ESL Teacher firstname.lastname@example.org
"The task of education is not to teach subjects: it is to teach students."
-Dr. Ken Robinson
Out of Our Minds
EDU622 - Applying Learning Theories
EDU604 - Interactive Design and Technology
EDU602 - Analysis, Assessment, and Technology
EDU660 - Curriculum Design and Evaluation
EDU633 - Principles of Curriculum Improvement
EDU643 - Designing Effective Courses
EDU673 - Decision Making in Curriculum Design and Instruction
EDU624 - Mastery in Educational Specialty
Sample of Course Work
Learning to Think in English: A Unit Plan in Three Lessons
After it is shown that a lack of interest in topical areas of ESL instruction lead to apathetic behavior, a unit plan divided into three lessons is proposed addressing this issue. Using behavioral and cognitive approaches to language acquisition, this unit caters to the needs of auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning. Individual learning styles were determined by a pre-assessment. Multiple exercises are offered as way to complement the three instructional strategies of whole-class teaching, and formal debate. Students use the final lesson as the presentation of the debate. This lesson’s subtopics include: critical thinking skills, value and beliefs, problem solving skills, and interpersonal skills. A grading rubric is provided as well as a template for qualitative journal entries reflecting evidence of learning.
Learning to Think in English: A Unit Plan in Three Lessons
Critical thinking and interpersonal skills, value and belief systems, and problem solving can still be taught while learning English as a second language. English can be used as an academic tool for further behavioral and cognitive development. There comes a point during an academic career of an ESL learner where current course content is shrouded in a veil of monotony, decreasing the value of learning; essentially the student becomes unmotivated. This happens when content becomes typical and predictable and a kind of coasting effect in the classroom happens. During this time, a student may feel less challenged by the educational institution he or she attends. Due to a lack of challenges, the academic mind – like any muscle in the body – begins to grow weak and critical thinking abilities suffer along with the decreasing value of education.
One main problem for this occurrence is the result of extrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards are counter-productive to the theory of self-determination, which “shows rather convincingly that people with an extrinsic motivational orientation and people who are externally regulated show relatively poor functioning” (Isen & Reeve, 2005, p. 322). To have any lasting affect on the psychology of learning, motivation must be an internal imperative. Too often, rewards in education are based on extrinsic motivation, tangible elements of success that must be either constantly maintained, or more often than not exceeded to have any meaningful affect.
Overview of The Problem
Friedman (1993) when discussing problems associated with extrinsic rewards, such as stickers, good grades, and prize coupons shows convincing evidence of how extrinsic motivators can in and of themselves generate apathetic behavior. During the discussion, Friedman discusses the misconception of perceived motivators and how “academic apathy could be motivated out of existence…” by the use of an extrinsic rewards system (1993, p. 26). It was concluded: “although students could be coerced into completing assignments in order to avoid negative consequences, they could not be forced into liking or being interested in the subject matter” (1993, p. 25).
By narrowing the topic interest in the learning environment – telling students what to be interested in as opposed to finding intrinsically relatable topics – students are disinterested. A teacher does not have to physically say what topics a student should be interested in order for this to happen; however, a lack of diversification is explanative enough on a subconscious level. By not giving students the opportunities to explore the topics they find interesting, no amount of motivation can generate the kind of learning that is associated with achievement. What happens instead is a disassociated view of learning, a static approach to acquisition.
Critical thinking is an extremely important trait to teach in any classroom. By not being challenged, students become apathetic towards learning. Ercole (2009) suggests that a lack of positive feedback in the classroom results in the inevitability of students losing motivation and ultimately causes their academic potential to suffer. These negative labels are an easy diagnosis to an ever-increasing problem in language learning, separating the learner categorically by the inability to learn a new language in the same ways as his or her peers. This homogeneitic tyranny is counter to Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences and the “pluralistic view” of contrasting cognitive learning styles between people (Gardner, 2006, p. 5). Multiple intelligence theory (MI) presents a detailed understanding of the diversity in learning styles that is different from the uniformity of conventional approaches. The correlation between MI and ESL is in skill-training and content delivery. Research done by Christison & Kennedy (1999) exploring the affects MI theory has on ESL instruction shows that students are more engage during class time and reflections on learning styles are broadened with renewed success in academic abilities. The fear is that language should be taught error-free; however, studies have shown that young people who were corrected frequently did not use more error-free language (Wells, 1986 as cited Freeman & Freeman, 2004).
