16th November, 2015
OXBRIDGE – Liliana Saplontai
ASSIGNMENT ESSAY – Personal Approach to Teaching
DESIGN AN APPROACH WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH ALWAYS EXPLAINING WHY IT WOULD BE MOST BENEFICIAL FOR YOUR STUDENTS
A valuable teaching approach takes into account the needs and motivations of the student, as the structure, outcome and activities are based around these necessities, and change depending on affective, as well as other personal, social and cultural factors. Being conscious of these aspects during the teaching and learning process is important, as every class may bring about unexpected situations. It is vital to be prepared for these and to enter each class mindfully. Taking note of different learning styles and readily adapting content and structure to the environment of the class, will benefit the needs of the student and class itself. As a teaching approach, I would utilise components, and involve a combination, of all methodologies that we learned about in class, with particular emphasis on the direct method. On the whole, I would design a teaching approach that includes the following:
Key areas should involve language structure (grammar), topics (relevant to everyday uses and situations, as well as learners’ needs) and vocabulary. These areas, however, will be organised and their use, or combination, will depend on things such as students’ level, learning outcomes, and affective factors. Therefore, it is important to adapt and be flexible during the entire learning experience, whilst taking into consideration student motivations and goals. The progress and success of these factors will be dependent on the teachers’ ability to be consistent, mindful and prepared for each class, as they relate to the needs of a student.
What a Student should Learn – Needs and Motivations
What students will learn is dependent on their needs and objectives. As stated in our notes from Day 3, objectives are the product of the aims of the course of study, methodology and the results of a needs analysis. In order to, therefore, structure the course and classes better, these objectives, also referred to as learning outcomes, need to be specific, measurable, observable and achievable, as this assists in providing clarity, focus and a tangible guideline, to both the teacher and student. Broadly speaking, the student may be taking classes to learn English, however, if the student needs the language for a job in an airport and their motivation is work, it will be difficult to achieve valuable learning outcomes such as vocabulary related to airport, for example, without first taking into consideration those objectives. Ascertaining student needs and motivations for language learning can be done merely by asking the student before classes begin, doing a needs analysis, a placement test and taking notes as they progress throughout the course, as these needs may change.
The way that students learn and comprehend content, will depend on several elements, and it is important to understand that affective factors and personality may influence their learning experience. As Day 2 notes suggest, building rapport and catering to students’ needs are beneficial in order to build trust with students so they are able to communicate and express concerns and learning issues during the course and classes. This will help you as a teacher adapt the lesson and activities to better serve the target language skills and areas. I have found during my teaching experience that using humour, being consistent as possible, genuine and open-minded, has been particularly effective in building trust and a rapport with students, at whatever age. Even though teachers can assume different roles within their classrooms for different reasons (Day 3 notes), essentially one needs to be consistent as possible, so as to not confuse students, and help build the trust factor as well. I have found being prepared for classes, well aware and reflective of yourself and the students during the teaching process, help both parties develop and avoid dubious situations. Students can also assume a number of roles depending on the method being taught, the setting, as well as the beliefs of both the teacher and student (Day 3 notes). These will depend on various factors such as their motivation to learn, acceptance of corrections, willingness to ask questions, etc. (Day 3 notes).
Target Language and Language Skills
I would always encourage the vehicular language of the classroom, at all levels, to be the target language (English, in this case). I have found it necessary, at times, to translate or include some use of the mother tongue, especially at the S1 level. However, concentrating on and speaking only in the target language encourages them to practice and actually utilise the language, rather than allowing them to become too complacent in their native language. Too often, dependency on the native language leads to misinterpretations, especially from direct translations, which in turn, lead to various structure, vocabulary and pronunciation mistakes and problems. The purpose is to begin thinking in the target language and not mix this up or directly relate it to the students’ mother tongue.
I think that when learning the target language it is important to target all language skills at some point. However, I would give particular importance to speaking and listening. If we think about general daily life, personal encounters and situations, most human interaction and communication happen through verbal communication, i.e. speaking. Becoming more accustomed to speaking and listening in the target language is beneficial to the student as it is not only a common form of communication, but it activates the language part of the brain, aiding the speaker to begin to think in the language. Nonetheless, it will still depend on the student needs and motivations, such as type of job, activities and interests of the student, as they might be using more writing in their work, for example, or the student is better capable of grasping the language by reading and writing because they have a more verbal/linguistic intelligence ability (Multiple Intelligences Theory – Day 2 Notes). I would suggest to my students to read in the target language in their own time, as this especially is useful in augmenting their vocabulary. Attention paid to the different language areas will depend on the level of the student and their needs. Beginners might need to focus more on grammar (structure) and vocabulary, whereas higher, more advanced levels would work on fluency, through topics, and possibly spelling. Pronunciation should be one of the language areas that is consistent and paid attention to at all levels throughout the course and in classes.
Structure - Course (Syllabus) and Classes
A syllabus provides the content of each class, and I think it is essential as a guide for both teacher and student. I prefer to think of the syllabus as a guide, rather than a plan that is too fixed of structured. The content and how it will be taught will vary from class to class as certain conditions may affect and vary the learning process. The conditions may be a result of affective, personal and situational factors, such as if the student is feel down or stressed during a particular class, or the teaching methodology, for example, using audio aids, is not working for a specific student.
Generally, I would include the following points as part of the structure a course or syllabus:
The class structure should reflect that of the organisation of the syllabus. There should be consistency with what the goals and outcomes of the syllabus state, and how the lesson is then organised to meet those goals, as well as the needs of students. However, being flexible and adapting to the class situations and the objectives, help to produce better outcomes. I would lay out the objectives and choose activities related to the level, time of day, their needs and motivations, and learning styles. I would also focus more on teaching grammar inductively, that is, providing examples of how the concept is used without openly stating the rule, as there are exceptions in the English language, and this can later confuse students. I would also grade and use simple language, speaking slowly and clearly, and incorporate a variety of activities and techniques that accommodate different learning styles, such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic, as proposed by the VAK model. Fluency activities, for higher levels, for example, may include role-plays, making presentations, discussions, use of topics. I believe that the age factor does not drastically affect the structure and activities, and due to the word count of this essay, I neglect to write much a lot on the topic. On the whole, I would choose materials that are not only geared towards students’ motivations and levels, but that are also diversified enough so as to cater to different learning preferences and needs, taking into consideration that these can be adapted as the course and a class progresses. As a teacher, it is essential to be prepared for different scenarios, which is why lesson planning is important if we are to successfully guide a class.
Ultimately, there is no one specific way or method of teaching and learning, however, an approach that incorporates key areas such as structure, topic and vocabulary are essential to the topic of language learning and communication. As a teacher, we need to be able to understand the student needs and motivation to be able to adapt and apply our skills and the language content to benefit the student. Furthermore, other factors involving the students learning style, background, personality, environment, for example, all play a role in the students’ ability to grasp concepts and enhance language proficiency. By having realistic expectations, being flexible, prepared, and mindful, and continuing to encourage and reflect upon our method and instructions as a teacher, as well as working together with the student to achieve their specific goals, are especially significant in producing relevant and specific outcomes.