Carol Read at TESOL France

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 10:00
Conference Reports -

Carol Read’s plenary at TESOL France was titled, ‘Reflections on How to be a Highly Effective Teacher’. I’ve seen her give a number of conference presentations, but for me this was the best – a broad view of the field underpinned by good references, and a vivacious delivery.
Carol began with a progression of teaching expertise, apparently devised by Pollard and Tann, as follows: 1. unconscious incompetence; 2. conscious incompetence; 3. conscious competence; 4. unconscious competence (echoes of Donald Rumsfeld and his ‘unknown unknowns’). She made the point that these stages may re-occur many times during a teaching career – as we move into different specialisms, for instance.
To bridge into the theme of continuous professional development, Carol added a stage 5: complacency. For the effective teacher, standing still is not an option. The world changes and teachers must adapt. For instance, the technology explosion obliges us to assimilate a huge amount of information, and we have to somehow keep up with developments without running blindly along behind them like hamsters in a wheel. To avoid complacency, we must be reflective.
Carol represented the field of reflective teaching as a circle of 8 segments, each containing a letter: M for mindset; R for rapport; E for engagement; S for support (or scaffolding); I for impact; L for the language of learning; E for expectations and C for collaboration. I won’t go through each of these in turn (as she did), but just mention a couple of interesting points she made along the way.
Mindset was an interesting idea, and the title of a book by Carol Dweck. There is a tendency, if we are not careful, for us to become fixed in our way of thinking and acting, whereas it is more constructive to maintain a ‘growth mindset’. Hence the need for reflection – constantly remaining aware of our assumptions and questioning them.
Impact was also interesting, and here Carol referred to the work of John Hattie, and his rather biblical commandment, ‘Know thy impact’. The idea here is that we teachers must learn to notice the effect of our behaviour in class on the students. What cues are the students giving out that they are bored, upset, out of their depth or whatever? A teacher who is unaware of these cues is like a bull in a china shop (my gloss).


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