Materials and Methods In ELT Observing The Language Classroom


Jo McDonoughChristopher Shaw

October 2012, Wiley-Blackwell

(Extracted from MATERIALS AND METHODS IN ELT; pages 265-272)

Being armed with an awareness of the factors can make classroom observation highly fruitful in that we may be able to make corrective adjustments to classroom teaching and management as a result of analyzing the data we collect.

If we wish to focus on the teacher, the following criteria could be offered as factors for observation:

  • The amount of teacher talking time (TTT) contrasted with student talking time (STT) during the course of a particular class
  • The type of teacher talk that takes place in a given class and where it occurs in the lesson
  • The teacher’s questioning/elicitation techniques
  • How the teacher gives feedback to learners
  • How the teacher handles digression in the classroom
  • The different roles a teacher takes on during the class (manager? facilitator? etc.)
  • The teacher’s use of encouragement and praise with learners
  • The technical aids and materials a teacher uses to create learning contexts, and how the teacher involves the learners in these activities
  • How tightly a particular teacher corrects the learners’ work

Nunan reports on a teachers’ workshop where one of the groups participating in the workshop offered the following criteria as aspects of the class that they would like to look at. These were: wait time, repair techniques, fun, questioning, materials, student-teacher interaction, scope of student response, amount of direction offered, class organization, lesson objectives, control and initiative, who asks questions, how language is practiced, methods used, variety of activities, interaction between students.

Focus on learners:

How well do they work together as a whole group, small groups, pairs?

Do some prefer to work individually?

How is a context for the lesson established?

Do all students get adequate practice?

How does the teacher ensure this?

What activity/ activities are the students asked to perform?

Do they seem to be pertinent / useful in realizing the objectives of the lesson?

Are the activities smooth and effectively managed?

Jo McDonough was Senior Lecturer in ELT and Director of EFL at the University of Essex.

Christopher Shaw was a lecturer on the MA TESOL course in the International Academy and on several MA ELT modules in the Department of Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex.




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