how to incorporate creative activities into our lessons rather than writing detailed plans.
This view mirrors so much of what I heard at IATEFL this year where there was a real focus on creativity within the classroom. In his session, Jazz and the Dark Matter of teaching, Adrian Underhill said that ‘By planning and not following it you give good lessons!’ He also acknowledged that plans come in many different shapes and sizes including the ones in our heads.
I also discovered a group called the C group which aims to keep creativity in the classroom. One member of the group, Charles Hadfield, said during his creative grammar session that he wished such a group wasn’t necessary but agreed that it was. With the current focus on assessment and achieving stated outcomes I have to agree with him. If we don’t take a stand against this production-line style of teaching and learning, we may as well just hand the job over to computers. There is a school in our town which offers nothing but IELTS. I’m told it does quite well. Is that the way we are moving? Schools as test-teaching centres? Hopefully not.
Fortunately, where I teach, if my lesson doesn’t go to plan, if my students learn something completely different, if they struggle with something and I throw the plan out the window to address this, I won’t be assessed as ineffective. I really liked Adrian’s suggestion to teacher trainers about including feedback on the spontaneity and improvisation that takes place within a lesson. One way of stopping teachers doing this ↓ when a lesson doesn’t go to plan.
Want to know more?
Dave Dodgson has some interesting points to make on testing and assessment in his review of Jeremy Harmer’s session on testing. Luke Meddings context to his quote ‘Give the test a rest’ mentioned by Jeremy is also worth a read.
For both sides of the argument the ‘Testing causes more harm than good’ debate can be watched here.