Read the summary for some great ideas and links on how to make your teaching life a more positive and fruitful one. Managers will also find some guidance on how to build teacher motivation in the workplace.
Read the summary for some great ideas and links on how to make your teaching life a more positive and fruitful one. Managers will also find some guidance on how to build teacher motivation in the workplace.
Note: This chat has now taken place. You can read the summary here. Great tips for conference attendees and presenters, some persuasion for would-be presenters, and definitely some big love for networking!
September’s #AusELT chat is coming up! This time we’ll be talking about conferences and presenting including:
We’ll also be using the ‘slowburn’ format for the first time this year. For us, this means the chat will be spread over the whole weekend instead of just 1 hour on Sunday night 🙂
We’ll start early on Sat 3rd September, and run right through till late on Sunday 4th September. You can contribute, read and discuss tweets on this theme at any time in that period, so feel free to drop in and out a few times over the weekend! Just remember to add the #AusELT hashtag to your tweets so we can all see them.
If it is your first time using Twitter, slowburns are a nice and gentle way in to connecting with others. You might also be interested in these posts:
Looking forward to e-seeing you this weekend!
This post by @sophiakhan4
Our August Twitter chat is happening on Sunday 7th Aug at 8.30pm Sydney time (click here to see the time where you are).
In our Twitter chat for August 2016 we discussed reflective practice.
This chat has now taken place but you can read the transcript/summary here.
This topic was suggested after there was a lot on interest in a post on the #AusELT Facebook page recently about using teacher post-lesson reflections effectively. As this is a familiar concept to most of us from pre-service training and in-service observations, perhaps we can use this as as a jumping off point. Some questions we could consider here are:
Looking forward to discussing these questions or any others you care to bring with you on Sunday.
If you are new to Twitter, please come along, we are a friendly bunch (send a tweet to me @sophiakhan4 and I’ll look out for you!)
You might also be interested in these posts:
This post by @sophiakhan4, edited by @cioccas
After a recent training course for entry level teachers, I was sitting in a café with some of the trainees when the topic of teacher roles came up. One of them commented that I was individualistic and that it accounted for my success. I was rather taken aback as I consider myself a team player. The trainee then pointed out that my favourite sport, cricket, is in essence an individual sport played in a team and that batsmen and bowlers effectively operate as individuals: you bat alone, you bowl alone and it is your individual effort that leads to success or failure for the team. This conversation led to some reflection on the roles of teamwork in an ESL set up and this post is the result of that reflection.
Let me start by clarifying that cricket is a team sport and that there are many similarities between cricket players and the individuals that make up an LTO (Language Teaching Operation). Batsmen bat in pairs and if one batsman doesn’t rotate the strike, the pressure on the other batsman increases and the effectiveness of that batsman decreases. The top order and middle order have specific roles. Similarly, successful bowlers operate in pairs. One bowler might dry up runs, applying pressure, allowing a strike bowler to take wickets. The fielders also play a huge role here. Not only is holding onto catches important, but good catches and good fielding apply pressure, get the bowlers to have their tails up and increases morale in the team. Team management, the coaches and the selection teams also form a very important part of this team set up and contribute not only to the individual performances of ‘star’ players, but also to the morale of the team. Every single individual operates as an individual and while their individual brilliance is important, they are very much part of a team.
LTOs as cricket teams
When a teacher is planning his lesson or teaching in the classroom he is operating as an individual, much like a batsman or a bowler. But what about the role other teachers, the DOS, the Academic manager or any other administration or marketing staff play in the success of the school or of the individual teacher? The morale in the school and the LTO is probably more important to the direction and success of the school than any individual teacher, however good they are. Without realising it, teachers rely on the copy machine working, the bathrooms being clean, students being recruited and showing up for class, books being purchased and a multitude of other things that are often completely out of their control. Other staff rely on teachers to produce results that increase the reputation of the school and make their jobs as administration or marketing staff easier. As with any organisation, the individuals are important, but it is equally, if not more important to be a team player.
