Plenary: Michael Hoey – The implications of a corpus linguistic theory for learning the English language (and the Chinese language too)

According to the introductory speaker, Michael’s talk draws its data from corpus linguistics…what a shock… 🙂 

 What Michael wants to do today is look at two old approaches to language teaching and learning, and bring a new perspective to bear on them. Both approaches have had a great number of adherents and critics, both are very much alive.

The Lexical Approach

He starts by showing us a slide of key works within Lewis’s Lexical Approach, which is now just over 20 years olds, saying there is still work going on but it is now an old approach though very much still alive. According to Lewis, the successful language learner is someone who can recognise, understand and produce lexical chunks. Learning the grammar and slotting other words in doesn’t work in a world where language doesn’t work like that. Rather than learning vocabulary in lists and focusing on grammatical structures, focusing on the actual words that can be used to communicate. When someone learns vocab in context, they pick up grammar naturally, but it doesn’t work vice versa – you don’t pick up much useful vocab when learning grammar separately.

He cites his language learning with regards to Chinese, where he has learnt to talk about his father’s tea-drinking habits while his father is actually dead, but can’t ask for a beer, is not useful – a learning grammar and then pieces of vocabulary. Whereas if you learn vocab relevant to your needs, the grammar comes along.

The lexical approach has been criticised for ignoring how language is learnt, that there is no theoretical underpinning and that it trivialises the role of grammar. There is also the question of whether it is limited to the Indo-European languages.

Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model

Another old approach but very much alive. Also known as the input hypothesis. Michael thinks it should be called the input theory but will refer to it as the Monitor Model. It is now 30 years old. He showed us some key works related to this as well. According to this model, comprehensible input is the key element needed for language learning to take place. It needs to be slightly above learners’ level and is a subconscious process. Michael illustrates this with his own experience of Chinese learning.

It has been criticised for ignoring how language is learnt, having no linguistic underpinning and trivialising grammar and the role of the teacher.

Michael’s 3 arguments for today:

  1. These two approaches are entirely compatible with psycho-linguistic evidence.
  2. Both of them are supported by at least one carefully worked out linguistic theory – his! (Puts them on shaky ground?! he wonders.. 🙂 )
  3. The characters that both approaches assign to the language learning process are equally true of non-Indo European language.

How do we learn language?

Michael is interested in the psychologists doing language work rather than the linguistics pretending to do psychology work. Psycholinguists identified two things: semantic priming and repetition priming

Semantic priming – informants shown an image or word (the prime) and then shown a second word/image (known as the target word). Speed of recognition is measured. Some primes slow the recognition of target word, while others speed it up.

E.g. “wing” followed by “director” – “wing” won’t alter the speed. If it is followed by “dog”, it will infinitesimally slow down. But if swan, then it will be speeded up slightly. It’s about linguistic knowledge rather than world knowledge.

It is old and uncontroversial work. What does it mean for language learning?

It gives us proof that words are closely linked in a listener’s mind. Words that are closely linked can be recognised more quickly together. So it encourages fluency. It doesn’t fit in at all with grammatical frames and words that slot in. This notion (the grammatical frames one) is not supported. It does, though, fit in very well with the lexical approach, which fully supports it.

Repetition priming

E.g. a listener hears the phrase scarlet followed by onion, then a few days later hears the word scarlet, it will speed up the process of recognising onion. So your brain remembers the co-occurrence and that speeds the recognition up.

Michael shows us some works related to this and says it, too, is uncontroversial.

Repetition priming explains collocation. If a listener/reader encounters words in combination, then they are stored as such and recognition is speeded up. When we encounter words in combination, we link them in our minds without there being any conscious learning. Doesn’t fit in well with  the grammatical framework notion but it does fit in with Krashen’s acquisition vs. learning.

So that takes care of number 1 for todays talk.

Now for number 2 – are these supported by another theory?

<slide>

Any account for collocation has got to be central to how language functions. The lexical priming theory is a psycholinguistic theory based on corpus linguistic evidence. It claims that whenever we encounter a word, we subconsciously note the words it occurs with – the collocations.

<He shows use lots of combinations with “hard”> All of these are part of collocation.

Once a priming is created, it is subject to further priming. “ears” collocates with “eyes”, which as a group becomes something that will be primed to collocate with “act as” as in “act as someone’s eyes and ears” So collocations can collocate with something else.

Michael quotes Hill regards to the density of unknown collocations that are the difficulty for learners. But the lexical priming theory goes beyond collocation. It is also about semantic association.

E.g. ears collocates with eyes, but also co-occurs with other parts of the body in a semantic set. All of this is part of that semantic association – “ears” likes to collocate with parts of the body. 23% of all instances of “ears” in Hoey’s corpus collocate with part of the body.

“consequences” tend to be negative – grim, bleak

“results” tend to be positive – great

We also note the grammatical patterns that a word or combination of words tend to take – the colligation.

“consequence” tends to be indefinite e.g. “a consequence of”; “result” tends to be definite e.g. “the result of..”

We are primed for this by recurrent occurrences of these combinations.

We also subconsciously note textual features. This goes beyond the oft-talked about that we have considered so far. We are primed for other things when we encounter language. We recognise whether a word is typically cohesive or not. We know, when reading or listening, whether this word or phrase is going to turn about again. So we know whether we need to hold on to it or can forget it.

