A Reflection on a Teaching Practice: A Study on a Session of Teaching Practicum
State Institute of Islamic Studies Nurjati at Cirebon, West Java—Indonesia
A reflection on a teacher’s teaching can help the teacher see whether or not her/his teaching is good. On the other hand, the teacher can also learn many things, including the appropriateness of techniques in the teaching. Assisted by observers, the teacher can collect data on her/his teaching. This paper presents a report on a teaching practicum session where a (trainee) teacher was observed by 26 observers (a supervisor and twenty five peers). The topics of the discussion are lesson plan, trainee’s mastery of the lesson, trainee’s teaching techniques/performance, trainee’s classroom management, trainee’s use of English, and overall teaching score. As a reflection, the trainee teacher can get many lessons from his teaching.
Key words: reflection, teaching practice, peer teaching
Teaching is a great job which makes many people love and enjoy having the job. In teaching, the enjoyment can be in form of meeting students in the class, or in form of satisfaction when teachers see their students’ successfulness in comprehending and mastering the lesson learned. Perhaps there are many other different reasons for teachers concerning why they love their job.
Teaching involves many things such as teachers’ knowledge on the subject, teachers’ knowledge on the teaching skill, and teachers’ knowledge on technology to support their teaching. If teachers want to have qualified teaching and learning activities, Meiers (2007: 409) reminds that “the quality of teaching is intrinsically linked to teachers’ content knowledge, their knowledge of how students learn that content, and the effectiveness of classroom teaching practices.” In in-service teaching program, a practicum is important as Pungur (2007: 279) states that “the practicum is a key component of teacher education.”
In the in-service teaching program, teachers of English should do peer-teaching, a different form of teaching practicum. This happened in a class of graduate students of State University of Malang taking Magister (equivalent with Master of Arts in Education) degree. It was designed to prepare students teach and also learn from others’ teaching. In an ordinary teaching practicum, the participants will be asked to teach in the real classes with a full time allotment for several sessions. However, by having peer-teaching, it was expected that a participant can learn how to teach by means of his own knowledge and experiences and from their peers’ performances.
A study by Farrell (2008) on English language teaching (ELT) practicum shows that “during the practicum, learner English language teachers need lots of support and cooperating teachers are seen as the main source of this support because they are one of the most influential people in a learner teacher’s time during teaching practice.” Regarding this, experienced teachers can give supports to their colleagues. Sharing experiences can become rich sources for teachers to enrich their knowledge and improve their expertise.
Teaching practicum or teaching practice is important as this is the first experience for teachers to be in applying what they know about the learning materials (lessons) and the methodology of teaching. As Farrell (2008: 226) puts it, “the English language teaching (ELT) practicum has come to be recognized as one of the most important aspects of a learner teacher’s education during their language teacher training program.” Usually, in language teacher training, the first teaching practicum starts with peer teaching.
Learning from peers can also add teaching techniques of the participants. By looking at their peers’ teaching performance, they can have varied techniques in teaching and do not the same techniques or methods again and again. Avoidance on using the same teaching technique is essential. Podhorsky & Fisher (2007: 445) identify that “teachers continue to implement methods they have utilized since the start of their teaching career.” Teaching using the same method will result to the boredom of the students and the teacher. Students will get bored learning different materials in the same way, and a teacher will get fed up applying the same procedure in his/her teaching. So, it seems that peer teaching that is conducted by a group of teachers can be useful for the teachers themselves.
This report is qualitative in term of that it is not based on numbers or test scores as the basis of analysis. It is qualitative because it tries to picture the quality of teaching and learning based on qualitative data, which is in form of written comments from the observers.
The principles of this study are in line with introspective methods. Reflection as the conscious condition where people try to be neutral seeing what they have done before is a part introspection. Nunan (1992: 115) defines introspection as “the process of observing and reflecting on one’s thoughts, feelings, motives, reasoning process, and mental states with a view to determine our behaviour.” In this research, observation was used to collect data, and reflection was on the observed teacher’s thoughts, feelings, motives, and reasons why he did certain activities when he taught in the class.
