Using taxonomies to order workshop activities

We looked at two different taxonomies you could use when planning workshops, in a session on the NILE Trainer Development course today.

The first was proposed by Rod Ellis in a 1986 ELT Journal article called Activities and procedures for teacher training. It lists 10 different kinds of task for teachers on training courses, arranged loosely from less to more cognitively/linguistically demanding:

  1. Listing
  2. Rearranging
  3. Comparing
  4. Ranking
  5. Selecting
  6. Adding/Completing
  7. Adapting
  8. Preparing
  9. Evaluating
  10. Improving

We also looked at Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl), again from ‘easier’ to ‘more difficult’:

  • Remembering
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analysing
  • Evaluating
  • Creating

With a coursebook page as a prompt, we used these taxonomies to come up with 6 teacher training tasks laddered from easier to harder, with the caveat that the taxonomies are guidelines, not straitjackets.

The aim my partner and I chose for our imagined group of middle school teachers was ‘to learn how to adapt coursebooks to increase student engagement’. The 6 tasks we came up with were:

  1. List ways you already know to engage students with a coursebook page. (Listing/Remembering)
  2. Categories those methods in some way, e.g. heads up/down, stirrers/settlers, individual/pair/group activities. (Rearranging)
  3. Read this blogpost – what else can you add to your categories? [On reflection, that should probably be something like ‘Choose one thing to add to each category.’ as otherwise it could be overwhelming!] (Adding)
  4. Which of the activities on your list would/wouldn’t work with your students? What would you change? (Analysing/Evaluating)
  5. In pairs, plan your own lesson based on the coursebook page. (Preparing/Creating)
  6. Look at another pair’s lesson plan. Decide what works and what you could improve. (Evaluating/Improving)

Feel free to try out this session with your teachers. I’d be interested to know how it goes 🙂

3 thoughts on “Using taxonomies to order workshop activities

  1. Hi Sandy – thanks for your posts from the MAPDLE. I am really enjoying reading them. I don’t know how you find the time to do it all. This looks like a great teacher training session and I hope to try it out next year.
    Re beliefs which you’ve talked about to in a recent post, I still find beliefs hard to pin down after all these years and I agree it is the key to changing one’s practice and developing.
    In terms of getting teachers to express theirs in front of a group I sometimes feel uncomfortable if something I believe is not particularly fashionable. I know I have not felt free to share things in a session because of the atmosphere set by the trainer. So if getting teachers to share beliefs is key maybe baby steps to get people to share in whole groups or at least do it in small groups only. This is probably blindingly obvious but thought I’d share 😉
    All the best for the rest of the course.


    1. Thanks for the comment, and the ideas of baby steps and setting the right atmosphere are really important – not everyone remembers that!
      I’m only finding time for this now because I decided to do a full-time 2- week course, which was definitely the right decision for me 🙂 If you do the same course, I’d be interested to hear how it goes for you.


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