27 junio, 2011

Critical Incidents

One year ago, I attended the conference given by Carles Monereo at UNAM titled “Teacher Training through Critical Incidents”. It was, without a doubt, quite interesting, revealing that teachers plan their class, their lesson plan, without considering any setback, conflict, or problem. We teachers plan as if everything would happen according to our planning. However, when in the classroom, as in life, incidents take place, there are unexpected events that go beyond our emotional range, causing instability in our teaching performance. How many of us have planned the “perfect class”, the one we thought would turn out fine and, in practice, “something” happened that changed our plans? That is when we need to make a decision: stick to the plan –no matter what- or adjust quickly to the unforeseen circumstances.

The answer may seem easy, however, in this conference some teachers said that, faced with a critical incident, they stuck to the plan. Probably, we have missed information or training to this matter, because teaching is more than just adhering to a program, or students passing an exam, or sticking to the plan all the way. Our job as teachers implies a combination of emotions, content, and the didactic. Usually, we include in our lesson plan the last two, but we forget how important emotion is to education. Sometimes, or many times, students are not in the mood: they are sick and tired, they have problems (who doesn’t?), that is to say, without the disposition or motivation to carry out our plans. In those moments, students need a teacher who knows how to adjust, a teacher flexible enough to adapt to any circumstance, that is, if plan A doesn’t look at all good, we switch to plan B, and if this doesn´t work either, we choose plan C, D, etc. Which is very useful, not only in the classroom, but in real life. Many times we have a plan that, due to a critical incident, fails to succeed. Being creative, flexible, and adaptable are essential qualities for any person. I myself plan the activities that I would like to do with my family on the weekend: to go to the museum, to the theater, etc., but, it turns out that they, all men, want… to play football! What should I choose, to throw a tantrum or to put on my tennis shoes, run, dodge, catch the ball, score a touchdown and have a lot of fun?

With or without critical incidents we should know how to adapt, how to conform (in the sense of “taking the form of…”), and, the most important, to learn, as good actors do, to improvise.

6 comentarios:

  1. Plan B & C are good ideas. But, most of the time what happens in my classes is that I have to cut plan A into 2: Plan A.1 and Plan A.2 for the next session. This happens even for learning games that I wrongfully assumed that the students would "easily" understand the instructions. In such cases, I'll have to invent a much simpler game right there and then. Then, we can play the more complex game next session.

  2. Bom dia
    on http://www.softskills.nl/?p=287 I did write a translatiion/ adaption of this blog. Know you don't mind. It is a good article for young new teachers.
    regards Jaap

  3. Hi, Ari,
    Thanks for your accurate comment. I agree, sometimes we don't have to change our plan entirely... a slight variation is enough.

    Best regards,

  4. Buen día, Jaap,
    Of course I don't mind, on the contrary, I feel honored. Please, feel free to translate as many as you want ;-)

    Thank you so much.

  5. Critical incidents require "critical leadership/stewardship and intervention based on a risk management approach" if that is justified, from an educational perspective. I suppose the root causes need to be analysed in retrospective of those incidents, and responses thoroughly reviewed to uncover any reinforcement of policies, strategies, actions - procedures, instructions needed to remedy the situation inside and outside class. There are often many assumptions made about people's emotions, behaviours, in critical incidents, which are too often based on incomplete information, or emotional responses out of the interactions. Before one could even teach students who are not motivated, or prepared to learn in a class setting, say with a group of students who are emotional "upset" with the teaching, it may be worthwhile to have a conversation with them in a private, though separate space, to understand what cause the disruption, conflicts, i.e. the actual causes, rather than symptoms of problems.

    Lesson plans are tools to guide teachers in structuring the teaching and learning, and so teachers need to be flexible in varying the structure of the lesson to cater for any specific changes required to ensure a more effective learning environment, and to optimise learning in class.
    Should lesson plans be changed if there are emotional issues arising out of the lesson? Yes, I think this is important. Learning won’t be effective if one’s emotions are negative.

  6. Hi, John :)
    Thank you for your time and your insightful points, I agree.

    Saludos (regards),


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