A Course on Mediation: Why?

Some background information

Why a course on mediation?

I work in EOI da Coruña, a state-run school that specializes in teaching languages (in our school there are 11). Recently, our educational authorities incorporated mediation in the curriculum and is an assessable skill -it has even been coined as the fifth skill.

We were already aware of the nature of mediation and its descriptors thanks to the CEFR Companion Volume published in 2018; and there have been many interesting articles shared lately. But still, questions like “what exactly is mediation in language learning contexts?”, “what role does it have in the learning process?”and “how can it be assessed?” have been around for some time, and understanding it inside out is something that requires time, training and discussion.

EOI da Coruña was granted Erasmus+ funding to carry out our Proxecto Medal  (Mediación e Actualización Lingüística) which aims at improving our skills and knowledge by means of job shadows and courses like this one, which would provide the deep understanding of mediation and, ultimately, help implement it little by little.

Where was it?

We were students from three different EOIs (Official School of Languages) in Spain:  EOI Ronda, EOI Madrid Villaverde and EOI da Coruña. It was a one-week course in Bell, Cambridge. Our tutors were Vic Richardson and Chris Edgoose -lucky us!

Aprendendo sobre mediación lingüística

Xusto acabo de volver dunha das miñas mellores experiencias formativas recentes: un curso sobre mediación lingüística en Bell, Cambridge. O curso é parte do Proxecto Medal, (Mediation e actualización lingüística), un proxecto Erasmus+ da Escola Oficial de Idiomas da Coruña,  e que ten como obxectivo actualizar a metodoloxía didáctica e adaptala aos requerimentos do DECRETO 81/2018, de 19 de xullo, polo que se implantaron os novos niveis e se incluíu a mediación na nosa práctica docente e certificadora como actividade lingüística.

Había moitos ingredientes que presaxiaban unha boa experiencia. Sendo en Cambridge poucas cousas poden saír mal. Pero tamén porque era unha oportunidade para analizar un área do ensino de linguas que nos últimos tempos estaba dando moito que falar: a mediación. Agora ben difícilmente imaxinaba que tras superar os dous primeiros días -que foron bastante esixentes,  ía transformar a miña forma de entender a mediación no contexto da aula de inglés.

Con todo, creo que vai levar unha temporadiña ata que os profes asimilemos a forma de incorporar a mediación no proceso de aprendizaxe: requerirá tempo ata que funcione a nivel de aula, ata que estea incorporado como un elemento fundamental nos materiais e recursos, e tamén, como non, na avaliación. O desafío non é pouca cousa.

Mais ao mesmo tempo vai ser moi interesante ver como se desenvolve e se vai implementando. E unha das cousas que me resultan máis atractivas  a min vai ser ver como responden os alumnos.

Por todo isto sentín a necesidade de escribir un par de textos sobre a experiencia. Non agardedes longas explicacións sobre o tema…ese non é o meu obxectivo, e nin sequera sería capaz agora mesmo de facelo así. Para min acaba de comezar un camiño que consiste en repasar e ler moito,  e tamén probar e observar na aula como incoroporo a mediación.

Todo moi sinxelo: vos amosarei algunhas ideas principais que traio de Cambridge e, sobre todo, quero animarvos a aproveitar calquera oportunidade que teñades para ler ou formarvos no tema.

Aquí van algunhas fotos do nos primeiro día en Cambrige antes do comezo do curso -tamén o único día que vimos o sol 🙂

Exploring Linguistic Mediation

I’ve just come back from one of the best professional development opportunities I’ve had in a very long time: a course on Linguistic Mediation(background information) in Bell, Cambridge. This course is part of Proxecto Medal, an ErasmusPlus project of the Escola Oficial de Idiomas da Coruña, which aims at developing and adapting our skills to new teaching demands.

There were many reasons why it was bound to be a great experience: it was in Cambridge -enough said. Also, because it meant examining an area that in my teaching context we’ve been struggling with a lot in the last year: mediation. But, hardly could I imagine that after a first couple of brain racking days, it would actually shift my teaching mindset in many ways.

