How democratic is your ESL classroom?

Who gets to speak in class? Whose ideas count? Who chooses the assignments? How do students receive feedback? Do students have a chance to conference with their instructors? Can YouTube be a valuable source for homework assignment? Do you want your students to become self-directed – or autotelic – in their studies?

Here’s a quick checklist that ESL teachers that I created for a recent CATESOL workshop called “Techniques for a More Democratic Classroom”. My core assumption remains that giving students more opportunities to literally speak, write, and share their insights leads to a more engaging, dynamic, and valuable classroom experience.  I will write more on this topic in a few days, but here are some questions to consider.

  1. Who do you currently teach? How would you describe the students?
  1. What are some of their personal interests?
  1. How can student interests be better incorporated into the curriculum?
  1. Which assignments do students currently choose? Which seems most successful? Why?
  2. What are some benefits of greater student participation?
  3. What are some risks of greater student participation?
  4. Do you want to increase the number of choices students make?
  5. What critical language skills can be taught by tapping into their interests?
  6. How can you tweak current material to better individualize instruction?
  7. What internet resources can you use to augment the current curriculum?
  8. Which exercises or activities do you find most successful in your classroom?
  9. What decisions do you keep as your prerogative as the instructor?
  10. Will your students become self-directed learners?
  11. How can you encourage that possibility?
  12. How can you create a more democratic classroom?
  13. What are some obstacles to a more democratic classroom?
  14. How does technology encourage a more democratic classroom?

“Education is a kind of continuing dialogue and a dialogue assumes, in the nature of the case, different points of view.”   Robert Hutchins (1899-1977), former President of University of Chicago and educational philosopher

Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Feel free to let me know.

I’ll post an article in a few days outlining some of my thoughts and sharing some materials.

Ask more. Know more. Share more.

Create Compelling Conversations.

One comment

  1. Great to see someone who hasn’t forgotten (in a world obsessed with technology) that education in a democracy needs to be education for democracy. Let me just suggest that there needs to be a focus not just on the form but also on the content of education, so in addition to your list we need, for instance, to ensure that no child leaves the school without having at least heard of the Magna Carta and without having looked at a few snippets from what is arguably the canon of the democratic tradition.

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