lunes, mayo 23, 2005

Class 4-- 

The class according to Doernyei, (Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press 2001):

Creating the Basic Motivational Conditions
1 Demonstrate and talk about your own enthusiasm for the course material and how it affects you personally.
2 Take the students learning very seriously.
3 Develop a personal relationship with your students.
4 Develop a collaborative relationship with the students' parents.
5 Create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom.
6 Promote the development of group cohesiveness.
7 Formulate the norms explicitly, and have them discussed and accepted by the learners.
8 Have the group norms consistently observed.

It is easy to point to my enthusiasm with the course material and the meaning it has for me. And beyond the material per se, the issue of developing critical thought is crucial: basing communication on self-reflection and on I statements. Those are basic requirements for proper feedback and communication to take place. I took for granted that respect was a norm in any academic setting and that as a norm (unstated/unspoken rules in a group) respect would not need to be a rule. Emphasis on reflection and I statements is my way to model critical thinking and create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom. There seems to be a group cohesiveness being achieved, but unfortunately by argumentative and aggressive tone. The issue of the enforcement of norms was disproportionately required today. I hope it has to do with the control issues expected in this stage of group functioning!

Generating Initial Motivation
9 Promote the learners' language related valuse by presenting peer role models.
10 Raise the learners' intrinsic interest in the L2 learning process
11 Promote 'integrative values by encouraging a positive and open-minded disposition towards the L2 and its speakers
12 Promote the students' awareness of the instrumental values associated with the knowledge of an L2
13 Increase the students' expectancy of success in particular tasks and learning in general.
14 Increase the students' goal-orientedness by formulating explicit class goals accepted by them.
15 Make the curriculum and the teaching materials relevant to the students.
16 Help to create realistic learner beliefs.

The class is generating peer models and allowing for its relevance to be created by the participant's choice of words in presentations and examples. This constructivist approach works for some learning styles but not for others. More concrete guidelines and more direct instruction might be needed by those frustrated with the uncertainty of their taking charge of their own learning. The relevance of the content of the class might require a longer time than that allowed in the design of this 6 week intensive course. Furthermore it would be interesting to witness how the learning itself becomes an intrinsic motivator. Here the crucial requirement is the learner’s ownership of the learning process. It seems that the anger expressed will not allow some for the acceptance of the goals. During each of the presentations personal values are being projected in the student’s own voices. How to increase the expectancy of success (item 13) is an on-going concern…. Perhaps the following motto has to be repeated: Keep aiming for excellence!!! We are constantly checking on the realism of beliefs… although there seems to be a lot of miscommunication... .

Maintaining and Protecting Motivation
17 Make learning more stimulating and enjoyable by breaking the monotony of classroom events.
18 Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for the learners by increasing the attractiveness of the task.
19 Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for the learners by enlisting them as active task participants.
20 Present and administer tasks in a motivating way.
21 Use goal-setting methods in your classroom.
22 Use contracting methods with your students to formalise their goal commitment.
23 Provide learners with regular experience of success.
24 Build your learners confidence by providing regular encouragement.
25 Help diminish language anxiety by removing or reducing the anxiety-provoking elements in the learning environment.
26 Build your learners confidence in their learning abilities by teaching them various learner strategies.
27 Allow learners to maintain a positive social image while engaged in the learning tasks.
28 Increase student motivation by promoting cooperation among the learners.
29 Increase student motivation by actively promoting learner autonomy.
30 Increase the student' self-motivating capacity.

There is quite a mix of activity in the class and we are using the time in important work and in significant discussion. This is a great class, amazing presentations, and they keep getting better and better! About social image (item #27) I acknowledged one of the presenters being specially dressed for the occasion (nice touch!), and how in the work environment proper attire is expected and required. I am focusing more on goals and will be doing that more since we are at the last stage of the course… and its time to review achievements. There is a constant clarification of the requirements, and while the contract seemed clear and simple enough, it is not for those pressed by the allowance for on-going revision and betterment. Each day students get feedback on their presentations by means of rubrics that peers fill, with the purpose of it serving as encouragement and their witnessing success. Much needs to be done with item 25, diminishing anxiety provoking elements in the learning environment….

Encouraging Positive Self-Evaluation
31 Promote effort attributions in your students.
32 Provide students with positive information feedback.
33 Increase learner satisfaction.(celebrate achievements, display work)
34 Offer rewards in a motivational manner.
35 Use grades in a motivating manner, reducing as much as possible their demotivating impact.

