Reflections on Teaching Teachers

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May 03 2012

What is a formador?

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Well, I still don’t see where this can be seen in Spanish-but obviously that must be the case.

This time, instead of reflecting on each class, I’m going to reflect on the entire 3rd block. I have to say, in the first place, that even though I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve been teaching in a publich high school for 8 of those, I don’t really think I understood when I signed up for this course that one of the major function of a ‘formador’ is the ‘assessorament’ of a school. I imagined it more as organizing classes in specific subjects- like IT or CLIL or extensive reading. So, after this course, and especially after this block, I feel for the first time that I’m starting to understand what is expected of a formador.  I don’t think I had the scale of time correct. I didn’t really understand that the formaor accompanies the school in the process of transformation over a period of years. I imaged it more as a course where you went to the school once a week for a trimester or something like that. So it was really useful to here the experience, from the school’s point of view, of the primary and secondary school teachers and the process of transformation in their respective schools.  I thik it made me realize for the first time what is actually meant by ‘assessorament.’

The first class of the block where we learned the technique of ‘esmicolament’ or- breaking down (my own translation), was very interesting and I really liked the formador who came to do the class. It’s a technique, however, that requires a lot of confidence in your own ability to adequately reflect the opinions and contributions of all the people in the group, and, more than anything, to be able to find links among them. I think you have to have a very clear idea of where you want to go to before beginning this activity. It was very nice to see how in the end it all sort of came together in a few specific categories.

I’m afraid I missed the second class, though I read the information from it, so I won’t comment on that.

When we did the case study yesterday I felt relieved. Why, you may wonder! Well, because I came up with 2 different ideas about what to do in that situation. In other words, if I was really in that particular situation, I think that I would be able to move in one direction or the other- but I wouldn’t be completely stuck saying ‘Help! What do I do?’ My first idea was for us (the teachers of the school and me as the formador) to review where we wanted to go as reflected in the forum. Once that was established, then I would have them look at their evaluation tasks and item-by-item, analyze what kind of knowledge, skills and/ or competencies are being measured in that particular question. And then, in the end, we would compare the result of the reflection with the result of the analysis.  Doing it this way is actually someting that I do myself when I am designing exams for my students (summative evaluations still have their place!). How much longer it takes to think up questions that measure skills or competncies! But if that is part of what we are teaching, then we must incorporate them into our evaluations. But I think that since I am an investigator as well as a teacher, I am used to analyzing what I/we/they do and so this type of a proposal comes naturally to me.

The second way that I thought up is what I explained in class- about doing some task- baking bread or pizza, doing a scientific experiment, reading a text in Russian, whatever- and then passing out two different models of exams- all this as a preview to the analyses of their own exams as in the first description. (Actually, now that I think about it- they can make their own questions for the exam- we could analyze those and only if NONE of them were competential, then would I have to take out my model to show them some.) This idea connects with any of the constructivist tasks that I’ve carried out in my classroom and it reminds me as well of the task we did of the lizard.

I think that identifying how we feel at a given moment with the figures on the boat is a great way of getting in touch with our inner emotions and subconcious thoughts. The technique, in my opinion, takes on real value when need to express in words WHY we chose a certain figure. In this sence, one figure can represent very different ideas to one person or the next. But you’re right, a person vomiting overboard is not an image of a happy person.

I have to say that from my own personal view, I didn’t find all the analysis of the class to be necessary because I feel like I’m getting a lot out of it, but afterwards, I realized that it was really an extraordinarly efficient way of showing how to deal with anxiety in a group and how to bring out those issues that could be bothering some people.  At first I thought, well, I learned a lot in the first part but the second part was group therapy. But then, I thought- of course, as a formador you may have to do this- you’ll probably have to do this- many times, so it’s good to see how to do it in a safe, healthy atmosphere. So in the end, what I thought didn’t really pertain to me, did- as one more technique as a formador.

