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Learning any second language can be challenging. Lower level students, who are new to learning, are those students that need all the support and understanding for their acquisition of a new language. For this paper, I have produced a research plan for a new class of lower-level students. This was devised to create thinking on how students were learning their second language. I wondered how I could facilitate their learning and their classroom experience that would help make the English language easier for them to comprehend. My initial thoughts were on using as many different ways to reinforce a language point. My thinking was that if the students get to look at a specific grammar/language point, whilst using it and thinking about it, in different ways, the language will stay in their memory that much easier. I felt that if you used the language in various ways such as activities, methods of teaching, and games, their possession of the language could be helped.
I looked at my ideas for lesson plans and checked how I planned to use the time in class to vary my methods. I also looked on the internet for any information that would correspond with my area of interest. I tried reading as much material that honed in on my specific area of interest. This was the material that was related to different methods and activities. It was while I was acquiring my new knowledge that I got to read about an interesting theory where different activities were used regarding multiple intelligences. This I found on a website called ‘developingteachers.com’. The article in question that took my interest was called ‘Starting with multiple intelligences – activities for foreign language teachers’ by Rolf Palmberg. I immediately realised this article was very much linked in with my ideas, that I had proposed. I did a lot of preliminary reading on the subject until I felt that I should put my old and new ideas about how to get the students speaking more into effect. This paper and the theories within is helped by what I found from the initial article by Rolf Palmberg and increasingly by reading about American psychologist Howard Gardner who developed ‘The Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ documented in his book Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
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Any new foreign language teacher in Thailand can feel that they have studied and acquired the knowledge to feel confident in a classroom full of excitable children. This knowledge lies at the feet of the teacher having the foresight to know how the students might react in any learning situation. One of the most important factors of teaching is the students who have to be in the right frame of mind while having the willingness to learn. This said, a confident teacher still has to change course when their best-laid plans do not seem to be working because of uninterested/reluctant students. For this report, I based my research on what a good teacher should have and do in class. I surveyed 50 Thai students who were between 15 and 17 years of age. This was done by way of a survey during the class where I had the chance to circulate and talk to the students.
My initial thought was to use a list of factors I thought the students would empathize with that showed the character of a teacher.
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Quality Assurance is a high priority for the company I work for. First of all, the students are our customers, so the company’s aims revolve around giving a high standard product that leaves the students feeling they made the right move to choose our company’s second language teaching course. For this piece of writing, I will outline some of the provisions my company and I have/use to not only keep the quality high but also to gain knowledge for improvement.
To promote equal opportunities
The courses I teach have students from many backgrounds, countries, and of varying ages. It is my job to accept all these people as achieving the goal of passing the course and being involved. For example, on the last course, there was a woman from Poland who was 28, an 18 year Englishman who was just taking his A levels, and an older Englishman of about 55 years of age. Taking these three as an example, they all had their reasons to be there, and the only way for them to pass the course was to work together as a group and as individuals. To promote this combination, my first job as their teacher trainer, as soon as they arrive, is to welcome them and get them introduced to each other, so they feel part of the group and they get the chance to meet each other. During the course, there are many pair-work and group-work activities, so it is my job to encourage collaboration between these kinds of people whatever their background. I promote peer and group evaluation where students constructively help each other. Eventually, when they come to complete their practice teaching in pairs there is encouragement from all the class towards a successful conclusion.
To identify, understand and learn from the factors which facilitate or hinder the students
The course has set modules, but within that, in my job as a trainer, I still have to make the students confident and knowledgeable about teaching a second language. In this respect, formative assessment is taken after each module to give feedback to the trainer, and for the students to be able to discuss how the course is progressing and their grasp of the facts so far. For example, one formative assessment has each of the students choosing to stand in a particular corner of the room which relates to their experience and knowledge of the class they just had. One corner may have the statement, ‘I have a question’. The students who stand in this corner have a chance to discuss issues they may have. They are then told to write down some questions they may have which are then discussed with the trainer and the rest of the group. The trainer can take away this assessment to improve on the next lesson while the students have been given a platform to voice their problems (good or bad). The reason for writing their ideas is that the trainer can take away the material and assess it to see for improvement.
Post Course Feedback from students
Once the students’ course is complete, they are sent a feedback form where they are given chance to comment on the course and the trainer that delivered the course content. That feedback is collated by my company and discussed with them internally. If need be I am contacted and made aware of issues that the students had or content that was valuable for the students. Correspondence is always made between myself and my manager post-course to discuss issues.
To set and achieve high standards and targets across all provision
For the 20 hours of study, a scheme of work and lesson plans are written detailing all aspects of the course. This makes provision for the encouragement of active learning while giving available time for the students to practice their teaching and discuss material. There are also resources for the students to use and contemplate over that show course content. The trainer also uses Prezi presentation facility to help students understand the content clearly.
Observation (form and feedback)
Over the 20 hours of study, the students complete two practice teaching lessons. They are given help in completing their lesson plans by the trainer. This sets them on the right path while lesson stages are discussed. This puts them in good stead for performing for the first time in front of the class. Once they start their practice teaching they are observed by the trainer who completes an observation form. This form is given to the students which includes all stages and the techniques they used in their lesson as well as comments on how they performed. There are also comments on what may need to be changed in their next practice teaching. This form is given to them for them to contemplate over and ask questions if need be. Also, after their teaching is finished as a group there is a feedback session where students can make comments on what they liked, and maybe what they would change. I feel this gives the students a holistic picture of where they are at with the course and their teaching.
