This is part of a series of interviews with fellow English language teaching professions to be published on this blog.
The interviewees are drawn from a variety of teaching contexts, in different countries and working with different kinds of learners. What they have in common is having experimented in some way with their teaching practice.
Interviewee #5 – Adam Beale
1) Who are you?
My name is Adam Beale and I am currently teaching at IH Madrid and I have been teaching now for 4 years. I have just completed modules one and two of the DELTA which I completed at IH Madrid. I taught a group of advanced learners C1.1 and a group of Pre-intermediate A2-B1 during my internal and external observations. My experimental practice lesson was carried out in February with a group of YLs at B2 level.
2) What did you choose to do for your experimental practice and why?
I chose to do Task based learning which I had already experimented with, but this time I wanted to see how it would work with YLs. I chose TBL simply because it has what I feel is a sound foundation and sensible underpinning logic. Therefore, by looking at it in more depth and developing my understanding of it better, it felt it would benefit my long term teaching and I would then be able to incorporate it into my classes more frequently and with more confidence. It didn’t seem to make sense to do an experimental practice lesson with a method/approach that 1) I didn’t believe in, 2) wasn’t going to benefit my students and 3) was just an exercise in box ticking. TBL was the most logical choice.
3) How did you go about researching this area? Were there any sources you found particularly useful?
I looked at a variety of sources for my research. I took a lot of my input from Jane and Dave Willis who I believe present the approach in an accessible way and had a great belief in what they were talking about. This was evident in their writing and helped to convince me that TBL has a lot going for it in the English language classroom.
4) How did you record what happened in the lesson? What were the most effective and interesting ways you found to document your experimental practice experience?
I produced both an essay on my background reading and a full lesson plan for the experimental practice lesson. I also had a colleague, who specialises in YL, watch me teach the class to provide feedback.
After completing the lesson, I wrote my own reflections on how I thought the lesson went. Both this and the feedback I received from my observer were the most valuable and allowed me to get a real understanding of how the lesson went. We were given the option of not having an observer in our experimental practice which didn’t make sense to me. Being observed, as stressful as it is at times, is by far the most important form of feedback and provides the best way of documenting what happens in the classroom.
5) What happened? What did you find out about teaching and learning and teachers and learners by doing your experiment?
I discovered that the transference of methods / approaches that are primarily designed and conceived through working with adult learners require a lot more thought when being applied to a YL classroom. While we adapt our materials and course books to YLs frequently, we very rarely think about using non YL methods with them. It can be successful but certain aspects need to be reworked in order to fit the teaching context. The lesson itself encouraged me to try TBL again with my learners and that it can be an alternative method to employ in future classes.
It was difficult for the learners at first but seeing as they had not encountered this lesson type before they coped well and I think they would happily engage with further TBL style lessons.