OK- that’s all the news that’s fit to print

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Mar 27 2012

Didactic Model

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Once again, I loved the class and found it to be very enrinching and enlightening.

We were asked to think about the first class of this block and to try to apply what we’ve learned of the didactic model to it. To do so, I will follow the scheme of the ppt.

first, I think that the class was oriented towards competencies more than content. I mean the class itself had content because we were learning about the Jesus lizard and why it could walk on water, but that was a model for us to learn about the didactic model itself.Well, now writing about it I start to have my doubts. Is the didactic model a competency? or is it a set of knowledge? Maybe a bit of both,no? You have to know what it means to say ‘didactic model’- all of the content that’s behind that- but you also have to have the competencies to put a model into practice.

OK, so now I’ll look at the 5 components of the model:

content:  I think that the class we did on the lizard was definitely one of application rather than a formal presentation. In fact,there really wasn’t a formal presentation at all, unless the video could be considered one. Instead, we worked on the content through applying our skills (or lack of…) to making our models. We needed to ‘reinterpret’ out understanding of how the lizard walked on water in order to forumate it in 3 dimensions.Furthermore, the class had a contextuallized focus and David made a lot of effort to find a topic that could interest everyone which served as the ‘excuse’ for what we were really learning.

The methods used were largely interactive, at least in the first part of group work,and in this sence, very cooperative.  Then, they became more expository when the observers gave their vision of what had happened during the activity.

The learning strategy was also very clearly oriented towards using knowledge rather than just retaining it

As for evaluation,we didn’t really evaluate ourselves too much- that was left to the observers and then we responded to their opinions. In this sence,it’s clearly a formative evaluation in which we can learn from the experience of evaluating through the eys of the observers.

Lastly, I would say that there’s some arguments to be made for both types of classroom management. Yes, we worked in groups,so we didn’t have individual autonomy to do as we wished.On the other hand, the group had complete and total autonomy to prepare the type of lizard they wished. We were also free to manage our own time, which meant that if we finished a task earlier we could work on some of those never-to-be-belittled social skills.

the competency approach to learning emphasizes the steps below. After each, I have written what David did in the class.

to problematize: we were presented with a problem. How could the Jesus lizard walk on water?

to contextualize:  The question was contextualized with  a video which situated us in the river where these animals live and gave us clues about what he was doing that enabled him to walk and not sink.

to increment autonomhy:  Described above- groups were free to manage their ideas, material and time as they wished.

Reflect upon what you have learned:  Yes, we definetly did that-maybe a bit too much for my taste. I have more fun learning new things, htough I do understand that the reflective process is essential.On the narrower scaleof the Jesus lizard, before we began the group work we eachb drew up and wrote about our own ideas. In other words, we were given some time and space to think on our own before beginning a collaborative effort.

Apply your knowledge. We did that when we made the lizard- some o

OK, I know there’s still some points I haven’t talked enough about, like the connections between contextualisizing and problematisizing,but I’m afraid it’s late and I’m tired. Maybe I’ll modify this post tomorrow.

As for this blog,I think it’s a very good exercise for myself-a record of what we’ve been doing, but at the same time, I feel a bit lonley in this cyberspace world. Maybe it’s just thehour and the fact that I’m tired.

So I’ll see you all tomorrow!


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Mar 21 2012

Elaboration Theory

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I really enjoyed the class that we did last week! In the first place, I was very surprised to discover that instructional theories even exist. It is odd, to say the least, that after almost ten years of teaching that I had never heard of these types of theories before. I think the focus is really on learner-centered instruction. Thefore, it’s about how students learn- their psychological, emotional, cognitive conditions, etc. This, I supppose, is how it should be. Nevertheless, as teachers we need to design material, lessons and didactic units for our students which put into practice the ideas of a certain theory and instructional design theories come in handy for this purpose.

