Bob Obee, Professional Support Leader Cambridge Exams SE Europe
Bob Obee, Professional Support Leader Cambridge Exams SE Europe
Written by Brian D. Hadfield
Part of being an effective instructor involves understanding how adults learn best. Compared to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners. Despite the apparent truth, adult learning is a relatively new area of study. The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcom Knowles. He identified the following characteristics of adult learners:
• Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves. Their teachers must actively involve adult participants in the learning process and serve as facilitators for them. Specifically, they must get participants’ perspectives about what topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. They should allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership. They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts. Finally, they must show participants how the class will help them reach their goals (e.g., via a personal goals sheet).
• Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they should draw out participants’ experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning.
• Adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. They, therefore, appreciate an educational programme that is organized and has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help them attain their goals. This classification of goals and course objectives must be done early in the course.
• Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests.
• Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job.
• As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class.
Motivating Adult Learners
Researched by Annie Manders, EFL Teacher
Another aspect of adult learning is motivation. At least six factors serve as sources of motivation for adult learning:
• Social relationships: to make new friends, to meet a need for associations and friendships.
• External expectations: to comply with instructions from someone else; to fulfil the expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority.
• Personal advancement: to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors.
• Escape/Stimulation: to relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine of home or work, and provide a contrast to other exacting details of life.
• Cognitive interest: to learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and to satisfy an inquiring mind.
Barriers and Motivation
Unlike children and teenagers, adults have many responsibilities that they must balance against the demands of learning. Because of these responsibilities, adults have barriers against participating in learning. Some of these barriers include lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, lack of information about opportunities to learn, scheduling problems, “red tape”, and problems with child care and transportation.
Motivation factors can also be a barrier. What motivates adult learners? Typical motivations include a requirement for competence or licensing, an expected (or realized) promotion, job enrichment, a need to maintain old skills or learn new ones, a need to adapt to job changes, or the need to learn in order to comply with company directives.
The best way to motivate adult learners is simply to enhance their reasons for enrolling and decrease the barriers. Instructors must learn why their students are enrolled (the motivators); they have to discover what is keeping them from learning. Then the instructors must plan their motivating strategies. A successful strategy includes showing adult learners the relationship between training and an expected promotion.
Learning Tips for Effective Instructors
Educators must remember that learning occurs within each individual as a continual process throughout life. People learn at different speeds, so it is natural for them to be anxious or nervous when faced with a learning situation. Positive reinforcement by the instructor can enhance learning, as can proper timing of the instruction.
There are four critical elements of learning that must be addressed to ensure that participants learn. These elements are:
If the participant does not recognize the need for the information (or has been offended or intimidated), all of the instructor’s effort to assist the participant to learn will be in vain. The instructor must establish rapport with participants and prepare them for learning; this provides motivation. Instructors can motivate students via several means:
• Set a feeling or tone for the lesson. Instructors should try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants they will help them learn.
• Set an appropriate level of concern. The level of tension must be adjusted to meet the level of importance of the objective. If the material has a high level of importance, a higher level of tension/stress should be established in the class. However, people learn best under low to moderate stress; if the stress is too high, it becomes a barrier to learning.
• Set an appropriate level of difficulty. The degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge participants but not so high that they become frustrated by information overload. The instruction should predict and reward participation, culminating in success.
In addition, participants need specific knowledge of their learning results (feedback ). Feedback must be specific, not general. Participants must also see a reward for learning. Finally, the participant must be interested in the subject. Interest is directly related to reward. Adults must see the benefit of learning in order to motivate themselves to learn the subject.
Reinforcement should be part of the teaching-learning process to ensure correct behaviour. Instructors need to use it on a frequent and regular basis early in the process to help the students retain what they have learned. Then, they should use reinforcement only to maintain consistent, positive behaviour.
Students must retain information from classes in order to benefit from the learning. The instructors’ jobs are not finished until they have assisted the learner in retaining the information. In order for participants to retain the information taught, they must see a meaning or purpose for that information. The must also understand and be able to interpret and apply the information. This understanding includes their ability to assign the correct degree of importance to the material.
The amount of retention will be directly affected by the degree of original learning. Simply stated, if the participants did not learn the material well initially, they will not retain it well either.
Retention by the participants is directly affected by their amount of practice during the learning. Instructors should emphasize retention and application. After the students demonstrate correct (desired) performance, they should be urged to practice to maintain the desired performance.