Michael shows us an extract from The Guardian and picks out that president occurs three times in the course of three sentences. Not an accident. In Michael’s study, of 66 independent occurrences of “president”, 76% contributed to the cohesion of the text. So we are primed to expect that. We also notice how it is likely to be cohesive e.g. by simple repetition, or pronouns or with a name (co-reference), in the case of “president”

Back to the text – “frankly”, however, was only responsible for 5 instances of cohesion out of 50, and some of them were a stretch. So we are primed to expect avoidance of cohesion, with “frankly”.

Just reading a text, you get lots of experiences of those words that are repeated within the text.

We also are primed for semantic relationships within a text. Every lexical item – word, phrase – may be positively or negatively primed to associate with various items. Texts prime our vocabulary for us and our vocabulary primes us with regard to the organisation of the text. We are also primed to notice position e.g. is it typically used at the beginning of a sentence or the end of a sentence. E.g. “it was announced yesterday” is typically found at the end of the first sentence in a newspaper article. So very precise positioning.

Michael tells us a lot about what we know about “According to” in relation to newspaper texts in terms of collocation, colligation, pragmatic association, semantic association etc. Very interesting.

This all wholly supports Michael Lewis’s view of the centrality of lexis. Everything he was saying in the Lexical Approach book is backed up by psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic research. It must be true. If you want to argue it’s not, you have to argue against ALL the sets of research. All the textual features are central to Stephen Krashen’s claim. You couldn’t expect to teach/learn consciously all the textual properties of every word in the text. But it is the case that the fact that we reproduce these things when we write/speak means we learn from frequent encounters. So he is right that we need to be exposed to naturally occuring data.

Like me with Italian, Michael can’t speak but can read Chinese! The textual features of lexis can be acquired.

Time for number 3 – does the Lexical Approach apply to Chinese? i.e. not only applicable to Indo-European languages

Michael contrasts English and Chinese and then looks at the Lexical Priming claims in terms of Chinese. He shows us collocations of “hao” in Chinese. And then points out that “houhui” is associated with negative colligation. Then shows us that houhui has a semantic association with unhappy action taken and pragmatic association of making a suggestion (a third of instances in the corpus), but only the negative forms.

In terms of significance, sensible to build on the common ground between languages rather than the differences.

Michael has shown us how both Krashen’s and Lewis’s theories have been falsely criticised, and are in fact safe to use. The two researchers have come up with very compatible positions.

hoeymp@liv.ac.uk

IATEFL 2014 Day 2: why I come to IATEFL!

Fresh after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I walked the five minutes between my hotel and the conference centre, feeling sure it would be much easier to negotiate than it was in my addled state yesterday. Turns out, not so much! I’m not entirely convinced by Harrogate conference centre – Liverpool and Glasgow were – or at least seemed – both more user-friendly. Also, there were no talks in portacabin come tents (e.g. Queen A – I don’t think any queen in her right mind would give it her royal seal of approval! :-p ), or in the case of my room, half in the corridor.

Nevertheless, it’s been a super-interesting day, though I had to pace myself in order to keep at least some energy for my talk, which terrorised me increasingly, the closer the start time loomed. I even had to come back to my hotel room for an hour to recharge myself just prior to my talk (thank you Sandy, for that life-saving idea! I bumped into Sandy and upon seeing how frazzled I was, she told me where to go – my hotel room! Thank goodness – it saved me.)

Anyway, my talk is over and I’m happy – it was ok. But I’ve already posted a post about the content of that, so no need to go into details here.

In fact, today’s end-of-day post is mostly going to be devoted to things I love about IATEFL:

  • walking from conference centre to hotel first thing in the morning, bright and early, looking forward to a brand new day of learning. (This morning was extra early because I went to one of the pre-plenary sessions as well – tomorrow I shall merely get in in time for the plenary!)
  • bumping into someone you worked with briefly the previous summer, hadn’t been in touch with, hadn’t been expecting to see, in the loos prior to the plenary, and then enjoying the plenary with them [a.k.a random, unexpected encounters with people!]
  • picking up the annual black cat publishers bag (they make good handbags :-p)
  • planning to go to this talk and that talk, but then actually going to something entirely different because you bumped into someone and decided that you quite fancied what they were heading towards.
  • bumping into people you know and haven’t seen for ages randomly in the corridors and how delighted you feel when it happens.
  • seeing people talk about things they are deeply interested in and enthusiastic about.
  • realising (again) how big the world of TEFL is (so many contexts that you don’t necessarily generally think too much about,  in your day-to-day little bit of it) and yet how small (all those people you keep bumping into…)
  • meeting loads of people that you know from online but hadn’t yet met “in real life”; putting real faces to PLN names.
  • the way that in the third year you attend, you know way more people than in the first year and so you get lots more of bumping into people.
  • as a presenter, the lovely feeling of presenting to an audience in which you know a fair few people and they are there supporting you.
  • fondling beautiful ELT-related books in the exhibition area and wishing you could buy them all and read them all…

To me, IATEFL is about the learning (attending talks, giving talks) but also about keeping in touch with the big, wide ELT world that exists out there. It’s about being exposed to tons of new ideas and learning random new things related to the profession. (Example of a random fact I’ve picked up this time round: I learnt that there are loads of freelance editors out there; previously I had just assumed that each publishing company had only in-house editors) You get to meet all kinds of people, working in all kinds of contexts, that you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. There are people that attend year in, year out, and it never gets old for them. And of course every year, new people come too. It’s not something that once you’ve done it once (attending or presenting), that’s it, you can tick it off a list and move on.