In my case, task design is a topic that I find to be fascinating. As I’ve explained in class, I’m doing my master’s disertation on CLIL- which is Content and Language Integrated Learning. Specifically, I’m focussing on task design to see what factors need to be born in mind when preparing tasks for upper-level students in which there is a lot of new linguisitic terms as well as a very dense subject matter. So as Dolors was explaining the elaboration theory, I was comparing what she was describing with how I have actually organized my lessons to see where there were coincidences and where they differed.  I’m not going to explain my theory here- you’ll have to read it in my doctoral degree!, but I will mention some of the things that I found in common.

The seven components in English of elaboration theory are (1) an elaborative sequence, (2) learning prerequisite sequences, (3) summary, (4) synthesis, (5) analogies, (6) cognitive strategies, and (7) learner control ( Within the elaborative sequence, the first lesson is the epitome that represents the content and skills that will be learned throughout the lesson. Usually, I do some sort of introductory task which serves the same purpose. When I look closer at my introductory tasks, however, I see that some cover more aspects of the unit to come than others. This is one area where I could try to apply this theory to really round off that first task.

The elaborative sequence should build from the simplest to the most complex. This is almost a necessary condition when you are teaching science. I do think, however, that there is some room for margen in this concept and depending on what your specific objectives are for a certain task within a lesson, you can permit some level of complexity- but, as I said, you’ll have to wait 4 years or so for me to elaborate my own theory!

We also mentioned how there are three types of relationships that are important in elaboration theory: procedural, conceptual and attitudinal (although the link that I put refers to four- the first two plus theoretical instead of attitudinal, and an additional category of ‘learning pre-requisits’). I had never thought about organizing my lessons from this perspective with one or the other dimension being the principle axis around which the lessons are planned. This doesn’t mean to say that I have not included all of these concepts in my lesson plans. After all, coming from the LOGSE, my didactic unit for CAP was organized around concepts, procedures and attitudes, as I suppose, were the majority of the class.

Another point that stood out for me was the emphasis on cooperation, interaction and dialogue. I have recently assisted a conference of APAC (the Associació de Professors d’Anglés de Catalunya) where the key-note speaker was Jorge Wagensberg, the former director of Cosmo Caixa. His speach was fascinating and amusing. He says that learning is a 3-step process:  first we need a stimulus, then we need dialogue, and then we need a moment of intellectual pleasure.  Without getting into the detail of what he said, the focus on dialogue is what really drew my attention.  It seems that wherever I turn-conferences, teacher’s teacher classes, masters classes, the conversation always comes back to dialogue. It really must be a key point in the learning process, so it is no surprise that it also plays an important role in elaboration theory.

After doing a bit (just a bit because we have assessments this week and it’s crazy) of reading on my own about this instructional theory, I do see that there are some things that don’t quite make sense to me. For example, Dolors described the necessity of understanding canonic literature in order to be able to properly interpret and appreciate art based on this knowledge. However, the elaboration theory, according to some critics,  does not take into account prior knowledge as it proceeds from the more general to the more specific. Building on prior knowledge is one of the corner-stones of designing science lessons- and it seemed that Dolors was indicating that we need to use this in elaboration theory as well.  So, I’m a bit confused on this point and I’ll have to spend some time reading up on the details of this theory.

Well, to summarize this rather long entree, I am very appreciative of having a whole new area of knowledge opened up to me and I’m anxious to find time (under the rocks maybe!) to read a lot more about this theory and about other instructional design theories as well. It’s like being taken into a sweet shop and being told- Look at all these sweets! Now choose what you want!- And maybe one day I’ll add my own sweet to those shelves!


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Mar 16 2012

IT sessions Part 2

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I found both sessions on computer programs to be very useful (I say both because I wasn’t able to go to the second session on the Moodle). As an administrator of a Moodle program, I can say that I was very happy to be able to embed a video in my site for the first time. Up until then I had only inserted videos through their links and I had no idea about sending them to open in another link. This time, my students found a video of the Milky Way as the first frame in the video and they were quite suprised by this- which is just the reaction that I hoped to provoke.

