Sunday, March 11, 2018

Integrating Critical Thinking Skills into the Exploration of Culture in an EFL Setting


Week 1: Orientation; Culture
Unit 1: Let's Introduce Ourselves
My name is Li Guo-jhen. You can call me Guo Jhen. I'm from Taiwan and live in the third largest city, Taichung. I've been teaching in a public junior high school as an English teacher for more than 13 years. My students are ranging from 13 to 15 years old. Even though most Taiwanese students begin learning English officially in the first or second year of elementary school, I think their level is in between A2 and B1, based on CEFR standard (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Also, I am a member of the English Advisory Team of Taichung. We organize workshops for all the junior high English teachers, so I have plenty of opportunities to attend and also share at workshops for English teaching. Also, I've applied for E-Teacher programs twice. Last summer, I got accepted into 2017 Intensive Sessions/Camps Exchange Program and had a wonderful chance to learn about how summer camps are run in the States.


I'm very into creating an authentic environment for my students to really USE English by conducting Skype exchange sessions with schools outside of Taiwan. Also, I would invite AIESEC volunteers to come over and interact with my students. On weekends, my family and I would usually have camping trips around the country.

Best,

Guo Jhen 

Unit 1: Cultural Introduction: You and Your Classroom
I teach students of age 13 to 15 in a public junior high school here in Taiwan, with 30 students or so of mixed abilities for each class. It is mandatory to learn English in the first or second grade in elementary school, but I would say their English level is just slightly above beginner.

I use government regulated textbooks every day. The publishers develop E-Book to go with them, meaning I can use laptop and OHP in the classroom to teach with well-organized materials, such as PowerPoint presentations, mind mapping, questions for discussion, and so on.

I would always tell my students that learning English is just like learning how to play the piano. You don't just memorize all the notes and theories about music without actually practicing how to play the instrument. Rote memorization of grammar and vocabulary has been the whole universe for lots of teachers and students as well when it comes to English learning. For me, I would always try to create an authentic environment for my students to really USE the language, which is not easy at all because of this so test-driven setting we have here. I love the Task-Based Learning approach a lot because my students can learn through meaningful tasks.

By conducting Skype exchange sessions, inviting international volunteers, making English speaking videos to introduce the beauty of our hometown, and so on, I tried to help my students feel the need and fun of being able to communicate in English. Of course, I still have to make sure I've covered everything from the textbook before the midterms and finals. It is difficult for me to strike a balance between textbook English and REAL English.

Unit 1: Your Depth of Reflection
Sorry for my belated reply, for I was working on multiple projects at the end of the semester when this course began. Well, I think the highest number from my writing would be 4. I described observable events, including Skype exchange sessions, international volunteers, and making English-speaking videos. I mentioned the piano analogy to describe my most fundamental teaching philosophy, complete with terminology like rote memorization, Task-Based Learning, and authentic environment to describe my teaching practice.

To improve the depth of my reflection, I can try to work more on using multiple perspectives and exploring future possibilities for action. The following would be my revision:

Due to this test-oriented setting here in Taiwan, I usually encounter a typical challenge of how to strike a balance between textbook English and authentic application of the language. Of course, as an English teacher in a public junior high school, making sure I've covered everything before the midterms would still be my number one priority. However, creating a meaningful contest for my students to apply what they learned is what I believe in terms of the purpose of learning a foreign language. The washback effect has been around for decades, and it seems to remain so for a long time. Complaining about how difficult it is to provide more opportunities for students to USE English will get me nowhere. I found the Task-Based Learning approach really helped a lot with all kinds of interesting tasks for my students to improve reading comprehension, writing, and speaking skills.

I've been promoting international education in my school with Skype exchange sessions, international volunteers sharing their cultures, and making English-speaking videos about tourist spots. As soon as I found out about this online course, I immediately decided to sign up. I gained lots of practical experience working on those projects, mainly for my students' speaking and presentation skills. However, I seldom incorporated critical thinking skills in my class due to my students' limited vocabulary. After reading the course description, I felt the importance of it for intercultural communication and got motivated to commit to this course despite my already hectic schedule.

Best,

Guo Jhen

Week 2: Ctitical Thinking
Unit 2: Discussion on Active Listening
I used to consider myself a very good listener until I read the sentence, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." Well, it sure struck me that I'd better start practicing listening to understand.

Of all the techniques mentioned, I practiced "Share your point of view, knowledge, or experience." a lot. As a member of the English Advisory Team, I need to share English teaching at workshops a lot and enjoy answering the participants' questions in this regard. Also, in order to reply more specifically, I would also use "Request more information." to elicit more details of their questions so that I'll be more able to help with some suggestions.

Sometimes they would complain how difficult it is to change, or how their students tend to take their extra effort and time for granted, so "Recognize the emotional side" can come in handy to show my empathy. I think I should use this more because you need to reach people's heart first before you reach the mind when practicing active listening.

One technique I would like people to practice with me is "Reflect before responding.", especially when it comes to cross-cultural communication. Taiwan is a more "high-context" country. Most of the time, I can communicate effectively with people from neighboring countries, but I would like to practice more with people from a more low-context culture because it would require me to be more direct and specific while communicating with each other.

Unit 2: Identities Wheel
For my identity wheel, I chose four aspects/roles, family, professional, hobby, and social networking identities.

Of course, family always comes first though it is quite challenging to keep a good balance between these two. I enjoy what I achieved as a English teacher and advisor, especially many other teachers look up to me professionally. My wife, on the other hand, always tends to think I should spend more time with her and our daughters.

I guess being a father of two daughters was determined for me though I wish to have a son and a daughter. In a traditional Taiwanese society, sons are able to carry on family names and heritage. However, I don’t really care that much anymore.

I’m surprised social networking is a part of the wheel. I do spend a lot of time on it, but I might need to reconsider if it’s worth it.
描述: F:\Downloads\Identity Wheel-1 (2).png

Unit 2: Discussion: Moving through Cultures
Other than an English teacher, I've also been affiliated with the English Advisory Team of Taichung City, Taiwan. One of our main tasks is to organize workshops regarding English teaching strategies and applications. This team consists of principals and teachers who are passionate about learning and sharing.

The very core element that shapes our unique culture, as far as I'm concerned, is the embodiment of professional learning community. We would get together on a regular basis and work collaboratively to come up with lesson plans, worksheets, teaching activities, and so on. We do teaching demonstrations to put our products into practice with a real teaching context. Then we share everything and the whole process on our official website. On top of that, we invite teachers to observe and give us feedback on those demonstrations.