I honestly think us teachers will have a long way to go until we really succeed in incorporating mediation in the whole learning process: it is going to take a very long time until it is functioning at classroom level, materials creation, and obviously assessment. The challenge is no small thing.

But it is also going to be very exciting to see how it evolves and is slowly implemented. And also, to me, at classroom level it is going to be very interesting to see how students respond to it as well.

So, this is why I suddenly felt the urge to write a couple of post about this. But, don’t expect long digressions into what mediation is or isn’t, on mediation activities or tasks, assessment and all its complexity, etc. I wouldn’t be able to. For me this is a journey that has only just begun. In the next couple of months I’ll still have to go on re-reading my notes, expanding my knowledge of it and testing/observing how I manage to incorporate mediation in my learners’ everyday classroom experience. So, I’d much rather keep it simple: in the next couple of days I’ll just show you some of my own takeaways of what I learnt, hopefully encouraging you to embrace any opportunity you have to read and/or learn about it. It’s fascinating.

Here are a few photos from our first day in Cambridge before the course started. Also, the only day we enjoyed Cambridge in sunlight 🙂

Still learning.

I had almost forgotten that I had started this blog “Learner First Dairy” to share some of my thoughts and experiences as an English teacher- obviously, not blogging doesn’t mean I feel am not a learner any more.

Logging in again has made me remember a time when I used to read so many wonderful blog posts from fellow teachers: the impact it had on my everyday practice was unbelievable. Still, today, much of what I do in class has been inspired by teachers who kindly shared their ideas through blogging. I’m not exaggerating. I’m lucky to have many training opportunities available, but very few of them have ever matched all that I have gained in this kind of media. And what I always enjoyed most were the posts where teachers expressed their concerns and reflected on their methods and approaches. It was all that reflective teaching and sharing that was so insightful. And it took very little time actually: just reading and engaging in conversation now and then. But the effect of it was so significant, yet so small apparently. It was only natural that I would also do the same and try give in return.

The truth is that I have been neglecting that part of my teaching practice, but I’d love to start again and catch up on what’s going on.

The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business.” -Teresa Amabile ‘The Progress Principle’


Putting learners in the driving seat

I was really pleased to have taken part in this memorable TESOL SPAIN National Convention held in Elche.

I had never before spoken in a training event like this, and despite all the nerves and fears it turned out to be a truly wonderful experience. I had the chance to meet and listen to many ELT professionals I knew and followed online, and I was lucky to have met many like-minded teachers I hope to keep in touch with.

Thank you to all the TESOL Board members and organizers for giving me the opportunity to share some of my classroom experiences at the convention.

My talk was about student involvement: Putting Learners in the Driving Seat.

Some of the work I referred to in my talk is available in these blogposts:

Building Vocabulary: 1) The Post-it 2) Helping it Stick

Examples from quizlet:House and Furniture, Classroom language

Examples from padlet:Verb patterns.

Examples of collaborative work: My town, Shopping, Tips for language learning

Celebrating learning:

I always collect everything I do in class and post the pictures and summary in an animated video that I play on the last day, and share with them via email or on our LMS. In the past I would use google slideshows, but I’ve become very fond of using POWTOON, a very easy-to-use tool to create presentations and animated videos.

Digital tools for learner-centered classrooms.

Technology is usually referred to as a tool. I looked up the meaning of tool in Merriam Webster online dictionary and I found that it is defined as  a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task; something (such as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or professionals a book is the tool of a scholar, or the pencil the tool of a drawer.

It is not an end in itself, but serves a purpose and we use it for something.

I feel that the best digital tools that can be used in the classroom are the ones you don’t really notice. We are just using them, just as we use pencils or the notebooks in order to carry out more significant tasks that require our full attention and engagement.

I just recently spoke at the TESOL-SPAIN National Convention and the title of my talk was Putting Learners in the Driving Seat. It was about reflecting on how we can increase student involvement in the different stages of the classroom. And I mentioned some online tools have been very helpful.

I have had some memorable classroom experiences using digital tools for making the classroom more inclusive and learner-centered and I shortlisted the ones that have been most effective for me.