• Transfer of learning is the result of training -it is the ability to use the information taught in the course but in a new setting.
Transference is most likely to occur in the following situations:
• Association - participants can associate the new information with something that they already know.
• Similarity - the information is similar to material that participants already know; that is, it revisits a logical framework or pattern.
• Degree of original learning – participant’s degree of original learning was high.
• Critical attribute element - the information learned contains elements that are extremely beneficial (critical) on the job.
Although adult learning is relatively new as field of study, it is just as substantial as traditional education and carries and potential for greater success. Of course, the heightened success requires a greater responsibility on the part of the teacher. Additionally, the learners come to the course with precisely defined expectations. Unfortunately, there are barriers to their learning. The best motivators for adult learners are interest and selfish benefit. If they can be shown that the course benefits them pragmatically, they will perform better, and the benefits will be longer lasting.
The Lesson Plan is your friend
Ask for help
Mistakes are unavoidable
Be friendly but not a friend
Have a clear set of rules or guidelines
Do not talk
Only follow the book
“Scaffolding” describes a performance enhancement procedure which can make teaching composition meaningful and support learners.
However, despite teachers’ and students’ good efforts, EFL composition writing still remains a very demanding task which more often than not surrounds a great deal of disappointment and frustration.
The crucial question “Is there anything else to be done?” is often repeated.
As an EFL teacher, I have found myself in this unpleasant position many times. I keep wondering though, whether my expectations from my students (especially these of lower levels) are realistic or not!
Why don’t we take a second to think of the cognitive profile of a “very good’ student in our EFL composition class?
To start with, we should realize what elements effective EFL composition writers consist of.
They are the ones who combine a great variety of presupposed knowledge which Hyland (2003, p. 27) divides into “content knowledge” (knowledge of the topic), “system knowledge” (knowledge of syntax and vocabulary – spelling and meaning), “process knowledge” (knowledge of planning and organization of writing) and “genre knowledge” (knowledge of the genre and its principles).
The communicative purpose of the text and the information students intend to convey as well as other relevant texts form another kind of knowledge (“context knowledge”) (ibid.).
Consequently, a student who is not good enough at any of these aspects of writing inevitably faces difficulties in composition.
Vasiliki Lismani Efl Teacher, Bed., Ma (Special Education)
I assume that it has already been clear that composition writing is a multi – disciplinary, multi- tasking procedure.
L2 students are assessed for the production of texts that ‘their previous learning experiences may not have adequately prepared” (Hyland, 2003, p. 40).
This is particularly true for younger students and for students of lower levels alike, who, for example, are asked to write formal application letters or e-mails but they rarely write ones in their native language.
Cultural issues are also stated to interfere into students’ piece of writing in a decisive way (Hyland, 2003; Al – Khatib, 2001 in Rivers, 2011) and quite often EFL writing contains errors due to different “cultural thought patterns” (ibid) between native (L1) language and L2.
At this point, I would like to focus on what I referred to as “system knowledge”. A general demand to an EFL class is to have pupils being able to think and express themselves in English effectively while being in the process of learning the language which is actually something very demanding and challenging (Villalobos, 2011).
Unlike to L1 (native language) writing, students of EFL are taught new grammatical structures and, almost simultaneously, are asked to create productive writing exploiting the newly acquired knowledge.
“Largely because of this developmental aspect of language learning, research frequently finds texts written by L2 students to be less effective than those of native English – speaking peers” (Silva, 1997 in Hyland, 2003, p. 34).
In other words, EFL learners have difficulties with their productive writing tasks because they do not have the time to assimilate the new knowledge and put it in their writing in a way that would convey their ideas effectively (ibid). Obviously, L2 learners differentiate “not only in the speed of acquisition but also in their ultimate level of achievement” (Ellis, 2006, p. 525).
To deal with the obstacles derived from the inadequate assimilation of “system knowledge”, students confront to their mother tongue translating directly from L1 into L2 and adopting syntax patterns/structures of the Greek language to their English texts.
Thus, they resort to a familiar means of expression to draw assistance for their writing tasks. Unfortunately, this does not always help either and teachers often comment negatively on mother tongue interference to their students compositions. In this case, the phrase “it’s Greek to me!” is not always metaphorical!
The reason is that students tend to translate their Greek thought into English without adapting their expression to the principles of the English language because they have not assimilated these principles yet.
