Talk between trainees and their trainer in feedback sessions is based on the view that the trainee teachers can be helped to teach more effectively through the input and perceptions of the teacher trainer; and sometimes more than this, through the trainer’s facilitation, or mediation, of the trainee’s reflection.
There is a basic assumption that teachers develop, among other ways, through reflection. It is the role of the trainer then to lead trainees to consider what happened in the lesson, why it happened, how it could have been different, etc; hence the importance of lesson observations followed by feedback (practice of which is compulsory in the two largest pre-service certificates worldwide, the Cambridge CELTA and the Trinity College CertTESOL).
This form of ‘leading trainees’ is sometimes called intervention. In intervention “the goal is for trainee teachers to develop the independent capacity to make informed teaching decisions and to assess the impact of those decisions on both their own and their students’ learning“ (Freeman, 1990, p. 103).
Whereas it is believed reflection enhances teacher learning, trainers and trainees may have different perceptions of its affordances. As can be seen in TESOL Certificates specifications, the notion of ‘reflection’ serves both as a means for teacher learning and as an assessment tool that culminates in a pass or fail. Therefore, whereas trainers may wish to develop trainee’s independent reasoning, trainees themselves may be more concerned about passing the course and base their responses on what they judge to be the trainer’s favorite way of thinking. It is worth saying that the opposite also happens, that is, with the trainer focusing primarily on assessment; and trainees being genuinely interested in learning teaching regardless of their marks.
These simplified examples show us there are many perceptions of the ‘why’ of feedback sessions, and undoubtedly each one of us who experienced a post-teaching conference with peers and tutors have our likes and dislikes about it.
I’m interested in knowing yours. And also:
How do you think your talk with peers and trainers helped shape your initial understanding of teaching a language?
Where would you put feedback and talking time in a rank of things that most contribute to learning how to teach? I mean, what’s a good ratio between input, practicum, formal feedback and informal talk about teaching?