Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms (Richards & Lockhart, 1996)
Chap.1 & 2
This book (Richards & Lockharts, 1996) assumes that teachers can make use of their previous teaching experiences to develop a deeper understanding of teaching. It is true that there are many teachers, including myself as a teacher, who fail to get better from their previous lessons and make repeated mistakes. This book introduces many procedures to help teachers investigate their teaching in the classrooms. Some of the effective procedures to explore one’s teaching are writing teaching journals, lesson reports, performing surveys, keeping audio and video recordings, observing classrooms performing action research. Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages. These procedures are designed to complement, rather than add other responsibilities to what the teachers usually do in their classrooms. Teachers can choose what aspects of their teaching they need to focus on to investigate.
Richards and Lockhart contend that what teachers do is a reflection of teacher’s belief systems, and that these provide the underlying framework or schema which guide the teacher’ classroom actions. Teacher’s belief systems are composed of many different aspects: beliefs about English, learning and teaching, the program and the curriculum, and language teaching as a profession. These beliefs can be examined through a list of questions regarding each area. Each teacher holds his or her own unique answers on what have been asked which constitutes and influences their teaching practices and teaching cultures. I tried to answer the questions that are listed in this book, and it was striking to realize that so many different pieces of my experiences from different sources are affecting my teaching. My students and other teachers might hold other views from myself, and investigating on these differences will help me understand my own classroom and my students better.
Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms Chapter 1& 2
Chapter 1 Approaches to classroom investigation in teaching
According to the book, the ways of reflecting on teaching are journals, lesson reports, survey, audio or video recording of lessons, observation, and action research. In reality, observation is often used for reflective teaching. Video recording is a popular reflective way for open classes. In the end of semester, questionnaires are done by enthusiastic teachers. Action research is performed by a teacher who needs some grade for promotion. As for journals and lesson reports, I saw a few teachers who applied those methods. In my opinion, every teacher reflects on their teaching at a certain level, but a few teachers record their reflection using reflective tools. A few years ago, the journals were mandatory at elementary school. Regarding to my experience, most of teachers copied something from the Internet instead of writing their own experience and so did I. On the other hand, there was one teacher who really kept her journal with pictures eagerly. She didn’t have any ambition for promotion but was interested in what happened in her class. Now, journals are not obligation anymore, but she has been writing her lesson reports and has developed her own magic classes. When I see things that she achieved, journals and lesson reports are positive methods of reflection.
1.What is the strong advantage of video recording for reflection to cover all the disadvantages such as subjective, disruptive method, having a limited range, time consuming, and a lot of time for analysis of the video?
2.Is survey different from questionnaire?
Chapter 2 Exploring teachers’ beliefs
I agree with the point that teachers’ beliefs change learning activities, classroom management, learning strategies, methodologies, materials, and so forth. I really strongly feel how teachers’ beliefs are important in teaching.
In my elementary school, there are 6 English teachers: two 6th grade teachers, one 5th grade teacher, 4th grade, grade 3 and a native teacher. Five teachers have similar thoughts about English teaching. However, one teacher has a very different view of teaching English. He is over 50 years old. He didn’t take any English teaching course like TESOL. His concern is about higher grade on English test. He believes that traditional direct method is the most effective method. He uses pretest type worksheet in the classroom. He doesn’t use any games in his classroom. He insists on English dictation every morning, thus all the classes have taken a dictation test since he was charge of English Education at my school. One the other hand, five teachers including me are into student-centered activities more than direct method. We believe that how to make student keep their interest in learning English is more important than grading. This conflict exploded when I and he choose a textbook for 4th grade because my belief was different from his belief. I thought that the textbook based on students’ interest should be selected. He insisted on choosing the textbook including more reading and writing exercise and test. Usually I followed his way, but at that moment, other teachers thought we convinced him not to choose his style textbook. In the end, our school use a fun based textbook. However, the atmosphere of society and school more supports for his style. When students’ grade is very low on national academic test, teachers’ efforts dedicating to student-centered activities are nothing. As a result, there is no right thing and wrong things in the area of belief. However, each one’s belief influences on other factors of teaching and it often brings conflict on making a decision at school.
1.What kind of attitude is needed when your belief is different from others’ belief?
Richards and Lockhart talk about the different procedures to develop a better understanding of teaching which include teaching journals, lesson reports, surveys and questionnaires, audio and video recordings, observation and action research. By using some of these procedures, teachers can look into their classroom teaching. In my own opinion, writing journals can benefit students and also teachers a lot. Since you can reflect your own teaching at later time and by writing down what you’ve actually taught in class, you can look into your lesson through somewhat 3rd person’s point of view. When I was a college student, I used to audio-record a lesson to go back and check the things what professors said but I’ve never recorded my own lessons to examine later. I think it may be a little disruptive at first, but once you and your students get used to it, recording can provide a valuable insight which can be used to reflect one’s own teaching. Also I think, by observing someone’s class, you can gain information about other people’s teaching style. You can learn from the others and can later use in your own class as well.