‘It’s not my job’
In a perfect world, each batsman in a cricket team contributes runs, but in many games, this doesn’t really happen. A number 5 batsman cannot refuse to go in to bat in the third over only because he’s a middle order batsman – he needs to contribute where needed. Similarly, situations might occur in a school where a teacher is required to do something that’s not ideal. If this consistently happens, your team has weaknesses, but this is also the time when average becomes exceptional and leadership qualities are highlighted. Helping out might increase your workload, but it will also show that you are willing to work in a team, you are flexible and you place the needs of the team above your own personal needs.
‘I’m just in it for a few years/It’s just a part-time job’
How long do you think the average sports person is active in his career? Cricket players practice for hours knowing that their careers as players can last around a decade, maybe a little more if they’re lucky. Is only doing something for a few years an excuse for doing it poorly? Or for not really trying to get better? Even the greats in cricket spend hours in the nets working on technique or ironing out problems. Should professional teachers not also show the same level of commitment to their trade?
Great team players compare themselves to excellence, not to other players. You don’t want to be just above the weakest link in the team. Professional development helps not only the individual, but creates a culture of excellence and a team of winners.
‘How can I work if everyone else drops the ball?’
There is nothing as frustrating as seeing plans go up in smoke when someone drops the ball. There’s also nothing as debilitating for a team as when members start blaming each other for failures. People make mistakes, but as team players, we need to work past those instances when balls are dropped, get back to our marks and storm in again with ball in hand. When the blame game starts, productivity goes down. Effectiveness goes down and no one wins. Good team players play the team game, not the blame game.
‘They need me more than I need them’
Not all players are equal. Some people are more talented, some work harder, but all of these individuals make up the team and contribute to its culture. But when players start seeing themselves as bigger than the game, they no longer respect those in the game and may even lose respect for those outside of the game. They lose their commitment,stop listening to the opinions or concerns of others, and place themselves first. Your classroom may seem a one-man-show, just like a batsman playing a brilliant innings, but never forget that your classroom is part of a much larger picture, and that the students play as big a role in the success of the LTO as fans play in the success of cricket.
‘I’m in it to win it’
Contributing to success of others is a key element in tasting success yourself, but being a great team player – or being an ambitious individual within a team set up – does not mean you have to live, eat and sleep your job. Every once in a while, remember to take a step back, enjoy your hobbies or go on vacation.
This post was written by Gerhard Erasmus (@). Gerhard is currently the Director of Studies at a language centre in Taipei, Taiwan, and actively involved in teacher training, from entry level qualifications to tutoring on the Cambridge Delta. He has authored a Young Learners series and consulted on various curriculum and training design projects. He also co-authored the ebook Brainstorming with Hall Houston. His main area of interest in ELT is teacher development including continuous professional development.
This chat took place in March 2015 and started out as a very meta chat on Twitter about Twitter. You can read a complete transcript of the chat here. @sophiakhan4 got the ball rolling before the chat with a post about why Twitter had been so significant for her. It contains an interesting list of things that would never have happened without Twitter (including #AusELT) as well as some reasons why you might want to bother with Twitter if haven’t gone there yet, or if Facebook is your drug of choice.
This chat sumary is divided into two parts. In Part 1, long-time #AusELTer Kylie Tyler (@thesmylers) writes about the Twitter-related part of the chat, reflecting on her own social media journey and sharing tips on how to make it work for you. In Part 2, @sophiakhan4 summarises the later stages of the chat which dealt with social media identity and curation strategies to manage the flow of information.
