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Special Issue on Bonding 2014

Notes from the Editors

Happy 2014!

Here is a piece of good news for ELTWO readers. From this year, ELTWO will publish a yearly series focused on a particular thematic issue, beginning with the theme of bonding. We believe that an annual thematic focus will give readers and contributors an opportunity to explore a diverse range of ideas and views on a given topic. Other sections of the journal remain the same as before.

The papers in this special issue will be published in two batches. In this first group, eight papers are published but an additional group will appear in the months to come.

Introduction to bonding

Obviously, human beings are social animals who have the inclination to socialize in any situation that allows it. Even when people who do not speak the same languages live together, they tend to find ways to connect and bond with one another. The existence of pidgin and creole languages, which emerge in such a situation, attests to this human tendency.

Yet, there are situations in which people could benefit from bonding but may be prevented from doing so for various reasons. In a language classroom, for example, it is important for students to bond and feel free to practice using the target language among themselves, thus learning from each other. However, they may be afraid to bond because they are shy and are afraid of making mistakes or because they have not been provided with the opportunity to do so. As a result, their progress in the target language may not be maximized because they have not had the chance to practice it enough or to learn from one another. In turn, this may further limit their potential not just to bond but to have a more significant learning experience. The situation leads to a vicious circle.

It seems intuitive that bonding within a language class is important, but while much has been said about theories of learning and classroom pedagogies, ironically the field is rather silent on the topic of bonding. This is not good news.

People may want to learn a language for a host of reasons, but when it comes to English, it seems a truism that most non-native English users want to learn it for economic purposes or for achieving educational goals; for many of these people, English is a survival tool. In such a situation, it is particularly important that English language teaching (ELT) practitioners facilitate meaningful learning in class, and one of the means by which they can do this is to maximize bonding opportunities for learners.

In order to carry this discussion forward, ELTWO has invited ELT practitioners teaching in five Asian countries -- China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore -- to share with readers how they help their students bond. In this thematic special issue, these teachers, all long-time educators, share with readers their philosophies, rationales and practices on bonding. The authors were asked to be quite specific in describing what they do, with the idea that this would make it relatively easy for readers to adopt any appropriate methods for their own use.

Many of the contributors share the conviction that bonding can create a class in which ‘no one is a stranger’ and which allows each and every student to ‘learn with and among friends’. The anticipated effects are to enrich the learning experience while maximizing learning. We hope that readers will find this thematic issue on bonding useful.

Brad Blackstone & Jock Wong


Bonding for Learning

by Wong Jock Onn
National University of Singapore

My experience as an English teacher tells me that interactive group learning is something to be encouraged in a language classroom, more so than for other subjects. This is because one of the major functions of language is expressing oneself, and interactive group learning gives students many opportunities to express themselves, opportunities they may not have outside class. Obviously, it does not mean that students cannot learn individually, but interactive group learning comes with a host of specific benefits. Group activities allow students to learn from one another’s strengths and weakness, learn how to express themselves and (more importantly) disagree with others, learn to appreciate diversity of viewpoints, relate to others, build friendship and basically enjoy the learning process. These benefits are important, especially in the university context, because the environment tends to be culturally more heterogeneous and communication could be a challenge in such a context. Also, these benefits are associated with skills that are crucial to university students and working adults. This explains why, as a university English teacher, I often implement interactive group activities in class (e.g. open discussion) and out of class (e.g. on FB) (Wong, 2013). I want to reap all these benefits for my students, let them have a good time learning with friends, and simultaneously support them in their preparation for the real world. Read more


Of Birthdays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Reflection Papers: Establishing Ties in the ELT Classroom

by Lalaine F. Yanilla Aquino
University of the Philippines

"I am looking for friends. What does that mean--'tame'?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the Fox. "It means to establish ties."