This results in reoccurring mistakes which are mostly expected to be made by most of our Greek students.
For example, some of the most common mistakes include the correct use of Present Perfect Simple (because for some of its uses either Past or Present tense is equivalent in Greek) and the word order in a sentence (subject – verb – object – adverbs) since Greek syntax is much more flexible than English. Consequently, a vicious circle of mistakes is unavoidable.
In a nutshell, the key to my argument is that we should start setting more achievable goals to our students according to their EFL acquisition level.
To put it differently, the fact that they have been taught all past tenses and practiced their use in “fill in the gaps with the verb in the correct form” exercises, do not necessarily mean that all of them are able to use these tenses in a text where they have to prove their knowledge on a number of different aspects of the language.
Otherwise, our students will keep on using their native language as a helping hand and we will experience more frustration dealing with them.
Ellis, R. (2006). Individual Differences in Second Language Learning In: Davies, A., Elder, C. (eds) (2006) The Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing.
Hyland, K. (2003). Second Language Writing (online). Cambridge Language Education. Available via Google Books.
Rivers, D. (2011). A short review of three articles concerning the teaching of L2 writing across cultural contexts. Available at: www.developingteachers.com.
Villalobos, N. (2011). How can we help our students think in English? Available via NNEST Interest Section Blog
Three ways to use observations effectively
1 Involve the staff in the process
2 Do not use observations as a means of intimidation
3 Use the findings creatively
Two TESOL Greece members awarded the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG scholarship
If you thought that Greece is far behind in learning technologies compared to other countries, maybe you should reconsider.
Chryssanthe Sotiriou and Dimitris Primalis won the “Diane Eastment scholarship” and presented, on April 10th, at the 2013 IATEFL conference, their work titled “Literature strikes back! Teaching Literature with Technology”.
Paul Sweeney of the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group introduced the speakers pointing out that their proposal showed a different approach to using technology in class.
Following a holistic approach, Dimitris and Chryssanthe believe that technology and literature are not foes but they can complement each other.
Technology can cater for different learning styles, it can be used initially to stimulate learners’ interest in literature and later on become the medium to create and produce language based on the literature the learners have read.
In the first part of their presentation, the Greek speakers raised awareness about the difference in genres and the way younger generations see long texts.
They both stressed the necessity to use technology as a Trojan horse in order to initiate students into the magic world of literature and lexis.
In the second part of the workshop, the participants were shown how familiar techniques can be used successfully in class with the aid of free material available on the internet.
Sequences of sounds, jigsaw activities with students working in groups of listeners and viewers according to their strengths can create real information gaps that stimulate their imagination,spark discussion and urge them to produce written and spoken language in anticipation of the plot and characters.
Literature and reading books need not be passive or individual tasks but can involve all the class in most creative and challenging tasks.
The social media and safe platforms like Edmodo can become a springboard for projects for teenagers while Web2.0 tools like Tagxedo and lino.it can stimulate project work for primary school pupils.
Dimitris and Chryssanthe shared their experience of how electronic books and videos can be fully exploited (an example of flipped classroom process).
In the third part, the attendants exchanged ideas and experience.
They all agreed that a technology-rich environment based on a well-structured methodology background can facilitate the reading experience and help students meet challenging standards while addressing essential questions that bring meaning to learning.
The teacher’s role in the EFL or ESL classroom has seen a great many changes over the past century as different theories and methods - often contradictory- have evolved. Traditional approaches to learning viewed teachers as authorities whose main role was to pass on knowledge to students, whereas cooperative learning was discouraged in favour of teacher-led instruction. Progressively, at the turn of the 21st century, more innovative educational curricula all over the world stress the importance of learner autonomy and consider the teacher as being a mediator of communication (development of the communicative, task-based and strategy-based approaches) among learners, as a guide and facilitator of learning. At the same time, the use of ICT in the classroom has certainly enabled teachers to make the necessary link of the ‘closed’ structure of the classroom with the ‘outside world’ and society in general.
