All teachers, whether at the start of their careers or after some years of teaching, need to be able to try out new activities and techniques. It is important to be open to such new ideas and take them into the classroom. But such experimentation will be of little use unless we can then evaluate these activities. Were they successful? Did the students enjoy them? Did they learn anything from them? How could the activities be changed to make them more effective next time?
One way of getting feedback is to ask students simple questions such as: “Did you like that exercise?”, Did you find it useful?” and see what they say. But not all students will discuss topics like this openly in class. . It may be better to ask them to write their answers down and hand them in. Another way of getting reactions to new techniques is to invite a colleague into the classroom and ask him or her to observe what happens and make suggestions afterwards The lesson could also be videoed, although I have some doubts about this approach. Let me explain why.
The camera does not normally portray anything the way it is actually perceived by people. To tape something so that it comes across in viewing the way it actually came across in person requires using professional video techniques not likely to be used in these evaluation tapes.
Typically the camera is set up on a tripod at the back of the room, aimed toward the front on a fairly wide angle that encompasses the width of the room, and set to roll. The microphone on the camera is left to pick up the sound; the teacher will not have a wireless lapel microphone. The voices of the teacher and the students will typically be tinny, distant, and flat in the sense of not having much inflection. Certainly any nuances in volume, tone, and inflection will be lost.
The teacher’s actions will look cold or distracting. The teacher’s facial expressions will be fairly indiscernible. All nuances will be lost. A teacher that talks with his/her hands, no matter how expressive and interesting that might be in person, will appear on tape to be gyrating for no reason, as if s/he had some sort of nervous condition.
The best teacher in the world, doing his/her best teaching ever, will appear lifeless and ineffective, both visually and audibly, if video taped from the back of a room by a camera mounted on a tripod set at wide or medium angle, using the camera’s own microphone. None of the feeling of warmth, intimacy, humor, and direct psychological contact between each student and the teacher that might have occurred will show up on the tape. That is not the proper way to tape a teaching experience, and it is not fair to any teacher.
A camera set up that way simply does not capture things the way the human mind does in person. Anyone who has ever audio tape-recorded a really animated and interesting conversation, will be able to tell you that on playback the conversation will almost always sound dead, and filled with boring pauses, and all kinds of distracting and extraneous noises. Neither the pauses nor the noises were part of the consciousness of anyone participating in the conversation, but neither can be ignored when listening to the tape. Anyone who has even photographed something that seemed really attractive or interesting to them will normally be disappointed in the photographs because the subject will seem cold and distant, will have shadows that are terribly distracting, will have background objects in distracting places, and will typically have way too much space on either side of it. The main subject will just not appear in the photograph the way they appeared to the consciousness of the person taking it. Unless, obviously, one is an accomplished photographer.
In general, it is a good idea to get students’ reactions to lessons, and their aspirations about them clearly stated. Many teachers encourage students to say what they feel about the lessons and how they think the course is going. The simplest way to do this is to ask students once every fortnight, for example, to write down two things they want more of and two things they want less of the answers we get may prove a fruitful place to start a discussion, and we will then be able to modify what happens in class, if we think it appropriate, in the light of our students’ feelings. Such modifications will greatly enhance the teacher’s ability to manage the class.
Good teacher managers also need to assess how well their students are progressing. This can be done through a variety of measures including homework assignments, speaking activities where the teacher scores the participation of each student, and frequent small progress tests. Good teachers keep a record of their students’ achievements so that they are always aware of how they, are getting on. Only if teachers keep such kinds of progress records can they begin to see when teaching and learning has or has not been successful.
*Hedge, T., Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
*Krashen, S., Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd., 1987.
*Leech, G., Svartvick, Communicative Grammar of English, London, Longman, 1994.
*Littlewood. W., Communicative Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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