Concise Statement of The Problem
Learning preferences, such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, are ignored when areas of student interest is narrowed. By having no relation to practical applications – uses in the real world – students studying English as a second language have no intrinsic incentives motivating further language development and study. Traditional ESL instructional techniques are scripted and devote little attention to relevant information regarding the lives of students. Interest levels are down due to the lack of diversification in topics. Students become unmotivated by the lack of challenges in the ESL classroom. This causes the student to think less critically and shuns learning values. The ability for students to solve problems is stifled in the ESL classroom due to the perceived notion that the new language will inhibit the process of thinking; that the language is used only for the study of the language and not for other applications. The skills of problem solving, critical thinking, value and belief systems, and interpersonal skills can indeed continue in an ESL environment creating new insights into all areas of education. Insights are driven by the engines of curiosity (Klein, 2011) and by narrowing interest student apathy proliferates.
There is much to learn by studying MI theory and the correlations between ESL instructions. Most importantly, MI theory is a concrete example of the diversification among a group of individual learners. ESL classes can explore the new language while teaching other valuable characteristics essential to behavioral and cognitive developments. The purpose of this unit plan is to break down the stereotypes of traditional ESL instruction and help the learner develop linguistic and pragmatic competencies (Shaaban & Ghaith, 2005) that cater to individual learning styles. By the end of the lesson students will be able to:
· Communicate personal values and beliefs between peers in English
· Debate using the process of analytical thought
· Express opinions and interests comprehensively using the English language
To teach critical think, personal values and beliefs, problem solving and interpersonal skills, the instructional strategies of whole-class teaching, formal debate.
The social environment is contingent on the “demands, approvals, and condemnations of others” (Dewey, 1916, Chapter 2, para. 5). By using the whole-class method, the ESL student is reinforced by intrinsic peer values. Actions, expressions, and ideas are “indispensible conditions of the realization of his [a learner’s] tendencies” (1916, Chapter 2, para. 5). Learning is a “social enterprise” between the exchanges and negotiations happening between the learner and his or her sociocultural surroundings (Driscoll, 2005, p. 6). By teaching ESL learners as a whole, language anxieties become universally mitigated. Studies have shown that in the language classroom, learning anxieties exist due to “negative relationship to learners’ language learning performance (Atay & Kurt, 2006 as cited in Foroutan & Noordin, 2012, p. 11). The advantages and disadvantages of whole-class teaching are presented in Table 1.0
Advantages and Disadvantages of Whole-class Teaching
Note: Chart content generated from Harmer, 2007, pp. 161 & 162.
Debates teach a complementary set of skills. Nesbitt (2003) as cited in Krieger (2005) says debate “is an important educational tool for learning analytical thinking skills and forcing self conscious reflection on the validity of one’s ideas” (para. 2). Jacobs (2010) says that debate uses controversy to promote the feeling on positive interdependence. This is the basic foundation of academic controversy, “to engage… and seek to reach an agreement, students must research and prepare a position, present and advocate their position, refute opposing position and rebut attacks on their own position… ” (Johnson, ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, George Washington University, & And, 1997, p.5). Using formal debate in the ESL classroom promotes “achievement and retention, higher-quality problem solving and decision making” (1997, p. 5).
In his unit plan on teaching debate to ESL students, Krieger (2005) demonstrates how debate skills in the ESL classroom train students in reasoning skills, aids in the awareness of linguistic scaffolding, and student self-generative resolutions. Debate skills are shown to have a lasting impact on learners value and belief systems. Communication skills are developed further while students undergo a cognitive change during active participation. These skills incorporate the student’s “own instincts and powers” into meaningful contact (Dewey, 1987 Article 1, p. 2).