Part 1: Twitter journeys and how to make it work for you
I first joined Twitter as @thesmylers in October 2010 but I wasn’t very active and only followed a couple of my friends who’d mentioned they had a Twitter account. I didn’t really know what it meant to “follow” someone and I think I might have “tweeted” maybe twice in the first 2 years. That all changed when I saw my friend @SophiaKhan4 present a talk called The Networked Teacher with @Eslkazzyb at a PD Fest in Sydney. They introduced me to #AusELT and, through the people they followed, the wider world of ELT on Twitter. I gradually built a list of people in the industry I followed and later that year I joined in on my very first #AusELT chat. I have to say it was both overwhelming and exhilarating. I barely had time to read the new tweets that kept popping up 7-at-a-time on my screen, let alone manage to respond to any questions or comments during the hour-long chat. However, afterwards I felt a real sense of achievement and connection with people who were interested in what I was interested in and that made me feel so good! Gradually, as I lurked at the next few chats, I tweeted a comment or two, and following the many conversations became easier and less frantic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fast and furious, and I still don’t understand how some people just seem to be part of all the conversations that go on during a chat. That’s why this month’s #AusELT chat was so helpful for me and hopefully in this summary you’ll find some helpful ideas too.
This month’s chat was a small one with some of the usual suspects, as well as newcomer @angelos_bollas, taking part, and some lurkers popping in every now and then. The topic was a good one: advice for those who are new to Twitter and other social media.
What can Twitter do for you and your professional development?
Just joining Twitter and following a couple of people really won’t give you a good idea of just how much benefit it can bring to your professional learning. I read somewhere that you need to follow at least 40 people for at least 6 months before making a decision for or against the usefulness of Twitter and I have to say that I agree, although when I started out I certainly didn’t. The couple of people I followed had nothing to do with ELT and I found myself wondering what all the fuss was. It wasn’t until I started following some #AusELTers, and followed who they were following, and followed who they were following, that, over time, I started seeing the (daily) potential in Twitter. Add to that the monthly #AusELT chats and I was finally sold.
The biggest thing Twitter can offer according to #AusELTers is being able to instantly connect with professionals who share the same beliefs and practices, regardless of whether they are interstate or international. @michaelegriffin referred to a post on his blog in which he exemplified the benefits of Twitter to some colleagues. He tweeted a question and within minutes had responses from around the world appear on his Twitter feed. As well as instant responses, connections like these can lead you to ELT blogs, the latest news and research in the field, lesson ideas and general support. Several #AusELTers even mentioned having formed new friendships through making professional connections on Twitter. This is something that sets Twitter apart from other social media like Facebook and LinkedIn and #AusELTers had a bit to say about this.
Most people agreed that Twitter has the advantage of being more anonymous. @aparnajacob noted that “unfollowing [on Twitter] is not as bad as unfriending [on Facebook]”, and this is true. Newcomers to Twitter can follow and unfollow people, and comment or not, without anyone being the wiser if that’s what they want. They can “just float on the Twitter tide” as @SophiaKhan4 wrote in this month’s #AusELT chat intro here. Other differences #AusELTers mentioned were @Penultimate_K: “Twitter great for chats & quick exchange. Linkedin/Facebook for more in depth discussion”, and @SophiaKhan4: “I follow ideas on Twitter & people on Facebook – Twitter offers a wider range.”
So who do you follow and how do you manage the volume of tweets?
As @Penultimate_K noted: “It takes time to adjust to the speed of the information flow. And the conventions of Twitter.” This is important to know when you first start out. If you’re used to using Facebook, Twitter can be like entering a different world; posts limited to 140 characters, using symbols like @ and #, “retweeting” and “favouriting”, can all seem a bit like a foreign language. But @michaelegriffin had some good advice for this: “one thing I think was helpful for me on Twitter was not to follow too many people at first. I added more as I got accustomed to the feed.”
Start by following some #AusELTers like @SophiaKhan4, @michaelegriffin, @cioccas, @Penultimate_K, and @forstersensei. Then, see who they’re following and from there follow who you’re interested in. Some recommendations from #AusELTers of people to follow were: @AnneHendler, @nathanghall, @TheSecretDoS, @Ashowski, @teflerinha, @HadaLitim, @michaelegriffin, @Larryfelazzo, @oyajimbo, and institutions/associations like @MacmillanELT @TheConsultantsE @Edudemic @TeachingEnglish@English_Aus, @acereduau, @VocEdAustralia, @NCVER, @RITCWA and @HeutagogyCoP .