It was great to speak today, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I can just go to loads of talks and not worry about pacing myself so that I’m not frazzled by last session of the day (when I spoke today!). I’ve got my plan of what to see, and I know jolly well I won’t stick to it, and that’s just fine. I wouldn’t have it any other way. (There was discussion prior to IATEFL regarding whether it would be good to have to register to see talks prior to the conference; I think that would be a terrible idea – I like being able to change my mind at the last minute!) I will also be wearing my Leeds Met alumna hat tomorrow and hanging out with Leeds Met folk, during the morning break, in the Holiday Inn Foyer (across from the centre), to answer questions about the course from student perspective – so if you are interested, do come along and see us! 🙂

One thing that really strikes me as I sit here typing this is: It’s just wonderful to see so many people in one place who really care about what they do and want to share that with others who also really care about what they do, and to be a part of that. The amount of positive energy reverberating around IATEFL is phenomenal. I’m really glad I’ve been able to attend this year. It’s my third and I hope it’s far from being my last! 🙂

me presenting

Gratuitous picture of me presenting this afternoon! 🙂 (taken by Adam Simpson)

 

IATEFL 2014: Bridging the gap between materials and the English-speaking environment

My very first IATEFL talk!

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 09.21.10

Date: Thursday 3rd April 2014

Time: 17.45-18.15

After introducing myself and my three invisible hats (teacher of English, learner of language/teaching, ex-student of the Leeds Met M.A. ELT/Delta – the origin of the ideas on which this talk was based), I provided the following talk outline:

  • Over to you! (A few questions…)
  • Student-led interviews (benefits and issues)
  • My materials
  • Using the framework

Attendees then discussed the following questions:

  • What context do you teach in?
  • What materials do you use?

Which led to these:

  • Do the materials exploit the rich resources of language outside the classroom?
  • Do the materials encourage students to exploit it?
  • Do materials scaffold students to exploit it?

Following this discussion, I revealed two quotes by Tomlinson (2008, 2013):

“None of the books seem to really help learners to make use of the English which is in the out of school environment everywhere.” (Tomlinson, 2008)

“Little[No] attempt is made to encourage the learners to make use of English in their actual or virtual environments outside the classroom.” (Tomlinson, 2013)

One way in which language schools try to encourage learners to engage with the language in the out-of-classroom environment in English-speaking places is to send learners out to interview members of the public. I asked attendees to consider the benefits and potential issues with this activity, before providing some of my own:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 09.32.42

The question of how to guide learners across the murky waters of the potential issues to reap the possible benefits is where my materials come in. The next part of the talk discussed the influences that informed the development of my materials:

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 09.23.56

And then revealed the basic framework I’d created using Task-Based Learning (Ellis, 2003; Willis and Willis, 2007), Language Awareness Approach (Svalberg, 2007) and the Intercultural Approach (Corbett, 2003):

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 09.41.48

 

Of course this bare frame doesn’t demonstrate how those theories were woven in, and does give rise to possible questions/issues. So at this point I predicted some possible questions that might have been forming in the audience’s mind:

But…

  • Won’t they get bored?
  • Is it a good use of so much time?
  • What about linguistic development?
  • Isn’t it a cop out? Mucking about instead of learning language?

And then explored how I used the approaches I’d chosen, to address these issues and to maximise learning and learner engagement, and how I’d addressed issues that critics have raised with regards to the theories. The result was this framework:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 09.42.00

(F.L. stands for functional language and S.E. stands for students’ experiences.)

 

The final part of the talk dealt with using this framework and exemplified this with a task from my own materials. The initial steps of using the framework have much in common with a genre-based approach:

  • Think about how you want your ss. to use language
  • Find texts produced in that genre/those genres. (Or make your own with your colleagues!)
  • Identify common generic features (language, structure, organisation, appearance etc)

To this I add:

  • Pinpoint interesting/engaging non-linguistic outcomes.
  • Consider scaffolding.
  • Pick out linguistic and cultural dynamism.
  • Build in reflection.

Obviously the first bullet point of part 2 of the list is in keeping with TBL tenets. The second refers to how the tasks are going to feed into each other, how the activities within each task are going to feed into each other and how the whole is going to enable learners to be able to do something by the end of it. The third is in keeping with the Intercultural Approach and the Language Awareness approach. The final bullet point, opportunities for reflection, is crucial to all three approaches as well as being the key to turning experiences into learning, and connecting learning to experiences.

To exemplify this, I used the third task of my materials:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.03.44

 

I discussed how content generated by students in the second task fed into the pre-task activity, in which students collaborate and exchange information, in preparation for the main task of this third task. The main task requires learners to synthesise the information they’ve collected between them, and use it as the basis for their question preparation. They are then helped to analyse  these questions by considering cultural and pragmatic issues, before moving on in the post-task activities to engaging with input in the form of a real interview, which leads to language focus and speaking skills development. Throughout the task, learners are encouraged to reflect and connect their own experiences and knowledge with what they are learning, and to identify similarities and differences between their own culture, other learners’ cultures and the target language culture.

Being a twenty minute talk (plus ten minutes for questions), I had to bring it to an end pretty swiftly by this point, by thanking International House, Palermo, for allowing me to attend IATEFL 2014, and the Leeds Met M.A. ELT department (and especially Heather Buchanan, who was my supervisor for the dissertation project in which I made these materials) for all the guidance and support that I was given in my learning and in realising my ideas, because without the course I most definitely wouldn’t have been giving this talk today. And the final thank you, of course, to everybody who attended!