Teachers’ belief systems are based on several factors. 1) Their own experience as language learners. 2) Experience of what works best. 3) Established practice. 4) Personality factors. 5) Educationally based or research-based principles. 6) Principles derived from an approach or method. All these factors contribute in shaping one’s teaching belief. First what you need to do is to define what learning is to you and to find the best ways to learn a language. Then you can decide on the roles of teachers and students. My own experience as a language learner influenced greatly on my teaching style as well. I try not to use the ones that I did not feel comfortable learning with but to use the ones that I felt the best. However I still need to remember that this can be very subjective and it can be dangerous to generalize on all your students.
The first chapter of the book introduces six procedures that can help teachers investigate classoom teaching: teaching journals, lesson reports, surveys and questionnaires, audio and video recordings, observation, and action research. I strongly believe in the importance of these kinds of critically reflective teaching. This enables the teachers to see what really is going on in their classrooms and gain some objective point of view. Sometimes, teachers tend to believe that they are doing something that they are not actually doing in their classroom. And being aware of their actual teaching practices, teachers will improve their performance as teachers by changing and modifying their practices.
Of the six procedures that the book introduces, I found teaching journals, lesson reports and action research the most interesting. The book gave me insights into how I could plan and implement the procedure in my own classes. Richard and Lockhart (1999) identify two purposes of keeping a journal. The first one is that the things they write on a journal provide later reflection. The second one is that writing itself is a process that helps trigger insights on their teaching. Journals, both audio and written, help the teachers see what really happened in the classroom and observe the problems that occur in teaching. This can lead to future analysis on how the teaching should be modified or changed according to the classroom setting. Lesson reports consist of lists which helps the teachers to describe what their lesson’s main features are. Lesson reports are different from lesson plans in that they are not what teachers plan to do during a lesson but instead show what events actually took place in the class, how was the time management, and how effective the class was in the teacher’s point of view. Action research seeks to help teachers to understand their classroom teaching and learning better and enables the needed changes in classroom practices. Richard and Lockhart (1999) introduce the phases of action research: planning, action, observation and reflection. They explain that these phases often recur in cycles in the process of action research and explain in detail the procedure of implementing action research in real classroom setting.
The second chapter of the book talks about exploring teachers’ beliefs. According to Clark and Peterson (1986) and Lynch (1989), the view of teaching involves a cognitive, an affective, and a behavioral dimension. The book explains that teachers’ beliefs are based on each individual teacher’s goals, values, and beliefs that one has related to the teaching and learning process. And from these beliefs teachers tend to make decision in their teaching. Kindsvatter, Willen, and Ishler (1988) suggests that teachers’ beliefs are derived from a number of different sources:1) their own experience as language learners, 2) experience of what works best, 3) established practice, 4) personality factors, 5) educationally based or research-based principles, and 6) principles derived from an approach or method. Richard and Lockhart (1999) divide the teachers’ beliefs into five dimensions: 1) language, 2) learning 3) teaching, 4) the curriculum, and 5) the teaching profession. Among these five things, I found teachers’ belief on language, learning, and teaching the most interesting for my reflection. It is important to look into what the teachers believe about English because each teacher’s beliefs in the language varies from one individual to another and this influence their teaching attitudes in the classroom. The teachers’ beliefs about learning can be influenced from their training, their teaching experience, and their experience as language learners. Like the teachers’ belief on language, teachers’ belief on the teaching are so diverse in terms of what is effective teaching in their individual’s point of view. After reading both chapters, I questioned myself about my beliefs on the five dimensions and how those beliefs influence my teaching in my classrooms.
The first chapter presents several ways teachers can take advantage of in order to examine aspects of classroom teaching and, eventually, develop a deeper understanding of teaching. One of them is journals. Keeping journals provides a source of both later reflection and insights about teaching. In order for journals to play a role, they need to be kept and reviewed on a regular basis. It should also help to ask ourselves questions about our teaching while keeping and reviewing journals.
Another way is lesson reports. They are organized lists of things that have happened during the lessons. Such reports help teachers to monitor their teaching by providing important and useful features of lessons. For lesson reports to take effect, teachers first need to have solid goals and objectives to achieve in each lesson, and prepare for the reports accordingly, either individually or as a group of like-minded teachers.