To become a member of this team, you need to showcase your passion for English teaching by attending workshops and sharing what you learned. You're not only an expert who has lots of field experiences but a learner who enjoys trying out new techniques and is able to reflect on the effectiveness before you share at workshops. Every English teacher can apply to become one though there are only five of us in Taichung.

My "advisor" identity belongs comfortably in this community because it helps brings the best of me professionally. For example, I was invited to do a teaching demonstration for an international principal instructional leadership symposium in Taiwan. I got to use English to elaborate on my lesson planning and demonstrate how the students can learn better through a variety of tasks. (http://guojhen.blogspot.tw/2017/10/2017-moe-principal-instructional.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.)

I consider myself an introvert who avoid being in the center of attention. However, this job of mine changed me a lot. I need to appear energetic and passionate about what I share, so I gradually learned to become one over the years.

In this community, I don't share my family identity. Other than that, I can share pretty much about everything from my identity wheel.

Unit 2: Definition of Critical Thinking

After reading the assigned materials about critical thinking, it would be difficult to come up with another one without sounding too much like what I read.

Critical thinking is a set of skills that can help people verify an idea or a statement, which requires an unbiased observer to decided whether the source of information is valid by examing it's a fact or an opinion.

Critical thinking is getting more and more important because we are in an era of information overload. As a teacher, I would like my students to be able to tell right from wrong before they make a big decision. They need to learn how to make the most of valid information.

We had a Skype session with a Phillipino English teacher about the War on Drugs. I presented two stories on the news of very different perspectives from each other. Then, I encouraged my students to ask questions to clarify their doubts when skyping that teacher. They had to answer this question: If Duterte' war on drugs violates human rights so much, how come he still enjoys a high approval rating? The idea is not for them to take sides but to be able to look at things from different a different angle.

I hope to incorporate more issues like this in my English class. It's so important for our younger generation to develop critical thinking skills with global issues, such as climate change, financial crisis, gender equality, and so on.

Unit 2: Cascading New Knowledge Forum
The first and foremost question I would ask is: Why should I care? No matter how important or interesting I think it is, the other teacher wouldn't really want to listen to me if he or she thinks it is irrelevant.

As a member of the English Advisory Team in my city, I would be assigned to share English teaching innovations from time to time at workshops. I would definitely share what I learned from this course with other English teachers.

So, how am I going to make it so interesting and relevant that all teachers want to listen to what I have to say? Well, to start off, I'll share them a personal story of how I've met and worked with teachers outside of Taiwan. Following that, I would get them to think about the real purpose of learning English. Then, I would elaborate more on how such a test-oriented setting we have here can't help equip our students with basic communicative skills to communicate with people from other countries/cultures. After that, that's when our hero makes its appearance, in this case, critical thinking and cross-cultural communication competence.

Of course, arousing their motivation is not enough. I'll have to share some of the real applications in my own class with them. With lesson plans, worksheets, students' feedback, my reflections, complete with photos and videos, I can provide evidence of what I just said that taking this course did help me a lot professionally. It can be so if you give it a try in your class.

Week 3: Multiple Perspectives
Unit 3: Description & Interpretation: Part I
Description
1. A man is taking pictures with a point-and-shoot camera.
2. He is wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
3. A woman and a boy are sitting on the bench.
4. They are looking at the camera.
5. There are some tall plants in the back.

Interpretation
1. The people in the picture might be the father, mother, and son because they dressed alike.
2. They might be in some tourist spot.
3. The mom and her son might be smiling at the man when the picture was taken.
4. It might be a cool fall day.
5. There might be another child sitting next to the woman.

Unit 3: Description and Interpretation: Part II
After looking at the second picture, I didn't find any of the descriptions I made were actually interpretations.

I got new awareness from these two pictures that you have to be able to fully understand the whole situation before making any interpretations, or it would be just like what the blind man and the elephant have taught us- misunderstandings have occurred because people saw situations from different points of view.

Unit 3: Tell Us about Your Experience Talking with a Colleague
I talked about this online course with my best friend at the school. He is also an English teacher who started teaching here at the same time with me. We would hang out from time to time, exchanging some ideas of English teaching.

Because I've been conducting Skype exchange projects with schools outside of Taiwan, I specifically emphasized how this course would help me better design my curriculum for cross-cultural understanding and communication.
He said he really admired my abiding passion for not only improving myself professionally but getting the students to practice speaking English.

He wanted to know how to put those ideas and principles into practice and how would I incorporate them into my Skype exchange sessions. He thought those projects were all about English speaking skills, so I told him that I would try to add more cultural aspects and critical thinking skills to my new projects.

Guojhen (Taiwan)

Unit 3: Different Context, Different Meaning
How would you feel or what would you think of when hearing Beethoven’s “Für Elise” and Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s “A Maiden’s Prayer”? In Taiwan, that musical truck doesn't mean ice cream like it does in the U.S. or Thailand but actually the time when you take out the garbage.

We take environmental protection seriously. The government adopted a policy called " No garbage touched the ground", meaning you sort out your household trash at home and take it out upon hearing the classical music ringing on the streets. Residents in the community all know what the music means, and they gather around on some designated spots waiting for the truck to come. The garbage truck makes a brief stop at every spot. If you're too slow to show up before it arrives, you might need to run after it and get the job done.

This is another good example of the difference between description and interpretation. If you put the music in a specific situation culturally, like the musical garbage trucks in Taiwan, you would be surprised that Taiwanese people might perceive Für Elise or A Maiden's Prayer so differently from the rest of the world. Take a look at how expats in Taiwan have to say about it:https://youtu.be/5QYe7r02ewg (Links to an external site.)

Guojhen (Taiwan)
Unit 3: Cultural "Bumps"
My Version
The Head of Academic Office, who is in charge of curriculum development and implementation, doesn't see eye to eye with me about the priority of student learning outcomes. She thinks being able to get grades and go to a good senior high school is the most important. However, I've been so into creating a variety of tasks outside of textbooks so that my students can experience the fun as well as the need to really USE the language. Last week, she summoned me to her office and questioned me why I would discuss an innovative program from the Ministry of Education directly with the principal without consulting with her first. I explained to her that it was actually the principal asked me about the program first, and I just expressed my ideas about the feasibility of applying for the program. Then she said she had already decided not to apply for it because it was not a good timing. She kept telling me how she valued what I've done for the school, but it had caused her some explanation to do with the principal. Somehow I didn't buy it at all. She hasn't been very supportive of what I do because she thinks good grades attract more students to enroll, not some impractical gimmick. She even said I wanted to do it because I wanted to promote myself in the English Advisory Team, which really pissed me off. I then confronted her directly because of this. She immediately realized she shouldn't say that but proceeded to repeat all the bullshit.

