Observation as a learning tool in pre-service teacher education Sanja Čurković Kalebić Faculty of Philosophy University of Split
“There is no substitute for direct observation as a way of finding out about language classrooms” (Nunan, 1989:76)
Observation is a “non-judgmental description of classroom events that can be analyzed and given interpretation” (Gebhard & Oprandy, 1999:35)
Classroom observation “opens up a range of experiences and processes which can become part of the raw material of a teacher’s professional growth?” (Wajnryb, 1992:1)
Observingexperiencedsecondlanguageteachers student teacherscan • developanawarenessoftheprinciplesanddecisionmakingthatunderlieeffectiveteaching • distinguishbetweeneffectiveandineffectiveclassroompractices • identifytechniquesandpracticestheycanapply to their own teaching (Day, 1990:43) • refinetheability to observe, analyse, and interpret (Waynryb, 1992:7)
Approaches to observation (Day, 1990) • Qualitative approaches (include educational etnography, introduce student teachers to the complexity of the language classrooms and help them to see the multiple roles of the second language teacher) - Quantitative approaches (make use of observation techniques and instruments by means of which behaviours in the classroom are observed)
Observation task • It is a “focussedactivity to work on whileobserving a lessonin progress”. (Wajnryb, 1992:7) • Observationtask • “limitsthescopeofwhat one is observingandallows one to focus on one or twoparticularaspects”, • “provides a convenientmeansofcollecting dana thatfreestheobserverfromforminganopinion or makingan on-the-spot evaluationduringthelesson. Thejudgmentalandinterpretative side comeslater, afterthelesson, andwillbebased on thecomplete data thathasbeencollected.” (Wajnryb, 1992:8)
Aim • To gain an insight into the nature of student teachers’ learning about teaching through classroom observation
Research questions • To identify the elements of teaching that draw student teachers’ attention while they observe mentors teach • To identify student teachers’ needs with respect to teaching strategies
Database • 40 observationsheetsfilledinby40 student teachersofEnglishlanguageand literature at theUniversityof Split. • Observationtask: “Lessonplanning” (Wajnryb, 1992) • Objective: to determine- through a set offocussedandguidedquestions-whatdecisionstheteachermadeinplanningthelesson • Procedure: • Observe a lesson, make notes ofobservations, writedowninferencesconcerningtheteacher’s decisions, make a note ofquestionsthatyouwould like to asktheteacheraboutthevariousdecisionstakenaboutthelesson.
Data analysis – Part I • Inferences about the teacher’s decisons: • Ss noted down 262 inferences for 225 observations • Inferences were classified with respect to the guiding questions (Todd, 1997)
Data analysis – Part II • 213 discussionquestionswerenoteddown. • Questionswereanalysedwithregards to thetypeofteachingstrategytheyreferto. • Classificationofteachingstrategieswasmade on thebasisofthe list offoreignlanguageteachingstrategiesthatmaybefoundin literature (e.g. Todd, 1997). • Thefollowingstrategieswereidentifiedinthedatabase: beginninglessons, presentingandexplaining, motivationalstrategies, code-switching (use ofmothertongue), questioning, classroom management, providingfeedback, correcting, checkingcomprehensionandlearning, timing, aids andmaterial use, endinglessons.
For each question it was decided whether it refers to the choice, use or efficiency of a particular teaching strategy. • Examples from the database:
Choiceofstrategy(examplefromthedatabase) • Observation: The teacher asks learners about their pets. • Inference: - Evidence of planning: The teacher wanted to set up an activity that promotes communication, to enable learners to improve their speaking skills. • Question for discussion: Should learners’ errors be corrected in this type of activity?
Useofstrategy(examplefromthedatabase) • Observation: Thelearnersreadthetextofthe new lessonoutloud. Theyhavealreadyheardthetextfromthecassetteplayer. Some learnersmispronounce new words. • Inference: - Evidenceofplanning Theteacherswantsthelearners to masterpronuncationandintonation. • Question for discussion: Shouldlearnersbecorrectedimmediately or shoulderrorsbecorrectedwhenthelearnerfinishesreadingthetext?
Efficiencyofstrategy(examplefromthedatabase) • Observation: Learners are retellingthetextusing “there is” and “there are”. Theteachercorrectserrorsintheir talk. • Inference: - Evidenceofplanning Inthiswaytheteacherwants to makelearners use the new vocabulary. • Question for discussion It is evidentthatthelearners do notunderstandthe use of “there is” and “there are”. Shouldn’t theteacherexplainthisstructureagaininsteadofcorrectinglearnererrors?
