Journal of an SLA student
This course has opened my eyes to a whole new world I was only slightly familiar with before this fall. I am often surprised at how I managed to survive and seemingly succeed for so long without the knowledge I have gained this term. What was even more surprising to me is that I have always thought I was a good teacher. This belief has been supported by the general consensus among students and superiors. I am quite literally humbled by the amount of information and reflection this course has provided me. I feel like I have greatly improved my knowledge base. The thing that has been most noticeable or surprising for me is the idea that students are testing out hypotheses in class. While this might not sound like such a major point, it has truly changed the way I perceive interlanguage as it relates to in-class activities. I have long been a supporter of a student-centered communicative classroom. When communication is thought of as a time to test out hypotheses, communication tasks take on even more importance in my mind. I know think of class time as a safe and comfortable place to try out new expressions and grammar with the help of a capable person who is more proficient in the target language. This notion has completely reformed my idea about classroom interaction. As a result, I have a new interpretation of such things as the eye contact that students make with me. Now I see some eye contact as a way of saying, “I think I said this right, but I am not exactly sure. Could you please give me a sign that my guess is right?” Similarly, I see some eye contact as, “I don’t think I am saying this right, but I will keep talking until you give me a sign either way.” This thought of output as hypothesis testing has changed what I do while students are in pairs and groups. While I feel I used to do a reasonable job at both scaffolding and collecting student errors while students interacted, I see a new dimension. I now think that a nod to show that a student is speaking well can go a long way, and a slight shake of the head or a confused look can also do a lot to show students their hypothesis is not exactly right. What is more important than the slight changes in my teaching practice is the way I view classroom speaking.
MG sez: I found the above literally lying around my house and thought I would publish it here (with..umm…permission from the author of course). Three things struck me as the most interesting and noteworthy points above. What caught your attention? The first is how he talks a lot about the importance of knowledge, but also talks about what I might call awareness. At the start there are quite a few mentions about the increase in the knowledge base. Perhaps this is the assumption of many, that learning anything is ultimately just an increase in knowledge. The second striking thing was how he finished by stating that the new views and perceptions about teaching are more important than any specific changes in practice that have occurred. This might also diverge from the thoughts of many. I mean, if changes to practice are not so important then why pay all that money to do an MA and spend all that time studying? I can’t shake the feeling there must be an expectation of some changes, on some level, in terms of practice. No? The third thing really hit home with me was the idea of “succeeding” in teaching without really knowing much about teaching. I think this can be done quite easily, especially when the measuring sticks for success are unclear. If success is determined by something somewhere between not getting fired and smiles per hour then how much knowledge, skills, and awareness do we really need? Is this an argument against doing an MA? I guess not.