Sunday, 13 May 2012

Adjusting the Control: Management of the Teaching and Learning Process

This was the title of the second presentation of the recent Cambridge Day I attended. The speaker was Stuart Vinnie and what follows is a summary of his workshop.

'Teachers open the door. You go through it by yourself.'
Chinese proverb.

This was the focus of the session: teachers as facilitators, encouraging learning through motivating both their students and themselves. A learner-centred classroom doesn't mean that learners are running the show, but rather considers the interaction between the learners, their interests and their needs, and the teacher. It allows learners to contribute, share and take an active role in the learning process. Likewise, a teacher-centred classroom doesn't necessarily mean that the teacher always leads; a teacher needs to behave in different ways throughout the lesson in order to successfully engage their learners. The key is in finding the middle ground.

Here are some of the roles that teachers adopt:
The teacher….
prepares and reflects on the lesson before teaching, anticipates problems and selects, designs and adapts materials.
organises the learning space, makes sure everything in the classroom is running smoothly and sets up rules and routines (i.e. things which are done regularly) for behaviour and interaction.
goes around the class during individual, pair and group work activities, checking learning and providing support as necessary.
provides opportunities for learning, helps learners to access resources and develop learner autonomy.
works out the cause of learners’ difficulties.
can be used by the learners for help and advice about language.
evaluates the language level and attitudes of the learners by using different means of informal and formal assessment.
tries to create a good relationship with and between learners.
thinks about the class after it has ended.
finds out why something worked or didn’t work.
uses PLNs through, for example, Twitter and Facebook to share ideas with other teachers throughout the world.

The key to managing both the teaching and the learning process is in understanding these roles and recognising when and how they should be used in different parts of a lesson. It is important to analyse and reflect on activities we use in class in order to improve them for future use. A pro-forma like this is very useful:

Skills used?
Language focus?
Teacher’s role?
Learner’s role?

Let's take a question and answer activity as an example. Give students a picture of a famous person or cartoon character (David Beckham, Harry Potter, Minnie Mouse, etc.) and tell them to imagine that they are a journalist going to meet this person for the first time. They have to think of ten pertinent and interesting questions to ask. A second student is given the same picture and they have to imagine that they are the famous person. A role-play follows between the journalist and the celebrity.

If we analyse this activity:

Skills used?
  • Listening
  • Speaking
Language focus?
  • Question formation
  • Tenses
Teacher’s role?
  • Supervisor
  • Motivator
  • Facilitator
Learner’s role?
  • Thinker
  • Imaginer
  • Pretender
  • Yes
  • Change roles
  • Use different pictures

We also need to think about the interaction patterns of each activity and consider whether traditional patterns can be changed to put the onus more on the learner than the teacher. We need to encourage student collaboration and student autonomy as much as possible.

Some activity ideas:

1.   Pyramid discussion - start with students talking about a topic in pairs. Then the pairs join with another pair to discuss the same question in a group of four. Then these groups join with another group to share their ideas.
2.   Dictation exercise - students work in small groups. The teacher dictates a sentence. The students write the sentence on a piece of paper and then pass their paper to the person on their left. The students look at the sentence written on their paper and circle any errors. The teacher reads the second sentence. The student writes this sentence down and then passes on the paper again. Every time a student gets a new piece of paper, he or she looks at the sentences already written on it and circles the errors before writing the new sentence. At the end of the activity, the collaborative error correction is consolidated so that all students know the correct sentences.
3.   Homework choice - allow students to choose their own homework. For example, they could pick four exercises from two pages of a workbook, or seven questions from an exercise of ten.

'Students can't be taught - they can only be helped to learn ...... our role is to help and encourage students to develop their skills, but without relinquishing our more traditional role as a source of information, advice and knowledge. Together our role is to make sure everyone benefits from the lesson and supports one another.'
Leo Jones, 'The Student-Centred Classroom' (CUP 2007)

'....everyone has a unique perspective on the world and their place within it. Each of us will approach language learning tasks in a different way as a result of this. Thus, the teacher must seek ways of enabling their learners to take control of their learning. By empowering them in this way, we can help learners to become truly autonomous.'
Marion Williams & Robert Burden, 'Psychology for Language Teachers' (CUP 1997)

No comments:

Post a comment