May 5, 2014 by Willy Cardoso
The session’s abstract read
Critical Open Space
By constituting identities, both personal and social, language gives us the power to inform and transform our lives. Our education system today, like never before, puts a high premium on information. Unlike twenty years ago, oddly, enough, now we can even say there is a case of ‘information overload’ in some contexts. What about transformation? Is what we experience in the language classroom today nurturing creative and ethical minds who can cope with the changing world and contribute positively to this change?
The possibility to engage in a pedagogy which negotiates identities, critiques information, and strives for social transformation can be empowering, liberating, and invigorating. But it can also be extremely challenging, oppressing, and exhausting.
The Open Space was organised as follows:
- Participants were encouraged to write How can I/we..? questions on sticky notes.
- I collected them, read them aloud to the group, asked for clarification when needed, and grouped the questions with the acknowledgement of the participants. (worth saying there were no preset categories/groups)
- Five groups emerged from participants’ topics and they were given 45 minutes to discuss / share / develop / etc their issues.
After that, I asked each group to nominate a spokesperson. The spokesperson would stay where the group was gathered while the rest would ‘visit’ another group of choice and hear their spoken report (that is, from another spokesperson from a group other than the one they were previously) – we did two rounds of this, 3 minutes each time.
Here are the groups and the questions raised:
(not all Qs are here, some post-it notes flew away somewhere and I don’t have them)
1 Teacher training and development
How can I encourage less experienced teachers to have the confidence to critically evaluate / question what they learn (about e.g. methodology)?
When it comes to critical thinking, how can we genuinely get teachers / teacher trainers to walk the talk?
How do we say “teacher training”, “teacher development”, etc, in Portuguese? Is there really a difference between them? What if I say them in English? What’s behind it? Do names really matter? Do the ways we name them really matter?
How do we get franchises convinced that poor work conditions negatively affects the development of schools?
2 Motivation / Mindset
How can I keep my students motivated and engaged in learning English when they see no relevance or importance in learning it at all?
How can we make more Brazilians want to learn?
How can we change people’s (students’) negative attitude towards learning English?
How can we make the teaching of English meaningful for underprivileged students?
How can I start to motivate students from a public school who haven’t had and probably won’t have continuity in their English course?
3 Standardisation / Evaluation
Schools are organised around conformity and standardisation. How can we empower learners to challenge that?
How can we evaluate in ways that are meaningful to all? Where there are no stakeholders but people involved in a learning process?
4 Perspectives / topics / technology
How do we make good use of technological knowledge students now have to promote learning which is effective, meaningful and produces results?
How can we introduce and allow for discussions about politics in class?
How can I introduce relevant topics in the classroom, moving away from celebrities, etc?
How can I challenge “elite class students” to move away form their comfort zone and perceive other perspectives? (dealing with use of technology, travelling, work and higher education)
5 Materials / coursebooks
How can I best respond to becoming “a content provider”?
How does critical thinking truly impact on ELT materials design?
How can we move past the agreed agenda for textbook writing?
What kind of textbooks do teachers want for their classes, if any?
Three groups handed me a report / summary / notes at the end, here they are:
Like I’ve said before, the open space format allows for participants to jointly construct the agenda of the session / workshop, and address the issues that concern them; this gives conference participants an alternative kind of engagement (and responsibility) to the more frequent top-down presentations and workshops where the who has little influence on the what.
I’d like to thank all the participants who joined the session and were actively engaging with the topics.