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[转载]名师论文---Why Don’t We Develop Student L

(2014-03-06 23:14:56)
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Wonderful!

Why Don’t We Develop Student Learning Independence?

湖南省长沙市长郡中学  陈春华

Abstract:   

While studying in the University of Brighton, I am so delighted to have a deeper understanding about developing learner independence form the teachers, the Internet and the books. In this article I would like to reflect my own recognition about the problem and introduce some possible practical ways to develop students’ learning independence.

Key words:

teacher  student  motivation  strategy    independence 

 

As a result of the fact that most classes in China have more than 50 students, quite naturally the teacher-centered teaching methodology dominates the Chinese English class, which does not promote optimal learning. Many teachers always try to explain the stuffs as detailed as possible, leaving almost no queries among students and some teachers even feel kind of gratified because they’ve finished their teaching contents. Eventually teachers just feed everything detailed to the students, ignoring the purpose of teaching. Then teaching, the original colorful, complex, creative and challengeable job, has now become dull and simplified: preparing lessons --- teacher talking/explaining --- lots of exercises or examinations --- teacher talking. Worse still, we teachers are getting tired of teaching because of doing the same thing again and again; we feel breathless and stressed and burnt out sometimes, as there are too many demands from students, parents, and the school leaders as well. On the other hand, students only care about getting results good enough to go to a university, and gradually become examination oriented; less and less students care about acquiring knowledge. Besides, it is more and more common that our students are not motivated and independent. Recently I interviewed ten of the Chinese English teachers studying in the University of Brighton, asking them what they think of being a teacher and how they develop student learning independence, eight out of them responded the same as what has been described above, and as to the development of student learning independence, enough attention has not been paid to it yet, and they mostly owe this to the school principal, who seems interested only in scores!

Honestly, I used to be puzzled over the same issue. Like the other teachers, I once agreed that the school principals should answer for all this, because they seem to have overemphasized the scores, but you can not deny, on the other hand, the percentage of entering college or university defines the future of the school, isn’t it? It is the same with the schools even here in the U.K. However, having taken part in many further study programs esp. studying in the University of Brighton for three months, I began to reflect my teaching work and seem to have a new understanding of teaching and learning, especially while I was preparing the essay, I read the book Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener. His example about a parabola made me confirmed that we teachers have to admit that we ourselves are actually more or less misunderstanding Learning and Teaching.

          

      

 

      A                                                                    B

   We are required to get students to get high marks in the exam, but we are not required to spoon-feed the students. Most of us have ignored the parabola approach, which can be the shortest way and help students make much better progress and get better results, because it is to follow a balanced syllabus that includes a lot of speaking, listening and other skills work of all kinds, as well as grammar and vocabulary. Instead, we are now mostly adopting the straight line approach, spending all the class time doing grammar, reading and writing work, involving students doing all kinds of examination papers and believing that ‘Practice makes perfect’. This ubiquitous way of teaching among us apparently neglects the differentiation and the contribution of the learners in the learning process. That’s why we feel so much stress and even burnt out. 

   Then what should we do to get out of the ‘pool’?

 Why don’t we risk developing our student learning independence?

 To risk doing this, we need to solve two problems. Firstly, the answer lies in the teachers’ side. We must survey the role of the teacher in education anew, because our understanding of learning and teaching determines our approaches and strategies to teach. Jim Scrivener states that ‘Teaching’ does not equal ‘learning’. Teaching does not necessarily lead to learning. … Learning -- of anything, anywhere – demands energy and attention from the learner. One person cannot learn anything for anyone else. It has to be done by your own personal effort. Nobody else can transmit understanding or skills into your head. Obviously the teacher is only one factor in what is learned or rather in a way teaching is actually rather less important than one might suppose, because learners are intelligent, fully functioning humans, not just receptacles from pass-on knowledge. Thus we should always remind ourselves that learning is not a one-dimensional intellectual activity, but involves the whole person and given the opportunities, they will be able to make important decisions for themselves, to take responsibility for their learning and to move forward.

So I say it is high time that we teachers stopped exercising our power to direct the whole learning process for the students; high time we stopped taking full responsibility and high time we stopped making the major decision? In other words, we teachers should risk allowing the students real choices about as many aspects of the learning process as possible; letting go our control of the class as much as possible , trying to be a facilitator not merely a spoon-feeder with the idea in mind to develop our students into independent learners. I use the word ‘risk’ very gravely and gingerly here because most of us have got used to our traditional and experienced teaching mode, and you can be a lonely explorer around, but we do not seem to have a better choice, do we? 

