Din revista “Litere severinene”

                      
                    The integrated Romanian teacher of English
                                                                                          
Conf.univ.dr.Codruţa Stănişoară
 

            In the modern practice of EFL the integrated learner is one of the key words of language teaching  together with the integrated approach or the integrated syllabus as  paving stones of a new educational environment in which the teacher is an implicit main force. Therefore we could also talk about the integrated teacher whose role should be major in further modernising the process of language teaching.

            Within the context of our integration into the European Union  the teacher of foreign languages, English in our case, who has always been in the avangarde of ideas has changed his/her profile from a traditional into a modern one. Our paper aims at presenting this new ‘face’, one which should express more openness, flexibility and empathy in the new relationship with the students.

            An efficient class management is relevant in the way teachers assume and play their new roles. It involves the organisation of physical resources, meaning efficient management of furniture, equipment, teaching/learning materials and aids, but also general qualities of the teachers and general organising abilities able to ensure that the lesson proceeds as smoothly as possible.

The classroom should be pleasant and comfortable and the teacher should take care of its ‘make-up’: decorations, display, musical background, good ventilation, colourful pictures.

Another important factor influencing roles and relationship within the class is the ‘setting’, which refers to the classroom arrangements specified or implied in the task. David Nunan calls it ‘social setting’ when the activity involves the whole class, small group or individuals.

Unfortunately the lay-out of the classroom in our schools is not flexible because the old-fashioned furniture and the big number of students won’t allow too many options for group-work, for example. However this doesn’t impede on some possible changes of moving chairs around or SS turning back to their colleagues in order to accomplish a group-work task. Noise may be a disadvantage which can be dealt with.

The teacher’s position is also important in order to complete the picture: in the environment of the classroom in Romania it has been accredited as being ‘standing’ only. Assuming the role of participant in the learning process this position should be changed: teachers should also sit in a group, working as a resource person for the student colleagues or being involved directly in the group’s task. The position of the teacher is flexible and depends on what s/he is doing.

In assessing student-teachers and teachers generally, several criteria are considered by specialists. Some of them refer to the personal qualities of the teachers such as: presence, general style, voice eye-contact, ability to establish and maintain rapport, self-awareness etc.

Eye-contact is very important for motivating students: if the teacher looks at all students, when speaking or only at one or two ‘high’ students. All the students should hear their teacher’s voice.

Speech, for example should be audible and the tone and volume of volume of voice varied according to need. Accent should not be a significant factor unless it interferes with communication or with the learner’s acquisition of an ‘acceptable’ pronunciation.

When considering the ability to establish rapport we think of teacher who teaches a class for a long time. Some allowance should be made where a teacher is teaching a class which may be relatively unknown.

Self-awareness should include the ability to pick up one’s own mistakes and correct them.

The role of conductor is may be the most difficult the teacher has to play because it involves organisation skills and the success of many activities depends on good organisation. Think of project work for example. When organising the lesson the teacher should be aware of all the preparation stages and be flexible in adapting the lesson plan to the specific of the class and anticipate learners’ difficulties. This will be enlarged in the course on lesson planning.

In giving instructions he/she must be very clear about what exactly the task is. Sometimes and depending on the student’s age groups and levels, the students’ native language can be used in order to ensure a correct understanding of the request or task (lower classes).

New material should be introduced with appropriate techniques according to the methodological approach followed, to the lesson objectives and to the class being taught. Whatever techniques are used the teachers should be able to place language items in natural contexts.

In the Practice of English Language Teaching Jeremy Harmer identifies three stages in organising an activity: the lead-in stage which means the introduction to the subject, when SS are ‘lead-in’ the topic, then that of instruction, when the teacher plays the role of informant and the SS are told exactly what they have to do, and finally that of feedback when the teacher sets up activities, acting as organiser. He draws the attention on these three phases in order to be respected in organising the teaching process so as to get success.

In this work timing is an important aspect: clear instructions will save time which has to be rationally allotted.

In conducting the lesson teachers should also be aware of the questioning techniques: to grade the questions to suit the level of students, to develop them so as to aid learning and to create opportunities for learners to ask questions.

As you may have already concluded the roles of the teacher always interfere, depending on the different stages of the lesson. They are not due to a certain order, moreover they work well together along the whole class duration:

The assessor doesn’t necessarily interfere at the end of it because he/she should praise and correct in different stages.

Praising is very important for motivating SS. There are different ways of doing it: by saying “Good”, “Right”, “Correct”, “Well done” or very strong words of giving reinforcement like: “Well done!”, “Great!”, “Excellent!”, “Very good!”. On the other hand, if an answer isn’t right you can say it nicely and accompanied by a meaningful intonation: No (á) Well, not exactly. Try again. Or? (á)

On of the best ways of “rewarding” a good contribution is to use it in the lesson as an example or put it on the wall if it is a good piece of writing.

More palpable rewards are marks which should be given after several good answers (high ones). We don’t suggest to use low marks as punishment. There are so many other ways of doing them (see the course on evaluation). Apart from marks there are other reward systems you can use with young learners like: starts, badges pinned on the clothes, little pictures to stick in their notebooks or the display of an “honour table” on the wall.

Correcting errors is one of the most controversial classroom management skills because EFL teachers share different even contrary opinions on this behaviour which claims the teacher’s role of assessor.