“Meaningful learning”, where “new and more specialized concepts are linked to subordinate concepts in the learner’s cognitive structure” has intrinsic value to students (Mintzes, 1979, p. 138). Value in the ESL classroom comes from interactions a student has with his or her environment. Sowell (2005) refers to interactive learning as “generative learning”, which is experiential in nature (p. 176). The organization and orientation of learning in a meaningful way helps students in acquisition. “Learning-related structures organize information in such a way that new learning builds on relevant prior knowledge” (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 287). The success of the learning for this lesson will be generated by the value students place on the area of focus. By immersing themselves in a topic that is of interest to them, students will generate their own intrinsic motivation through the exploration of unconscious dedication to an area of study. Through the effort of argumentation, rewards will be self-replicating each time a point is proven to be accurate; each time the effort put into the task is positively reinforced.
Division of Unit
This unit will be divided into three lessons. Each lesson will build on what was taught earlier in instruction. At the end of the unit, lesson three, the students will bring all of the components of the previous lessons to working order in a formal debate on a topic of the student’s choosing. Parts of the lessons in this unit were inspired from Krieger (2005).
Lesson One: Behavioral
The title of this lesson is Reason and Opinions. This lesson uses the behaviorist approach to learning, which is stimulus, response, and reinforcement (Driscoll, 2005). “Observable behavior, the environment, and the principles of contiguity and reinforcement can all be used to describe the behaviors exhibited in learning a foreign language” (Cox, 2008, p.35). In this lesson, student will learn the value of reasons and opinions.
Definition and Terms. Students will first be given a list of relevant words to study together with the instructor. The instructor will go over each of the terms for clarification sake after the handout is distributed.
Concept Mapping. The instructor will use the principle of concept mapping to get the students thinking critically about the lesson. The purpose of a concept map, or mind map is to synthesize and integrate information for more assessable learning (Cross & Angelo, 1998). Concept maps determine a change in understanding by employing it before, during and after lessons. This shapes the direction of the lessons by providing feedback to the learners (1998).
Pictures with Emotions. Opinions and ideas have imbedded reciprocal emotional responses. Each person feels a certain way about sensitive issues that are debated over. This activity will use evocative pictures, such as anti-abortion protesters outside of the White House in Washington, D.C. to elicit responses from learners that will generate critical discussions. The instructor will show the pictures and elicit a discussion. The goal is to get students to think in English.
Reasons and Opinions. Students will discuss as a class things that they like and the reasons for them. For example: The instructor asks students what they think about gay marriage. One student says that she thinks it is appropriate while another student says that it is not. The instructor encourages both students to discuss the reasons for their answer. It is the hope of this exercise that by having the answer to the question an imperative, students will explore the language in a more critical way.
Lesson Two: Cognitive
This lesson is titled Research and Support. Piaget theorized that cognitive development proceeds in four generally determined stages that follow a specific sequential order (Piaget, 2011). These stages can be described as sensor motor, where learning is determined through sensory interactions with the environment, preoperational, where language becomes developed, concrete, in which abstract thinking is applied to observable phenomena, and formal operations that give the learner a chance to reflect and ultimately hypothesize on his or her learning (2011).
Topic Discussion. Using Appendix C, the instructor and students will discuss the topics typical of debates. At the end of the discussion an agreed upon topic will be chosen to be the one to be used for lesson three’s debate. Students will then form and situate themselves as either being for the topic or against. The students will sit as a group according to their stance.
Practice. The most affective way to learn a task is through practice; a kinesthetic learning strategy. During this exercise, the students will sit in a circle and practice discussing the topic chosen during activity one. Students sitting in a circle give the sense of equality among learners (Harmer, 2007).
Debate Organization. In this activity, students will learn how to properly organize their ideas and rebuttals for a debate. The rebuttal format to be taught is listen, attack, and rebuild. This will be presented first by the instructor then practiced (using principles from the previous activity) among the students as a whole. It is the aim of this exercise to show students the pros and cons of a debate and the emotional interactions between each person for better preparation for lesson three’s debate.