The peer-teaching was conducted in about a 30 minute session; compressing the teaching material from a 90-100 minute real teaching. A lesson plan should be designed carefully so it could picture what would actually happen in a full time teaching session. Still, it was rather difficult to teach using a compressed teaching material and plan.
After doing peer-teaching, each participant was asked to reflect their experiences and report the lesson they get from her/his performances. This kind of reflection is a significant activity to look back and learn something(s) from the past activities. Reflection on teaching as a part of professional development is an important thing to do by teachers as they can learn many things from the actual situation (Preiss, 2009). This report is a reflection of the teaching conducted by the writer.
There are 6 topics on the evaluation sheet which should be commented; lesson plan, trainee’s mastery of the lesson, trainee’s teaching techniques / performance, trainee’s classroom management, trainee’s use of English, and overall score. In the next part, the comments on those points will be discussed. The discussion will be in form of qualitative descriptions. Original comments are presented without grammar, capitalization, and punctuation corrections. This is to keep the comments’ originality.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
The subject in this peer-teaching was Speaking 1. The topic was Asking and Showing Direction. It was conducted on 7 July 2009 at 13:30. For the detailed planning of the lesson, see Appendix 2 for the lesson plan.
Planning is a key for a successful attempt. As a teacher attempts to make her/his students learning, so s/he needs to plan everything, mainly the lesson. A good plan should have the goal as the target. Moreover, same aspects should be prepared before someone does something.
In planning a lesson, there are some aspects or elements that should be prepared. In writing a lesson plan, everything should be written in detail, especially for beginner teachers, so that if they forget, they can just simply look at the plan. Brown (2001: 149-151) provide six elements in planning a lesson, they are; goal(s), objectives (terminal objectives and enabling objectives), materials and equipment, procedures, evaluation, and extra-class work. Based on Brown’s lesson plan, the lesson plan used in the teaching practice consists of the six elements suggested by Brown. For detail, see Appendix 2.
There are not many comments on the lesson plan; in fact, only 7 observers give comments on the lesson plan. From 7 observers giving comments, 4 say the plan is good, 2 say the plan is very good, and 1 says the plan is complete enough. The only constructive comment comes from the supervisor, telling that the plan was good, “but the map on the board is not so clear.” From this comment, the lesson plan should be revised by preparing another media; possibly in form of a poster or an image displayed using power point ®. Hopefully, a better map will help.
Regarding the suggestion above, the lesson plan should be improved. Teaching media is the main focus since the clarity of the media may determine students’ comprehension on the material being taught.
The improved lesson plan has some minor corrections in the procedure, performance step 3. In point 4.b, the fifteen buildings are reduced into ten buildings and eight street-names into five street-names, as suggested by supervisor to make the allotted used more effectively. On the additional information of an activity point 4, the students are asked to make as complicated as possible. This is because the teacher wants to add a challenge matter for students. If the lesson just provides something easy, the students will get bored. Another correction is in the map for rehearsal stage. The map will need a direction mark to the North. A note on part II, point b.vi of enabling objectives is not understood, so the revision is not necessarily done.
Another thing to consider is the students learning style. The comment from the supervisor reflects the real situation when a teacher should consider the students’ types of learning. The most popular discrimination on learning styles is on three types; auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. However, to embrace all learning styles is not an easy task. What a teacher should try to do is balancing the tasks for every student, so they will get tasks that suit to their special learning type.
Comments on Trainee’s Mastery of the Lesson
A teacher’s mastery of a lesson is crucial, that it will decide the successfulness of the teaching and learning process. In this teaching practicum, the trainee delivered a lesson on speaking. The topic of the lesson was asking and showing direction.
Most observers thinks that the trainee’s mastery of the lesson is good (11 observers / 42%), very good (3 observers / 10%), or excellent (1 observer / 2%). The rests give varied comment, e.g. He masters the lesson and interacts with Ss well (Peer 13), He masters the lesson plan well (Peer 23). Two peers (Peer 3 & 25) think that the trainee should provide more interesting media. Unfortunately, they did not give any suggestions about what media will suit to the students’ need. Nevertheless, this will be a consideration to find a better media. Two observers (Peer 16 & 20) gave no comment about this element of observation. For detail, see Appendix 1 column 4.
