Hello and thanks for stopping by. If you were at the presentation in Gangneung on Saturday, November 9th, 2013 then double thanks. Triple thanks if you are Michael Free and you clicked the slides for me and got everyone in a good mood with the previous presentation. Actually, Michael is due quadruple (at least) thanks because he previously wrote a guest post on this blog and because he is an all around good guy. So, yeah, thanks for stopping by the blog and perhaps the session on Demand High Teaching (DHT). I really enjoyed how active, supportive, and chilled out everyone attending the session was. I appreciated how people shared their thoughts and experiences. Below I’d like to share some thoughts about what came up during and after the session and below that I share some links if you’d like to read more about DHT.
Something that came to mind for me during the session was how it seems many people are already experimenting in different ways and “demanding high(er)” in different ways but maybe just called it something different (or didn’t name it at all) or thought of it in a different way. I think this is one of the ways that giving something a name can help make it more real and give us a better chance to think about it and what might mean for each of us in our own particular contexts. I am seeing this as a positive aspect of the DHT movement.
I was very happy even before the session started to hear some
grumbling comments about how DHT sounds a bit idealistic and might not fit into certain contexts. Honestly. This was something I had been wondering about. Specifically, I had been worried that teachers working in public schools (especially those in deepest rural Gangwondo and even more especially those with a lot of students ) might feel they were already demanding very high just by their presence in class. I hope some ideas of minor tweaks were introduced that could potentially be used were uncovered. From my view this is potentially another strength of the DHT concept, as it is up to teacher to think about what demanding more might mean to them and their students.
Regarding the potential or need for DHT here in Korea, I got the sense focusing on just getting the (right) answer and moving on might be a common thing here. Also the emphasis on “covering” material or pages in the book or grammar points. Or whatever. I feel like these points and the thoughts about certain aspects of teaching becoming ritualized might be the ones that would resonate with those of us teaching in Korea. It seems like a lot of teachers are expected to teach in what might be vaguely considered a CLT-ish way but this might be by default. I think the questions “How did we end up here?” and “Is this where we want to be?” are apt.
Another thought that came to mind when thinking about DHT in Korea might be that many teachers (perhaps especially foreign teachers?) tend to focus more on fluency and on communication. This seems to me to be a perfectly logical choice considering the emphasis on translation and grammar and grammar and grammar-translation that students might have previously received or might currently be receiving in other classes. Of course, many students are already being demanded a lot of and from my view it can seem sadistic to add more demands to already overburdened students. Yet, I think it can be all too easy to fall into the line of thinking that just a little bit of interaction is more than enough because students mightn’t get many chances for interaction elsewhere. This sounds very reasonable but I also wonder if it comes at the expense of something. That something could be that students are capable of more than we expect of them. The question that springs to mind is “When is ‘good enough’ not quite good enough?” I will speak for myself here and say that perhaps I have at times been too understanding and not “demanding” enough and that my expectations have been on factors other than what my students might actually be capable of. Again, this might be just me, but I have a feeling this is fairly common in Korea.
Something that came up (both in session and after) was the idea of teachers often doing their best to avoid putting students on the spot or in the spotlight. Speaking from personal experience this is something I typically tend to try to avoid but I think there might be some cultural and other factors at play here and there might be lots of opportunities I, and thus my students, have missed.
I think the above point relates closely to the idea of giving direct and specific feedback on student utterances. I think another very easy trap to fall into is the one where teachers automatically praise students for everything students do in class. My sense is that many students are often hoping for specific and direct feedback on their language performance but might be robbed of this if the teacher is more focused on the sheer fact that students are interacting in English (which admittedly is no small feat at times.)
Some points I wanted to emphasize in the session were that DHT doesn’t have to mean a dramatic overhaul of our teaching and can simply mean a few tweaks here and there or a different way of thinking about our students and our teaching. The questions, as you might recall put forward by those who introduced the DHT idea (linked below) are:
- Are our learners capable of more, much more?
- Have the tasks and techniques we use in class become rituals and ends in themselves?
- How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?
- What small tweaks and adjustments can we make to shift the whole focus of our teaching towards getting that engine of learning going?
I think keeping these questions in mind can help teachers demand more of themselves. Thanks for reading (and perhaps attending the session). I was very happy to see that some people were ready to start demanding higher on Monday. How did it go? How soon before the face of English teaching as we know it is changed?
Links and thanks and stuff
Special thanks are also due to Steve Brown for creating the original session upon which mine was based. Actually, Steve has written quite a bit about DHT and everything is conveniently located here. I strongly recommend Steve’s blog for this, but also in general.
Of course, thanks must be also given to Adrian Underhill and Jim Scivener for sharing the DHT
meme idea in the first place. Here is the link to the Demand High Teaching site, which is filled with resources. Of particular interest might be the observation forms, and this post about 1:1 teaching in a group.
Mentioned during the session was Scrivener’s “Classroom Management Techniques” which appears to be worth a look.
This post from Neil McMahon was also helpful and informative.
There have also been some Twitter chats on the topic of DHT that might help illuminate things a bit more and/or give you some more food for thought.
Here is an #AUSelt summary on Demand High Teaching.
Here is an #ELTchat summary on Dogme vs. DHT and here is one specifically on DHT.
Here is a #KELTchat on what we called “Demand High Learning.“