Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Using the Japanese Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages in a Class Discussion

I am in Thailand right now but need to get my mind off it. So, I am going to write about using the J-Postl. The J-POSTL or  the Japanese Porfolio for Student Teachers of Languages is adapted from E-POSTL or the European Portfolio for Student Teachers of other Languages. The J-POSTL consists of 100 descriptors that students can use to assess their teaching ability. The descriptors help students assess their knowledge or ability related to their context, teaching methodologies, using resources, planning lessons, conducting lessons, etc. The descriptors are useful in that they can raise students' awareness of the techniques, skills, and knowledge that very good teachers have. For example, look at the following descriptors for conducting lessons:
  1. 73  I can start a lesson in an engaging way.
  2. 74  I can be flexible when working from a lesson plan and respond to student interests as the lesson progresses.
    75  I can adjust my time schedule when unforeseen situations occur.
    76  I can time and change classroom activities to reflect individual students’ attention spans. 
The problem with J-POSTL is the sheer number of descriptors can make it a little overwhelming. However, the developers of the portfolio recommend that students only do a few descriptors at a time. I tried to do just this last month. My students in my teaching methodologies class did a one day teaching practice at an elementary school where they conducted a foreign language activity (English activity) using the standard elementary school English textbook, "Hi, Friends"After their practice lesson, we had a class discussion using part of the J-POSTL. For the discussion our goal was to Determine the essential skills necessary for conducting foreign language activities in elementary school, this is what I did:

  1. I gave students a list of descriptors from J-POSTL about using resources, lesson planning, and conducting a lesson (using a lesson plan, content, interaction with students, classroom management, classroom language). I have written the list of descriptors I used at the bottom of this page.
  2. I asked students to write a circle next to they thought they were able to do in the lesson, a cross next to what you were not able to do, and write a triangle next to what they thought was not relevant. (5 minutes)
  3. Each teaching group of students (7 groups of students each conducted a class) watched a video of their class. If their thinking changed, they could change their answers they wrote in 2. (15 minutes)
  4. Each teaching group comes to a consensus about the 5 items they thought they were most successful in accomplishing in their classes and the 5 items they were least successful in accomplishing. (20 minutes)
  5. Next, students made seven new groups so that each new group consisted of a member from each of the original groups (like a jigsaw task). They shared the results of 4. with their new group members. After that, as a group, they chose what they thought were the four most important items for conducting foreign language activities in elementary school and gave reasons why. (20 minutes)
  6. Lastly, each group presented their top four items. I wrote them on the computer (using a projector of course) and as a class we chose the top 5 items. 

In steps 4 and 5, I told students that they could add their own items if they so wished. The final list of the most important items consisted of the students' original items rather than those of J-POSTL.

Number of VotesItem
40Enjoy the class
23Use English as much as you can.
20Don’t use Japanese too much
16Try to speak easy English
12Prepare for the class perfectly
12Prepare for many activities

I thought that this was VERY interesting. I think it means that it is difficult to tell students to look at their classes from a perspective that is different from their own. The J-POSTL makes A LOT of sense to me because I am an experienced teacher. Student-teachers, however, are new to teaching and they might perhaps focus more on the very basics such as "enjoy the class" rather than the detailed techniques, knowledge, and skills written in J-POSTL. Also, it could have been the nature of the task itself that influenced students' answers. Nevertheless, I was surprised that every item that students voted as most important were their own original ones.

I should be writing about my students' teaching in Thailand right now, but actually being able to think about my orderly and predictable life in Japan has been a little therapeutic for me.

Appendix: Items from J-POSTL used in the class discussion

47 I can identify and evaluate a range of coursebooks/materials appropriate for the age, interests and the language level of the students.
48 I can select texts and language activities from coursebooks appropriate for my students.
49 I can locate and select listening and reading materials appropriate for the needs of my students from a variety of sources, such as literature, mass media and the Internet.
50 I can make use of ideas, lesson plans and materials included in teachers’ handbooks and resource books.
51  I can design learning materials and activities appropriate for my students.
52  I can recommend dictionaries and other reference books useful for my students.
53  I can guide students to use the Internet for information retrieval.

A. Identification of Learning Objectives
54 I can identify the Course of Study requirements and set learning aims and objectives suited to my students’ needs and interests.
55 I can plan specific learning objectives for individual lessons and/or for a period of teaching.
56 I can set objectives which challenge students to reach their full potential.
57 I can set objectives which take into account the differing levels of ability and

special educational needs of the students.
58 I can set objectives for four main skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing

respectively, according to the focus of individual lessons and/or period of teaching. 59 I can set objectives which encourage students to reflect on their learning.
59. I can set objectives which encourage students to reflect on their learning.

A. Using Lesson Plans
73  I can start a lesson in an engaging way.
74  I can be flexible when working from a lesson plan and respond to student interests as the lesson progresses.
75  I can adjust my time schedule when unforeseen situations occur.
76  I can time and change classroom activities to reflect individual students’ attention

B. Content
77 I can relate what I teach to students’ knowledge, current events in local context, and the culture of those who speak it.

C. Interaction with Students
78  I can keep and maximize the attention of students during a lesson.
79  I can encourage student participation and student interaction whenever possible.
80  I can cater for a range of learning styles.
81  I can help students to develop appropriate learning strategies.

D. Classroom Management
82 I can create opportunities for and manage individual, partner, group and whole class work.
83 I can manage and use instructional media (flashcards, charts, pictures, audio-visual aids, etc.) effectively

E. Classroom Language
84 I can conduct a lesson in the target language, and if necessary use Japanese effectively.
85 I can encourage students to use the target language in their activities. 

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