Once you’re following more than a few people, the volume of tweets coming through to your Twitter feed can be overwhelming. Apart from being selective about who you follow or going for periodic culling (my technique until now!), here are a few less drastic suggestions from #AusELTers – and remember, as @SophiaKhan4 said, “Twitter is a garden – you need to cultivate it to the shape you want.”
For practical info on how to use Twitter for PD and participating in #AusELT chats visit the #AusELT Twitter page. You can also access the #AusELT 1-page guide on how to get started with Twitter which includes a “starter” list of people to follow.
Part 2: Social media identity and managing the flow of information
Do you need to have different social media personas (personal and professional)?
@sophiakhan said she felt stuck with two identities – one for family and friends and one for work purposes. “I would bore all the teachers with mummy and kids stuff and vice versa if I mixed…” @aparnajacob also felt conflicted and cited this as a reason for considering having two Facebook accounts. After all, she said, “Who wants to hear about your work life?”
Of course we all know, ahem, that having two Facebook accounts is not allowed and no one does it. But is there anther way? Echoing the earlier conversation on using lists on Twitter, @michaelegriffin said “I know some folks that use lists/groups well on FB so their non-teaching friends don’t get swamped with ELT”. A few of us were a bit in awe of that and wanted tutorials – though both @michaelegriffin and @sophiakhan4 – arguably big FB users – still hadn’t got to grips with it and @sophiakhan4 thought this might be because this feature is “not obvious or user friendly.”
Having said that, many other chat participants felt it wasn’t an issue and just having one Facebook account or one Twitter account was fine. @thesmylers felt that having multiple log ins on a single account was too difficult. @Penultimate_K also added, “I connect with people [on Facebook] who may not be actual friends through groups/pages.” @angelos_bollas also said he was happy with one Facebook account – but he later admitted “my real friends & family have unfollowed me on Facebook! They can IM me so we keep in touch … plus I post in English – they are Greek and when they post something on my wall in Greek, I tell them off so … they did what they had to!” So it could be that using different channels for different audiences is a natural evolution that suits some people. It is true that that different platforms lend themselves to certain types of posts and so tend to appeal to different sorts of people – each has a very distinct character and audience.
So what about LinkedIn?
While many #AusELTers thought it was worthwhile to have a LinkedIn profile, @thesmylers will find sympathy with many when she says: “I think I’m on LinkedIn but never used it”. @aparnajacob finds it “clunky”, @sophiakhan4 said she couldn’t “weed out rubbish well” and @penultimate_K wondered if “Linkedin makes it harder to be selective in order to tempt you to a paid account.”
Again people often seemed to have profiles that they did not use much. @Penultimate_K said “I could never get into Google+ – not sure why. It just didn’t appeal to me as a channel” and @Angelos_bollas commented: “Google+ looks so… old, doesn’t it?”
However, several participants were intrigued by the idea of G+ hangouts, with the end result that a week later @sophiakhan4 and @angelos_bollas actually did hang out on G+, a few weeks after their initial random meeting via an #ELChat on Twitter. And it was pretty great! Easy to use, with a lot of potential for small group meetings and…hanging out.
How do you curate useful links?
@Penultimate_K said: “choose the channel where the audience would be most appreciative of the info. Cross-post with care!” @sophiakhan4 said she felt “split over several platforms” for exactly this reason. However, other chat participants kept it simple: @thesmylers said “I only use FB and Twitter – copying links to posts across those works for me” and @Penultimate_K said: “I share on Twitter/LinkedIn. I discuss on the Facebook group” She also added that “FB (whether we love it or hate it) is really great! And searchable!” – however, I would add that while a group page, such as #AusELT, is searchable, if you are curating links on your personal profile page or your business page, you cannot search, you just need to keep scrolling back, and this is a drawback for me.
