Sunday, February 12, 2012

Direct Education

I always get so much to think about when I read Scott Thornbury's blog, An A-Z of ELT.  This week, the topic is "personalization" -- drawing on student experience for the content of our lessons.  Scott raised some questions about the risks that come with this endeavor.  There's the risk that things might get too personal, for one thing.  There's a question about whether students want so much attention on their personal lives.  There's also the question about whether there's a sound theoretical basis for this approach.  See his post for more on those questions!

I jumped into the comments and made a bunch of references to Facilitating Group Learning: Strategies for Success with Diverse Adult Learners by George Lakey.  (I've linked to the Amazon entry so you can browse through part of the book if you want.)  I think there are many parallels between this book and the Dogme approach. Lakey contends that real learning happens when both the teacher and the students drop pretense and "get real".  To be yourself is to personalize.

Lakey describes his approach this way:

"I call this kind of education direct because it brings focus to the encounter of teacher and group; it replaces scatter—of teacher preoccupied with curriculum and participants preoccupied with distractions—with gathered attention. Direct education takes the most direct path to the learner in the here and now."

from kalyan02
It could be a description of Teaching Unplugged! The name of direct education is also derived from "direct action", or organized activities for social change.  Lakey facilitates workshops in this area and has published a book on the topic.

And that brings me to the new book 52 by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings (co-author of Teaching Unplugged).  It's a book of materials-light activities, one for each week in a year, that are described as "disrupting", "subversive", and "empowering".  I just bought it yesterday and I LOVE it!  It's one of those books that makes you slow down when you're reading because you don't want to finish too quickly. I found activities that echo or build on much that we've been doing in the classroom lately.  I'll be doing activity 16 (Respect) in the coming week, as it ties right in with recent discussions about what makes a successful English class.  There's a free excerpt to download at the link.

To finish, I'd like to repeat something from a very early post on this blog:

"It's not a stretch to see our ELCivics-based classes as a sort of training for social action.  Not that I want students to take any particular action.  But an important purpose of the class, as I see it, is to give learners the communication tools and cultural information they need to take action of their choice.  Participation at all levels of community is social action!"

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