Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stop assigning pronunciation homework! (Unless it is systematic and you follow up on it!)

Clip art: Clker
Time to check your homework . . . How's this for a formula for success: Instruction (in class, f2f or online) + out-of-class-work + student ability and initiative. You with me so far? The key factor is often said to be the last one, which entails motivation and a number of other more personal variables, including being organized and disciplined. 

It is always good to have "just blame the student" (or his or her genes) on the list of legitimate excuses for lack of progress. It is, of course, the insidious flip side of metacognitive practice: train the learner how to manage his or her learning in and out of class--and then he or she is on his or her own. 

How does your homework or out of class practice regimen work? How do you know? Do you care? 

As reported is several other blogposts, the research on homework is extensive (in the field of Education and others) and all over the map. Every disciple speaks to that process is some fashion, even car manufacturing

Many intensive language programs (20+ hours per week) program in systematic practice on site or online that involve monitoring and assessment. Good for them. I'm only interested here in instruction where pronunciation is not the sole focus of the class but is integrated into other skill and content teaching. (Haptic-INTEGRATED)

Just as an example, a guideline, here is the general EHIEP approach:

Systematic homework practice is "the bottom line" of Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) teaching system. Basically, when a word or phrase containing a problematic sound or sound process (e.g., rhythm, stress, juncture or intonation) is targeted it should be assigned to a list of some kind and briefly practiced by the learning outside of class about six times over the course of two weeks. (To understand what targeting and "haptic practice" is about in this method, check out the general description on the website.) The practice times and work done should also be noted in some kind of journal or "pronunciation log" for continuous review by the instructor. 

We should do a book on this--or at least develop a good comment thread on the topic below! There is a new appendix in AHEPS, v3.0 (rolling out this fall) on homework protocols. 

Keep in touch--and do your homework.






3 comments:

Tom Tabaczynski said...

This is a very interesting and important issue. I've done some reading on learner autonomy, self-directed learning, self-access, etc. before I got started with teaching online.

One conclusion is that you don't need teaching to have 'teaching presence', esp. it seems that asynchronous means might be better for online than synchronous.

So, I have found non-blended classroom situation very limited in terms of tracking independent study: sts need to follow the system, if they are absent from the class there is no tracking, etc. Lack of conformity + absence/falling out of step => system virtually collapses.

By contrast, online there is no need for lockstep progression, and most systems allow for some sort of tracking.

So on Moodle, I have completion tracking set up which tell me what the sts have completed, how regularly they log in, etc. It's up to me how controlling/dictatorial I want to be! I find that sts respond positively to this, esp. when they know that I know that they're starting to procrastinate.

I'm currently trying to figure out a good system for the word lists. My preference would be to use Quizlet.com, as I see it as ideally suited to spaced out retrieval practice. It's my no.1 online educational app. If the sts are all in the same Quizlet 'class' and label their sets properly, I think this would allow me to check that they're doink ok.

As for practice times, I set up a Google Form which is embedded in the Moodle course and sends the information to a spreadsheet in my GDocs.

I'll let you know how this works out.









Bill Acton said...

Just checked out Tom's recommendation of Quizlet.com for flash cards. I can see why he likes it. Likewise, his Moodle-based management system for keeping track of what students do and alerting them to when they are not keeping up are about as good as I have seen. That said, what he is doing is still based on the assumption that the role of out of class work is essentially "practice" or reinforcement of what has been initiated, introduced or "taught" in class. Students are urged, encouraged, cajoled, threatened or whatever to motivate them to do additional work on their own.

Providing opportunities and keeping track works some. The point of the post is that from the student perspective, however, homework is far too often not seen as critical or integral to learning, only "a choice" or "responsibility" or "opportunity to excel," so to speak.

Tom Tabaczynski said...

I think we are on the same page here Bill, but I haven't perhaps been explicit enough that my approach is better described as 'counselling' than 'teaching'.

"train the learner how to manage his or her learning in and out of class--and then he or she is on his or her own."

I have actually thought about this a lot and have done a video or two on 'learner training' vs. 'learner autonomy'. David Little (advocate of the European Language Portfolio) has been one critic of the interpretation of autonomy/independence whereby sts begin in a state of dependency and then are 'trained' to become more 'autonomous'.

Little argues that learners are autonomous, but that they still expect teachers to teach. He also argues that learner autonomy depends on teacher autonomy. He then advocates (what I would view as) 'self-management' tools like the ELP which provide the means of goal-setting and self-assessment.

So how you implement this depends on each teacher's interpretation of these ideas. My interpretation is that I provide opportunities for students to set or negotiate learning goals, various forms of feedback/formative assessment, and a relatively transparent study program that satisfies these goals. Also, while I do some teaching, emphasis is on 'teaching presence' because of the affordances of online delivery.

So on my system, rather than homework being an optional appendage to teaching, self-study is in fact at the centre of the system, supported through teaching presence (as opposed to teaching or direct instruction). Moodle and Quizlet satisfy the requirements for this.

I don't teach and then set homework. Sts do the self-study material that we agreed on and then I provide feedback. There is continual negotiation, clarification and feedback. So far my results have been very enouraging although this works better with some sts than others and I must be willing to learn and adapt.

I might add that this transition from a teaching-centred to a self-paced study model is I think the central feature of what is referred to as "flipping the classroom".

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