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DIALOGUE JOURNAL: BUILDING A REFLECTIVE TEACHER Marta Furtado da Costa - UFPB

INTRODUCTION The main purpose of Applied Linguistic studies is to provide teachers successful ways to improve their practice in the classroom daily routine. Teachers are responsible for the development of the activities in classroom, principally because it is up to them to propose those activities to the students. That is the answer for the question: What is the importance of teachers presence in classroom? Teach students how to read, write, speak and have a good oral comprehension in a second language are just some of the teachers requirements. To teach how to understand, respect and analyze the second language culture in a holistic point of view is also part of the teachers responsibility. To be a second language teacher involves directly how students are going to use the second language studies and in the future, and how they can better their lives. Among all this points, the teacher is also responsible for transforming the classroom in a positive and confident environment for the learning process. When students feel comfortable, they can retain more knowledge and feel better about themselves. But, how could the teacher check if he is really working under this perspective? 1

It takes a long time from when the teachers work only aimed in a simple transference of knowledge to the students. Nowadays, the teacher is more than bureaucrat worker who believes that his work finishes with the class. Teachers are reflecting more about their practice in order to fill in the gaps in it. Those professionals understand that the teacher needs to promote a comfortable learning environment, concerned about the needs of the students and taking in account effective methods of collecting data in order to constant analyze the development of the classroom activities. The reflective teacher is constantly worried with his practice and students point of view of the teaching-learning process. In order to discuss about this, this paper aims at reflecting about the role of the reflective teacher. A REFLECTIVE TEACHER The role of the reflective teacher is to collect information about his own work in order to analyze the information and further reflect upon it in a critical way to improve his own practice. According to Bartlett (1990: 203),
if we want to improve our teaching through reflective inquiry, we must accept that it does not involve modification of behavior by externally imposed directions or requirements, but that it requires deliberation and analysis of our ideas about teaching as a form of action based on our changed understandings.

It is very common to listen from teachers their complaints about lack of time to prepare the lessons, correct the students exercises and attend courses. That can be a possible cause for the passive assimilation of external directions oriented by the researches. Of course those researches have a great importance

and need to be discussed and analyzed carefully. But it is important to point that all teachers can insert a research practice to the classroom. Teachers can do more than just assimilate researcher results, but also provide those results through the collection and observation of data from his/her classroom. There is a great number of ways of collecting data. The teacher can gather data by recording the classes, asking another teacher to observe some classes and later discuss about some points, applying forms to the students, asking the students to write a diary, writing a dialogue journal with another teacher, with a student or just writing about his practice for a later reflection. McDonald (1992:11) proposes teachers to step outside the room, figuratively, and search for perspectives on the events inside. The author proposes this in order to invite the teacher to observe and reflect about their behavior and their practice. Try to see the classroom in as outside view is very important as source of reflection. To analyze the collected data, it does not matter the process of collecting, the teacher can proceed in different ways. One way is to compare the collected data with similar data from other teachers or published researches. Another way is reflecting about the information that emerges from the data and associating this information with the classroom happenings. It is important to collect and analyze the data through a defined period of time. This way, it is possible to take more consistent conclusions from the data. In the reflecting process, the teacher needs to position critically upon the data 3

and reflect on this information, understanding what is happening in his teaching and how he performs as a teacher. DIALOGUE JOURNAL The main purpose of a dialogue journal is to motivate teachers to exchange and share professional experiences and understandings of teaching (REICHMANN, 2001: 125). The dialogue journal can promote the teachers

awareness of their own attitudes. The shared information must be used, by the teachers, as an important source of reflection and self knowledge. The journal contents a kind of factual information that reveals the feelings and reactions of participants of the daily classroom atmosphere. It reveals a lot about the personal beliefs and perspectives of analyzes about the classes happenings. SYSTEMIC - FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR: CLAUSE AS REPRESENTATION In A Introduction to Functional Grammar, M. A. K. Halliday analyzes the meaning of the clause as representation. The author defines this meaning saying that when people talk about what a word or a sentence means, it is this kind of meaning they have in mind meaning in the sense of content (HALLIDAY, 1994:106). In the Functional Grammar, the clause is the basic unit of analysis. The clause will indicate three metafunctions: ideational, interpersonal and textual. The ideational metafunction construes human experience, the process and its 4

participants.

