TEFL

Helping Students Create Their Own Learning Goals By Greta. J. Gorsuch

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Reflection on an Article

(756 words)

Students learn (language) for various reasons from those who need English to study in university to those that just want to talk to more people from around the world. But what makes them achieve what they set out to do which is speaking English competently? You could say it is a goal, their intention, their aspiration to be this person who has no problems with language. The only difficulty is, do they really know what their targets are? These can be for a course of English language, for example, thirty hours or the end product over a longer period. I will try in this piece to explain some points regarding learning goals in relation to the article by Greta J Gorsuch.

First of all, I have to talk about the teacher and their role in the classroom with regard to student learning goals. What do the students think they are there for? Is the teacher there to do everything? Is the teacher there to spoon-feed the students so to make it easy for them? These are the sorts of questions that might be asked but is the teacher there to do everything? Greta’s article mentions that teachers are ‘traditionally the primary source of information and inspiration’. It is true that the students can be sat waiting for the teacher to speak, the idea that the students do not speak unless spoken to. They can actually feel afraid to ask further questions or just get the exercise done. This is where concrete learning objectives can try to make the students come away from relying on the teacher to create goals for themselves as students and as such putting more emphasis on themselves (students) and what they want to achieve.  Greta says, ‘language students themselves are the best source of information’. To be a language learner does not just involve coming to class and listening to a teacher then going home. It involves being a language learner for life in and outside class.

It is here inside the class (not to mention outside) that the teacher if they want to create a learning environment they should encourage these learning goals for the students. Some teachers do not have ‘effective strategies’, Greta says. I agree with her as they can go into the class and teach a great lesson, but there could be more from the students. Greta mentions, ‘simple goal clarification activities’. This, I think, is the ‘use’ part of the lesson where the teacher actually gets the students to show that they have achieved their goal if only for that week by speaking and presenting what they have learned. This incentive, I think at least, gives students that pleasure of reaching a goal and then setting another one. The satisfaction to think that they set a target and have reached it must be beneficial in scaffolding their learning for future progress.

Greta’s ideas for future progress relate to giving cards out, getting the students to fill in their goals, making sure they are achievable and realistic ones at that. The only part, I think, that they must do is share these with other students. I think this honesty in class will get the students to realize what they are in class for. They must also be kept focused on these goals. Greta says, ‘ during the next few weeks, get students to look back at their card, and rewrite their responses’. Again, the teacher should never shy away from keeping the students focused on their goals. If one student does not feel they have reached their goals this is a great time to focus on why. It is true that a student may do, for example, thirty hours of study and then go up another level. In this student’s mind is that they are now a level higher, so their English language must be a level higher. This idea could be far off the mark, thus having students with achievable goals makes the students fully aware that they have reached that goal or not, and when this goal is relayed to the teacher he or she can give advice on what they can do next.

To conclude, it can be said teachers have to do their job but just as much the students have to do their job too. This does not mean forcing them; it means giving them that focus. Hopefully, the students will realize that a new foreign language is part of their life not just in the classroom for a few hours every week.

Reflective Essay: Skills for Life

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(831 Words)

Skills for Life, through embedded learning, have been seen to be vital these days. These skills, literacy, numeracy, and ICT are skills that are fundamental for any student to have as a minimum requirement. This fact was exacerbated many years ago by the Moser report ‘A Fresh Start’ (DfEE 1999) that highlighted 7 million adults literacy skills were below those expected of an 11-year-old.  This worrying figure emphasised the need for teachers to use any opportunity to embed these key skills in their lessons. I would like in this essay to reflect on my experiences of embedding which asserts “learn by doing”. Moreover, research has suggested if the skills are embedded the students actually feel more motivated (Roberts et al. 2005). I faced this with a research project I did involving Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences (1983). I studied students’ learning characteristics in an ESOL class and reflected on them using various techniques to aid their learning.

