MET Assignment Proposals
MET assignment proposals | Robert Haines | May 7th, 2004
Here are three brief and informal proposals for MET I've been kicking around (or is it the other way 'round?) I'd appreciate any feedback on how manageable and feasible you find them, based on your own experience and knowledge.
1. Scaffolding: How can I better practice scaffolding, as discussed by van Lier, Bruner, et al at the macro-, meso- and micro levels to support the learners in their English language acquisition, and is it possible to measure short-term results of this scaffolding? What does it mean practically for classroom management and interaction to scaffold in this way?
2. Reading: About half the class has told me they read English but think in Spanish when doing so, while roughly the other half says they read and think in English when encountering the same text. A couple of the students claim to be in the middle of these two groups, making the transition from the former to the latter. Can I expedite the process for learners like B., who says she doesn't want to think in Spanish but can't help herself? Is this a natural process that must unfold on it's own terms? Is this related to inner speech?
3. Learning to learn: A few of the students are struggling to keep up with their peers at the college. The program director has claimed due to a lack of English. At the same time, he's mentioned that these students don't seem to have 'learned to learn.' It seems they don't have the study skills necessary to think critically about the material and exploit the lectures and texts. Can I help these students become more successful by helping them develop more effective study skills?
Re: tighter focus & specific research question | Jake Kimball | May 6th, 2004
Just thought I'd write to you since I just went to a presentation/report on #1. I'd also like to mention that your choices lack a tight enough focus (a skill I'm still working on in my own writing). Can you rephrase your questions to be more specific?
#1 I see as the most practical and focused of the three choices, although I think it still lacks a tight focus. The issue of how long it takes may be beyond the scope of a MET project. However, I'd say that the results of 'proper' scaffolding would show immediately in the Ss' discourse that follows (content and length). Compare before and after--or teacher A w/ scaffolding and Teacher B w/o. This would make for a good IIC assignment.
#2 is vague
#3 shows promise but is also very vague. Learning to learn is covered under SLA and strategies. It can also be done via a qualitative and/or quantitative project. I'd suggest a tighter focus by comparing the difference between 2 classes when one is taught a specific strategy (maybe notetaking) and one class that that hasn't been taught the skills. Give a comprehension test. Write up differences.
Just my 2 cents,
Re: tighter focus & specific research question | Robert Haines | May 6th, 2004
Thanks, Jake. Your comments make sense to me. The action research you've mentioned reminds me of my ignorance in scientific matters, along with my slight aversion to scientific study.
I don't believe that any two focus/study groups can ever be the same, nor can the conditions under which they are studied. There are so many variables, e.g. mood, time of day, energy level, and relationship to teacher... the list goes on and on. I understand that science has it's limits, although I think Scientism likes to tout Science as a sort of religion to save all humankind.
At any rate, I'll work to tighten up those questions, which might help me focus.
Thanks again for your comments,
Re: MET Assignment Proposals | Martin Lovatt | May 7th, 2004
Good to see you're wrestling with MET, too. (I hate to suffer alone...) I'm in the writing stages of the assignment (finally), and I've already missed my self-inflicted deadline. (So what else is new?)
Anyway, I'd like to offer a few comments re. your MET proposals, but as a caveat please bear in mind I've only completed FND so far, so expertise is not something I can offer you in these matters.
As Jake said, I think your proposals could be elephants on the horizon (mine certainly was!). When you get up close & personal they're going to be massive projects. Steve and Julian (both in FND and MET) remind us several times to keep the focus narrow and I thought I did so...until I started to see the project growing out of control. Fortunately, it seems acceptable to report on 'interim results' for the assignment so that's where I'm heading at the moment.
I'm very interested in your 'learning to learn' (number 3) concept though. If you think some of the students are doing okay while others are not, maybe you could do a three-phase type of study:
Research what exactly it is the 'better learners' are doing (and the others are not) at the moment. Maybe the better students could then 'buddy up' (a la diving), with the less able students and share ideas about study skills.
Identify what other study skills the students have.What I mean by this is find something they're good at outside of language learning, get them to identify the specific learning skills that enabled them to be good at whatever the other thing is (it could be anything; cooking, tennis, geography etc.) and then help them to adapt the learning skills they already have to their L2 studies.
After a period of say a month or so, compare the learners outside L2 study activities with their original ones and see how things have developed.
I realise this is a very qualitative type of study, so we're not talking rocket science here, but at least some of your students might learn to utilize skills they already have (but just hadn't thought about applying them to their L2 studies before). One added benefit would also be the students would become aware of just how important it is for them to study outside the classroom (much more than in the classroom, of course).
Anyway, sorry if this is all a bit half-baked. I'm just trying to throw out a few ideas -- and my excuse is I just got out of bed so the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.
Good luck with narrowing things down.
All the best,
P.S. Tried a few ideas from the DOGME suggestions -- it's got a lot of potential. I've had a couple of very good experiences with it so far. I'm not sure what the students think as I haven't surveyed them yet (no time), but it's certainly caused me to rethink my ideas about text.
MET Assignment questions | Martin Lovatt | May 7th, 2004
In answer to your questions:
Would student journals of study habits be acceptable as a source of data? Somehow I need to collect info. on what's happening outside of class.
I think this is a question for Steve, really. (Personally, I think study journals are an excellent source of data.) However, if they're written in a very individual way it might be difficult for you to collate the information you need. How about making a kind of table or something for your learners to fill in once a week for four weeks or however often you think it would be useful (as long as your students don't mind, of course). It does get to be a bit invasive after a while, but if you have their interests at heart and explain it to them they will probably be helpful. Depending on the level and age of your students, it might be good to explain you need information about their study habits and ask them for their preferred way to supply you with it. Might make a good 'project class'. anyway, I'm sure you can figure out a good way to do it. (You could also use the ubiquitous questionnaire. I know it's unfashionable, but it's something the students can submit anonymously if required, and as long as we keep its shortcomings in mind I think it's still a useful tool.)
We've had some fruitful discussions on effective study habits in class. Will I be flogging the proverbial dead horse with this project? Sounds callous, I know, but I want to be realistic.
I think this depends very much on the approach you take in defining good study habits. Although there are many lists available regarding the kinds of study habits good L2 learners have, they are generally prescriptive or generalizations. I think you could look for specific things the students have done in other areas in which they have succeeded and see if they can adapt them to improve their English learning skills. Personally, I think study habits are very important and need constant review and refreshment so I don't think you're 'flogging a dead horse' with this kind of study. (It would be nice to hear some other CPs opinions on that, too)
Anyway, If I were you, I'd put together a couple of rough ideas and ask Steve for his advice on how best to proceed.
Hope this is of some use in stirring your mental fires.
All the very best,