Motivation through Autonomy: A Case Study at a Japanese University

by Richard Miles
Nanzan University, Japan 

Abstract

Since the 1990s, learner autonomy has become more widely utilized by educators around the world (Little, 2007), but does it necessarily have a positive effect on motivation in second language classrooms? In an attempt to provide at least a partial answer to this question, a preliminary study was conducted in which students in an oral communication class at a Japanese university were given a degree of autonomy in part of the curriculum and then compared with a similar class in which no such autonomy was granted. Students in the dependent group made autonomous decisions as to how the teacher would assess their speaking effort, how feedback would be provided and how this portion of their grade would be calculated and assigned. While an argument for direct causality is difficult to make, students in the dependent group exhibited a stronger level of motivation than those in the control group at the end of the semester, suggesting learner autonomy had had a positive effect in this case. Potential reasons for this finding are that the greater involvement of the students in the curriculum in the dependent group meant a higher level of self-awareness and reflection with regard to their spoken English. While the findings from this study add support to the argument that there is a potentially strong relationship between learner autonomy and motivation, further research is needed before any conclusive claims can be made.


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Using Facebook to Extend Learning into Students’ Digital Lives

by Chris Harwood and Brad Blackstone
Centre for English Language Communication
National University of Singapore
 

Abstract
This paper reports on the use of Facebook for educational purposes in two different university communication courses. It discusses the decision-making processes concerning what type of Facebook page to use, the design, form and content of the Facebook pages, guidelines for lecturer and student use, as well as the means by which lecturers can encourage students to increase participation in courses using Facebook as an educational tool. Detailed survey feedback from a pilot study of students who used the two courses’ Facebook pages is also discussed. Finally, it demonstrates how using the Facebook pages facilitated greater student engagement and understanding of concepts, and encouraged what Adhihari (2011) calls “conversations,” which were often carried back and forth between cyberspace and the classroom.


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Assessing Students’ Language Arts Performance: The Experience of Hong Kong Teachers

by Benjamin Li
The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Abstract
This article reports findings from an investigation of the English language arts (LA) assessment strategies used in Hong Kong secondary schools, and the extent to which these strategies reflect the principles of performance-based assessment. The summative and formative assessment tasks, together with their criteria, assessment checklist, holistic scoring guide, and student language arts work were examined to capture the reality of language arts assessment and identify what was expected and valued in student performance in language arts. Three case studies also allow a comparison and contrast of the use of performance-based assessment (PBA) in the teaching and learning of LA. It was found that the teacher participants recognised the need to conduct LA assessment in the classroom, but the degree of classroom attention paid to it varied as teachers had only a partial understanding of this new mode of assessment, which hindered the pace of change in assessment reform. There appears to be a gulf between the features of PBA as provided in the LA curriculum and the assessment practices currently espoused by many teachers of English language in Hong Kong. To enable teachers to develop the strategies that cater to students’ capabilities, professional development opportunities focusing on performance-based assessment need to be provided.


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Five Reasons Why Listening Strategy Instruction Might Not Work With Lower Proficiency Learners

by Willy A Renandya
National Institute of Education,
Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore

Abstract
Despite numerous theoretical discussions and empirical studies that have been generated in the past 30 years or so, a strategic approach to teaching L2 listening has not been whole-heartedly embraced by practitioners, in particular when they work with lower proficiency learners of English. I offer five possible reasons for this: first, the empirical evidence supporting listening strategy instruction is not particularly strong; second, strategy instruction places a rather heavy demand on the teachers; third, teachers are not totally convinced that strategy instruction can solve their students’ listening difficulties which often stem from basic decoding (word recognition) problems; fourth, lower proficiency learners have not acquired a threshold level of proficiency to take full advantage of strategy instruction; finally, there is a possibility that learners may not in fact need to learn strategies, as they may have acquired and used these strategies in their first language. Of these, the first reason, lack of strong empirical support, deserves serious attention from advocates of strategy-based instruction.


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Accelerated Learning In and Out of the Reading Classroom

by Yang Ying, National University of Singapore
and Jiang Jingyi, South China University of Technology

Abstract
The “accelerated learning approach” focuses on the promotion of learning success through fully engaging learners in the learning process and encouraging them to become more self-directed learners. Helping learners see their learning objectives, encouraging multi-sensory learning, involving learners in active exploration of what they learn and encouraging learners to show what they have learned and reflect on their learning processes are some of the tenets of this approach. This paper describes four types of reading activities designed on the basis of the principles of the “accelerated learning approach.”


