Понедельник 30 января 2012

I have always wondered if I give my students enough opportunity to talk during my classes. I have a feeling that sometimes I speak too much myself, interrupt them for various reasons such as their being too slow or using wrong words or making mistakes. While correcting their mistakes or helping them with the right words I take initiative and start talking myself, thus not giving them a chance to practice the target language and making them passive listeners. I feel that if I don’t interrupt them while they talk and leave some mistakes unnoticed, they will be more motivated and use the target language to a greater extent. I decided to measure the proportion of my participation in conversations with my students against their participation and to analyze the reasons for my talking in order to see if I could reduce my part in the conversation and let my students talk more.

настроение: researching

ключевые слова: interaction pattern, giving opinion, explaining new material, helping with the right expressions, correcting mistakes, providing a model for language, evaluating, individual work, collaboration, group work, self-assessment

город: Samara

My target group comprised Business English students whom I taught at the Institute of Continuing Education for Teachers in Samara, Russia. The students were 15-17 years old. They went to different schools and took BE as an extra-curriculum class. They wanted to improve their English and explore the business side of the language. They are low-intermediate students and are highly motivated. We meet twice a week. As a course book we use Business Objectives published by Oxford University Press. We also use audio-visual aids during most of my classes.

I started my action research by searching published materials for what is considered to be the ideal proportion of Student/Teacher talk time. Russian methodologists (A. A. Mirolubov of the Moscow State Pedagogical University and L. N. Filimonova of the Samara State Pedagogical University) believed that the ideal conversation time split between the teacher and students was 20 % for the teachers to 80 % for students.

As the first step in my action research I asked a colleague of mine, Ms. N. Kuznetsova from school 32, to observe my class and time all my talking. She observed a 90-minute class and recorded the timing information together with the reasons for my entering the conversation in the form of a schedule. Judging from that schedule I talked altogether for 31 minutes during the entire lesson. My longest continuous talk was 6 minutes – it was a story about a caving trip from my own experience. Thus, in that particular case the teacher’s talk took about one third of the lesson. Was the class teacher dominated? I thought it was.

Next I audio taped 4 of my classes and analyzed my personal observations. It was virtually impossible to measure the full time of my talking since most of the phrases lasted only a few seconds. I did not count all my little remarks such as ‘Good.’ and ‘OK’. All in all my part in the conversation took 18 minutes 40 seconds. The reasons for my talking were as follows:

To me all my remarks sounded quite appropriate. So I wondered whether it is just the proportion of time the teacher speaks that makes lessons teacher-dominated, or there is something else.

Penny Ur in her book A Course in Language Teaching published by Cambridge University Press lists different interaction patterns ranging from the most teacher-dominated to the most student-active. This is what the list looks like:

I analyzed different activities from my lessons and arrived at the following results. Of all the interaction patterns listed above only four are found in the lessons that I reviewed: choral response, open-ended teacher questions, group work and full class interaction. The percentage of time I talked during the activities that fit each of those patterns is shown in the following schedule:

From these facts I draw a conclusion that it would be more sensible to talk about teacher-dominated activities rather than teacher-dominated lessons. We should always bear that in mind when planning our lessons. While analyzing my taped lessons many questions arose. First, I could not account for 12 minutes of my lesson. They got wasted. Where do I waste my lesson time and how can I use my lesson time more efficiently? The next two questions I asked myself were: do my students get equal attention? and what can I do to make passive learners more active? These are the questions that I am planning to investigate further.

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