For the first time this week we applauded after each presentation. The rubrics are serving for feedback both for them and for me since each member turns in a participation sheet with notes on their performance for the day and mention of any special message as in the AHA! moments, when something clicks. The use of rewards was meant to emerge out of the peer discussion on how to better the outlines and the papers. So in essence, there was a lot of time allowed for peer discussion in small groups and presentations in the larger group. I've offered points for comments in the blog originally and seing that comments are being made is rewarding. However they are anonymous... hard to assign extra points that way.

I got into doodling on the board. “Nothing like a strong inked marker and thoughts to write”- I thought to myself. A few minutes before the exact starting time, the tables and chairs where moved around with the help of early entrants… great I though, how to start…..????

List of things to do (a.k.a ; agenda)
Mid-term review outlines. Outcome “ideal” outline
Presentations… who, what, why? What for? So what?
Papers… rubric/feedback
Concepts/ examples

And then I looked back at the group, the clock on the dot and I started. Great to be here… what would you say…. And went around asking individuals for a one word descriptors of how they where doing. I remember a few words… “ low energy, expectant, sleepy, hungry” … checking in….

Then I moved into a review and sharing of how I have been relating aspects of the course to my experience

How having been away for two weeks could have given us rest. No, didn’t get a sense of rest from others…no wonder, with everyone working really hard not only for study, but also for families and the community... and described my own experience working hard in the time off reviewing proposals for educational programs. Emphasized the mentoring and tutoring roles seen as conducive to better high school graduation and access to college. Commented how education is seen as instrumental to a better life. Humm, no time to be getting into the human capital model … where gains for personal characteristic do work differently for different people.

I focused on outcomes… as being not only crucial for proposals, but also as a means for directing efforts…. Then took that buzzword “outcomes” to highlight the agenda for the day. Read the agenda and asked if anyone had anything to add to the list, … no one? then doved into the first item.

Let’s do our usual review of our previous class, but instead of just focusing on the last class, lets look at all previous weeks. Those who have presented and written and distributed an outline, lead a team up with someone who had not presented and discuss how to enhance their outline (if it needs enhancement). Heard some rumbling… and as I checked one by one…. was difficult to witness their having the outlines in front of them…. (oh my, I thought to myself…… how would this work in a work environment???? I realized I may need to signal in advance when I expect notes and copies of handouts to be organized and available for this type of exercise... ) Kept going around….. making sure that everyone had someone to work with…. And clarified how we are going to discuss the outline and gather what the main concept(s) where for the presentation…. And also asked them to assign the best example for the module. I acknowledge the difficulty in finding examples from others and even now as I write I am still wondering how to best show and tell about the examples gathered by everyone. Someone mentioned their portfolio being so large they could not bring it to class. Oh?... you are supposed to bring them to class… and kept asking students to get the outlines out.

"Half an hour for that…. And please make sure that the outcome is reached: An ideal outline, the identification of the main concept and an example to show it." Asked students for the outlines, some didn’t have them… (Humm, aren’t you supposed to have kept a copy? This is something I hadn't anticipated when I set up the activity.) One student pointed out that she didn't have her outline because she had handed her outline to me, suggesting , “In all fairness, I was told” she had re-written the outline, given it to me and not kept a copy for herself. I looked for my copy and brought it to the group. (Now I worry about having it returned to me, I need to have it back to give her the credit for the grade. It makes me uneasy not to have all my data to hand, the complete message.) And I kept moving to other workgroups…. How is it going here? Ok, …good!!!!

I mentioned that in work environments team work is often under pressure, and that performance is closely looked at by superiors. (omg…. Why am I nudging everyone to work so much today ????)… five minutes left!!!! Let’s see results!!! Made sure everyone was engaged in the task, and since students generally speak to me during the break went quickly to the bathroom. When I came back noticed silence… and the fact that the bell had rung.

Good, ok… let’s see… who is first?
I asked for groups to report… what recommendations do you have about the best outline. Suddenly it seemed like chaos…I took a deep breath…. What is this block with outlines…..??? The first group started with their reports. Yes… instead of narratives to write main concepts, in logical order and with headings…. Yes.. ok! And what are the main concept…..?

Module 10- clinical Intuition: hindsight
Module 12- cultural behavior
Module 14- persuasion, group influence
Module 16, conforming, compliance, persuasion and group influence
Module 18 social responsibility….

