Making a Request: To Use L1 or L2? – Bridging Reflective Inquiry and Nonviolent Communication

After two weeks of spiraling through the experiential learning cycle (ELC), I’ve finally arrived at the last stage: Now What? otherwise known as, Active Experimentation or Intelligent Action (See Carol Rodgers).

Often those who write about reflection will stop before this final phase (…) Dewey’s notion of responsibility (…) implies that reflection that does not lead to action falls short of being responsible.

– Carol Rodgers, Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking

Well, I’ve been tempted to be irresponsible. My need to move on to a new topic has been gnawing at me all weekend. But, my desire to see this process through trumps everything else. I’ll push forward.

Previous post

In last Monday’s post, So You Want to Use Your L1? – Bridging Reflective Inquiry and Nonviolent Communication, I came up with some So What? theories as to why participants used their L1 during class time, and also why I reacted the way I did (see Losing It at School – Bridging Reflective Inquiry and Nonviolent Communication for a description). I was able to come to these theories by guessing at the feelings and needs possibly generated during that moment. I believe that by seeing actions through feelings and needs, we are able to get a clearer understanding of a difficult, and sometimes charged, situation. As the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teaches, when we can see ourselves or others through the lens of feelings and needs, we are more open to understanding and compassion.

So now that I have a clearer understanding, it’s time to tackle the last stages: Now What? (ELC) and Making Requests (NVC). When I make a request of someone, or of myself, it should be concrete (observable), clear (not vague), and doable (not abstract). The closer a request is to these points, the more likely the request will be put into action.

As for the Now What? stage, we create a concrete action plan with the aim of trying it out. In order for this to be possible, the plan should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (see Advising and Supporting Teachers). Like the Request stage of NVC, it’s also easy to see the concrete, clear, and doable elements of the Now What? stage.

Will I be able to make a SMART request of myself? Let’s see.

Part 3 – Now What? + NVC Requests

First, a summary of the So What? theories that influenced me the most:

  • I may have taken for granted that the participants want to use English only in class. I need to check out this assumption;
  • I value choice, and I want to foster an environment of choice around this issue;
  • I need to get a clearer idea of my role: am I really an L2 enforcer?

Time to get SMART.

After receiving insightful responses to last week’s post from friends and fellow teachers — Tana Ebaugh, Elizabeth-Anne Kim (check out her own reflective teaching blog, Ummteacher), and Denice Crawford — I’ve finally decided how to move forward.

Next semester, when the new participants arrive, I want to address the idea of using L1 or L2 on the first day, and it’s important that I do this with my colleagues. I don’t want to address this alone because I see this as a concern of the program, and not my personal concern.

On the first day of the semester, we’ll have an afternoon designated to group-building. I’d like to use this time to ask the participants how they would like to spend their 5 months with us. I’d like to have an honest discussion about their worries and hopes around using L1 and L2 during this time. By giving them an honest account of what the days will consist of, and the possible pressures they will face, I’d like for them to come to an informed decision.

After they’ve had the time to think and analyze the situation, we would then ask them to create their own behavior contract. Included in the contract would also be the expected roles of the trainers. For example, what should a trainer do if they hear you speak Korean when your contract says you should only be speaking English? They would write the contract, and finally sign it.

I believe this is concrete, clear, and doable. This is a request I can follow through with. My first task will be to approach my colleagues with my action plan, and see what they have to add to it.

I feel a bit disappointed that I’m waiting until next year to go through with my action plan. In a way, I feel like I’m letting this year’s participants down. However, as I was reading what Carol Rodgers and Marshall Rosenberg had to say about this last reflective stage, I realized that I had to be honest with myself. If I had any thoughts that my plan wasn’t doable, then all this reflective inquiry would have gone to waste. I feel comfortable and confident about the plan that I’ve shared with you. I really think it is a doable request of myself, my colleagues and the participants.