Some other curation favourites within the group were:
And that was about all we had time for. We covered a lot of ground, and as usual I would say – find what works for you!
For a complete workshop on social media for teachers, including presenter’s notes, PowerPoint and other materials, please click here. It’s under a Creative Commons license so it is adaptable and free to use in your institution.
The last #AusELT chat of 2014 was voted for by the community and the selected topic was ‘systems thinking’ (ST). Nicki set us up with some pre-reading and also connected the chat with the #systhinking community on Twitter. The inspiration for this chat was Adrian Underhill’s recent professional development sessions, in conjunction with English Australia, on ‘Developing a “learning organisation” approach to PD’, and Underhill is referenced several times in this chat. You can read some posts about Underhill’s session here , here, and here.
A little bit of background
For some of us (ahem) this was a new phenomenon, and you can be forgiven for not having heard of it before – @Penultimate_K described it as ‘one of those “sleeper” topics which is just gaining critical mass in ELT.’
According to Nicki some of the key names to look out for are Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Kahneman, a psychologist who specialises in behavioural economics and who was awarded a Nobel Memorial Prize in 2002 is also the author of the bestselling, Thinking, Fast and Slow, published in 2011.
One brain, two systems
In his book, Kahneman puts forward the idea that within each person’s brain there are two types of thinking, two different systems. Type 1 thinking is the ‘knee-jerk’, intuitive thinking. It’s the thinking that doesn’t think! Rather, it is a response to a situation – it’s the system that we use to deal with stressful situations or other times when deliberation could be harmful or where speed is of the essence. Type 1 is the system that guides our actions. Type 2 thinking, on the other hand, is where our actions are thought through and, through this process, those actions can be analysed and validated (or not, as the case may be). Type 2 is where we reflect and theorise.
There are many YouTube videos, both long and short, where Kahneman explains his ideas. The one that was cited in the pre-reading blog post is this one .
@sophiakhan4, who hadn’t read Kahneman’s book, wasn’t hugely convinced by the illustrative example given in this video, which centred around the hypothetical case of Julie, who ‘read fluently at age 4’. She (hypothetically) graduated recently, and Kahneman asks ‘What was her GPA?’ Apparently we are meant to assume it is high, and this is meant to illustrate the fact that we make many decisions in everyday life that we think are logical but are in fact based on beliefs and biases. This might not have been the best example, but as @michaelegriffin pointed out, ‘it is just a metaphor’ and a way to think about the issue.
@sophiakhan4 had a concern about dichotomistic divisions along the lines of “there are two types of people in the world…” – even if this is not what Kahneman intends, people unfamiliar with his work might easily interpret his ideas in this either/or way. She asked for opinions on the book and @michaelegriffin had a glowing recommendation: ‘I loved it! I said to myself many times, “Gosh this is so related to teaching I can’t believe it.”’
So what IS ‘systems thinking’?
Systems thinking can happen on a number of levels and is open to several interpretations. However, for our purposes, we were viewing ST as the awareness of the two systems at work, and how this awareness can shape our professional development as teachers and learners, and benefit, not only the individual, but organisations.
@aparnajacob said that ‘Underhill mentioned complex systems, how ST was really about understanding the interconnection/interaction between parts of a whole.’ This resonated with @sophiakhan4, who saw this as linking in with established theory on dynamic complex systems, emergent language, etc.
@sophiakhan4 suggested that ‘ #systhinking sees the complex interactions of the whole, not just an isolated event & its immediate cause/consequence.’ @Penultimate_K agreed with this, adding that ‘the interactions can have either positive or negative outcomes.’ @aparnajacob further added ‘And his point is that all of these outcomes are learning opportunities’, giving the example of a school that launches an unsuccessful new product, with investigations revealing inadequate market research, which makes for a huge opportunity for ‘wholeorglearning’. (Isn’t it great that Twitter allows collaborative definitions like this??)
