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Tips for TESOL-Exploring learning processes


Exploring learning processes


One of the most important factors that predetermines success in learning of any kind is confidence. Language learning is particularly dependent upon confidence. We need to give our learners every chance to develop this confidence, and one of the best ways of us assisting them to do this is to help them to gain greater control over the processes they apply during their learning. The following ideas should help you to show your learners how they can adjust their approaches to learning to optimize their success.

1 Learners need motivation. They need to want to learn things. If they already want to learn, it is described as intrinsic motivation. Where intrinsic motivation is lacking, you can encourage learners by showing them what benefits will flow from the achievement of their intended learning outcomes. This generates extrinsic motivation. When possible, make learning fun, interesting and rewarding, so that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can work together. Don’t mistake lack of confidence for lack of motivation.

2 Learning-by-doing is important. Most learning happens when learners use language, have a go, and learn by making mistakes and finding out why. We need to ensure that learners are given early opportunities to try out and work with new language that they have encountered. Care needs to be taken to ensure that learning-by-doing is focused on useful language work, and not just on anything to keep learners busy!

3 Feedback to learners is essential. They need to find out how their learning is actually going. They may feel that they have understood a particular aspect of language, but cannot be certain until they get feedback on whether they are handling it successfully. Feedback from the teacher is very useful, but teachers can also facilitate learners getting feedback from each other, and from various kinds of learning resource materials. It follows, too, that feedback must be timely for it to be of use to the learner. Any significant delay in the return of an assessed piece of written work usually causes gloom and distress!

4 Needing to learn something can be almost as productive as wanting to learn it. When learners know why something will be useful to them, even if they find it difficult, they are more likely to maintain their efforts until they have succeeded.

5 Learners need to make sense of what they are learning. It is of limited value to learn only by rote, or to be able to do things without knowing why or how. Getting learners to think about how their learning is happening is one step towards helping them to develop a sense of ownership of their progress.

6 Learning is not just a matter of storing up further knowledge. Successful learning, especially language learning, is about being able to make creative

use of what has been learnt, not only in familiar situations, but also in new contexts. It is essential to keep in mind the need to help students to learn in both sequential and holistic ways, and to look for ways to help them to employ all of their senses to optimize their learning.

7 Learners take cues about how they are expected to learn from the ways in which we teach them. If we concentrate only on supplying them with information, they are likely to simply try to store this. If we structure our teaching so that they are practising, applying, extending, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and engaging in other higher level processes, they are likely to see these processes as central to their learning.

8 Learning is driven strongly by assessment. Learners are often quite strategic in structuring their learning to be able to do the best they can in the contexts in which their learning is to be assessed. Assessment formats and instruments can be used to help learners to structure their learning effectively, as well as to give them appropriate timescales within which to organize their learning.

9 Learning is not just an independent activity. While much can be learnt by learners working on their own, with handouts, books and learning resource materials, they can also learn a great deal by talking to each other and attempting tasks and activities jointly.

10 Becoming better at learning is important. For many people, the most important learning outcomes of an educational experience are not the syllabus-based, course-specific ones, but are the outcomes relating to being able to learn new skills and competencies better. Learning skills are among the most important of transferable life skills. The course content can be regarded as a vehicle through which these important skills are developed.




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