MY TEACHING APPROACH.
'A thousand teachers, a thousand methods'
The great philosopher Aristotle long ago said that we humans were social animals. To support this point of view he used the existence of language and its complexity. Language, apart from all those grammatically correct constituents forming a meaningful sentence, apart from all the complexity and variety of sounds and signs, apart from all the rules and conventions that govern its formation and proper use, is a system for the expression of meaning, a tool for the maintenance and creation of social relations.
Language is in summary, the essence of humanity, for there would be no point in developing a system so complex if it weren't aimed at interpersonal relationships. Language is our most valuable quality.
And that is why I have chosen my approach to focus and be based on the functional and interactive perspective of language nature.
But before I present my own approach I will introduce short and concise notions of other approaches that have influenced in the development of mine. In doing so I will give some perspective towards why I prefer one method and not other.
Behaviourist approach: based on the idea that that learners respond to stimuli in their environment. The role of the teacher is to provide relevant and useful stimuli so the learner responds to and gains the required knowledge or experience. It's approach to learning is based on the belief that behaviour can change through constant repetition of a task combined with feedback from the facilitator. It is useful for those learners who prefer to have a solid and clear structure of their progress, so they can follow their achievements and reinforce those parts of the syllabi that haven't been acquired entirely.
I consider behaviourism quite archaic, although in recent years it has been updated and nowadays the idea of clear and opposite types of reinforcement has been fading. When focused to teaching, those who prefer this approach tend to not only expect from the students a predetermined response, but also have in count their emotional and intellectual needs, thus taking into account the inner process that our brain undergoes from 'A' (stimuli) to 'B' (changed behaviour).
The Social Learning approach states that people can learn, both directly and indirectly, by observing others. In order for this learning process to be absorbed, it has to be positively reinforced. There are three stages in this sequence:
Attention is focused using a model.
Learning takes place through observation of the models behaviour and the consequences of this (behaviour).
The subject analyses and codes the learning . If imitation of the model is possible, this will help in the reinforcement process.
This approach places great focus on learning with other people, through interpersonal interactions, and therefore reinforcing the idea of language as a tool for communication and emotion and ideas expression.
Cognitive approach to learning is concerned with the role of the active mind in processing learning opportunities and developing.
To this approach we will also add that of Constructivism, for what we want to achieve is our students being able to think on their own, to use the information they have been handed in order to create new one and to concept check their progress. Our aim as teachers should be to allow the learners to speak in order to learn, not to learn in order to speak. And in that sense the role of the tutor is to choose the best way for students to acquire new information. There is great importance in the bond created by teacher or facilitator and learners, who actively participate of the learning process.
As stated before, this approach will focus on the communicative needs of the learners, and therefore it will pay special attention to their speaking and listening skills. The students will be exposed to English input according to their level, so they are little by little more comfortable with all the new sounds they are about to use. They will be asked to fluently and adequately produce output, and its complexity will go according to their level as well. In the early stages of the learning process, the students will be assessed focusing more on their ability to transmit communication, rather than on how they do so. Intermediate levels will be asked to immerse themselves in real life situations and respond to those predetermined scenarios as good as they can, this time focusing more on the right structure of their sentences and their connexion. Advanced levels will be asked to spontaneously react to random stimuli so the teacher can assess their ability to create and imagine. What we want to achieve at the end of the course, as said before, is for the students to be able to react spontaneously to their surroundings.
In order to provide the right methods for the learners to acquire the new language, all the terminology and explicit explanation shall be erased from the approach. They will be taught as if they were learning their first language and in order to progress they will need to actively use the input they've been exposed to so they can express themselves.
Therefore, if, for example, we are to teach an S1, we shall use visual and kinetic resources, always trying to give short explanations so the learners can follow. If it is structure, the method will be implicitly performed, so the learner can focus on what is being said and not how or why it has to be said that way.
This approach will also take ideas from the Whole-Child approach, this one stating that teachers should bear in mind the different types of personality the learners might have as well as their emotional, creative, psychological, spiritual and developmental needs, and not only their academic ones.
This will help when the teacher, who is to be seen as a facilitator or as a playmaker, and not as an authority, needs to adjust himself or herself to suit the needs of the students. If, for example, one of the students is shy and prefers not to be exposed in front of a class, the teacher will have to check their understanding in a less direct way, always adjusting the activities carried out so the students feel comfortable with what they are doing and learning. An important part to be mention about this approach is that it should only be used with up to 6 students, for it requires a great amount of time to be used on the students' specific needs.
The student role will be that of an active explorer. They won't be asked to stay sat and only process the information. They will be required to ask questions, to wonder, to imagine, to create, to imagine. And to work with each other so they can learn from their mistakes and learn from one another.
The attitude of the teacher towards correction shall be quite smooth. They are not to explicitly pronounce the students as wrong, but to help them realise where the problem is for themselves and how to avoid it the next time it comes along. Teachers will also be the ones on who the responsibility of keeping the motivation of the students up is, and to do so they will have to be engaging, interactive, approachable and predisposed to help the students.
The materials to be used are mainly audio and visual ones, for the input is smoother trough those. Movies with subtitles will be used up until the intermediate levels, helping the students to link sounds with words and improving their pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and reading and writing. The teacher should be part of the material in the same way as the images or sounds for kinetic learners will find it easier to understand new information if they are able to use their own bodies to create links with real life situations. Use your face, you limbs, your whole body if necessary I'm order to explain emotions or feelings for example. Make students laugh and feel relaxed and comfortable but still within the learning mood.
It is also important to bear in mind that students should not be exposed to only one teacher, for different teachers might vary in intensity or skills and their rotation might help the students. It's also important to know that different accents, different ways of explaining things, and different personalities are to be shown to the students, for out in the world there is not just one type of person, but many types of people, and the more prepared they are to react according to the situation and their surroundings, the better.