dictogloss – or Why peer observation is a good idea.

Did a peer observation today for a colleague, S,  doing the DELTA course which was for the experimental practice assignment for the course. The experiment was using dictogloss, which is an approach based around, as you might expect, dictation.

It has a fairly fixed structure…. there is some pre-teaching of key vocab. The teacher then dictates a suitable text, sentence by sentence but rather than write every word, the ss write their own notes on that topic. The next task is for the learners to work in small groups to reassemble the text. The purpose of this is that they then have the opportunity to analyse and discuss the language they need to do this, so the teacher could use a text which used a specific language area in order to get ss to practsie or learn this. The next stage is for the class to say the sentences back to the teacher who then reassembles the text on the board, analysing and providing feedback as they go. The learners’ texts are the compared with the original text.

So far so interesting. For the sake of his assignment, S chose to play it as the official line above reads. But what we both picked up was the deeply teacher centred nature of the final stages – indeed of the whole process, and so we mainly discussed how we could adapt it to make it more learner centred. We had a few ideas – giving learners possible titles to select a text, rather than a teacher imposed one, but the main issue was in the last stage where the learners were just saying things to the teacher and it was very dry and a little tedious. S picked up on this in the lesson and made a few changes, but we discussed doing things like either the learners contributing one sentence each, rather than each group contributing every sentence, or perhaps, and this was my favourite, the learners reassembling the text online, then using that as a comparison point. Alternatively the learners could form new groups made up of one person from each group to compare their texts and reassemble the text in new groups.

Either way, I was intrigued. I’d heard the name before, and had done dictation. But my continuing thought through the lesson was “I want to try this”. Which really is the best thing about peer observation from the point of view of the observee at least. I spent an hour or so in a classroom plus half an hour talking about it, and got one whole new proper idea from this. 90 minutes of interesting, challenging and fun CPD and more effective, if I’m brutally honest, than just about any training I’ve done for the last year or so. The act of observing it and discussing it has made it much more real and honest than if someone had just told me about it, no matter how intriguing it happens to be.

So there you go – get off your bottom and peer observe. Go on, and stop bothering me for training.



  1. From reading this it looks like both of you got someting positive out of the observation, which is a double hit. What do you think was the key parts of the observations that made it such a valuable CPD activity for you? Having a clear idea what you were going to observe? The observation itself? Or the feedback? Or something else? How has writing about the observation enhanced the experience?

  2. I think it was both the observation and the discussion. I think writing about it on my part hasn’t helped as much, although having had time to digest it has probably reduced the impact of writing. Having a clear aim for the observation was the other thing which made the difference here – I was looking at something new for me and for the other teacher, so focussing on that. S also gave me some prompt questions to look at while I was observing.

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