Types of thinking
@Penultimate_K outlined the two types of thinking for the chat participants: T1 (fast, instinctive) & T2 (slow, logical), and asked ‘Which do you use more in your work?’. For herself, she said, ‘My role [as an academic manager] demands more type 2 thinking than type 1.’
@michaelegriffin said, ‘For me personally, I think I need to intentionally engage T2 at certain times or it is all T1 … but I’m not convinced all T2 all the time is practical or possible or beneficial,’ and later he further clarified: ‘I see T1 as the usual mode. The one we need for surviving and filtering and all. Better decisions and clearer thinking from T2.’
@aparnajacob speculated that ‘T2 would be ideal but a combination is required’ and also wondered whether groups tended towards T2 and individuals towards T1. @Penultimate_K thought this was probably the case: ‘Group thinking would need to be more deliberative, I guess.’
There seemed to be an implication that fast, instinctive thinking is inaccurate or unreliable. @mikejcsmith was not convinced of this, and @sophiakhan4 agreed: ‘sometimes you need to react quickly, and sometimes instincts are correct.’ @HairyChef suggested that Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, which is about the remarkable accuracy of ‘first impressions’ and ‘instincts’, might be useful reading to accompany this debate.
Following the instinct debate, @michaelegriffin asked: ‘Could we say that instincts are prone to bias?’ Several participants agreed with this: @HairyChef said, ‘Absolutely – otherwise they would not exist (or humans would process info much faster).’ @sophiakhan4 thought this was probably true but wasn’t sure you could say T2 was any freer from bias: ‘some biases can be so ingrained that even T2 doesn’t always take the layers off.’
@mikejcsmith pointed that ‘instincts develop via natural selection. If they fail too often, they disappear,’ the implication being (in agreement with Gladwell) that instincts we have evolved are more likely to be accurate than ‘biased’. @michaelegriffin agreed, saying ‘[that] is why I think System 1 is very good for hunting but probably not so good for planning courses’ though @mikejcsmith found room for both T1 and T2 even in hunting: ‘maybe [T]2 is good for stalking, [T]1 good for the final lunge and kill.’ @michaelegriffin accepted this, and put it in a nutshell: ‘Using [T]2 all the time is impossible and tiring. Sometimes we need [T]1.’
What contexts can systems thinking apply in?
@mikejcsmith commented: ‘I am trained in systems engineering, but I seem to find methodical lesson planning very difficult. Mostly teach instinctively.’@Penultimate_K asked, ‘Do the disciplines of systems engineering have any crossover into classroom instruction?’ and @mikejcsmith replied that ‘they certainly come into play in the art of needs analysis … Needs analysis happens continuously for me. Always thinking about it in class. Always outweighs lesson planning.’ @Penultimate_K summarised this as ‘constant fine-tuning according to the class context of the learners in front of you’ and @mikejcsmith agreed: ‘Yes, perhaps the way to think about it is that T2 (methodological) is the undercurrent, and T1 (adaptive) steers.’
@michaelegriffin made a point relating to the pre-reading blog post which seemed to be focused on how/why we need to teach students to be disciplined thinkers. He noted ‘I’m much more focused on decisions I make as a T than teaching Ss to think in this way.’ @sophiakhan4 agreed: ‘That makes more sense to me at the moment – though it’s fascinating how #systhinking can apply to so many diff contexts.’
@Penultimate_K agreed with this and emphasized the importance of distinguishing between systems thinking in classrooms, in teaching approach, and in organisations. Even further contexts had come up earlier, when @michaelegriffin had shared posts showing how systems thinking is linked to language emergence and to career development. As @Penultimate_K put it, ‘it’s hard to confine the ideas to one area’ with this particular topic.