Her Version
From her perspective, she would think Guojhen didn't respect her authority by directly going to the principal without asking for her approval. Now the principal was not happy with me because he was messing around with something he shouldn't have. I've been working so hard to maintain the number of students around here. If it weren't for my determination to SAVE the day, this school would've gone so bad. Just look at the numbers, and you'll know what we need most to attract more students. Those teachers just wouldn't appreciate my hard work. They actually think the nonsense of so-called international education is helping the school. Yes, he did win the International School Award for the school, but that was only for his own students. I even doubted that he did this to get famous. Well, let's be fair. If we take a real good look at his students' test scores, I would say he is not so good after all. Anyway, it was all on him that now I have to come up with a good reason to persuade the principal that applying for the program is not such a good idea considering we already took on too many tasks from the Education Bureau. It worked last time, didn't it?

Unit 3: Reflection Activity for Week 3
To properly respond to my classmates' micro-cultures posts, I think I have to use my full attention first because people will go into details about their own anecdotes. Not only that, though we were required to write only paragraphs, they would tend to be quite a bit lengthy. Then, by using the technique, "make sure you understood what the other person wrote", I'll need to ask as many questions to clarify some ambiguities or even avoid misunderstanding so that I will be able to "reflect before responding". With these three very important skills used properly, I think I will become a better active listener to communicate with people from other cultures.

I think active listening would definitely connect with critical thinking from what we learned last week. First of all, you want to examine assumptions or be free from bias. There is no any other way to do it right unless you know how to reflect before you respond. Following that, being able to tell the difference between facts and opinions also has a lot to do with critical thinking. We have to constantly remind ourselves of using this technique and carefully examine whether he or she is just expressing emotions.

If I want to apply what I've learned to my own teaching, I have to practice those techniques a lot. Because I'm very into Skype exchange projects with my counterparts outside of Taiwan, it does require me to communicate effectively to arrange loads of things, such as rearranging schedules, making lesson plans collaboratively, testing the Internet connection and equipment, and so on. Form now on, I would take these skills, including active listening and critical thinking, into consideration.

To decide whether my reflection has depth, I'll need to have undivided attention for this assignment. Taking a family trip in Bankok and doing this homework at the hotel, it is not easy for me to decide on that. However, I firmly believe in learning by doing. I tend to learn better when I have really put those ideas and principles into practice.

Week 4: Intercultural Communication
Unit 4: Cultural "Bumps," Part II - Group 3
My Response to Maryna Sharamet
I read your story and found it was quite interesting. When you decided not to mention anything about the education technology conference in London, I assume you already had known she would not approve of that idea. I can relate to how you felt it was not fair that the manager still wouldn't let you go after you two had a talk, for I had experienced something very similar to yours. I fought for my right to attend the exchange program in the States last summer and made it.

Would you agree that the conflict from your story was a result of a individualism vs. collectivism thing? I mean, for those who are in charge of the management of the whole organization tend to be more of collectivism. They would try to push you to go the other direction against your will for the sake of fairness, as you suggested in your story. On the contrary, we think what we would fight for is also for the benefits of our students.

My Response to smilejane
Your story of helping the boy but in vain brought back many memories of me keeping those students who were falling behind after school.
When I went through a very fierce competition and finally became a teacher many years ago, I told myself that I would make a positive impact on all of my students. Watching any of them fool around and not take English learning seriously was almost unbearable to me. I thought those slow learners were just not willing to try a bit harder. When they failed the tests, I would give them extra help and overwhelm them with even more tests.

Now looking back in retrospect, I think maybe I was doing all that for fear of losing face. I was afraid that bad scores would ruin this perfect image of a hard-working teacher like me. I was extremely upset that some of the students took my hard work for granted. Well, I don't look at it that way anymore because my fundamental belief of what a good teacher should be has changed, but that's another long story.

Would you agree we may fall into the stereotype of being a good teacher by pushing students to do better on tests, regardless of their individuality? Everybody is unique in their own way. For example, I hated math, but I could do well regarding English learning. Coming to recognize this, I don't force my own ideas on students now. Instead, I would try to make them feel the joy of learning the language by putting them in an authentic environment to really communicate in English.

Unit 4: Critical Thinking Rubrics - Forum

DEVELOPING
SATISFACTORY
MASTERY

Examining  Assumptions
I make a judgment about what others are saying based on what I know about the culture they're from. 
I know some of my assumptions about other cultures may not always be correct. 
I would consciously take my assumptions about other cultures into consideration before making any judgment about others.   
Free from Bias
I don't know how to examine whether I am biased or not. 
I would try to think about whether I'm biased first before I respond. 
I know exactly how to be free from bias and would also exercise this skill every time when I talk with someone from another culture.  
Distinguishing Fact from Opinion
I always accept what other people try so hard to explain to me. 
Sometimes I can tell what others said to me is not objective.
I know how to tell the difference between fact and opinion. 
Most of the skills I listed in my rubric are not practiced in my class, so my students need to consciously learn how to use them in a given meaningful context. For example, I can give them two stories with totally the opposite points of view on the news about a controversial topic so that they can exercise the three critical thinking skills in the rubric. 

Unit 4: Investigate Your Students
To know my students better as cultural beings, I would like to use the Identity Wheel as the main learning material and then build it up to an oral task to practice introducing themselves in English.

Pre Task
1. With pictures of me doing different activities, students are able to use a fly swap to hit the correct one with a correct statement matching it in group work.
2. With a demonstration of me doing self-introduction using my Identity Wheel, students are able to identify how each part of the wheel contributes to the presentation correctly.

Main Task
1. With the worksheet of Identity Wheel, students are able to decide on the categories of their identities and then put down keywords or phrases in each identity.
2. With each student's wheel finished, students are able to practice introducing themselves for at least one and a half minute.

Post Task
With the Skype exchange project, students are able to use their wheels and introduce themselves to their counterparts outside of Taiwan for at least one and a half minute.

The one-month winter vacation just started not long ago, so I won't be able to discuss how my lesson plan works next week. However, my students have been through similar task before, so I believe this one will work just fine as well.

Unit 4: Same Practice, Different Context, Different Outcome
I would like to talk about a series of Skype exchange sessions with my students and their Korean counterparts doing self-introduction and exchanging their favorite K POP stars/groups in English. Here is the link to the post on my teaching blog: http://guojhen.blogspot.tw/2018/01/four-skype-sessions-with-korean-high.html#more (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Class A is my homeroom class, and all the students have experienced Skype sessions quite a few times. Knowing exactly what they should prepare for the session in advance, their PowerPoint slides were a bit better than the other class. Some of the boys were quite motivated because they saw some beautiful Korean girls, which made the classroom atmosphere quite playful and enjoyable.