First published: ELT NEWS // November 2015 // by Chrissa Papadimitriou
All the above make me wonder what really happens in the EFL classroom, when learners interact on an almost daily basis. Things may be said to be rather straightforward; all learners share a common goal; that is to learn a foreign language, being English in this case (either for general or specific purposes). But the real question is: What does the teacher really know about one’s learners? What I mean to say is that an often overlooked matter is possessing information about learners’ linguistic and cultural background. Needless to say, one might assume that this issue is rather straightforward or not so complex in a predominantly monolingual country such as Greece. Actually, this might have been true, more or less, twenty years ago, but reality has evidently proved that this is no longer the case, due to immigration, globalisation and the general mobility of the population. Greece has always
attracted hordes of tourists for obvious reasons, nevertheless the number of people working and living in Greece, has evidently increased. The number of students whose parent(s) are not of Greek origin has increased, this being more obvious in the capital and Greek coastal areas rather than the mainland or the periphery of Greece.
The reason for this introduction is not in vain. So, let me get down to the crux of the matter. The question is: How does one go about teaching in a classroom where there are, let’s say, 7 Greek students, 3 Albanian students, 2 Russian students, 1 Philippine student, 1 Chinese student , 1 French student and 2 Bulgarian students? One might again counter argue by stating that this is the value of learning English as a lingua franca and an international language, allowing people from around the globe to communicate through a common language: English. This may be truer for adults in occupational contexts, but what about young or adolescent learners who may share the Greek language at school but who may simultaneously speak and learn their native language (L1) at home with their parents or relatives? In this case is English the L2 or L3 for them? And what about bilingual or multilingual Greek or non-Greek learners learning a second or third language either in or out of school (i.e. French, German, Italian and so on)? Finally, apart from this apparent linguistic diversity, what about the cultural diversity present in such teaching contexts? How does the teacher effectively cater for all this diversity of learner backgrounds?
Can English become the means of bridging the gap that exists within each student linguistically or culturally? Does it make sense in this case to treat the L1 (the Greek language) as the language of comparison of the similarities and differences with the L2 (the English language)? Whose truth are teachers going to cater for?
Research into language learning and Contrastive Analysis (James & Garett, 1991; Taylor, 1993) has proved that awareness of L1/L2 differences and similarities may facilitate learners’ comprehension of the structures of the mother tongue and the foreign language, thus enhancing language acquisition. As suggested in Ayakli (1992), overt comparisons between the two languages may be exploited in the classroom, as opposed to covert contrastive analysis. Nevertheless, in diverse linguistic contexts, can all this be applied? Could the teacher provide the opportunity for such reflection by providing students the opportunity to study and work out the similarities and differences, by allowing them to select their preferred languages for this comparison? In this case, the Greek language would be the language selected for overt contrastive analysis for Greek students, whereas the Albanian language would be chosen by Albanian students. I would even suggest a wider range of options depending on the number of languages spoken by the learners in each teaching context. For instance, a Greek student could compare and contrast the similarities and differences between Greek (L1), English (L2) and French (L3), supposing that he or she simultaneously were learning these languages.
This point will be demonstrated through a specific activity or task that could be given to students in the classroom. This task could be thematically related to a certain topic, e.g. jobs/occupations, friendship and so on, as the opportunity arises.
The teacher invites learners to work in pairs or groups and come up with various idioms or similes in the Greek language and to think of the equivalent ones in English, French, Albanian e.t.c., depending on one’s learners’ backgrounds.
Alternative version: The teacher hands out the Greek and English/French e.t.c. versions of various idioms or similes to different pairs or groups. Students work together match/find the Greek and English/French e.t.c. equivalents.
English à ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.
Greek à ‘Η πολλή δουλειά τρώει το αφέντη’.
French à‘Trop de travail rend malade’
This sort of reflection could be encouraged in and out of class, as group-work or homework assignment respectively. A note to be made here is that the teacher could and should investigate learners’ backgrounds and beliefs or attitudes towards English and other foreign languages or their mother tongue through a questionnaire or through informal discussion or interviews with students. This will provide useful information concerning the linguistic and cultural profile of each student (Pre-course or In-course Needs Analysis). An example is given below:
A. Objective Needs – Learners’ linguistic background
(For questions 1-7, tick Pthe answer that is true for you.)
