Special report: Dave Allan

Special report: Paris Colloquium 2005, Agir pour apprendre

Dave Allan on “Teacher Self-Development:  Taking Action to Become the Best Teacher I Can Be”

By Krystal Jamet

About half the amphitheater was loosely filled for the start of Saturday morning’s 9:30 Plenary given by Dave Allan, Director of NILE, the Norwich Institute for Language Education in the UK. The subject was Teacher Self-Development: Taking Action to Become the Best Teacher I Can Be.

Mr. Allan, who has been active in Teacher Training, Teacher Development and Teacher Education as well as testing and assessment for 20 years now, addressed three issues:
1) What makes a good teacher?
2) What makes a good lesson?
3) Are there key principles underlying learning/teaching?

He then asked the group if they had considered the difference between Teacher Training and Teacher Development.  Seemingly surprised that there was little stir of reaction on the audience’s part, Mr. Allan continued by defining TT (Teacher Training) as initial teacher training and TD (Teacher Development), a term coined by Adrian Underhill in 1985, as post-service.

In discussing the first point, what makes a good teacher, he referred to attitudes developed by people like Carl Rogers and others of respect, empathy and authenticity. Personally for his teaching, continued training in IT, Information Technology, discourse analysis and management have contributed to his development. He took us through a game of TD Tennis. The crucial characteristics of a good teacher were volleyed back and forth by the group allowing people to express themselves and have a brief exchange.

The second point, what makes a good lesson, or as Mr. Allan rephrased it, what can you do to make it all happen, was presented with his favorite motto ‘don’t adopt it, adapt it’ and the 3 Rs of: reflect, read, and research.

In the final point on underlying key principles of learning and teaching, Mr. Allan linked action research to teachers. He described it as being a qualitative as much as a quantitative endeavor.

An example of teacher action research was a study examining the reactions of learners to teacher correction of writing in differently colored pens. The premise was that red pens had a negative effect on learning, when the study showed that the color of the corrective ink used in writing correction had little impact on learning. Contrary to the premise, learners expressed a certain preference for red ink correction.

There seemed to be a general buzz of contentment in leaving the plenary.

Contributed by: Krystal Jamet
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