Danny Norrington Davies focuses on process before product in learner talk

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Danny, an IH teacher trainer in London, began by suggesting that after classroom speaking activities, many teachers make the mistake of feeding back only on task achievement, rather than getting up close to the processes and strategies by which the learners reached this outcome. He went on to show, through the use of transcribed segments of spoken groupwork, several features of such speech events, and then, how he has tweaked his own teaching practice in response to the insights gained from this analysis.

By way of example, he showed us transcripts of three events. In the first, we saw how a monolingual group made use of code-switching. In the second, we saw a multilingual group negotiate meaning where divergent pronunciation had caused a misunderstanding. In the 3rd event, we saw how a multilingual group struggled after one misinterpreted another’s question about form as being a question about meaning.

For each of these events, Danny addressed the question of whether the monitoring teacher should intervene, or whether it would be better not to interrupt the flow. His suggestion was that this might be something that the students themselves could decide, as follows. First of all, show the class a transcript of the speech event and ask them to comment on what went wrong and how successful the repair strategies had been. Then, ask them at what point they feel that a teacher intervention would have been beneficial. In this way, they should become more aware of their own classroom discourse and how they might control and benefit from it.

Danny mentioned two concrete ways in which he has tweaked his own practice as a result of his observations. First of all, in groupwork, he gives each group a card with a question mark on it (an ‘intervention card’), which they can choose to hold up at any point where they feel they want a teacher intervention. Secondly, from noticing how often students seemed to resort to private ‘rehearsals’ during groupwork, he now regularly provides and encourages a rehearsal stage in speaking practice.

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