1. How long have you been learning English?
a. 1-2 years b. 3-4 years c. 5-6 years
2. You are learning English:
a. at school
b. at school and a private evening language
c. at school and at home
3. Which other languages are you learning at school?
a. French b. German
4. You are learning the second optional foreign language:
a. Only at school b. At school and at the frontisterio
5. Do you speak or are you learning any other language?
a. Yes (if so, which one? ________________________) b. No
Investigating Learners’ views
6. Do you think the English language is:
a. Very useful
b. A little useful
c. Not at all useful
7. Do you think English is:
a. An easy language
b. A fairly difficult language
c. A difficult language
1. In Greece private evening language schools are called ‘frontisteria’.
Just as there are as many ‘world Englishes’ as the people who speak it, the same applies for the language and culture promoted in class. Whose culture and language does one depict and adopt in class? The answer here lies in accepting all learners’ backgrounds and knowledge, by melding and accommodating all views in ways that are relevant to them as individuals. This presupposes making an effort to understand the similarities and differences that exist and enriching the English language lesson through the presentation of each learner’s identity (cultural and linguistic). English thus becomes the link or common point of reference for students as in the Multicultural Awareness Through English (MATE) paradigm promoted by Fay & al. (2010).
In the table below practical suggestions are given of ways in which a multicultural and multilingual environment may be created in the EFL classroom. A cross-curricular approach
is adopted, as well as an experiential one, as they are relevant to learners’ school and life experiences, as well as to their age and cognitive level of development. A final comment to be made is that this kind of approach also takes into account all types of learning styles (i.e. visual, kinesthetic, auditory, analytic learners and so on. - Weaver & Cohen, 1997).
Students can compare:
Ø vocabulary loans across their languages (e.g. supermarket, democracy, piano etc.).
Ø idioms /sayings/proverbs/similes
Students can present:
Ø songs from their countries or find common points of reference among languages. E.g. ‘Twinkle - twinkle little star’ vs. ‘Φεγγαράκιμουλαμπρό’.
‘If you’re happy and you know it’ vs.
‘Χαρωπά τα δυο μου χέρια τα χτυπώ’.
Ø musical instruments from their country
Ø write and perform plays based on cultural elements derived from each country, trying to avoid the stereotypical depiction of certain nationalities or ethnic minorities.
Ø read/learn poems related to their country
Ø see films related to their country
Students can present:
Ø the greatest monuments of their country
Ø the myths/legends of their country
Ø the national flags and traditional costumes of their country
Students can present:
Ø traditional dances/games
popular sports of their country
Ø Search the Internet and find information and visuals about their countries and present their findings to their classmates.à Value of the use of authentic material
Students can present:
Ø the customs, celebrations, habits and traditional cuisine of their country
Students can present:
Ø Their country’s greatest works of art (paintings/sculptures)
Ayakli, C. (1992). Is There a Role for the Mother Tongue in the Teaching of Grammar in
State Schools? Aspects, 30: 14-20.
Fay, R., Lytra, V. & Ntavaliagkou, M. (2010). ‘Multicultural awareness through English: a
potential contribution of TESOL in Greek schools’. Intercultural Education, Vol.21, Issue
James, C. & Garett, P. (1991). Language Awareness in the Classroom. New York: Longman.
Taylor, J. R. (1993). ‘Some Pedagogical Implications of Cognitive Linguistics.’, pp. 201-
223. In Geiger, R. A. & Rudzka-Ostyn, B. (eds). Conceptualisations and Mental
Processing in Language.Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Weaver, S. J. & Cohen, A. D. (1997). Strategies-Based Instruction: A Teacher-Training
Manual. CARLA Working Papers Series #7. University of Minnesota., Minneapolis:
Centre for Advanced research on Language Acquisition.
The enormous amount of existing materials for the teaching of English to young learners might lead us to think that everything has been invented and nothing is left to be discovered in EFL. But when you are in a real classroom working with children you realise that not all existing materials are equally successful in the class. Why is that? Why do children seem to like some of the materials straight away but do not pay attention to some others? It is obvious that only successful materials meet the children’s interests and take into account their psychological characteristics. Then, the question is: what are children like and what are the main practical implications in terms of materials for the EFL class?
Young learners are:
• very receptive
Children usually welcome whatever the teacher has to offer them. Unlike older learners, children are open to new ideas, activities and materials. Therefore lots of different materials and different activities related to them can be used in class, but it will be absolutely important to choose only those that are adequate for each particular class situation.
Anything that is new attracts children’s attention, because children are curious by nature. Any novelty in terms of materials used in class will arise curiosity and interest. Very often very simple new material can lead to the most lovely activities and can generate lots of meaningful contexts for using the target language.
Learning English is something that the children’s parents respect. It is also something that older brothers and sisters do at school. They “want” to do the same.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to use the best approach and the best materials in order to foster the motivation that young learners bring to class.
