Friday, September 21, 2012

Virtual boundaries in pronunciation instruction

Clip art: Clker
 If a picture is worth a thousand words, it appears that a virtual boundary may be even more valuable in pronunciation instruction. As reported by Science Daily, a series of research studies by Lee at Columbia, and Zhao and Soman at the University of Toronto have demonstrated that those who see themselves " . . . in-system individuals [those who perceive themselves as being inside a virtual boundary of specific types] demonstrate increased action initiation, persistence in completing tasks, and overall optimism." Those types of situational boundaries include, for example, visual markers of waiting queues, recurrent verbal messages indicating one's precise place in a system, or imagined pathways. What the research suggests is that once one moves inside the boundary, what they refer to as the "in-system boundary," either figuratively or literally, the effect can be striking.
Clip art: Clker
The parallels in pronunciation work include (a) visual schema, such as vowel charts; (b) auditory schema such as model sentences used in instruction and practice; (c) kinaesthetic schema such as range of motion of the lips, tongue and jaw in articulation; (d) tactile schema such as points where teeth touch the lips; (e) somatic schema such as vowel resonance; (f) situationally, the boundaries present in signalling a time interval identified for attention to pronunciation or focus on form, and, of course, (g) haptic-integrated schema such as EHIEP pedagogical movement patterns which terminate in touch. The key, of course, is how those boundaries are established, maintained and managed. Step outside yours for a bit and consider how they function for your students. If they are problematic, it may well be time that you get more in touch. 

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