Micro-teaching in english education

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

Author: Melnikova Tatyana, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

The art of teaching does not merely involve a simple transfer of knowledge from one to other. It is a long process that manages and has an impact on the learning process. How much students understand and know from the teacher shows the quality of the teacher.

The aim of this article is to highlight the need for using micro-teaching more frequently and more effectively. A literature search of articles and books on micro-teaching was undertaken from different databases.

‘The experience of observing can be as useful as the experience of being observed, i.e. professional development for the two individuals involved’ [1].

Micro-teaching is a teacher training technique first developed by Dwight W. Allen and his colleagues at Stanford University [1]. In micro-teaching, attention is focused on specific teaching skills, which are practiced for short periods with a small group of students. The number of students is usually from four to seven, and the period of time for the activity is no more than twenty minutes, it may take five at least. Immediate feedback on the micro-lesson is initially provided by means of videotape recordings, but audiotapes, supervisors’ comments, pupils’ criticisms or some combinations of these have also been used. On the basis of the feedback provided, the teacher analyzes and restructures the lesson in order to teach it to a second group of pupils. Again this is followed by feedback which is analyzed and evaluated for improvement. By employing this ‘teach-reteach’ cycle, it is possible to give the student teacher the opportunity to put into practice at once what he has learned from the feedback on the first attempt.

Micro-teaching is a good way to learn strength and weaknesses in teaching. Both the observer and observe can benefit from this kind of experience. Generally, the main focus is not on the students and their work, but on the student teacher who conducts the learning process.

The rationale for this approach to teacher training is that teaching is a complex and demanding activity, involving techniques of organization, control, and command of teaching skills well beyond the intending teacher at the beginning of his course. Microteaching attempts to reduce the situation to manageable proportions. The use of a videotape recorder allows both a visual and sound recording of the teaching sessions, thus, providing an objective reference for subsequent supervisory conferences and the use of evaluation instruments designed to assist in the analysis of the teaching behavior recorded [2].

One of the major recent developments in micro-teaching is the concept of technical skills of teaching. Technical skills are behaviors of teachers which when utilized appropriately would lead to the accomplishment of what are called "performance criteria."[3] For example, in English a major performance criterion might be that the student teacher can lead a discussion of a poem in a way that actively involves his students. To accomplish that performance criterion, the teacher would have to be able to question skillfully. One aspect of questioning is the technical skill called "probing”, which can be described as the type of questioning procedures a teacher would use to draw his students beyond their original answers to his question. For example, a student teacher can learn to ask his students 'Why?" "Can you give an example?" "Can you define that?" in such a way, that he draws students beyond their first responses to a question. Other technical skills involved in leading an engaging discussion might be "reinforcement," the ability to reward students in such a way that they are encouraged to contribute more to a discussion. Something that has been given the awful label of "varying the stimulus" is a technical skill which means simply that the student teacher learns not to stand in one place, speak in the same monotone, and use the same gestures over and over again. The technical skill of "using examples" is thought to be particularly important for an English teacher, who is often involved in discussing abstract concepts which must be brought down to a concrete level if the students are to become intelligently involved in the discussion.

Operational definitions of specific teaching skills are essential to microteaching. These teaching skills are derived from an analysis of the teaching process into specific techniques. The technical-skills approach was initially developed at Stanford [2]. These technical skills (e.g. ‘using higher-order questions’) are not linked with specific subject matter. As McDonald puts it, “Each skill has an observable and easily countable teacher response linked (with some exceptions) to a specified and also easily countable student behavior. These response pairs are thus defined functionally and independently of the substantive character of verbal utterances on the topic of inter-change between student and teacher”.

One of the major problems of teacher training is to provide the trainee with useful feedback on the adequacy of his teaching performance. Micro-teaching is the method for a supervisor, a teacher, an observer to attend a classroom lesson given by a student teacher, and subsequently to discuss it with the student teacher. Inevitably the discussion takes place after the lesson is over and the student may find it difficult to see in the supervisor’s remarks an accurate picture of how he has behaved.[1] While he is teaching, the trainee is usually so involved that it is difficult for him to stand back and consider his teaching behavior objectively.

Analyzing teaching into specific skills reduces the complexities of teaching and gives direct practical guidance to the teacher about his/her behavior desired. It also provides reliable criteria by which mastery of the skills can be assessed, and makes possible research which investigates the relationships between teaching skills and students’ behavior, as shown by Perrott in their study of teachers’ higher order questions and pupils’ higher-order responses.

The main focus of microteaching sessions is on approaches to teaching, not the content. Each 15-minutes lesson has a different thematic focus to give a teacher opportunity to practice various teaching methods.

