As the dust kicked up by class-fulls of inspiringly creative and insightful young people finally begins to settle following another highly successful junior summer school, it is once again time to reflect upon what has transpired (between FCE exam preparation and adult summer school- come to think of it the dust is still swirling in the aether).
What does this oft-touted and referenced process involve exactly? Is it a process at all? If you, like most good EFL teachers, consider yourself to be of a ‘reflective’ disposition, that ‘reflective’ would be a decidedly accurate adjective by which to describe your teacher-persona, then I would respectfully invite you to add a comment below to explain what this description means to you. In the event of a flood of comments from teachers eager to express their thoughts on the matter, I would be willing to bet a reasonable amount of money, if I were given to gambling, that while the general notion of what it means to be reflective, as an attribute, is shared and mutually intelligible, the degree to which the tendency is manifested in an overt, measurable way may reveal significant variation from one commentator to another.
As serious and committed teachers, we all like to think about what we do, what we produce and what effects it has, so in this sense being reflective is a fairly straightforward notion. We can be ‘self-reflective’, which sounds rather narcissistic but probably just assumed a greater level of scrutiny of whatever it is we’re looking at. So what of reflection as an aspect of methodology?
For any serious discussion about reflection as a educational utility we must surely return to the ideas of John Dewey, the American theorist who first expounded the idea beyond vague ideals of ‘thoughtfulness’ and ‘self-awareness’, way back in the first half of the 20th century. For Dewey, reflection on the part of the teacher formed an integral part of his proposed philosophy of experiential teaching, and required, if it was to be properly undertaken, the aspect of intentionality. In practical terms, this means that reflection upon one’s work is targeted towards specific aims which allow the teacher to measure the degree to which success can be attributed.
Task- and project-based learning featured heavily in the approach and lesson content of our recent junior summer school, and while the student response was generally excellent and cited as a major aspect in their enjoyment of the course, there are other reasons to evaluate our choice of approach this year. There are a number of specific questions we will try to answer and hopefully, in answering, we will be in a confident position to make any amendments necessary for future task/project-based sessions.
Director of Studies
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