Here is a list of references for my talk:

Svalberg, A. (2007) Language Awareness and Language Learning in Language Teaching vol. 40/4. Cambridge Journals

Moran, P. (2001) Teaching Culture: Perspectives in Practice Heinle and Heinle. Canada

Murray, N. (2012)  English as a lingua franca and the development of pragmatic competence in ELT Journal Volume 66/3 Oxford University Press

Corbett, J. (2003) An Intercultural Approach to Language Teaching Multilingual Matters. Clevedon

Ellis, R. (2003) Task-based Language Learning and Teaching Oxford University Press Oxford.

Willis D. and Willis J. (2007) Doing Task-based Teaching Oxford University Press, Oxford

Tomlinson, B. (2008) English Language Learning Materials: A Critical Review Continuum London

Tomlinson, B. and Masuhara, H. (2013) Survey Review: Adult course books in ELT Journal Volume 67/2. Oxford University Press Oxford

Nigel Harwood: Content, consumption and production: three types of ELT textbook research

ELT Textbooks (or ‘coursebooks’): not just books, all the paraphenalia that goes with. The focus for today is on global coursebooks e.g. Headway.

Why should we do research on textbooks at all? 

  • One powerful argument: teachers have to use them! Most teachers in most parts of the world are required to use textbooks to some degree.
  • Often responsible for end-of-term exam content and things like that.

Important to see if they are fit for purpose.

  • research that has been done can be criticised for lack of rigour, so more rigorous research is needed.

Harwood proposes a research agenda for textbooks:

  • studies of content: look at what textbooks include and exclude in terms of language, topics and culture. So, traditional content analysis.
  • studies of consumption: how the books are used by teachers and learners. Looking at lesson plans, looking at what happens in the classroom, looking at how learners feel about the book etc.
  • studies of production: the process of writing, the process by which the book are shaped and distributed.

Why does this matter?

Content analysis: for accuracy and appropriacy

E.g. of a content study of language:

There are lots of studies comparing language in corpora with language in textbooks. E.g. Ruhlemann (2009) – reported speech in seven intermediate level course books and BNC data. Evidence suggested that the corpus wasn’t being consulted.

E.g. of a content study of culture: 

Solokik (2007) – focused on grammar books and found that they are helping to transmit certain cultural images.

Gray and Block  (?missed the date, expect you can find it on slides online at some point) – earlier textbooks contain more reference to the working classes, but in none of the books was there any discussion of class issues. This is part of the discourse of textbooks as entertainment rather than serious education. Nowadays, the working class appear in pictures, in service encounters, but still no discussion.

Limitations of content analysis: 

Only gives us the “what”, not the “why” – we need to talk to writers and publishers about that. Also doesn’t tell us how material is used.

Consumption studies

This is focusing on actual use. Why does this matter? Because teachers use books differently. We need to try and explore the relationship between teacher’s profile and what they do with it. A book could look fantastic at page level but be used ineffectively.

Shawer (??) divides teachers into 3 categories:

1. Curriculum-makers: rare use made, they make their own based on learners’ needs.

2. Curriculum-developers: use it but supplement it with own materials

3. Curriculum-transmitters: slavish use of the book

Teachers do use books very differently.

Why? The content affects use; the teacher’s beliefs etc; the learners’ needs, age, level etc; institutional factors

So textbook use is context-bound and influenced.

Harwood then told us about a study he did with his PhD student. They found “john” used the book very rarely and they looked more deeply into this via various means. Turns out he was a “curriculum maker”. Looked at an exercpt; John didn’t use it. Why? Don’t like the topic, don’t think it’s useful, don’t like the visual presentation of the book; the topic wasn’t suitable for the level (his learners’ level was too low); the learner age was wrong for it; it’s too Euro-centric etc.

This study took Shawer’s work further in that Shawer developed the categories, they looked an example of one and tried to identified the reasons why. The findings map well onto Hutchinson’s (1996) model.  Also shows how textbook use is mediated by the teacher.

Textbook production

How writers write, what publishers do and so on. Why does this matter? Can help us understand how difficult it is to write a book. Very easy to criticise a textbook. But studies like this reveal all the hidden pressures at work. Can also reveal things that writers believe and publishers believe. May explain why there are problems.

Bell and Gower (2011) – chapter about all the compromises writers have to make. The unenviable task of the materials writer; trying to be all things to all people, but with constraints of space, tight deadlines (affecting piloting).

The new book

Contains, amongst others, a study by Dr. Ivor Timmis (the one and only!) – describes his experience of writing a textbook for publication in a context he had no firsthand experience of. It discusses the compromises as well e.g. conflict between text driven approach that they wanted to use vs the requirement “there must be three grammar points per unit” meaning he had to put in exercises that he otherwise wouldn’t have. Some material had to be cut due to influence from the ministry of education via the publisher. Very difficult to meet all requirements.

Conclusion

These three areas provide us with a framework for future research.

Harwood also briefly discussed the contents of this edited book: a variety of studies related to each element of the framework put forward in this talk. It looks like an interesting book.

Plenary Day 2 – Kathleen Graves: The efficiency of inefficiency: an ecological perspective on curriculum

Plenary: Kathleen Graves – The efficiency of inefficiency: an ecological perspective on curriculum

 

This was my second talk for the morning and here are the notes I made:

 

Argument: an approach to learning that seems inefficient may actually be efficient in terms of reaching ed goals in lasting ways.