• able to pick up new sounds accurately
This is a great advantage when learning the target language, since in further stages, learners will find it more difficult to cope with sounds that do not exist in their L1
phonological repertoire. Besides, children are great imitators: they find pleasure in repeating sentences, words and in imitating sounds. It is highly advisable that the materials used in class take this important issue into account.
• spontaneous and willing to participate
Children are less inhibited than older learners. They volunteer to participate in activities and they enjoy using the language in activities such as acting out roles, singing songs, reciting poems, etc. That means that they are ready to use the target language in dialogues, games, act outs, storytelling and other situations presented in class. Using the language this way fosters fixing the language used.
• physically active
Physical movement is part of children’s nature. Children are full of energy to be spent and they tend to move in class anyway. Therefore, activities that involve physical movement are always welcome by children. By using the language in activities that involve movement, mind and body become a single unit that help the children experience the language and internalise it .
• interested on themselves and on what is “here now”
Children are able to deal with situations, objects and things that are close to them and that are related to them. They are not interested in issues that do not belong to their near world. Real objects and familiar situations must be used in class.
• deeply involved in the world of fantasy and imagination
The real world around the children and the fantasy world that they can easy build are part of themselves and difficult to separate at certain stages in their development. Stories and situations where fantasy plays an important role will be successful in class.
• highly linked to the teacher
The younger the children are the closer to the teacher they feel: they seek the teacher’s attention, his/her approval to the work done, they try to explain things that happened out of the classroom -at home, in the street, etc- to the teacher. Those situations constitute great opportunities for using the target language as much as possible: for appraisal, asking easy questions, agreeing or disagreeing, etc. in very real and contextualised situations.
•developing their personality
Children attending our classes are all different. Each of them has a potential in the different intelligences that needs to be developed: musical, mathematical, spatial,etc. It is the teacher’s responsibility, our responsibility, to make the best of that potential, to make the children grow personally through the activities, materials and situations presented in class. We must never forget that personal growth at this
stage is much more important than just learning a foreign language or any other isolated subject.
Apart from the characteristics stated above, it is also very important to remember that children:
• learn by doing
All kinds of activities and materials such as arts and crafts, “making” things, etc. must be part of our teaching. We do not know how the acquisition of the language takes place, but experience shows that children who use the language for doing or making something, seem to fix the language more easily.
In this sense, though, it is important to find the balance between the amount of time devoted to the activity proposed and the amount of language that such activity generates. For example it would be wrong to devote an important part of the teaching time to drawing, cutting out, etc. if no language or only very little language is involved in the activity.
• can’t concentrate for a long time
Therefore the materials presented have to be varied and they must be changed often within one class. Otherwise the children will get tired and will not be able to follow.
• do not analyse the language
Any materials focusing on the analysis of the language have few possibilities of succeeding in a class of young learners: children look for meaning when learning the language.
• are happier with different materials depending on the natural baggage they have on the different intelligences
The teacher must cater for those differences and preferences and present the language in a variety of ways, using different materials, in order to make the language accessible to the different types of learners in a particular group class. Visuals, audio material, etc. will help different children to understand and use the language presented much more easily.
• can’t remember things for a long time if they are not recycled
So, the materials used in class must reuse the language in different situations at short intervals. This implies that the teacher should never think that a particular topic has been ”covered”. The same language used in that topic should be used again in the near future in a different situation.
The materials chosen for a particular lesson, unit, term or school year must be varied, attractive, interesting, accessible, challenging, encouraging, surprising and, ideally, they must lead the children to achieve some kind of outcome.
We could summarize and say that ANY materials can be used successfully in class as long as they are carefully chosen and used with a clear purpose. Among the most successful materials and activities with young learners we should mention: Total Physical Response activities, stories, games, songs, chants, rhymes and poems, puppets, arts and crafts, computers, magic, drama activities, puzzles and problem solving activities, and . . .any other material that at a certain stage can make the learning of English a motivating memorable experience.
It is desirable that the materials used in the EFL class are presented in the form of teaching units in class, not as isolated activities. Within a teaching unit, the activities and materials mentioned above must be nicely linked and one activity must lead into the next so softly that children will not even notice.
Researched by Annie Manders, EFL Teacher
In my previous article I looked at the basic concepts in designing a course for adults. This article analyses the steps followed during this process and offers suggestions for each of those steps.
