My teaching approach
The Shepherd Method
In this assignment I aim to compare and contrast a number of teaching methods in order to construct an effective teaching method of my own, the Shepherd Method.
One method is Suggestopedia. Suggestopedia is based on the idea that with age, people suffocate their ability to learn in order to conform to social norms, therefore in order to invigorate those learning capabilities teachers have to use suggestion. Here are some of the features of Georgi Lozanov’s Suggestopedia method:
- Learning is facilitated in a cheerful environment. If students are relaxed and confident, they won’t need to try hard to learn the language.
- Indirect positive suggestions should be integrated into the learning situation to enhance students’ self-confidence and to convince them that success is obtainable.
- Fine arts enable positive suggestions to reach the subconscious for the students.
- Native language translation makes the meaning of the dialog clear.
- Communication takes place on ‘2 planes’: (1) conscious plane, the learner attends to the language; (2) subconscious plane, the music suggests that learning is easy and pleasant.
I agree with the main theme, I believe that breaking down a mental barrier is essential when creating a teaching methodology, if a student feels comfortable in the class room this will then instigate higher levels of engagement. I am a great believer in participation and any aid that will increase student participation will also accelerate the learning process. This two pronged attack on the learning process is also an effective tool, trying to harmonise the conscious and subconscious mind will also hasten the ability to learn.
As much as I agree with certain features of Suggestopedia, I also have a number of criticisms. The Suggestopedia method uses an introduction of classical music, together with classical paintings surrounding the teaching room and the teacher talking in a theatrical manner. I believe there is a fine line between making the students feel comfortable, and having too many distractions within a learning environment. These factors that Lozanov is using to create a learning haven might distract from the content of the lecture. Lozanov is creating this unnatural learning environment and my concern is whether students will in fact be too concerned with the ambience itself rather than the lesson content.
I will incorporate elements of the Suggestopedia theory to the more eclectic Shepherd Method, but I believe too many flaws are in Suggestopedia for it to stand independently as a good teaching method. I will place great emphasis on breaking learning barriers and making my students feel engaged, but in a much more subtle way which will not detract from the class content. I will discuss this in detail, later in this assignment.
The second method I aim to analyse is the Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) below are some characteristics:
- Literary language is superior to spoken language.
- The ability to communicate is not a goal.
- The primary skills to be developed are reading and writing.
- Little attention is given to speaking and listening, and almost none to pronunciation.
- The teacher is the authority in the classroom. The students do as s/he says so they can learn what s/he knows.
- It is important that students get the correct answer (attitude to errors).
· Students are given sentences with words missing for fill-in-the blanks drills.
· The GTM teaches about the target language, but not how to use it.
This particular methodology is heavily concentrated towards receptive skills rather than productive. When the teacher talks about target language but not developing how to use it, we are concentrating on our receptive skills. When the ability to communicate is not a goal, I believe that the methodology is neglecting the productive skills. An effective teaching method should place equal importance on both receptive and productive skills.
The GTM method states that it is important that students get the right answer, also that the teacher is the authority in the classroom. Firstly, I believe that students should be encouraged to contribute to class and if errors occur, then a teacher should accept errors as a natural step along the learning process. Secondly, I believe that the teacher should be much more of a guide or a Shepherd in the classroom directing the class dynamics towards a common goal, students will feel comfortable, and communication will be enhanced.
Below are the main characteristics of the Shepherd Method:
- Use visual aids
- Grammar rules are taught explicitly, Grammar rules are taught in mother tongue.
- Once Grammar rules are established, the Teachers role changes from a controller, to a playmaker.
- Learning is facilitated in a cheerful environment.
- Errors are tolerated and seen as natural outcome of the development of communication skills.
- During the middle of the course students are encouraged to read English Newspapers, watch English TV channels, and listen to English radio and English songs.
The Shepherd Method is directed at students that have a visual style. I will incorporate pictures, colours, and visual media into my lessons in order to appeal to students that learn this way.
Bringing visuals into the classroom will also be another way to enhance engagement. Visual images can break up the monotony of a lot of text, furthermore enhancing the lesson as an engaging experience.
