My teaching approach
In this study, I will carry out a detailed analysis of three different teaching methods. In my conclusion I will outline which methods I feel I prefer. I will be drawing from the information contained within the analysis. For the analysis I have used the ´SWOT´ (strengths, weeknesses, opportunities and threats) method of analysis.
Detailed teaching method analysis; The Callan Method, The Communicative Approach and The Oxbridge method.
The Callan Method.
Decription: The Callan Method was the brainchild of Robert Callan and has been in use since 1959. The teacher follows a set structure consisting of three teaching methods:
1) listen and speak
2) repeat and retain
3) Read and write.
In the first and second part the teacher maintains constant communication (in English) with the students in the form of answer, answer, question then the student gives the answer. Receptive and productive skills of the student are both challenged.
(Teacher holding a pen) This is a pen, this is a pen, what is this?
(student) This is a pen.
This is then repeated with another object:
(Teacher points to the wall) This is the wall, this is the wall, what is this?
(Student) This is the wall.
This is repeated very quickly maybe as many as 50 times/ hour with different objects. The high speed is maintained so that the student cannot translate into their mother tongue.
The Callan Method, however, includes Reading, Listening and Speaking in every lesson, and writing in every 2 hour session. Students that are not so confident in speaking are asked to speak often, this way every student, not just the more confident students learn equally and those who lack confidence gain confidence. Students that have good pronunciation and a high level of confidence are also called upon to write and read. The idea is for all students to practice all the language skills. With the Callan Method, the student cannot escape from utilizing all of the different language skills.
- High quantity of input language: The student is called upon to use new or practice old vocabulary at a high frequency of words. This means that a lot of new vocabulary is learned or old words practiced.
- High frequency of input language: This means the student does not have time to translate between their mother tongue of other second languages and therefore learn the new vocabulary without any crossover interfering from the mother tongue or other secondary languages.
- Student uses all four language skills: There is no hiding in the class, everybody is called upon to answer verbally regardless of how confident they seem, students are also called upon to read and in 2 hour sessions, to write. This means that students that may excel in one skill and lack in another are called upon to practice all of the language skills.
- The main weakness is the repetitiveness and lack of spontaneity. This could be ideal for lower level students but not such a challenge to higher level students. Students are unable to interact with each other, correct their own or each other´s mistakes which can be a highly effective teaching tool that is overlooked by The Callan method.
- Inhibits the teachers ability to assess or grade the level of a new student. The teacher is unable to monitor this because the teacher him/herself is constantly inputting the language with the student simply repeating the teacher´s words. Therefore making it difficult to monitor the progress of the student.
- The verbal exercises need little or no preparation. Your material is all around you.
- The student is not able to lose concentration. The teacher maintains engagement throughout the activity through fast repetition.
- Student uses both receptive and productive skills.
- Excellent for low level learners. Gives learner confidence as well.
- Learner is introduced to a lot of new vocabulary but word by word.
- The teacher has the opportunity to give instant praise or to correct and then give praise for each correct answer.
- Higher levels students may not find it challenging enough and loose interest.
- The student becomes limited to the input language given from the teacher and may miss out on learning through conversations with other students or through other student´s mistakes.
The Communicative Aproach:
Description: The communicative approach is a system of learning in which the teacher pre- plans set tasks for the students which are specifically designed to include the target language. A game for example, which on completion would have made sure the students use the correct tenses for various imaginary situations.
Unlike the Callan method, mistakes are not immediately corrected. This is to encourage uninterrupted conversation and to encourage learning through mistakes. It focuses on the function and the context of the material, teaching students appropriate language according to various situations. Role plays for example, could be an effective tool.
Receptive and productive skills are used by the student and activities can include written work.
- Activities, games, role plays etc can include both receptive and productive skills.
- The students are to carry out tasks which the teacher has pre-planned to ensure that the target language is covered within each the task.
- Students are called upon to communicate. The communication is uninterrupted by the teacher. Students learn through their mistakes and the mistakes of other students or through self correction or correction from fellow students.
- Tasks can be made fun or add an edge of excitement.
- Teacher can assess or monitor the success of activities and adjust them accordingly.
- Could be difficult to use this method on lower level students. Explaining complicated games or role plays to beginners could be impossible.
- Mistakes are not corrected.
