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Showing posts from April, 2016

The Enigma of Feedback

A classmate of mine, Mark Friesen, has been hosting a discussion forum entitled The "Enigma" of Feedback.
He has been referencing research by John Hattie (2012) and quote that have resonated with me are that “while feedback is among the most powerful moderators of learning, its effects are among the most variable” (129), and that "[f]eedback is more powerful when it is sought by the teacher about his or her teaching than by the student about his or her learning” (154).  
I have spent many hours counseling students about what their expectations of the course are vs what is happening in the classroom, counseling teachers on what is happening in the classroom vs what the student and company expect and counseling myself, a curriculum developer, on what makes a strong course vs what the reality of the classroom is.
To bridge the gap between: What the instruction thinks the teachers are deliveringThat the teachers think is importantThat the students are experiencing CLASSE …

Influences on Student Learning

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In Visible Learning, John Hattie (2009) lays out the methodology and findings of his meta-analysis of more than 800 research studies on the effects of a wide range of learning interventions, with the aim of differentiating between those with a negative or low level of influence from those that significantly enhance student learning. 
Since nearly ALL interventions had some positive effect on learning, Hattie argued that the “bar” (or “hinge-point”) for discussing the use of a particular intervention should be set at 0.40, thereby focusing on those that actually enhance the learning a student could typically achieve in a year of schooling.   




Here is a list of some common interventions that are often discussed by educators and used by teachers.  How much of an influence do you think each of these interventions has on student learning?
Task: Take a moment and rate each intervention as having either a low, medium, or high impact on student achievement. 
Below are my predictions before re…

A Better Version

Hi everyone,

Learning to do a whole bunch of new things lately like:

create a blogcreate online survery and link it to this blogcreate an infographiclearn how to embed it in my blog These skills are changing my opinion about...well, myself. I never thought I could do any of these things. This whole process has really shown me that even after all this time I can still learn new things and change my ways.

To accompany this revelation, I thought I would also give myself (my blog that is) a face-lift. I hope it's a better version than it was yesterday.

Retention Rates from Different Instructional Strategies

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Thinking about thinking lately has led me to wonder how students learn best. Below is a chart I recreated from a book I am reading now by Elizabeth Berkley (2010) called Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty.
The data shows that teaching others how to do something and practicing by doing make for lasting learning experiences. So, this makes me ask, if teachers are aware of this, then why do they spend so much time lecturing, using video, and reading. 

I call out to all right now to put an end to spending class time on those 3 things. Ask yourself: do I like being lectured to?do I like reading in class?do I have to watch this video?am I enjoying this lesson? If your answers are NO, then the answers from your students are probably the same. Ask yourself "how do I like to learn? Then, think of what alternatives you can use. Better yet, present this data to your students and ask them what alternatives they want. This will, without a doubt, increase student sat…

Metacognition: Top 3’s for Test-Prep Classes

Teaching English for specific purposes like tests uses different teaching strategies and approaches than a typical language class. Students are under quite a bit of pressure and are motivated by results. If teachers spend time getting students to think about their performance, I will call this metacognitive awareness, students will notice their own improvement rather than ask the teacher whether they are improving.
Metacognitive Skills Based on an article by Connie Malamed, here are some metacognitive skills that are highly relevant and necessary in a test-prep class:
Choosing to skim subheadings of unimportant information to get to the information you need. Repeatedly rehearsing a skill in order to gain proficiency. Periodically doing self-tests to see how well you learned something.  Metacognitive Strategies To help your students learn how to learn, and notice their own improvement, teachers can incorporate these strategies into their lessons. Then, encourage students to use them ou…

Same but Different

Creativity and Creative Thinking - same but different. I believe that even if people do not think they are creative, they can use creative thinking strategies. Here is an infographic, pardon my first try, showing how teachers can take their students on a creative thinking road trip. Destination.... using creative thinking in everything we do. Check out the resources listed (at the bottom of the infographic)for more ideas!

Nine Alternatives to Lecturing

Have you been asking yourself how to integrate activities into a lecture-based course to encourage the students to engage with the subject material, to facilitate interaction, or to change things up a bit?
Integrating more critical and creative thinking is one approach to take, and another is to focus more on the application of knowledge.
Nine alternatives to standard lectures are listed below and described in detail on a tip sheet provided by the University of Waterloo. This link provides a number of relatively structured activities, along with their time requirements, special features, implementation procedures, and function in the course. The activities are: QuestionsPro and con gridDebateGuided analysisCase studyField tripRole playOne-minute paperUngraded quiz For brief descriptions of a number of easy-to-implement ideas beyond what is described on this sheet, see the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) teaching tip sheets on “Active Learning Activities” and “Activities for Lar…

The Four Strands

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What are The Four Strands?

The skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing) are categorized into 4 areas:
meaning-focused input (I)meaning-focused output (O)language-focused learning (L)fluency development (F) To summarize the link above, here a list created by Paul Nation as a reference for teachers with classroom examples.
Can you identify which ones are I, O, L, or F?
(1) Add a deliberate element to skills teaching.
Examples: note words on the board as they occur in listening, do consciousness raising activities before communicative tasks, get learners to reflect on new items they met while reading and explain problem items that come up in the context of communication activities.

(2) Push spoken and written output in a variety of genres.
Examples: use role plays, discussions, or or a reflective journal.

(3) Provide opportunities for cooperative interaction.
Example: do group work involving split information, opinion gaps and information gaps, and get learners to work together …

Digital Classrooms vs. Blended Learning vs. Flipped Classrooms

I think we can agree that a whole lot more than money and technological devices to strong education. In the field of ESL the use of technology both in and outside of the classroom varies widely. Some schools have smartboards, projectors and computer labs, others not even a chalkboard. The relationship between teacher beliefs and technology integration in the classroom varies depending on who you talk to. For the purposes of this post, we will look at
Here is an infographic showing digital classroom through to 2025. In 2015, the use of gadgets in the classroom increased productivity 65% compared to 2012. As technology continues to develop, as will its use in the classroom. To see what classrooms in the future will look like, here is an infographic produced by Big Think followed by a video by Dr. Madhav Chavan, CEO of Pratham, explaining that technology is not an automatic advantage.
height="950" Types of integrating technology into the classroom is through blended learning o…

What Motivates Me?

What motivates me to keep going is the possibility that I might be able to inspire someone else the same way I was inspired.

Here are some clips from the five-minute film festival put together by Edutopia to make you feel like the super hero you are. Teacher Appreciation - a reminder of why we do this in the first place.

What is your motivation?

The most life-changing experience I have had is watching a 5 minute video by Drew Dudley where he discusses Lollipop Moments. I have taught this in my classroom and I have used it as my personal philosophy ever since. Check out his website, he has a podcast!

Thank you Drew

Questioning Techniques


The Pedagogy of Questions developed by Freire involves posing questions to learners and listening to learners' questions. Which seems simple enough, right? Wrong.

We tend to forget the fundamental structure of questions that stimulate answers – the verb. Our questions (through eliciting, concept checking, etc.) should force and challenge learners to think critically.

By focusing on the verbs we use in our questions, and aligning them with Blooms Taxonomy as much as possible, we make every minute of our lessons count.

More information on the Pedagogy of Questions can be found at: http://www.eltnewsletter.comUsing Precise Verbs to Encourage Thinking
Instead of Saying: Say: 'Let's look at these two pictures.' 'Let's compare the two pictures' 'What do you think will happen when ...' 'What do you predict will happen when ...' 'What do you think of this story?' 'What can you conclude about this stor…

Menu of Learning Activities

In reading Student Engagement Techniques, Elizabeth Barkley (2010) commented on a strategy she uses to promote self-directed learning with a music class. The strategy is to "offer a flexible menu of learning activities" (56).

This is a strategy I would like to use with the university preparation course I design materials and curriculum for at the moment. I taught this course for four years, and now I am working on improving the students experience and delivery of the course.

I believe that in a course with so many demands (assessments) and pressures, students can lose their motivation. This idea of a "menu" will give students an opportunity to choose what kinds of tasks they want to do. In designing the menu, I would like to ensure there is a lot of choice, but that each menu option for each category will achieve the required outcome.

Options could include, for example, for a course outcome of "speak effectively to an audience using formal register and discipl…

Effective Teaching

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Inspired by a quote today:

"Learners need to know how well they are doing and how they can do better. Effective teaching is not simply providing information - a text book, video, or podcast can do that as well and often better.
Rather, a teacher's value comes in the careful observation, analysis, and feedback to a learner that enables improvement." (p. 28-29)
Consider this...without students we cannot teach. It is so true that our value comes from setting up tasks that apply the knowledge we have shared. Then, to follow up with those tasks by clearly and concretely telling students the strategies they can use to improve. If this is not happening, what are we doing? If they speak, tell them how to speak better. If they make mistakes, tell them how to fix them. If they misunderstand a text, help them understand. This is what we do, while at the same time motivating them to stick with it until they cross their finish line. 
Barkley, E.F. (2009). Student engagement techniqu…