Current issues

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three critical problems in english l

Text of Current issues

  • 1. Students skip class, and when they do show up itslikely due to fear of failure more than anything else.They may lack any semblance of attention duringclass, chatting with classmates, doodling in theirnote books or, (gasp!) in their textbooks. Whatexperienced English or other foreign languageteaching professional hasnt faced the problem ofreluctant, unmotivated learners? One key toincreasing motivation is to use activities matched tothe personalities, learning styles andcharacteristics of the learners as often aspractically possible.

2. A framework formotivational strategies As we have already said, skill in motivatingstudents to learn is of paramount importance.Until recently, however, teachers were forced torely on "bag-of-tricks" approaches in theirattempt to manage their classroom and motivatetheir learners. Good and Brophy (1994: 212) holdthat these approaches have been influenced bytwo contradictory views: a) that learning shouldbe fun and that any motivation problems thatmay appear should be ascribed to the teachersattempt to convert an enjoyable activity todrudgery; and b) that school activities areinherently boring and unrewarding, so that wemust rely on extrinsic rewards and punishmentwith a view to forcing students to engage in these 3. Rewards and punishments maybe a mainstay of the teaching-learning process, but they arenot the only tools in teachersarsenal. Dornyei (2001: 119)believes that "the spectrum ofother potentially more effectivemotivational strategies is sobroad that it is hard to imaginethat none of them would work." 4. Motivational strategies cannot work in avacuum, nor are they set in stone. Thereare certain preconditions to be metbefore any attempts to generatemotivation can be effective. Some ofthese conditions are the following:1. appropriate teacher behavior andgood teacher-student rapport2. a pleasant and supportive classroomatmosphere3. a cohesive learner groupcharacterized by appropriate groupnorms 5. Appropriate teacher behaviorand good teacher-studentrapportWhatever is done by a teacher has a motivational,formative, influence on students. In other words,teacher behaviour is a powerful "motivational tool"(Dornyei, 2001: 120). Teacher influences aremanifold, ranging from the rapport with the studentsto teacher behaviours which "prevail upon" and/or"attract" students to engage in tasks. For Alison(1993), a key element is to establish a relationship ofmutual trust and respect with the learners, by meansof talking with them on a personal level. This mutualtrust could lead to enthusiasm. At any rate,enthusiastic teachers impart a sense of commitmentto, and interest in, the subject matter, not onlyverbally but also non-verbally - cues that studentstake from them about how to behave. 6. A pleasant and supportive classroomatmosphere It stands to reason that a tense classroom climate canundermine learning and demotivate learners (seeMacIntyre, 1999 and Young, 1999 for further details). Onthe other hand, learner motivation will reach its peak in asafe classroom climate in which students can express theiropinions and feel that they do not run the risk of beingridiculed. To be motivated to learn, students need both ampleopportunities to learn and steady encouragement andsupport of their learning efforts. Because such motivationis unlikely to develop in a chaotic classroom, it is importantthat the teacher organize and manage the classroom asan effective learning environment. Furthermore, becauseanxious or alienated students are unlikely to developmotivation to learn, it is important that learning occur withina relaxed and supportive atmosphere (Good and Brophy, 7. In general, motivation is the "neglected heart" of ourunderstanding of how to design instruction (Keller, 1983, quotedin Dornyei, 2001: 116). Many teachers believe that by sticking tothe language materials and trying to discipline their refractorystudents, they will manage to create a classroom environmentthat will be conducive to learning. Nevertheless, these teachersseem to lose sight of the fact that, unless they accept theirstudents personalities and work on those minute details thatconstitute their social and psychological make-up, they will fail tomotivate them. What is more, they will not be able to form acohesive and coherent group, unless they succeed in turningmost "curriculum goals" (goals set by outsiders) into "groupgoals" (goals accepted by the group members, that is, students).Learning a foreign language is different to learning othersubjects. Therefore, language teaching should take account of avariety of factors that are likely to promote, or even militateagainst, success. Language is part of ones identity and is usedto convey this identity to others. As a result, foreign languagelearning has a significant impact on the social being of thelearner, since it involves the adoption of new social and culturalbehaviors and ways of thinking. 