Reflections on Luke’s talk at iTDI

Today Luke Meddings gave a very interesting intriguing, FANTASTIC talk for the iTDI. As with many great thinkers you had to digest and reflect on what he said using your own experience as it wasn’t just another ‘teaching is great’ talk. What he said was quite revolutionary and if EFL bosses take it on board it could completely change how we see and view CPD in schools and I do hope they follow it.

So, here are my reflections on what Luke said but first the main things that struck a chord:

1)CPD is not continual

I wouldn’t like a DOS who told me “you haven’t developed this week so you’re fired”.

2)CPD should be a team effort and from the teacher up

Peer observations and after lesson/teaching chats and discussions

3)You don’t need FB forms

A conversation is far better

4)Having workshops where teachers observe taught classes and can talk to the students afterwards is useful

This really is groundbreaking as teachers talking to teachers about how well students learned/enjoyed the class is just daft.Ask the students, get it 1st hand!

My ideas for a new TT/CPD approach in a language school should start here:

1)Get rid of all the ‘scheduled observations’, ‘FB forms’, ‘Senior teacher workshops’ and any other things about your TT/CPD provision

2)Have a chat.DOS,ADOS,teachers etc.Find out what people want and decide how to do it.

3)Set up a policy of ‘helping teachers help themselves’


1)Find a time/place (Friday afternoon?) where teachers can go, drink/eat and just talk about their lessons, swap ideas, materials etc

2)In this room have a noticeboard and ‘suggestions box’.

3)If senior teachers are part of it make sure they are seen as equal and not just there to speak for the DOS or report on people.

4)In the first session/meeting provide ideas for CPD like peer observation, provide access to journals, blogs, conference info, books and stick this up.Explain how teachers can help each other by just reflecting, talking through problems/ideas and swapping notes. Add some websites of interesting teaching ideas to the board and ask people if they would like some help with something to put up a HELP WANTED note and if they have something to share then a HELP OFFERED one.

This way if I feel like I’m not handling a student right I can get a colleague to observe or team teach or just speak to the kid with me and then give me some FB/help.

At its basic level teachers will go and drink and chat like “oh, today didn’t go well..” which will lead to ideas and suggestions. OR a teacher will share some material. OR a teacher will just plan his week and swap ideas with another person or do it together.

If some people decide that they need more help/ideas then ‘open sessions’ could be scheduled on a theme and led by 1 person.Here everyone would discuss a topic/problem/theme and swap ideas. If they were willing it could even be followed by a plan of action like “let’s all try X and then meet up next week and discuss how it went”.

The options are endless and unrestricted but having empowered teachers who aren’t afraid of repercussions may be the key.

OK, back to my Luke Meddings shrine.


6 thoughts on “Reflections on Luke’s talk at iTDI

  1. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for this post – always useful to hear not only the summary of a talk but the reflections that stemmed from it as well.

    I agree in principle with many of the points here but in reality I can’t help but feel a long way from it all. What you suggest above sounds like a viable alternative to ‘official’ observations and I’m sure many could be persuaded to give it a try. The problem is, in my context, a situation has arisen where observations no longer take place… at all! No peer observations, no HoD observations and even when those delightful chaps from the Ministry of Education come to visit, they never bother with ‘the foreign teachers’. In that case, I have a feeling nobody will go for the alternative as they feel the current situation is of not being bothered (I write that with two interpretations in mind!) is working out just fine.

    However, I will be doing my part to make a change come about. An idea that has been brewing in the back of mind for a while now (and which kind of fits in with what you describe above) is to get teachers at my school to tackle the ever-present problem of classroom management head-on. It has come up in recent meetings but the reaction is always defensive with people denying there is a problem in their class or shifting the blam onto things beyond their control (class size, interruptions to the lesson, the school’s reluctance to call in parents to address issues etc). Put simply, my idea is to lock the teachers up in a big room and get them to thrash it out! 🙂

    Put slightly less simply, I am thinking of getting everybody together at the end of term for a discussion My idea is that the discussion would break up into small groups in which the exact problems would be indentified and solutions would be offered (with emphasis on the last part so it doesn’t just turn into a moan-fest). There would be no restrictions on group size or group focus and people would be free to join and leave groups as they see fit. At the end of the morning/afternoon/day, everyone would get together and share their groups findings and suggestions (so it’s kind of like the ‘open space’ idea used at the TDSig Dogme Event a few months ago). I think it would work much better than having an ‘outside expert’ come in and it may even open a few minds to this crazy CPD idea.

    After reading your post, I’m thinking of preluding the whole thing with casual observations as well as follow-up observations to see what changes have come about.

    (Woah – that’s some comment! I maybe should have just gone ahead and written about it on my own blog! Well, I think I’ll just go an do that anyway… ;))

    • Hi Dave,

      Been there. I’ve lost track of the amount of places that have no TD at all and just see teachers as robots and do “an easy job” as everything is already planned or there is a book or handouts.This is also a reason they pay them hardly anything and say that are sitting round not doing anything and/or don’t need prep time.

      But then again I can count the useful observations I’ve had on one hand. One woman said I should sing songs as warmers, another said I should make every students stand up and recite whole texts to the class.

      Being abroad we definitely get ‘foreign teacher not included’ syndrome.

