Do you remember the last lesson you taught that went incredibly well? What about the one where everything seemed to go wrong? Such lessons make up part of every teacher’s patchwork quilt of experiences, but does it end there?
The answer is, it can do and perhaps often does – we plan, we teach, we move on. However, it is possible for each lesson to become a learning opportunity for learners and teachers alike. By becoming reflective practitioners, we can open the door to the possibility of constant learning, and sidestep the potential danger of living one year of experience forty times over.
After each lesson, STOP.
S – Step back
Consider your lesson as an outsider as well as an insider. What happened? What did you do? How did the learners respond? How did any given moment that stands out affect the moments that followed? What relationship does it bear to the moments that preceded it? If you have colleagues who are willing to observe you and complete a general observation sheet or one that you tailor to suit exactly what you want to discover, this can be a wonderful way of making your lesson visible from a different perspective. You might also like to film it and complete an observation form as though you were an outsider looking in.
T – Take stock
Evaluate your observations and evidence, and decide if there are any elements you wish to look into further. Which had the most effect on how the class unfolded? Were there any moments that perplexed you? Upset you? Excited you? Made you wonder what would happen if you had done that instead of this? Make a note of these. Then choose something that you believe to be particularly significant to focus on – or, if you are stuck in a rut, make the decision to try something new. Over time, notes allow patterns to be identified – what habits, good and bad, do you have in the classroom?
O – Open up your resources
Go to your books, magazines, journals and the Internet (blogs, electronic journals and magazines, your social media network) and investigate your chosen focus. For example, if it is an aspect of classroom management, you might look in Classroom Management Techniques by Jim Scrivener, which contains a wealth of tips on getting the most out of your learners; or ask your colleagues on Twitter how they would manage the activity in question; or to exit a rut, you might read the English Teaching Professional magazine and find a new activity or technique to try out.
P – Plan for next time
Decide what you want to try and do differently in your next lesson. It could be a different way of doing what you are already doing or something completely new to you, or it could perhaps simply be refining something you consider worthwhile doing but are slightly shaky on.
Enjoy experimenting and when you’ve finished the class, STOP again and evaluate how it went. This cyclical process of experimentation and reflection is a way to develop, and replace stagnation with continual learning.