Surviving The Feedback On Your Teaching Practice: My Experience
The feedback portion of the CELTA, in my opinion, can be the part that does people in. By that I mean – the part that they cannot stand. I found the feedback difficult at times, especially because of the pressure of an intensive course, but ultimately incredibly helpful.
The feedback usually went to go around the group of six , focusing one one trainee. The others would follow some loose general format, like comment first one one good thing about the lesson, and then question or a comment on something that could be improved. It was rare for a trainee to say something “mean” to another – everyone had their turn coming! A “to be improved” comment might be: “It looked like that activity took longer than you expected, and you seemed rushed at the end. Maybe it would have been okay, though, to just skip something else, but let them finish, because they seemed to be enjoying it and using the language.” The trainers had a little more to say, but also framed their comments as questions for the group: “I thought the clarification of the vocab words was good, and it was clear you had planned concept check questions. How could it have been more student-centered?”
Most of us as human beings find it hard to take critical feedback – even when it is constructive – on our performance, especially in front of a group. I think it is worse when you have already started working as a teacher, because in that case it may feel like the “to be improved” feedback speaks not just to the teaching practice in the course, but your past experience as well.
I saw the CELTA as an introductory training course, and even when I didn’t agree with something a trainer said, I tended to take it up with my roommate on the walk home (i.e., discuss it and commiserate) rather than in a confrontation with a trainer during the feedback session itself. I can appreciate how hard it would be to get feedback on a job I’ve done for some years. My feeling is that, as it is an introductory training course, it is key to passing the course to take into account what the trainers advise you to do and show that you can incorporate it into your lessons. In my book this is also a good reason for taking that course at the beginning of your teaching stint rather than after a year or two.
I remember one feedback session where I was pretty stressed out. I think I’d had some problem convincing the class of the difference between two similar words and just felt like the lesson was horrible. Right after I finished it, I felt terrible, and I felt worse when the trainer asked me what I would have done differently. I didn’t know! I just knew it was terrible and at that point, just wanted the day to be over. He realized that, gave me an example of something I could have done differently, and moved along to other aspects of the feedback on my lesson. He did a pretty good job of dealing with someone stressed out and near tears. Incidentally, I did well in the course, and most importantly, didn’t leave the room in tears like a second grader that day. Ah, the smell of success in TEFL!