Class B, on the other hand, has never tried this kind of activity before. They were excited as soon as they saw the Korean students appear on the big screen. They created simple slides to go with self-introduction. Some of them were rather shy, especially speaking in the language they used to take as merely a subject to study in class. However, a lot of them found this experience intriguing and wanted to have more. For those who didn't get the chance to talk, they even felt pity.

I was quite pleased with the outcome though both classes responded to the sessions differently. Every class is unique in its own way, so their different responses were expected actually. However, the way Class B demanded a second chance for the Skype session was encouraging to me. Their English teacher loved the idea as well. This opens up a whole new opportunity for me to benefit more students in the future.

Unit 4: Dialogue as a Means to Learning
In Week 1 cultural introduction, I talked about how difficult it has been to motivate students in Taiwan to practice speaking English. I shared my favorite English teaching approach, Task-Based Learning, and Skype exchange sessions with foreign junior high students and English teachers. I got three positive responses from other participants of this course, and they shared their ideas and experiences, which helped a lot with building a sense of community.

In Week 2 moving cultures, I shared how another institution that I affiliated with shaped a different version of me. As a member of the English Advisory Team, I need to do presentations at workshops often. I enjoy this professional identity of me and another culture from the team because I get to push myself to improve in terms of teaching skills as well as show off my English speaking ability in public. It feels really great when other English teachers give their positive feedback after my presentation.

In Week 3 cultural bumps, I got to talk about two very different mindsets when it comes to the purpose of learning. The washback effect has dominated education in Taiwan for decades negatively. Rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar has been essential to help students get good grades on standardized tests. I, on the other hand, have been so into creating a meaningful and authentic environment for my students to feel the need and joy of learning English. However, I constantly have to keep a balance between these two approaches. The conflict that I shared exemplified the struggle that I always have to deal with. 

The most important for me to choose this course of critical thinking is that it has so much to do with what I've been doing outside of the textbooks. I have been working on Skype exchange sessions and having international volunteers to interact with my students. This course provides exactly what I need. However, some of the ideas, assignments, quizzes are rather abstract and trivial. I've gained a lot from actually working with people from other cultures. With this online course, now I have a better understanding of how to describe the "tacit knowledge" from my previous experiences.

With so much to discuss and respond, there is no doubt that reflection has been promoted significantly. Reflective practice bolsters learning a lot because learners actively not only relive the whole process but connect new concepts with old competence. Also, I think another valid reason for the benefit of reflection is that it helps me explore new possibilities in the future. Well, with my English teaching blog, I have been reflecting on how to keep on develop professionally every time I make a post.

When it is required to respond to other participants' posts, this actually creates more opportunities to exchange ideas and interact with each other. I've taken courses from E-Teacher Programs twice before this one and met wonderful English teachers around the world. I got to work with two Japanese teachers on Skype sessions because the course itself also created a strong sense of community. Back in 2014, I attended the Global English workshop in Seoul, and that embodied the community spirit more because we interacted with each other in person. I still keep in touch with many of them on social media.

Week 5: Applying It Locally
Unit 5: Cultural "Bumps," Part III
In the story of a cultural conflict between me and the head of the Academic Office, indeed she has a lot more power than me. She has the authority to make crucial decisions in terms of curriculum development and implementation. She arranges all the teachers' schedules and classes, which is prone to conflicts. In fact, a lot of teachers in my school have involved in an argument or fight with her. This is not common in my culture because we basically would respect our supervisors and avoid conflicts even we think we did nothing wrong.

In this case, power differential did have an impact on our communication. She thinks I shouldn't have talked to the principal first without consulting her. In her opinion, I did not respect her authority. What's worse, the principal blamed her for not reporting anything about applying for the program. She thinks she already discussed this matter with other administrators in the Academic Office, and they already came to a conclusion of not applying for the program. I, on the other hand, had to keep emphasizing the fact that the principal asked for my opinion about the program, not me going to complain about it in the principal's office.

The real reason she was angry with me, in my opinion, is that she thinks grades are far more important because most Taiwanese parents only care about how many students in the school get to test into GOOD senior high schools. She has been so reluctant to embrace the idea that we need a new mindset to deal with the new challenges brought by the new national curriculum guidelines.

I've shared this conflict with some of my colleagues before, and they all sympathized with me. Because of this great difference of mindsets, sometimes I really hate to communicate with her. I decided to keep on doing what I love without seeking her approval or support.

Unit 5: Critical Thinking Rubrics, Part II
What elements from other rubrics would you adopt for your own rubric?
After going over other classmates' rubrics for critical thinking, I would like to add active listening to my original rubric. Without active listening first, none of my three areas of critical thinking would have a solid foundation. Also, of all the skills related to active listening, I'd like to incorporate "Reflect before responding" and "Make sure you understood what the other person wrote/said" into my rubric.

Discuss one or two elements you saw in other rubrics that might not be culturally relevant or age appropriate in your teaching context. Explain.
For one element that might not be culturally relevant in my teaching context is "Contributing to better results". According to this specific rubric description, it says "When responding or giving advice to someone, I make sure my opinions are objective and valuable and try to express my ideas in an acceptable way." I would certainly agree with the opinions being objective part, but the rest really is a bit ambiguous to me. For example, how do students know whether their response is "valuable"? Who gets to decide it's valuable. Also, what exactly does "try to express my ideas in an acceptable way" refer to? Acceptable to whom? Or, does it actually mean "polite"?

How would your students fare on your rubric? Would they get high marks on all of the skills you describe?
I think most of my students wouldn't be able to get high remarks on the skills in my critical thinking rubric. In a very test-oriented setting I teach here, English class is mainly for students to study for good grades on the entrance exam. Critical thinking or cross-cultural communication is just not important at all due to the very nature of standardized tests. I mean, such kind of tests won't be able to help cultivate students' critical thinking whatsoever.

How can you incorporate this into your classes? How could your adapted critical thinking rubric be used in activities with your students?
In order to incorporate critical thinking into my classes, I think I would just try to adopt more important global issues, such as human right, gender equality, global warming, and so on, in my English class. For example, I once conducted two Skype sessions with a Philipino English teacher about Duterte's War on Drugs. I provided my students with two very different stories from the media in advance. Then, after hearing the teacher's presentation, my students asked as many questions to challenge him in terms of human right, extra-judicial killing, and so on. The whole idea for these two sessions was not for my students to take sides but to experience looking at the drug policy from a totally different point of view, for the mainstream media coverage tends to contradict Duterte's high approval rating. (http://guojhen.blogspot.tw/2017/04/developing-critical-thinking-war-on.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.)

