Tag Archives: feedback

Actual discussion with @MichaelChesnut2

This post is a largely spontaneous but very welcome follow-up to my observation notes I blogged a couple of days ago (Let’s discuss how to discuss this (c) in @MichaelChesnut’s class). As Mike and I were having our post-observation feedback session chat, more questions registered in my mind and I thought it’d be great to have the teachers whose classes I dissect actually have their say here, too. It’s only fair, and, more than that, gives another angle to look at the same experience. So here they are, a couple of questions from a curious “observer” and thoughts on that from Mike Chesnut.   


Q1: Do you think your students will remember you or the English/ the material they learnt with you?

I’m sure some will and some won’t. I think most students will remember some of the vocabulary I highlight and discuss in the articles we work on in class, at least for the quizzes. Whether they remember that language or actually further develop and expand the ways they speak over a longer amount of time I’m less sure about. I’m pretty sure most students will understand, after a semester in my class, the importance of using academic or business-like language in certain settings. I think they’ll be more conscious of how context can shape language use, and in some cases this might be a relatively new realization.

I’ve had some students who really improved their language skills over a year in my classes but it’s tough to say any of that had to do with my classes. Of course other students don’t seem to improve that much over the time they spend with me so there’s that.

“Remember” is a complicated word as well. I think some students may learn a lot during the semester but over the winter and summer breaks a lot can be lost, or students spend a semester or two focusing on another area of study and so when I see them again in different, more advanced class a lot of what we studied earlier needs to be reviewed.

Yea, “remember” and “learn” can be two complicated words or concepts in my opinion, even if in practice they are easily used and understood.


Q2: How often and actually how do you contact with other teachers in your department (especially Korean teachers)?

I have almost no contact with Korean teachers who teach English. Actually, that’s wrong. I have no contact with Korean teachers who teach English because there are none in my department and I have no contact with anyone outside of my department.

I’m in very regular contact with different Korean academics who teach interpretation and translation classes, language education classes (SLA or materials development classes for example), and applied linguistics classes, but we mostly talk about research or classroom activities that could be part of research.

I have done some work or co-teaching with Korean academics who teach interpretation and translation, coming into their classes to act as a naïve observer of their interpretation work. In some department meetings, we also talked about integrating language development classes with interpretation and translation classes so that the content would overlap, something like reading about global warming and then discussing that topic with me, and then going into an interpretation and translation class and translating documents related to global warming, but the logistics proved too complicated.

I don’t talk about my classes with the other foreign faculty in my department. It seems like every instructor just teaches their classes how they want, with the hope that by having a wide variety of approaches being used students will have many opportunities to learn in different ways. This is a pretty reasonable approach in my opinion.


Q3: How much of the same thing you feel you teach? How much of the same language do you feel you use when talking to students?

I think I use a lot of the same basic language during the most fundamental of my classroom routines: starting class, moving from one activity to another, ending class, and giving homework. However, I don’t recycle much content vocabulary or language more generally from class to class. This is probably something I should do but don’t right now. There are many things I should do but don’t for various reasons.


Q4: As the first class started and you introduced me and explained the reason I was in that class, you mentioned it was “for your professional development”. So what did it feel like and how useful (if at all) for “professional development” this experience was for you? 

It was interesting having you in my class. I initially thought I wouldn’t really care or even notice, although I also knew that in some ways I would, but several times I caught myself looking over to almost check with you to see if you were taking notes, nodding along, looking at me or the students. A few times I slowed my speech, focused more on certain students, or asked myself if I was missing anything or anyone more than I would in a regular class, and when you left early I did relax a bit!

I also thought that despite some of my academic interests, and the classes I took on how to teach, I wasn’t really using much of that “heavy teaching stuff” in this class. Instead, I was just going along with the general focus of the department which is having students read a lot outside of class and then “work on” language in class. There are various reasons for this, but again it’s not like I’ve really gone through and built these classes on solid principles, they just kind of came together over time. I also thought of this one academic I know who, while being a really interesting researcher in applied linguistics, said once he just didn’t find language teaching that interesting, so yes he teaches language classes, but generally he doesn’t think about them, talk about them, do research on them, or do much beyond just walking in and doing the class. I guess I thought about how close I was to someone like that…

I’m not sure how this experience is shaping my professional development. Perhaps I’ll just have to wait and see…



Thanks again to Mike for taking the time and being honest about the feelings regarding the experience.

Thanks for reading, too! Stay tuned for more, I hope))

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From within.

If you’re on this page, odds are you’re an English teacher. You might be busy and quite likely to be about to skim through this post. Please do me a favour and watch this video first. Thank you.

Now you can skim.

