Balance of Content and Process

Mar 13th, 2015 | By | Category: In the Classroom, Inner News
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Lynn Francis

Lynn Francis


—A wonderful article appeared recently in the newspaper about a math teacher who taught algebra by creating rap songs and his process in doing so. According to the article, he had a difficult time getting the students’ attention. He created a rap song to help them learn the concepts. The next day, upon presentation, the students laughed. He felt foolish and thought that it hadn’t worked; however, the students soaked it up and learned the concepts immediately. Test scores went up as a by-product of the teacher’s tuning into the students and creating innovative and meaningful lessons.image of balanced rocks for Spring 2015 inner news

Finding that balance between content, and the process of learning the content, can be delicate. I know that in ESL, meeting the needs of the students has always been a foundation principle. And truthfully, I don’t think I can meet the needs of students between 18 and 75, from at least 10 different cultures, varying from no school through college. Also, taking into account ESLRs, CASAS, Model Standards, EL Civics, copyright, and a myriad of other factors can be daunting. I believe that I can do a better job with process. By process, I mean elements such as: Am I providing interesting and motivating lessons and activities that stimulate the students? Are the students focused and engaged in learning? Am I providing enough time for content to be learned? Am I setting clear boundaries and expectations? Am I tuning in to where the students are rather than where it is thought that they should be?

Longtime ESL teacher, life coach, and marriage family therapist Lynn Francis is interested in the inner life of the teacher. She writes, “Because the tools of our trade—methods, techniques, theories, activities—are so well covered at workshops, in-services, and conferences, I felt there was a need to address other aspects of the teacher that are not covered.”

Another reference comes to mind when I think of the inspired teacher and the engagement of students. It is called The Inspired Learning Model Handbook by Peter Reding and Marcia Collins ( It offers a framework that encompasses process, content, and inspiration in their seven-point model. The elements are:

  1. The Facilitator—Expert and master of the subject matter and initiator and holder of safe space.
  2. The Subject Matter—Whatever the Facilitator is teaching. The subject matter has clearly defined competencies that can be readily identified and acknowledged by the Facilitator and ultimately by the Inspired Learner.
  3. The Physical Environment—A comfortable, safe, protected space.
  4. The Inspired Learner—An eager learner … even when she or he may have forgotten her or his innate love for learning.
  5. The Standards of Presence—Guidelines used to create a safe, accepting space, using positive acknowledgment.
  6. The Integration—The repetition of subject-matter competencies, acknowledged with positive and celebratory energy.
  7. Inspiration—When the unknown becomes known. This is the inexplicable element of magic or wonderment—beyond our physical senses—that enters the process of learning. This happens in everyone and needs to be honored and nurtured.

I am inspired by those elements, their message, and attention to process, content, and inspiration. “In the model’s purest form we do not teach. We facilitate an environment of learning.”

I believe that I have the freedom in our program to be creative and innovative. I continually look forward to how I can engage and motivate student learning and be engaged myself. I enjoy that quality of the unknown, of something new emerging, and I am inspired …

Lynn Francis, MA, MS, is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. She especially enjoys working with teachers and welcomes readers’ questions or ideas for topics for Inner News. Readers can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.



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