8. Insufficient Time, Resourcesand Materials Instructional aids are devices that assistan instructor in the teaching-learningprocess .Instructional aids are not self-supporting; they are supplementary trainingdevices. The key factor is that instructionalaids support, supplement, or reinforce whileinstructors may become involved in theselection and preparation of instructionalaids usually they are already in place.Instructors simply need to learn howto effectively use. 9. Reasons for Use ofInstructional Aids It helps the students rememberimportant information. When properly used, they help gain and hold theattention of students. Good instructional aids also can help solve certainlanguage barrier problems. Consider the continuedexpansion of technical terminology in everydayusage. This, coupled with culturally diversebackgrounds of todays students, makesit necessary for instructors to be precise in theirchoice of terminology. Words or terms used in aninstructional aid should be carefully selectedto convey the same meaning for the student asthey do for the instructor. They should provide anaccurate visual image and make learning easier for 10. . Another use for instructional aids is to clarify therelationships between material objects and concepts.When relationships are presented visually, they often aremuch easier to understand. For example, the subsystemswithin a physical unit are relatively easy to relate to eachother through the use of schematics or diagrams. Symbols,graphs, and diagrams can also show relationships oflocation, size, time, frequency, and value. By symbolizingthe factors involved, it is even possible to visualize abstractrelationships. Instructors are frequently asked to teachmore and more in a smaller time frame. Instructional aidscan help them do this. For example, instead of using manywords to describe a sound, object, or function, theinstructor plays a recording of the sound, shows a pictureof the object, or presents a diagram of the function.Consequently, the student learns faster and moreaccurately, and the instructor saves time in the process. 11. At first, it may be daunting to teach classes without the materials you arefamiliar with. It can be frustrating to realize that if you only had a certainpiece of equipment, the class could be a lot easier to teach, more fun forstudents, and more interesting too. When planning to teach in an area withlimited resourcesconsider taking some materials along to assist youduring the transition period. Paper, printouts of materials you have usedbefore, a laptop, an MP3 player, and some portable battery operatedspeakers as well as spare batteries will help you in class and make thechange more bearable. You will be able to show students pictures andvideos using your laptop and conduct listening exercises using your musicplayer. It may not be an ideal arrangement but it will allow you to conductlistening exercises using songs and show your students pictures of yourfamily, friends, and hometown. Sometimes students in these locations arealso less prepared for classes than students in other areas so try to bringmaterials with you that they might need to use in class such as pencils andnotebooks. You cannot anticipate everything you will need in a school withlimited resources but bringing along some basic things will definitely benefiteveryone. While it may take you a while to adapt, students can be verypatient especially if they are used to having teachers change quite often andwill be more flexible than students you may have worked with before. Sincethey are used to using the materials available in different ways and perhapsunused to having pieces of technology used in the classroom, they will notbe frustrated by what they are lacking whereas you might be. Once youhave had time to settle in, the initial challenges will give way to opportunitiesfor you to grow as a teacher. 12. Over crowded English classesThe Effects of an OvercrowdedClassroomWith the number of students enrolledin schools increasing, according tothe National Center for Educationalstatistics, schools are forced to putmore children in each classroom oruse smaller spaces as classrooms.This overcrowding can havenegative effects on students andteachers. 13. Teacher Morale Teaching in a small space is stressfulfor the teacher, who has to adaptlesson plans to focus more on workthat students can complete at theirdesks instead of group work or activeprojects that require more floor space.In addition, the teacher often does nothave enough personal office space forlesson preparation and meetings withparents or students. 14. Student Behavior Students who are seated close to oneanother in a classroom might havedifficulty focusing on the lessons,which leads to less learning and lowertest scores. The invasion of personalspace and feelings of being crowdedboth contribute to the lack of focus. Inaddition, students can be distracted bynoises that are in close proximity tothem in an overcrowded classroom. 15. Classroom Equipment