The design process starts with an initial needs analysis followed by goal and objective setting, material selection, specification of the tasks to be used so that learners can achieve their language goals. Instruction and course monitoring and evaluation, which are related to the design of a course will be discussed in forthcoming articles.
It needs to be stressed, though, that the process outlined above is not in fact simply linear, with one stage following the previous one, but rather circular as well. In general, the design and the implementation of foreign language programmes can be described as a complex system of parts [the steps presented above] that interact with each other. A change in one part of the system will most certainly influence other parts. In the case of adult learners this is even more common, mainly because of the changing nature of their needs.
By Maroussa Pavli*
Needs Analysis: This was analysed in a previous article which examined the basic concepts in course design. However, I’d like to emphasise now that the more information the teacher manages to collect about the learner, the more accurate the analysis of their needs will be. A detailed learner profile can then assist the tutor in setting goals and objectives and selecting the appropriate teaching material. Combining a variety of need analysis methods is recommended.
What I do is asking my learners to complete a form with questions about their education, professional context, foreign language learner experiences, reasons they would like to study English for, learner style and habits, even their views on aspects of language teaching and learning and their expectations from the course. The form includes both multiple choice and open-ended questions, so I can also evaluate their writing skills. I give them plenty of time to complete the form, because their replies will actually shape the course. I then ask them to talk to me through the form and in that way I can evaluate their speaking skills.
First published in ELT NEWS - January 2015 - Interested in receiving the magazine? Click here
Goal setting: Using the information collected from the needs analysis, teachers should realistically think about their teaching situation and the specific learner, examine the constraints under which they and their learner may be working and draw learner attention to those constraints. If this is done, both sides will be able to look at the desired goals in a realistic way. Ideally, goals should come from learner needs, but they can also be externally enforced. An example of this is when the company that the learner works for would like them to improve their speaking skills, while they would like to focus on their reading skills. In this case, negotiation with all parties involved should take place.
After reaching an agreement about the general goals, the teacher needs to produce specific objectives related to learner goals through the use of types of skills or/ and tasks. The objectives can be described in the form of can-do statements or functions and this can later be used as a checklist by the teacher for judging effectiveness of the learning process and by the learner for self-evaluation purposes. All this should be recorded and be easily accessed by both teacher and learner when the need arises.
A general rule of thumb in order to decide about objectives and skills development is to think about what the learner should be able to do, in what kind of context, who the receiver of the message would be, when they would need to interact, how they need to interact [e.g. emails, Skype, face-to-face communication] and why they would need to do it.
The development of the following skills can also be some of the goals set, as they lead to more effective learner study habits and foster independent learning/ learner autonomy: in and outside of class use of resources, speed reading, oral presentations, vocabulary recording, introduction to independent study resources, time management and setting their own objectives.
Content selection – At this stage all available resources should be utilised and learner suggestions are needed. Initially, an adult learner may argue that it is the teacher’s exclusive responsibility to choose materials, but when teachers explain the reasons that learner involvement is needed and are encouraging and supportive, learners will understand the benefits of their contribution and feel in control of their learning. They can be asked to bring in documents and other resources used in their workplace and think about situations in which they need to use English [both current professional needs and post-course communication needs].
Using a coursebook is a good idea, but is not mandatory. After all, it usually needs to be supplemented by extra material. The truth is that nothing beats a tailor-made language programme designed to cover the communication needs of specific individuals. This is the case especially in teaching specific/ academic English to professionals or university students. Individual needs and language level can guide teachers to the appropriate kind of materials and tasks. Tasks can focus on grammar [e.g. forming the past form of regular verbs], functions [e.g. expressing certainty], macro-skills [e.g. listening to the main ideas of a presentation], learning skills [e.g. creating spidergrams with word derivatives], cognition [e.g. using information from a spoken text in order to produce a title], culture [e.g. comparing the concept of punctuality in various countries] and topic [e.g. reading about speed trains in Europe and Asia]. Teaching materials and tasks should provide a clear link between the lesson and the wider world, ensure learner active involvement, be easily available, meet the learners’ expressed needs and express clear pedagogical objectives. The key question that teachers need to ask is whether their learner will need to perform the same task in a real communication situation beyond the classroom and how to help them do that in a successful way.
Throughout this article the importance of learner contribution has been shown very clearly. Their active involvement in needs analysis, goal-setting and content selection is of utmost importance for the reasons already explained. Convincing adult learners to become involved can be a challenge that a teacher has to face, but then, again, is that the only one?