I’d like to continue my conversation about implementing issues related to feedback into teacher training/education programs. In today’s post, I provide three ideas that writing teacher educators can use in their preparatory courses: 1) helping teachers develop their philosophies about feedback, 2) giving teachers tools for continuing professional development, and 3) implementing observations of experienced teachers’ feedback performance. These suggestions are based on an analysis of the literature on teacher feedback.
1. Helping Teachers Develop Their Philosophies About Feedback
In order to help beginning teachers recognize their own views and beliefs about feedback, teacher training programs should encourage them to develop their philosophies about response to student writing. At the beginning of the course, for example, teachers would be asked to reflect on their learning experience and identify factors that could have shaped their views on feedback. Indeed, some teachers may not even realize that they had formed teaching philosophies prior to entering their first classroom, and most of these philosophies are informed by “their own learning histories” (Uysal, 2007, p. 243). However, research indicates that teachers tend to rely largely on their personal learning experience when they provide feedback and may even dismiss the principles taught to them during the teacher preparation course (Borg, 2003; Feuerherm, 2012). Therefore, understanding their philosophies about feedback could help novice instructors balance the influence of their own learning experiences with the theoretical knowledge gained from preservice training, which may not always be in agreement with each other.
Throughout the training course, as teachers gain more knowledge, both theoretical and practical, and as they engage in small teaching assignments or practicum (if applicable), these philosophies will be revised. Thus, by describing their beliefs about feedback, teachers would learn not only to identify the enactment of these beliefs in their actual feedback performance, but also see how they may change over time.
2. Giving Teachers Tools for Continuing Professional Development
Developing a teaching philosophy about feedback is one of the many tools that teacher education courses can give novice instructors to prepare them for their ongoing development as professionals. In fact, the growth of teacher knowledge does not end with the end of the training. Therefore, teacher education programs need to equip novice instructors with the tools for developing their feedback practices in the future. These tools, according to Uysal (2007), will help beginning teachers “find connection between their past learning, teacher education experiences, and current practices as a way of professional development” (p. 244).
To help teachers improve their feedback practices, you can encourage them, for example, to conduct action research (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988). They should also be encouraged to keep up with the current trends in the field. Language teaching methods and approaches are constantly developing, especially in such a dynamic field as second language writing. Therefore, teachers cannot master the subject fully without being in the same flow with it. To achieve this goal, novice instructors should be encouraged to participate in professional conferences, both as attendees and as presenters; read professional journals and perhaps even publish their own material; and be actively involved in the professional community of teachers.
3. Implementing Observations of Experienced Teachers’ Feedback Performance
Novice teachers can gain knowledge about feedback practices not only from relevant literature, but also from observing “real-world” experienced instructors. For example, preparatory courses could provide trainees with the opportunity to observe how other instructors implement peer-review activities in class or conduct writing conferences. By observing more experienced instructors, beginning teachers will learn “how teachers are supposed to talk to students,” “how to diagnose student learning,” “how to respond to student needs,” “how to engage and support students,” and “how to extent student thinking and writing” (Kennedy, 1998, p. 14). Surely these rather general statements can also be related to response to student writing.
The benefits of these observations include more than simply becoming familiar with feedback techniques. Classroom dynamics and interaction between teacher and students greatly affect the way teachers respond to student writing (Lee & Schallert, 2008). Therefore, if preservice teachers are given the opportunity to conduct several classroom observations and analyze the actual feedback of the teachers they observed, they may be able to see how teachers’ comments are linked to the nature of teacher-student interaction in the observed classroom. In other words, through these observations, novice instructors may better understand the socially and culturally contextualized dimension of feedback.
Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language teaching, 36(2), 81–109.
Feuerherm, E. (2012). Written feedback, student writing, and institutional policies: Implications for novice teacher development. CATESOL Journal, 23(1), 132–154.
Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (1988). The action research planner. Melbourne, Australia: Deakin University.
Kennedy, M.M. (1998) Learning to teach writing: Does teacher education make a difference? New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Lee, G., & Schallert, D. L. (2008). Constructing trust between teacher and students through feedback and revision cycles in an EFL writing classroom. Written Communication, 25(4), 506–537.
Uysal, H. H. (2007). Educating second language writing teachers: Issues and suggestions. In B. Johnston & K. Walls (Eds.) Voice and vision in language teacher education: Selected papers from the 4th International conference on language teacher education (pp. 239–248). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.