With the ever impending arrival of the new school year drawing closer by the day I thought I would take the time to put down into words the small scale, action research project I am hoping to carry out this year.
The initial idea sprang from the TDSIG Unplugged event in Barcelona in May of this year, which I was fortunate enough to attend. I arrived apprehensive, inexperienced and somewhat daunted by the other people who were in attendance, but left inspired and with a completely new take on how I wanted to teach.
The open space technology format of the conference allowed me and several others to spend a productive couple of hours in the company of one Scott Thornbury. Our little group spent the afternoon discussing the question, “What research could be/needs to be done to validate teaching unplugged?” Normally surrounded by such experience and wisdom I would have stayed in the background and simply observed and nodded approvingly at the appropriate time,but for some reason I couldn’t stop talking. The thoughts and ideas just kept coming, and Scott Thornbury was actually writing them down. What I was saying was actually being taken seriously. I couldn’t quite believe it; I was on some sort of Dogme induced high, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Meddings, Thornbury, Gaughn and Clandfield, amongst many others. I then had the brilliant (so I thought) idea that I would carry out some sort of research in my next teaching year. I don’t think anyone took me seriously when I said it, but Scott wrote it down and that was good enough for me.
The day after the conference I found myself in Barcelona airport, furiously scribbling down notes and ideas in my specially designed TDSIG unplugged notepad. I had ideas of blogs, videos, student journals, questionnaires and so on. Monday morning at work and I was still buzzing from the conference. I grabbed my DOS and explained my ideas. She looked genuinely surprised that I actually wanted to do extra work and take on such a project but was equally supportive and set about arranging something for the coming year.
A couple of weeks before the end of term I got the go ahead to take an intermediate class for one trimester and if this was successful I could extend it for a longer period. Now it was just a matter of spending the summer reading and relaxing.
Fast forward nearly three months and the new term is but 3 weeks away. I have had a lot of time to reflect on the upcoming project. I have had several doubts about my teaching ability and whether I can pull it off, doubts over my lack of knowledge and worries about the possible extra work load. So I have simply stripped it back. Very low scale, log everything in my new journal (thanks Dale Coulter) and write everything up on the blog, so that it can be shared and hopefully helpful to anyone who happens to be interested. The doubts still linger, but now I am more excited than scared and looking forward to the start of the school year.
The set up is very simple; one class, no course book, every class unplugged and based around student generated language and material. I will be using ‘Teaching unplugged’ (Meddings&Thornbury, 2009) as a kind of foundation material source with my own ideas and also ideas from other contributors if possible.
I have several aims; firstly to see if a Dogme/unplugged style approach can be sustained over a period of time without the use of a course book. Secondly is Dogme/teaching unplugged experience driven and can it be successful for an inexperienced teacher like me. I am also interested to record the student’s attitude to classes without a course book and will hopefully get some valuable feedback at the end of the project. Without a doubt some other factors and points of interest will crop up and it should all contribute to an interesting second year.
I gather that is probably nothing new and that many other people are doing similar if not more advanced things but it is something I hope will lead into further small scale research and more importantly a good source of personal development.
School starts on October 3rd, wish me luck.