Negotiation Tactics. During this lesson students will sit in a circle and work together filling in Worksheet A found in Appendix D. This worksheet is about negotiation tactics.
Likes and Dislikes. Students will use Worksheet B found in Appendix E. This worksheet is about likes and dislikes.
Lesson Three: Debate
The title of this lesson is Debate. The classroom will be made into a staging platform for the debate. On the left side of the classroom will be seated the students for the topic. On the right side of the classroom the students against the topic will be seated.
Rebuttal Speeches. Along with the debate itself, students will be asked to prepare a brief written speech to be turned into the instructor after the debate is concluded. The speech should include evidence supporting either side as well as resolutions drawn from the reasoning.
Assessment. Detailed assessment plans may be found under level heading Assessments.
Adapting Instruction to Individual Learning Needs
It is the hope that by using this unit plan each unique learning style will be reinforced through positive feedback during group interactions; that using group interaction for all learning styles of instruction, mitigating the anxiety of possible minority learning styles, will individually tend to all areas of learning preference. Language learning strategies that are mismatched with student needs “can result in learner anxiety and dissatisfaction” (Bull & Ma, 2001, p. 1). The areas of preference between learners are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
For learners that have an auditory preference towards learning, this lesson uses conversational English methods. By hearing his or her peers talk, language acquisition is brought to an auditory level. This lesson involves ongoing verbal communication.
For learners that have a visual preference towards learning, the use of images in lesson one are used. By seeing a visual image that represent an idea or action students are able to make a cognitive link between the area of study and what it actually looks like. Additionally, using the whole-class approach aids in the visual aspect in learning by giving visually inclined students the visual representation of ideas by peer interactions and engagements.
For learners that have a kinesthetic preference towards learning, the whole-class approach to teaching is used as well as debate. Kinesthetic learners acquire knowledge by directly interacting with knowledge. Having the strategy of debate as the backdrop for instruction uses multiple opportunities for language interaction. Using debate, the students are able to put word to action immediately, using the language for a specific purpose.
Students will be evaluated by the rebuttal speech turned as a group after the debate in lesson three, as well as according to the rubric provided in Table 2.0. The teacher will use the grading rubric to assess if learning has taken place after the conclusion of lesson three. Additionally, students will keep a daily journal, an example of which can be found in Appendix F.
Note: Score scale is based on 1-5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The highest possible score is 20 and the lowest possible score is 4.
To determine the learning style of each learner, Appendix A will be used to decide if learns are either audio, visual, or kinesthetic learners. To determine English proficiency levels, the ESOL initial assessment test, retrievable from http://englishtips.co.uk/docs/Initial%20Assesment%20level%20upper%20intermediate%20plus.pdf will be used. Additionally, Appendix B will be used in conjunction with the ESOL initial assessment test.
The teacher will also undertake a self-analysis of his or her teaching and how this lesson’s strategies have benefitted or hindered the learning process. To do this, the teacher(s) will keep a daily journal recording all evidence of learning, student motivational tactics, lesson production, content association, and feelings towards the lesson. Journals “provoke self-analysis and reflection” and is “a valuable tool for teachers who engage in self-development…” (Harmer, 2007, p. 410). It is the hope that by retrospective analysis of daily logs, the lesson and its strategies will subsequently strengthen with each application.
In this lesson, the learning styles of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic are complimented by using the instructional strategies of whole-class teaching and formal debate. It was shown that by narrowing a student’s interest level in education, apathy proliferates and a static learning process takes places. A lack of intrinsic motivation is a cause for apathetic behavior. To fix this problem, this unit gets students involved in the learning process by using behavioral and cognitive theories of instruction in conjunction with language acquisition principles. The content, process and product of the unit are divided into three organized lessons each setting the stage for the formal debate at the end of the unit. This unit does not only aid in the process of ESL instruction, but also teaches interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and value and belief characteristics. Value is placed back into the educational atmosphere by presenting learning as a means of relevancy to student production. It is the hope that by using this unit ESL students will have been able to associate the new language with cognitive and behavioral principles of development as well as gain a better understanding of the contexts English is used for.
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