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course John musing

Here is a comment from one of hundreds of teachers who have experienced contrasting conversations with John:

"The process of exploration and "seeing again", created by the group, becomes a tool we can take with us and use after the course is over.  It is this new way of seeing which leads to a fundamental change in how we go about reflecting on and exploring our own teaching practices.

As a teacher, I often finish a class and the first thing I do is say to myself, "that was a good class," or That was terrible."  My initial reaction is judgmental.  But working with John and the other teachers in his courses, I've come to realize that how I react to a class has very little to do with what might have actually happened in a class. Before I can develop as a teacher, I first need to know how to see what I am doing in new and novel ways.  In John's courses, no one teacher has the answers. No one is the holder of special knowledge.  Instead, we learn to ask each other questions to help analyze what happened in a class.

We learn to listen to each other and try on different perspectives.  Each member in the group engages in conversations in order to see each classroom moment from different perspectives.  It is the power of the group and the atmosphere of almost child-like curiosity which changes the way we go about seeing and learning about our own teaching.   Working with John and the other teachers, I am reminded again and again that to be a teacher, I need to first be a learner.  And it in John's course we are always asking the next question, always taking a step in a new direction, and always working with each other to become more aware of how we and our students learn. Kevin Stein.

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iTDi Advanced Course

"You call yourself a teacher?" Contrasting conversations to explore our beliefs and teaching practices with John F. Fanselow

Live online sessions will be held in the iTDi virtual classroom on 4 Sundays in May.

Live sessions (registered participants only)

  • May 4th – course participants only (60 minutes)
  • May 11th – course participants only (60 minutes)
  • May 18th – course participants only (60 minutes)
  • May 25rd – course participants only (60 minutes)

Time: 14:00 - 15:00 GMT

Enroll in the entire course for only US $49

Course + Evaluation + Certificate of Accomplishment US $75

Questions? Contact support@itdi.pro

Breaking Rules

In John's course on analyzing what we do, you will jointly explore ways to...

  • "Do the opposite" in your teaching to help you understand your teaching style
  • See, not just react.
  • Sharpen classroom observation, transcription and analysis skills.
  • Make very, very small changes that have a very, very large impact.
  • Tap your natural curiosity and that of your students.

When we call the bank, cable company, doctor, or credit card company, we hear messages like these: "This call might be recorded so that we can better understand your needs and train ourselves to serve you better." or ""We're taking a fresh look at everything we do, to serve your better." Coaches regularly have videos made of games that they analyze with their players.

One of the reasons that this normal practice in business is rarely if ever done in education is that the usual purpose of an observation is to evaluate teachers. If we have in our mind a history of visits from supervisors who criticized what we were doing --symbolized by the "You call yourself a teacher?" title of the course -- you are not likely to want to record your lessons.

Yet, the easiest and most powerful way to understand what we are really doing in our classrooms—identify the rules we follow—is to record, transcribe and analyze what we and our students say and do. If we do so with as few pre-conceived notions about good or bad teaching as possible, then we can see the data as children might look at something for the first time. By doing this, we can constantly demystify and gain new insights into our teaching.


John F. Fanselow

John became involved in ESOL by becoming a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. Upon completion of Ph.D. at Columbia University, Teachers College, he joined the faculty. At Teachers College, his main interest was observation and analysis of interactions, both inside and outside of classrooms. "Beyond Rashomon" and "Let's see", two of his seminal articles in the TESOL Quarterly, have been reprinted in many anthologies. "Beyond Rashomon" was the basis of Breaking Rules (Longman, 1987) and "Let's See" was the basis of Contrasting Conversations (Longman, 1992, reprinted 2010). Try the Opposite (SIMUL, 1992, reprinted 2010) grew out of his work with teachers in Japan. He was president of International Pacific College in NZ for 8 years where he introduced recording and analyzing classroom interaction that has not been done in a systematic way in any other tertiary institution in the world.

He has been active professionally, serving as president of TESOL International and president of New York TESOL. John is now an emeritus professor at Columbia University Teacher College, and a visiting professor at The New School in New York and at Kanda University of International Studies in Tokyo. In 2005, he was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia University, Teachers College. Each year, Teachers College presents 3 to 5 Distinguished Alumni Awards who are selected from the more than 80,000 alumni of the institution.