Secondly, on the students’ side, besides teaching students knowledge, we teachers should focus the education of the students more on their future development instead of only on the marks or scores.  For students, confidence and independence, knowledge and understanding, skills and strategies, use of prior and emerging experience, and critical reflection compose the five important factors of sustaining learning. The five of them are woven into together and can’t be treated individually. If we are able to manage the five factors well, in a way, we are equipping our students with “magic keys” or endless fuel”, because these factors will then contribute to the students’ motivation. Jim Scrivener points out in Learning Teaching that… the strength of learners’ motivation will be a factor in determining how seriously they approach the work, how much time they set aside for it, how hard they push themselves. Further more, the experience of success will then make students produce autonomy in learning or learner independence, thus enabling students to take more control over their learning in classrooms and outside them and take more control over the purposes for which they learn languages and the ways in which they learn them.”

 

 How can we develop student learning independence?

* Understanding Learner autonomy and learner independence

In spite of the fact that there are different voices over the terms of learner autonomy and learner independence, I would view them as synonymous because both of them emphasize learner-centered approaches, andindicate learners free from dependence on the teacher and:

1)       take responsibility for their own learning and learn to learn;

2)       develop key transferable skills (e.g. study, time-management, IT, interpersonal skills etc.);

3)       actively manage their learning; seeking out learning opportunities and using appropriate learning strategies;

4)       involve themselves in an iterative process in which they set short and long term learning objectives, reflect on and evaluate progress.

*  Distinguishing independent learning tasks and activities. Independent learning tasks encourage reflection and encourage the learner to plan or manage their learning in some way.

*  Integrating the development of learning independence firmly into the language curriculum because it has to be acquired over time and with practice.

*  Suggestions to develop learner learning independence:

1)  Make it clear from the very first moment you meet your students that the purpose they come to school is to learn to learn besides getting high marks. Tell them about your plan and activities of teaching them and how you understand teaching and learning. Now and then tell them convinced stories or watch video programs about successful language learners and anatomize them by discussion with the students, highlight their learning strategies and learning independence so as to make them know about what characteristics can create a successful learner.

2)  Do needs analysis of your students as early as possible.

If we compare our classroom as a dancing pool, then both teachers and students are dancers. And to dance best, we need to know each other well, don’t we? Needs analysis of your students will lead you to this purpose. By needs analysis, the teachers will know where the students are starting from, what the students would like to learn, where their trouble is and how they want to learn it, so that the teacher know well whether his or her perceptions are in line with the students’. A questionnaire, a gap-fill, a feedback, a note making, talking with your student individually, planning activities to focus your students on specific problems will surly enable you to design your lesson more efficiently, and give your students timely and helpful learning advice and guidance.

For example, making a perceptual learning styles preference questionnaire to know about your students learning styles. Then arrange the students into different groups according to their learning styles, needs, levels, and interest and encourage them to try some independent study. For those students with analytical learning style, and high level, flatter them and assign them tasks applying to their taste. For those with authority learning style, and low level, in the beginning give them more concern and encouragement and praise as often as possible; then gradually let them go, supplying them with easier and tougher tasks to choose from so that they can challenge themselves, eventually become less and less dependent on you. Meanwhile never forget to praise them for even the slightest progress

3)  Weave different kinds of teaching methodologies into your class.

It’s hard to say which methodology is the best, as your students have different background, learning styles and learning strategies, etc. but weaving different methodologies into your teaching activities can be magic. This can constantly keep your students excited, curious and motivated. For the development of learner independence, once in a while adopting the silent way can be very helpful. For instance, when teaching grammar, instead of explaining in details about the use of the grammar directly, let’s say the subjunctive mood, you can try weaving its structure into a contextual situation, and have the students explore it out first individually, then in group, and finally do class work to draw out what you expect to from your students: the structures of the subjunctive mood.

Constant inductive activities can be very fruitful. It helps students comment on their self-confidence and self-reliance in their process of learning. What’s more, it can enable students to recognize and assess their own needs, and eventually lead to the effective management of learning, thus becoming more independent.

4) Encourage students to write Learning Logs

      Learning Log can help not only teachers see what their students are learning but also urge students themselves to reflect their own process of learning because in a learning log, students write on the knowledge they have gained from studying and from their own thinking. Generally you need not grade learning logs, but you can assess how much your students have gained from the language classes.