Since the lesson is a very basic skill in communication, surely this lesson was not a difficult one for the observed trainee teacher. The point that many observers agree that the teacher’s mastery of the lesson is very good seems to come to a conclusion that a teacher’s mastery on the lesson is very important. It can help students feeling that they are in the right hands—they learn from the master.
Comments on Trainee’s Teaching Techniques / Performance
Most observers believe that the trainee’s teaching technique/performance is good (14 observers / 54%). 2 observers (6%) think that the technique/performance is very good. Interesting is another word used in identifying the trainee’s technique/performance as 6 observers (22%) use this word (1 use attractive). See Appendix 1 column 5 for detail.
Some suggestions and good things to maintain are also present in this table. Suggestions in this comment are:
1) the second activity is a memory quiz, which could be difficult but not very meaningful (Supervisor),
2) it will be better if the trainee give modeling by using power point (Peer 2),
3) he should give clear Instruction (Peer 2 & 14),
4) decrease the use of Bahasa Indonesia in explaining the material (Peer4),
5) to use media such as video could improve to a reality comprehension in relation to a reality (Peer 12), and
6) …needs to give drill for students to speak (Peer 25).
Besides critics delivered in form of suggestions, appraisals are also present. The good things to keep are:
1) applying the information gap activity (Peer 6),
2) being patient to serve students’ questions and comments (Peer 11),
3) being relax and smiling (Peer 15),
4) being funny and entertaining (Peer 22)
Responding to the suggestions, I agree that memory game (suggestion 1) is a bit difficult and probably not meaningful. However, from my experience, such memory games create a challenge, something which is very important to keep students’ interests in learning.
I also agree with Peer 25 (suggestion 6) that drill is an important element in speaking practice. It was not done because of the limitation of the time. In the real time, drilling will be performed to make students familiar and aware of sentence constructions used in the class.
Regarding trainee’s use of Bahasa Indonesia in explaining the material, Peer 4 suggests to reduce it (suggestion 4). However, a teacher cannot force his/her students to understand a full English speaking lectures or explanations. Again, from my experience, first year students, even from English department in low level college, will have difficulties in following a full English speaking class. What I did was code switching. I have to make sure I speak English (as input for learners) as well as make sure that everybody, mainly low-level ability students, comprehends the explanations. Nothing wrong with this, I guess.
Suggestion 3 (Peer 2 & 14) is a very constructive suggestion. This is a valuable input for trainee, as later on, he should make sure that the instruction is clear and the way delivering it is also understandable and unambiguous. Suggestion 2 & 5 (Peer 2 & 12) are related to the use of media. In this way, trainee should make use of other interesting media in teaching such as power point ® presentation or video.
Comments on Trainee’s Classroom Management
The way trainee organizes and manages the class is discussed here, based on comments observers’ comments (see Appendix 1 column 6), 62% (16 observers) indicates that the trainee’s classroom management is good. An observer regards the classroom management is very good and a comment on the use of the white board saying that good use of white board also comes up.
Some observers consider the lesson was too loose in discipline (Peer 6, 19, 20) and the teacher did not ask silent students to participate during the lesson. The comments suggest that silent students should be directly asked to contribute actively during the activities. Responding to this, I think that this is not fully correct, especially when a teacher should consider students’ mental. A teacher should not force his/her students to speak until the students are ready. As a matter of fact, the first year students are normally silent and/or shy. This is also the place to consider silent period for learners. Forcing students to get involved in the activity can be harmful for their motivation. Nation & Newton state that by listening first, students will have enough intakes to use in the speaking stage;
“… listening is the way of learning the language. It gives the learner information from which to build up the knowledge necessary for using the language. When this knowledge is built up, the learner can begin to speak. The listening-only period is a time of observation and learning which provides the basis for the other language skills.” (Nation & Newton, 2009: 38)
However, in the following meeting, when such students are ready, the will be asked to participate actively in the learning activities in the classroom. This could happen when they are ready to speak.
Replying to comment from Peer 6 about making sure everybody speak, I think grouping is the best way to provide students enough time to speak. A teacher cannot give his whole time to let his/her students one by one speaking. It will waste the time. By working in groups, students can get enough time to speak and also get lessons or input from their friends. Dawes (2008: 2) suggests that the direct teaching of speaking and listening is by asking students to talk, to listen, to think, and to learn. In the rehearsal stage, students do these activities. By interacting with their group members, students will have many idea and input about what they are going to say in the performance stage. Haynes (2007: 32) states that students need a forum to share their ideas.
