What vs. How

In her final learning statement in her portfolio for the TESOL style course, one of the participants (Korean teacher of English) wrote the following, “I will not be able to teach anything from the teacher training course once I returned to my school because it conflicts with the national curriculum”. I was surprised, to say the least. As I thought it through I realized that she had developed an underlying perception about the purpose and intent of the course that was not accurate. The course was introducing a variety of skills and methods for teaching language, not course content for her school, and yet that is what her comment was telling me.

Despite the explicitness of the training course overview and the extended introduction to and work with the self-assessment learning log in which teaching skills are listed, we had failed to make the content of our course clear for this participant, we’re presenting ideas for how to teach, not what.

Upon deeper reflection, I realized it is could be easy for participants to make this mis-connection. There is actual content in our demonstration lessons, in the materials that we have available for their use, in the examples that we provide. If we are not explicit that this is an example with ‘dummy’ content, e.g. a story about going to the beach, then it could be thought that the content of those learning sessions is what we expect of them to teach when they return to their school.

How can we become more clear with the difference between what and how?

What                                      How

content                                   process

completed example              modeling the steps to create the example

static                                       action

a trike                                      riding it

curriculum requirements    techniques, skills, methods in use

On the other hand, it is also an easy comment to make in your portfolio, one that justifies not needing to try anything new or different, to challenge yourself, to leave your comfort zone. It could be a convenient comment.  In this case, it might be a matter of her beliefs about teaching and about herself as a teacher, as opposed the skills that are being taught.  And that is a different conversation.

This post was written by Tana.

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