The distribution of inferences concerning the teacher’s decisions • 1. Checking for comprehensionandlearning 19.08% • 2. Motivatingthestudents to thelesson 11.83% • 3. Providingsafecontext for practice 11.45% • 4. settingupactivitiesthatpromotecommunication 9.16% • 5. Helpingstudents to identifyrulesandorganise 8.01% new knowledge • 6. The aids to beusedinvariouspartsofthelesson 7.63% • 7. Establishing a certainclassroomatmosphere 6.10%
The distribution of inferences concerning the teacher’s decisions- ctd 8.5 Involvingthestudents anddrawingoutpassiveknowledge 4.58% 8.5 Lexis:how much to teach?What? When? 4.58% And how? 8.5 Howinformation is to beorganisedandshared 4.48% 11.5 Establishing a frameworkinwhichstudents work withouttheteacher 3.81% 11.5 Endingthelessonandlinking it to previous/future ones 3.81% 13 Realisticallycontextualisingthelanguage 2.67% 14. Integratingskillsinvolvedinthelesson 1.52% 15 Shiftingthefocusandpatternsofinteraction 1.14%
ExamplesChoice: “What are other techniques for introducing new lexical items?”Use: “Should grammar be taught deductively (as is the case here) or inductively?”Efficency: “ Will comprehension be faciliated if learners are given an example?”
Choice: “Should language practice be organised as a whole class activity?”Use: “Shall we try to invole all the learners to participate in discussion or only the strongest students?”Efficiency: “Is working in pairs efficient?”
Choice: What are the criteria according to which questions are asked?”Use: How many questions are to be asked when revising the previous lesson?”Efficiency: Are pupils ready to answer the questions only after two reading of the text?”
Choice: “How much time should be reserved for repetition?”Use: “Why did she give them homework in th emiddle of the lesson?”Efficiency: Does the teacher give them too much time (they finish early and get restless)?”
Choice: “How to decide what kind of motivation to use before the lesson?”Use: “What to do if the learners are not interested in the topic of conversation?”Efficiency: “Is this kind of motivation a waste of time?”
Choice:”Should the learners who memorised the words incorrectly be corrected?”Use: “Should we correct learners by interrupting them or wait till they finish reading?”Efficiency: “Should the teacher, instead of correcting learner errors, explain the structure again? It is evident that they have not understood)?”
Choice:”What other aids could be used in the process of vocabulary acquisition?”Use: “Is it necessary to play the CD three times?”Efficiency: “Is the use of realia too childish for the learners of the 6th grade?”
Choice: “How to decide how to end the lesson?”Use: “ What to repeat at the end of the lesson?”Efficiency: “Is this a good way to end the lesson?”
Choice: “How to decide how to start a lesson?”Use: To what degree does informal discussion help in preparing learners for the lesson?”Efficiency: “Was there a better way to start a lesson?”
Choice: “What is the best wayto organise comprehension practice?”Use: “How many questions to ask to check their comprehension of the text?”Efficiency: I”s this a good way to check their vocabulary knowledge?”
Choice: “Should we introduce new vocabulary in the mother tongue or in a foreign language?
Choice: “Should we always evaluate their (learners’)work?”Use: “How to grade their homework?”
Distribution of student teachers’ interest for the types of knowledge about teaching strategies (first five strategies in ranking)
Main conclusions • Findings from this study show that at the beginning of their teaching pratice student teachers possess high awareness about the necessity of gaining competence for making decisions about teaching strategies. • The results of the analyses indicate that student teachers are aware not only of the need to acquire a repertoire of teaching strategies but also to develop criteria for choosing appropriate strategies.
Implications for theteachereducationandfurtherresearchinthearea • A systematicacquisitionofteachingstrategiesmightpromote more active student teacher’s role inobservingmentorsteachandincriticalconsiderationof own attitudes. • Furtherresearchinthisdomaincouldinvestigatethe nature ofdevelopingcompetenceswithrespect to student teachers’ decisionsaboutteachingstrategies.Suchresearchshouldbebased on student teacherwrittenfeedbackaboutthefactorsthat influence theirdecisions as wellastheexperiencesuponwhichtheymake/change theirdecisions.