Student Teachers – Flipping your Class for Success!

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It has been said that a teacher’s first task is to make herself progressively obsolete. I could not agree more. After all, one of our main mandates is to enable students to learn the target content and achieve the learning outcomes.
Thus, by course’s end, students should be able to “do” as the teacher “does”. If my course revolves around getting students to speak at an intermediate level in English, then by definition, they no longer need their teacher by course’s end. If they do, the course has failed in generating the target learning.

But how does a teacher go about “doing” this? I propose using a flipped class, or “student teacher” approach. See below.

***Warning*** – What follows may cause anxiety, dizziness or a lack of student trust in the teacher’s choice of instructional strategies. It may cause poor results on a course evaluation. It may actually push some students to complain to your superiors. But, fear not! It is ultra-effective!

As I have made myself more and more obsolete in my courses, my students have been enabled to a much greater degree than previously. Students now score better on standardized language tests (TOEIC, TOEFL), learn more in the span of my course and feel very confident by course’s end. But, my evaluation results are weaker. Some student comments have been:

“Greg is the worst teacher I ever had, because he does nothing.”

“Greg makes us work a lot and I am tired. This teacher does not work a lot”.

Okay, you got me, I exaggerated the language students used on their course evaluation. But you get the drift. Hmmm, what a dilemma. Let’s try and get this straight. Students now learn more, are more confident when they finish my course, but they think I stink. (Not all of them, mind you. I have chosen the worst examples).

This is a typical case of educational DNA. Adult students are so used to coming to class, sitting, staying quiet, and taking notes, that when a teacher asks them to stand up, change groups, research topics, present them, and even complete an evaluation, some just feel like giving up. Why? Because they think the teacher should somehow magically spoon feed them competency in a target language. In fact, some of the best students I have ever had were those who did most of their learning before and after class. Some of the worst students I have ever had are the same as those who wrote the comments above. Their message: “I came to school to sit and learn – not teach!”

But that’s just the point – if you can teach it, you have learned it.

I suggest you try, dear reader. Below, I have attached a class activity that I use in generating knowledge, ability, metacognition and self-assessment in my ESL classes. It’s called “Student Teachers”. Why bother presenting the present perfect if you can get students to do it? Briefly, the steps are as follows:

  • Form groups of 2-4 students. Use a jigsaw approach
  • Distribute topics to the groups (i.e. present perfect, gerunds, etc.)
  • Have students prepare to present conjugation, meaning, use and some examples
  • Have students prepare 3 good examples and 3 bad ones
  • Have students present the topic while you play devil’s advocate (I bombard them with questions)
  • Have the class evaluate the 6 examples (scrambled so it’s not obvious which are good)
  • Have the class provide formative feedback on how well they understood

This is not only an excellent way to get students learning, but it’s also a great way to cut down on preparation time. Your students learn as they emulate being teachers; you make yourself somewhat obsolete and your preparation involves handing out topics. It’s a win-win situation!

What do you think?

Download the lesson pdf here

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One thought on “Student Teachers – Flipping your Class for Success!”

  1. I think that is a fabulous idea. My TESL prof used to always say, “Rule number one: whenever possible, have the students do the work.” I am about to see just how far I can take that idea. I’m really done coming in super early and staying two hours after school. I want my life back! I think having the students do more of the work is going to benefit them and me.

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