Humm, I pointed out that module 14 had concepts repeated in module 16???? They saw the logic…. I felt like pulling teeth…. What is the resistance….. I was building a generic outline on the board and as someone was reading their outline… I said… that sounds like a list… and proceeded to make a list… 1,2,3,4 and looked at the group….. the student she was crying! …what? !!! I thought….humm… wondered…. And another student started to argue with me about outlines…. And I thought… how can this be? I thought… I don’t know what is going on and can’t believe that my saying that I heard a list is a source for this tension. The student left the room in tears, and another proceeded in her challenge about my being wrong in how to write outlines… someone else complained about my style (being belittling) while explaining outlines. (why is this happening…. I could not understand that a review of outlines needed to be so difficult….I said…. “Let’s get back to this later, let’s start with presentations since we are dealing with the concepts of frustration and aggression today…”

We managed to get a general idea of an outline as follows:
Identification: Name, subject, title, etc.
I- Definition of terms
A state concept
i details
ii other details
B state concept
II Summary
III References

If you have an item (one), you need a second one (two…. ) And of course a letter or a number can follow…. No need to argue about such details…. Be consistent in whatever you do !!! Since there is a universal understanding of how to write outlines and reports, recommended them to use what they knew making sure they were consistent. We took an hour on this and I wanted to use just half an hour. I am finding it hard to shift away from the need to cover and discuss today's new material.

"Let’s set up the equipment for the presentation and take 5 minutes for fresh air."

During the break I spoke to the student who was in tears. What happened? I asked…. I tried to reassure her, and filled her in on the time she was outside the room. That we came up with an outline. I shared how I’ve cared so much for my work that I've cryed in front of my boss. There is a lot to learn from the incident, and felt sorry about her pain. I told her to ask her subgroup to give her an update about the outline discussion. I am not clear about what is going on…. And I trusted that I would find out.

Presentations went well…. Four of them, one after the other. I was please to get help in finding scorers for the rubrics and even setting up the timer… one of the presenters was using the timer to pace herself, nice! Interesting how each presenter has her own style, and how smooth they become as they “evolve”. And the evolving part is what I am trying to emphasize…. But later found out that by expecting enhancement, students are feeling stressed. As in, I am never happy with what they do…. Humm, perhaps they are not getting enough feedback? (Although the rubrics are feedback…) Or it is the uncertainty in the process? There is not enough time for me to do all I want to do…. Like giving them their current score for the class, or their outline back with my notes…. Feedback! And after telling them about the mirror exercise—5 minutes daily saying good things about yourself to yourself. I proceeded to tell one positive thing to each person in the group.

There was interesting discussion, as always. We spoke about how we have to become critical thinkers and that arguing and criticisms was not critical thinking. Also we acknowledged that difficulty in listening and following direction was related to being overwhelmed, and that by disconnecting and snapping in alarm, created a negative atmosphere ….. omg…. It is very frustrating to repeat myself and having to concern my self with disciplining the group. I expect respect, responsiveness and initiative…. It was not the first time I had given the same directions…. “give me the homework printed… not electronically, and I do expect you to have the handouts and examples, we will be working with them here in class.

One of the topics was aggression. Discussion turned into not tolerating aggression, the disarmament argument…. We all need to get rid of arms! How do we do that…. Would aggression be accepted as a defense? The discussion was labeled as utopia and I kept it up… as in we need to act, otherwise we become… (what was the word I wanted….) ahh, otherwise we collude, we support what in fact we dislike. I didn’t have a prescription for social change, but I was certain that aggression is not acceptable! And certainly not in the classroom!

Close to the end of class asked for observations… and there was an acknowledgement of the strain of my leading a difficult group. I was recommended to keep the focus on the task, and not to get into the personal dynamics. … that is always a good advice…. Of course, thank you.

The class ended and most left quickly.

For some people communication is always a win/loose interaction. How can apprehension become trust?

Hopefully looking at the mirror for five minutes each day saying positive things to yourself would help. And I made a contract with one student to do that this week, she volunteered to keep a journal. Wow, great I thought… feeling good about that arrangement! Wonderful to end the day on that note… and I wished her well.

