ESL TeachingTraining

Clinical Supervision and CPDWorkshop


Steve Hirschhorn

Teachers generally don’t like being observed. It disturbs them and it disturbs their students – they say.

But we know that observation can be an integral component in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) so why do so many of us view it as nasty medicine to be taken as rarely as possible?

This talk, presentation and workshop will examine attitudes to observation and feedback, while delving into systematic methods of recording teacher and student behaviour during lessons. I will argue that we will never achieve objective observation and we should therefore discard the idea in favour of an alternative.

In our professional literature tradition, observation has been linked with five main points, those are that observation is:

I will dismantle each of these points showing that they are irrelevant to a 21st century view of language teacher development.

An alternative approach, which will be presented (for subsequent discussion), is that we throw open the doors of our classrooms, abandon all pretence at objectivity, make observers part of our classroom interaction and thus gain the cumulative benefit of individualised comments on unique events i.e. lessons.

The idea is literally idealistic in that it requires teachers to adopt a whole new culture. As such it may meet with resistance or be rejected outright but my purpose is to initiate a dialogue with teachers which, over time, may mature into a new vision of CPD designed by teachers for teachers and therefore, responsive to their real needs as educational facilitators.

Steve is an all around knowledgeable educator, an exceptional linguist, and, above all, an innovative teacher. I first met Steve in Beijing in 2011 during ESL teacher training and development when the owners of the school I was working for, First Decision Education Group, hired Steve to head their program. I was a relative new comer to teaching ESL at the time and I found his teachings especially insightful, informative, and served delightfully with his signature wit. Steve later went on to become the Vice President of Foreign Affairs of the same Beijing-based school. During his management era, Steve enacted Continuing Professional Development (CPD) sessions, which consisted of employees choosing an ESL rooted topic to become somewhat “expert ” on and were required to individually present findings to our fellow colleagues. Though some employees were initially reserved about the idea of public speaking, Steve provided helpful guidelines and feedback, which really taught employees to present in an engaging manner and furthermore offered a chance to harness a useful life skill. Notably, the school continued the practice of CPD sessions after his departure from China. Steve also offered to teach interested parties Italian in a small group setting once a week during his time as Vice President of Foreign Affairs. Armed with blocks [Cuisenaire Rods], (a commonly used tool used for teaching language), his signature “silent way,” and the sounds of the phonetic alphabet, Steve taught us more language in our weekly sessions than I possibly learned in two years of high school Spanish language class! Needless to say, this man knows what he’s doing. I can personally attest to the fact that learning from Steve, no matter the format, will not only be worth your time, but a wise investment.

Yvette Ferrari
School Editor - beijingkids

Next workshop:
History of Pronunciation Teaching in ELT