Conclusion: What? So What? Now What? <–> Observation, Feelings/Needs, Request

And of course, once we try out our experiment, the cycle would begin again. This is the rigor of learning and developing via reflective inquiry.

This is the first time I’ve written about the connection I notice between the ELC and NVC. It has been a rewarding experience, and I look forward to doing more research on the topic. If you have any questions or comments about the connections I’ve made, I’d love to hear them. I’ve learned so much, and I hope you have too.


7 thoughts on “Making a Request: To Use L1 or L2? – Bridging Reflective Inquiry and Nonviolent Communication

  1. Hi Josette – I must say that several times during the time I’ve spent in Korea I’ve wanted to get out of the classroom and into some University where I can influence the teachers before they come into the classrooms, but then I also realise how much of a difference it makes being able to give them feedback on their actual performances.
    At present, I teach with four people – two of them have been teaching for more than ten years, and two are relative new-comers. One of the veterans is the worst in terms of teaching practice – shouting, banging on desks, saying things like: ‘If you don’t want to learn, I’ll do my best to get you out of my classroom’. He is teaching with me at a school where the better students are expected to work hard, and the rest are allowed to do what they like, mainly because the teachers seem to be scared of them. So yes, I constantly am talking to him in terms of the potential of the students, of the need for involving them in the rules, of allowing me to try my methods of control rather than his, and now and then it breaks through…hopefully small changes now lead to big ones later.
    The other three suffer for the same problem that was identified in the thesis I shared – they believe in one system and use another in class.


  2. Josette – in this you touch on something I used to teach in my classes at Boston Language College to prospective TEFL certified teachers: How do you enforce discipline or rules best? By making the participants responsible for the rules. I stressed that on the first day in class, you allow the students to draw up the rules, and – very importantly – the consequences for breaching the rules.
    By doing this, you establish what expectations they may have of themselves, and you form a clear picture of what they perceive the classroom to be. I’ve always, when I’ve had the opportunity to use this at the start of a course or a year, found that I actually had to edit the rules down a bit so as to allow some leeway. Unfortunately, in the Korean set-up i no longer have that luxury, instead, I find myself the recipient of a legacy and ongoing dynamic between the Korean students and Korean teachers, and I move on the periphery of this trying to inspire and reach even one.
    Today I had the experience of reaching two students, who, as they realized they could actually answer the questions, and that I was delighted with their answers, started responding more and more and actually sparkling toward the end.
    I am looking forward to some research from you on this topic of NVC and ELC and the connection. It’s so easy to slip into the enforcer role, and so difficult to pull out of it when you have entered it.


    1. Great feedback! I was also trained this way, but didn’t really have to follow through with it while teaching elementary students in Korea. They were so eager to please me, that it was rare that any disciplinary action had to occur. However, I found it to work in a middle school class which was quite large, making it difficult for all of the students to stay focused without being distracted by their peers (who, because of the size of the class, were practically sitting on top of each other). They decided upon the “punishment” for varying types of infractions and it was interesting to see that it was much worse than what I would have chosen for them! They also policed each other which made teaching for me easier!


    2. “Today I had the experience of reaching two students, who, as they realized they could actually answer the questions, and that I was delighted with their answers, started responding more and more and actually sparkling toward the end.” That must have felt fantastic Leonie!

      I also connect to what you wrote here, “I find myself the recipient of a legacy and ongoing dynamic between the Korean students and Korean teachers, and I move on the periphery of this trying to inspire and reach even one.” As the entries of this series elude to, some of the teachers who are in our program are not believers in using English in the classroom. This refers to my classes as much as it does to their own classes. I imagine that you, as a teacher in their classes, often have to deal with trying to have both students and teachers believe that using English is possible. Not only do you hope your students will reach one of the expectations, but perhaps also your co-teachers? I love getting your insider perspective to what happens in the Korean classroom. Keep ’em coming!

      Thank you for your interest in my research. I look forward to sharing more with you, and hope to get more of your input.


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