Dana Itani

I am Dana Itani, from Lebanon. I’m an educator for more than seven years, a university instructor, and a researcher. I am writing this case study to highlight the positive effect, sustainable impact, and guaranteed outcomes of FIRST Framework. The case I’ll address is from a university course of Linguistics for Education learners majoring in TESOL: Teaching English for Speakers of Other Language.

I gave this course to 36 learners majoring in Education directly after I finalized my training in FIRST. Therefore, I designed the whole course according to the 5 domains and 15 principles. I basically worked on my session flow where I always started with an opener followed by a main educational activity then an energizer, another educational activity, and finally closure. Not to forget that I also included linking and summarizing activities throughout the session.

Linguistics as a subject isn’t easy and usually, learners worry a lot about the course’s content and facilitation. Therefore, preparing the course and delivering it is a challenge for every instructor. However, I experienced a totally different perspective towards Linguistics when I applied FIRST Framework, and I didn’t recognize how effective it was until I started hearing a lot of positive and motivating feedback from my learners.

FIRST has managed to surprise me one more time in its immense ability of linking theory into practice, in making learning such an enjoyable, active, and deep experience. Learning about FIRST was an amazing experience with respect to me; however, applying it took my belief in this framework to a whole new level. It’s truly a masterpiece. It’s a guide that would guarantee to unlock the hardest of all subjects and changing them into a memorable, effective, and deliverable kit tailored to fit every learner’s styles.

Now, allow me to walk you through our journey in the Linguistics course. Influenced by ROOTS Program and the Active Deep Learner eXperience I had with FIRST, I used the same ways and strategies to achieve the desired impact. I communicated with my learners before I met them. I sent emails welcoming them and urging them to attend the first session, believing in its high importance in building strong bonds, creating a sense of community inside my classroom, raise learner’s engagement and energy levels. Moreover, I sent them an invitation to join Edmodo which was our Learning Management System (LMS). Edmodo is a great way to stay connected with my students where they are all encouraged to collaborate and share their thoughts safely. Moreover, it was used to stay organized, to access assignments or missions as in FIRST language, grades, links, documents, and more. When they joined Edmodo, before the beginning of the course, we started the pre-course phase where I helped them get ready for the course through posting interesting discussions, videos, and polls. They even did their preliminary assessment before the beginning of the course.

“First impressions last a lifetime.” Believing in the latter, I put a lot of effort and emphasis on the first session of the course. During that session, I tried my best to exhibit all Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes of FIRST, applying almost all principles. The orientation session was also designed in accordance to FIRST. I introduced the course, asked them about their expectations, played icebreakers, and team building activities with them. More importantly, I divided the roles among my students to exhibit how much I trusted the learners. I asked for volunteers to be documenters, photographers, and social event representatives. Having a great beginning, I continued giving my sessions in the same manner; keeping in mind all the domains and principles of FIRST. I made sure to open communication channels with all my students, making sure to mention their names when addressing them, to guide them throughout the sessions, to pass by them and assure that they understood the material, and to trust them in leading the sessions; and by that I applied the F domain of FIRST which is Focusing on learner behaviors.

Accordingly, my sessions were based on cooperative learning where it was the learner’s responsibility to dive into the content with my guidance. I varied the strategies from the tea party, think-pair-share, JIGSAW, and more. Applying energizers to build strong connections between the learners, boost the positivity, and increase their motivation and attention, added flavor to the course; making it so enjoyable for students. The latter was the I domain (Interacting within positive group dynamics) of FIRST. Consequently, I applied the RAR Model of the R domain (Reviewing activities with in RAR) which is one of the best models to guarantee the sustainability of learning. That was achieved by preparing the learners through the readiness phase, leading the activity, and then ending it with reviewing. Reviewing used to be in different forms; for instance, asking them a question of certain relevance. Not to forget the last two domains, the S (Structuring and Sequencing) and the T (Transforming Learning into Performance). The sequencing was achieved from within the session flow, and the transforming was mainly achieved through the LMS and the weekly missions they had.

Having the privilege of internalizing FIRST in my facilitation was also of great privilege to the students I teach, who are the future generation of teachers. To my utmost surprise, I was truly amazed when my students delivered their final projects to each other. During their presentations, I saw how much they implemented the Framework just by modeling me. May the ripple effect that started in this course reach as many students as possible for that’s our utmost goal as educators: impacting our students to reach their fullest potential!

Here are some of the many feedbacks/testimonials I received from my students:

Student A: “It’s a course that everyone talked about as being hard, but we didn’t feel that way because of how our instructor delivered the information. It’s a hard subject, but when she simplified it, it became way easier.”

Student B: “The course was delivered in a very smooth way. I didn’t find it hard as I was told before taking the course. The way it was taught is very cooperative, reflective, and smooth. I enjoyed how we had a voice in the course and most importantly, I loved the energizers.”

Student C: “This course was the best course I’ve taken. The instructor is super active; she always simplifies the difficult course material. She always uses the technique of pulling information not pushing them. She always encourages us to participate in class even if our answer is wrong because this is how we learn. Finally, she has positive energy, and she is by far the best instructor I’ve had. Thank you so much, I hope to be like you with my students.”

Student D: “Although I have heard a lot about how tough the course is, I think my instructor had a big role in simplifying it and making the content easy and relevant for us to understand. The teaching methods that were used by the instructor helped us in being engaged all the time: student-centered teaching, visual and practical aids, energizers, recent and relevant assignments and tests. Moreover, being motivated, being very understanding with students, and helping us all made a lot of a difference.”

Student F: “I took linguistics before, and I didn’t like it at all. I dropped the course. However, with you, I changed my mind completely about the course. I feel that I can actually teach the course LOL. Thank you for believing in me. I was able to get higher grades and your positivity and motivation impacted my overall result. The best instructor ever.”

Student G: “The course was perfectly perfect with you. We enjoyed it and learned a lot. Your teaching style is the best so far at the university. Your energy in the morning and the way you taught us is just amazing. It’s the first time I love waking up early to go to university. It was a pleasure!”

Student H: ” Since the beginning of the course, we felt a positive energy and this is what made me love the course. All my friends who have taken the course earlier told me how much they hated it; however, and thanks to you, I loved the course. It’s the instructor who makes the course an enjoyable and beneficial one. Thank you”