Feedback for Thomas

 

Feedback commented on Thomas’ entry (analysis of teaching material):

Thomas,

As always you have made an elaborate text in a language tone appropriate to its purpose. Firstly, I’m so happy you start the analysis from an outside-in approach by introducing the entire entry (what is the analysis of…), then the target field (Humans of New York), then the frame of the actual teaching material i.e., the common objectives, the content/structure of the teaching material. – And finally – you do not only analyse the content, intent/purpose with cultural studies eyes, but you also end your analysis with two brief suggestions as to how to make it better. All in all, an impressive analysis where your knowledge of the cultural perspectives of EFLT comes into play. I blinked twice when you wrote “inevitable intercultural competence”, mostly because I’d like for Clio Online to being able to truthfully changing their slogan into; “Guaranteed Intercultural Competence since 2018 (or whenever Thomas told us what to do”, but also because I didn’t agree, but I didn’t have to read very far, to see a well thought out argument, that I couldn’t counter.

Excellent.

Ciao,
S.

P.S. You could start making templates/material for teacher-students, telling them how to structure an analysis. My OCD and I would highly appreciate it if everyone wrote like you do.

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Reflection 10: Cultural Studies

Reflection based on chapter 3 En Cultural Studies-tilgang til kulturmøder og interkulturalitet by Lone Krogsgaard Svarstad in Daryai-Hansen, P., Søndergaard Gregersen, A., Jacobsen, S.K., Von Holst Pedersen, J., Svarstad, L.K. & Watson, C. (2018), Fremmedsprogsdidaktik. Mellem fag og didaktik, Hans Reitzel Forlag.

Since 2013, English as a subject in the Danish schools has changed status to a global lingua franca and cultural communication language, thus intercultural competence has become central for foreign language teaching.  But the biggest recent change within foreign language teaching began in the 90s; an increased focus on the learner’s personal development and intercultural competencies, and an educational focus on internationalisation. Especially Michael Byram’s model of intercultural communicative competence (1997) put its mark on how we understand individual intercultural competence today. The dimensions of the model include knowledge, skills, attitude and critical cultural awareness, supports the teacher’s and the learner’s work with developing intercultural communicative competencies with the purpose of building bridges between cultures. The model has been criticised for having an essentialistic view on cultures in which comparison is central, yet Byram’s recent work on intercultural citizenship and Autobiography on Intercultural Encounters (2008 & 2009) has a more dynamic view on culture. Nonetheless, Byram’s work is still at the core of the Danish common objectives framework and globally within the cultural studies. Since the 2000s, Karen Risager (2003) has argued for a transnational view of culture and linguaculture (also languaculture) as general understandings of foreign language teaching. Additionally, Fred Dervin (2016) has, fighting essentialist views through changing discourses, introduced the term othering as a way of enabling students to act critically and ethically towards othering-tendencies such as racism and social injustice. Lone Svarstad (2016) concludes that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to obtain a metalanguage of cultural understandings, not only to teach students intercultural communicative competence but also to be able to choose objectives and material. Risager (2018) has looked at material for teaching interculturally within foreign language teaching and has found 5 different perspectives, that each offers different potential:

  • National studies
  • Citizenship studies
  • Cultural studies
  • Post-colonial studies
  • Transnational studies

Even though these perspectives might overlap, Svarstad argues the importance of the teacher’s ability to make conscious choices. She presents from one of her own studies, a cultural studies-approach. The knowledge foundation for such an approach can support the work of a complex and dynamic view of culture. Cases of pop culture can be used to analyse media representations (intersectionality) i.e., how themes or people are represented in the media. Linguistic analyses of discourses presented in different texts can enhance the students’ awareness of interculturality and othering-processes for example by using Liddicoat and Scarino’s (2013) 4-step model for interaction-processes; notice, compare, reflect and interact, and/or incorporating Svarstad’s (2016) metalinguistic term subtextuality in order to find hidden cultural perspectives or discourses.