This is one of my favourite passages in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which incidentally, is a book I often require my undergraduate and graduate students to read. This passage somewhat sums up how I facilitate 'bonding' among my students—I let them 'tame' each other. Read more


Student Bonding as Community-Building

by James E Martin
Singapore Management University

The concept of student bonding is likely to be supported by most teachers. It is quite clear that student attitudes influence learning, and bonding is often seen as a way to help create a positive atmosphere that will promote participation in class (i.e., making students more comfortable in the often “socially risky” environment of the English language classroom). For this purpose and to maximize bonding, cooperative language learning techniques, for example, have sometimes been used (see, e.g., Wichadee & Orawiwatnakul, 2012). Read more


Bonding in the ELT Classroom: Genuine Interest and People-Centricity

by KC Lee
National University of Singapore

At a recent dinner with a friend, one of the topics of conversation touched on a mutual acquaintance who we agreed is sociable but does not seem to build deep connections with others. As we were reflecting on the reason, the dinner friend’s analysis was that this mutual acquaintance appears to lack a sincere and genuine interest in people except for very few selected ones. The key indicator that gives others this perception is that he does not appear keen to listen to what others have to offer but is more interested in presenting or advancing his opinion. Because of this disinterested stance, those around him sense a lack of sincerity and conclude that even though he socializes and interacts, the impression he gives is that he is “impersonal” and lacking in people-centricity. Read more


Motivation-based Bonding Activities in an EFL Writing Classroom: A Case Report from Mainland China

by Xinghua (Kevin) Liu
Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Bonding, the theme of this special issue which, for the purpose of this issue, refers to “the process of minimizing social distances and maximizing a sense of belonging among students in a class with the purpose of creating a friendly, non-threatening and relaxed atmosphere conducive for learning”, contributes to the cohesion of classroom group and catalyzes the success of classroom teaching and learning. A bonding process draws in a number of variables, such as teaching and learning cultures, teaching and learning styles and teachers’ and students’ motivation. However, from my experience as an English teacher in the UK and China, motivating students, over other factors, creates a particularly positive classroom learning atmosphere and a bond between teachers and students. In short, motivational activities have a bonding effect. In this paper, I would like to share with readers my experience in creating a bond with my students and introduce a number of motivational measures I took in my 2013 EFL writing classes in mainland China and how they have led to bonding. In the following section, I will first sketch the theoretical framework from which I have designed these motivating activities. Read more


Learning With and From Peers

by Julia Eka Rini
Petra Christian University, Indonesia

In the Cambridge Online Dictionary, a ‘bond’ is defined as a close connection joining two or more people. Many would argue that students can learn better when their teacher and classmates support them; therefore, bonding should be created between the teacher and the students and also among students. Bonding can be created through telling humorous stories, having motivating sessions, encouraging student sharing, and applying the principle that teaching is also learning. I usually use these approaches in the English Department when I teach undergraduate students in courses such as the speaking classes or the seminar class for the undergraduate thesis. Read more


Lessons from the Way Teachers and Students Bond in a Japanese Higher Education Situation

by Glenn Toh
Tamagawa University, Japan

Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the students and the students-of-the teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. (Freire, 2000, p. 80) Authentic education is not carried on by “A” for “B” or by “A” about “B,” but rather by “A” with “B,” mediated by the world – a world which impresses and challenges both parties, giving rise to views and opinions about it. (Freire, 2000, p. 93). Read more


Bonding In and Beyond the Classroom: A Teaching and Learning Journey

by Brad Blackstone
National University of Singapore

In The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, a work that many educators consider classic because of the way it positions teaching excellence not as a fixed point on some methodological map but as the ‘nexus’ between a teacher’s identity and integrity, Parker Palmer writes that “… if we want to grow as teachers, we must do something alien to academic culture: We must talk to each other about our inner lives, risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract” (1998, p. 12). The following narrative attempts exactly that, presenting a reflection of my own 30 plus years in classrooms around the globe, at the same time considering those influences I have found essential in helping me facilitate the sort of student development and interpersonal bonding that might underpin not just the significant learning I hope to support but also more meaningful communication. Read more


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