To begin, multiple intelligence suggests that students learn in different ways, so, for example, one learns more by being active (body kinesthetic) while another learns more from pictures (visual spatial). Of course, in an ESOL class language and literacy are paramount, but this had to be done in ways that were learner-centred with active learning which kept the students focused on the task, so they still used their English language. For instance, I gave each of them a picture of a famous person with some text about that person. I gave them the grammatically formed questions and answers to ask each other about their famous person (verbal linguistic). Incidentally, I had a higher level class get their information from the internet. So, they first had to read the text and write down the answers to the questions. They would then get to ask and answer each other who the famous person was, where they were from, how old, and an interesting fact.  I collected the faces, got the students into groups (interpersonal) and each group had to ask questions (logical mathematical) to find out who it was I was thinking about. It was like a game show. The winner was the one who guessed right first. Language was guided by myself, the teacher, to use complete answers and questions and the discussion in the groups was prompted by me also. The embedding here involved having a fun activity while pressing home language proficiency which is similarly shown in LLUK standard BS1, of ‘maintaining an inclusive equitable and motivating learning environment’. This class had competition, interest and a challenge which was valued as much as with English and literacy.

Still staying with learning languages, but this time related to numeracy, I had been teaching a class about nouns. I had had them in groups outside (naturalistic approach) describing objects. It was a kind of treasure hunt. They then had to write about what they found and present it. The presentation involved the characteristics of the object. The progression from objects was onto using nouns involved with shopping. I also felt for this subject the students should get used to prices. I found some newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door fliers that were filled with adverts for shops, filled with writing and numbers. So, I proposed that the students go through newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door flyers. The students needed to read them, cut out eight objects and stick them on a large sheet of paper (Bodily/Kinesthetic). However, the pictures had the prices missing. Then, they had to write about their object, ready for selling.  A few times, I actually did this part of the lesson with the computers and had the students make up a catalogue for their objects. There was certainly less clearing up. Once they were finished sticking, the challenge for the exercise was for each group to get the other groups to guess the answer to the price of the object. The students had to work in their group to guess the price. This meant they had to work in their group to come up with answers using their English. It ended up as ‘Price is Right’ competition with myself telling them they could not go over the real price. The nearest won, so, they had to work out the prices higher or lower which as embedded numeracy skills worked well.

To sum up, in this reflective essay I have shown that through my work and reflection with multiple intelligences, which was actually part of my ongoing continual professional development (CPD), as a teacher I try to embed key skills into my lesson. This I feel goes a long way to ‘discovering, respecting, and meeting individual needs’ (FENTO, 1999). My ESOL classes are full of opportunities to use not only to use literacy coherently in reading and writing but also in numeracy where for example we talk about telling the time and buying goods. Not forgetting, the use of ICT to allow the students to work on projects in groups or an individual basis.

References

Further Education National Training Organisation  (FENTO, 1999)

Moser, C. (1999), A Fresh Start. London: DfEE. Retrieved on 15 June 2008 from http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/

Roberts, C., Baynham, M., Shrubshall, P., Brittan, J., Cooper, B., Gidley, N., Windsor,

V., Eldred, J., Grief, S., Castillino, C. and Walsh, M. (2005), Embedded teaching and learning of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL: Seven case studies. London: National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy.

Explain Gagne’s Events of Instruction

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(Words 1110)

It was during the 1960s which saw a flurry of activity in the study of instructional design that Gagne’s book the ‘condition of learning’ came out. In 1965 Robert Gagne published his book entitled The Conditions of Learning. In his book, Gagne (1965) described the analysis of learning objectives, and how these different classes of learning objectives relate to the appropriate instructional designs. Gagne famously tried to explain the methods of learning of students. His theory centered on the acquisition of language and how students do this through the process of learning and the different stages that are done. He exposed the stimulation that the students get or have to move onto the next stage of learning.

  1. Gaining attention (reception)
  2. Informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
  3. Stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
  4. Presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
  5. Providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
  6. Eliciting performance (responding)
  7. Providing feedback (reinforcement)
  8. Assessing performance (retrieval)
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)

These changes that the students’ experience can move them onto further learning. Of course, all this was meant for the students to learn to their full potential. Internal and external factors were taken into consideration. In this piece of writing, I will explain the methods and how they work in the classroom.

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The classroom, language acquisition and Stephen Krashen

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(623 Words)

I think a few of you can recall I mentioned Stephen Krashen a few times and his theory on comprehensible input.  Of course, time is always with us over the two days, so I am always reticent to talk too long about certain theories, although I hope I do highlight it efficiently and effectively. So, I have written a few extra notes on language acquisition, the classroom and Krashen and his approach and theory that will hopefully make you think more about what goes on in the learning environment and the approach you take in teaching the students.

