Feedback sessions in teacher training

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).

When I took my TEFL Certificate, the "post-feedback get-together" (without tutors) was a great moment of reflection, peer support and sincere talk.

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?


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5 Responses to Feedback sessions in teacher training

  1. phil2wade says:

    Nice article mate.

    The best teacher I ever knew used to involves teachers in her observed classes and then at the end sat down with us and answered questions.Same when she observed us.She ticked random things and just went “forget the paper, how do YOU think it went?” then the conversation developed. Best of all, she was always around to ask for tips and always asked how things were progressing.She kept a mental note of who was working on what or what their weaknesses were and made suggestions like “I just found this book” or “there’s a new teacher who has lots of experience in teaching…talk to him”.

    I guess this shows the human side of teacher development and how it is very social and that even FB sessions should be about the teacher and not forms. Us teachers may get a bit defensive if someone just criticises all our class but if they explain why and how it could be improved and convince us about it that seems better. I think FB oand observations shouldn’t feel like a person/boss is looking for things to criticise but ways to help.

  2. “….what’s a good ratio between input, practicum, formal feedback and informal talk about teaching?”

    I once had the luxury of running a CELTA course where we chopped the input time bya third and allocated the 5 hours a week that were thereby saved to collaborative planning and lesson walk-throughs. This refocused the course both on the practicum and on collaborative group talk, and – who knows? – I think the course was a lot better for it. I would love to have the chance to go the full mile and cut out ‘input’ (in the traditional sense) altogether, so that the course is nothing more than preparation for, execution of, and reflection on, classroom teaching. I’m not sure if the powers that be woud sanction it, but….

  3. As a teacher trainer I like this suggestion a lot. In a typical 120 hour + 6 hours observed teaching TESOL course, there’s usually too much time spent trying to deliver an avalanche of input that the trainees struggle to process – often resulting in frustration. The sessions that are scheduled for collaborative planning help to create group cohesion, and there’s bound to be some peer teaching/review happening too.
    I think I would be happy to cut out some of the language awareness inputs – as these are often learned by new teachers on-the-job. I’m not sure which of the teaching skills inputs I would chop – perhaps the focus on young learners, teaching business English, teaching exam classes, mono and multi-lingual classes… any suggestions?

  4. Pingback: Re-booting educational conferences « Esl Notes

  5. Pingback: Linking Experiences: How We Learn to Teach | Throwing Back Tokens

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