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Modern Technologies in Teaching Foreign Languages

Lecture 5

 

1. Cooperative language learning (CLL).

 

Teaching foreign languages in the modern classroom requires using effective educational technologies that may facilitate communication in the target language. One of modern technologies enjoying vast popularity in teaching foreign languages both abroad and in our country is CLL.

It's worth mentioning that in the local educational setting CLL is viewed as a technology. Meanwhile foreign authors call it an approach to teaching that has got a variety of practical applications through using various practical techniques. No matter what term is used (approach or technology), its researchers agree that CLL techniques may be successfully implemented in teaching foreign languages. This justifies the need to study the given sample of foreign educational experience in detail.

 

1.Cooperative language learning (CLL) is part of a more general instructional approach also known as Collaborative Learning (CL). Cooperative Learning is an approach to teaching that makes maximum use of cooperative activities involving pairs and small groups of learners in the classroom. It has been defined as follows:

 

Cooperative learning is group learning activity organized so that learning is dependent on the socially structured exchange of information between learners in groups and in which each learner is held accountable for his or her own learning and is motivated to increase the learning of others (Olsen and Kagan, 1992).

 

The early twentieth century U.S. educator John Dewey is usually credited with promoting the idea of building cooperation in learning into regular classrooms on a regular and systematic basis. It was more generally promoted and developed in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s and has been substantially refined and developed since then. Educators were concerned that traditional models of classroom learning were teacher fronted, fostered competition rather than cooperation, and favored majority students. They believed that minority students might fall behind higher-achieving students in this kind of learning environment. Cooperative Learning in this context sought to do the following:

- raise the achievement of all students, including those who are gifted or academically handicapped

- help the teacher build positive relationships among students

- give students the experiences they need for healthy social, psychological, and cognitive development

- replace the competitive organizational structure of most classrooms and schools with a team-based, high-performance organizational structure



 

In second language teaching, CL (where it is often referred to as Cooperative Language Learning – CLL) has been embraced as a way of promoting communicative interaction in the classroom and is seen as an extension of the principles of Communicative Language Teaching. It is viewed as a learner-centered approach to teaching held to offer advantages over teacher-fronted classroom methods. In language teaching its goals are:

- to provide opportunities for naturalistic second language acquisition through the use of interactive pair and group activities

- to provide teachers with a methodology to enable them to achieve this goal and one that can be applied in a variety of curriculum settings

- to enable focused attention to particular lexical items, language structures, and communicative functions through the use of interactive tasks

- to provide opportunities for learners to develop successful learning and communication strategies

- to enhance learner motivation and reduce learner stress and to create a positive affective classroom climate

According to J.C. Richards and T.S. Rodgers, CLL is thus an approach that crosses both mainstream education and second and foreign language teaching.

Cooperative learning advocates draw heavily on the theoretical work of developmental psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, both of whom stress the central role of social interaction in learning. A central premise of CLL is that learners develop communicative competence in a language by conversing in socially or pedagogically structured situations. CLL also seeks to develop learners' critical thinking skills, which are seen as central to learning of any sort.

The word 'cooperative' in Cooperative Learning emphasizes another important dimension of CLL: It seeks to develop classrooms that foster cooperation rather than competition in learning. Advocates of CLL in general education stress the benefits of cooperation in promoting learning:

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goal. Within cooperative situations, individuals seek outcomes beneficial to themselves and all other group members. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups through which students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning. It may be contrasted with competitive learning in which students work against each other to achieve an academic goal such as a grade of "A" (Johnson et al., 1994).

From this perspective of second language teaching, McGroarty (1989) offers six learning advantages for ESL students in CLL classrooms:

1) increased frequency and variety of second language practice through different types of interaction

2) possibility for development or use of language in ways that support cognitive development and increased language skills

3) opportunities to integrate language with content-based instruction

4) opportunities to include a greater variety of curricular materials to stimulate language as well as concept learning

5) freedom for teachers to master new professional skills, particularly those emphasizing communication

6) opportunities for students to act as resources for each other, thus assuming a more active role in their learning.

Thus, fostering cooperation rather than competition, development of critical thinking skills and of communicative competence through socially structured interaction activities can be regarded as the overall objectives of CLL.

CLL does not assume any particular form of language syllabus. According to J.C. Richards and T.S. Rodgers, CLL is used in teaching content classes, English for special purposes, the four skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing), grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. What defines CLL is the systematic and carefully planned use of group-based procedures in teaching as an alternative to teacher-fronted teaching.

Johnson et al., (1994) describe three types of cooperative learning groups.

1) Formal cooperative learning groups. These last from one class period to several weeks. These are established for a specific task and involve students working together to achieve shared learning goals.

2) Informal cooperative learning groups. These are ad-hoc groups that last from a few minutes to a class period and are used to focus student attention or to facilitate learning during direct teaching.

3) Cooperative base groups. These are long term, lasting for at least a year and consist of heterogeneous learning groups with stable membership whose primary purpose is to allow members to give each other the support, help, encouragement, and assistance they need to succeed academically.

 

The success of CL is crucially dependent on the nature and organization of group work. Olsen and Kagan (1992) propose the following key elements of successful group-based learning in CL:

- Positive interdependence

- Group formation

- Individual accountability

- Social skills

- Structuring and structures

Positive interdependence occurs when group members feel that what helps one member helps all and what hurts one member hurts all. It is created by the structure of CL tasks and by building a spirit of mutual support within the group. For example, a group may produce a single product such as an essay or the scores for members of a group may be averaged.

