Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Alternative assessment

I read Enhancing Learning by Engaging Students by Rick Finnan and Donna Shaw at http://oregonstate.edu/dept/eli/osu-hedp/large_classes_engaging_students.html. The problems of large classes mentioned in the article represent the problems of most of the large classes. As I have already mentioned in the second week, I have to teach more than 100 students in a class. One of the major problems in my class is: there is no teacher-student and student-student interaction. Moreover, there is no frequent testing and feedback on students’ performance. I agree with what Finnan and Shaw argue “students feel little sense of responsibility or accountability in class, and students do not retain the content of the lecture.”

At the same time, we can use a large class as significant source for teaching if it is handled properly. The foremost thing is to think about how to make the classroom more interactive so that students learn more effectively without losing their attention.

A major issue here is: how to create such an environment in which students collaborate to each other to perform a task and learn. There are different technological tools to promote collaboration among the students. We can provide them technology-integrated projects in group as we discussed in the last week.

Think-Pair-Share can be enabled by showing some videos related to the lesson. For example, I can download photos from http://www.molon.de/galleries/Nepal/. By showing some pictures, I introduce the lesson for 10 minutes. And then, I show some more pictures and ask students to work in pair (person sitting next to them) and compose a six-line poem about the pictures. Later, they will read out the poems for the whole class. This process will make students interact to each other. This will also develop their creative writing ability. By taking responses of other students, I evaluate each group’s work.

Use of Minute Paper in the Power Point is another important technique. I can use it to make my class effective. Before I begin the lesson, I can ask students a couple of questions related to the previous lesson. In this regard, they will be asked to maintain the reflective blogs as we are doing now. Students make use of their reflective blogs to answer the questions.

Moreover, we can also use a Minute Paper in order to assess what students learned in today’s class. Students write two important things they learned in today’s class in a card or a sheet of paper and share in class. This can also be done as a group or pair work.

Scripted Cooperative Learning is another useful technique that can be used to engage students in large classes. In this technique, students are divided into groups. And one student summarises the content of the lesson and another student evaluates the summariser’s note. This develops cooperation and collaboration among them. This also develops their ability to judge/evaluate each others’ written work.

This is what I think about the useful techniques in my context. What do you think about this?

Best regards
Dear All

I like the idea of learning styles or strategies in teaching English or any other languages. Learning styles or strategies are coming into focus as methods are more prescriptive which do not fit in to all contexts. Moreover, a method of teaching does not become appropriate for the learners who come from different academic and social-cultural backgrounds. Now people like Rebecca Oxford (1990), and Suresh Canagarajah (2002) argue that since the prescriptions of a method do not address diverse idiosyncratic natures of the students, we (teachers) should much focus on learning styles (i.e. how our students learn rather than how we teach) for an effective learning.

Learning styles or strategies are not only individual but also socio-cultural. For example, my observation shows that the students in UK are more creative, critical, exploratory and interactive. They do not hesitate to ask questions to the teachers and refute others’ ideas logically. They also love to work in a group and carry out the projects. They consider classroom as the place for discussion and sharing ideas facilitated by teachers.

But in contrary to this, in Nepal, students, in general, are not creative and critical. This applies to my students too. They hesitate to participate in the classroom interaction. They solely rely on teachers and take what teachers say as a granted. They do not engage themselves into an exploratory learning. In think, one of the fundamentals reasons behind this is lack of resources. Since there are only classes and teachers as a source of knowledge, they are obliged to be a passive recipient of what teachers say. They do not even believe that they can cerate and construct knowledge through interaction and discussion in the classroom.

Against this backdrop, technology, of course, can be a useful source to address different (not single) learning styles of the students. But it is wrong to assume that technology only addresses what learning styles students have. It also helps them change their styles or strategies for better learning. Just to give a few examples, Blogs help students to be a reflective and an analytical learner. This is similar to what we are doing now. We are not only discussing the importance of technology in language teaching/learning but also reflecting on what we learn during the whole week. At the same time, we are reading each others’ reflection on the course which helps us to be more reflective and critical.

