Monday, March 20, 2006


February 22, 2006

I was having a lively discussion with my class 11 biology students on the rapidly spreading ‘avian flu’ when Srini suddenly walked into remind about the CASW session. We ran to the German room, profusely apologizing to Mr. Amarnathan who was seated on the cane chair waiting for the participants to walk in. Without wasting time, I immediately slipped into the role of a ‘facilitator’. The previous presentations and the structure of the program itself allowed me to step into the role rather confidently.

Key questions and reflections from Mr. Amarnathan’s presentation
How do we make language learning empirical and relevant to life in the process of developing listening and speaking skills and raise the state of language learning from more academic survival to a living experience?

The conflict of clarifying questions raised its ugly head again. It was more so because today I was the facilitator. There seems to be a lack of clarity in understanding what a clarifying question is?

I was surprised and stunned by the variety of strategies used. Mr Amarnathan had virtually used up all the strategies. Just to list a few:
-Movies were shown
-Newspaper-based activities
-Making learners proud of their culture
-Celebrities/maid, drivers, heroes and heroines proud of Kannada

To me these issues seemed beyond the strategies that are presented in the write up by Mr. Amarnathan. It seems to be more of a generational problem cutting across language barriers. Most mother tongues are endangered by growing spread of English usage at home. Though a few strategies were co-constructed at the end of the process, these were not any near to solving the problem itself.

Neela’s key questions were slightly different
The student’s progress is very good. Should I extend him in all four areas (viz: reading, writing, listening and speaking) or should I spend more lessons giving him guided practice towards making his written work flawless.

The suggestion given by the group was to extend the learner in all four areas. This was based on the fact that the level of comprehension was good ad so that should take him to another level of learning itself. The group also felt that the learner was definitely benefiting from one-to-one interaction and so should go all out to improve his all round skills. The participants felt that Neela’s feedback mechanisms were specific, encouraging and non-threatening. At the end of the process, there seemed to be a consensus in the group towards ‘formative assessment’ for the further learning of the child.

Raji’s key question
What strategies can I use to make my teaching more effective and to make the student a better learner?

Raji had analysed the strengths and difficulties of the learner well before articulating these key questions. She had a good understanding of the learning style of the learner. She was also constantly fighting time constraint while dealing the situation (1 SEN class per week and lack of home support).

Again at the end the participants came up with quite a few strategies that were already tried and exhausted out by Raji.

Some reflections
There is no doubt in my mind. We are moving forward. But I also feel we are stonewalled by I do not know what. There is a certain lack of complete satisfaction at the end of the process. We have analyzed student work. We have taken back suggestions for improvement. Wherever we could integrate the suggestions to classroom situations we have done it. But I am not seeing the same energy in myself that I saw when I first met the CASW process. It is not just the year-ending academic pressures. It is more than just academics. Are we bringing in student works that we know for sure have exhausted all strategic avenues? I am raising this question to my self because most of the times when the group co-constructs strategies, I have realized that these strategies have already been used up by the presenter.
Are we taking away something out of ‘clarifying questions’ by putting preconditions that there shall not be any evaluative questions? I am asking this question to myself because I have never been comfortable and have been able to understand the difference between evaluative and non-evaluative questions. If a question provides clarity to me, that is a clarifying question. But the present process does not seem to be so simple. The lack of clarity at times does not allow me to understand the process fully.


Blogger sandra kunder said...

Mahesh, I do share the feeling of being 'stonewalled', but have not been able to put a finger on what exactly is causing it, inspite of several reflections with myself.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Raji Nair said...

Mahesh, my post refers to these specific sentiments-"Are we bringing in student ...... the presenter." I for one agree. The key question that I posed came after I had exhausted all the strategies that I could think of and when I was left with a sense of desperation... Was there any other other of way of looking at this problem? I think you'll agree when I say that these are the problems that we should bring to the table. If we have not emptied our armoury, there would be no need to look for fresh ammunition.

But, yes a question like the one posed by Neela cannot actually be handled in a single session. There are several undertones to it that can never be dealt with at a single single sitting. We have to then deal with it at a literal level.

3:42 AM  
Blogger Raji Nair said...

Sorry, I seem to be going on....I also agree with the feeling of being 'stonewalled'- do we go into a CASW session expecting solutions for all the problems? Or are suggestions becoming repetitive?-as Anitha suggested each person deals with the key question from his or her area of expertise...Is a fresh look at the process and product called for?
(also the lines between the partcipant discussion and the co-construction of strategies seems a little blurred....)

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