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LCB-TTC – Taller didáctico

Teacher: Gladys Baya


Student: María Pérez Armendáriz

Observation
Managing classroom communication:
patterns of interaction1
Date: October 2, 2008.
No. of students: 10.
Age: ± 16.
Level: Intermediate
Book: Challenges 3, Longman Pearson.

Background
This task is concerned generally with how communication takes place in a classroom setting, and
specifically with the patterns of interaction that provide the vehicle for communication.

Observation notes
Reference:
X open question from teacher
_________ Volunteered response
_________ Interaction in pairs, or nominated question
_________ Question asked by student
_________ Interaction between students without being directed

1
Topic taken from Classroom Observation Tasks, Ruth Wajnryb, (CUP, 1992).

LCB-TTC – Taller Didáctico – Observation 5 – María Pérez Armendáriz 1


NB: S2 / S3 and S9 / S10 shared course book; S8 arrived very late.

Analysis
1. Analyse the notes you have taken and make some summary statements of the overall
patterns of interaction.
The teacher made many open questions which many of the students answered voluntarily. Some of
them had to be prompted in order to have them participate. However, most of the prompted
participations were due to an activity where the teacher asked students by name to provide an
answer. Most of the interaction between teacher and students was located on the left side of the
classroom (S1-S5), which happened to be where all the girls were seating. They participated slightly
more than the male students, who had to be prompted more often.

2. If learning is all about re-appraising old concepts to accommodate new ones, to what extent
do you think each of the types of patterns catered for in the diagram would be the most
conductive to or facilitative of learning?
I believe there is not one type of pattern; all of the types of interaction help in the process of
learning. Interacting with peers to helps negotiate meaning, since they have to make a bigger effort
to understand and get a message across. Interaction with the teacher is a way of exposing the
student to a model of language as well as a source for information; this includes questions from
students directed at the teacher out of need for clarification, further explanation or even plain
curiosity.

3. Clearly any lesson will contain a number of types of interaction. Consider different phases
of lessons, different teacher roles and different activities in terms of which type of interaction
is most appropriate. Is it possible to correlate certain interaction patterns as most suitable for
certain lesson or activity types? For example, what type of interaction pattern characterises a
student-centred information-gap activity, or a teacher correction phase following a role-play
activity?
Certain activities require the teacher to participate, but for the most part, the students are left to do
the work either in pairs or in small groups. For student-centered information-gap activities, the most
suited patter would be pair or small group work. This allows for more participation from each
students and better chances for negotiation of meaning. There may be some questions addressed at
the teacher, but that is as far as she will be involved during the activity; monitoring and helping in
case she is needed. In the case of correction of a role-play activity, the main participant is usually
the teacher pointing out the mistakes and correcting them. However, the corrections should follow a
pattern of open questions from the teacher, so as to avoid a bit of embarrassment from the part of
the student who made the mistake but at the same time pinpoint a specific problem.

4. Much has been written about teacher-directed lockstep communication versus learner-
based group work. Much has also been written about the value of group work. Apart from the
obvious advantage of giving each student greater opportunity for 'air time', there are other
advantages such as:
a) A group of people is likely to be more reliable than any one individual when it comes to
completing a task or activity.
b) A correction from a peer is more telling because it comes from someone who has had the
same amount of exposure to the language, and not from someone with professional
qualifications.
c) At the same time a correction from a peer is generally less threatening both because the
one doing the correcting is not the person who gives out the grades, and because the
correction is less likely to come in a judgmental tone of voice.

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d) Competition between groups is less threatening to individuals than competition between
individuals, and at the same time, equally exhilarating.
e) Group work requires risking and collaborating and is conductive to feelings of loyalty and
group membership.
(This list is based on Stevick 1980:202)
Can you add more?
I think that the things I consider important about group work have been mentioned, those being the
importance of negotiation of meaning, comfortable atmosphere among students, healthy
competition between groups, and peer help.
One disadvantage for students that Stevick cites is 'having (their) mistakes less dependably
corrected'. Can you list other disadvantages of group work?
Regarding the negative aspects of group work, we may find the fact that if the group is not chosen
by the student and the members are not particularly friendly among themselves it may lead to lack
of participation. No learning can take place when the student feels uncomfortable. At the same time,
if the group is made up of a close group of friends who like to chat, then it is likely that they will
not carry out the task as expected.
Is there a compromise view that allows the teacher to marry the best of both lists?
It is the teacher's choice according to the kind of group. Some negative aspects must be considered,
turned to the advantage of the lesson and combined with some of the positive to reach a balanced
and profitable lesson that allows the students both to work and to have a good time during the
lesson.

Reflection
Using this observed lesson as a mirror of your own teaching, what comments can you make
about the patterns of communication that happen in your lesson? If there is anything you
would want to change, how could you go about doing so?
Since I am not currently teaching, I can only provide an idea of how I would like my lessons to be.
First of all, I would try to make sure that most, if not all, of the students take some part in making
the lesson as varied in voices as in topics of discussion. My greatest challenge would be to get all
the students to want to participate and know that every interaction – whether among themselves or
with the teacher – is a learning opportunity and that they should take every advantage of it. This
lesson provided some good examples of simple ways to involve all of the students.

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