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Renata Frosztga

Extramural studies
Year 2

The essay is based on the observation of a lesson in a primary school that took place in
the 6th class. The purpose of this document is to reflect on decisions made about learning, in
and out of the classroom and on the balance of power that is most effective in terms of
learning goals.
It was not surprising that after the lesson the teacher proved to be the main power
holder in and out of the classroom. She formulated objectives for learning, diagnosed the
learners needs, deciding upon the language and skills focus, determined the content and the
process of classroom activities. According to the teachers interview students had no influence
on these four aspects mentioned. The observed lesson showed clear that she focused on
reading comprehension and revision of vocabulary connected with different kind of sports.
She was the only person to write on the blackboard. However, pupils were responsible for its
cleaning. The standard-class seating arrangement remained unchanged during the lesson
which was also the teachers decision. However, the learners had an influence on whom they
were working with because they were sitting and working with their friends. It was a teacherfronted classroom which let her work with the whole class, control pupils, their activities and
keep an eye on what was happening. Limited pairwork consisted in writing on a paper all
memorized sport disciplines and comparing these with the partner. New words were explained
by the teacher who tried to do it in English. Then, pupils gave the meaning of words. After
reading the teacher asked a few questions related to the exercises to check comprehension.
The teacher chose pupils who were supposed to answer with one or two words. They helped
one another responding to the teachers questions. She picked up words from the text which
the student should learn. If anybody did not hear the meaning she asked a pupil to repeat it for
the class. The results of pupils work were checked by the teacher with the whole class. She
neglected to walk through the classroom to see if the pupils had written words from the
blackboard correctly. Instead, she conducted all activities and checked the work at the front of
the class.
The class observed was definitely teacher-centred. She believes that handing over
decision-making power in the learning process to the learners involves some risk and cannot

be successful. Besides, students in our culture expect leadership and direction and they do not
stand alone with their beliefs. Therefore the answer to Harmers question is obvious for most
of us: if you were to walk into a classroom, where would you expect to see the teacher
standing at the front controlling affairs, or moving around the classroom quietly helping the
students only when needed? (2007: 108). A great deal of power on teachers may also have a
beneficial effect on a group, especially in the early stages. When we give explanation,
organise question and answer work, lecture, make announcements or bring a class to order,
acting as a controller makes sense. The balance of power in the classroom should depend on
what it is we wish the students to achieve. However, there is a danger for many teachers who
often get used to such leadership. The observed teacher appeared to fall into the trap of her
controlling role depriving the students of many possibilities and modes of learning which are
good not only for learning itself, but also for the students enjoyment of that learning (Harmer
2007: 109). She gave the pupils no chance to use English freely. All seemed to be controlled
and conducted. In some situations they could receive more opportunities to produce language
and be more autonomous, e.g. they could be involved in writing on the board, decide what to
do as homework or ask each other what their favourite sport is.
Democratic style of teaching could be effective for the learning process because it increases
learners autonomy and makes sense of what students know. But then it does not mean that it
should be considered as most effective in terms of learning goals. This is only one way of
doing things (Harmer 2007: 108) which let students participate in decision-making and think
creatively rather than having them hang on every word. Learners should be encouraged to
take risks with the language (Hall 2011: 23). Teachers from time to time need to act as a
tutor or prompter and not only as controller (Harmer 2007: 110). Of course, it could cause
some problems less can be planned, more is spontaneous and less is predictable (Wajnryb
1992: 121). Nevertheless, taking sometimes a less domineering role increases Student Talking
Time (STT). The best lessons are ones where STT is maximised, but at appropriate moments
during the lesson the teacher is not afraid to conduct (Harmer 1998: 4).
All things considered, there is no ideal recipe for the balance of power which is most
effective in terms of learning goals. Some decisions like those regarding aims or skills focus,
have to be made by the teacher, especially in the early stages. Nonetheless, teachers need to
be able to switch between many roles sometimes act as controller, sometimes share their
power with pupils. Shift of power can be of a good value for students.

Hall, G. 2011. Exploring English Language Teaching. Language in Action. London
and New York: Routledge
Harmer, J. 2007. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 4th Edition. Harlow:
Harmer, J. 1998. how to Teach English. An introduction to the practice of English
language teaching. Edinburg Gate, Harlow: Longman.
Wajnryb, R. 1992. Classroom Observation Tasks. A resource book for language
teachers and trainers. Cambridge University Press