Firstly it depends on what kind of work is corrected. In this paper we refer to ways of handling mistakes in oral work, written mistakes will be dealt with in the course on writing.

Some teachers think that it is necessary to correct all mistakes, a fact which leads to over-correction sometimes. Others believe that correction in oral work has negative effects on both motivation and fluency of communication, with the observation that the result may be under-correction.

For most EFL teachers, how much to correct and how to correct depend on whether the activity in question is accuracy-oriented or fluency-oriented. Accuracy-oriented activities focus on the information or opinions that are expressed and the aim is communication.

However in accuracy activities it is impossible to correct all mistakes if the student is very weak, for example. That is why the teacher should focus only on the mistakes in the language of items being practised.

Another suggestion for frequency activities is to give concealed correction, not explicit one:

e.g. explicit correction

{S: Yesterday I have gone to the cinema.

{T: No. Not “gone”. Again?

Concealed correction:

SS: Yesterday I have gone to the cinema.

T: Yes, good. You went to the cinema.

 

On the other hand they can succeed in being good assessors if are not able to diagnose the learner’s strengths and weaknesses in order to provide useful practice and helpful feedback.

When there is a mistake that needs correcting several ways may be followed: the teacher points out the mistake by means of intonation or other variants we wrote about before and thus s/he gives the SS a chance to self-correct. Other students, if necessary, try to correct it if they are invited. If a SS calls out a correction uninvited it is best to ignore him/her, so as to discourage this practice in future. However, during checking home works for items of grammar practice, SS could react to correct oral mistakes of their colleagues, but in a temperate, friendly way. Teacher should have the same attitude not to discourage or demotivate SS.

One sequence of the process of English language learning in which the role of motivator could be acted with a lot of professionalism is that of practice, controlled or semi-controlled. Here the teacher is also a diagnoser and has to provide students with a variety of meaningful activities and techniques, balancing appropriately patterns of interaction (teacher-learner and learner-learner) and also balancing individual/class/pair/group-work. In this situation the teacher is a participant and a resource person at the same times. See the differences between the roles of the teacher in the traditional class and those in the modern class functioning on cooperative principle.

 

Traditional

Cooperative-Modern

Evaluator

à consultant

Director

à observer

Distant

àfriendly, approachable

Omnipresent

à visitor

Imparter of knowledge

à participant in the process of learning

Authority

à ‘learner among learners’

Frontal person

à facilitator of learning in small groups

Controller

à facilitator

 

The traditional class management pattern is called lockstep. Here the teacher is completely in control of every classroom interaction.

All kinds of interaction take part in the cooperative learning class but student-student interaction is dominant. Cooperative learning also involves simultaneous interaction between students, which explains another advantage it has over traditional learning.

In the traditional classroom one person at a time speaks, and in large Romanian classes there is the possibility that not everyone speaks during a class hour if the teacher does not call on them. Kagan, S. (1992: ibid) calls it a ‘sequential structure’ in that each person participates in turn, one after other in sequence, which leaves little time per pupil for active participation.

It has been demonstrated (Godlad, 1984) that teachers on the average do almost 80% of the talking in the classroom, without taking into account time taken for management.

So less than 20% of the time is left for student talk and not all of them can talk, because they are left less then a minute allotted for a course hour.

From here a lot of disadvantages arise: students are full of feelings of boredom or encouraged to complete with each other, they are treated unfairly by the teacher since some of them answer at the expense of others (dominant versus shy students; students raise their hands and wait for the teacher to come over if they want to receive help, and not all of them are given satisfaction.

In contrast to this, simultaneous interaction wipes out all these disadvantages and turns the balance of talking time in favour of the students. All students can discuss different views in pairs, they are all engaged in task solving, having been allotted the same time for expressing their points of view.

 

Here is a list with the main roles of the teachers with their accompanying behaviour viewed from a modern perspective:

ROLES

BEHAVIOUR

* CONDUCTOR (MONITOR)

T should be able to:

·        organise the lesson

·        supply a series of goals

·        give instructions

·        explain

·        elicit

·        initiate rules and check concepts by questioning techniques

·        have learners repeat

·        handle aids

·        establish contexts

·        manage individuals and groups 

* INFORMANT

·        give input

·        provide extension

·        do revision

·        give explanations and remedial work

·        give advice and guidance

* DIAGNOSER (ASSESSOR)

·        praise where due

·        handle mistakes in oral work

·        correct errors

·        give reinforcement

* MOTIVATOR (PROMTER)

·        have interest in students as persons

·        prove competence and confidence

·        lower risk of fear

·        encourage productivity

* ORGANISER

·        deal with noisy learners

·        involve shy learners in full class activities

·        involve learners of different ability levels

·        organise pair-work and group-work

 

* COMMUNICATOR OF KNOWLEDGE

 

·        use the blackboard, visual aids

·        do non-verbal communication

·        use silence

·        lead into an activity

·        vary the sensory channels

·        understand learners’ difficulties

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1.       Gower, R.; Phillips, D.; Walters, S., Teaching Practice Handbook, 2nd ed., Macmillan Heinemann,London,1995

2.       Harmer, Y., The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, London, 1983

3.       Nunan., D.,  Designing Task for the Communicative Classroom, (CUP),London,1995

4.       Underwood, M., Effective Class Management, Longman, London, 1998

 


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