Like many who are involved in training trainers, I also train and help to develop teachers and, rightly, teach learners of English in a standard classroom setting. Those of us who teach at three levels, sometimes all on the same day, are constantly fighting a battle in terms of psychological preparation for the level at which we are about to teach, as well as the lessons or sessions which are appropriate to our audiences. Not only do we have to leave our personal baggage outside the classroom door, but also the baggage that we accumulated in a teaching or training event which may have ended only hours or even minutes earlier. Meanwhile we adopt the appropriate persona for the task in hand while desperately trying to hang on to our own self image.
Such is the psychological angst of operating at a number of different levels of what is now commonly termed the ‘stack’, and while loop input is a useful tool and parallels between teaching and training become increasingly obvious with experience, this constant adjustment of approach, content and persona together with the intrinsic need to come up with new ideas is an inevitable contributor to stress, strain and potential burnout.
TRAINER TRAINERTEACHER TRAINERTRAINEE TRAINERTEACHERTRAINEE TEACHERLANGUAGE LEARNERYOURSELFThe Stack (after Tessa Woodward)
Psychological preparation is a requirement for any new job or facet of a profession, but even more necessary if the professional is to do his or her old job as well. This is a vertical rather than a horizontal integrative process requiring skills such as multi-tasking, multi-level thinking capabilities and an enormous degree of flexibility as well as the accumulation of new knowledge. It is often said that there are many excellent teachers who are unable to make the quantum leap to training, and even that there are some highly regarded trainers who were no more than average classroom teachers. Perhaps it is a case of knowing one’s own limits and capabilities, but this needs to be made clear to all prospective trainers.
In light of the above, the following is a task designed to raise awareness of the adjustments required at different levels of the stack and to begin to demonstrate the modification of content between levels required for effective loop input.
FIND SOMEONE WHO (CHERCHEZ QUELQU’UN(E) QUI)
By asking information questions (not yes/no questions), find someone who:
- has lived and worked in more than one country
- has not always worked in education
- speaks more than one foreign language
- works in a university
- doesn’t smoke
- travels to work by bus
La question est ‘avez vous ………….?’ Cherchez quelqu’un(e) qui a:
- un chat
- une maison a la campagne
- une amie japonnaise
- une bicyclette
- une voiture
- beaucoup d’argent
By asking the question ‘What is/are ………..?’, find someone who:
- can name the stages of a PPP lesson
- can define a homophone
- can briefly explain the lexical approach
- can remind you of the word for a short activity to start a lesson with
- can tell you the difference between a lecture and a seminar
- can tell you what a phrasal verb is
un chat une maison a la campagne une amie japonnaise
une bicyclette une voiture beaucoup d’argent
The activity is in three distinct stages. Preferably, each stage should be conducted separately, tasks being divided by either cutting or folding the task sheet to avoid distraction.
Each stage is a standard ‘find someone who’ mingle activity. Participants should be given clear instructions as to the questions to be asked, and for the second stage the contents of the cue cards and the affirmative and negative answer need to be drilled quickly. Most teachers are not too uncomfortable with basic French, but a less common language might be used for greater effect.
Participants should be given a few minutes for each stage, longer if the task also performs a ‘getting to know you’ function in the early stages of a course. Completion of the task is not vital.
Feedback on the task needs to be clearly staged, and I have found the following structure useful:
- General comment on enjoyment and difficulty. Ask trainees whether they enjoyed the task, which parts they found relatively easy or difficult, and how they felt in each stage, particularly when they were asked to work in another language.
- Implications for teaching. Ask trainees how language learners feel when asked to do mingle activities, and which parts of the task would have been appropriate for the classroom. Ask about the aims of such activities. Discuss the task design and the necessity for clear instructions which also need to be checked.
- Who are you? Ask trainees who they were in each stage of the task. Trainees should be able to come up with ‘themselves’, ‘language learners’ and ‘teachers’, and that as teachers they were still learners, and still themselves. Introduce the concept of ‘the stack’.
- Discuss content. Ask trainees to relate the content of each stage to the role they were asked to take on, and to comment on whether the content defined the role and whether the content was appropriate at each stage. Ask which stage of the activity had been most relevant to them and why.
Feedback may be quite extensive, and will provide opportunities to introduce concepts fundmental to training. It is likely that the subject of simulations will come up, offering the opportunity to explain that while simulations may be appropriate to the classoom, that modifications of content need to be made at different levels of the stack in order to be entirely relevant. This is the time to introduce the notion of parallels between learning, teaching and training, and the content-base of loop input. Depending on the situation, it may also be possible elicit a more comprehensive definition of loop input as a training tool.
Finally, attention should be drawn to the difficulty of changing roles from teacher to trainer, and the psychological preparation involved.
I have found this activity to be a very useful introduction to a number of very basic yet difficult concepts in training whilst performing all the functions of a normal mingle activity. Possibly a good starting point for a course.
This article first published Summer 2005 http://www.jalt.org/teach/Newsletter_files/PDF_files/Summer2005.pdf