IATEFL Belfast 2022: A new approach to lesson planning – seeing expertise grow – Gabriel Diaz Maggioli

This was part of the TTEdSIG (Teacher Training and Education Special Interest Group) Showcase.

Gabriel works at the Insitute of Education at the Universidad ORT Uruguay, where they focus on postgrad qualifications. He also works with tertiary-level students for teacher training. The institute has 33 campuses around the country.

He teaches a methodology course. The students have had 3 years in the college, 2 years in the public school systems with a mentor, then in their final year they have a few months with their own group. These are often the most challenging students in a school. As a teacher educator, Gabriel’s role is to help his trainees survive this stage of their training.

His students this year particularly struggled with planning. In Uruguay plans are mandated by law and have to be submitted to principals, who don’t necessarily know anything about English language teaching. This talk is based on an experiment which is still in progress.

Why teach planning?

Professorial reasons: you’re a professional if your classes are well structured and can respond to student needs.

Pedagogical reasons: in initial training, it helps you to match theories to what you’re doing.

Cognitive reasons: the more we plan, the more we free cognitive resources to pay attention to the learners in the classroom.

Sociocultural reasons: we need to follow the rules that are expected of us as teachers.

Lesson plans

Are typically:

  • Structured
  • Linear
  • Sequential
  • Useless for the unexpected
  • Intuitive decision-making? Perhaps they stop this – ‘To make the right change at the right time when it needs to be made’

Knowledge and thinking

Expertise is a process, not a pinnacle.

Novices have ‘chaotic knowledge’ – they might have, but don’t know how to access it, or what needs to be applied in this situation.

What does expertise mean in initial teacher education?

  • Not a state, but a process. One where expertise can surface. Emergent expertise (in the same way as we talk about emergent language)
  • Requires the development of knowledge, skills, dispositions, experience and relevant training in a specific field
  • Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect permanent.

Kinds of experts

We are trained to do one thing, but our initial experience may not match our training. We may need to be able to teach different levels, ages and content , so we need adaptive teachers.

Core components of a lesson

  • A clear learning outcome
  • An understanding of where my students are and where they need to go – of the students one is teaching
  • An understanding of the reasons for applying a particular approach to teaching – why use the same approach for a group of demotivated secondary school teenagers learning one more subject, and for motivated individuals living in another country?
  • An understanding of how the approach operates in practice
  • A means to assess the progress that t learners are making towards the outcome – my teaching needs to be reactive to what is happening with the learners in the lesson
  • Reflection in, on and as action to keep us going and to allow us to make the necessary changes to our teaching
  • A key realisation: the perfect lesson DOES NOT EXIST. And therefore we should not aim to create one – students just need to learn something.

Lessons are encounters between people who are both persuing something.

Gabriel Diaz Maggioli

Starting out

Try without a lesson planning framework first. Take out the materials you’re going to use. Then jot down the procedure, however you like.

When they did this, if you look at the aim and the sequence, you can see there’s a mis-match, and the sequence isn’t necessarily well-articulated. Each person did it on a big piece of paper, then they rotated it and peers made comments.

Then they reformulated their learning outcomes, looked back at their theoretical materials, and had to find a way to see how the theory they knew is reflected in their practice.

Every time they made a change, they were asked Why? Teachers had to justify their decisions.

Why?

When we use concept mapping, we are looking at possibilities, not narrowing in on one specific pathway. We are creating emerging expertise, especially because they are questioning each other. This enables meta cognitive learning too – becoming aware of who I am as a teacher, what I am doing, and how that reflects on my lessons.

This requires teachers to look at what theory supports their doing. This refines their questioning and conceptual understanding.

Takeaways

Gabriel played the voices of some of his teachers on his course. Teachers on the course said they felt more confident in their knowledge connected to theory and background, and could connect it to their students more.

The teachers aren’t using the structures the college prescribes, and they have developed their own shapes. Now they’re aligning activities to the students’ needs.

Answers to discussions

Did you find any resistance to reflection from the teachers? Yes, a lot. If you speak your mind, it can have consequences. It’s a traditional system where students do what the teachers say. But now they’re engaging in a collaborative action research process with these three teachers, who have found they didn’t give their students enough space to speak – they’re now trying to find out why this happens, and how to increase opportunities for speaking.

When Gabriel teaches a teacher, he teaches one teacher at a time, with the idea that one day they will be a teacher educator, in the hope they will change things in the future [a snowball effect]. He always asks: What is best for the learners you are teaching? What do you want to give those people who are going to make a country for your children?

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