Puppet-masters and puzzle-solvers: a match made in heaven? – Danny Norrington-Davies (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Danny Norrington-Davies’ talk, taken from my tweets.

DND says his talk came about from observing, because it’s great for stealing ideas, and seeing people make progress. He finds he spends a lot of time in lessons watching the learners and seeing how their learning progresses. SS are the puzzle solvers, T are the puppet masters (in a non-pejorative way), but often miss the puzzles.
He asks: “After output stages, what do feedback sessions usually consist of?” Audience suggestions: asking students how they think it went, plus-minus-plus technique, focussing on mistakes/outcome. DND suggest these puzzles: SS can’t find a word, can’t understand other SS, can’t choose right form, communication breaks down and also that learners speak to themselves! We focus on outcomes, but they focus on puzzles.

Puzzle number 1
The case of the Brazilian astronaut: choose a role model from your culture who speaks good English: if they can do it, you can too. Here is a task. What is the puzzle? do the students solve it?

What do you think? Our opinion: the SS can understand and T doesn’t need to intervene.

The puzzle is a ‘code-switch’ triggered by the absence of a lexical item. They account for 1/3 of switches, and Ls are aware of them. At the end of the task, DND asked students to brainstorm equivalents to the Portuguese words they needed and they were discussed, but he wasn’t happy with this solution.
Students made posters with a picture of themselves and thought bubbles showing their process/issues. Here are some examples:

The poster shows students that they are not the only ones with the same problems.

Puzzle number 2

Students didn’t understand each other.
This is an opportunity for noticing:

Whenever SS can’t understand each other, they have a question mark on a card they can hold up to elicit teacher intervention.
Students also do some repetition to self (covert repetition) – DND added more of this.

Puzzle number 3
Kenta and Sorour don’t know when to quit.

From puzzle 3, Kenta said before ‘if I don’t understand I give up’, but actually he didn’t when trying to understand. So it can be better to ask students ‘what went wrong?’ sometimes, rather than ‘can you correct this?’

DND called his question mark cards ‘intervention cards’ – SS become more aware of calling over the T. Intervention cards meant feedback could include openly discussing events/puzzles, why they used cards, why they didn’t! When they didn’t use their card it was because they solved the puzzle themselves or worked the way around the problem without T. After using intervention cards Danny redid the posters from the start of the course. SS realised their mistakes didn’t matter, when they needed to do more, and ‘I can learn more with my friends but I can call you when I need you’.

By focussing on outcomes in feedback, we can often miss the event of puzzle solving. Ss are happy to talk about these. By focussing on gaps, learners were made aware of the gaps in their own language, and of the impact of that gap. DND’s students were also more willing to discuss strategies. They were quite effective at choosing intervention. Students were more able to see a different actual-self (the student they think they are v. ideal self, they want to be). Using learner extracts and transcripts increases the chances of them noticing and remembering highlighted feedback (Lynch 2007). You can get learner transcripts by asking students if you can record them.

Students can use the card if they don’t understand the teacher too. They had one card per group.

Mark Hancock on the same presentation

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