5)  Encourage students to keep dialogue journals

The dialogue journals are in fact written conversations between teacher and student on whatever topics that are of special interest to them and in which students may write about their ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Its goal is to communicate in writing, and to exchange ideas and information free of the concern for form and correctness. Teacher can give advice covering any aspects based on what your student is writing about. It helps to lead to trust between learners and teacher. The greatest advantage of keeping dialogue journal is that ‘ it helps to make students independent and eventually able to read and respond to the teacher’s entries (Peyton and Staton, 1991)’  and thus  helps to stimulate student’s motivation.

6) Encourage self-response.

Take the assessment for the students’ writing as an example. Instead of teachers’ correcting all errors, “bleeding” students’ paper to death (Andrea H. Penaflorida ), you can allow them to be responsible for their own work and practice self-feedback by telling them how to do the self-assessment. For instance, “What am I writing about? Is the main idea of my work clear? Do I have details like examples and explanations to back my main idea? Do I make any spelling, grammar mistakes?” The process of this is actually one that the teacher is encouraging students to be self-sufficient and independent. What’s more, it can cultivate and protect students’ motivation

7)        Give learners a share of responsibility for planning and conducting teaching-learning activities

This can cause the students to be actively involved and led to better learning. It can also increase their capacity to evaluate the learning process. In this way a virtuous circle is created: awareness of how to learn facilitates and influences what is being learnt and gives an improved insight into how to learn.  ( Leni Dam 1995:2 )

We can allow the students choices about as many aspects of the learning process as possible, for example, about activities, teaching materials, topic, assignment, due time the format and the pace of their learning, the peer they want to work with.

Duty report is an efficient way to improve the students’ ability of speaking English and to develop learner independence. You can allow the student to choose their own peer or peers, their own topic, and their favorite form of presentation. When learning the text about the United States, you can design a task asking the students to act as an American guide, or a host of a travel program, or a history introducing more information about the United States in different aspects.

8) Encourage project work.

Doing project work is a very practical way to develop learner independence. The teacher at this stage is mainly a monitor. The students are required to organize themselves, to decide the name of their project, the most effective way to reach the goal, and to design the best way they report their findings back to the class. Do remember awarding your students is absolutely necessary. To award the students for their effort, you can prepare some small presents such as bookmark, chocolate, candies, etc. However, I would strongly recommend a presentation , as this will provide your students a chance of experiencing success also this will arouse their greater responsibility, for who don’t want to present their best to others?  

9) Use assessment and feedback as a tool to improve learner autonomy or independence

I      Instead of using a red pen, crossing the wrong answers and write down a score on the exercise book or examination paper, your assessment with opportunities for advice and guidance will certainly benefit the students. As OFSTED (1998) states “Students are proud of their achievements and are enthusiastic about their work. They respond well in lessons, work productively with one another and in the main sustain a satisfactory rate of independent work. They give close attention to the direction and advice of their teachers. ”It can be a tough job, costing you lot of time, but meanwhile bridge you and your students. It offered the possibility of a more democratic relationship between you and your students, where you are able to point your students in the right direction and encourage independence in learning.

 

In conclusion, I don’t deny that the raising of learner independence is tough and risky, as I mentioned above, because it is not always happy and interesting and it generally needs long time. Some conflicts among students or you and students or even you and your colleagues and school principal will develop inescapably, especially when the result of the exam is not good enough, when the wonderful opportunity the students have been offered is not understood and valued. You may panic, feel angry and frustrated. But never give up. Anyhow, developing student independence and teaching the students learn to learn is the destination of education. So these conflicts are only a natural part of the independent learning procedures. Keep calm, keep constantly reflecting you teaching strategies, mediate and negotiate the students through the conflicts, which will lead them to a real maturity. What’s more, it can help you out of your puzzles and relax your teaching once you have built your own way of building your students learning independence.

 

References:

1  Jim Scrivener  2005  Learning Teaching  MACMILLAN

2 Jack C. Richards Willy A. Renandya. 2002.  Methodology In Language Teaching  Cambridge University Press

3 Jack C. Richards , Charles Lockhart  1996  Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms  Cambridge Language Education

4 Betty Lou Leaver, Madeline Eerman, And Boris Shekhtman, 2004 Achieving success in Second Language Acquisition Cambridge University Press

5 Zoltán Dörnyei 2002 Motivation Strategies in the Language Classroom  Cambridge University Press

6 Mark Potts 2003  Living out My Values

7 Ciel Language Support Network Integrating independent learning with the curriculum, © CIEL Project, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

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