 

Efficiency: how to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.

 

In the hospital:

 

The reasons for success can be the very things that are considered inefficient. Time-costly caring creates he relationship between the doctor and the patient and that is the secret of healing. The secret of patient care = inefficiency.

Long-term view vs. short-term results.

 

How about the classroom?

 

Ed is increasingly focused on efficiency and the push for efficiency centres on standardization of outcomes, prepackaged curricular and tests that test short term results rather than long-term results. Very true of ELT. This creates tremendous pressures on teachers and students to produce quantifiable results in the classroom, emphasis on tests rather than learning. But learning a language is a process that takes time.

 

Can we apply the efficiency of inefficiency to language learning?

 

It is a human process, organic, unpredictable and dynamic. Looking at how time is used in the classroom – what would the efficiency team consider efficient in the classroom? Getting the job done in as few turns as possible. Question; response; confirmation. But is it efficient in terms of learning? Is it really productive?

 

Graves makes a comparison of an “efficient” exchange and a longer, “inefficient” but learning efficient exchange.

 

What are some of the differences?

 

<slide shot> (coming soon!)

 

The non-efficient exchange is not efficient in terms of time but is in terms of ss participation. She builds on what the student has to offer in turn by asking the student to complete his thought, and then asks him to use technical language to express what he knows. This is very important in terms of learning the academic register is not just to understand the terms but to use them. She also creates an atmosphere where all the students feel comfortable to co-construct/contribute. 12 turns vs 3 turns: the efficiency of inefficiency. Making the best use of the resources – the learners – to achieve the results – learner understanding.

 

Physical and abstract resources – not just materials:

 

–       the learners and the teacher

–       the curriculum

 

How can we use these resources so they can thrive. Looking at this is in line with an ecological perspective on learning.

 

Leo Van Lier: passed away a little over a year ago but left an important legacy.

 

Ecology: the study of relationships among the elements in an environment or ecosystem and how they interact between themselves and with the environment.

 

In a classroom:

 

People: learners, teachers, others

Curriculum: materials and concepts

Environment = physical and social

 

Language is “Relations between people and the world

Language learning is learning ways to relate more effectively to people and the world

 

Ecological approach:

 

People

Relationships/interactions

Activity

Quality

Autonomy/Agency

 

You can have a high standard of living but a low quality of life. E.g. in the US – mansions and Mc Jobs = high standard of living but quality?

 

Testing system bypasses the quality of the educational experience and the wellbeing of the learners. We lose sight of the educational experience itself and how it contributes to quality of life. Focus on experience and wellbeing of learners harks back to caring for patients, in the hospital.

 

Not transmission of knowledge but a community where learners go about the business of learning by carrying out activities together, side by side or on their own.

 

Autonomy does not mean individualism or independence but having authorship of ones speech and actions in ones community of practice. Learners are sources of knowledge as well as learners of knowledge. Have opportunities to exercise their agency as sources of knowledge.

There must be room for learning – for a variety of expressions of agency to flourish.

 

An ecological approach to learning treats the classroom as a dynamic, evolving ecosystem. Relationships are built within the environment. Teacher and learners define their own meaning and purpose to what they do. The quality of these relationships matters. Focus on what is meaningful and helpful to the students.

 

<A clip with the sound turned off, to focus on what you see rather than what you hear>

 

– To give some insight into the potential of an ecological approach to curriculum.

 

–       Who are the participants/interactants?

–       Who interacts with whom? What kind of relationships are at play?

–       What kind of activities are the participants engaged in?

–       I what different ways are the participants acting?

 

<same clip with sound>

 

What is the role of language in this classroom?

 

Moving them towards standard language of schooling without devaluing what they are moving from (i.e. home use of language) – mentioned by a woman on the clip.

 

Language plays a role on several levels – on a social level (participants use language to interact with each other and carry out activities) but also on a symbolic level. Learners have symbolic resources – their own language they use with family and friends, an important part of their identity: African-American vernacular English. Is a linguistically complex systematic rule-governed variety of English. E.g. “We don’t have nothin’ to do” – The copula of be “He funny” is systematically omitted. Not broken English. Accurate to this variety of English. An educational system as an ecosystem uses existing resources to extend and build new resources. The home language is a resource to be used to contrast with academic language. The learners learn to use linguistic tools of contrastive analysis to identify similarities and differences. They learn a third language too – that of linguistics.

 

Autonomy – having authorship of one’s actions and speech within one’s community. Learners here are authors of and authorities on their language.

 

But why are you taking this time-consuming task – we just want them to speak correctly so just correct their incorrect language. i.e. a more “Efficient” approach. Mrs Sword could be said to be more efficient than Mr Russell but actually it’s a deficient approach. Ss own language is considered substandard and be overcome through correction. Ss own language is devalued, as are the ss. Whereas Russell’s approach is ecological, ss are resources and have resources i.e. their own language. They can tap it as a basis for learning Standard English by contrasting the two and learning the meta-language to do that. They are active participants in the process of learning and development, exercising their agency and challenging sophisticated processes. Students and language are both valued.

 

(Mrs Sword took a similar trajectory to Mr Russell, and used the analogy of wearing different clothes in different situations)

 

But first, ss stopped asking questions in order to stop being corrected and risk embarrassment. So rather than providing tools to expand resources, she shut them down. The focus was on the end result rather than on the learner and the process of learning.

