My teaching approach
This essay will focus on the author’s desire to teach Business English with a strong focus on experiential learning. The essay will begin with a section on, what is important for students to learn, followed by the teaching methodology of this curriculum and its assessment methods. The main aim of this essay is to provide a foundation for the birth of an efficient but highly effective Business English course.
What the Students Want to Learn
Due to my experience in the Business world, I would prefer to focus on teaching Business English. After that, my approach to teaching English would be dependent on the desires of the students. This means that, each engagement with a ‘client’ would begin with a needs analysis to find out what their long term objectives are. Following as assessment of their level of English, it is this analysis that will determine the structure of their learning. By doing this, my aim is to discover what the students want to learn and more importantly, why they want to learn it. Of course, Sometimes, tiredness or a lack of interest/effort is prevalent within a student. As Petty states: ‘Motivation is regarded by experienced and inexperienced teachers alike as a prerequisite for effective learning, and the greatest challenge that many teachers face is to make their students want to learn.’ (2004:43) Motivation is a prerequisite for learning because as Elliot and Covington state: ‘Motivation can be defined as one’s direction to behaviour, what causes a person to want to repeat a behaviour and vice versa.’ (Elliot, 2008:2) In my short time as a TEFL teacher, I have noticed that some students may only be there because their company has forced them to attend the class, some see it as a social break from work and many others simply do not turn up. However, it is important not to let these issues distract from the need and desires of those in the class who do want to learn and have a strong motivation to do so.
As previously stated, each client’s level of English will need to be assessed in order to create the most effective learning program for them. However, there is a particular way that I wish to teach and this method has been influenced by the macro and micro needs of a Business English student. Methodology:
As you can see from the chevron process above, the most important steps in learning English begin with Listening, Speaking and then Pronunciation which I believe mimics the first step of learning a new language which is: hearing, repeating and then perfecting. These three chunks, I believe are the most important to master before moving onto Reading, Vocabulary and Grammar etc. It is these chunks that I would use to assess the level of English before commencing a language program with a client.
How I Would Teach It
Once a client’s level has been assessed along with a need’s analysis, I will move onto the creation of a course and at least I would have mapped out the next block of lessons for the client. However, the foundation of each course is the syllabus and here it is important to decide upon the most effective methods to teach. Whilst it is impossible and extremely unwise to choose only one method of teaching, it appears to me that the most engaging methods of teaching are most likely to keep learner’s motivational levels high. I would achieve this by raising excitement of students via their excitement to learn.
For these reasons, I would focus on a range of the following styles:
- Function-based Syllabus: To help teach the basics via simple simulation exercises that are useful in everyday expression. (i.e. how to greet someone/ how to order a coffee etc.)
- Situations-based Syllabus: Similar to function-based syllabus but more closely aligned to Business English specifics. The content is focused on real or imaginary situations in which the language occurs. The benefit of a situation-based syllabus is that students learn how to use the target language in an authentic context.
- Skill-based syllabus: The content is a collection of specific abilities that one must be able to demonstrate in order to be competent using the language. Examples of activities during class would be: listening for the main idea in spoken language, writing paragraphs and giving oral presentations. The benefit of a skill-based syllabus is that students can specify their learning to reach their communicative competence, such as using the telephone, booking a hotel, and others.
- Task-based syllabus: This type of syllabus is comprised of a series of tasks that language learners need to perform; tasks are defined as activities that are needed when using the target language. Examples of a task-based syllabus may include applying for a job, ordering food via the telephone and getting housing information over the telephone. The benefit of a task-based syllabus is that students learn to carry out activities using the target language.
- Content-based syllabus: The focus of this type of syllabus is on specific subject matter. During the lesson, students are focused on learning about something. This could be anything that interests them from a serious science subject to their favourite pop star or even a topical news story or film. They learn about this subject using the language they are trying to learn. It can make learning a language more interesting and motivating.
Not to completely denounce the Grammar-Translation methods or the Structure-based syllabus but I do not believe that they are very flexible in creating a holistic learning style that facilitates retention for a student. On the contrary, for those with a low level of English, inevitably, the initial use of a function-based syllabus may lean on the translation method so as to create a foundation for the learner to build upon but once the learner is no longer a beginner, this style becomes rather lethargic in trying to teach more advanced levels of English. Also, the five syllabus styles are so related that it becomes very easy to use a range of them within one ‘hybrid’ syllabus that leans on the strength of each of them dependant on the requirements of each student/client.
Here is an example of how a one-hour class on ‘meetings’ could look:
Intro – how are you? Recap over the last session? What did you learn last class? (5 – 10 mins)
Quick Questions related to meetings (what you like and do not like about meetings) (10 mins)
The importance of a meeting (why are meetings important? can you think of any meetings that you liked or did not like… why?) (15 mins)
Role-play of a meeting (15 mins)
Final Recap (Quick Questions – what have you learnt today? focus on target language) (15 mins)
+ 2 spare activities
- Reading exercises/paragraphs from example meetings
- Videos on how a meeting is discussed in English (could contrast good vs. bad meeting)
The important thing here is to set the topic and lesson objectives and then create a series of linked activities that are loosely consecutive and serve the purpose of meeting the lesson’s objectives. If you find that the class goes in a different direction, especially for a conversational class, then you should have a few ‘spare’ activities which can be used to adapt your class as you may require.
Finally, most of these classes would either be based on real or hypothetical scenarios and therefore, materials could be the local surroundings, issues in the news or pre-designed role plays/apprentice-style tasks: where the group has to interact with the local English-speaking community to sell a product etc. The aim is to create situations that they will remember.
Of course, when conducting such tasks and scenarios, students will need to be assessed both as a group and individually. This is the skills-based part of the syllabus.
Much of the assessment on my courses would be a combination of Group and Individual Work Projects alongside a few short tests. The idea is to assess the students whilst they are using what they have learned in a simulated scenario which they would have practiced prior to their assessment. Perhaps here, use of videos could help in the future. The idea is to simply test the knowledge of the students and their application whilst in familiar scenarios that they have and or will face.
Naturally, the role of the teacher is ever-important here. As a result of our desired outcomes, we require our teachers to be a combination of the following qualities:
A needs analyst, A facilitator, A playmaker and A conversationalist. On the contract, students will be able to respond to the conversationalist as a communicator/imitator, a self-manager and at times be able to follow instructions, especially when completing a task or scenario.
Clearly, this essay has highlighted a more forward thinking, less traditional approach to teaching. Yes, there will be a combination of formative, summative, continuous and fixed point assessment but students will be learning for function above all else. Obviously, English would be the vehicular language of the classroom but use of mother tongue will be used when the student is expressionless to avoid festering uncomfortable situations. Here, we may lean on the ‘grammar-translation’ method but briefly whilst we seek a 95% English 5% native language ratio in our classes.
Finally, graded language will be a useful in the following ways, being able to slow down speech and pronounce words fully for example as this will become crucial to ensure the aforementioned ratio is kept up. With the requirement of being a need’s analyst, facilitator, playmaker and conversationalist, recruitment of high skilled teachers will be required to meet our targets.