The

interpersonal

metafunction, enacts

human

relationships,

something you can interact with. The textual metafunction creates discourse, it is related to word order, punctuation and shows the limits of a clause. The ideational metafunction is related to the grammatical source called Transitivity. Transitivity system construes the world of experience into a manageable set of process types (HALLIDAY, 1994:106). The processes are divided into inner and outer experiences. Inner experiences are those that happen inside ourselves, in our consciousness and imagination. Outer experiences are represented by the real actions and events from the external world. The grammar defines process type into six categories: behavioral process (acting), mental process (thinking, sensing, evaluating), verbal process (saying), relational process (being, having) and existential process (existing). The material processes are associated with the participants: Actor and Goal. The actor is the participant always inherent in a material clause. It can be animate or inanimate. The process it participates in may affect or not another participant, the goal. For example: The bus crashed into a lamppost. The bus is defined as the actor and a lamppost is defined as the goal. Nominal groups are going to represent the actor and the goal. The mental processes are associated with the participants: Senser and Phenomenon. In the transitivity structure of a mental clause is defined by the phenomenon sensed by the Senser. For example: The student does not

understand the lesson. The student is the senser, while the lesson is the phenomenon. Nominal groups will also be used to represent the senser. The relational processes are described as the processes of being, in the sense of existing. There are two elements in the in the relational clauses, something is being said to be something else (HALLIDAY, 1994:119). For example: Stuart is intelligent. The verbal processes are associated with the participants: Sayer and Verbiage. It refers to all the processes of saying. For example: She told me the story of her life. The existential processes are associated with the participant: Existent and implies a circumstance. It is also a process that involves being. For example: There is a fly in my soup. The behavioral processes are associated with the participant: Behaver. It involves psychological and physiological behavior. For example: He was laughing. RESEARCH CONTEXT

The Programa de Lingstica Aplicada Proling, from Universidade Federal da Paraba, on semester 2006.2 offered an Applied Linguistics course. The course aimed at reflecting about the teaching-learning process in the perspective of the reflecting teacher, the importance of the reflective writing, the

use of the dialogue journal as collecting data source for the reflective teacher and the transitivity system from the systemic-functional linguistics. About thirteen students, from the Programa de Lingstica Aplicada Proling, attended the Applied Linguistics course. From those students was asked a final paper, in order to evaluate their participation in the course and to provide them the opportunity to reflect more about the theoretical background discussed during the course.

DATA COLLECTION

The collected data used in this paper consists of a dialogue journal proposed to the Applied Linguistics course group. In the beginning of the course, the group was asked to be divided in pairs. Those pairs were supposed to write a dialogue journal reflecting about their experience as teachers and the reflections that emerged from the discussions and the readings during the course. In this paper it will be analyzed the dialogue journal wrote by one of the pairs from the referred group. The selected pair is going to be identified as Joseph and Marcy. Joseph and Marcy are post graduated students and teachers of English as Foreign Language (EFL). Joseph works as a teacher for twenty years while Marcy works as a teacher since 2002. The partners study and work in northeast Brazil, and also develop researches involving EFL teaching-learning process.

DATA ANALYSIS

In this paper, are going to be analyzed the first and the final drafts of the dialogue journal shared between Joseph and Marcy. The basis of analyzes for this dialogue journal is going to be the Transitivity system which takes the clause as representation. Joseph begins: September 6th Hi dear friend! So, this is the first writing on part of my experiences in Teaching English as Foreign Language. In my over 20 years on dealing with the teaching-learning troubles, I mean: process, Ive noticed that no one knows for sure what and how the main purposes of studying English should be defined. When I say no one I mean, despite the so many theoretical materials, available studies and researches being made so far in different parts of the world on that area, we almost cant find a safe way or an efficient method which could lead us to the expected success. On the other hand, when we have access to something new in terms of teaching methodology we find out that school and classroom problems remain the same, mainly in the Brazilian Education System. Anyway, Ive tried to do my best and my class plans have been based on the development and students achievement of the four communicative skills. Sometimes I feel like a magician! What about you? Joseph We can see that Joseph organizes the sentences by mentioning mental processes, material processes and existential processes mainly. The

occurrence of those processes are quantitatively correspondent.

