When teachers start to think on their next school year, there are a couple of things that quickly come to their minds: What to do and how to do it.
There are many ways to find how. Nowadays, we can find resources and ideas in a massive list of sources: Doing searches in search engines (google and many other), following tweets related to ELT, or ELT blogs. We can also follow curated sites ELT-related (Through Scoop.it, for example, or delicio.us referitories.
Workshops give us ideas on methodology and innovative approaches… experienced teacher trainers and colleagues provide with lots of fresh ideas on how to achieve our goals and how to do it in a motivating way…
But all these ideas, suggestions, tools and experiences would probably be worthless if we did not know why, where, and when to use them. That cannot be achieved if we don’t know what we want to achieve, what we want our students to learn.
Those so called didactic goals have dramatically evolved along the years. Time ago we had many professionals whose main goal was to ensure that students can take in as much grammar as possible… I suffered that in my childhood French lessons. later on, we moved into reading… we wanted our students to be able to read English texts… big deal! When it came to speaking, many of those students were not able to ask how to get to the nearest tube station in London.
Fortunately, things evolved and teachers began to realise that the only way to say that students succeed in learning a language is when they are able to use it in a communicative way. Most (I repeat… “most”, not “all”) teachers try to elicit our students speaking and listening abilities… and that has become a key element in the goals of today’s ELT.
In order to establish clear outlines about the previously mentioned “WHAT”, once we assume this communicative approach is paramount, we must be able to establish those goals, those objectives that will allow us to set the pace for a proficient achievement in our students’ learning process.
The ABCD model has turned out to be a good example of how to set those objectives as we prepare our schedule for our groups. The guidelines and information we find in Penn State Learning Design Community Hub page give us a clear overview of this approach on the Audience, Behaviour, Condition and Degree elements that make up for the ABCD Objective definition methodology.
We must also consider the adoption of the “Competential” approach used by many other colleagues. It is really valid when it comes to establishing communicative goals, as it sets the objectives that define the skills and abilities a student must achieve when he/she becomes competent in the use of a foreign language. The competential approach could be very well related to the establishment of degrees of linguistic skills by language users as seen in CEFR in Europe or ILR in the U.S.
What, how… interrogative elements for a single answer… our students’ success.
I agree with you that whatever questions we ask ourselves we should awlways bear in mind that all our efforts are for the sake of students’ success and this should be the center of our attention. So, I would add one more question to your “WHAT” and “HOW” – WILL MY STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM IT?
As for the methods used in teaching I think the shift from Grammar Translation Method to Communication in the center of attention is what Neil Armstrong called “a giant leap for the mankind”, in our case ESL mankind!
Very good post, Ricard.
I also think that listening and speaking skills are essential and it’s not always easy to make our students competent in those areas or to create absolutely measurable objectives there because it’s a competence. Of course we can describe accuracy levels, but they are often subjective, even if we try to follow what the CEFR states.
I try to develop my students’ speaking skills as much as possible. I find that’s what is really necessary whenever they travel or meet people from all over the world. And if they are fluent at speaking, it’s not reading and writing that will become a problem.