      I like the ‘open space’ idea from TDSIG. I also read a comment on the Yahoo Dogme group by a teacher who let anyone volunteer to lead a session on anything and people signed up to attend and talk. After all, this is/was the way they do the DELTA in many places where teachers sit and discuss.They tried this on the PGCE I did but as hardly anyone had experience of teaching it took a perspective from being a student or parent. Rather interesting though.

      Do you think the ‘outside expert’ days are done? It’s definitely cheaper without them.Other cost savings I’ve seen are sending 1 person to a conference who records everything and then reviews it to the school, not to mention sending people in their own time after work or at weekends. I worked in 1 place that even made teachers share their own books with the dept by putting them on the staff room shelf.

      There’s a lot to be said for reflection and working as a team but it’s also good to get outside ideas. Last year 1 sat through 4 meetings about how to use 3 pages form a Scott Thornbury degrammaring activity and still nobody to cope with this ‘outside thing’ that threatened to corrupt all the years of repetition. Started fine and positive with a lesson on basics of grammar and adding more language for politeness etc but 2 weeks later it was back to ‘fill in the gaps’.Real shame because it could have been so much better if people had persevered with the new idea and pursued it.There they had a “don’t mess with it if it works” approach but it didn’t work at all so really it was “don’t mess with it cos it’s what we always do”.

      1 other plus for having ‘open sessions just 4 teachers’ I think is that people are more equal.Personally, some senior teachers I’ve know have not always been that interested in helping, rather being senior and doing high brow sessions on what they like. Practical is the name of the game for me.By the end of the session I want to be bursting with ideas and feeling positive about going back to class not confused and feeling a bit stupid for not understanding a talk with lots of references I don’t know.

      Now this is too long too.Look forwardd to your own blog post on this topic and good luck talking to the staff.


      • Hi again Phil,

        I’ve also had those observations with feedback given for the sake of giving feedback (talk more/talk less; correct more/correct less; why didn’t you do a warmer?/why did you waste 5 minutes at the start on some pointless activity? etc). I think those stem from the desire to tick boxes on a feedback sheet and a desire to praise but also suggest improvements. That’s why the idea of peer-to-peer observation with no evaluation or formal documentation appeals to me: repsond to what comes up in the lesson rather than a pre-determined set of criteria and talk about it. Hmm, sounds like a teaching approach I keep hearing about… 😉

        I wouldn’t say the ‘outside expert’ has had his/her day. However, in the context of tackling classroom management issues that I described, I think something internal would work better. We had a series of 3 after-school seminars with an ‘outsider’ a few years ago on this very topic but all I heard afterwards was “nothing she said was applicable to our context” and “she’s only ever taught high school, we teach primary school”. A waste of time it was. Then, there was the guy who came to talk to use about engaging kids with interactive software and started by saying “I haven’t actually taught full-time for the last ten years!” with a big smile on his face (maybe expecting a laugh, I’m not sure) thus losing his audience immediately. If we all get together and pool our experience and resources, at the very least nobody can say “you don’t know what it’s like to teach ten year-olds!” or “times have changed since you quit teaching!”

  2. This is a timely blog Phil, as I have thinking about this recently. I think it would be virtually impossible to get this up and running at my school (Korean Hagwon).

    I was thinking of taking this out of my school environment and setting up a group in my local community of teachers just to come along, meet, chat about issues (as you said… just talk about their lessons, swap ideas, materials etc). I think it would be a small meeting as not many teachers around here see it as a career and not really bothered about TD.

    However, it would be great to meet other like minded teachers face to face and share. I feel I have developed more in the last six months simply by reading blogs, twitter posts and links, trying out Reflective Practice etc.

    Hmmm, I need to reflect more on this tonight.

    Good blog as always. I’m already anticipating future iTDi webinars. You might even give a presentation yourself at some point??? 🙂

    • Yes, it’s just a dream but similar to what happens in staff rooms. I also took part in a ‘discussions session’ back in 2003 that was great but never happened again.

      TESOL France organise ‘meets’ or ‘swap shops’ with the same idea of ‘come, talk, share’ and they’re open to all. I’m not sure where you are but having an official name above the sessions will surely entice more teachers and it would be great to meet people outside of EFL like ESOL folk.

      Presentation?Er.No, that’s not my field of expertise, in class my students talk and I sort of wander round asking questions and stirring up discussions. Now you on the other hand….

      Have a great Sunday mate and Merry Xmas.


  3. Hi Dave,

    Sounds familiar mate.Not to mention the cost of these experts.

    Some of the best talks I’ve ever organised were for students. 1 was a voluntary organisation, another a Business school. What made them great was that they spoke very little and spend ages answering questions.

    I hold my hand up and admit that I’ve attended very few EFL conferences in person because the ones I did attend, or rather was sent to, were always miles away from what I was teaching. What I did learn from were Business conferences as their public speaking and presentation skills were amazing and the topics gave me great ideas for BE classes.

    So, ‘pooling resources’ may outplay ‘external experts’ on the sheer basis that it’s relevant. This is also my grievance with some management people attending teacher sessions as they may not have taught for ages or actually never really been into teaching, just seeing it as a stepping stone to management. It’s also intimidating.

    There’s also the ‘we’re going to do a speaking class now’ problem in that when you say people have to do something, they don’t. Perhaps just an extended form of staffroom chat or a Friday afternoon tea session may reap rewards.


    I used to do them I hated it, really!

    I never knew what to say afterwards, I filled in the form but as long as the students were happy I didn’t see the point unless the teacher requested it. You can also (consciously or un) put on a show just to pass the obs.

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