Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teacher-Centered is bad!

These days, all the current ELT research, no matter what perspective it's coming from, advocates student-centered classrooms.  And for good reason!  Teacher-centered classrooms, beyond the very, very basic level of learning a language, or for extremely young learners has largely proved to be very ineffective at creating students who can actually communicate in a meaningful way. 

Just the other day, I was teaching across the hall from one of my colleagues and could overhear his/her (identity secret!) class.  It was teacher-centered to the extreme.  Like this person basically was "on-stage" shouting out vocab words quite loudly for 20 minutes out of the 50 minute class.  There were only 1 second breaks in between the words.  It was bizarre and I couldn't quite believe that this was actually happening in a university classroom.  What did the students actually walk away with at the end of that class?  My guess is probably absolutely nothing except maybe a headache. 

Here are a few tips to help make your classroom more student-centered:

1. Groups.  It's all about partners, or groups of 3, 4, or 5.  Beyond that is often too big to be effective.  Mix them up, randomly.

2. Set-up an activity (give them a task) and let students do it.  Supervise and give gentle correction or feedback, but don't interfere if they're doing a good job. 

3. Lecture, if you must, but only in 3-5 minute intervals.  Students will not pay attention for anything beyond that.  Then, use some activities to get students to practice what you just lectured about.

4. Think of your job as more of a "coach" than a traditional "teacher."  You're guiding students to correct language use, not uploading it into their brain. 

5. Challenge students.  Give them tasks that are big and not so easy.  Encourage them that they can do it.   Support them and give help when necessary.  Praise them when they genuinely meet the challenge and do a good job. 

1 comment:

Claire Gillis said...

Sigh, this is exactly how my Director wants me to teach.....I'm leaving this week!!