- Teachers can bring in an element of fun into the lessons by inventing fun or interesting tasks.
- Students can discuss tasks freely with limited interruption or correction from the teacher.
- Teachers can design tasks which will ensure the student uses the required skill.
- Teachers can design tasks which include both receptive and productive skills including written skills.
- Teachers can assess student´s skills as the session continues and adjust accordingly. By switching roles in a role play, for example.
- Mistakes could go undetected by the student and the group and therefore continue in the student´s output language. Mistakes in output language of fellow students could be adopted by another student.
- It would be important to have pre-graded the language of the students. It would be no use designing a complicated game specifically to use the future continuous tense to a group that has never spoken English before. They would not understand and more than likely loose enthusiasm.
The Oxbridge Method.
Description: The Oxbridge Method focuses on communicative skills. It challenges the student to use both receptive and productive skills although writing is minimal if any, tasks or activities such as word games or role plays are often called upon.
Classes follow a set structure and are designed to start with simple, ´quick fire´ questions and to gradually challenge the student further as the lesson continues. After the introduction with some quick questions, the student is then taken through the study section which focuses on three main areas of learning.
- Structure (grammar).
- Topic (discussion)
Target language or learning goals are included into activities within each area of learning. Teachers pre-prepare the material but are encouraged to monitor students closely throughout and adapt the activities according to enthusiasm and ability of students.
Students are grouped according to ability and target language and learning goals are pre-set according to the identified learning needs of those that fall into the particular levels of learning (beginner to advanced).
Towards the end of each lesson the teacher puts various questions to the student which will ensure that the student has to utilize the target language or the learning goal. This is designed to activate the new language in the student.
The lessons follow a simple formula of engage/study/activate.
The quick but simple questions at the start are designed to engage the students attention but not to challenge the student too much. These questions are simply to change the students thought process from speaking in their mother language to English.
The next section is the study section including the three main areas of learning, this section may include games, role plays, quick fire questions, discussions with fellow students etc.
The final section reviews the content of the study and asks the student to give their own examples. This ensures that the student has understood the concept and activates the new information.
- Student progress is assessed throughout and lessons adjusted accordingly.
- Each lesson starts out with an easy and quick section. Students are gradually given more challenging tasks during the study section if they are finding it easy or less difficult if they appear to be struggling.
- Lectures are highly communicative. Activities usually include discussions, role plays or games. However, the teacher can correct mistakes as and when required.
- A teacher can adjust their level of input throughout the lesson and decrease their amount of input language gradually to allow the student to speak more as they progress through the class.
- Students rarely if never do any writing. Lessons are highly communicative verbally but verbal communication is not the only language skill.
- Grading of language. It may be that individual students excel in one aspect of language but not another. Although in one-to-one situations a teacher maybe able to adjust the lesson accordingly, this could be a difficulty in a larger group.
- Flexibility for teachers to adjust lesson plans accordingly.
- Ability to incorporate the most effective method for each specific activity. For example, elements of The Callan Method maybe perfect to incorporate into an activity designed for complete beginners, whereas elements of The Communicative Aproach could be incorporated into an activity designed for a more advanced group.
- The teacher relies on pre-prepared materials, the grading of the student´s language and preparation. This could make impromptu or lessons given at short notice difficult or seem a little chaotic.
- Pre-grading new students could cause problems, it maybe that a student is at first unaware of their level of English when arranging new lessons. The teacher would have to adapt very quickly to deal with this situation.
From looking at my analysis of the 3 methods I conclude that the Oxbridge method is the most effective. The mixture of flexibility of lessons within a set formulaic structure is the key to success in my opinion. Not just the flexibility but also the flexibility to draw on elements from different methods and incorporate those into the Oxbridge structure, not just the methods I have analyzed here in detail.
The teacher can monitor the effectiveness of each activity and modify accordingly. If the student seems to be finding it easy the teacher can add extra challenges, or if the student is finding it too difficult the teacher can modify the activity accordingly.
Towards the end of each lesson the teacher goes through specifically designed questions in order to activate the target language. This ensures that even if the teacher has drawn from elements from other methods or approaches, the teacher still knows at the end of each lesson that not only has the student understood the context of the study but is able to reproduce their own examples. Ensuring the teacher that the student has activated the new language.