CELTA TRAINER-IN-TRAINING: Teaching Practice Feedback

The sixth in the series of “During CELTA” Trainer-in-Training tasks (see the complete list here) – the Teaching Practice Feedback task – was one of those tasks that needed pre-course prep work as well as regular updates throughout the course.

I divided it into two parts:

  1. Pre-CELTA: Make a note of different approaches to feedback I expect to see during the course.
  2. During CELTA:
    • Notes on feedback observations (during/after every TP feedback session)
    • Reflections on feedback observations (weekly – this turned out to be one of my weekend tasks while the CELTA was on)

Let’s go through it one by one.

1. Pre-CELTA: Here are some preliminary notes I put together about different approaches to feedback. I reached back into the recesses of my cobwebbed, pregnancy-addled brain for memories of how feedback was conducted during my own CELTA (2009) and CELTYL (2010) courses, and made the following notes..

Different approaches to feedback I expect to see during the course:

a. Group feedback:

  • I expect most feedback sessions will be conducted in TP groups.
  • TP is scheduled in the evenings while feedback takes place the morning after. This means trainees have time to reflect on their lessons and will be expected to be more self-critical than might be possible if feedback followed TP immediately.
  • While trainees will be made aware of both strengths and weaknesses of their TPs, I believe the feedback will be generalized and not focused on individual performance to avoid picking on people.
  • I expect trainers to focus on strengths first (this might be the point where individuals will be applauded for specific strengths) to keep morale up and then highlight areas of improvement.
  • I also expect trainers to try to elicit self-reflective and peer feedback from trainees more and more as the course goes on. Self-reflection and the ability to identify areas of improvement are important criteria in teacher development and trainers would be looking for evidence of these in the feedback sessions.

b. Individual feedback

  • I expect some feedback to be conducted individually, particularly where a trainee is struggling to meet the TP assessment criteria.
  • I believe the trainers will have to be fairly explicit about the areas of improvement in such cases and lead the trainee to conclusions about how they could meet the assessment criteria in order to pass the lesson.

2. During CELTA: 

  • Notes on feedback observations: If you’ve read other posts in this series, you will know by now, I love tables and templates. I find it a lot easier to make notes within a structured template than in prose. So here’s the template I used to make notes on the TP feedback during and after each feedback session:
Week
Date
Tutor
Trainees
Style of feedback
How are difficult issues handled?
Balance between trainee and tutor comment
Effectiveness and extent of peer feedback

I have to say I made detailed notes on this task in the first week but the frequency and comprehensiveness of my notes diminished over the next few weeks as I was expected to take a more active part in the feedback. From the second week onwards, I was expected to give feedback to one trainee every day, and this was upped to two trainees in the third and fourth weeks of the course. Of course, the day the external assessor was around, I did the feedback for all three trainees who had taught the previous day.

While it was drudgery during the CELTA, I’m glad I made notes regularly enough to collect lots of anecdotal evidence for the evaluative essay I had to write at the end of the course.

  • Reflections: The second part of the task required the trainer-in-training to jot down reflections on the feedback process. Here is the excerpt from the handbook:

Review your own comments about the lesson and note how these matched with those of the tutor. Are there any instances which you would have handled differently to the tutor? If so, say how and why.

  1. As the course progresses, reflect on the different ways of conducting feedback that you have seen and how they compare with your predictions. Would you say that any of these are more effective than others?

  2. Which would you feel happy to adopt as a tutor?

  3. Do you notice any changes in the way that feedback is handled in the latter stage(s) of the course? If so, what do you think the reason for this is?

Here are my reflections from Week 1:

So far, all the feedback has been conducted in TP groups with each trainee being discussed one by one. I’m a bit surprised that each trainee is discussed individually and strengths and weaknesses are not discussed in a more general fashion, as I’d expected.

Some trainees seem to cope well with this mode of feedback – they look forward to both peer and trainer feedback, make diligent notes of what is being said, take criticism well and use these as personal aims in subsequent TPs, refer back to previous discussions as points of improvement during feedback. In these cases, I believe it is beneficial to receive individual feedback because trainees are allotted a certain amount of time (fifteen minutes per trainee) to discuss their lesson. Also, at this stage of the course when peer feedback is not always accurate, it is useful to receive direct feedback from the trainer.

However, a small number of trainees – particularly xxx and yyy – seem to be so nervous about receiving feedback in this individualized manner that I haven’t seen them being able to digest the advice given by peers and the trainers. Perhaps for these trainees, it might be useful to receive group feedback

As I’d expected before the start of the course, trainers always focus on the positives first before going to the negatives. I believe this is the most effective way of giving feedback because most trainees have low self-awareness at this point and tend to be over-critical.

Something that bothered me while observing the first week’s TP feedback was the missed opportunities to point out some big issues. In two cases, trainees needed explicit direction – one needed to be made aware of the problems in her language use and another needed to be pulled up on her impolite manner with the learners. Perhaps it would’ve been useful to take these trainees aside and speak to them separately about these issues.

And Week 2 reflections

The Assistant Course Tutors that I observed this week employed more varied ways of giving feedback to trainees after TP. In one session, selected points were highlighted one by one, with tutors making references to various teachers and whether they did well or could improve in that area. In another session, Ts were given a set of twelve cards with points to think about. Ts then worked together to sort these into two columns: six strengths and weaknesses.

I think both of these methods of delivering feedback brought variety to the feedback sessions and engaged Ts more. In the second method, Ts were more actively engaged in discussing whether a particular area e.g. instructions was a strength or an area of improvement even before the tutors presented their feedback.

 

I didn’t write much for Week 3 and 4, primarily because I was so actively involved in the feedback and also, because the external assessor had already come and gone, so I didn’t feel like doing any more work than I really needed to. 😛

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