In the dynamic realm of language learning, teachers continually seek ways to optimize the learning experience for their students. One crucial factor often overlooked is cognitive load, the mental effort required to grasp new concepts in language learning. Recognizing and managing cognitive load in the language classroom can significantly impact student engagement, comprehension, and overall language acquisition. This blog post explores the concept of cognitive load, its implications in the language learning context, and practical strategies for teachers to enhance the learning experience.
Teaching is a lifelong process. Ask any teachers and they will vouch for it. As a teacher, you have committed yourself to being a lifelong learner. Teachers know this and have no hesitation attesting to it, yet it’s hard for some of us to admit our mistakes to our students. That exact moment of saying “Well, I was wrong guys about this, and you were right” could be one of the least favourable moments in our professional life. The reason for this is not hidden from us. Students trust teachers and we don’t want to let them down. What’s more, what happens to our credibility? Does that mistake indicate an irresponsibility to keep ourselves updated and in check?
Language learning is always challenging, with the fear of making mistakes standing out as one of the barriers. The fear is often rooted in shame, signaling to language learners that they will face rejection in the form of judgment, invalidation, punishment, scolding, etc. This fear leads to students’ reluctance to embrace errors as stepping stones to fluency.
The EAP programs in Ontario vary considerably in many regards (e.g., curriculum), but what connects them is a shared interest in student retention and seeing EAP learners progress to becoming students enrolled in diploma, certificate, and degree programs.
One method that has been shown to increase student performance and retention is Supplemental Instruction (SI). Though SI has been used for decades in a variety of post-secondary programs, it is very rarely used in EAP contexts. So, in this post, I will present the case for implementing SI in Ontario EAP programs.
I have been hearing the word “prompt” a lot more lately. “Prompt engineering” to be exact. This recent IT term is all the buzz, and it is paired with terms like artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLM). This blog post, however, is about another type of prompt: the one that language and communications teachers at the college level have been engineering since time immemorial and students write in response. And there lies the problem! The prompts are being recycled and passed on from the classroom to students’ sharing sites such as Studocu and Course Hero, and then making their way back to the classroom. It is not the type of recycling teachers want to see. Going viral is not always a good thing; it kills originality for everyone, so I have started to retreat my prompts and generate new ones. This time with a different twist.
I set the timer and focus on my new goal: to grade a paper in twenty minutes. Everything starts smoothly; checkmark after checkmark, praise after praise. A quick glance at the rest of the paper reveals more of the same error-free, polished style. Hmm. I pull up the student’s writing diagnostic, previous assignments, and emails. All are riddled with errors and awkward phrasing. The plagiarism report, though, comes up clean.
As an ESL teacher, the majority of my teaching has recently been shifted to questioning. This is mainly because I’ve been teaching university Pathway courses lately, and the role of critical thinking has been the highlight of these lesson plans. In order to help my students become better critical thinkers, I need to ask critical questions. And that’s why I believe we should create the culture and context before asking critical questions, to ensure learner engagement as well as academic excellence.
When I started teaching online, it was clear to me almost immediately that I wanted to encourage my learners to write and that I wanted to see their writing on a regular basis. I had a CLB 7 Academic class, and I began rather naively and ambitiously. The assignment was straightforward:
You will have three journal topics a week. You will be given 15 minutes a day, three times a week, to write in your journal. You will be given a journal topic or you can write about whatever you want.
Learning never stops; this now includes both humans and Artificial Intelligence. As I type this blog post, I find myself either tabbing to accept the suggested word or ignoring the suggestion. Being prompted to type what auto-text thinks I should be writing can be annoying and, if I am not careful, I end up writing a word that I did not mean to write or, worse yet, pressing ‘send’ on a message or email with one or two unintended words. Although I appreciate its usefulness on some occasions, it irks me when I am given the wrong suggestion, as in the case of Grammarly’s use of double commas on a salutation (since when did adding a comma after ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ and before someone’s name become the grammar norm?)