 

Whereas Mr Russell’s class illustrates the efficiency of inefficiency: It led to increased understandings that could be demonstrated through test performances. But they also gained much more than could be measured in a test – confidence, social skills, problem-solving, how language works in different contexts, all these gains will serve them in life not just in school.

 

An approach to learning that seems inefficient may be much more efficient to reach long-term learning goals.

 

“My goal is to provide readymade answers or prescriptions but to provide food for thought, to encourage reflection about language and education, to stimulate discussion…”

 

A brilliant talk, that I very much enjoyed!

 

IATEFL 2014 day 1: Thank goodness for MaW SIG!!

My IATEFL 2014 has begun! I arrived at the conference centre in Harrogate – *finally* – soon before 5 and was happy to be able to register and go on in – live, finally, rather than just online!

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Admittedly, having been travelling since 06.45 this morning, I was perhaps not the most with it that I’ve ever been, but Hugh Dellar (@hughdellar)’s tweet that I saw subsequently really sums it all up:

“If you’ve never attended #iatefl, imagine being propelled round a human pinball machine containing everyone you’ve ever met in ELT”

Laden down with 3 bags and rucksack by this point, I walked through to the exhibition room (my overriding impression of the conference centre so far is “labyrinth”!) and walked round it once. I think it was the final break of the day and there were TEFLers everywhere! I felt both overwhelmed and daunted – then I bumped into Ela Wassell (@elawassell), who welcomed me with a big smile and suddenly I felt a little better! Not long after that I bumped into @Marisa_C. By this time, I was trying to find my way to Harewood to find the MaW SIG gang – it seemed the only logical thing to do! It took a lot of getting lost in the labyrinth before I got there, so I missed the beginning of the talk  but I think I got most of it and it was very interesting. Really glad I managed to find the room – I think the alternative was turning tail and slinking off to find (read get even more lost on the way to) my hotel and this was the much better option!

So what does that involve? K Woodward et al. (et al. is Liz, in this case)

I was too dazed to make notes during it, I had a pounding headache, but listening to Kate and Liz talk made the day melt away and by the time it finished I felt so much better. I jotted down some notes afterwards, while waiting for the MaW SIG Open Forum to start, and essentially it was about the complex issue of selecting vocabulary to teach intermediate learners. Making word lists. The fact that the words that we automatically teach related to various topics are all well and good, but we tend to forget the more “general” words that we used to talk about them. So, we were shown some Wordles related to a few topics, and they threw up some general words that are less “expected” in association with the topic but very useful.

For example, taking the topic of jobs, something like “Oh, what does that involve?” is something we might say when we know what someone’s job is like but want to know what it is they actually do. And that’s another question we might use: “What is it that you actually do?”. Or, if we look at the topic of eating out, vocabulary is usually around menus, bills, ordering etc but something like “Oh, I haven’t decided yet!” in answer to what you’re going to get, when looking at the menu, is important but generally overlooked. We also saw the topic of personality, and Kate/Liz (I forget which!) advocated teaching things like “He’s always + ….” e.g. “He’s always talking” – as a negative description, or “He never + ….”, for a similar effect. Or for higher levels, “He tends to…”

They told us about a project they’ve been working on which involves lists of most commonly used words in other languages being translated into English, to influence what we teach as well, because for example “earthquake” doesn’t make the 6000 most commonly used words in English – but probably does in places with less stable tectonic plates! (It was more complex than that, but that was the general idea). They also mentioned Felicity O’Dell’s criteria for choosing what vocabulary to teach, and pointed out that the criteria might conflict with each other, so that there’s a lot to consider in vocabulary teaching.

After a short break, in which an extremely welcome cup of Cava came my way, it was time for:

MaW SIG Open Forum!

Nick Robinson got things started by reminding us of MaW SIG’s mission statement, which is promoting best practice in ELT materials writing (including in terms of teachers making materials for their own use, not just in the publishing world)  introducing the rest of the committee (Rachael, Lyn, Sophie, Karen and someone who was absent whose name I can’t remember) and then talking about what the SIG has been up to since being born.

It set out with 5 objectives for its first year:

  • Find the best committee for the job
  • Run a stand-alone event
  • Publish a newsletter
  • Run an IATEFL Pre-Conference Event
  • Make a website

It’s done all of those (in spades!) except make a website (and so far the Facebook page is fulfilling that role) and in addition has brought us a webinar too – you may remember John Hughes spoke a few months ago.

The stand-alone event involved 4 panels and lots of discussion generally about New Directions in ELT; the P.C.E. focused in depth on Writing for Digital; the newsletter is beautiful and will soon be downloadable – the need to get it published before IATEFL to avoid delay was the priority but .pdf format etc will follow.

Nick also mentioned that there will be four webinars in May! Very exciting. There is also likely to be a blog set up at some point. Meanwhile, the topic for next year’s P.C.E. has to be decided by this Friday!

Once Nick had finished telling us about MaW SIG, past present and future, there was some time for questions and answers. Here is some of what was discussed (paraphrased…!)

Q. Do you help people towards being published?

A. Would like to think we help people – our mission is to promote best practice in ELT. Will be interesting to see how it works for experienced people vs. newcomers, as needs are very different. Interested in bringing in inexperienced people and helping them develop. There were publishers at the January event, who got new writers: MaW SIG collected business cards, made a collation of information, and gave it to publishers e.g. Pearson. Attending events does give an opportunity to meet people.