Group formation is an important factor in creating positive interdependence. Factors involved in setting up groups include:

- deciding on the size of the group (typical group size is from two to four)

- assigning students to groups (groups can be teacher-selected, random, or student-selected)

- student roles in groups (each group member has a specific role to play in a group, such as noise monitor, turn-taker monitor, recorder, or summarizer).

Individual accountability involves both group and individual performance (e.g. by assigning each student a grade on his or her portion of a team project or by calling on a student at random to share with the whole class, with group members, or with another group).

Social skills determine the way students interact with each other as teammates. Usually some explicit instruction in social skills is needed to ensure successful interaction.

Structuring and Structures refer to the ways of organizing student interaction and different ways students are to interact.

 

Numerous descriptions exist of activity types that can be used with CLL. Coelho (1992) describes three major kinds of cooperative learning tasks and their learning focus, each of which has many variations.

1. Team practice (from common input – skills development and mastery of facts)

- All students work on the same material.

- Practice could follow a traditional teacher-directed presentation of new material and for that reason is a good starting point for teachers and/or students new to group work.

- The task is to make sure that everyone in the group knows the answer to a question and can explain how the answer was obtained or understands the material. Because students want their team to do well, they coach and tutor each other to make sure that any member of the group could answer for all of them and explain their team's answer.

- When the teacher takes up the question or assignment, anyone in a group may be called on to answer for the team.

- This technique is good for review and for practice test; the group takes the practice test together, but each student will eventually do an assignment or take a test individually.

- This technique is effective in situations where the composition of the groups is unstable (e.g., in adult programs). Students can form new groups every day.

2. Jigsaw (differentiated but predetermined input – evaluation and synthesis of facts and opinions)

- Each group member receives a different piece of information.

- Students regroup in topic groups (expert groups) composed of people with the same piece to master the material and prepare to teach it.

- Students return to home groups (jigsaw groups) to share their information with each other.

- Students synthesize the information through discussion.

- Each student produces an assignment of part of a group project, or takes a test, to demonstrate synthesis of all the information presented by all group members.

- This method of organization may require team-building activities for both home groups and topic groups, long-term group involvement, and rehearsal of presentation methods.

- This method is very useful in the multilevel class, allowing for both homogeneous ad heterogeneous grouping in terms of English proficiency.

- Information-gap activities in language teaching are jigsaw activities in the form of pair work. Partners have data (in the form of text, tables, charts, etc.) with missing information to be supplied during interaction with another partner.

3. Cooperative projects (Topics/resources selected by students – discovery learning)

- Topics may be different for each group.

- Students identify subtopics for each group member.

- Steering committee may coordinate the work of the class as a whole.

- Students research the information using resources such as library reference, interviews, visual media.

- Students synthesize their information for a group presentation: oral and/or written. Each group member plays a part in the presentation.

- Each group presents to the whole class.

- This method places greater emphasis on individualization and students' interests. Each student's assignment is unique.

- Students need plenty of previous experience with more structured group work for this to be effective.

 

Olsen and Kagan (1992) describe the following examples of CLL activities:

Three-step interview:

1. Students are in pairs; one is interviewer and the other is interviewee.

2. Students reverse roles.

3. Each shares with team member what was learned during the two interviews.

Roundtable:

There is one piece of paper and one pen for each team.

4. One student makes a contribution and

5. Passes the paper and the pen to the student of his or her left.

6. Each student makes contributions in turn. If done orally, the structure is called Round Robin.

Think-Pair-Share:

1. Teacher poses a question (usually a low-consensus question).

2. Students think of a response.

3. Students discuss their responses with a partner.

4. Students share their partner's response with the class.

Solve-Pair-Share:

1. Teacher poses a problem (a low-consensus or high-consensus item that may be resolved with different strategies).

2. Students work out solutions individually.

3. Students explain how they solved the problem in Interview or Round Robin structures.

Numbered Heads:

1. Students number off in teams.

2. Teacher asks a question (usually high-consensus).

3. Heads Together – students literally put their heads together and make sure everyone knows and can explain the answer.

4. Teacher calls a number and students with that number raise their hands to be called on, as in traditional classroom.

 

The primary role of the learner is as a member of a group who must work collaboratively on tasks with other group members. Learners have to learn teamwork skills. Learners are also directors of their own learning. They are taught to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning. Pair grouping is the most typical CLL format, ensuring the maximum amount of time both learners spend engaged on learning tasks. Pair tasks in which learners alternate roles involve partners in the role of tutors, checkers, recorders, and information sharers.

The role of the teacher in CLL differs considerably from the role of teachers in traditional teacher-fronted lesson. The teacher has to create a highly structured and well-organized learning environment in the classroom, setting goals, planning and structuring tasks, establishing the physical arrangement of the classroom, assigning students to groups and roles, and selecting materials and time (Johnson et al. 1994). An important role for the teacher is that of a facilitator of learning. In his or her role as facilitator, the teacher must move around the class helping students and groups as needs arise. Teachers speak less than in teacher-fronted classes. They provide broad questions to challenge thinking, they prepare students for the tasks they will carry out, they assist students with the learning tasks, and they give few commands, imposing less disciplinary control (Harel, 1992). The teacher may also have the task of restructuring lessons so that students can work on them cooperatively.

In Cooperative Learning, group activities are the major mode of learning. They are carefully planned to maximize students' interaction and to facilitate students' contribution to each other's learning. CLL activities can also be used in collaboration with other teaching methods and approaches.

Research findings on CLL are generally supportive. Still CLL is not without its critics, however. Some have questioned its use with learners of different proficiency levels, suggesting that some groups of students (e.g., intermediate and advanced learners) may obtain more benefits from it than others. In addition, it places considerable demands on teachers, who may have difficulty adapting to the new roles required of them. Proponents of CLL stress that it enhances both learning and learners' interaction skills.

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