In early December I had the great pleasure to give two 3-hour presentations about co-teaching with my friend/colleague/former course participant. We did these presentations over two days and the first day was with Korean public school teachers and the second day was with “native” teachers working in the same public schools. (Please don’t ask why they came on different days!) As part of the 3-hour session we co-taught a roughly 3o-minute demo lesson for about 20 of the 90 audience members. The rest of the audience watched the lesson with a task of checking the models of co-teaching that we showed. They also were asked to give us written feedback on the demo lesson.
In our demo we used two responses to a question about co-teaching from an advice column (think Dear Abby for teachers) from KOTESOL’s quarterly magazine (the responses can be found on pages 10-11 here). We tried to model different co-teaching strategies while using a PDP framework for a reading lesson. We split the group of 20 “students’ into smaller groups of 10 and did a variation of parallel teaching with each of us doing the same/similar vocabulary activities at the same time with some of the words that appeared in the texts. Next, we switched groups (well we intended to anyway. I forgot one day and just kept going with the same group!) and did some reading tasks (reading for gist, reading for more detail, and deciding if they’d like to work with the advice givers and why) with our groups. What the “students” didn’t know at the time was that there were actually two different sets of advice written by two different authors. After we let them in on this surprise we gave them one more chance to read in preparation for telling a new partner from the other group about the advice they’d read. They read once again and then shared the advice. The final stage was for groups of 4 “students” to make a poster consisting of the best advice for co-teachers, either from what they’d read, heard, or experienced.
A rough outline of the 3 presentation hours ended up being something like:
1st hour: Presentation on possible styles of co-teaching, potential benefits, reasons for doing it and things to consider when planning and co-teaching
2nd hour: Setting things up and then the 30 minute-ish demo described above and a longer break to read the feedback
3rd hour: Reflection and post lesson discussion between co-teachers, responding to the written questions and feedback we’d received from the audience, talking about potential difficulties with co-teaching and Q&A time with the audience.
The feedback that we asked for was on a half piece of paper and consisted of the following stem sentences:
1. I noticed…
2) I liked…
3) Why did/Why didn’t you…?
Our basic idea was that collecting feedback on the demo lesson would help us think of things to address in our (unscripted) post-lesson meeting and would give us a sense of what the audience was thinking and feeling about the demo lesson. Some of the feedback was quite useful and helpful. Some of the feedback was not quite as helpful. After I had a while to let things settle, one of the most interesting things I noticed from the feedback was that it often showed very clear indications of the beliefs of the audience members about what (good?) teaching “should” look like. Here is a sampling:
“It is really important to tell the students what the teacher will teach.”
“Why didn’t you make a PowerPoint to share they key points?”
“Why didn’t you pre-teach vocabulary?”
“Where is the consolidation step?”
“Why didn’t you show the whole lesson , for example from greeting to saying goodbye?”
I must admit that when I first read some of the feedback (in the break between the the 2nd and 3rd hour) I was a bit frustrated. Honestly, the majority of the feedback was quite positive and the negative feedback was mostly about the room and the set up and the inherent problem of having 2 teachers with 20 “students” and 70 people watching them but not hearing or seeing well. Yet, as usual it was the negative feedback that stayed in my mind.
The above comments hit me differently than others. I guess on an emotional level they bothered me because they were all things that we could have done but chose not to (I think there is already enough PPT in the world thank you very much) or didn’t think were necessary for this specific demo lesson (for example greeting people we had already been working with for an hour).
We were hoping for questions about co-teaching as it relates to the demo lesson we did. The questions above were not that of that type and seem to be more focused on what we missed in the lesson.
I think it is interesting to note that only the first point reads like an actual statement of belief. The other questions about “Why didn’t’ you?” or “Where was the ___?” seem to imply that these are necessary things that were missing from the lesson. My sense from reading some of this feedback is that perhaps for some teachers lessons are thought to be a combination of checking all the boxes and doing all the necessary steps. This is not a belief that I share.
It seems to me that in addition to trying to model co-teaching strategies we were also (unknowingly?) sharing certain aspects of our beliefs about teaching that might not have matched those of the audience. Perhaps this blocked them from really thinking and learning about c0-teaching. Unfortunately, for some people it seems that not stating the aims or officially greeting the students at the start of the lesson was the noticeable thing rather than the co-teaching strategies we were trying to model.
I find it very interesting to think about how much our beliefs about teaching impact what we see and what we say when asked for feedback. I will try to keep this in mind as I participate in presentations/workshops (as a presenter and audience member) as well as when observing teachers.