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Teacher Reflections: Teaching Article Use to Graduate Students

by Chitra Varaprasad 
Centre for English Language Communication 
National University of Singapore

Abstract
Many studies have highlighted students’ problems with article use among international students, particularly students from China (Chuang, 2005; Deng et al., 2010; Milton, 2001; Papp, 2004). This paper reports on the impact of an approach to teaching article use to post graduate students (mainly students from China) at the National University of Singapore. The study had several objectives. Firstly, it set out to explore the extent to which article usage was a problem for these doctoral students. Secondly, having decided to experiment with a “learner-centred” approach to article use, it also set out to assess the impact of such an interventionist approach on students’ learning. Towards this end, the study also obtained information about students’ perceived self-efficacy about their ability to use articles before and after the training. A careful analysis of both numerical and descriptive data showed that the approach used resulted in improvement in students’ understanding of article use although the extent of improvement was varied across students. The outcomes from the study augur well for “learner-centred” approaches. It clearly showed that getting students to take responsibility for their learning was a good pedagogical practice.


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Sentence Types: Students’ Perceptions and Productions

by Alaa Al-Musalli and Ibtihaj Al-Harthi
Sultanate of Oman Language Center

Sultan Qaboos University, Oman 


Abstract
This case study investigates whether students’ perceptions regarding the level of difficulty of different sentence types are reflected in their productions. Omani EFL learners’ views concerning the sentence types they believe are easy or difficult to produce are compared with the types of correct and erroneous sentences they actually produce orally and in writing. A comparison of the frequency and types of mistakes made in the students’ productions will be presented. Recommendations shed light on the structures that need more attention in the classroom.


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TESOL Talk from Nottingham: Using Podcasts and Blogs to Extend Engagement Amongst Postgraduate TESOL Students

by Jane Evison and Richard Pemberton
University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Abstract
This paper reports on a two-part project which involved students engaging with two types of social software: podcasting and blogging. The idea began as part of an “ePioneers1 initiative in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham and continued as part of a university-wide programme focused on “integrative learning.” The genesis of the project, which combined audio podcasting with blogging, was the desire to improve the learning experience of students on the MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course at the University of Nottingham. The aspiration was to do this by promoting postgraduate students’ engagement with theory and research, and by increasing their opportunities to engage with the content, their tutors and their classmates outside formal classroom settings. Although there was a strong focus on the needs of international students, whose first language was not English, the project was designed to be of benefit to all the students taking the course. Whilst access to the students’ blog sites is restricted to course members, the podcasts – which became known as “TESOL Talk from Nottingham” (or TTFN) – are freely available at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ttfn. We continue to record podcasts and upload them to the site.


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Reading What’s Beyond the Textbooks: Documentary Films as Student Projects in College Reading Courses

by Alejandro S. Bernardo
University of Santo Tomas, Philippines

Abstract
This paper discusses how useful documentaries are in teaching college reading courses. Now that the ESL classroom has become not only multicultural but also multidimensional, it is imperative for language teachers to utilize technology so as to allow learners to use the target language in spoken and written discourse, to develop critical thinking skills in unconventional situations and to become motivated to ‘read beyond’ the classroom for a better understanding of the world around them. They must be taught how to read the lines and between the lines, but they should also be trained to read behind and beyond the lines. One potent way to achieve such goals is for them be engaged in meaningful projects involving documentary films.


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A Bottom Up View of the Needs of Prospective Teachers

by Peter Watkins
University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Abstract
This article considers the provision of short pre-service initial teacher education courses, such as the Cambridge ESOL CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course. Its starting point is the experiences of the prospective teachers who undertake the courses. A series of interviews were carried out and the key points of the discussion are presented and analysed here. Tentative conclusions are drawn about the needs of these teachers and suggestions of what might constitute “best practice” in the field are made. This includes the centrality of the teaching practice (TP) sequence, the deliberate reduction of hierarchies through language choices, and supporting reflection on previous teaching when planning, as well as in the traditional “feedback” phase.


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