Wednesday, July 4, 2012

To bee or not to bee: in class vs one-on-one pronunciation teaching

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
The clipart of the "lazy" bee in the last post reminded me of what a line of research on honey bees has revealed about the striking impact on learning of individual vs group or community based learning. In essence, what happens is that older forager bees, when brought back into the hive to take on nurturing "duties," experience a significant increase in ability to learn again. The analogy here to pronunciation work will be evident to anyone who has worked with changing the pronunciation of older L2 learners: studying in small groups is generally far more effective than tutoring. (I'll post a case study related to this idea shortly on the EHIEP "data" blog.) Clearly, social practice is critical for almost any integration of pronunciation change, but experience (at least) has shown that it is especially so with "fossilized" students. There have been a number of posts that have dealt with parameters of effective social practice and how to manage it in this field. I have not been able, however, to locate good, empirical studies of that "old bee vs new bee" phenomenon in the general adult learning literature, but I'm certain it is there. (If you know some of that research, please let us know!) How do you keep your classroom buzzing with excitement--or learning?  "Apiarical" linguists of the world, unite!

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