5.3 Changing Teaching Colleagues’ Beliefs About English

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Concept

Teachers’ beliefs can change if the input is carefully designed for intake


Sharing image
Figure 5.5: When to share and how to share

[Source: Sasin Tipchai]



If your interest has been fired by the ideas we have presented in this course, you may be thinking about how to share the ideas with your colleagues. Sharing can be done informally, when the need arises and/or the opportunity presents itself. But you could also take a more pro-active role, and plan to do something more organised. If so, there are (at least) two questions to think about: when to share and how to share.

On the question of ‘when’, it may be that your boss is looking for volunteers to run workshops (e.g. as part of in-service training—a requirement for teachers in many contexts). If not, you may have to persuade your boss to allow you to organise a special event or to use fifteen minutes at the beginning of another meeting for a brief discussion. Perhaps if you really have only fifteen minutes, you could give out a question or a short task and ask people to report their opinions at the beginning of a subsequent meeting. You could justify your request to hold a workshop or use some meeting time by reminding colleagues that ideas about English are changing and suggesting that your institution keep up-to-date with these changes. ‘Selling’ your offer as a way of renewing or freshening up your teaching (and your department or school’s reputation for forward thinking) might be enough to convince a reluctant manager. In our experience however, teachers who offer free training are almost always taken up on their offer!

The question of ‘how’ to share your ideas is more difficult and the answer will depend on your circumstances. Because teacher education is a compulsory part of most teachers’ careers, however, there are plenty of accessible sources for research findings that can help you.

Activity

In Depth

Designing input for intake

Here is an extract from an account of a research project conducted in Hong Kong to raise secondary school English language teachers’ awareness of process writing (Pennington, 1996, p. 340). It makes an analogy with the concepts of input and intake, used to describe the difference between the language that learners receive (input) and the subset of that input they actually pay attention to and can learn from (intake). The idea is that in raising awareness, the information you provide (input) must become intake for it to be meaningful and have potential effects on your colleagues’ beliefs and actions.

The words in the passage are Martha Pennington's, but we have re-formatted part of her paragraph as a list. Read through it and think about the teachers you might try to share your ideas with.

    Drawing on the distinction between input and intake first proposed by Corder (1967, 1971) and later developed by Krashen (1981, 1982), it can be said that in teacher change, input does not equal intake. Rather, teachers take in only those aspects of the available input which are accessible to them. Accessible input refers to those types of information which teachers are prepared to attend to because of:

    1. a high awareness and understanding of the input;
    2. coupled with favorable attitudes such as pre-existing interest in the input;
    3. or positive attitudes towards the form input
    4. or positive attitudes towards the person giving the input;
    5. a strong recognition of a need for input or change;
    6. or a strong feeling of discomfort at a pre-existing clash of values.

    In contrast, input for which teachers have low awareness, low understanding, or unfavourable attitudes is inaccessible input in whole or in part and will consequently have little or no impact in the way of teacher change.

Which of the six characteristics in the list above describe your colleagues' knowledge and attitudes? Which of the issues raised in this course are relevant for each characteristic? How might you deal with them in order to maximise the effectiveness of your input in an awareness-raising session?

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Reflection 5.2

We hope this section has helped you to reflect on when and how you might share the ideas in this course with your colleagues. Share your ideas (and experiences), as well as any obstacles and how you might overcome them, here.