5 simple ways we already work on mediation with our students

Welcome to our third and final blog post in our series on mediation. The ‘M-word’ has been on all teachers’ lips in Escuelas Officiales de Idiomas across Spain this year and we’re starting to see it pop up more and more often in other teaching contexts (eg. secondary schools) too. It’s a fast-moving story which shows no signs of slowing down! We began our series by getting a crash course in mediation before moving on to consider some of the challenges in creating mediation materials. Let’s finish by having a think about how we’re already developing our students’ mediation skills in our lessons.

To a large degree, mediation is something teachers have traditionally been developing in students, but won’t have been signposting, or indeed explicitly planning for. A good place to start with mediation is by doing a mental audit of our teaching and considering what we already do as well as what else we might do. There are no two ways about it: to get to grips with mediation, we’ll need to get to grips with the mediation descriptors in the CEFR. You can check them out in the companion volume from page 103 onwards.  

Pearson teacher training manager Brian Engquist delivering a session on mediation at EOI Pontevedra

As we saw in our first blog post, the basic idea of mediation is acting as an intermediary, or making information accessible to someone for whom it isn’t accessible. It can include reprocessing a text, perhaps summarising by picking out the relevant details based on what you know about the person who you’re passing the information on to. These sorts of concerns will be outlined for students in a ‘complete’ mediation task, of the type we might use in assessment. But we’ll be developing mediation in our day to day classes too. To illustrate this point, let’s pick out a few intermediate descriptors and consider what we might / could be doing in class to help develop the mediation strategy the descriptor relates to:

B1 Can introduce people from different backgrounds…

1.At the start of the year our students don’t know one another. We can have them introducing themselves, or perhaps brainstorm some questions they’d like to ask each other, get them asking the questions in pairs and then have them introduce their partner to the class.

B1 Can take notes as a list of key points…

2. We’ll often have class discussions, either because we’ve planned them or because something has sparked our students’ interest and we put our plan to one side. Why not have a student take notes on the discussion, write a short report and share it with the class? The others decide how accurately they conveyed the discussion? (Credit for reports of class discussions: Chris Roland)

B1 Can relate events in a story, film or play to similar events he/she has experienced or heard about.
B1 Can relate the emotions experienced by a character in a work to emotions he/she has experienced.

3) Both of these descriptors relate to engaging with a film/play/book and asking our students to personalise the issues or what the characters are going through: something many of us already do. Had you realised it was mediation?

B1+ Can ask appropriate questions to check understanding of concepts that have been explained

4) As teachers, this is our bread and butter: we ask our students questions to check understanding (rather than saying ‘Do you understand?!’). Can we get our students doing some peer teaching and encourage them to ask questions to check they’re being understood?

B1+ Can make an …everyday topic clearer and more explicit by conveying the main information in another way

5) Once again, if we find that a student doesn’t understand an instruction we’ll normally try to paraphrase or simplify to help them get it. But, as many teachers do, perhaps our first step should be to see if any of the other students can help: that way we’re developing mediation.

Now, we’ve only scratched the surface here of course, as there are a lot of descriptors. But we can immediately see that we’ve probably been ‘teaching’ mediation more than we thought.

Did you know…?

On the subject of ‘auditing our teaching’, Pearson’s new adult course, Roadmap, is fully mapped to the CEFR mediation descriptors. For more information on this mapping, click here. Roadmap also includes a supplementary booklet of staged mediation activities.  

You might also be interested in…

A crash course in mediation

The challenges of developing mediation tasks for our students



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