My teaching approach
In the modern language education teachers can benefit from a wide range of teaching approaches and teaching methods and for that reason students can benefit from a variety of techniques that have their origins in the variety of those approaches and methods. If I were to explain the term of teaching methods, I would define teaching methods are the strategies used for classroom management. These strategies may depend on many factors which the teacher considers the most adequate for his classroom demographic, subjects, students’ goals and expectations, school’s mission and his educational philosophy. Teacher’s philosophy can also be defined as an approach to teaching.
In terms of a lesson focus, there are two approaches to classroom learning. They are teacher-centred and student-centred. It is entirely the teacher’s decision which approach they find more effective. Theorists like John Devey, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, whose collective work focused on how students learn, have formed the student-centred learning movement. During my lessons, I am leaning towards student-centred approach as well, because I believe that students should play an equally active role in the learning process as teachers. I try to coach and facilitate student learning and create communicative environment, while still being an authority figure in my class. In my opinion students can memorise more and learn faster when they are stimulated to participate in the lesson and come to conclusions on their own, when they can link new and old information.
However, we have to remember that every student learns differently. It means that each student has the preferential way in which they absorb, comprehend, process information. According to educational theorists Walter Burke Barbe and his colleagues, there are three different styles of learning, they include auditory, visual, kinaesthetic styles. It is important for both students and teachers to recognise students’ learning style in order to make it more effective, motivational and pleasurable. In other words, everybody is different and it is the teacher’s role to implement best methods and techniques into planning the course syllabus. Therefore, whenever I prepare for my classes I try to match my students’ learning style with appropriate teaching strategies to increase their level of comprehension and comfort and to make the lesson more beneficial.
Having the knowledge of my students’ learning styles, it helps to choose the teaching method and teaching technique. Needless to say that, there is no single best method and no one teaching method is superior to others. From the practical point of view, it is not possible to apply the same methodology to all learners, who have different objectives, environments and learning needs.
Each method has a different focus or priority and this means different techniques we can use to implement in the classroom environment. In my opinion the most successful methods are these methods which derived from the communicative approach, mostly because they are based on the idea that learning language comes through having to communicate real meaning. They are also learner-centred methods and underline that when learners are involved in a real communication, their natural strategies for language acquisition are used. As a result, it helps them to learn to use the language skillfully and accurately.
According to Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Oxford University Press) communicative methods include such methods as grammar translation, direct method, audio-lingual method and cognitive code approach. Other methods in this category are: the silent way, suggestopedia or community language learning. Although suggestopedia, developed by the Bulgarian psychotherapist Gregori Lozanov, may seem the most comfortable from the student’s perspective, because lessons are conducted in a relaxed atmosphere, usually accompanied by music or hypnosis, which encourage subconscious second language acquisition, I prefer the direct method, where students learn by associating meaning directly in the second language. In general, students learn everyday spoken vocabulary and structures. All teaching is done in the second language, grammar is taught inductively and the teacher has to concentrate on speaking and listening. Speaking and listening are the two from the ‘four language skills’ that are emphasised here in terms of an effective communication.
In the direct method grammar is taught inductively. Therefore, it stands in opposition to the grammar-translation method and it is believed to be an answer to the dissatisfaction with the older grammar and vocabulary translation approaches. It was established in Germany (popularised by Maximilian Berlitz) and France (de Sauze) and became popular in the first quarter of the 20th century. In that time the main idea behind the direct method was that the second language should be taught in the same way as the first language is learnt, and also by creating total immersion environment for the learner, when possible. Nowadays, lesson units are based on question-answer pattern, and answers may lead to occasional conversations. This pattern always facilities alertness and total participation of students, where the role of the teacher is to direct activities. Students and teacher are partners in the learning process (learner-centred approach).
Some may argue that the weakness of the direct method is that it is based on the assumption that a second language can be learnt in exactly the same way as the mother tongue, when in fact the conditions under which a second language is learnt are different. Opponents also claim that grammar is not taught systematically and slow learners may have difficulties and struggle with the method. Obviously compromise is needed. Nevertheless, when the teacher attempts to create total immersion environment and explains new vocabulary using realia, through pantomiming, real-life objects, visual aids or demonstrations, this method may be considered the most effective and the quickest method invented so far. Other essential arguments in favour of the direct method include the fact that there is no translation and that can facilitate better understanding of real-life language. In other words this method helps to develop language sense, because language is contextualised, it helps improve the fluency of the speech and all the oral training results in easy reading and writing.
Having said that, I have also noticed that the some characteristics of the direct method are nowadays used in the large number of English teaching methods and techniques I have observed, for example, in the audio-lingual method. They include such characteristics as the emphasis on listening and speaking, the use of the target language for all class instructions, and the use of visuals and realia to illustrate meaning.
Last but not least this method is the method in which proper pronunciation and error correction are emphasised. As far as error correction is concerned, there is, and will be, a disagreement among teachers. Moreover, attitudes to error correction may differ not only among teachers but also among students. In my opinion, self-correction is the most effective technique and if the teacher can involve learners in self-correction, for instance, by giving learners guidance as to the location and nature of their errors, students’ chances of using the second language accurately and fossilising it are very high. I believe it is the teacher’s role to encourage self-correction. It can be done, by using facial expressions, gestures, echoing or repeating the student’s error with a question intonation. The other way of correcting students’ errors can include the teacher’s correction. Regardless the method of error correction we choose, in my opinion, errors give us important feedback about the student’s stage of language learning and depending on the aims of the lesson and learner’s attitude, and they should be corrected.
All things considered, I may have decided on my favourite teaching method, but like many teachers, I also try to construct my lessons providing a mixture of methods and approaches to meet the different needs of my learners and the different aims of lessons, fitting the method to the learner not the other way round. In practice this means choosing the techniques and activities that are appropriate for each particular task, context and learner, with a focus on motivation and helping learners become independent, inspired and motivated to learn more.