Unit 5: Lesson Ideas from English Teaching Forum
As an English teacher in a test-oriented setting here in Taiwan, I like to create tasks in order to get my students practicing speaking the language. Self-introduction immediately caught my eye when flipping through the pages.


There are three reasons that I like it a lot. First, it incorporates past tense into this speaking activity. By asking students "What did you do as a child?", students are able to use this pattern to share something about themselves, which makes grammar learning interesting beyond mechanical drills or rote memorization of regular and irregular forms. Second, the author has provided scaffolding to help students produce the desired language. One of the main problems that I often counter when reading such journal is that the level of students' English is a lot higher than mine. Even a simple discussion activity in English is difficult for most of my students. In this article, prompts and modeling sentences are provided to fill that gap. Third, there are many variations and extensions on the same theme, such as assumed identity and find a lie. For each of them, there are detailed step-by-step procedures for teachers to "plug and play" in their own classrooms.

I nearly don't have to adjust anything if I want to use this activity in my own class. I assume the author's students have exactly the same level as mine. There is an appendix at the end of the article with a list of language features and related question prompts. If I want to use any of them, it would be my job to come up with scaffolding sentences for my students to apply the sentence pattern in a meaningful context.

Unit 5: What I Learned about My Students
Because we're currently on our four-week winter vacation here in Taiwan, there won't be any class for me to really implement last week's lesson plan. As Mike kindly suggested, I discussed it with a colleague of mine.

1. We think that activity can help me understand my students in terms of the different categories of the identity wheel. If I want my students to answer the questions in English, some of the students might need extra help, such as prompts of vocabulary and verbs that they need to put down on their wheels.

2. We think that activity may elicit something surprising from some of my students. For example, there are some boys in my class who are really shy and wouldn't say much in class. When we were on a field trip, most of the boys played online games on the bus. To my surprise, those I used to think they were shy turned out to be extremely talkative when playing the game. They were like shouting and screaming. It was a real shock when I heard them swear. Well, I didn't have the chance the give it a try in my class, but I'd appreciate that kind of surprise again.

3. I did something similar before. I would say scaffolding is a must when conducting an activity like this. My students won't be able to understand what they have to do if I just throw the identity wheel worksheet at them. By scaffolding, I mean modeling, prompts of necessary English expressions, and so on. Also, visual aids would be helpful, too. With a few PowerPoint slides of pictures, it would easier for students to connect to the words they intend to use.

4. What might be useful is a good motivating task to generate interest in learning with that fly swap game. Also, the modeling could provide the students with a good idea what they need to focus on the main task. Of course, by giving them the rubric in advance would be useful, too. Again, the idea is to know what a good performance is based on what criteria. If we put the students in group work and have a little competition, they'll be more excited to complete the tasks.

5. If I were to do it again, thank God this question finally leveled the playing field by the way, I definitely would try to collect date differently. For example, I found an interesting article about a series of activities regarding self-introduction in English Teaching Forum. I'd like to try out some other activities for my students to be more involved and motivated, such as the find the lie activity and other extensions. Besides, the personality survey activity can be fun as well as interactive because students would be busy coming up other relevant questions and interviewing each other.

6. I think this would definitely inform my teaching practice by providing such a chance to apply what I learned from this course, actually put it into practice in my own class, reflect on what can be done to make it better. I mean, the whole process is dynamic and full of ideas, techniques, discussion, lesson planning, and above all, carrying out all these in a real teaching context.

7. To share these ideas with my colleagues, it would be similar to another assignment: cascading new knowledge. All the activities mentioned in this part can be again applied to this question. To start off, I would talk about this whole AE E-Teacher program and how I got the two chances to attend workshops abroad, with one in South Korea and the other in the States. Then, I would emphasize how this course relate so much to what I've been really into: cross-cultural communication. With techniques related to active listening and critical thinking from this course, I would be a more effective communicator when talking with someone from another culture. Following that, I get to interact with so many wonderful English teachers around the world, exchanging ideas and learning from each other as well. Last but not least, I will apply what I learned in my English class and also invite them to observe or participate. These are all workable, and I've been doing many of them before this course.

Unit 5: Cascading New Knowledge: Applying It Locally
Of all the activities, I would like to choose the following three ones to help spread what I learned from this course to my colleagues:

1. Teach a new activity, collect feedback from students and show all of these to my colleague
These ideas, principals, and techniques mentioned in this course may sound good or plausible, but we'll never be able to figure it out until they're put into practice in reality. I am a person who enjoys learning by doing, so this is the number one on my list.
2. Invite a colleague to come and observe me teaching an innovative activity
This technique also has been practiced on a regular basis in my setting. It is required for teachers in Taiwan to do class observation and teaching demonstrations. During the Q and A session, participants are supposed to provide their professional feedback and offer suggestions accordingly.
3. Online sharing – start a blog or Facebook group and share how you have implemented course learnings
Another institution I have been affiliated with is the English Advisory Team of Taichung City. I need to share and promote innovative teaching strategies at workshops regularly. Teachers won't pay attention to you just because you're one of the members of the Team. I would try out these strategies and activities in my class first and then post what I learned on my blog, complete with lesson plans, worksheets, reflections, pictures, videos, and so on. My blog helps a lot with the whole package of every new lesson. Therefore, I will also do all these things and share them at workshops.

To get my peers to be interested in working with me, according to my previous successful experiences of promoting Skype exchange sessions in my school, I will invite some of my colleagues who are potentially interested in this topic to participate in my class. The idea is for them to have a basic understanding of how it can actually be done in a real English class. Following that, I will share and discuss lesson planning with them, trying to elicit more possibilities or variations of this class. To make it more appealing, I would also be helping my colleagues with hooking up all the equipment needed to have a more effective class, including the Internet connection, webcam, microphone, and a laptop with Skype installed.

One of the biggest difficulties I may encounter is that my colleagues would be worried about their schedules. No matter what you've tried so hard to achieve in your class, always make sure you've covered everything from the textbooks before the midterms. Since intercultural communication or critical thinking is not included in the formal curriculum, some teachers may have concerns about why it is necessary to incorporate such skills in English learning.

Another cascading new knowledge idea I'd like to share is making videos of how those ideas of critical thinking or intercultural communication can be integrated into textbook English in a real class. When teachers see a good example of what we learned here can be applied to an ordinary English class in the form of videos, they'll have a much better understanding that higher-order thinking skills can be and should be taught in English class because students are demonstrating active listening and critical thinking skills.

