Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Avoiding IRF

Have you heard of IRF?

It is a pattern of talking and listening that happens frequently between teachers and students.

The teachers asks something, the student responds, the teacher makes a comment and then you move on.

It is not a great example of deep and meaningful listening and speaking opportunity.

Here's the formal description:

Initiation-response-feedback (IRF)

Initiation-response-feedback, or IRF, is a pattern of discussion between the teacher and learner. The teacher initiates, the learner responds, the teacher gives feedback. This approach to the exchange of information in the classroom has been criticized as being more about the learner saying what the teacher wants to hear than really communicating.

Example:  The teacher asks a learner for rules about use of the present perfect, the learner gives an answer, and the teacher says whether that is correct or not.

Although this approach has been criticized, it can provide a useful framework for developing meaningful communication in a controlled form. For example, there is room for authentic input in an IRF dialogue such as:

- How many brothers have you got?
- Three!
- Oh so you've got three brothers! That's a big family! Etc.

The key is to use EXPANDED feedback with follow up questions.  The students should be talking more than the teacher and should feel HEARD.

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