Do you have students who never do their homework? Are you tired of presenting topics only to have less than half the class actually care? Is it a challenge to get students to practice English when not in class? Do you find them usually unprepared for class? Do you hear a collective ‘sigh’ when you say the term “oral presentation”? Don’t fret! All of these problems disappear when you flip your class!
Lectures as Readings
A very good way to pass class time is to spend it “presenting” topics or content to a class of semi-interested ESL learners. Nowadays, the “teaching and learning” of any topic, within any discipline, can be done wholly without direct instruction – and this is a good thing! How many college lectures do you remember? How many oral presentations do you remember giving in college? I believe most of you would remember more presentations than lectures for one simple reason: When giving a presentation, you were engaged. All of your faculties, from the cognitive to the affective, even the psychomotor, were called upon to deliver that presentation. When sitting in a college lecture, you were minimally engaged at best. The result is that lectures often lead to what is called “surface” learning. Once the exam is written, the content is gone from our minds and we are unaltered at course’s end. When you are engaged, deep learning occurs. By transforming your “lectures” into at-home readings and asking students to “present” their reading, they will learn content, be engaged, and you can use class time for guided and free practice.
I call this approach “Student Teachers” and it works like a charm. Groups of students are assigned different topics (i.e. – the present perfect, present perfect progressive and the past perfect.) Students must then study up on them, their conjugation, use, and typical examples. When class begins, these groups prepare to “present” their topic and provide the examples to the rest of the class. As their teacher, I interject when necessary, but I spend most of my time asking difficult questions. By having them present the topic, the following usually happens: The entire class has more fun; the presenting students become masters of their topic; they get to practice their English presentation skills, and no time is spent in class on a dull lecture.
Peer & Self Assessments
Why grade your students at all when they can grade themselves? It may sound crazy, but one of the most effective ways to leverage learning is to develop in students the ability to self-assess and support that assessment. While they may resist at first because they are simply unaccustomed to such an approach, prompting students to not only assess “what” they know, but “how” and “why” can go a long way in getting them to understand the language learning process. It should be the role of any instructor to make herself obsolete. In other words, teaching students how to teach themselves is an attainable goal in any ESL course. By providing students with ample practice on how you would evaluate them, we allow them to continue learning without the need for direct instruction.
The latest buzz-word in Education, “heutagogy” is really nothing new, but it is so hard to put in place for a myriad of reasons. The term heuristic is defined as “enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves”. Heutagogy goes one step further and posits that students learn most effectively when they have control over the course, the flow of topics, the assessments, etc. In other words, when students can design and frame their own learning, good results ensue. For example, take your favorite hobby (mine is playing guitar). Would it shock you if I told you I never once took a guitar lesson? Instead, at the ripe age of 12, I asked my parents for a guitar. I bought some tablature books from a local rock shop and with my CD’s, I learned to play most of my favorite songs within a year or so, especially since I could practice them with friends. This is heutagogy. I chose the curriculum, the instrument, the songs (i.e. readings), and the assessments (self and peer). While we can’t go to this extent in prescribed institutional courses, giving your students autonomy in their learning, provided they are motivated, can lead to life-long change and ability.
What are some ways you have inspired self-learning and self-assessment with your students?