Week 6: Lesson Planning for Your Context (Part 1)
Unit 6: What I Learned about My Students, Part II - Group 3
My Response to Xeniya Tursunbayeva
With no students to actually implement the Identity Wheel activity in your class, I admired your alternative solution to answer all the questions by collaborating with your colleague. I also took a look at the students' works and was impressed by the variety of categories they came up with.

Your colleague was surprised by students' low level of imagination. Does it mean students' lack of specific details that fit into each category? Also, I love your idea of creating identity wheels of celebrities. In group work, we can assign students to a celebrity and then have them to create a Facebook account. To make it more interesting, these celebrities can be historical figures. I think this adaption will help boost students' imagination.

My Response to Nadejda Tucicova
Through your vivid description of how your students loved the activity, I can also feel your joy of pulling this off. The way they responded to the Identity Wheel activity exceeded your expectations. What do you think might lead to it? Are your students willing to express themselves in English before this activity?

Also, I liked the way you use the iceberg analogy to describe students' deeper identities. Indeed this would require a much higher-order thinking skills for the students to show and discuss with each other. I think they would have to come up with lots of examples to better exemplify those invisible parts of their identities.

Unit 6: Lesson Planning
1.    Overview description of your students (how many, age, language level, and purposes for studying English)
As a junior high English teacher here in Taiwan, I teach three classes, including a normal class of 28 students, a gifted class of 2, and the International Cultural Exchange Club of 18 this school year. There is a huge gap between their English levels. With the normal class, my main concern is to make sure I’ve covered everything in the textbooks, while the other two classes allow me much more freedom to create more challenging tasks, such as Skype sessions, making English-speaking videos, and so on. Therefore, the purposes of studying English for these two approaches also differ significantly from each other.

2.    What aspect(s) of critical thinking does this lesson work on?
Of all the critical thinking skills mentioned in the previous lessons, I'd like to choose "Description & Interpretation" for the main target objective of my lesson plan. Students nowadays are constantly overwhelmed with loads of information from social media. Being able to distinguish facts and opinions is becoming more and more important. 

3.    What aspect(s) of intercultural awareness and culture does this lesson work on?
For this part of my lesson plan, I'd like to work on one specific area of intercultural awareness, Different Context, Different Meaning, because it is always intriguing for students to make a comparison of something they tend to take for granted in their homeland.

4.    How does this lesson address what you learned about your students in your inquiry from Weeks 4 and 5?
From week 4 and 5, I came up with a Task-Based lesson plan, using the identity wheel activity to equip my students with a better understanding of their identities so that they can learn to talk about themselves in English. Because of my students' limited vocabulary, I learned that scaffolding and prompts would be necessary.

5.    In this lesson, I anticipate students will be challenged by:
My students' lack of vocabulary and sentence patterns has been a major concern when conducting a task that requires more of their writing and speaking skills. They can generate many brilliant ideas for their identity wheels, but it would also be discouraging if they don't know how to express in English.
6.    To address these challenges, I plan to (note the specific activities that will address these challenges):
To cope with this issue, I would provide them with plenty of vocabulary related to each category of their identity wheels. Also, to help them conduct a conversation with each other, I would also give them some useful sentence patterns. By doing so, I'm making sure every student always has something to say, but the downside of it could be students rely on their scripts too much and make their oral presentations unnatural.

7.    This is the way I will assess my students (note specific stages and specific activities that you will use for assessment):
I would use two kinds of rubrics to assess my students' performances. One is a paragraph writing rubric, and the other is an oral presentation rubric. The thinking behind this is that students need to create some paragraphs about themselves based on their identity wheels, and afterwards they'll do an oral report.

Objective(s):  By the end of the lesson, students will be able to….
1.    With the worksheet of Identity Wheel, students are able to decide on the categories of their identities and then put down keywords or phrases in each identity.
2.    With each student's wheel finished, students are able to practice introducing themselves for at least one and a half minute.
3.    With the Skype exchange project, students are able to use their wheels and introduce themselves to their counterparts outside of Taiwan for at least one and a half minute.
4.    With the teacher’s self-introduction divided into 5 parts, students are able to distinguish between facts and opinions correctly.
5.    With my students’ counterparts’ presentations, students are able to find at least one fact/opinion that has a totally different meaning in the local context.

Week 7: Lesson Planning for Your Context (Part 2)
Unit 7: Lesson Planning II
Dear Maryna,

A lot of people in Taiwan believe everything made in Japan is of higher quality. When I invited a Japanese AIESEC volunteer to share her school life with my students, again they tend to think school lunch in Japan is better and more delicious than what we have here in Taiwan. However, according to the photos that the volunteer shared, Taiwanese school lunch is a lot better. The volunteer said so herself.   

However, my students just assumed the Japanese school lunch would without a doubt better than the Taiwanese. The volunteer and I had a hot debate about this with my students. I think this would be an excellent example of how my students have been long manipulated by this long-standing idea, and thus they were confused even with obvious facts. 

Best, 

Guo Jhen 

Dear Tim,

After carefully reading your lesson plan and the thinking behind it, I'm quite impressed by how you intend to apply what we learned so far from this course and touch on a very sensitive issue in your country. Based on the four activities from your lesson plan, I think you've covered pretty much all the essence of intercultural communication and critical thinking. I especially admire your passion for a more diverse Myanmar and how the leaders of ethnicities in your country should also develop more critical thinking skills to better deal with conflicts.

In my humble opinion, to make sure your students can meet the objectives of the lesson plan, you can try to use more observable and measurable behavioral terms to describe what exactly your students have to DO. For example, by " Students will discuss about it deeply", how can we know students have discussed it deeply?

My students' English level is also roughly about pre-intermediate, so I can totally relate to how difficult it can be to apply such kind of materials in our local context, especially with higher-order thinking skills like this from our course. To me, if I really want to carry out the lesson plan in my class, the number one priority is scaffolding.

Best,

Guo Jhen

Dear Mayumi,

When reading your description of the lesson plan, somehow it resonated a lot with what I've experienced here in Taiwan. We both are in such a similar test-oriented setting, so we came across almost identical problems. Furthermore, we're experiencing a major educational reform, moving from a teacher-centered to a more student-centered approach. Higher-ordering thinking skills, such as critical thinking, have become more important than ever.

I admire your use of rubrics to go with your lesson plan, which can help students perform better for each activity. From the video you chose, I found indeed there were many fun cultural bumps for foreigners. Putting that in your class brilliantly, your students' interest in learning would be promoted significantly. Also, after that iceberg drawing activity, I appreciate the presentation activity and how you take students' English level into consideration and plan to provide the scaffolding of English expressions.

