Best practices – Team planning for methods and approaches
Jim Fuller, Sponge ELT
Experimenting with different methods and approaches is something that all teachers should do as it aids in expanding their repertoire of teaching skills, raises awareness of potentially beneficial viewpoints, and increases their ability to use principled eclecticism in the modern classroom. However, while this idea of experimental practice is not new, it is often largely left to diploma-level courses or for those teachers that are generally considered ‘the ideas people’. One way in which trainers might wish to introduce or encourage other teachers to work with different methods and approaches is through team planning. Why? Well, team planning offers a safe place for teachers to socially construct meaning regarding principles and ideas, allows for them to be supported in their learning and interpretation of the new method or approach, and increases the likelihood of the ideas actually being used, so long as what teachers plan can be used in their classrooms.
Objective: The objective of this activity is to raise awareness of the principles and ways to implement various methods and approaches to language teaching.
Materials: These will be largely dependent on the method or approach you would like your teachers to experiment with.
Session 1: Introduction to new method or approach
- Provide teachers with some information on the new method or approach. Ideally, this would be done through a jigsaw reading and then followed up by each ‘expert’ sharing their information with the group.
- Teachers then need to use the information they have learnt to answer a number of questions related to the new method or approach.
- Teachers should then be encouraged to reflect on their own practice and see if they use the method or approach, where it might be applicable, and if it would work in all their classrooms.
Session 2: Planning using the new method or approach
- Revisit the principles of the new method or approach
- Teachers then should be presented with a set of criteria for what a (insert method or approach) lesson should include. Alternatively, teachers can create the criteria themselves.
- From here teachers then need to plan a lesson using these criteria. Teachers should use materials that they currently use (if applicable) so that once they finish planning the lesson, they can trial the lesson in their classes.
- Before ending the session, teachers should share their lessons in plenary. Teachers should be encouraged to ask questions and clarify points.
Follow-up: How did it go?
- After teachers have completed the lesson, if there is space for another workshop, get teachers to openly reflect on how the lesson went, things they learnt, and what they would like to do differently. If there is no room for another workshop, you can simply sit down with each teacher for a short discussion.
Your role as the trainer is facilitative and guiding. Teachers should be given room to interpret the principles and underlying beliefs of the method or approach collaboratively, with you guiding them when they steer too far off the mark. Furthermore, try to avoid planning the lesson with them, where possible – jump in only when something seems wrong or there is going to be obvious failure or issues.