Looking backward and forward

JanusIt’s usually in January that we talk about that month’s namesake Janus, the Roman god who peers simultaneously into the past and into the future. Myself, I’m most drawn to that split gaze around the end of the academic year, when the events of this one are still fresh and the possibilities of the next burn bright.

Whether you’re a learner or a teacher, it’s worth your while to consider what to do more of and what to change. Here are some questions, assembled through conversation with colleagues and students, that can help you reflect and evaluate:

1. What activities, resources, and habits have helped you get closer to your goals? Note that these might not have been the most enjoyable ones, although joy is often both a contributing cause and a result of language acquisition.

2. What activities, resources, and habits haven’t really helped? Note that these ineffective things may nevertheless have been enjoyable (in which case, if you are an autodidact, you might continue doing them for their own sake). Note, too, that these may have seemed effective at the time, but proved ineffective in the long run, and that they may have been truly effective at a certain time, but be unsustainable.

3. What is something you’re eager for yourself or your students to be able to do in/with your target language? (Understand a commercial? Read a story by Borges? Carry on a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker? Watch Amélie without subtitles?)

4. What is one activity, resource, or habit you’ve heard of and are eager to try? You don’t have to change everything, and you’ll probably go crazy if you try. Pick one thing. Once it’s become a habit–or once you’ve found it less useful than you’d hoped–pick another.

Again, these are questions you can consider yourself, whether you are a teacher or a learner. If you are a teacher, though, I vigorously recommend that you ask your students to answer these questions, and that you take their responses seriously.

These particular questions do not involve reflecting on one’s performance. Such reflection is important, but here I’m just talking about process.

How do you like to reflect and evaluate?


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