@HairyChef thought there were also applications to behaviour management – ‘how teachers respond to students’ behaviours in young learner classes.’ He wondered whether a ‘fast-thinking’ T1 teacher would get better results than the T2 teacher ‘who always thinks before reprimanding,’ thus ‘missing’ instances of bad behaviours. He also connected the topic of systems thinking to cognitive psychology models of short term memory vs executive functions, giving the example of a new vs an experienced teacher – the latter has ‘more confidence and reliance on T1 pathways/systems.’
@mikejcsmith pointed out that a systems thinking approach is ‘difficult’ when it comes to very personal areas such as behaviour analysis or management and felt that ‘human behaviour may be too complex for a classical systems approach … Humans, especially learners, are not machines. They react emotionally. Learning barriers are almost always emotional.’
Is there a place for systems thinking in the classroom?
Focusing in on the classroom, and echoing the pre-chat blog post, @Penultimate_K asked ‘So is there “a need to educate learners to be disciplined thinkers”? … How do you think that could be done in among everything else that happens in class?’
@sophiakhan4 wasn’t sure: ‘in terms of language aren’t we aiming for automaticity? Though clear benefits to e.g. editing, self-monitoring … At the moment I see more benefits to exploring this for ourselves/our organisations rather than as something we “teach” students.’ @michaelegriffin felt the same, and simply said: ‘I’m not sure this is my job or how much I can really do on this in an English class.’
However, other chatters felt there might be classroom applications. @HairyChef suggested that there may be ‘a need to draw attention to ways learners evaluate peers, own learning from day to day,’ and @DesouzaJuanita gave a concrete example: ‘I have a CAE student run the risk of another failure because [of] not trusting instinct … we need to train them to be adaptive thinkers.’ She explained that she had extensively encouraged to this student to trust his instincts, but that this may be ‘just how he thinks’, even in his L1. (At this point, @Penultimate_K’s response wins Quote of the Night: ‘So his instinct is to be cautious? T1 meets T2!!!’)
@mikejcsmith also suggested that ‘using empathy methods in teaching’ allows students to access T1, not just rule-driven T2 (eg, pair work) and that this T1/T2 combination approach is important in any grammar lesson.
Can systems thinking turn organisations into ‘an adventure park for everyone’s learning’?
Returning to a claim made in Adrian Underhill’s session, @Penultimate_K asked: ‘How close is your organisation to being “an adventure park for everyone’s learning”?’
@aparnajacob thought this could occur ‘only if a culture of healthy 360 degree feedback and learning exists,’ and @sophiakhan4 found this ‘rather optimistic’ – but added that she was ‘100 % pro people listening to & learning from each other beyond the silos.’
@aparnajacob felt that ‘systems thinking can make leaders of everyone in an organisation’ but emphasised that ‘for this we need to revisit the traditional definition of managers/leaders.’ Those interested in exploring Aparna’s ideas further should read her food-for-thought #AusELT post on this which included this quote on which we will conclude:
“Systems thinking begins when we see the world through the eyes of another…and realize that our own perspective is just a point of view”
There is nothing ‘hard and fast’ about ‘thinking fast and slow’ – when we start to question our perspective and how this perspective was developed, we can better understand our own thought processes and apply the different types of thinking to produce better outcomes in our classrooms and in our places of work.
This post by @sophiakhan4 and @Penultimate_K
This is the second in a short series of blog posts inspired by Adrian Underhill’s workshop on Developing a ‘learning organisation’ approach to PD, which he delivered at various locations in Australia recently. To find out more about Adrian Underhill, read his recent interview in the English Australia Journal.
Tamzen Armer is currently Assistant Director of Studies at an LTO in Canberra, and Reviews Editor at the English Australia Journal.
Adrian Underhill’s session on “Developing a ‘learning organisation’ approach to PD” raised some interesting questions for me about learning in my LTO. In keeping with my key ‘take-away’ from the session, allow me to share . . .
Identify something you have learnt at work recently . . . who else knows you have been learning that?
