The Languages Classroom: comfort zone or obstacle course? Capturing diversity and creating personal spaces for successful speaking practice Margaret Nicolson, Helga Adams,The Open University [email protected] Distance learning. Educational Arena.
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critique of commonly held views on task types, task content, group management and classroom language use.
Argument forgreater discrimination and eclectic choice in methodology to ensure successful and socially inclusive experiencePrevious research
Communication apprehension/speech anxiety, (Horwitz et al 1986, Young 1991, Daly 1991)
Identity construction and the language learning process (Norton et al 2003)
Rethinking of strategies in foreign language teaching ( Kumara 1994)
Need for ‘permanent process of self-critique in an endeavour to reconfigure our own discipline’ (Blommaert 2005 )
Need for alignment between pedagogy and socio-cultural influences, (Guangwei Hu, 2002).
Need for critical cultural consciousness, (Kumara 2003)
Pre-understandings in human encounters, (Stratton 2005)Theoretical context
Critical moments (Pennycook, 2003)
Loss of established identity
Communication apprehension and language anxiety (Daly, 1991, Horwitz et al, 1986)
Culture shock (Holliday et al 2005)
Need for creation of comfort zoneemergence of the third space
…‘should allow for individuals to redefine themselves in relation to the new, other meanings they encounter’ Fougère , 2003Theoretical contextObstacles to integration
Questionnaires on students’ tutorial experience
Target respondents: Students on OU beginners’ course in French, German, Spanish. (369 sent/response rate of 45.7%)
Reasons for non-attendance
Experience of/feelings about tutorials
Personal information in tasks
Opting out or adapting tasksNew Research objective
acculturation more likely
‘participation in particular social practices instills comfort and aids progression’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991)
60% mostly or always
30% never or seldom
Importance of ZPD
‘I consider face to face contact with a language expert vital to this type of course.'
‘The tutor was boring and difficult to understand. The room was very closed and there were no tea/coffee facilities.”
How students feel about providing personal information
Students who were unhappy or reluctant made up information
‘”Our tutor has always said that we can use true or made-up information as we wish.”
“ I think it’s very important to tell students not to divulge any info they don’t want to.”
‘Classroom learning….shaped and managed by teachers as a result of informed teaching and critical appraisal’ (Kumara, 1994)
‘conducted in the foreign language first, then clarified in English’
‘Spanish is spoken appropriately-ie to explain tasks and to practice them and with increasing frequency. Grammar is explained in English. I would expect more and more Spanish to be spoken as we progress, and this is the case.
How students feel about a lot TL use by the tutor and other students?
High level of anxiety
daunting, nervous, dismayed, intimidating, anxious, confusion, frustrated, excluded, embarrassed, stupid…..
The cod liver oil syndrome
“At first it was a little overwhelming but it helps to improve my language “
“Can be intimidating when the foreign language is being used, however I feel it is the best way to learn a foreign language”.
‘I think how you feel in relation to the above depends on the level of your ability in relation to the class; I have been on other courses (non OU) where I have felt negative about such a situation.’
‘Used by the tutor at a reasonably slow speed – felt happy and enthusiastic. Too fast by others of a higher level than course – [felt] excluded.’
‘I feel put on the spot sometimes, especially when I don’t understand but feel I can’t ask for an explanation in English.’
Self perceived low ability potential for language and other type of anxiety (Young 1991)Target Language Use 3
“ I don’t mind, because it is essential for success, but I do find it difficult, because I am so shy, but learning is about stepping out of my comfort zones, so I am happy to try’
‘there is a limit to too much unsupervised pair work. Also depends on the level of other person as to whether it is helpful or not’
Feelings of nervousness/discomfort
Women more willing and confident than menPair and group work
‘ I also wanted to put a cross at embarrassed and nervous. I had a stroke and have a weakness down one side of my body. I appear normal to most people who are not looking too closely but I do have great difficulty negotiating tight places with obstacles like desks and people to deal with. I did almost come a cropper once when my left leg got trapped under my right when turning. Fortunately I got it out from under in time’Pair and Group work
Adapting activity to suit needs
Mostly and always: 57%
Reliance on tutor to create safe atmosphere
‘…not pressurised to take part, tutor gauges who is comfortable.’
‘… I do not think that an overt offer of the option to opt out has been made but the tutor has always given extra assistance or varied the tasks where necessary e.g. if some hesitation or difficult with the task.’
Minority of students
Classroom as obstacle course
Classroom as comfort zone
Sensitivity / Flexibility / Creativity
‘ The linguistic world is full of demands and requirements, opportunities and limitations, rejections and invitations, enablements and constraints….’ (Van Lier, 2000)
‘ A cautiously eclectic approach and ..well informed pedagocial choices, grounded in an understanding of socio-cultural influences’ (Guangwei Hu, 2002)Conclusion