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once again you comment on personal issues that occur in the class that does not need addressing on the internet. The conversation that you have with a student one to one is just that "one to one." The entire class feels and is frustrated with the outcome of the class. Everyone in the class is there to be at the top of the class and receive a grade of passing, not failing. Are you expecting your class to follow your footstep and not ask question and take your comment at face value? To me that is not learning or even teaching someone in this type program because we are individual who have a lot to offer to others and that is how you learn, from others as well as the teacher. As for the aggression in the class it is more or less frustration through aggression. But I like I have stated before I will continue to do my best and if that is not enough, in order to receive a grade that reflects my efforts then I know in my heart I did my best and my best was not good enough for this teacher.
Karen, has it crossed your mind that the issues in your class is maybe in part your fault? Some of the students have stated that you are unclear as to what you want. Also that you are inconsistant and occasionaly rude to them. Many have stated that you talk down to them. When a student of excellance has been brought to tears...This would make me say "UGGH or SIGH" as you often state about them. Considering Social Psychology, it is how one reacts to, percieves and understands their enviroment. Clearly they are frustrated with you and your teaching style. The enviroment is causing more stress to them. Considering they pay for you to be there, I would ask myself what do I need to do differantly for my current class to get the most out of this?
We are not a difficult group at all. We are just frustrated with a teacher that does not listen to us. Also if you want to post the information in the group then fine but keep all the personal class stuff out of this site. We can not tape class but you can post it for the world to read. Do you see that as OK? You say you want respect then maybe you should give us some too. We work very hard and to be knocked down by you is frustrating. I have never seen a student get so upset like that so that should be a reflection on you and your attitude towards us. There's a clue, take it.
My Two cents!
It seems to me, a spectator, that there are some serious issues for everyone involved.
Teacher: The rubrics for class sound wonderful but where is the application?
If these are expectations/requirements to fulfill the course description then they need to be clearly and effectively relayed to the class without prejudice or the perception that the teacher is of supreme intelligence.
One of the primary goals for any educator should be the student's success, thereby measuring the teacher's success.
Adult learners are different than your typical college student due to the experiential component they bring to the table.
As such, they deserve mutual respect as adults with same/similar responsiblities and or challenges as that of the instructor.
Another consideration: irregardless of class size or age, different learning styles require different approaches to ensure that each student's needs are met, especially when a subject matter may not be as concrete.

Confidentiality: This is of supreme importance in any psychosocial situation! A learning environment should be a safe environment. You CANNOT have two sets of rules in the class.
Subliminal message: do as I say but not as I do.
Another aspect to consider is that these students are customers of this college, paying for a service and if the service or product is inadequate, then they might be entitled to compensation or a refund.
So as they are expected to attend, particpate,do the assignments and be prepared for class, they don't deserve nor are they paying to be mistreated and demeaned.

Once trust has been violated, the intergrity of the class is jepordized and the motivation of the class is blocked. If there is NO TRUST; no learning!

Which unfortunately in this case also seems to be hampered by inconsistencies in clarifying expectations. You can say the same thing but in different ways to get your point across with the primary focus being that everyone understands what is expected of them.
Creating an atmosphere of frustration is not conducive to learning for any age.

People learn value when they feel valued.

All students should feel that the instructor has their best interest at heart.

A teacher should always remain teachable!

"Seek first to understand then to be understood"

But, that's just my 2 cents!
I am used to the concreate expectations set forth by our insitution and was thrown when the expectations put forth by our professor had no limits. We find this difficult not because we do not want to achieve but because we want so much to do just that. I find myself continuously striving for more because I don't know when to say I have had enough. With out limits I keep going because I know I will never achieve excellence. My thought is that there is always more to learn, always a way to improve and do better. This class and teaching style would be so much better if a letter grade wasn't required. We could all achieve to our potential and feel the acomplishments that we have made. But instead we are confined to applying a progressive learning/mentoring style to a liner feed back system.
I'm reading over your blog and i think the great thing about the blog is you can read over and see the whole thing again, to see where you can learn.

I see you mention three times about needing outlines for an exercise and students not having it, and in the heat of the moment it seems you don't know how to respond to change your plan of action, so you kind of repeat your own expectations of how you were going to set it up. This happens to me too, and it is kind of easier the second time round teaching a course when you know in advance the kind of things you can expect students to know, have with them, and you know how to be clearer in asking for things to be prepared in the previous class.

One way (oh how easy is hindsight!) might be to ask who does and does not have an outline, once you notice it's a problem, and then to brainstorm together with students a different way of reviewing or an alterhative activity for students who do not have an outline with them, the main aims being 1. review and 2. peer-mentoring on working on outline. Easy to say that afterwards, I tend to get fixed on doing what I had set up and find it hard to adapt, myself, so there's something for me to notice and learn from there too, thanks.
Just amazing, never saw a teacher and her students talk about their classes in such a way. Personally, I'd love to get a feedback like this from my students and then have a mentor to talk it over and find ways of improving things. Well, I guess, not everyone can be that lucky..
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