Q. How about a discussion forum?

A: Will it become a ghost town? Onus is on members to take part, if we do make one!  [There was a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of such a discussion board, and it will be further discussed in the committee meeting tomorrow]

Q. How about writing workshops at weekend?

A: Absolutely, we are looking at different formats for future events. There is definitely potential for this. Maybe a virtual writing group online, working together on projects?

Q: How about writing “retreats” (with yoga involved)

A: A bit of a stretch for the second year perhaps? GIve us some time! Once the membership grows (and there is huge demand it seems) – if we can fill up a venue for two days, we’ll do it! 2 days max for the next year though.

Q: How about access to emails of people in the same location?

A: Not allowed to share this information – data protection – but there is Karen’s google map on Facebook where everybody was invited to share their location. We want to go where there are members who will attend events. Get in touch – tell me “I think you should do an event in <this town> and here’s why! We’ll consider it if you convince us!

The End (and the beginning…)

Finally there was a raffle and three lucky winners of their choice of ELTTeacher-to-Writer ebooks and more Cava-aided discussion.

I finally met Lyn, who I’ve had a lot of contact with in relation to the beautiful newsletter, which I contributed an article to, and Sophie, who was responsible for making it beautiful, and Rachael, who so kindly looked at and commented on my materials a few months ago, and Karen with the many hats – though I’ve yet to have a proper chat with her. Lots of super friendly people, and I came away from the Open Forum meeting feeling very positive and excited about the future of MaW SIG, as well as lucky to have met a bunch of lovely people! A far cry from the frazzled, daunted wreck that I had arrived in the room as! Thank you, MaW SIG, for existing! 🙂

Getting lost has become a key feature of this conference for me so far, hopefully tomorrow I’ll begin to get to know my way about. (Especially, it would be useful to be able to find my room at 17.45 tomorrow!!) So far, following much walking, some with lots of bags, I have located my hotel room and a supermarket – a good start!

Looking forward to tomorrow, seeing lots of talks and giving one. (I may be slightly terrified!) It’s a different IATEFL this year, as I’m going it alone, no hotel-mates (yet) etc. However, luckily everybody is so friendly that it doesn’t matter too much! 🙂  Here’s to the days to come!

Learning Technologies SIG P.C.E. – Adrian Holliday “Web-based learning, cultural travel and claiming the world”

I had an email through yesterday, telling me this P.C.E. would be streamed live and so it is that at 11.00 C.E.T. (10.00 B.S.T.) I’m waiting for my first IATEFL Harrogate experience to begin unexpectedly early! Happy days, as I was disappointed not to be able to attend one of the P.C.E.’s in person this year. 

I first discovered Adrian Holliday during my M.A. ELT studies at Leeds Met last year – The struggle to teach English as an international language featured, as did a chapter in an edited book from Routledge about Applied Linguistics that I read, not to mention the journal articles. He comes across very strongly in his writing – a man with opinions, which he isn’t afraid to express! So I was delighted to discover that I have the opportunity to watch him talk via the live-streaming despite not being able to attend the P.C.E. day.

Here are the notes I made during this talk:

Adrian Holliday: Web-based cultural travel and claiming the world

Adrian says he has never thought of himself as a technology person but does like technology, and is happy to be here in his home area, able to eat in Betty’s restaurant, and to have had a good night’s sleep!

The topic connects with something he is very interested in – cultural travel and claiming the world. What tech does is bring out something that has often been hidden. Web-based and digital tech liberate a world that has been hidden.

“Young people on the march” – teachers in Iran can’t cope, there are so many youn people learning language and they are way ahead of their teachers. Inspiring but can be worrying if we don’t allow things to open up. This is what this talk aims to do.

Multi-literacies and claiming secret sites of learning

Holliday cites a secondary school in Hong Kong, demonstrating the power of technology to reach students, then a Sri Lankan secondary school with American textbooks with glosses scribbled in by learners that characterise their interests. They write their own script onto the dialogue. They convert what they get, out of sight of the teacher. He speaks of the amazing creativity of university learners in Kuwait and then inner-London secondary schools in the UK, where students play with each others’ languages, demonstrating incredible skill, and Chinese secondary school students’ diaries again demonstrating immense creativity. Teachers may think learners lack autonomy, but in fact learners may practice their autonomy in private by themselves.

Autonomy, authenticity and choice

Holliday believes that everybody has the innate ability to be autonomous and that people practice it privately, but that it is not always visible in the classroom because the classroom doesn’t allow it to work. He provides an example of technology bringing creativity and choice into the language learning environment, making it visible where it was hidden and secret. He is strong in his views that British or American models should be moved away from, but accepts that learners may choose them as not the core but something exotic. They are attracted by the “brand”. He says it becomes in the domain of motivation rather than that of model.

We are moving away from a native speaker norms:

When we think about technology, we need to remember that a lot of research has gone on that has changed the way we think about language. English can attach itself to any cultural reality. He quotes Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche’s use of “How did you come out this morning?” as a greeting between people in a book of hers, and says we all know what it means, but that most teachers would not allow that kind of language in the classroom but that we should actually allow language learners the freedom to work by themselves and bring stuff like this in from their communities, expanding English as never before.