I also think that what we have learned about Power Point is very useful. It’s true- there are a lof of excellent programs for publishing the written word which is what we should use for that format. So the Power Point, or one of its cousins, can be used to present information through metaphors in the form of images. One thing that I realized, however, is that this is not what we are teaching our students in the schools.  The focus now is on reducing the quanity of information in a slide and writing the main points rather than whole sentences, but in now way are we teaching them to use this program as a support for the spoken word.

As for the sessions with Carmen, first I would like to say that I would have preferred that the second session of Carmen we could have taken more advantage of all that she knows! Which is impressive! I would have liked to have had more time to try out the different programs that she was showing us the first day. I thought it was great how we could all be connected at the same time and see what the other groups were writing. It’s a great way to do brainstorming and I think it’s  a technique that is particullary adequate for a course for teachers. I also very much liked how we began and ended the first session by identifiying with the different photos that we were presented with.  It’s a great technique to get discussion going about something we don’t know how to describe so well.

Lastly, I’d like to say that sometimes I find it very frustrating to not know more about computer technologies. I realize, however, that it’s something that you have to learn step by step and every day you learn a little bit more. And now, for the final anecdote. This is the second time that I’ve written this post! Before, I put a picture in the beggining of it and I pressed publish. To my suprise, my post appeared empty!! So now, despite the fact that it says that the draft is saved, I will make a copy in Word! Live and learn!

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Mar 14 2012

Jesus Lizard

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To begin with, I thought I’d try to keep working on those computer skills and embed a video from you tube here- I think it’s the same one we’ve all seen but without music. So, now that I’ve tried that- sucessfuly or no I’ll see in a minute, I’ll make some reflections on the last class.

First, I have to say that I didn’t come with the best mindset because I felt pretty awful. These are things that as teachers we also have to be aware of. Not all of our students can be at 100% every day and when our students aren’t feeling well, that obviously effects their productivity. Luckily, my group was full of ideas about how to go about constructing the basilisk and the did a great job with it. I know that I felt, coming from a science background, that I didn’t want to impose any of my views on the other members of the group. For me the whole topic  around pressure and the force to push off of the water each time, but everybody in the group had their opinions and it was important not to come along saying ‘Oh you’re all wrong (which anyway they weren’t!) It’s like this or like that’.

I’m really quite a disaster at arts and crafts so it was great to see how members of my group had such clear ideas about how to organise the model that we made. Ours was the model made of clay with movement. I think we should have emphasized the movement more in our explanation because that was the main designing principle in our model and I don’t think that that was made clear in the explanation. More importantly, the socioconstructivist model really came into play because each of us contributed with the ideas in our own areas of expertise.

When we all reviewed together our different models and you could see the variety of explanations, it becomes clear that a group effort brings out a lot more ideas than any one idividual effort.

The review of the observations of the activity were very extensive. Maybe a bit too detailed for how I was feeling at the moment, but very keen and with lots of insights. I would just reiterate the importance of separating observation from interpretation. This doesn’t mean at all that interpretation isn’t important- actually, the interpretation that we make of our observations will determine how we act in the future. Do we maintain our activity just as it is? Do we shorten it? lengthen it? etc. However, we must be sure that in the first place, what we are acting on ARE our observations and not a mixture of the two. A mixture of observations and interpretations is a judgement and this doesn’t give us enough room to take a step back and look objectively at our teaching or our activity to see how it functioned.

I guess all of this obsession of mine with separating the two concepts comes from the fact that I’m doing a master’s thesis about CLIL models and as such, I need to function on one level as a teacher and on another as an investigator. As a teacher, I can have my impressions about how things went, but as an investigator, I must make careful observations in which to support my first impressions, to test whether they are correct or incorrect.

