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(showing articles 21 to 23 of 23)
(showing articles 21 to 23 of 23)

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A blog devoted to discussing topics related to ELT and Applied Linguistics research.

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    What steps can we take as ESL/EAP professionals in preparing our students to be successful beyond our classroom? In focusing on the goals and objectives of our courses and curriculum, sometimes I feel it the individual needs of specific student populations can be overlooked. Students can be written off as being unmotivated, distracted or simply "bad students."

    I recently read Donna Shaw's article in the ORTESOL journal titled "Secrets of Success: Saudi Student Voices." Shaw claims that little research has been undertaken to examine what types of successful strategies have been used by Saudi students in U.S. educational environments. Her interviews with Saudi students highlighted that Saudi students were perplexed with the lack of negotiation and the seemingly arbitrary rules of the American education system. I was reminded of the many Saudi students who I've taught who would often come to me to try and negotiate with deadlines and absences. Many students seemed frustrated when I would point to the syllabus and the intensive English program's policy on make up and absences. In Shaw's study, she found that 52% of the students in the program resented the rules and the lack of flexibility and negotiation, which were common of the schools in Saudi Arabia.

    Other issues mentioned in Shaw's article were the difficulties of Saudi students feeling alone after being supported by large families at home, of adjusting to integrated sexes in the classroom after being raised in segregated classrooms in Saudi Arabia and of the amount of homework required when students had grown used to memorizing only for exams.

    There were a number of strategies mentioned in the article. The biggest takeaway strategy mentioned by the students was time management. Given the increase in workload, students required new ways to manage their time. Many students felt that time management went together with goal setting and planning.

    Students also found it important to form study groups with other students and to try and meet Americans and make friends. These groups helped improve their language abilities and helped them understand and perform classroom tasks.

    What I find insightful about this article is what it adds to our knowledge as teachers of this student population. It is relatively recently that Saudi students have become a large percentage of the student body in many IEPs around the U.S. I think that understanding more about their study abroad experience and how we as teachers can better prepare them for academic success should play a part in EAP programs. Shaw says that "we can support success by helping our students learn study skills and encourage their use. We can help our students set goals, track their progress in meeting their goals, and recognizing when goals are attained."

    Note: This post is a few months old.

    Over the past couple of weeks, I have been attending orientation sessions, meetings and workshops to prepare for a new term. During this time, there has been a lot of discussion around course planning, sequencing and the drawing up of lesson plans--what you would expect during this time. But there has also been a lot of mention of how students behave negatively in the classroom and what you should watch out for.

    While I see a place for conversation geared towards preparing teachers for keeping discipline in the classroom, much of the talk teachers engage in often tends to paint a picture of a class full of unruly students who are not to be trusted. This does not hold true only for my present context, but also for places I have taught in the past. I have been told things like I shouldn't smile during the first couple of weeks, that I shouldn't give any leniency, and that students tend to talk a lot. 

    Rather than give workshops discussing different approaches to setting up your class so that a friendly learning environment can be created, most often I hear teachers talking down students and saying that you just need to "be strict." What this does for the new teacher is create an expectation of a hostile student environment, so that you enter the classroom on the first day expecting the worst. One of my fellow teachers used to tell me how much better off he was to not listen to this type of talk and form his opinions based on his own experiences.  

    This posting is part of an assignment for reviewing a study as part of my Second Language Acquisition course at NAU with Dr. Plonsky.

    Title: Does Extra Planning Time and Directions Reduce L2 Learner’s Errors During Speaking Activities?

    Problem: If we give students instructions for focusing on certain aspects of their speaking and extra time during a speaking task, how do we know if they will make less grammar errors or use more complex speech?

    The study: This study sought to determine whether giving students guidance during their speaking tasks and enough time to complete it would result in less grammar mistakes and more complex speech. In giving learners guided instruction on the use of English articles along with ample time to complete the speaking task, the researchers wanted to determine if the students used articles more accurately than a group of students who were pressured for time and given unguided instruction. The findings showed that learners given guidance and time for planning produced more accurate use of English articles and more complex language than the group that did not. But these learners did not produce very fluent speech compared to the group that was pressured for time and had not guidance.

    The take-home message: This study suggests that if we give students guidance on a specific aspect of grammar to focus on and extra time they will make less grammar mistakes and use more complex words when speaking. However, it seems giving them this kind of a focus comes at a loss for how fluently they are able to speak. For English speaking teachers, we might consider using the results from this research to make decisions on how we allot time and guided instructions to a particular speaking task. If our purpose is to encourage fluency, then perhaps pressured tasks with no grammar guidance is best. If our purpose is to get learners to use more complex words and forms of grammar, then it might be better to allot more time and guided instruction on grammar points.

    Article citation: Ahmadian, M, J. (2012). The effects of guided careful online planning on complexity, accuracy and fluency in intermediate EFL learners’ oral production: The case of English articles. Language Teaching Research, 16, 129-149. 

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