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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 4; Issue 3; May 02

Pilgrims Course Outline

A look at Pilgrims Teacher Training Courses through Bateson Eyes

Mario Rinvolucri, UK

Geoffroy Bateson, about half a century ago, proposed the Logical Levels as a framework within which to look at any human situation.

Here I am going to apply Logical Levels thinking to the TT courses we run in Canterbury, Kent, UK each summer.

Environment: the courses are held in the University of Kent which rises atop the hill above the bowl of Canterbury City. As you look south of an evening you see the huge mass of the Cathedral, mellow in the light of the Westerly sun. As you walk from your college to your rooms through the deciduous woods, you almost trip over semi-tame baby rabbits and squirrels.
The people you go to class with come from all over and often have a measure of knowledge, awareness and sophistication that it takes the first two or three days for you to begin to suss out. Apart from your own core group you also get to know a wide range of other colleagues as you mingle on the evening programme ( 4.00pm – 9.30 pm)

Behaviour / Doing: If you want to, you can be at it from 9.00 am to 9.30 pm for ten long days. These courses are full of doing- visual exercises, movement activities, sound mandalas, language out of music, language out of paintings, letters to each other…. for some participants the reflection periods come as God-sent lull in the constant trying out of new things. You are invited to learn for yourself, to teach others, to invent new exercises, to go beyond where you thought you could get to. If you have the energy, your middle week-end may see you "doing" London, both modern East End and traditional West End. You may decide to "crawl" round the 30-40 pubs in Canterbury or head off through the orchards on a hire-bike.

Abilities/Skills: the Pilgrims Canterbury Hilltop courses tend to warm you up in ways that are possibly new to you. This can have you thinking faster and deeper than may be the case as you chug through the normal routine of your school week. In this state of heightened self-awareness, you may discover abilities you did not know you had. You may hear yourself speaking English with a range and fluency you did not know you had it in you to do. You may have new ideas that please you flow into your head.

Beliefs: Some of the work that comes up in the training room may make you aware of beliefs that you hold without being consciously aware of them. Some of the beliefs you find in your co-participants or your tutors may challenge and come to modify a part of your own value system. You may find marvellous ratification and support for things you have always held, but which you have felt a bit lonely believing.

Identity: the intensity of the group work on most of our courses will allow you to experience your sense of "youness" in ways that would be unlikely in more tepid environments. This youness may become apparent in making new friends, in speaking English, in writing things you did not know you could write etc..

Beyond: I dare not tackle the level that lies above and beyond self. You have to come on a course to discover if the experience impinges in any way on your relationship to what is greater than and beyond self.

( In this piece I have used Bateson's framework of the Logical Levels to analyse the Pilgrims fortnight-long TT courses.
The framework can usefully be applied to any problem you face, by asking yourself at which level the problem essentially lies. Say you have a student with awful L2 pronunciation, then, clearly,the problem is presented to you at the level of language behaviour.
You need to ask yourself if the essence of the problem is behavioural or whether the student is simply lacking in listening/ articulation skill or ability. Perhaps this student has the belief that his pronunciation is really quite acceptable. And finally, the root of the problem could lie at identity level: your student could be scared of losing part of himself by actually saying " he has his own identity" rather than saying, as he normally does, " 'e 'as 'is hown hidentity" )

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