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Korea Reflective Practice Special Interest Group (Korea RPSIG) Day of Reflection, August 22 2015.

Inspired by Dr. Thomas S.C. Farrell, the Korea reflective practice SIG held its first Day of Reflection on Saturday, August 22. Presenters and participants from all over Korea came to Sookmyoung Women’s University in Seoul for the event.
This post was originally going to be an article about the event, but now it’s not so here it is.

Making some omelets with Shannon Tanghe

Making some omelets with Shannon Tanghe

To kick off the event, Shannon Tanghe, a teacher educator of Danguk University in Incheon, gave a workshop titled, “Reflective Teacher Collaboration”. Dan Lortie (75) called teaching an egg-crate profession – teachers tend to be separate from each other and work alone in their classrooms –  and Shannon suggested we start making omelets through collaboration with other teachers. Shannon took us on her own journey exploring collaboration and recommended a lot of tools teachers can use to collaborate together, including collaborative journaling, collaborative lesson plan reviewing, peer observation. She challenged us to identify who we would like to collaborate with and make a plan. Shannon ended by reminding us that reflection does not stop here: having events like a Day of Reflection are great, but they are not enough if we don’t continue to reflect.

"Teachers need to practice to improve their own reflective skills."

“Teachers need to practice to improve their own reflective skills.”

The second presenter was Kim Mikyoung, a high school teacher and teacher trainer from Daegu. Mikyoung graciously shared a program she and her colleagues ran with a group of high school students that centered on teaching students to reflect on their learning. Mikyoung showed videos of student reflections and shared the materials she used in her program. Mikyoung’s presentation reminded us all that students need to reflect to learn, and so do we. She said, “Teachers need to practice to improve their own reflective skills.” According to Mikyoung, it takes reflective teachers to instill those skills in their students.

Charting our professional paths with Jocelyn Wright.

Charting our professional paths with Jocelyn Wright.

Jocelyn Wright came all the way from Mokpo to honor us with a highly interactive third workshop on the day. She began by asking us to use a prompt to tell the story of our own journey to becoming a teacher. This is how she introduced the concept of “revelatory incidents.” By using participants’ own experiences, Jocelyn led us to reflect on the specific incidents in our teaching careers that changed us as teachers. One of the things I realized learning from other teachers in my small group during this presentation is that “revelatory incidents” might feel uncomfortable, but it is just such an experience that helps a teacher to grow. Jocelyn also emphasized that teachers change and evolve all the time and our reflective path does not stop with one Day of Reflection but must continue in the future.

Chris Miller guides a reflection on critical incidents.

Chris Miller guides a reflection on critical incidents.

The fourth workshop of the day was titled “Using Critical Incidents to Further Professional Development.” Christopher Miller, a teacher at Daeil Foreign Language High School, shared a framework for reflecting on critical incidents. The framework included four questions: What happened? Why did it happen? What might it mean? and What are the implications for practice? Chris began by giving examples from his own experience and encouraged us to do the same: to share our critical incidents in groups and hear each other’s perspectives. Chris also provided materials to use on our own for teachers’ and students’ reflections on critical incidents.

Reflecting on the reflections on reflection. Meta-meta.

Reflecting on the reflections on reflection. Meta-meta.

The day ended with a final reflection session in small groups facilitated by Michael Griffin. Michael provided participants with some questions to help them reflect on the four previous sessions and asked groups to discuss the most interesting questions. The group I was in was most interested in teaching learners to reflect and spent our time discussing ways that learners can be motivated to care about their learning. This led into a final question and answer period in which presenters answered participants’ questions regarding their workshops. A common thread throughout all the workshops was that reflection does not stop here — it is a continuous process to develop as teachers. Michael ended the evening by reminding us of this again.

This day of reflection was valuable for me as a teacher, and I hope it was also valuable for other participants. I am eternally grateful to the presenters for donating their time and expertise and to the participants for coming to learn together. I would also like to thank Sookmyoung University Injaegwan for the space for this event. I hope we can have other events like it in the future.

The reflective practice special interest group has regular meetings in Seoul, Daegu, and Gwangju. For more information, search the Korea Reflective Practice Special Interest Group on Facebook.

Bonus photo:

Post-workshop awesomeness

Post-workshop awesomeness

BG KOTESOL mini-conference

Last weekend I attended the Busan-Gyeongnam KOTESOL mini-conference.

