Friday, January 13, 2012

The power of asking

I just read a fantastic post by Anthony Gaughan On Why The (Unplugged) Revolution Will Not Be Televised from his blog Teacher Training Unplugged (I really hope that I referenced all that correctly - I am quite new to this blogging thing and am still figuring out the etiquette).

It addressed a problem that I myself have been struggling with using this 'approach'. And that is, that although I initially embraced it as the answer to all my problems and something that would surpass everything that I had learnt in my TEFL course, after the initial excitement faded I realised that it was quite hard to implement in the business English classroom. My students are often tired, they are busy and distracted, and don't always feel like engaging in discussion. It is so easy to fall back on the materials... But as Anthony so correctly says, teaching unplugged is not a method, rather an attitude. We have a toolbox of different methods and approaches we can reach into, but the underlying attitude influences all of them. 

For me, teaching unplugged has effected one area of my teaching in particular - illicitation. I ask. I am not a teacher who is there to tell, rather to ask. If something is not correct I highlight it and ask. I am constantly asking myself questions too. This process of asking has lead to more flexibility in my classrooms (which were never particularly rigid to be fair),and increased student motivation 100%. It can take some time to 'train' my new students that I am not going to tell them the answer, but on the whole they catch on fairly quickly (uncomfortable silences have become my friend!). 

In my role as AD it is the one thing that the majority of our demonstration classes fail on. This year I am going to give these teachers a chance, because maybe (as was my case) they simply don't know how to ask. They haven't been taught this, they were never asked in class. I believe it is a culture that shouldn't be difficult to implement in a school such as ours, if the teachers are really as focussed on their learners as they tell me they are.

I agree with Mr Gaughan. Dogme is an attitude. It is an attitude of asking, of reflecting, of flexibility. And it is an attitude of respecting my students as intelligent adults, which is the reality of my classroom.


  1. Hi Karen, I am sure your background in neurodevelopment will also influence your teaching. You've got a head start! Great to meet you online.

  2. Hi David,
    Thanks for stopping by. I think that my background in neurodevelopment, and more broadly as a scientist has certainly influenced my teaching. I love to experiment in my classes and all my students have become my guinea pigs!! Teaching is investigation, just like science, and documenting and sharing our research (through forums like blogging) is just as important as carrying it out.
    Lovely to meet you online too.