To begin with, an EFL instructor can be a fantastic teacher but how does he/she know if the students are ‘acquiring the language’ in the way they should be which is natural and not forced.  ‘Acquiring language’ is one of the salient points in children’s actual acquisition of a language. It is a fact that children, in a natural settings learn language rapidly and without formal instruction. Children are not given formal education when they are very young yet they acquire their language progressively to being fluent. It makes me think of some Thai schools I worked in where they barrage the students with grammar that is in such a formal setting that doesn’t leave any room for talking. The students can be very good at grammar but cannot speak and quite a few seem very shy also. Furthermore, if the students are not relaxed in the classroom (the setting) the teacher cannot expect them to learn. You would hope they learn their second language the same as their first language in a natural way where children never felt the language was demanding or never felt pressured and weren’t inhibited to use it.

The classroom as a setting I think should not be a place that is far from reality such that students can only speak in the classroom not outside where it is most important. I think that as a teacher the authenticity of the teacher’s teaching and the classroom has to be right so as to enlighten the learning experience. The issue here is students often learn their second language through constant grammar study so the similarity between it being similar to a natural, childhood, first language acquisition and later second language acquisition is not apparent. Thus creating a real classroom experience is a must for the students. The use of real objects, pictures, videos, roleplays, situations, even field trips (not forgetting the teacher/facilitator’s approach) to get the feeling that the students will use this language outside the classroom in numerous settings is a must.

Stephen Krashen whose ‘acquisition theory’ is used in teaching, states that ‘language learners need language ‘input’ which consists of new language along with clues as to what the language means’. As a teacher, you should follow this path that allows the students to speak in class while giving them that little bit more to expand their language. The teacher should build on what the students already know. I think this normal delivery of speech and with ‘hands-on’ language acquisition experience facilitates the natural learning process. If you remember when you were a child and your parents never really gave you a formal education in language acquisition, here lies comprehensible input that naturally supplies children: it is slower and simpler. Moreover, it focuses on the here and now, it focuses on meaning over form, and it extends and elaborates on the child’s language.

I think the students should not be treated like kids but you should allow the students to speak and acquire more language as they use their already known language such that the process will follow that the students will acquire more in your interesting natural approach classes.

 

Motivation for a varied life in teaching

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(1385 Words)

What motivates a teacher to start in the profession? For sure many reasons make someone begin a career in teaching. Is it pay or job security or is it a fall back option? This being said, initial motivation does not mean that years later the same can be said. The fact of the matter is the evolution of the new teacher into a mature tutor. This is then the professional person who has recognized the true meaning of teaching. This person recognizes their role in helping to shape young minds and impart moral values through education. Teaching has to be a vocation. In part an autobiographical story highlighting aspects of Asian teaching and also analysis, there are many aspects that any teacher has to realize to fulfill true potential.

Certainly, ongoing professional development highlights certain challenges in teaching that a teacher has to face up to. A focal point has to be the realization that students do not really know how to learn. How can any teacher, great as they may think they are, not realize that the students are naive about how to get the most benefit from a lesson? Any teacher has to look at the students’ own learning traits in light of today’s imperative that they both foster lifelong learners in their classrooms as well as become lifelong learners themselves. It’s the teacher’s inspiration that plays a huge part in a student’s education although every student and the class as a whole have to progress to help the teacher get the most out of them.

Different countries have varying approaches to learning and teaching. How does a foreign teacher survive in another country’s learning environment? Any foreign teacher working abroad has to adapt and work within the culture. It can be hard to change teaching methods to what has been ingrained from school through to university. Motivation to rise above some of another country’s inequalities as you see them is paramount. In some of these cultures, students tend to be passive and may be reluctant to participate in communicative exercises. A change in the style of teaching to suit these learners’ needs is essential because completely following an Asian model would be alien to any foreign teacher; a balance has to be met. A new foreign teacher would think it is strange to see no encouragement given to the students to think independently while just following the examples of the teacher, who is held in high esteem. Progression as a teacher means drawing attention to many facets of teaching. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. Breaking the barriers that slow students’ learning and build foundations that provoke students’ development has got to be a motivator.

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