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LCB-TTC – Taller didáctico

Teacher: Gladys Baya

Student: María Pérez Armendáriz

Classroom Power1
Date: October 10, 2008.
No. of students: 3 out of 6.
Age: ± 16 (4th year in secondary school).
Level: Intermediate.
Book: Inspiration 4, MacMillan (2007)

Lesson Summary
Only 3 out of the 6 students were present due to several reasons (health and festivities). Since
half of the class was absent, the teacher could not carry out everything she had planned, which was
a checking of pending work, a small quiz on a reader (Midsummer Night's Dream) and a group
discussion on the book. She had to change her initial plan and improvise a new set of activities
since she did not want to do anything new without the remaining students. They discussed main
points and characters of the book. Then they worked on Unit 5 of their course book ("Is it
extraordinary for a woman?"). They read the introductory article and did 3 of the activities. When
they had finished, they completed their workbooks, either previous units or the current one.

Traditionally we think of the classroom as the place where the teacher 'knows' and the students
'don't know' and their reasons for being there is to 'find out'. This model of education invests a great
deal of power in teachers, many of whom assume classroom power, as well as the responsibility for
learning success, are fixed in their hands (Deller 1990; Leather and Rinvolucri 1989).In recent years
this approach has been viewed with less and less favor by language teachers as they experiment
with learner-centered teaching and skills-based learning.

Observation notes

Reference: T (= teacher), S (= student), T/S (= a mixture of T and S), N/A (= not applicable).

1. Who chose the aims? – T

2. Who chose the language and/or skills focus? – T
3. Who chose the topic(s) and activities? – T
4. Who chose and prepared the materials? – T
5. Who chose the sitting arrangements? – T/S
6. Who wrote on the board? – T
7. Who cleaned the board? – N/A
8. Whom did the students speak to? – T/S
9. Who created the pairs or groups? – N/A
10.Who decided when to stop an activity? – T

Topic taken from Classroom Observation Tasks, Ruth Wajnryb, (CUP, 1992).

LCB-TTC – Taller Didáctico – Observation 6 – María Pérez Armendáriz 1

11.Who operated the equipment? – N/A
12.Who decided which questions or problems in the lesson were explored? – T
13.Who chose the vocabulary to be learned? – T
14.Who gave meaning for words? – T/S
15.Who spelled out new words? – T
16.Who gave explanations? – T
17.Who asked questions? – T/S
18.Who answered student questions? – T
19.Who repeated what was said if others didn't hear it? – T
20.Who created the silence? – T
21.Who broke the silences? – S
22.Who checked the work? – T
23.Who chose the homework? – T


1. Based on your answers to these questions, what general tendencies can you point to in the
lesson that you observed? Does this surprise you? Does it confirm your expectations?
As a whole, the teacher directed the lesson. Most of the decisions were made by the teacher and
the students participated only when the teacher asked them to. Some times the students would
voluntarily ask questions, but in their mother tongue. There is no surprise in the amount of choices
that the teacher made, considering the type of school and what is expected from the teacher. It is
generally expected that the teacher lead, direct, decide and simply 'teach' and leave the students to
absorb whatever the teacher wants them to absorb. Students are not expected to be involved in the
process of planning some activities or even making small choices such as choosing one activity.

2. While the overriding (if tacit) question during this lesson was 'Who holds the power?', a lot
of ground was covered by the list of questions. You might like to select some discrete areas
among the list of questions and then ask a new question: 'What value is there in having
students, rather than the teacher, do X ...?' For example:
2. What value is there in having students choose the topics in a lesson?
5. What value is there in having students organize the seating?
6. What value is there in having students do some of the writing on the board?
23. What value is there in having students decide on their own homework?
For they answer of any of these questions there are two points of view. One that would not see
the value of students having a stronger participation in the lesson, only because they would not take
the responsibility seriously and would lead to chaos, and a waste of time when the teacher has
everything already planned. The other view – the one I agree with – would see student participation
as an opportunity to gradually introducing them into a world of greater responsibilities. They would
not have a say in 'absolutely everything', but learn to participate in the creation of a lesson that suits
them and their interests when it comes to topics; that aids them when if comes to learning styles;
that empowers them in the sense that knowing how they learn better and make the most of it will
enable them to create strategies to improve themselves as learners in life It teaches them to take
responsibility for their work and how it affects others.

