Friday, 8 April 2011

Getting feedback on my ISTEK workshop

Nearly a week has passed since my workshop at the ISTEK conference in Istanbul. After giving a few reflections on the overall experience in my last post, I thought I’d go back to the notes I made after the workshop, engage in some reflection and hopefully get some feedback from anyone in attendance who happens to be reading this.

For a recap of what the session was about, read my preview post and take a look at the slides below:

What went well

  • Good attendance - with so many workshops running concurrently, I thought turnout might be low so I was pleasantly surprised to see a full room. Thanks to all of you who came when you could have chosen any one of a number of other sessions.
  • The chance to share some useful ideas - it seemed many of the teachers present tended to focus on linguistic and stylistic errors when reviewing students’ writing so I hope my examples of giving feedback based on content led to some of them re-thinking their approach.
  • Timing - I managed to cover the majority of what I had in mind prior to the session with no need to cut large chunks out or rush towards the end.
  • Seeing the same ideas presented elsewhere - I always enjoy it at conferences when I can see a crossover or link between different sessions so it was great to see one of the keynote speakers Rob Bolitho also mentioning the importance of giving feedback in response to what was written rather than just focusing on the language used.

What I could have done better

  • Seating arrangements - I should have organised the chairs into groups to encourage more interaction in even numbers.This is a weakness of mine when doing group work in class as well and I should have been more aware of it.
  • Slight change to the activities - as always, I had a great idea after the session had finished! If I were to do it again, I would give a sample piece of work for the attendees to mark as they would normally do so and then build the discussion about what we look for when marking and why from there. By doing this first, there would have been more of a contrast when giving feedback based on content.
  • Questions - although my timing in terms of the stages of the session was good, I didn’t leave any time for questions at the end. I did manage to speak to a few people individually afterwards but it would have been better to share the discussion with the whole group.

Problems beyond my control

  • Hardly any teachers of YLs - even though my session was flagged in the programme as one for teachers who work with kids, a fact made even clearer in my abstract (also printed in the conference programme), most of the teachers in attendance were working with adults or university prep classes. That rendered my sample pieces of writing from 10 year olds a little unsuitable and alien for them!
  • No internet! - my session turned from ‘error correction’ to ‘connection error’ as the promised wireless internet was not available in the workshop rooms (there was a signal but nobody knew the password). I had my 3G modem as back-up but I wasn’t able to get a 3G connection, only a painfully slow GPRS one. Eventually, one of the pages I wanted to use, Cecilia’s guest post on feedback for Ken Wilson’s blog, loaded but my own blog posts on error correction did not. Neither did a Google doc I had set up with the intention of making collaborative notes as we shared ideas in the session and neither did a page I had created on, which I was going to use as part of the collaborative error correction activity.

So those are my reflections. If you were in my session and you have any comments, constructive criticism or feedback for me, I’d love to hear from you!


  1. With so many concurrent workshops I think it was very difficult for people to get to the right place at the right time. All the YL teachers were with me for a session flagged academic English :-) But there's always something to take away and I'm sure everyone will reflect on their correcting after attending your workshop.

  2. Hi Dave, I'm glad it went well and you had a good attendance. Looking at your slides, the second piece of writing, by the boy, how do you feel about using lined paper? It seems too cramped for him. Would blank paper be better? Then they could grow their own plants ;-)

  3. Hi Elizabeth Anne,

    Funny that you ended up with all YL teachers! :) I guess some clearer way of flagging the content of the sessions is needed. Having said that, in the past, I've always included 'children' or 'young/primary learners' in my workshop titles - I'll have to make a note to always include that in future!

    David - Good point about the lined paper. I'd never actually thought about that before - thanks for prompting the reflection :)

  4. How frustrating regarding technology! I know exactly how that feels. Unfortunately, with this experience comes understanding that it can't be counted on and an alternative--often less dynamic--needs to be planned also.

  5. Hi David, I like how you reflect on your session. I wasn't there but it was one of the workshops I wanted to attend most at Istek. I had a colleague though who attended your session and she shared some great ideas from your talk. We also had a little chat with you right after the workshop. Where we work we basically see no value in correcting every single mistake in students' worksheets/booklets/homework with no focus point and gain. Therefore little learning takes place. Even if I was not there, I like your idea of using common the mistakes/erros and correcting them collaboratively then giving the written work back to student for correction. Also the idea of using mother tongue when ss work on their mistakes was interesting, as we are forced to believe that they should never use their mother tongue in the clasroom.

    Btw I started to use twitter actively after the conference in istanbul hope it will lead to more connections, sharing and learning. hope to attend another talk of yours next time.

  6. Hi Didem,

    I remember talking to you and your colleague after the session. A shame you couldn't get in but I'm glad you got some ideas to take away and try in your own classes. :)

  7. Hi David,
    Have just discovered your post-your-own-session reflection, and decided to write a couple of lines myself as I attended it.
    I've got really inspired by what you've shown us - content-centered approach of looking at a student's writing, and agree with you that too often teachers deal with language mistakes, which do not produce a feedback or a wish to comment or say sth in return from a student.
    I should say also that I did your writing activity with my students (kids aged 10-12, I'm involved in community service) and it got them engaged. We started with brainstorming some adjectives first, how would they describe their best friend, then they came with a list of verbs of the things they do together, etc. Lots of peer correction and group work took place, so I hope it was useful for the students.
    Thank you again for your workshop and hopefully see at next ISTEK!
    Best wishes,
    Anastasia, @NanaMalikova

  8. Hi Anastasia,

    Thank you for your comments. It's great to hear that you tried out the ideas I shared in the workshop and even better to hear it worked well for you. I really believe peer work and collaboration are amongst the most powerful tools we can use in the classroom. If we start them off young, it can benefit their learning in the long term.

    I hope it becomes a regular feature of your lessons. :)



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