Richard M. Felder and Barbara A. Soloman argue that a reflective learner keeps quiet, and think more before doing a task. They prefer to work alone. On the other hand, an active learner reads the texts, explores and understands information, explains them and discusses with others. This clearly indicates that technology promotes active learning skill. It also makes the passive learners active. Just for an example, we are doing so many thorough reading, writing and sharing among friends. We are following various websites which are useful for our students. We are giving the materials to them and see the effectiveness of the materials. This process makes us more active as well as reflective.

Other three categories of learning strategy as provided by Felder and Barbara are: sensing and intuitive, visual and verbal, and sequential and global. In my opinion, technology can address all these strategies. Technology provides a lot of materials for both visual and verbal learners which are relevant to local culture and context. I remember http://www.cctv.com (China Central Television) posted by Wang in which we could see many videos and texts related to the Chinese culture which are relevant to the sensing learners. At the same time, the idea of WebQuests and technology-integrated project works are relevant to the intuitive learners who always try to bring innovations in their learning process. However, it does not mean that project works and WebQuests are only tools to bring innovations. What I think is that technology itself is not an innovation for teaching. We should always think about how it can be integrated in language teaching. Technology could be a great source for teachers as they could get a huge amount of materials for their students who would like to be innovative and explore more information to learn.

Technology also provides many videos from different websites (e.g. YouTube, BBC, Voice of America) which are useful for the visual learners. We can download videos and use as a model of teaching pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and language skills. Similarly, there we can access texts on various issues with the help of technology. We can download them and provide to our students to read. This process addresses the aspiration of the verbal learners.

Moreover, technology provides materials for teaching specific aspects and skills of language. We can use these materials to teach vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, reading, writing, speaking, and listening one at a time. This process enhances the sequential learning skill of the students. However, this process sometimes does not seem effective as it does not integrate aspects and skills of language which may not be fruitful for the global learners. But technology also provides the materials which can be used for learning the ‘whole’ of language. For example, through WebQuests we can provide students to read, listen to and write the text. We can also ask them to present their ideas orally.

The above discussion indicates that technology addresses different learning styles of the students. It does not deal with one style at a time but also addresses more than one style. Moreover, technology does not only address the existing styles of the learners but also develop new and better learning styles.
However, I argue that in order to address different learning styles, we should be aware of our learners’ learning styles. We should also evaluate which materials are useful and relevant to the level and background of our students. What I want to argue is that technology itself does not address the learning styles; it is a teacher who should have a good understanding of technology and the resources provided by it to use in the classroom.

Overall, technology promotes better learning by addressing and integrating various learning styles and helping them to form new and better styles for language learning. Friends, what do you think?



Canagarajah, S. (2002). Globalization, methods and practice in periphery classrooms. In Block, D. and Cameron, D. (Eds.) Globalization and language teaching. London: Routledge.
Felder, R.M. and Soloman, B. A. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies. Available at http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm.
Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Reflection: Week 5

Dear All

Every week is a new week! Every week, a new knowledge!!

This is what I am feeling until now. There are so many things to explore for our students. The more we go into the sites the more we make a thread of the unlimited resources. It is very difficult to articulate what exactly I learned since there are tons of things I did last week. It was overwhelming indeed.

First, I got an opportunity to go through various technology-integrated projects and WebQuests. Going through various links and posts shared by friends, I learned that technology provides a large number of projects for our students which we can use to develop their language skills, make them aware of various issues/contents and build the habit of exploratory learning.

The project works and WebQuests give students more freedom to learn. Likewise, teachers are not considered as the source of knowledge or authority rather they are co-learners or facilitators for the students.

We also discussed different issues ranging from the lack of motivation to read and write to cheating in the examination. We had insightful discussions on how technology helps to solve these problems. I learned that there are many tools and resources which we can obtain from technology to enhance our teaching skills and help our students learn more.

The most important and exciting thing I leaned was creating the WebQuest. I had heard about it before but I had never learned how to create and use it for the classroom purposes. Although I struggled a lot to design it, when I designed one, I realised that I accomplished something. I got chance to go through the wonderful WebQuests designed by friends to teach different skills and aspects of language.

I also went through various websites shared by friends which provided me many insights on teaching English. I will be using them for various purposes. The idea of using controversial issues in the classroom is what I like most to develop critical thinking skills of students.