Surveys and questionnaires can also provide teachers with useful tools to find about students’ attitudes, aptitudes, preferences, interests, or needs etc. Those methods are usually employed in the beginning of a semester so that teachers can collect information across the board, and take the results into consideration in planning and designing classes.
Audio/video recording of lessons allows teachers to obtain the whole account of each lesson so that teachers can examine and even analyze a lesson in detail if necessary. In addition, those recorded lessons can be played in an unlimited way. They do have some limits, however. Students can get affected by their presence of such devices, and that could raise their affective filter. Therefore, teachers need to consider where, when, and how they are going to introduce such recording devices into the class.
Observation can be used as a useful tool to investigate class teaching. Even though observation usually comes with evaluation, it can also be employed exclusively to gather information. Last but not least, there is an action research. Action research allows teachers to understand and address those everyday concerns at hand in a classroom setting, thus, to improve the overall quality of instruction and increase students’ achievement.
The second chapter deals with the nature of teachers’ belief systems.
It seems obvious that teachers are influenced by their belief systems whose main sources are available in a variety of range such goals, values, personal experiences, personality, principles, or knowledge. Above all, each English teacher holds his or her own individual and subjective beliefs about English itself, and thus, it seems beneficial to take a close look at any possible relationships between these beliefs and their teaching attitudes because such beliefs will either consciously or unconsciously be reflected in the lectures and classroom.
Another thing teachers should be conscious of would be a possible conflict of beliefs about learning between the teacher and students. Therefore, in order to prevent or lower any possible misunderstanding and miscommunication in the class, it seems necessary to elucidate what roles they expect of each other.
Beliefs about teaching must be as diverse as the number of teachers. In other words, teachers design and prepare teaching based on their own beliefs about good teaching. Good teaching can be elicited through diverse ways as long as it meets the needs of both the teacher and students’. Teachers’ beliefs can also make an impact on the program and the curriculum in which they are involved. For instance, depending on their beliefs, programs might lean more towards either learner-centered or teacher-centered. Moreover, such beliefs could make a huge difference dealing with class problems.
Lastly, beliefs about language teaching as a profession should vary from individual to individual. As for regarding the situation of Korea, it is not hard to bump into, so called, English teachers both in public and private sectors. Some of them must have strong sense of pride and belonging to their profession while others do not. They chose that career path into English education due to diverse reasons and factors. The point here is how much they regard themselves as professional, who, by definition, sees what he or she is engaged in as something specialized and is highly motivated and committed to develop his or her skills to the degree that they obtain their own expertise. This is the very question I need to ask myself.
In the first chapter, Richard and Lockhart introduced reflective approaches by investigating classroom. The purpose of doing this is to make best use of all the collected data from investigation as a basis for critical reflection about teaching. Six procedures were discussed as different kinds of means that teacher can use; teaching journals, lesson reports, survey and questionnaires, audio or video recording of lessons, observation, and action research. Among these, I found writing teaching journals, audio recording and action research the most interesting. Bartlett (1990) suggested that teaching journal includes teaching routine and conscious actions in the classroom such as conversations with pupils, critical incidents in a lesson. As Lockhart (1999) stressed on the purpose of keeping journals, I believe it will give me critical insight of how I want my teaching should be by discovering some problems and good points. One way of finding out concerns of my teaching can be audio recording. I think audio recording is less interruptive in teaching than video recording. Instead of relying on recalling my teaching experience through teaching journals, recording will enable me to be objective and accept the reality of what I actually doing in my class. Action research, which is a small-scale investigative projects, will allow me deeper understanding of my own classroom. By trying out the action plan to bring about the change in the classroom, teacher can see the effects and be more confident in his/her own teaching strategy or skills.
Teachers’ beliefs influence what they do in their classroom. Their past experience as language learners, teaching experience, preferred practice by certain institution or society, personality factors and principles or particular approaches or methods are the decisive factors in culture of teaching. As Brindley (1984) mentioned that teachers’ preferable “learner-centered” view of learning can have a gap between teacher and students’ expectation. Learners might like more of body of knowledge or structural rules of the language and the vocabulary instead of doing lots of interactive activities that promote cooperative learning. Thus, teacher should clearly understand their assumptions and expectations about classroom practices. Also, beliefs about teaching is important. With different theoretical orientation and philosophy, teacher can totally conduct different style of teaching. Johnson (1992) found that they had three different approaches : a skill-based, a rule-based, a function based. Regarding to beliefs about the program and the curriculum, I believe depending too much on materials can make a class boring from my experience. I always try to generate my own material depending on what major social issues are going on. I have witnessed many students showed positive reaction on the contents that draw their attention according to their individual interest.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.