Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do your (pronunciation) homework exercises!

Clip art: Clker
One area of pronunciation instruction that I have been unable to find anything but anecdotal research on is the effect of students' systematic practice outside of class. I have been convinced for decades that if I can just get a student to do prescribed homework on schedule, progress is inevitable and predictable. Just for fun, I once had a student read the phone book every morning for 15 minutes, just focusing on speaking clearly and warmly . . . amazing improvement! (I suspect that accounts for the "success" of some online accent reduction programs:  just do something regularly, almost anything!)

For HICP work, the best parallel is research and practice in physical exercise persistence. In this doctoral study, done in a US upper middle class health club, it was shown that (a) autonomous self direction, (b) basic exercise competence level, and (c) relatedness (identifying with group, such as "the fit" or the club) predicted exercise persistence in terms of duration, intensity and enthusiasm. One factor, need support or perception of a "caring" context by the club, was not significant. (Will do a blogpost on that one shortly.)

Setting aside the obvious cultural dimension that foregrounds "autonomy," those four factors, when adjusted appropriately for the learner population go a long ways in helping us understand how to design homework that will keep learners engaged. In our work, the basic haptic protocols should provide a 10-minute aerobics-like foundation/warm up for homework that the body is more apt to go along with for starters--until the rest of the brain comes on line. So if your students don't do their homework, at least do yours . . .

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