Facilities for learning (To provide a safe environment)
The students are first welcomed outside the class. Coffee, tea, and biscuit are provided nearby. The students have seats and two sofas, so they can relax before the course starts. At times when there is a break, these facilities are used. The classrooms are adequate for the 15 to 20 students there are. There is a good size screen for the projector for the students to observe the course content. The table and chairs are put into a U shape which encourages discussion. The heating in the room is put on before the students arrive, so once they have had their coffee they are welcomed into the warm classroom. The provision for food is excellent as below the classroom there is a restaurant, and within 3 minutes walk, there is a newsagent and a Tesco store that sells less expensive food (sandwiches, crisps, and drinks).
Which aspect of your practice do you wish to develop?
With respect to planning trainee teacher lessons and the delivery of them, while making sure concepts delivered through each session focus on foreign language teaching, I still wonder within the short time allowed for each module the trainee teachers actually absorb the vital information given to them. Consequently, when they finish the TEFL trainee teacher course, they can put all these factors into practice in their new employment overseas. My job as an instructor is to help the trainee teachers become proficient educators. While I try to administer these various teaching sessions, I need to see more proficiency in the trainee teacher’s lesson planning and practice teaching where I can observe them using techniques they had already been taught to them over their time learning to teach a second language. This strengthens my thoughts and beliefs about how well they are achieving on the TEFL course and how well I have delivered the content of each teaching module.
What are your reasons for choosing the above?
Having used formative assessment in my classes before and been given written feedback on this, I consider this is a worthy method to check my (trainee teachers) students’ understanding of methods of teaching a second language at various stages over the length of the TEFL course. Of course, my assessment procedure needs work, and getting to know how much of the subject matter the students have processed is a major factor for myself succeeding in my class and personal pedagogically. My 20 hour part of the 120 hour TEFL course and the modules within it are each on a set time limit and students have some difficult days of study absorbing all the information. Within the 20 hours of the practical part of the TEFL course, the students have many modules to complete. From this, it means that students must be able to comprehend the subject matter for each module, take in all that the teacher offers and be able to show this in practice in their teaching as a final project. Although I am fundamentally teaching the basics of TEFL and what the students essentially need to begin their first teaching experience abroad, I still need to give them more than enough information to achieve this. This leads me to improve on improving on my approach, method, and techniques to enhance the learning experience that each and every student has grasped the subject matter of the module. The students then can walk away after the course feeling they have the confidence and the knowledge to prepare for their first foreign teaching assignment, while at the same time, the knowledge they have gained will inject that incentive to further their studies and their teaching. It is this inspiration through my teaching that I want to improve on. This, I feel, can be enhanced by formative assessment of each module during the TEFL course.
What relevant secondary sources (e.g. existing publications etc) have you found. How have they helped to clarify your research?
As teachers use assessment and learning dynamically, they increase their capacity to derive a deeper understanding of their students’ responses. This then serves to structure increased learning opportunities (Darling-Hammond, Ancess, & Falk, 1995, p. 131).
Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment By Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam
From my initial reading, I have come to recognise formative assessment as a vital part of the classroom experience. Black and William’s evidence shows that formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work. This has been very informative and is certainly a background for my research project. Black and William highlight that outside the box (the classroom) there are many initiatives and assessments for learning but this leaves out what really happens in the classroom and the teaching experience. It also makes mention to students competing in the class for the best results thus leaving out many students who feel let down by their education. This could change where students become more able to assess their learning thus far and be able to change that. I feel that the acknowledgment for my students that their learning is an ongoing passage through their course they (including myself) can regularly assess how they (and myself) are acquiring the knowledge to succeed thus helping both parties.
Second language teaching can be employed in many ways and is born from many theories hypothesizing how we acquire language through the process of first or second language acquisition. Central to these theories of language acquisition was the emergence of the concept of “methods” of language teaching. It is this language teaching coupled with its methodology I will discuss in this paper notwithstanding that teaching methods can not be applied if we do not understand how students gather all the information for their language acquisition. Methodology can be fundamentally sound but if we (the teachers) do not understand the minds of our students that much clearer, all the hard teaching work will be fruitless. Methodology in teaching in all it forms originates from questions the teacher asks himself about the students and learning environment such as: Who are the learners? What exactly do they do? For what purpose are the students learning the language? In what setting are the students learning?, With what kinds of language?, In what patterns of social interaction? , and also what are the particular outcomes in terms of quantity/quality of language use, attitudes, and motivation? This is not forgetting the teacher who must consider the design features of his lesson that might include such points as: stated objectives, syllabus specifications, and type of activities, roles of teachers, learners, and materials. These are the sort of questions and ideas that are congruent with referring to a methodology for teaching and will help with answering the question for this paper; what is teaching methodology? I will also generally try to focus on teaching methodology over the last thirty years.
To begin with, teaching methodology in all its forms helps the students in their acquisition of language. Our knowledge of the student and his learning is fundamental with respect to a proficient teaching method. We only need to look at one of the most influential researchers in the language field of developmental psychology. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) explains this point a bit more. He helped posit many theories (which are discussed later in this paper). Piaget became interested in how children think. He recognised that the children’s answers were qualitatively different from the older children’s. This, of course, he recognised, did not mean the younger ones were less smart. The children answered the questions differently because they thought differently. Influential research like Piaget’s is the kind of recognition of students’ learning and capabilities that a teaching methodology has to adapt to. It is a focus like this, that I hope to put across in this paper. Teaching methodology works in many ways and has to deal with a myriad of learning styles and ages.
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