Demand High ELT has been on my radar for quite a while now. In some ways it has given me the same feeling as Dogme. The idea itself is not a new methodology or even a new idea, but it does give the idea a name, a banner that teachers can get behind. Just as teachers may well have been teaching Dogme before it was called Dogme, teachers have probably been demanding high, before it had the name. Giving a name to a movement or idea can help give teachers the courage to talk about what they are doing knowing that many others are also doing the same.
The session by Jim Scrivener was high on my list of sessions to see before the conference began. It started off with the demand high meme, ‘Am I engaging the full learning potential of students in my class?’ This is a question I ask myself constantly. Scrivener and his colleague Adrian Underhill felt that they saw lots of good, entertaining, fun teaching. What was probably missing was teaching that pushed students. This strikes a chord with me. I sometimes wonder if fun and entertainment are valued more than edgier teaching that pushes students beyond their comfort zone.
An interesting question he asked was, ‘is it OK to teach?’ This is well worth asking as teaching has almost become a dirty word in some circles. Scrivener believes there is a role for explicit teaching in the classroom, although probably not lecturing at the front of the classroom.
Ultimately the slogan, ‘expect more, demand high’ sums it up in a nutshell. This effectively ended the presentation part of the session as Scrivener moved on to a more practical workshop. Although there are many aspects of a lesson he could explore he decided look at a common stage in most lessons, namely, when a student has done an exercise and the teacher leads a feedback stage to check answers.
Scrivener then challenged the attendees to a thought experiment, ‘If I wanted to extend this stage (going through the students’ answers) to last 60 minutes, what are some things I could do?’ I liked his suggestion not to stamp your authority on the answer from a student. Rather than yes, yes, good, do you agree? leave it open whether it is right or wrong and ask other students opinions first. This is something that I have found useful in my classes.
He also talked about moving on from fixing students’ errors. ‘Fixing doesn’t lead to insight. It doesn’t lead to awareness. Fixing just papers over a crack.’.
He finished with a slide that offered an alternative approach.
At the beginning of the post I said that this is one of the sessions I was most looking forward to. It certainly didn’t disappoint. What a great start it has been to IATEFL 2013. Can’t wait for further sessions as the week progresses.
As for this session, it seems apt to end with a quote from Scrivener, ‘Demand high isn’t a method. All it is is putting that question in your head, How can I challenge my learners more?’
Check out the session at http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2013/sessions/2013-04-09/how-demand-high