Joseph

Mental process (5) Material process (5) Existential process (4) And then, Marcy answers: September 9th Hello Joseph, How are you doing? Im very excited with this experience of writing a dialogue journal. Everything is new for me and I believe that this experience of discussing about my profession, my goal as a teacher and the troubles that I face in my daily work, will contribute for my development as a teacher and as student too. Im not a teacher for a long time. In 2002 I started working as a teacher in an EFL school and my life changed from that moment on. I was supposed to be an engineer, and study chemistry was my most important purpose. But, Ive got addicted on teaching and thats why Im here today. I dont know if Im a good teacher or if the students really learn everything. I just know that I do the best that I can to teach them more than a syllabus, but a lesson for their whole life. Marcy

We can see that just like Joseph, Marcy organizes the sentences by mentioning mental processes, material processes and existential processes mainly. The occurrence of those processes are also quantitatively correspondent. The difference is that Marcy uses a verbal process on her discourse.

Marcy

Mental process (6) Material process (5) Existential process (4) Verbal process (1) Now, we are going to analyze de final drafts of the dialogue journal: November 10th Dear Joseph, Its really amazing to listen about the project you proposed to your students. First of all, I would like to comment about your commitment and creativity in teaching. Then, I would like to have your permission for adapting the project in my future groups. Sometimes its difficult to realize what and how to perform things in the classroom. It seems that we have tried everything possible and in a little talk to experienced mate, new ideas emerge.

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Well, Im really enjoying the experience of teaching at ####. Sometimes I think thats a dream. Although, its not a bed of roses at all. When I taught children, I thought that it was better to teach teenagers. When I started to teach teenagers, I realized that it was better to teach adults. And now, that Im teaching adults (or almost ones) I realized that it doesnt exist a paradise when it comes to the classroom atmosphere. But, what is a paradise? Well, to me, a paradise is a classroom where all the students were there with a strong goal and a serious purpose. A classroom where all the students hand in exercises on time and never forget the workbook at home. A classroom where I believe that students really want my presence and also want to learn with me. Am I asking a lot? Is there a classroom like that? Marcy

In this journal, Marcy continues using the mental processes, material processes and existential processes to construct her sentences more effectively. Although, she continues using verbs which are involved to verbal processes. The same happens in Josephs final paper. We can see the four mentioned processes appearing in almost equally on his discourse.
Marcy

Mental process (11) Material process (11) 11

Existential process (11) Verbal process (3)

November 18th Well, dear mate! Its interesting how realistic you are when referring to the teaching craft itself. As you mentioned in your latest journal, and I agree with you, a clearer definition of both teachers and students roles should be taken into account to a serious commitment to the teaching-learning process. Unfortunately, and although researches have contributed a lot for the improvement of teaching work, there seems to be an abyss between theories and practical reality The teaching craft involves phenomena others to be investigated and unpredictability that require an extra effort of the teacher to identify himself/herself as a teacher educator and become a teacher researcher in order to find out more about classroom troubles and enhance his/her background knowledge of the whole process. Last but not least, Id very much like to thank you for your patience in reading and responding to my writings and for helping me with your ideas and opinions, and of course, your undeniable friendship which will surely be forever! Joseph

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Joseph

Mental process (6) Material process (6) Existential process (5) Verbal process (3)

CONCLUSION

It is important to remark the importance of a dialogue journal in the development of a reflective teaching point of view. From the showed journal

writings, we can see more than the meanings and feelings represented by the verbs and the processes used. We can see how teachers can improve their practice by reflecting about it (by writing and relating it to the mate). And also, reading about the others opinion about our practice and our points of view. With a dialogue journal we can contribute with a colleagues practice and also have our colleagues contribution. That is an effective way of reflecting

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about teaching, learning and all its nuances. More than this, it is a very important instrument for the development of a reflective thinking.

REFERENCES

BARTLETT, L. (1990) Teacher development through reflective teaching. In; RICHARDS, J. & NUNAN, D. (Orgs.) Second language teaching education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. FREEMAN, D. (1990) Doing teacher-research: form inquiry to understanding. London: Heinle & Heinle. HALIDAY, M. A. K. (1994) Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. McDONALD, J. (1992) Teaching: making sense of an uncertain craft. New York: Teachers College Press. REICHMANN, C. (2204) Teachers in dialogue: esploring practice in an interactive professional journal. In: BURTON. Journal writing. Alexandria, VI: TESOL.

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