IATEFL 2015 | Marisa Constantinides: Evernote for teacher observation and teacher development | Workshop summary

Posted: April 14, 2015 in Conferences
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Abstract: A tutor, colleague or supervisor with a notepad taking field notes during a lesson is a common sight on teacher development courses. In this talk, I want to show how the use of Evernote can make teacher observations more effective and create an impact that can last longer, leading teachers in training to further reflection and development. Twitter: @marisa_c; slides will are available on Marisa Constatinides’s slidebean. Video is the most reliable way to capture a lesson. There’s technology allowing to easily videotape the class, e.g. Swivel – the teacher is wearing a device, which allows the camera to follow them. But that’s very expensive. What are some cheap alternatives? A lot of observers take detailed notes of everything that happens, what the students and teachers are doing and saying – essentially, becoming a ‘human video’. Typical notes could have three parts: what happened / what you did well / what you didn’t do so well, advice, suggestions. _notes1 Trainees learn to read those notes, but Marisa isn’t convinced they are ideal. There’s a sense that they are judgemental.  Another problem is that if you don’t capture the lesson it’s easy for the trainer to remember an aspect of a lesson they’ve observed but confuse whose lesson that was. To illustrate, Marisa shared a story: at one point Mario Rinvolucri got his trainees to observe ducks to practice observing objectively and by the end of the day everyone had mixed up their ducks. Marisa Constantinides’s approach Technology stack Marisa uses a tablet with an external keyboard and Evernote. On Evernote, you can include photos, videos, notes and tables very easily. _notes2 This allows Marisa to use the power of images to convey her observations in an objective way and to get a very accurate record of the lesson. Your notes are synchronized with any device – you can get them in your phone, anywhere. Photos Marisa’s reply to the problem of being judgemental is to use the power of images. When you just look at pictures taken during the lesson, you get a good sense of what kind of lesson that was. So e.g. instead of writing ‘you spent the whole class with your back to the class‘, convey that by taking five pictures of that. You could also take pictures of students’ reactions (e.g. when they’re confused) – this is very telling for the teacher who might not have seen this reaction during the lesson. Videos Also, on a tablet you can take a quick video (esp. if you know what part of the lesson you’re looking out, if they are issues that arose from previous lessons) and it’s very easy to share them – done through an ‘attachment’ button. Marisa records the lesson in small chunks (a chunk for an activity). Having smaller chunks and not the whole video allows Marisa to choose what chunk to focus on. Then she might get the trainees to e.g. transcribe the chunk, see what patterns of interaction prevailed, or focus on particular aspects, e.g. ask them How many times did you ask a question when you knew the answer? How many times did students ask questions? Count the number of words in your instructions and rewrite/simplify them. Go through your talk and analyze: instructional (I), directional (D) or eliciting (E). Get trainees to analyze the number of Is, Ds and Es to identify their talk profile. Is there enough I..? Also: see the book on classroom discourse by Sinclair referred to at the end. _notes3 You can also videotape the feedback session with the trainee – both for herself and the trainee. This has been proved very useful (e.g. for report writing) – doesn’t allow you to forget things. Notes – ‘the story of the lesson’. _notes4 Things to discuss with the trainees:  Which bits of the lesson / instructions / … would you omit? What would you do differently? Where do you feel the lesson was thin and you could have added something to make it work better? References John McHardy Sinclair, Malcolm Coulthard Towards an Analysis of Discourse: The English used by teachers and pupils. London, OUP Marisa’s day started badly as slidebean, the service hosting her slides, was down! But the technological glitches didn’t make this session any less valuable, and we also got to see Marisa actually interact with this software. That was an incredibly informative session, packed full with great advice and I’m really really glad to have been there.  ___________ Click here for an overview of all my write-ups from IATEFL 2015.

  1. olyasergeeva says:

    Just came across an interesting article telling a teacher’s perspective on filming her own lessons: http://elt-connect.com/filmingalesson/

  2. Slides from this talk can be found here https://slidebean.com/p/rtCrPpeNEc/Evernote-for-Teacher-Observation–Development – thanks for this great summary dear Olya

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Marisa, thank you very much, I’ve updated the link to the slides in the post. We haven’t had any observations in our school since IATEFL, but really looking forward to trying your approach! Thank you!


  3. Reblogged this on DELTA Course Blog and commented:
    A great summary of a presentation I did at IATEFL in 2015 – using new tools for teacher observation which also lead to self-observation and reflection.

    Read on

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