References:

Byram, M. (1997): Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Byram, M. (2008): From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship: Essays and Reflections. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Byram, M. /w. Council of Europe. (2009): Autibiography of Intercultural Encounters. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, Education Department, Language Policy Unit.
Dervin, F. (2016): Interculturality in Education: A Theoretical and Methodological Toolbox. London: Palgrave Macmillian.
Liddicoat, A.J. & Scarino, A. (2013): Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
Risager, K. (2003): Det nationale dilemma i sprog- og kulturpædagogikken. Et studie i forholdet mellem sprog og kultur. København: Akademisk Forlag.
Svarstad, L.K. (2016): Teaching Interculturality: Developing and Engaging in Pluralistic Discourses in English Language Teaching. Ph.d.-afhandling, Aarhus Universitet.

Reflection 9: John Hughes Continued

Since reflection 7, I’ve dived a bit more into the work of John Hughes to get an idea of what he has to offer in regards to TEFL.

In the following recorded video of a webinar, Hughes is presenting very concrete examples of how to teach critical thinking. He also talks about critical media literacy, with very easily-understood examples, that could be included in the classroom at any level just to prove a point – being aware of what you read, hear and see; who wrote/published it and why along with vague vs. accurate language.

Hughes offers material and videos on teaching critical thinking for all types of learner-levels. For this reflection, I’d like to focus on one example that he introduces in this video. We have now moved on from teaching the students how to think critically and should now teach them how to think creatively. He empathises the value of bringing photos into the classroom and presents the following image titled Stages of Life. His suggestion is to first talk to the students about the photo itself, what can be seen, what’s happening… Then, he suggests giving the students homework, for which they have to take their own photo symbolising stages of life. The students will have to present their ideas, reflections, and thoughts for the rest of the class or to a partner.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 19.25.12.png

Not surprisingly, Hughes also has videos online describing the value of introducing videos in the classroom.

I will remember this going forward, as I often find myself thinking about texts as written material, and I forget the importance of visual and auditive texts (which, I think, often will be more appealing to students growing up in highly stimulating and visual world).

Reflection 8: Quest to Learn

This reflection is based on my own interest in gamification, game-based learning, and my continuous wonder on how we can create teaching that enables an innovative mindset.

First of all, I’d like to introduce the Institute of Play, a New York City-based institution, that creates all teaching plans through cross-curricular games.

The Institute of Play has a middle school in the center of N.Y. City called Quest to Learn:

Seeing so well thought through initiatives (in lack of a better word) like Quest to Learn, always makes me think of how to create my own games as a teacher in order to foster that innovative entrepreneurial mindset within the students. I came to think of one game in particular, which I developed with Thomas during the European Teacher in Austria. The following presents the plan to scaffold, the game idea and finally my own reflections on how it went.


Description of the game (teaching sequence) as presented to the teachers, except anything added in yellow.

Adventure Learning: Lights Out

Lights Out is an adventure learning game over 2 weeks – The students will work with assignments during their Lernbüro (Læreriet; a type of teaching style/environment, where students work individually on tasks, that we had to adapt to), which will scaffold and support the student for the actual game on Thursday the 6th of October in the Dark Room. The students will earn points for completing their assignments and tasks during Lernbüro, which they can later spend in the Dark Room (the class will gain the joint amount of points, that all the students in that class earned) to complete the tasks and win the competition. The assignments function as scaffolding in their own right as they provide the necessary vocabulary, grammar and story knowledge the students will need in order to solve the tasks in the “Dark Room”. As the students have their assignments corrected together with a teacher, they themselves have to argue how well they think they did and will be given points thereafter (normally, they are doing hardcore grammar tasks in Lernbüro, and the teachers will give them feedback according to the more traditional teaching approach; many mistakes equals a not acceptable effort – we’d allow the students to rate themselves much higher, as long as they were able to explain their thought-process)

The plan for Lernbüro:

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 20.17.31.png

The Dark Room is a game based in a completely dark room filled with unlit candles, in which the students will have to cooperate in order to solve word puzzles. There are 15 separate word puzzles that, when completed, will form a story (this is a story that they know since they have worked with it in Lernbüro)

