Key questions

The focus in the pedagogical perspective is on the quality of the teaching practice. Practitioners ask 'Is this good teaching?' and look for evidence of that in teacher actions and student responses (i.e. Are they learning?). The question Tomer posed for the workshop - 'Are there manifestations of pupil individual [identity] clarification within the context of the material studied?' - is of course a good example of this.

Practitioners often relate personally to these questions, with their own practice, and their own identities as teachers, in the background of the discussion. Bearing in mind that teachers rarely have opportunities to observe one another's practice, the examples of classroom practice discussed in the course often functioned as a mirror onto their own practice, raising questions about how I would have taught this topic or responded to that situation, and what does the comparison with the video-recorded segment say about me as a teacher?

Coming from a linguistic ethnographic perspective, these normative questions about the quality of the teaching seem premature if not altogether misguided. As ethnographers, we have been taught to try to understand a culture on its own terms, non-judgmentally. Moreover, even if ultimately we want to discuss the quality of the teaching, we must first understand what is going on. Description and analysis are logically prior to evaluation. Linguistic ethnographers tend to ask questions about the event as situated interaction. For example, with regard to the segment that Tomer brought to the course, we tried to make sense of what we viewed as unusual student contributions to the class discussion, in which they recounted personal stories about prejudices and how they had learned to not think stereotypically about others (the class were studying the history of relations between Jews and the Church in medieval Europe). We wondered what discourse genres the students and teacher were drawing upon? What were the criteria for 'successful' participation in this discourse activity? And what identities and ideologies were being enacted by the students?

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