Saturday, April 22, 2006

Skills necessary for Teachers and Students for Effective Group Work

I just read Jack C. Richard's 1987 TESOL Quarterly Article titled "The dilemma of teacher education in TESOL". Citing Tikunoff (1985), he implies that for teachers to lead effective language learning task they must consider the following:
Order of tasks: In what sequence should tasks be introduced (to lead to one goal).
Pacing: How much time should learners spend on tasks?
Products (of the task): will it be the same for all students?
Learning strategies: What learning strategies will be recommended for particular tasks?
Participation: Will all learners be assigned the same task?
Materials: What materials will be available for completing the task.

Still citing Tikunoff, he writes that learners of limited proficiency in the second language need the following competencies to do a language learning task:
Participative Competence: The ability to respond appropriately to to class demands and to the procedural rules for accomplishing them. (I interpreted this as meaning the ability to follow directions.)
Interactional Competence: Interacting appropriately with peers and adults while accomplishing class tasks.
Academic Competence: The ability to acquire new skills, assimilate new information, and construct new concepts.

This made me reflect on the way I hold language learning tasks in the classroom. Pacing for me is the biggest challenge. Sometimes, a task will go much slower than I anticipated. I think a good teacher should challenge the learners to attain a challenging but attainable goal in a limited time. To do this a teacher has to conceive of an appropriate language learning task to match the skills and interests of the learners. The moral of this is that you should never do a language learning task exactly how it is written in a book because it was practiced with learners other than your own. A good teacher always adapts tasks to the students.

Call me an over-critical teacher, but I also think that sometimes language learning tasks have not gone well for me because learners have lacked Interactional Competence and Academic Competence. Namely, groups of 3 or more learners cannot cooperate to accomplish a task in the target language, and sometimes learners do not actively try to develop new skills such as skimming, scanning or learning convenient phrases for writing and reading. It is not that the learners are trying to rebel, they just look lost and uncomfortable.

My opinion: If you want to try things such as group learning in an apprehensive EFL class, start with very simple tasks that they can accomplish so they can build confidence. Also, hold langauge learning tasks where the goal is to learn to interact in the second language (one example of such a task is a fishbowl) or tasks that focus more on developing learning strategies rather than encouraging learners to use learning strategies they do not have.
Richards, J. (1987). The dilemma of teacher education in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly 21, pp.209-226
Tikunoff, W.J., (1985). Developing Student Functional Proficiency for LEP Students. Portland: Northwest Regional Education Labratory.

1 comment:

Pablo Pecorelli said...

Hello! My name is Pablo Pecorelli, a private teacher in Argentina, and I found your blog when you made a comment on the Theory of Education wiki guest book which belongs to Liceo Cultural Britanico here. I'm 47, and out of necessity I began formal studies in EFL Teaching. I got my CPE degree in 2002, and have been teaching adolescents and adults at home since then.
I feel thankful for having bumped into your blog, and I'm sure your experience will be quite useful to me. I also happen to agree on your comment about ideal teachers. Versatility is the word!

Best regards,

Pablo Pecorelli