Holliday moves on to discuss India and how people may speak five different languages, a multi-lingual society. So you become a native speaker not of a particular language but of the whole linguistic repertoire that you use. (Quoting Rajogopolan, 2012) and then a Syrian student who he described as travelling within the language according to her use of it.

“You speak the language, not let the language speak you. ….To stamp the language with your identity”(Clements and Higgins, 2008) Holliday thinks that technology allows this sort of thing to come into clear view.

Taking care of identity

Holliday describes coming from your own cultural background and claiming the world, as taking it on in your own terms – a kind of “bottom-up globalisation”.

He describes Norton (2014)’s quote “Learner’ – camera – ‘journalist'” – mentioning the questions that were attached with regards to who gives the camera and why do they need to?

The internet provides incredible exposure to things across the world. So is there an existing cultural capital that has the resilience to withstand the images from elsewhere? For the picture of Italian learners that Holliday displayed earlier, he thinks yes. He doesn’t believe that anyone lacks cultural capital or identity but that we have to be careful, and this is where the role of the teacher comes in. There is a large role for the teacher in providing social support. As young people are very able to work with new devices, they might not know the strategies this could be used for. He is interested in the ethics, morality and control of using blogs, as discussed in Gollobin (2014). When the students in that study began to blog, they were freed from their identity. They don’t lose anything but they can be whatever they wanted to be. You wouldn’t know age/race/gender/class from their writing. Any newcomers could go on the blog and work out exactly where they should be on the programme and position themselves.

Underlying universal cultural processes

Holliday offers us some theory from his own work:

Cultural background: national, regional or religious ‘culture’ doesn’t confine you or bind you but provides you with cultural resources. Different people will bring different cultural resources. This explains why somebody in Gollobin’s (ibid) class who has never done blogging before, as soon as they work out the basics of what to do, they knew what to do. They drew on experiences and skills which they could bring to this. But there’s something else there that ties everything together. Universal underling cultural processes. How we all engage with culture everywhere in a similar way, in terms of constructing and engaging with social rules and relationships.

Holliday is a cultural traveller when he reads Jane Austen. We are all cultural travellers whenever we go anywhere or read anything. We bring things from our own background that help us to unlock what is happening elsewhere. When you visit the family next door, as a child, that is your first major culture shock. And you have to work out how to be yourself in a completely different domain from what you’re used to. It’s this underlying ability that enables us to travel culturally. All the students referred to earlier in the talk are doing this, but doing it outside the classroom. Holliday thinks that technology should enable use to bring it INTO the classroom.

Holliday doesn’t think you need to learn another culture in order to learn another language. You need to recognise existent cultural resources and how they can be used.

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But there are somethings that get in the way. What? 

  • outdated ideas about English and Culture: he has spoken to young people who tells him that their teachers tell them they must speak British English or they won’t be understood. In this day and age, teachers and parents are telling their children/students this.
  • cultural disbelief: we must never believe that people come from somewhere that makes them wired in a way as not to be able to use technology: we mustn’t deny the value of existing experience, it is rich and productive, wherever people come from, whatever their experiences.
  • institutional structures which don’t allow space: they’ve kept the creativity of students hidden and marginalise what can be done with technology.
  • empty bullet points
  • existing curriculum:  clinging to positivist research approaches
  • do not get beneath the surface: what we know about society across the world is struggling at the margins because the big narratives tell us that people can’t, when actually people can. We have to learn from the margins.
  • Top down globalisation: the western idea that certain people don’t have autonomy etc.

Holliday thinks that we need to be strategically unobtrusive. Language learners are more creative than we imagine, but we don’t see it, then teaching can actually get in the way. Technology puts technology and experience between teacher and student, somehow. Holliday thinks teachers need to step back and let the technology work by itself. To allow students to be who they want to be and bring what they can from their background. Somehow you have to allow space to be there, which the students can populate in their own terms. So what we mustn’t do is go around telling people how they should behave with technology. Holliday worries about the larger than life language teacher, always there in the middle. He thinks autonomy needs to be de-centred.

You need to ask questions without dominating questions and not ask questions which push your agenda. The technology is there, the opportunity is there, people have the wherewithal to stamp their own identity and take things where they want them to go.

Holliday finished there, and there were a couple of minutes for questions…

Q: Do you think the identity is because they are learning a new language and later their identity would in fact be seen in their writing?

AH: This wasn’t a matter of removing identity but protecting identity. When you learn a new language you bring your identity into the language and populate it, there is expansion and things move on. But you’ve got to protect peoples’ private choices about what they do with their identity. But I don’t believe that when you learn English, you get a new identity, you expand your existing one into the language. 

Q. Are emergent and secret forms of learning a threat to the teacher? 

A.H: Yes I think they are. I think you have to be quite an agile and confident teacher to deal with this sort of thing. The job is shifting from someone who projects a model of the language to someone who facilitates learning. We are asking a huge amount of teachers to be able to field and work with this emergent creativity.Going back to the example of the lang students in Hong Kong, the story goes that the teachers weren’t able to deal with the creativity of the students so used the excuse that cultural background wouldn’t allow them to be creative, so the teachers were using the excuse to protect their domain, have to be very careful. 

At this point I had to depart – duty called! But thank you to Adrian Holliday for a very interesting talk and to the LT SIG for streaming it! A great start to IATEFL 2014, for me! (An aside: Adrian  Holliday doesn’t look anything like I imagined! )

Here is a screen shot of the references slide – not very clear, sorry,  but am sure the references will be available elsewhere online anyway!

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