DipTESOL observed practice – evaluate and reflect!

This is my first blog on the Trinity College London DipTESOL. It might seem like I’m jumping ahead a bit by talking about the final observations, especially if you’re new to the course. But if you’re anything like me, the observed practice will be what you’re most worried about.

Obviously I can’t make a fair comparison between observations on the Dip vs DELTA, as I’ve only taken one of the courses. However, from various conversations I’ve had with DELTA students (who of course may be exaggerating), I can tell you that the following are not true of the Diploma observations:

You are NOT going to fail if…

  • you mess up your lesson timings
  • a whole stage of the lesson goes wrong
  • you miss out a really important lesson stage, such as the freer practice
  • you pitch the lesson too high
  • you forget to correct an error
  • you assume too much prior knowledge from your students
  • your instructions are awful
  • you don’t clarify new vocabulary effectively

I can tell you that for certain, because I did all the things above (and many more) and I got through it. Sure, I’d imagine if all these things happened in every lesson, or were persistent problems, then there might be a few issues. But nobody is looking for perfection. The tutors and external examiner have years of experience, but I bet they’d be hard pressed to tell you a time when they’ve taught ‘the perfect lesson’.

Evaluating your lessons

The important thing is not the mistakes you make, it’s how you address them. You must be willing to reflect on your practice. The whole course drums this into us from the start, but it’s imperative during the observations that you show you can do it.

After every observed lesson you must write an evaluation. I assume that the evaluation form topics are the same (or similar) across all providers. These were the headings on our evaluation form:

  • Achievement of aims and learner outcomes
  • Justification of changes
  • Evaluation of learner achievement
  • Evaluation of contribution of tasks and aids to learner achievement
  • Evaluation of flexibility and appropriateness of response to learners needs
  • Awareness of alternatives to methods demonstrated
  • Understanding of own practice in general
  • Personal awareness of varying cultures in the group
  • Awareness of learner styles and strategies

The evaluation is a great chance to show how conscious you are of your own teaching, and of what is going on around you in the classroom. It’s also a way to show that you not only recognise your strengths and weaknesses, but that your reflections do inform your practice. Remember, the observed lessons are all connected. If you evaluate your first lesson and find that your instructions weren’t up to scratch, then you should have a personal aim for lesson 2 of improving your instructions (for example by using more ICQs).

Some of this might sound obvious, but it’s not as easy to think that way during the stressful few weeks of observed practice.

My big tips for evaluating your lessons on the diploma are:

  1. Do some evaluations on your own teaching before the observed practice. You have to anyway for the development record, but broaden the scope. Use the headings from the above evaluation form and sit down for 20 minutes after your lesson to reflect.
  2. When you are evaluating lessons during observed practice, have your lesson plan and rationale in front of you. Don’t just think you can remember it – pick up on something you mentioned in your rationale, or in your anticipated problems, and talk about how you dealt with it.
  3. If you can find the odd moment in class to make a few notes to yourself, do so. If you suddenly realise that you forgot to correct a student error, and the moment has well and truly passed, jot that down when you get a chance. It could be a talking point when reflecting.
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