*** Commentary ***

– This video (animation without voice-over) was shown last Thursday in class by one of my students as a presentation he’d prepared (he was reading the text at that point). The presentation of any topic of their choice is an obligatory part of the course this term. The student had spent about 12 hours filming it, and then I suppose more recording his voice because I asked him to do that. Because I selfishly wanted to share it here in my blog. The student created this animation out of his own idea, out of his own will. His teacher (me) did not motivate/ inspire/ encourage such performance in any specific way. The student did use multiple sources to research for his work, including reading non-fiction books on the psychology of fear and such. His teacher (me) has little, or more accurately – nothing, to do with this attitude. I’d say it all came from within.

– One thing we do with my students after watching presentations is writing personal feedback messages. Students are asked to write 5 sentences, or as much as they’d like, in their notebooks with their impressions, notes, suggestions, advice. After that they hand over their paragraphs to the presenter and then to me. This has been my practice for two months only and I do think, supported by feedback from the students and their enthusiasm that I’ve seen, that this idea is a winner on several levels. Well, after this particular presentation on FEARS I asked the group mates of the presenter to share their biggest fear in the message they were going to write. Before I did that, both the presenter and I had revealed our fears, so I thought that’d be fair and maybe interesting to give a chance for others to open up (if they wished – that was a condition). As a result, half the students felt comfortable and added this personal sentence. Several wrote they’d never thought about it. Others were either vague or not willing to share. Well, whether we pronounce our fear or not, it stays within I guess.

– In my next post, which I boldly almost announce in this way because it’s already half-written, I’ll tell about one of my biggest professional fears. The fear I revealed to my students in class is of existential nature. Scared by my own thoughts – that is about me. From within?

– I’d not known about sleep paralysis before I watched this presentation.


And yes, the student said he can’t draw.

We (the student and me) thank you for watching and reading.


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Feedback that just happened

This pile of students’ end-of-term feedback sheets has been on my desk for almost two months now. Every paper has fine varied questions about our course: with a range of answers provided, open-ended, specific, and encouraging a reflective look at the term of learning. As soon as I got them in mid-December, I flipped read through them thoroughly, with all due care and attention… in the metro, leaving my workplace for 6 weeks of winter holidays, with 85% of my brain activity being focused on something other than feedback sheets. *sorry kids*

Well today I was back in class. Same students for me this term, which is not too typical for our scheduling at the department. And for certain reasons I feel visibly energetic and happy, which is not too typical for me after a 4-hour sleep. I step into the class with a beaming smile and just a touch of a heavy heart of having to hide it from students I haven’t done my holiday teacher homework (not pretending though that they’d care too much). We do holiday time hashtags (laughter happened). We do SMART goal setting (learning and an amazing thoughtful attitude happened). And then, as casually as it does, feedback happened.

I am in the middle of going over the nitty-gritty of the point system we’ve been using, again, when one student raises his hand and says something like: “Can you give me some bonus points for the correction of mistakes on my essays? You always make notes and leave messages for me, but I really never pay any attention and just throw the paper into the waste bin. I’d be motivated to look into your notes.” (Several other students start nodding and expressing agreement. Apparently few of them ever paid attention.)
Bang. Thank you.

“Great idea. We can arrange that.”

I distribute post-it notes and say whatever suggestion or idea for improvement comes to their mind during the class, they can put it down and hand over to me.
But in fact we just start talking about it.
“More grammar, please!” (No surprise here, read this and this. Some variants have been agreed on.)
“Consider updating the spreadsheet with our points more often, please!” (?! No way. Once a month is my smart enough goal here.)
“Give away Teacher’s Pet Essay Award points that you decide on subjectively.” (Wow. I do write personal messages for everyone, sometimes long and detailed, sharing my impressions… It’s good to see they are appreciated and want to be seen as measured quantitatively))
“Let us see a monthly max of points we could score.” (Very logical and doable. I am being honest and tell them I was lazy but will fix it.)
“Let’s introduce bonus points for regular diligence. A student who performs at over 80% of monthly max for all four months gets prize points.” (Here they actually started showing off their mathematical mindsets and suggested intricate scoring schemes involving variables, but I stood my ground by protesting and was mercifully excused for being a language teacher.))
“Teach us idioms and proverbs.” (OK)
“Multiply assignment points for those who approach a task creatively or choose to do it in a more complicated format.” (? Multiplication suggestion is funny and clear, but the criteria for this generosity are not.)

Other, more ordinary and less interesting comments were also made. When I thought we’d really said it all and there was nothing to be added to my lengthy list of their remarks, concerns and proposals, some students handed in those post-its with yet MORE comments (others expressed a wish to keep the stickers in their notebooks in case they’d have some more insights for me). Every possible aspect was mentioned. I was blown away by their willingness to be part of the process, the part that matters and that can/will be heard.