Set-up of The Dark Room:

 

  • There is only one candlelight in the room, thus it is very dark and the students have to cooperate with their teams to solve the word puzzles.
  • Class (team) A and B will compete against each other to construct sentences first
  • Each team has two tables in The Dark Room; one is the management table and one is the workers’ table – The management will have the rules, clues, etc. Available and they will also be in charge of how to use the currency. The workers will have to open envelopes and construct sentences from a lot of cut-out words from the story The Little Matchgirl
  • Each team will assign one runner from the beginning who is not allowed to sit on a chair, but can communicate between the tables and with the lightmasters
  • Currency can be used to used to light more candles by their team’s table or receive help from the lightmasters (Thomas or Sophie)

RULES (given to all students prior to the beginning of the game)

  1. Complete 15 sentences to create the final story.
  2. Each envelope contains a number of words — they make out one sentence.
  3. The sentences must be grammatically correct by placing the words in the right order.
  4. You must complete one sentence to open the next envelope.
  5. The sentences must be in the right order to form the story.
  6. You are NOT allowed to get up from your chair. Only the runners can walk around.
  7. You are NOT allowed to touch, move or blow out the candles.

If you don’t obey the rules, the Lightmasters will punish you any way they see fit! Remember they control the light!


Management Paper to be found at the management’s table:

Congratulations – You are the management!

Your job is to help the other table by spending the points you earned during Lernbüro responsibly. If you want to spend points on something, please have a runner address your Lightmaster.

The workers sit at the other table, they have all the envelopes. Their job is to put the words in the right order to form sentences. To receive a finished sentence from them, send your runner to collect it.

Your job is also to put the sentences in the right order in the story.

Tips for the management

  • Be quiet and speak in turn, then it’s much easier to hear each other (and also so the other team can’t overhear you).
  • Appointing roles for different people on your team makes it easier for you to cooperate.
  • Having more light gives you more information, having more information is good for you.
  • You can swap students from one table to the other, remember it has a price!
  • Different people are good at different things — help each other out with what you are good at!
  • You are allowed to have 2 runners — appoint one more from the other table (it’s free!)
  • Remember to tell the other table what you can do. Then they can ask for help and you can help them better!
  • Use your runner to exchange information between the tables.

Clues

  • Is it difficult to see colours in the dark right?
  • How many points do you have?
  • Do you know the story?

Post the game, on a different day, we would take one class each, and talk to them about how things worked out when having to depend on your whole class in order to succeed in the game. After the initial plenary discussion, they were introduced to learning styles and we gave them each a German version of the test so that the students could get a better understanding how and when they learn best. We gathered the classes’ results in order to create specific group-combinations later on.

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 20.45.32.png

Finally, we played the game once more a few weeks later and the teams worked much better this time.

 

Reflection 7: Critical Thinking

Reflection based on lesson 11: Foreign Language Pedagogies & Intercultural Language Learning on the 20th of April 2018. During this lesson, we were introduced to John Hughes, an English teacher, teacher trainer, and freelance author at National Geographic Learning, whom Lone experienced at the IATEFL Conference 2018 in Brighton. Hughes presents a stairway of critical thinking, built upon psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), presenting a series of skills that teachers should aim for developing in their students in order to make their students learn more effectively. Over the years, many other educators have built on Bloom’s taxonomy, Hughes is using Anderson & Krathwohl’s (2000) version, also known as the 21st Century Taxonomy or simply Bloom’s New Taxonomy as seen beneath:

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 21.51.34

Left model showing Bloom’s original version and right model showing Anderson’s & Krathwohl’s more contemporary version.

