Log in

Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

2023 TESOL Experience by Françoise Howard

16 Jun 2023 6:06 AM | ORTESOL Communications (Administrator)

2023 TESOL Experience by Françoise Howard

The TESOL conference was a delight!  I wished I were able to be in several sessions at once!  On Wednesday I went from session to session with no break from 9 am to 5:15 pm!  One of the sessions I attended was titled "When Worlds Meet: Learner Engagement Online and In Class" by Maggie Sokolik.  I will focus on the takeaways regarding student engagement in the physical classroom.  Maggie brought up some ideas that I had never thought of before attending her session.  I hope my fellow colleagues in ORTESOL will find this useful.  

The worst nightmare of an instructor is to have a classroom full of students who are disengaged and bored to tears.  There are barriers to student engagement that instructors cannot control.  The student could be preoccupied with personal problems, local policy or events that directly influence them, or global policy or events in their home countries.

There are also controllable barriers to student engagement such as: irrelevant and boring assignments, impersonal classroom style, rigid class format, teacher-centered approaches, inflexibility to student concerns or needs.

As an instructor, you might be doing all the right things, but students still lose interest.  Could something else be going on?  

The presenter observed in-person classes and took notes of the layout of the classroom, who was talking, and where they were seated in the classroom.  She observed the distribution of “classroom talk” between teacher and students in a 20-minute window of time.  She noted the geographic location of those who were talking.  Some students were hidden behind a post in the classroom or behind another student. She also observed that most people have a dominant eye that corresponds to their dominant hand.  So if an instructor is right-handed (like most of the population), they are more likely to have a dominant right eye. This would lead to more engagement with students seated in the left side of the classroom.  This is due to the fact that we can use our eyes to strategically cue another’s attention. This typically happens in a subconscious way in the classroom.  

The take-aways is for instructors to consider how their teaching space may be affecting classroom engagement.  Are there hiding areas in the physical space where teaching is taking place?  Also, instructors need to be self-aware and think about how their patterns of gestures and eye contact can be used to engage students.  They should be open to being observed or recorded teaching to watch for actions that might be privileging one part of the room over another.  

As instructors, we might be looking into complicated solutions to student engagement while the solutions literally lie under our own eyes.  The layout of our classroom as well as our physical inclination to gaze to the left side of the room could be hidden factors that affect the students' engagement with teaching.   


Mailing Address: PO Box 12322, Portland, OR 97212


Follow Us

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software