Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Implementing Authentic Materials through Critical Friends Group (CFG): A Case from Turkey

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Implementing Authentic Materials through Critical Friends Group (CFG): A Case from Turkey

Article excerpt

In the last few decades, much emphasis has been given to the use of authentic materials in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes since they are considered as important tools in language learning and teaching (Berardo, 2006; Kilickaya et al., 2004; Peacock, 1997). Authentic materials are generally defined as spoken or written language data produced in the course of genuine communication and not specifically written for purposes of language teaching (Nunan, 1999; Richards & Schmidt, 2002). More specifically, authenticity is the language produced by a real speaker/writer for a real audience, conveying a real message (Bacon & Finnemann, 1990; Gilmore, 2007).

Many researchers interested in authentic materials emphasized the effectiveness of using them in second/foreign language learning education highlighting their positive impact on learners' levels of on-task behaviour, concentration, and involvement in the target activity more than artificial material. This is not necessarily because the material itself is interesting but due to the fact that such materials are natural and realistic sources (Linder, 2000; Mishan, 2005; Sarapli, 2011).

Although authentic materials prove to have many advantages in the process of language learning and teaching, it is sometimes challenging for teachers to adapt them into their lessons. At this point, Critical Friends Group (CFG), as a form of training and professional development, may aid teachers in the process of adapting and using authentic materials more effectively in the classroom. CFG, which is a registered trademark of the NSRF[R] (National School Reform Faculty) organization, consists of 5 to 12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month. The purpose of CFG is to provide professional development that translates into improved student learning. This adult learning is accomplished through formal, ongoing interactions of small groups of staff that participate voluntarily. A trained CFG coach, who is often a member of the faculty, leads the CFG. If these groups are engaging and effective, they increase student learning, contribute to the participants' professional growth, and improve quality of education in the learning community.

In CFG, members of the group take on different roles, which are facilitator, presenter and respondent. First, the facilitator is responsible for planning the protocol and focusing question prior to the meeting and ensuring that the protocol is followed. S/he also monitors the conversation to ensure that it is shared by everyone and invites comments from all participants to encourage multiple perspectives. If needed, s/he also redirects the conversation. Finally, s/he sets time limits and keeps time carefully.

In addition, the presenter decides together with the facilitator on an appropriate protocol and the framing in addition to raising a perplexing question or reflecting on a dilemma. S/he also listens and takes notes on responders' comments and makes explanation at an appropriate time as well.

The respondents discuss the work in-depth. They follow the protocol, pose questions and give feedback that is both warm-positive and cool-critical. The feedback should be given in a supportive tone and providing discussants with practical suggestions.

Besides, the presenter, who is different from the facilitator, presents the issue and explains what questions or concerns should focus the feedback. In the next stage, participants have the opportunity to ask questions to the presenter. Then, while the presenter remains silent, listening and taking notes, the issue is discussed. Next, s/he reflects on the feedback. Finally, the facilitator debriefs the session. Overall, a session in CFG lasts 35-40 minutes. In the end, participants are encouraged to give positive or "warm" feedback and constructively critical or "cool" feedback that is focused on the tuning questions.

In brief, CFGs allow teachers to explore complex issues in their classrooms in an environment, which is both collegial and collaborative. …

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