I now have to revisit my own smart goals for these groups. And rack my brains for ways to make most of this actually happen. And keep the open space of our class open for more than this one class, when for certain reasons I feel insanely energetic and happy.

I also hope I have a heart big enough for any amount of bonus points)))

Thanks for reading this. Happy teaching!

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Feedback. My turn.

I feel a little bit guilty trashing my friends’ news feeds on Facebook and Instagram with more and more and yet more exultant updates about Japan and the impact it has left for me. This could hopefully be one of the posts to make up for the inconvenience.

On Sunday October 27th at JALT2013 Mike Griffin, Kevin Stein and I gave a workshoppy kind of a long paper presentation on student feedback. The Ideal Team have been way better at  letting you know all about it than me, so  I really encourage you to do the following reading on the topic:

Giving/ Getting Good Feedback Takes ______ (fill in the blank) by Kevin, with a sufficient list of posts for further reading and some juicy comments in the thread

Why I (often) prefer non-anonymous feedback and 8 Stories about feedback by Mike, and whether you know how Mike writes or don’t know, you must check these

Since everything has been said and done, I should be finishing my post now.

But you know, it’s the beginning of November. It’s mid-term feedback time!=)

I felt itchy to try out some new mechanism of collecting feedback out of the numerous mechanisms we discussed before, during and after our presentation.  But I remain true to myself, almost (which fact is very characteristic of how slow I am at processing information I get at conferences… I might be hopeful to try feedback another way in a month or so). It’s a more or less standard set of questions for me, but this time I’m saving class time and a tree and use Linoit.com.

There’s my attitude to collecting feedback: I like to make students see they can help shape their learning, and at the same time be more aware of the whole process, not just passively consume knowledge. Feedback goes both ways (I second Rose Bard on that). It so does, in my perception of what a classroom is. So I have thought about sharing my mid-term feedback. My turn, I’ve been learning too.
* Which tasks/ activities were useful? Useless? Why?

I”ve found really useful to do follow-up writing activities after speaking ones. On the whole, being more consistent with writing is a good tendency for me.
* Which task/ activity would you like to do again? (or try something new?)
I’d like to keep experimenting with videos. To save time they watch videos of their choice at home, post links in our shared Google Doc (so that we can all then access them and check what sparked interest or conversation during the lesson) and then come to class ready to talk about the videos. By further experimenting I mean various ways to work on the material in class.

I’d like to use images more constructively.

I’d like to find a comfortable way and good reasons to record them speak.

I’d like to make a better+more frequent use of some activities from Teaching Grammar Creatively book I bought this summer.

* Which task/ activity would you not like to repeat in our classes again?
Maybe I should cut down time we spend on the warmers.

My inefficient, inexperienced way to do dogme style should not be repeated too, but rather improved.

I respect my students for being honest. After the Q-A session about Japan last Thursday I asked them to write sort of a summary of what they learnt at that lesson and their impression in general. One of the students wrote it was good, interesting and informative BUT it’s boring to speak about one and the same topic for 90 minutes!! Look, he’s right. It’s solid feedback.
* What do you remember best from these 2 months of studying English? What have you learnt?
I was amazed by my students’ choice of presentation topics. With them being future scientists but still very much teens, I expected talks about technology, computer games, rock/pop bands  and travel. Can you imagine my astonishment when a good forth of them all presented on classical music and literature?! Out of their own interest, because they listen to classical music in their dorm rooms when they study. So they spoke with zest and enthusiasm, doing their best. Sharing some of the music pieces later on in our study group in social network. They were excellent,even if their language or presentation skills not always were (but that’s what I’m in the room for). I was actually inspired to write this post when I opened the group this morning and played this track from one of the presentations, and it’s been on repeat for a good hour and a half.

Another very memorable moment also happened during one of the presentations. V. was speaking about social networks. Sorry, he wasn’t too ready and the last slide about Facebook was plain text. After he finished actually reading it, another student (another V.) raised a hand and asked: “Did you actually use Google Translate to get this text?” Silence. Laughter. He did.

What did it mean for me?

1) V. the presenter didn’t copy&paste a bunch of text from Wikipedia. He actually typed a paragraph of his own (probably) text in Russian into Google Translate.

2) V. the listener noticed how differently the language functioned in a paragraph from Google Translate. That is pretty amazing, if you ask me.
* Any other comments.

I felt rather insecure several times dealing with casual student remarks about our classes (I wrote about some of the most recent ones here). It meant a perfect chance to see myself through *some of* their eyes, which is painful but beneficial in the end.

I didn’t feel trapped by the syllabus even though this term I stick to it more than I normally do.

I’m trying to get better at teaching grammar, tiny steps, small change.

That’s my feedback, and it feels important to do it for the first time. Feedback goes both ways.

Here’s the lino wall my students will be leaving their feedback on. Same questions as I just answered myself.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your days.

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