An immediate awareness of the shortcomings of anyone’s teaching can be achieved by the kind of review of actual lessons “after the fact” engaged in above. This is certainly a worthwhile and effective process, in line with the thinking of numerous writers in the field. A reflective, innovative approach is necessary (Hattie, 2003).
Central to the practice of my teaching is a need to make decisions regarding the precise and exact intention of particular lessons. While I do believe that I want to achieve an inclusive, diversity-embracing classroom experience for students, the exact aims and outcomes of my lessons are sometimes not clear to the students, and perhaps not even to me. A clear and communicative statement of what we hope to achieve is necessary in every lesson and I will be sure to formulate this exactly in future lessons.
I am of the opinion that it is essential to respect the originating cultures and identities of the ESL students I teach (see: Ashman, 2009, and others). Sometimes I do not achieve this ideal as the content I work with covers only the Australian experience – I believe this is so because I am concentrating on ensuring that my students become comfortable and familiar with their adopted culture. This is not a bad thing, but I do aim to provide more opportunities for students to share their cultures and identities with one another in class, while not neglecting the improvement of their knowledge and familiarity with Australian contexts.
Tied to the opinion above is the idea that the content we are working with should be accessible to the students, and interesting to them within their experience. If they are able to connect the content we are dealing with to prior learning and earlier experiences and knowledge, I am certain their progress will be more effective (Davis, Sumara, & Luce-Kapler, 2008). My personal relationship with students and my interactions with them do, I believe, reflect mutual respect, and my acknowledgement and appreciation for their cultures, but it is also true that I could incorporate this attitude into the actual practice of my teaching, in line with UNESCO (2001) guidelines.
It is difficult for me to release some control of assessment in the classroom: my instinct is to want to measure and grade student achievement myself exclusively. Yet, on the occasions when I do ask students to assist one another, and even to point out one another’s errors, they do manage to do so effectively. The incorporation of peer teaching is relatively simple for me; the incorporation of peer assessment is something I will have to work on. Black and Dylan (2001) encourage a highly interactive, dynamic assessment environment, which I would like to emulate.
Timing is something which I also have to concentrate on. There have been occasions when the work I assigned to one group of student – for example the Beginner students – was complete long before I had finished with the other group of more advanced students. A focus on getting to know the learning pace and the learning style of each of my students is something I aspire to. Individualised learning is something a successful teacher must be able to come to grips with (Hattie, 2003). When students are paired up, and work together, or are given sufficient reading, with dictionary work tied to it, I find that there is enough time to get to each student, and to deal with differing ability groups effectively. This is, though, not always easy to predict.