Don’t believe in fairy tales: critical thinking in teacher development – Damian Williams (IATEFL Harrogate 2014)
Damian Williams was a tutor on the Distance Delta while I was doing it, and he has also recently published a book called How To Pass Delta on The Round, in which he mentioned my Delta Quizlet sets. Going to his talk was my first chance to meet him, so I definitely couldn’t miss it!
Damian was given a very useful piece of advice by Howard Smith. We think we’re aware of the world around us, but it’s quite easy to miss things. The advice is ‘Be aware’: of different methodologies, of the language, of your students, of other teachers… As teachers there are a lot of things that we take for granted, or take as a given, like the fish who don’t notice the water around them. There are also a lot of things we do in ELT which are not based on evidence or fact. ‘The plural of anecdote is not data.’
Here are some ELT mantras Damian has used, which he’s going to look at in this talk:
ICQs and CCQs
If you feel like they’re patronising, it’s probably not the best way to do it. Damian is on a one-man mission to get rid of the term ICQ [good man!] – he says it’s better to do it another way, like working through the example, demonstrating or just checking they’re doing it. There are lots of ways to check: get examples, get opposites, rank things, use translation, show you how to do it (like tiptoe), draw timelines.
Visual learners/auditory learners
There are lots of different definitions of learning styles, but there’s no real evidence for the theory that people learn better by doing things in certain ways.
Damian recommends looking at Daniel Willingham’s website, where there is a lot of information debunking the idea of learning styles.
There are only two! Tenses are about distance (time, reality, register) not time. They can be ‘close’ or ‘remote’. There are no exceptions to this, and Damian presents it to his students from intermediate level.
Grade the task, not the text
Authentic texts are what learners will come across in real life, but they can create anxiety for teachers and learners. There are problems with inauthentic texts though. Here are some examples from a Japanese book:
Don’t correct everything
Damian has never heard students complain about being corrected too much, but they have complained about not being corrected enough.
There’s an idea that with fluency we don’t want to interrupt, but we can intervene by waiting until they’ve finished and then correcting them. This can really help with fossilized errors.
Using lots of quotes in my writing makes it sound more convincing
This is something Damian comes across a lot when he’s marking Delta assignments. You need to back up what you’re quoting to show that you’ve processed the quote and understood it, for example by paraphrasing and adding your own experience. This is an element of critical thinking: you have to process it and pull things together, and see things with your own eyes.
Even if you’re not a very experienced teacher, you can still reflect and apply critical thinking.
Damian talks about ‘The Humans’ by Matt Hait, which sounds like an intriguing book. At the end of the book there are 87 pieces of advice for humans. Damian picked out three which reflected his talk nicely, one of which was ‘Question everything’, but I wasn’t quick enough to share the others. You’ll have to ask him what they were!
For a bit more…
He has been looking at the mantras in a bit more depth over at the Richmond Share blog.
Revisiting ELT Mantras #1: Using CCQs and ICQs
Revisiting ELT Mantras #2: Don’t give, elicit.
Revisiting ELT Mantras #3: Visual learners need to see things, kinaesthetic learners need to do things.
Revisiting ELT Mantras #4: Exceptions to the rule