Best,

Guo Jhen

Dear Mike, 

Thanks a lot for your such insightful and thought-provoking feedback on our lesson plans. I'm learning a lot from it, really! Actually, I copied and pasted this article of yours for my own reading material. 

I can relate a lot to what you said about learning objectives being specific and measurable. Also from my participation in one previous E-Teacher Program, I learned about the ABCD model and have adopted this approach in each of my lesson plans since. 

Also, if you don't have observable and measurable objectives, you can't really know whether those objectives have been achieved. I learned to use check-lists and rubrics to assess my students' performances. 

I'm also affiliated with the English Advisory Team here in Taichung, Taiwan. We're promoting professional learning community, collaborative lesson planning, and teaching demonstrations a lot. I'm going to take time to absorb other ideas from your post and put them into practice so that I can also provide the teachers at the workshops something applicable in their own class. 

Best, 

Guo Jhen

Unit 7: Revising Your Lesson Plan
I received positive feedback and constructive suggestions from Tetiana, Maryana, Tim, Tatyana, and of course, our beloved instructor, Mike. Not only that, I got to learn from my classmates' well-devised lesson plans from different contexts. We all tried to put what we learned from this course, mainly critical thinking and intercultural communication, into practice. Of course, our lesson plans still have room for improvement, so now let me reflect on mine in the order of the assigned questions:

1. Objectives
Also from one of the E-Teacher Programs I participated in several years ago, I learned about the ABCD Model and have started using it to better devise learning objectives. When writing them for my lesson plans, I would constantly remind myself of the most two important features: observable and measurable. With observable objectives, I can then create check-lists to help make sure my students are meeting up the preferred objectives. Then, with measurable ones, I will go search for suitable rubrics online to assess my students' performances.

2. Activities
What type of activities can help students achieve the learning objectives? What do I need to do to prepare my students for assessment? For objectives to match assessment logically, I would ascertain that all the teaching activities create a meaningful context for my students to DO something with the language, such as matching, ordering, ranking, discussing, paragraph writing, presenting, and so on. These are all tasks that are derived from the Task-Based Learning approach. Also, due to my students' limited vocabulary, the scaffolding of necessary English expressions is a must. For that, I still need to develop worksheets and prompt cards to equip my students with the vocabulary and sentence patterns before they prepare for the oral presentations.

3. Timing and Order
Based on my teaching practice, I estimated how much time each activity will take. Of course, you'll never know whether you allow enough time until you actually implement the lesson plan. However, when carefully reading the plan again, I'm concerned that the first two activities might have to take longer time for my students to properly grasp the ideas about Identity Wheel.

According to the Backward Design lesson planning approach, the order of activities is so important that it helps students acquire what's necessary and build up to the next one. For example, to get my students to speak English, I'll ask them to write something down first so that even slow learners can just read what's written out loud. Prior to that, I'll get them to discuss an issue, with the leader making sure each member contributes, the recorder putting down everybody's ideas on the mini whiteboard, and finally the presenter sharing orally. Before that, I'll allow some time for them to ponder over the questions, so it's the teacher's job to prepare good questions in advance. These activities look logically connected on paper, but again, I'll only be able to reflect on the plan after carrying them out in my class.

4. Assessment
I would use two kinds of rubrics to assess my students' performances. One is a paragraph writing rubric, and the other is an oral presentation rubric. The thinking behind this is that students need to create some paragraphs about themselves based on their identity wheels, and afterwards, they'll do an oral report. The rest of the activities require my students to identify facts/opinions and "Different Context, Different Meaning". These are observable behaviors, so I'll just have to watch them do the tasks right.

5. Role as the Teacher
My role as a teacher in a class like this would be a facilitator, enabling my students to work collaboratively and complete each task. I'll keep them busy throughout the whole class with a variety of tasks. Also, I'll walk among the groups and provide individual guidance when necessary. I'll create a relaxing atmosphere and praise every good behavior. To better support my students' learning, I'll have to provide effective scaffolding for them to rely on when doing the tasks.

Unit 7: Professional Development Activity
Taiwan is experiencing a major education reform. The new national curriculum emphasizes core competencies to prepare the younger generation for meeting up future challenges. Of the nine main areas of learning is international cultural awareness and communication. This BIG change requires teachers to be able to design courses that incorporate global issues and interdisciplinary collaboration, which is new to most of the teachers in Taiwan. I've been doing Skype exchange sessions and designed lesson plans and worksheets for the international education in my school. By sharing what I learned online and at workshops and doing teaching demonstrations, I can contribute to the realization of this core competency.

In such a test-oriented setting, most teachers in my school are still not very willing to embrace teaching strategies other than the grammar-translation approach. To make sure our students can get good grades on tests, we tend to overwhelm our students with tests and homework, so rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar is still a dominant factor in teaching practice. However, two of the English teachers in my school began showing interest and working with me on Skype sessions and inviting international volunteers to interact with the students. Why? I provided worksheets and equipment. I told them all they had to do was show the students to the classroom. Also, I invited other teachers to observe and got positive feedback. These are the things I have done to promote the change in my school.

After the course ends, the first cascading activity to share what I've learned with more teachers is to present at workshops. I already got three invitations from the event planners from other cities. I think I would share the lesson planning with participants because it consists of intercultural communication and critical thinking, such as Identity Wheel, Facts and Opinions, and Different Context, Different Meaning. These are all what I love most about this course.

Unit 7: Reflection Journal
1. There were many new ideas and activities from this course that were new to me. First, I didn't know intercultural communication had a lot to do with critical thinking. With activities like cultural beings, cultural bumps, Different Context, Different Meaning, and so on, now I have a better understanding of the relationship between these two. Then,
due to my students' very limited vocabulary, I seldom tried to incorporate critical thinking into my lessons. With practical activities like Identity Wheel and what my classmates came up with for their lesson plans, I picked up some activity ideas and techniques that worth trying out in my own teaching context. Finally, the cascading of knowledge inspired me to think deeper about how to share what I learned from this course with teachers in my own school and those at the workshops.

2. I have learned a lot regarding intercultural communication and critical thinking from this course. The more we moved into the course, the more I found I made the right decision of taking this course. There are many activity ideas that I can actually put into practice in my class. I've been promoting International Education in my school for more than two years and also have won the International School Award from British Council Taiwan. To further develop applicable curriculum and lesson plans, I will definitely try to implement what I learned here and invite more of my colleagues to come aboard. Also, the instructor has been very helpful and provided insightful suggestions to revise everybody's lesson plans. I absolutely will use some of them to share at in-service workshops here in Taichung, Taiwan.