Microteaching is about more than content delivery. The goal is to teach audience members about the topic and encourage their participation so to be able to see what they have learned. When preparing a lesson, it is important to consider ways to engage the audience in the lesson and select teaching methods appropriate for the topic and audience [4]. It is possible to start the lesson by asking questions to find out what the audience already knows about the topic (this is known as prior learning assessment). To make the lesson interactive, it is considerable to use demos, questions, quizzes, games, videos, think-pair-share, brainstorming and other techniques to help the audience engage with the material and practice new knowledge.

One research suggests guidelines for presenters

1. The presenter must be prepared to teach for five to ten minutes; requiring short presentations allows better evaluation of teacher’s techniques used when teaching.

2. The student teacher must be mentally ready to teach on the certain day. It is necessary to agree upon this question beforehand when it is decided to check and evaluate the teacher’s skills. The teacher trainer gives the student teacher advance warning that they will teach in front of the group of people, not necessarily be students. This is fair and necessary, as it reduces the amount of stress and prepares teachers mentally for observation.

3. The presenter must use English to teach. The purpose of using only English is to improve the presenter’s English proficiency and teacher talk, which is the ability to give clear and correct instructions and explanations in the classroom.

If seeing micro-teaching from the teacher observer’s side there should be made some recommendations for them as well:

1. The teacher trainer may give thematic suggestions for the lesson. Some sample themes include: types of classroom interactions, cooperative learning, productive questioning strategies, appropriate listening tasks, successful reading strategies, the use of writing prompts, techniques to teach vocabulary.

2. The teacher trainer also gives students an evaluation checklist for each class. The evaluation checklist should reflect the theme of the course. For example, if the theme is “types of classroom interactions,” the evaluation check-list might include the following items:

How many different students were called upon?

Was the lesson appropriate for the tar-get student profile?

Did every student speak in complete sentences? Why or why not?

How many times did students speak with each other?

How many times did students ask the teacher a question?

Before the student teacher starts microteaching, the teacher trainer reviews the evaluation check list to make sure each item is understood.

3. After a student teacher has presented a microteaching lesson, the teacher trainer gives as many students as possible a chance to provide feedback. After they have given feedback, the teacher trainer supplies additional feedback that the students may have missed.

4. The teacher trainer corrects any teacher talk errors. Many believe that this feedback is more important than feedback on errors of technique or approach. Since some may make a lot more errors than others, the teacher trainer must use time wisely by selecting the errors students may not know how to correct [5].

Lesson planning: having clear cut objectives, and an appropriate planned sequence.

Set induction: the process of gaining pupil attention at the beginning of the class.

Presentation: explaining, narrating, giving appropriate illustrations and examples, planned repetition where necessary.

Stimulus variation: avoidance of boredom amongst students by gestures, movements, focusing, silence, changing sensory channels etc.

Proper use of audio: visual aids.

Reinforcement: recognizing pupil difficulties, listening, encouraging pupil participation and response.

Questioning: fluency in asking questions, passing questions and adapting questions.

Silence and nonverbal cues (body language).

Closure: method of concluding a teaching session so as to bring out the relevance of what has been learnt, its connection with past learning and its application to future learning.

Microteaching is an important education component that gives chances of teaching practice to pre-service teachers [1]. Therefore, microteaching presents advantages like self-confidence, seeing and fulfilling the shortcomings, learning different methods and techniques [6]. So, the place of microteaching in education is important. This is a result indicated by different researches [2].

According to the results of the survey micro-teaching has proved to be an efficient and effective technique in teacher training programmes.

The teacher trainee is made aware of the various skills of which teaching is composed. Selected skills are chosen and discussed in a briefing session. Microteaching simulates the classroom scene and gives the teacher trainee an experience of real teaching. Feedback enables the teacher trainee to consciously eradicate or give up irritating habits and mannerisms. The teacher trainee can focus his/her attention on clearly defined aspects of his/her behavior. Patterns of classroom interaction and communication between the teacher and the students san be objectively and easily studied. Microteaching focuses attention on the modification of teacher behavior and improvement of interaction process involved in the teaching learning process.

The major premise underlying the concept of micro-teaching is that the complex teaching act can be split into component skills – each simple, well-defined and limited. These skills can be identified, practiced, evaluated, controlled and acquired through training.

A large number of skills have been identified. The first effort made by Allen and Ryan resulted in identifying fourteen skills. These skills have been chosen as they foster teacher-pupil interaction, particularly as they belong to the four areas of motivation, presentation, recapitulation and questioning. These are the skills of:

- Set introduction;

- Explaining;

- Stimulus variation;

- Reinforcement;

- Questioning;

- Blackboard writing;

- Demonstration;

- Closure.