A good thing from class management is that by group work, trainee gave opportunity for students to be involved in the activities (Peer 4, 8, 10, 24). Giving responses to students’ questions (and comments) and involving student participation are other good things during the practicum.
Comments on Trainee’s Use of English
About trainee’s use of English, three observers consider it excellent (Peer 2, 12, 17) while two observers consider too fast (Supervisor and Peer 7). Regarding too fast speaking, it is a good lesson that a teacher should increase the speed of their speaking step by step so that the students will be able to adapt to the teacher’s speech speed.
However, most observers consider the use of English in the instruction is good (7 observers / 26%). The rest will say that it is very good, great, appropriate, almost perfect, accurate, fluent, clear, and acceptable. About the use of Bahasa Indonesia, this has been explained in the previous part, responding to suggestion 4about comments on trainee’s teaching techniques / performance. The claim from Peer 4 that the trainee uses 65% Bahasa Indonesia is unacceptable since she does not provide an analysis of the trainee’s speech. Again, I think Peer 4 neglect code-switching as an important feature in a foreign language teaching classroom. For complete comments, see Appendix 1 column 7).
The overall score from each observer represents his/her final opinion on the teaching performed by the trainee after reviewing every comment they have made. From table 5, it is indicated that trainee’s ability in teaching is very good, or almost excellent. The result shows that many lessons can be taken from his teaching. However, some suggestion for the improvement of the teaching should also be noted to improve the teaching quality. 60% of observers (15 peers) give A- for overall score, 36% of peer (9 peers) give A, and 0.04% of peers (1 peer) gives B+. This percentage is based on 25 peers, as the supervisor does not give the score directly.
To conclude, the peer teaching gives many lessons in it. Lesson plan, trainee’s mastery of the lesson, trainee’s teaching techniques / performance, trainee’s classroom management, trainee’s use of English should be considered for the sake of quality of the teaching and learning activity.
The lesson plan should be clear and shows step-by-step guidance for teachers to perform the teaching. The goal and objectives of the lesson should be the focus of the teaching. Teacher’s mastery on the lesson is also important because when the teacher cannot provide a good model of the lesson, the students can hardly learn from her/him.
A memory quiz could be difficult but not very meaningful, but can be kept in the lesson since it can provide challenging atmosphere, especially for more smart students while less smart students can learn from the smarter. Clear instruction is also important, and Bahasa Indonesia can help in explaining the material. Cautions should be made so that a teacher does not translate all sentences s/he utters, rather to have code switching between Bahasa Indonesia and English.
Techniques in teaching speaking can be by using interesting media such as power point presentation and video could improve to a real comprehension in relation to a reality. Drilling is another important step in helping students to speak as students can become accustomed to the sentence constructions used during in the class. Applying the information gap activity, students can learn how to speak fluently.
About a teacher’s good values in teaching, there are some which will probably help student-teacher interactions. The good things are 1) being patient to serve students’ questions and comments, 2) being relax and smiling, and 3) being funny and entertaining. It seems that these are what students like from their teachers.
A good thing from class management is that by group work, trainee gives opportunity for students to be involved in the activities. Giving responses to students’ questions (and comments) and involving student participation are other good things during the teaching and learning process.
A teacher’s speaking skill is another important element in teaching speaking—in fact, in every teaching. A teacher should be able to explain the instructions clearly and the way delivering the instructions should also be understandable and unambiguous. The teacher’s speaking should also be appropriate, accurate, fluent, clear, and acceptable. Code-switching is another important feature in a foreign language teaching classroom. By doing code-switching, a teacher can make sure that s/he can as many input as possible for learners, in addition to make sure that everybody, mainly low-level ability students, comprehends the explanations.
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(Nashruddin, Wakhid. 2010. A Reflection on a Teaching Practice: A Study on a Session of Teaching Practicum. Paper presented Presented at 57th TEFLIN International Conference, Indonesia University of Education (UPI), Bandung, 1-3 November 2010)