3. Consider more closely Questions 12, 16, 18 and 19. One thing these each have in common is
that they concentrate on language used by the student during the lesson.
Consider the language that might be used in the classroom if students were given
opportunities to: explore issue of their own choices and interests; give their own explanations

LCB-TTC – Taller Didáctico – Observation 6 – María Pérez Armendáriz 2

of language as they understand it; answer some of each other's questions; repeat for their
peers (and clarify? and make intelligible?) language used in the classroom.
Regarding the topics of the lessons, of course the students would benefit from finding a language
area more interesting than another.
When it comes to explaining, students would be able to do all this if they were not as shy as they
usually are. The limited langue also may play an important part in this, since not only would the
student have to get the message across, but the rest of the class would have to decipher the message
through their own language deficiencies. On certain occasions, some involvement form the teacher
could be needed.

4. What does 'a shift in power' imply for the roles of teachers and learners? How will this, in
your opinion, affect learning processes and possible outcomes?
In a 'shift of power', teachers and students would have to assume roles that are not usually
fostered at school. Traditional teaching is widely practiced, particularly in secondary schools. The
teacher is supposed to be the authority and director of the lesson, telling the students what they have
to do all the time. A change in this usually throws teachers off balance and they feel they are not
doing what they are expected; they fulfill a role of a lesser importance than that of their position
requires. If students are asked to take up roles that they are not used to taking, unless there are clear
guidelines from the teacher and understanding of the students, the result will be a loss of time and
energy for everyone.

5. Many teachers are loath to 'let go' some of the crucial decision-making in their teaching.
How do you account for this? What reasons might they give?
The traditional image of the teacher has not changed much, and most have grown used to it. In
addition, teachers usually feel that if they allow too much freedom to decide, the students will end
up not doing anything or something that is far from the requirements of the syllabus.

6. Handing over some decision-making power in the learning process to the learners certainly
involves some risk, in that less of the lesson is predictable, less can be planned, more is
spontaneous (Wajnryb 1992). What risks do you see in this process?
Since the lesson would be unpredictable and spontaneous, the risk is that the lesson could get out
of control and forget the aims. Getting back on track could take some extra work. Considering that
lessons are usually planned into a learning sequence, if this sequence is broken beyond repair, then
the lesson would not amount to a valuable and profitable experience.

7. It might well be argued that we have a cross-cultural issue here: many students expect the
teacher to hold all the decision-making power about the learning process. How might they
react if some of this power were offered to them? If there is a clash of expectations, and
especially if this is culture-bound, what strategies do you think might help here?
First of all, ground rules. Respect for the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. It is
important to clear any doubts about what everyone is expected to do (teacher and students).
Sometimes, students don't really know what to do when they are left to make some decisions. They
are either in doubt about what they are doing, or whether they are doing something wrong. They are
used to being instructed what to do, not being in charge of their own learning.

8. Deller (1990:1) writes: 'Our unsung trainers are our learners. They are the really powerful
influence in our "on the job" development.'

LCB-TTC – Taller Didáctico – Observation 6 – María Pérez Armendáriz 3

How do you think teaching will learner-generated material might be a source of
development for the teacher?
These type of material helps teachers know what the students' interests are. Also, student-
generated materials can reveal the preferred learning styles as individuals and as a group, as well as
their expectations about how learning should take place. The variety and combination of styles and
kinds of activities will help the teacher to make a broader selection of activities and predict future
planning for different kinds of groups.


Often when we observe someone teaching, the very process of observation stimulates self-
reflection, as if observing were a kind of mirroring. Can you predict what sort of tendencies
would emerge out of a lesson you yourself taught?
You may wish to respond to the questionnaire again, this time using your own teaching as
the source of data.
What aspect of classroom decision-making would you like to share with learners? What
risks or difficulties do you foresee in putting this into practice in your own classroom?
After sharing some basic ideas about how to work together to meet halfway, I suppose that I
would try to find out the kind of group I am facing to see how much decision-making would be
appropriate. I would try to offer options for them to choose so as to have some control over the
direction of the lessons, but still allow the students to take part in the decisions that give shape to
the lesson. This way both teacher and students learn about responsibility, respect and compromise.
Gradually, the percentage of decisions made by students can increase according to the results of
previous positive experiences.

LCB-TTC – Taller Didáctico – Observation 6 – María Pérez Armendáriz 4