It is of utmost importance in micro-teaching to give feedback. Feedback ensures that we move forward efficiently and enhance our knowledge, skills, abilities and relationship with others. The best feedback is always specific, detailed, timely, and respectful.

It is required to give and receive feedback that will provide tools for improvement rather than providing general comments. It should be noted that there must be focus on a few specific items.

It is common to start with a positive comment. Pointing out strengths is an admirable skill that is very important to building each other’s confidence.

The comment made should be positive and non-judgmental. It is required to replace YOU with I, and focus on the design and delivery of the lesson rather than on the personal attributes of the presenter.

Effective feedback is immediate and frequent. It is specifically tied to the event being evaluated and given often.

Listening closely to the feedback given to you during the session is really important. It is often easy to be consumed by suggestions for improvement (constructive criticism). It is just as important to focus on strengths as it is to enhance your areas for improvement.

The very strengths of micro-teaching which I have discussed lead me to question whether micro-teaching as I have described it is appropriate for a program of English education. Micro-teaching is an outgrowth of behaviorist psychology. It reflects a behaviorist view of the world. Micro-teaching trains’ teachers to perform in ways those who are running the program think are good. Like a programed teaching machine, the goals of micro-teaching have been set by those who administer the program; the goals are then analyzed in terms of their component parts, and a pattern is devised that will lead the teacher trainee to perform in the desired way, or at least at some minimal criteria level. The main technique of supervision in the micro-teaching process is to selectively reward or reinforce behaviors which approximate the skills we are trying to teach and to criticize those behaviors which do not lead the trainee to behave in the way we think he should.

In educating teachers of English there could not be a presumption to come up with a list of skills which it would be necessary for all of our prospective teachers to perform. Even if we thought we knew of some skills that might be useful, we would object to training our students to perform them; instead, we would present them for their critical examination and let them decide whether they are appropriate for the kinds of teachers that they want to be. Education as opposed to training presumes an interest in presenting and sharing with students experiences which will lead to self-insight and insight into the relationship between the type of human beings they are and the type of teachers they will be. In a process of education we would be interested in presenting them with experiences which encourage them to develop confidence in what they are and what they want to be, not in experiences in which the focus is on being trained to be what others want them to be. Basic to education is a faith in the nature of our interns because we assume that they want to be the best they can be. Training, on the other hand, seems to me to say, We will shape you to be what we want you to be; we don't have much confidence in you. Training looks to standardization rather than diversity, constraints and requirements rather than options and freedom. The main concern I hope my questions have raised is whether we are using and will use micro-teaching to mould and shape our future teachers or whether we can devise ways of using it which would be more consistent with the aims of an educational experience.

 

REFERENCES

1. Allen, Dwight, and Ryan, Kevin. 1969. Microteaching. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

2. Allen, Dwight, and Wang, Weiping. 1996. Microteaching. Beijing, China: Xinhua Press.

3. Allen, Mary E., and Belzer, John A. 1997. "The Use of Microteaching to Facilitate Teaching Skills of Practitioners Who Work with Older Adults." Gerontology and Geriatrics Education 18 (2):77.

4. Borg, Walter R.; Kelley, Marjorie L.; Langer, Philip; and Gall, Meredith D. 1970. The Mini Course: A Microteaching Approach to Teacher Education. Beverly Hills, CA: Macmillan.

5. Brent, Rebecca; Wheatley, Elizabeth; and Thomson, W. Scott. 1996. "Videotaped Microteaching: Bridging the Gap from the University to the Classroom." The Teacher Educator 31 (3):238.

6. Brown, George A. 1975. Microteaching: A Program of Teaching Skills. London: Methuen.

7. Gregory, Thomas B. 1972. Encounters with Teaching: A Microteaching Manual. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

8. McGarvey, Brian, and Swallow, Derek. 1986. Microteaching in Teacher Education and Training. Dover, NH: Croom Helm.

9. McIntyre, Donald; Macleod, Gordon; and Griffiths, Roy. 1977. Investigations of Microteaching. London: Croom Helm.

10. Turney, Cliff; Cairns L.; Williams, G.; and Hatton, N. 1975. Sydney Micro Skills. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

11. Turney, Cliff; Clift, John C.; Dunkin, Michael J.; and Traill, Ronald D. 1973. Microteaching: Research, Theory and Practice. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

12. Vare, Jonathan W. 1994. "Partnership Contrasts: Microteaching Activity as Two Apprenticeships in Thinking." Journal of Teacher Education 45 (3): 209.



Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

  
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