Throughout the workshop, Adrian made reference to “the mess we’re in”. For me, that mess was perhaps best summed up by the question above – who else in my organisation knows what I have been learning, and indeed what do I know about what others have been learning?
Individual learning can be wasted unless harnessed at organisational level
It seems to me that in my organisation a lot of learning must be getting wasted. I know I rarely share my learning with others and I suspect that is the same for other people. It’s not because I don’t want to share, but there never seems to be the time, the opportunity or the forum.
In an organisation I worked at previously, there always seemed to be discussion about teaching and learning, about how to explain things to students, about how best to teach things, about what people had learned at external PD sessions. It all happened in a very organic way, outside of organisation-imposed PD sessions, and it was extremely important for me as a relatively new teacher. These discussions made me enthusiastic about English, about the job, the possibilities. It helped me bond with my colleagues. It gave me confidence when I felt I could contribute to the discussions and when I didn’t, I learned things.
There are no ‘universal’ solutions to ‘local’ situations . . .
So what is different in my current LTO? Well, to start with, the way our timetable works means that there is no common break time or lunchtime. Or start or finish time. A lot of the discussion in my previous organisation occurred during the short breaks in classes or after class when everyone would be in the staff room. The staff room: difference number two. At my current organisation some teachers are in two-person offices; the others in 10-person rooms. But because of the timetable, there may only be a couple of people in those room at any one time. It seems to me that both of these factors impede the sharing of ideas and opinions and thus learning is wasted.
It’s been easy for me to notice this but to put it in the “too hard” basket. However, having the time in Adrian’s session to focus on this problem, to talk through it with others and to see that no ‘universal’ solution does not mean no solution, was very useful.
We need to develop local knowledge that follows the contours of the setting and circumstances we are in . . .
A number of suggestions were made by other workshop attendees. The first was having a noticeboard in a common area where things could be shared. Unfortunately as our common areas are also common to other departments, as well as accessible to students, I had to rule this one out. A second suggestion was to have face-to-face meetings/idea shares. I know this is popular with teachers as when we have done it in the past, feedback has been good. However, the time constraints mean this is only really possible in our non-teaching weeks which occur four times a year. This did not seem frequent enough to create the kind of collaborative environment I was envisaging and also our sessional and casual teachers, the bulk of the staff, aren’t generally around at those times. However, as people are keen on this kind of forum, it seems worth pursuing and I think it would be possible to have more frequent get-togethers of smaller groups and, by changing the meeting times, different combinations of people could come together. A final suggestion was a closed Facebook group where ideas could be shared. Another attendee reflected on her experience of using this kind of forum in her LTO and it seemed promising and would certainly overcome many of our “environmental” constraints.
We make the mistake of dictating problems and solutions, making people passive, colluding in the problem and dictating answers, rather than inviting them to empower themselves by entering the problem, and developing their own knowledge — Anne Burns
Fortuitously, this workshop occurred just before one of our non-teaching weeks and I took the opportunity to arrange an informal PD session in which I reported back on my learning from Adrian’s session and had colleagues who attended the EA Conference share what they learned there. There did seem to be a general feeling that we could be sharing more and a number of avenues for communication were suggested by staff. Firstly, people were, as expected, keen to meet face-to-face, even for relatively short periods of time. There was also a feeling that email, as our main workplace channel of communication, could be used for such purposes. One colleague suggested having a particular subject-line convention such that emails of this type could be easily identified/redirected into folders to save them disappearing into the mass of email communication which fills the inbox each day. It was also suggested that our staff Moodle site be used to collect and store useful links, and indeed a number of the conference attendees had already put links to sessions they found particularly beneficial on there.
Do you, the teacher, demonstrate the quality of learning you want your students to develop?
In our classrooms we ask learners to communicate, co-operate and collaborate. We expect our learners to think critically about resources they use, and we expect them to become autonomous in their learning. It will be interesting to see now whether we are able to do the same.
This post by @tamzenarmer
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the individuals, and not those of #AusELT in general or of English Australia.