Tag: teaching methodology

Review: Successful Group Work – 13 Activities to Teach Teamwork Skills

Review: Successful Group Work – 13 Activities to Teach Teamwork Skills

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Many teacher manuals encourage the inclusion of group work in class activities, naming benefits including increased productivity, creativity and motivation. Still, to make the most of group work tasks and these advantages, teachers and learners must be aware that working in a team involves navigating certain challenges, which some basic training can help with. In her new book, Successful Group Work, Patrice Palmer therefore presents a selection of activities which aim to foster the development of the relevant skills and maximise students’ learning in group tasks.

You can find out more about the book, including other reviews, here. And here is some more information about the author, Patrice Palmer:

Patrice-Palmr-Portrait-150x150Patrice Palmer taught English for speakers of other languages for twenty years before parlaying her experience into a business. She now teaches online courses, writes English-language-teaching materials and blogs, and designs courses. Palmer received her bachelor of arts degree from York University, Canada. She holds a master of education degree in teaching, learning, and development from Brock University; a second master of arts degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; and an OCELT certification. In addition to teaching college-level communication courses, Palmer has developed English-language curricula for Hong Kong secondary schools and vocational programs.  She also wrote An A–Z Guide: How to Survive and Thrive as a New ESL Teacher and Dream Beyond the Classroom: The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit.

The activities Patrice presents aim at building a foundation for good teamwork, and can help students to develop skills that will therefore be useful even beyond the classroom setting. They are not aimed specifically at language learners, but can be used in any subject classroom – though the target group of language learners is quite obvious in some activities.

Thirteen activities are presented, which each train a particular skill relevant for successful group work. They seem to roughly follow the ‘Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing’ stages of successful team formation: Some are most relevant at the initial stages (e.g. team building), and some towards the end of a group project (e.g. reflection and evaluation). Patrice’s suggestion is the activities should function as a complete course, training students to work in teams, and should all be worked through before they embark on a group task. Still, the activities can also be used individually, for example to focus on a specific teamwork skill that students need to improve, as they are relevant to different stages of a team task.

Many of the activities require very little preparation, and the instructions include realistic timing suggestions (there are shorter and longer activities) that can help teachers with quick planning. Patrice has provided examples of words, questions, checklists etc. that can be used for the activities, and these could also help teachers to develop their own more targeted version of the activities presented here. The instructions also include ‘debriefing’ questions which can promote fruitful discussions and help students reflect on their learning, which I find a particularly good idea – especially if some students are not keen on group work, this kind of discussion may increase their receptivity to such tasks.

In the appendix, Patrice has also provided some ideas on how to group students (e.g. alphabteically, according to study programme, counting off), which will be an excellent resource for novice teachers and those wishing to ‘spice up’ their classroom groupings.

In general, I was aware of most of the activities presented here, often from business settings, but having concrete ideas for how they can be used in a classroom is very helpful. The book is targeted at secondary / post-secondary learners, but I feel some adult education class groups may dislike the nature of some tasks – I can imagine some of my adult learners (German businessmen!) feeling they’re a bit ‘childish’. Still, explaining the goals of the activity might help here, and especially the activities involving moving around or physically demonstrating group-work outcomes might also loosen up any tense or tired groups of adult learners, too.

In a nutshell: for novice teachers this collection of activities might provide new ideas, and, for any teacher, having them all collected in one place is very handy. The structure of the book is clear, the instructions are easy to follow, and overall this seems to be a convenient resource for teachers wanting to promote the development of useful skills for group work and for life!

The Audiolingual Method

History

  • The Audiolingual Method is a further development from the Direct Method and the Coleman report.
  • Due to the War, a need arose for more oral communication , and so, in 1942, an Army Specialized Training Program was devised by five American universities. This was further developed by Charles Fries and from the mid 1950s, it was the American approach to ELT.
  • The method is similar to the Oral Approach developed around the same time but independently in the UK. It is based on a systematic linguistic comparison of English with other languages and on intense contact with the L2, rather than a pedagogical methodological grounding. It consists of a combination of linguistic theory, contrastive analysis, aural-oral procedures, and takes the principles of behaviorist psychology as a starting point for classroom practice: Language teaching is a science which follows the same principles of learning through conditioning.

Approach

  • The Audiolingual method is based on a theory of language which sees speech as the main component of language. In line with the structural linguistics ideas of the 1950s, the theory holds that elements of language are produced in lineal, rule-governed way, and that language can be exhaustively described in terms of morphology, syntax, phonetics. These linguistics levels are seen as systems within systems (e.g. phrase, clause, sentence).
  • The theory of learning behind the Audiolingual method is behaviourist theory and the specific principles of conditioning through stimuli, responses, and reinforcement as described by Skinner (1957). The underlying belief is that L2 mastery is achieved by acquiring a set of correct stimulus-response chains, and that grammar is learned inductively.

Design

  • Objectives – In the short-term, the Audiolngual method  aims to train listening comprehension, accurate pronunciation, the ability to respond quickly and accurately in speech situations. In the long-term, the goal is that learners can use the language as a native-speaker does, whereby reading and writing skills will be learnt dependent on the previously learnt oral skills.
  • The Syllabus  is structured according to linguistic structures, with a strong lexical syllabus component.
  • Classroom Activities include drills (e.g. transposition, replacement, completion), dialogues, and repetition of the teacher’s utterances.
  • Materials – There is usually no students’ textbook for beginners, but the teacher’s book has individual lesson plans with drills, dialogues etc, as well as audio recordings, audiovisual material, and ideas for language lab usage.

Evaluation

The Audiolingual method was most widespread in 1960s, used for ELT and MFL teaching in the USA. The method’s focus on grammatical accuracy remains important, even in methods and approaches developed later.

However, the method has been harshly criticised, particularly for its unsound theoretical basis in terms of language theory  and learning theory.

Many also criticise that the learners are often unable to transfer skills acquired to real communication situations. It is said that the method leads to “language like” behaviour, but not to real communicative competence. Chomsky, too, claims that the Audiolingual method teaches language as a habit, and not as an active skill.

Students also often complain that the procedure is repetitive and boring, sometimes even frustrating as they are rarely able to express their thoughts and meaning.

From the 1960s onward, the method fell out of favour.