Not once did I regret the long drive from the top of the country to the bottom. The atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming and I got a chance to see a lot of people, some who were new to me and others whom I rarely see offline…. er, face-to-face.


The conference began with a keynote talk from Tim Thompson called “Close Your Books”. Tim began by confessing his teaching sins (during which time, I checked each one off in my head: teaching the book not the students – done that; not preparing for class “hey guys what page are we on” – yep, and more recently than I’d like to admit; Facebooking while the students “do” the book – yep, Tweeting too….), reinforcing the point that being tethered to a course book can have some negative consequences that are really worth considering.

Tim touched a topic that has given me much thought recently as well. What are we teaching? What do we say to the student who asks, “Why do I need to learn English?” Maybe she doesn’t need to learn it.* Tim’s approach is straightforward: we need to teach skills through English, where English is the medium rather than the content.

What skills will our students need in life? Tim offered some suggestions: public speaking, small-group discussion, academic writing, time management, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, how to set and meet goals. These skills can easily transfer to real life situations in any language and help students start to take responsibility for their own learning.

My take-away was reflective: I need to think about and also talk to my students about what they want to learn and how to achieve my, their, and the academy’s (= their parents’) immediate and future goals. I’m grateful for all the suggestions and ideas I took away from the talk and look forward to helping my students find ways to improve their life skills through English.

Memorable quotes from the talk:

“If we don’t have goals for developing skills, then we need to start asking, “What are we doing in the classroom?” 

“EHP – English for Hypothetical Purposes. Let’s stop teaching this.”


The second session I attended was given by Chris Miller, “Journaling for Professional Development.” The session was mis-named in my opinion, as Chris actually presented a framework for reflection and helped participants consider how they reflect on their own classes. He also presented research by Hatton and Smith (1995) which added to my understanding of reflective practice.

The jargon-heavy framework Chris presented included descriptive writing (which meant defining the moment), descriptive reflection (which meant evaluating the situation), dialogic reflection (which meant exchanging reflective journals with someone), critical reflection (which meant considering the larger context, including factors beyond your control), technical rationality (which meant making small changes in your teaching), reflection-on-action (which meant reflecting to understand your teaching after the class has ended) and reflection-in-action (which meant reflecting before reacting during a teaching moment).

The presentation was rather complex, but the explanations were pretty clear and through Chris’s guidance we talked about our strongest points (for me, descriptive reflection) and weakest points (reflection-in-action). I also decided after learning about it that dialogic reflection is something I would love to try. Any takers? ^^

My take-away from this session is that there is a lot about reflection that I don’t know and that Chris is really passionate about improving his teaching practice. 

Memorable quotes: 

“Reflection is a work in progress.” 

“Asking more questions [is important] – even if you don’t know the answers.” (following Farrell (1998))


The third and final session I attended was by Jackie Bolen, “Teaching Public Speaking and Presentations 101.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be teaching public speaking or presentations, but I figured I could probably learn something for myself at least. 🙂 Anyone who has ever seen me in front of an audience knows that I need a teacher like Jackie (and perhaps a book like “Speaking of Speech”).

And I definitely learned a lot. First of all, I noticed Jackie’s presentation skills:

  • she showed the book first before beginning;
  • she introduced herself and gave some of her background;
  • she got the participants’ ideas before giving her own;
  • she kept it simple and told stories to support her arguments;
  • her speaking pace was natural and she used hand gestures and eye contact;
  • her volume was appropriate to the size of the room.

I noticed these things because she was talking about teaching them to students and also because they contrasted sharply with some other presentations I’d seen.

I learned that speech has a physical message, a visual message, and a story message. I could pick and choose and adapt to the ages and levels of my own students. One thing I thought was a bit of a shame is that all the “example” speeches on the resource cd were perfect, native-speaker examples. However, Jackie also suggested TED, YouTube (a place for bad examples!), and the website Presentation Expressions as additional input.

What I took away from the presentation is a keen desire to teaching speech and presentation skills in my class – especially since it ties into what Tim said in the beginning about teaching something meaningful. 

Memorable quote: “If you teach them the skills, even shy students can do it.”


As always, the most difficult part of a conference is deciding which presentations to attend, knowing I have to miss other great ones. I’m happy with my choices, but of course wish I could have seen everything. I am very glad I attended this mini-conference and kudos to all the speakers (many first-time presenters) for their courage and willingness to share their thoughts and ideas on a variety of topics.



*I approached my boss with this question a few weeks ago and she answered, “You never know where life will take you and English keeps a lot of doors open.”

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