Have you ever asked a teacher trainer exactly how they became a trainer? What answer did you get? I’m sure it was rather long, full of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. At least mine was, when the charming pair at the TEFL Training Institute interviewed me as part of their podcast on the same topic. That chat inspired me to plan what I’d do if I started all over again…
This year’s IATEFL was superb – lots of polished presentations and an excellent venue made for copious amounts of brain food and ideas to mull over.
It was heartening to see that several presentations drew on ideas and research from outside the world of ELT. I often feel that as an industry, we’re quite resistant to studies and research from the wider arenas of psychology, sociology and linguistics.
Learning how to use phonology seems to be a low priority for many teachers… but teaching spoken language without it is like trying to drive with the handbrake on… lots of wasted energy and getting anywhere takes ages.
Teaching using phonology effectively is a challenge… here are some thoughts on how to integrate it in your classes (with some great resources at the end).
Fact: students who have a growth mindset outperform students who don’t. Another fact: you can help develop a growth mindset for students (and develop one yourself while you’re at it).
Growth mindset and fixed mindset are terms for how we perceive and deal with failure. If you have a growth mindset, you believe that you’re able to learn and improve your skills and knowledge; if you have a fixed mindset, you believe the opposite.
This picture sums it up quite nicely:
Although there are two terms, they should be thought of as being on a continuum, with some people being fixed mindset about some aspects of life and study, and have a growth mindset about others, and in varying degrees.
The idea of these two mindsets first came about 30 years ago with Carol Dweck, a researcher who wrote the book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. She found that students with a growth mindset had higher levels of motivation, and continued to work hard when they failed at a task.
Obviously a growth mindset is a powerful tool to give to our students, trainees and staff, as well as develop in ourselves. Imagine the difference you could make, not just in your students’ academic performance, but in their lives if you can get them to adopt a growth mindset way of thinking!
How to Develop and Foster a Growth Mindset
Note: this applies equally to teachers, trainers and managers. When I say ‘learner’ below, you can think of your students, your trainees or your staff, as appropriate.
Identify which of your learners have a growth mindset and which have fixed mindset for the skill you’re helping them to learn.
There are a number of ways you can help your learners move away from a fixed mindset and towards a growth mindset, in order of difficulty
Praise the Process, Not the Outcome
Studies by Dweck found that by praising the process (i.e. “You’ve worked very hard on this”) developed a growth mindset, compared to praising the outcome (i.e. “You’re very smart”). Basically, if you praise an aspect that the learner is clearly able to control, they feel they have more autonomy, and hence resilience.
Hey, you could even use catchphrases to remind them (‘It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part… it’s the effort not the victory…it’s the process, not the outcome’). Use with discretion though – these are more likely to work with younger learners than cynical older TEFL teachers
Teach Learners about Mindsets
Actively make learners aware of the growth and fixed mindset paradigm – show them studies of what a mindset shift can accomplish, of how it will impact them and their future. Go all ‘motivational-speaker-Tony-Robbins’ on them and get them fired up to improve their study, and their lives. Being transparent about what you’re doing will get you respect.
This has the potential to change your students’ lives. Not just their language learning journey, or even their wider academic study, but how they view and interact with the whole world. You’ve got a powerful tool, use it wisely.
To read more about mindsets, you can get a copy of Carol Dweck’s book here (full disclosure – if you buy after clicking this link, I’ll receive a tiny commission. It’ll be the same price for you, but it’ll help keep the lights on here at Barefoot TEFL Teacher HQ).
How much time do you spend updating your knowledge? How many of your TEFL teaching beliefs are now outdated?
New research is released daily, about language acquisition, linguistics, neuromyths that just won’t die. … how sure are you that what you know is really up to date?
One of the most important skills we need as teachers is the ability to critically reflect in the face of new evidence – and to actually keep up with new ideas.
The Speed of Knowledge
There are some bodies of knowledge that are fixed, where very few (if any) changes occur. Chess, for example, or music – the theory of each of these updates relatively slowly, as their fundamentals stay the same.
There are also fields of study that change almost daily – computing would be a good example.
Language learning and teaching are somewhere in the middle. I would argue that the speed at which this new knowledge is generated is getting faster, along with just about every other field of study.
So what can you do about it?
Learn – Unlearn – Re-learn
That’s the new paradigm. The ability to unlearn what you already have learned, and then re-learn from new evidence and data.
If you don’t, though, you’ll fall increasingly out of touch. New teachers will enter the profession, with new methodologies and new TEFL teaching beliefs. You’ll be a fossil in 10 years.
So why don’t we all just stay up to date all the time? What’s stopping us? Three things:
Let’s take a look at each of these.
This one is obvious. We’re all busy people, with more to do than we can ever get done. I recommend the productivity system ‘Getting Things Done’, (buy the book here), but you’re still going to be busy. The answer is simply to schedule time for professional development, and stick to your schedule. It’s as easy and as difficult as that.
I’m going to give you a pass on this one as you’re reading this blog, which is all about professional development. Clearly, you’re already motivated, and a fantastic human being. 🙂
This one is a killer. Ego gets in the way after you spend long enough studying or working in a field to be labelled an ‘expert’. Suddenly you have a reputation to defend, and a vested interest in being right. Your ego doesn’t allow you to have a free and frank discussion of new ideas anymore – there’s too much at stake.
Suddenly you’re that annoying person that no-one likes to talk to about interesting new ideas because you’re a know-it-all.
So never stop asking questions, stay humble, and remember it’s OK to make mistakes.
Your Re-Learning Challenge!
So your new challenge is this – update your knowledge in one area, this week. To do:
- Think of a topic that you’re interested in, but haven’t read about in a while.
- Make a cup of tea.
- Do some research (start by browsing Google Scholar) and see what the most recent research is.
- Do some reading, follow some links, get lost down the internet rabbit hole.
- Take notes, tell a friend or colleague, and spread the word.
- Give yourself a pat on the back for being incredible.
- Have another cup of tea.
Which area of knowledge are you going to update? Let me know in the comments below!