As an English teacher and as a CLIL teacher, I have tried to implant the socio-constructivist model many times in activities in my classroom. I usually have the sensation that my students are working much harder with this model than when I am explaining some grammar point at the blackboard and half the class is looking out the window.  The major drawback is the time that it requires.  We really should redo all the sylabi that we have in this country! What is the use of so much content knowledge in a syllabi when, anyway, students are only expected to learn half of it to pass? Wouldn’t it be better to learn less content, but to actually learn?

Well, this is a topic that one can go on and on about. So I will end my reflections for today. I’ll see you all later!

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Mar 09 2012

relating the first class to the competencies of a teacher’s teacher

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I thought that this exercise was very interesting. In the first place, it was a way of reviewing everything that we had talked about the first day. The story of the little  eagle and the chickens was, in my opinio the metaphor that I understood the best. I think that many times we don’t do more than what we are capable of because we are not aware of our possibilities. That someone comes along and points out to us the range of options that we have and where we can get to if we are willing to make an effort seems to me a good summary of what a ‘formador’ should be doing.

One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned in any of the groups in relation to this story is the opinion of the other chickens. Yes, we sould respect the little eagle’s decision if he decides that he never wants to fly. But, are the other chickens comfortable with this little eagle among them? We can consider it from two points of view- yes, it’s a sign of accepting diversity. Or no- it’s a bother to have to treat an animal that is so different from us in the same way. By this I  mean that there is a disfunctional relationship. Many times in the schools we can find this type of ‘disfunctional’ relationship and maybe by pointing out new avenues that can be explored and new possibilities, we are opening up a way to leave behind this relationship that isn’t working as it should be.

In any case, I found the metaphor that my group made to the air to be very enlightening, although I didn’t agree with everything we have said. I think that the air does mark a certain direction. It blows from east to west, or north to south. In other words, the role of the ‘formador’ is not neutral. You are trying to suggest a way forward, or a change for the better. But of course it’s just a breeze, a gentle wind, not a hurricane.

The lighthouse images were very well-explained, though I have more trouble visualizing them at this moment, maybe because I’m not that familiar with Menorca!

As for the blindfold activity, well, you all know my opinion already. I didn’t really enjoy it very much because it made me feel nervous. So, looking from a positive point of view, I think that I will try to remember that feeling so as to try to avoid it in my students.

And as for the last story that was read to us,I have to say honestly that at that point I had a bit of overload of information so unless we can read it in format pdf I’m afraid I can’t give too much of an opinion on that last activity.

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Feb 18 2012

IT Sessions Part 1

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Session one:

I hope you all don’t mind if I express myself in English- bit of a rest at the end of the day.

Today’s session I found to be very useful and the time went by quickly. I have been using Moodle for a while in my classes, especially in my science class where there is no prepared material. I think the forums are excellent ways for the students to express themselves in English with less fear than in a formal composition. My knowledge of IT is very fractioned, however.  I know, for example, how to do something complicated like make quizzes in Moodle, but I didn’t know how to upload a video that you could see it as a video and not as a link! This comes from learning it on my own, but that’s OK.  The same as our students, we have to not be afraid of trying new things and seeing how they work.

I really want to try out making a Wiki for one of my English classes. They’ve posted some radio plays and I’ve told them to listen to each other’s work and vote on the top 10, the best actor/actress, etc., so I think a Wiki document with a point system would be a great way for them to provide this feedback and choose a winner.

I also found Josep’s reflections on power points to be really on target.  It’s true that it’s impossible to read and listen at the same time, and for what? As a tool to accompany our presentations with pictures, videos, etc. I think it works much better. Maybe we didn’t begin using them that way because it was more complicated to upload things earlier (lack of megas or something like that).

I would suggest for the following sessions that we just use half of the computers, or even a third at the same time. Maybe like that we wouldn’t all be drawing from the connection at the same time and it would work better.

So, all in all, a very worthwhile session. I’m afraid I have a session of a working group of the UAB on Wednesday afternoon and I won’t be able to attend the next session,  so I’ll see you all in two weeks.

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