Whilst I appreciate that this visual theme in the classroom appeals to learners that learn visually, I am aware that this way of teaching may alienate other learners that have different learning styles such as an Auditory or Kinaesthetic.
This is a deliberate theme within my methodology. I feel that an effective teaching method has to be specific rather than all encompassing. I believe that many methodologies run the risk of satisfying too many different learning abilities, ages, learning styles and other demographics, when in reality trying to cater for everyone ends up being the least effective way.
Finding out about a particular learning style is all part of the analysis that a teacher will carry out on their students. We also need to take into consideration other factors, such as:
· A students motivation to learn a language, I will conduct a needs analysis at the start of my course. This will then help me understand my student, short term and long term goals, and how much time we have to execute those objectives.
· A learners age, an older learner may have different characteristics when learning. An increase in language interference may happen at an older age as students want to apply the rules they have acquired in their Mother Tongue, to the new language they are learning.
A major feature of the Shepherd Method is to teach the Grammar rules explicitly and with the use of the Mother Tongue. I accept that during the early stages of learning a language, language interference will be in its most prominent phase, learners may have trouble with specific rules in L2 because of their L1 knowledge and different patterns that they currently use in their Mother Tongue. Therefore, I have to find a way to make L2 rules as easy for learners to understand as possible. If I can remove the added barrier of having to translate from L2 to their Mother Tongue, which students will be doing in the initial phase of learning a language anyway then I believe this will speed up the learning process. During the Grammar phase, the teacher takes the role of a controller; the teacher makes sure Grammar rules are explained to students thoroughly through detailed description of the function of Grammar rules. In this way it is easier for a teacher to exactly understand when a grammatical structure has been learned. By knowing that a student fully understands grammatical rules, this could in fact eliminate, or at least stifle interlanguage. I believe that the reason interlanguage exists is because students are not comfortable with the L2 structure, so if I introduce an L2 structure in their Mother Tongue, students will feel comfortable using it.
Essentially, what I’m doing with this feature of my Methodology is flipping the Callan method on its head. The Callan method gives a student no time to translate into their mother tongue and assimilates new content through repetition.
Here, Callan obviously views the process of translating into L1 and then regurgitating an answer into L2 as a barrier. In the Shepherd Method rather than suffocating the mother tongue, I will use the mother tongue as a tool to aid the learning process. Concept checking becomes easier because I am able to check an understanding of the rule and students can communicate without being limited in their explanation. With Callan, there is no thorough concept check, just because a student is repeating an answer, it doesn’t necessarily signify that they understand a meaning.
Once Grammar rules are understood, the classroom dynamics change, the flexibility of my method means it can be beneficial right from P1-P5. Only L2 is then spoken inside the classroom. The teacher’s role changes to become a guide, or a Shepherd and the class take a much more communicative approach. The environment is set up to encourage student participation and make a student feel confident enough contribute in class. The teacher will praise a student; and use of learner’s names in the classroom is essential, all subtle strategies to add to the ambience.
Outside the classroom, students are encouraged to embed themselves in L2 popular culture in order to aquire the language. There is a difference between language learning and language acquisition. Krashen states that acquisition is unconscious and spontaneous, and learning is conscious, developing through formal study. Therefore if an instance such as turning on an English speaking radio show whilst doing household chores engrains Language into the subconscious mind, then I believe this is to be encouraged.
When teaching Grammar, a text book will be used, the text book will provide a permanent structure to the lesson and although a text book may stifle creativity, I believe that when specifically teaching Grammar rules, there is little need for creativity in the classroom.
The Shepherd Method will be taught to adults, I am using their bank of knowledge they have gained from their mother tongue to act as a learning aid, as discussed.
I can understand that the Shepherd Method could be criticised for using the mother tongue. One could suggest that it will take a long time before a students starts to learn different vocabulary if he/she has to master the grammar in his/her own language first. However, I believe that this method will eliminate certain factors that might appear further along the journey of learning a language, most specifically interlanguage and language interference and that is the underlying benefit to my methodology, the Shepherd Method.