Linking Experiences: How We Learn to Teach

What do Penny Ur, Willy Cardoso, and James E. Zull have in common? They all presented at the 2012 IATEFL Conference, and they all referenced the connection between reflecting on experience and learning.

If you know me, or my blog, you know that I’m quite passionate about the subject of reflective teaching. I’ve done a few presentations/workshops on the subject, and will soon be doing another at the KOTESOL Reflective Practice Symposium in Busan on April 21. I’m very excited about this, especially since I’ll be in the good company of friend and reflective practitioner, Michael Griffin.

This shameless plug is simply to say that when I saw these three speakers on Glasgow IATEFL Online, my mind quickly made links to how their individual takes on teaching and learning connected to my understanding of the experiential learning cycle and reflective practice. Here are the links I noticed.

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Got Bandwidth? @IATEFL 2012

After perusing the inspiring IATEFL Conference 2012 video interviews and the various registered bloggers, it became clear to me that something is missing from my dialogue with the in-service teachers in our training program: technology. Watching Nik Peachey‘s interview prompted me to start the discussion.

In his interview with Rob Lewis, Nik describes what he thinks schools should look like:

“Schools would do much better investing in good wireless, broadband connectivity, and make the whole school a kind of learning zone so that any student coming in with any mobile device can get connected and find useful materials that they can learn from”

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Presenting the Experiential Learning Cycle

Next Saturday, at the 8th Annual Daejeon-Chungcheong KOTESOL Chapter Symposium, Michael Griffin and I will conduct back-to-back workshops on the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC), and its relationship to reflective practice. We are quite excited about giving our audiences a close-up view of the respective ELC stages we have chosen to present on.

And because I am busy preparing for my presentation, this week’s post is dedicated to sharing our vision for next weekend with you! I’ve posted our abstracts, and I’ve also added Mike’s bio just to sweeten the deal.

Michael, moi & Tana (another ELC enthusiast)

Without further ado, here is a taste of what is to come.

Everyone please welcome, Michael Griffin!

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Finding My Voice via Reflective Blogging

When I think back on when I started blogging, I am amazed at the changes I’ve gone through. It’s hard to pinpoint if I changed because of my blog, or if I changed along my blog. No matter what the case may be, I’ve changed.

Blogging helped me create my own voice. When I started teaching, like many teachers, I had low self-confidence. I wasn’t satisfied with my teaching, and I knew I could be a better teacher. As soon as I was introduced to the process of reflective teaching, I knew this was a remedy for my low self-esteem.

When I reflected, I gained courage. I realized that if an activity didn’t go well, I could try it out another time, and at that time it probably would get better. I knew this because I learned from experience. If I reflected, made an action plan, and tried that new plan, it was almost always a success.

I transposed this reflective process from private Word documents on my computer, into a public blog. The benefit of reflective blogging is that I had an audience to share my ideas and questions with. I could bounce around ideas with other teachers, whereas if I simply saved files on my MacBook, I would have been my only resource. Although I believe that the self is the most crucial resource in the reflective process, I also know the strength of reflecting in community.

Via reflection, I went from being a teacher concerned with low self-confidence to a teacher firm in her beliefs – not too firm to inhibit the natural process of change. If you look at my blog’s trajectory, to the amount of posts I wrote, and the content of those posts, you see a clear picture of that change. But the change didn’t come with ease.

At first, I was a fresh and excited reflective teacher eager to improve at her new job as a conversation teacher at Keimyung University. During this time, I wrote rigorous, in depth reflections. I couldn’t simply look at a small, significant episode that happened during a lesson. I had to examine the whole lesson.

Then when I moved into teacher training, the frequency of my posts dropped dramatically. My confidence wavered, and I wasn’t willing to let my vulnerability shine through. I was having huge doubts about my position as a teacher educator and couldn’t bear the idea of people seeing my weaknesses. Instead of writing, I just posted pictures, or my participants’ work.

This was where the blog as a medium for reflection fell short. Blogging is public,and I was in a bind. I wanted to blog because I needed a reflective community, but I also was afraid of being seen and judged.

Then something shifted. I realized I probably wasn’t the only teacher who felt weak and vulnerable. I also realized that if I wrote from a place of authenticity, intention and responsibility (professionalism), then no matter what anyone would say to me, I wouldn’t break. I knew that from this space I could take any comment that came my way.

Tonight I am still planning what I’ll say during my presentation, Blogging: Creative Interaction (scroll down to see my abstract), next Saturday. I’ve been feeling concerned about what I might say and how I might say it. Luckily my blog has saved me again. This entry just helped me find my voice. This voice has seen a lot of change, and realizes she is not alone. It’s time to share my voice.

Blogging: Creative Interaction

We all know the benefits of reflective inquiry: it brings clarity to our teaching practice and helps us define our professional goals. But how many of us really practice reflective teaching? At the end of a long week, the thought of writing a lesson analysis onto a stark white piece of paper, or a blank Word document can seem like an uninspiring task.

This is why the presenter began blogging. In the blogosphere, the canvas for reflection is colorful. The possibilities for creative interaction range from meaningful play with photography and video, to passionate personal dialogues with readers. It is through this multimedia, and through peer sharing that the presenter has been able to increase her teaching confidence, as well as develop a clearer vision of her pedagogical ambitions.

The speaker will present the evolution of her blog (, and how blogging can impact the audience’s reflective practice. The presenter would love to see her audience leaving her presentation with the idea that the reflective blogging community may be also be a circle they would like to join.

Preparing for Confidence

*Scroll down for presentation abstracts

There is really something to be said for feeling prepared. When I know I’m ready, I worry less. I can spend my time focusing in my lesson or the task at hand. When I don’t feel ready, I lose focus, and in the end, I lose confidence in myself.

I spent last weekend in Seoul with Tana Ebaugh and Kevin Giddens, preparing for our upcoming KOTESOL National Conference presentations at KAIST in Daejeon on Saturday, May 14.   As you can see, we were into some pretty serious stuff. As one of us stated, “we were really geeking out.”

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