But what is even critical thinking? Here’s a short video on a discussion on exactly that, by John Hughes and Paul Dummett:

What Hughes says about this, is that schools, teachers, in general, are really good at, are teaching the lower order skills and top higher order skills i.e., they forget teaching the students how to thinking critically. At the same time, critical thinking has become a buzzword within contemporary education discussions and especially within language learning.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 21.53.24

The stairway of critical thinking consists of the five sub-skills; understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, they can be represented as a set of linear steps or stairway progressing steadily upwards in order of difficulty and sophistication. Hughes says:

“Such a model is helpful if we plan to design courses that will take students from one step to the next and so develop their critical thinking skills. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that, in reality, learning – especially when it involves learning a foreign language – never runs quite so smoothly. A student might read and understand a text, then start to apply or analyse, only to find that they have misunderstood something and have to return to the beginning. Equally, when students start to create a presentation or complete a project, they might find they need more information in support of their own main idea and so they have to return to their sources and re-evaluate them. However, the idea that these sub-skills are like five steps going upwards does provide us with a scaffold on which to create a clearer practical image of what goes towards making a Critical Thinker.” (Hughes, 2014).

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 22.02.58.png

John Hughes has many interesting and concrete examples/suggestions on how to teach critical thinking on each step of the stairway, if:

1.    Students are led and guided towards their critical thinking mindset
2.    Teachers clearly define what their expectations of critical thinking are, and
3.    Teachers teaching the language of critical thinking

 

Finally, for this reflection, Hughes’ purpose is to help English language teachers all over the world to access free professional development resources. I’ve found he’s also interested in games. I’ve got to find out more.


Literature:

Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. (2000): A taxonomy for learning, teaching and   assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman
Bloom B. S (1956): A Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman
Hughes, J. (2014): Critical Thinking in the Language Classroom. ELI Publishing

Reflection 6: The Creative Platform

This reflection is based on my knowledge of The Creative Platform – a didactic approach for unlimited application of knowledge in interdisciplinary and intercultural groups (Byrge, C. & Hansen, S., 2009).


BACKGROUND

There are an expectation and a goal on a national scale for Denmark to become the Scandinavian (or even European) hotspot for innovation and entrepreneurship. Following the Danish Innovation Strategy “Denmark – The Country of Solutions”, the reform of the primary and lower secondary school in 2013, stated that entrepreneurship and innovation had to be included in all subjects. But how do we teach innovation and entrepreneurship? First of all, we need to establish learning environments that foster creative thinking. The Creative Platform (Byrge & Hansen, 2009) offers a suggestion of how to do so. Albert Einstein, though undocumented, is given the credit for once having said: “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. The creative platform is both a didactic approach, but also presents a model with four pillars necessary to uphold that platform (a mental state). I will get back to the model and its four pillars later.

Firstly, Byrge & Hansen (2009) defines creativity as:

  • An unlimited application of knowledge
  • To play with knowledge in the search for other possibilities than the ones our pattern thinking normally would make us aware of
  • The mean to cut across the limiting boundaries of subjects, professions, scientific, ‘not scientific’ knowledge, truths, lies, understanding and misunderstanding
  • The discipline of sharing and applying knowledge across all professional, social, disciplinary and cultural boundaries.

When we want to create something new, we need for people to be creative. To create is at the top of human capacity. It involves the unlimited application of knowledge, that a person has gained through life. So why is it so difficult to come up with new ideas? The thing is; we create patterns in our brains — to cope — to save energy — (&) to save time. As we know it from habits, or the morning routines, that we perform with ease even though we are half asleep. Patterns also control our perception and thinking, which makes it difficult to perceive information in new ways, to conceptualise differently and to think and do differently. The key to the unlimited application of knowledge is to remove judgment from the learning process, that is done by:

  • Skipping the dominating norms of communication: Examples of that could be: logical argumentation, the positioning of ideas, professional or personal persuasion, judgment, evaluation, criticism, praise, acknowledgment and other traditional discussion behaviours.
  • Secondly, but additionally, we need to remove no from our vocabularies: In most learning situations, students experience fear of judgement, fear of saying or doing something wrong. So removing judgement from the learning environment is necessary for an optimal session of idea generating.