3. With the new perspectives I have gained through this course, the first thing I plan to do is to share them at the following three workshops held by the English Advisory Teams in New Taipei City, Yulin County, and ChaiYi City. Of course, teachers would not appreciate it if I just lecture about the ideas and activities from this course. Instead, they want to hear how I carry out those in my own class. Therefore, the second thing I plan to do is to discuss my counterparts in Japan and Korea about the Skype sessions for this new semester.

4. My experience in this course will have such a positive impact on my teaching practice for sure. As mentioned many times earlier, I will be a lot more motivated to incorporate critical thinking into the international education in my school.

5. In fact, I was just talking about this with another teacher, and she told me she is also very interested. I've been to some countries with higher GDP than Taiwan, such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Korea, and wondered how come coffee in Starbucks has a similar price or even costs less than the one in Taiwan? I'm thinking about inviting a friend of mine who teaches social studies to design questions and worksheets together to address this issue from an economic perspective. Then, I'll ask my friends in Japan and Korea and see if one of them would be interested. It would be interesting for students from these countries to use English and compare the prices. I assume the conclusion would be that Starbucks coffee in Taiwan is too expensive.

Week 8: Teaching
Unit 8: Teaching Reflection
1. The new semester just began last week, and I didn't have enough time to fully implement the whole lesson plan because we only have one class a week for the International Cultural Club. Once again, I'll just have to talk about what my students' potential reaction would be like after discussing with my colleagues. With the matching activities of The Teacher’s Identity Wheel, Description vs. Interpretation, and Different Context, Different Meaning, my students will develop, reuse and recycle the concepts of some practical critical thinking skills. Also, by creating their own identity wheels and practicing doing self-introduction with it, students will not only dig deeper how different identities shape who they are but apply what they learned into the Skype exchange sessions.

2. Because all the desired outcomes of the lesson plan are observable and measurable, check-lists and rubrics are going to help me know my students have achieved the learning objectives. I'm going to use the check-list to make sure students' identity wheels include all the necessary factors so that their self-introduction goes well with each identity. After that, with rubrics of paragraph writing and oral presentation, students will pay attention to volume, eye contact, structure, and delivery. Finally, being able to tell the difference between description and interpretation directly leads to one of the main areas of this course, complete with giving examples of different context, different meaning from their counterparts' presentations during the Skype exchange sessions.

3. With higher level students of 18 from the International Cultural Exchange Club, I didn't include lectures on some basic ideas of critical thinking. Instead, I used the Fly Swap game, the matching task, and the discussion activity to pinpoint two critical thinking skills. If I'm going to use this lesson plan in my homeroom class of 28, a class of mixed abilities, I think I'll have to develop a PowerPoint presentation and a worksheet to go with the Identity Wheel activity because of their much more limited vocabulary and structures.

4. Before this online course, I never thought about questions that I would ask the students to deepen their learning. Now looking back, I think this part of the lesson plan can help achieve each objective of the tasks. For example, with the Description vs. Interpretation task, I asked students, Which do you think this is? Is it a fact? Or, is it an opinion? They would focus their attention on telling the difference with my modeling presentation. Following that, with the Different Context, Different Meaning task, I asked my students this question: What’s so special about his or her presentation? Is what he or she said about school uniforms/rules or club activities so different from what we have here? This would be the most fun part of the Skype session because they realized what we used to take for granted here in Taiwan could be a big cultural shock to us.

5. After this course, I am going to share what I learned from this course at numerous workshops, in the form of lecturing, micro-teaching, and lesson planning. The new national curriculum guidelines emphasize core competencies, and one of them is "Multiculture and International Awareness", which has a lot to do with this course. I've been thinking about how to combine what I learned with my practical experience in this field, including Skype exchange sessions, my students' interacting with foreign volunteers, and introducing the beauty of Taichung. Therefore, with the lesson planning practice from this course, I will not only lecture on ideas and principals of critical thinking but have an actual class with the participants involved in the tasks of my lesson plan.

Unit 8: Final Thoughts and Goodbyes
Time flew by really fast. It's finally time for us to say good-bye. Through discussing and giving feedback on this platform, I felt like I already have known you guys for quite a while. With this final assignment, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the people that made this course happen. Also, I sincerely would like to work with my classmates on projects regarding anything that we've learned here.

1. Before this course, I didn't know that intercultural communication and critical thinking are so closely connected. I've been into international education and conducted a series of exchange projects for a couple of years, I seldom tried to incorporate critical thinking into my lesson plans. Now with the activity ideas, including active listening, description vs. interpretation, cultural bumps, different context/different meaning, and so on, I came to realize that I can actually include these tasks and develop my students' critical thinking skills.

2. I learned a lot from this course, but I would say that lesson planning task helped most internalize activity ideas related to critical thinking by creating an actual plan. Through discussion and giving feedback, I also learned so many great techniques my classmates had used as well as suggestions from the instructor with his professional and insightful comments. Also, this course stressed the importance of cascading knowledge significantly, and we were asked to reflect in depth very often. These can lead to our sharing of this course with our colleagues and then make a positive impact in our own local contexts.

3. I'd like to share this article, Intercultural Communicative Competence in
English Language Teaching: Towards Validation
of Student Identity, because it pretty much covered some key areas of my lesson plan, including intercultural communication, critical thinking, and cultural identity. The Intercultural Communicative Competence, ICC, focuses on understanding, respecting, and valuing others’
cultural identities. It touches on three video-based projects to explore the possibilities of cultivating critical thinking with interesting topics like "Why don't you think the way I do?". Not only that, it utilizes students' cultural identity, which exactly has a lot to do with the Identity Wheel activity in my lesson plan.

4. The best way I know to cascade knowledge is through workshops, with lecturing on the big picture and some practical activity ideas, micro-teaching that involves the participants to actually experience how those tasks work, and hands-on experience with the lesson planning process. I've been invited to share with the topic, How to incorporate international education in English learning, at numerous workshops. Following that, I'm going to keep on sharing teaching practice related to our course on my teaching blog (guojhen.blogspot.tw (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.). Reflection in depth that I learned from this course will help further the content. Last but not least, I hope to have more opportunities to extend our learning with my classmates in the near future with Skype exchange sessions.

5. I would like to further explore how to incorporate global issues, such as human right, gender equality, air pollution, and so on into this intercultural communication approach by working on a project-based learning collaboration with teachers outside of Taiwan. If you're also interested in such a project, I'll be more than glad to discuss more in details with you. Lesson planning on paper may all sound good in theory, but we'll never know how these activity ideas really work in reality unless we work with each other and involve our students from different cultures.


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