When teaching creativity, we need a learning environment that focusses on experience, because experience is the only place where our perception is not controlled by our pattern thinking. In experience, all our knowledge is at our disposal. The creative platform offers such a learning environment. The creative platform is a mental state, only achievable if held up by 4 pillars: Parallel Thinking, (being) Task Focussed, No Judgement and Diversified Knowledge.


THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE CREATIVE PLATFORM


Parallel Thinking
Parallel thinking encompasses, that during group tasks:

  • all group members must only have the current subtask in mind
  • all potential disturbances must be eliminated or removed
  • there must be deadlines for the subtasks

Additionally, all subtasks ends with a presentation. If you do these things, should be totally absorbed in your work, i.e., achieve the sense of flow, as described by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi.

Task Focussed
To be task focussed entails, that the creativity must be controlled, there has to be some rules to the task, that the students are engaging in. Thus, the importance of having a faiclitator (the teacher) becomes even more important, because someone has to make sure everyone is working within the frames/rules of the given task.

No Judgement
During a normal academic discussion, members often introduce themselves or their opnions, which leads to individual reflections. Social interactions easily leads to an atmosphere of judgement, thus should be avoided. When teaching according to the creative platform, introduction happens by small activities to create shared experiences (3D Cases). No judgement is allowed, bad nor good.

Diversified Knowledge
We know that 95% of “new problems” have already been solved, probably many times over (Altshuller, 2003) and that, the solutions are usually found within disciplines or industries that you didn’t even know existed. Studies also show, that the intersection between all disciplines, cultures and domains is, in fact, the only place where new knowledge is created (Johnsson, 2004). Therefore, the creative platform is only really doable, when interculturality and variety of skills and knowledge are 


TASKS TO REACH (THE MENTAL STATE) THE CREATIVE PLATFORM 

Using energisers to change energy-level within the classroom
Example: 

Find someone with the same kind of shoes as you, raise right hand, when I say 1 — you clap your right hands together — raise the left hand when I say two, you clap your left hands together — when I say three, clap both hands together!

3-Dimensional Cases (3D-Cases) using both attitude, body & brain to create shared experiences
Example:

Find someone with similar or the same hair as you. Now you close your eyes, you will be given 30 seconds to think about your childhood dream. After the 30 seconds, the one with the biggest hands will start explaining their biggest child hood dream, afterwards, and when both of them are done — let them make name tags with their childhood dreams on (instead of the normal way of having your name and/or occupation/title) on there. The reason for this certain 3D-Case, is to give an example of a way to create a non-judgemental introduction of the participants (compared to traditional introductions).


FURTHER REFLECTIONS

The next step has to be figuring out, how to adapt or include the creative platform within the foreign language classroom. The reason for my interest stems from a sincere interest in the theory, but multiple failed attempts of finding any sources of implementation in foreign language subjects. To be continued (not here, but in life).

Reflection 5: Humans of New York

Reflection based on a group activity from lesson 9: A Cultural Studies Approach to Intercultural Encounters and Interculturality on the 9th of April 2018. 

By the help of Karen Risager’s (2018) findings on theoretical approaches to English teaching in textbooks, we’ve been presented the different approaches to teaching culture (as a coherent part of the English lessons; as language and culture aren’t isolated topics), and on that basis, analysed and discussed Clio Online’s teaching sequence Humans of New York for 8th-grade English. Humans of New York in itself as a subject allows for many and diverse things to discuss and methods of teaching from a non-essentialist point of view. The view of culture, society and the world (representations) are individualised and regarding diversity. Even though all the stories are logistically taking place in New York, the thematic areas being dealt with are identities and life-defining events or situations. The discourses don’t present ideologies, but emotions are used to empathise the importance of authenticity and seriousness, but with an openness to being vulnerable and honest.
BUT, to our surprise, when looking at the actual goals from the common framework, there isn’t listed any cultural objectives – all objectives stated are surrounding speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Thus the material, even though it has potential, doesn’t invite us to do anything as humans (students, teachers or citizens).