Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Advice on pronunciation teaching: What do you expect?

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
According to Warrington of Asia University, asking questions in a class discussion such as '“What do you need to learn in this class?” and “Why do you need to learn that?” offers an avenue for adult learners to express their preferences and desires about the kind of language they want to learn and how it is relevant to their lives."' Ever done that? If you have--and were satisfied that you had accomplished something--you might want to rethink that, according to research by Liu of UCSD and GAL of Northwestern. What they found was ""Stating expectations tended to make consumers focus on themselves and their own needs, and . . . (as a consequence) created a sense of distance between the participant and the organization . . . " Soliciting advice, on the other hand, " . . . tends to have an intimacy effect whereby the individual feels closer to the organization,"

So how do you achieve the right balance between setting up (often unrealistic) learner expectations and doing an effective needs analysis that serves the real needs of both you and your students? In pronunciation work that can be especially problematic because just conceptualizing what the learner's problems are is difficult enough for the instructor, let alone the learners.

If you must carry on that kind of dialogue involving pronunciation--and I generally do not recommend it--one of the better ways is to manage it in the appropriate channel: personal, pronunciation journals, not general class discussions. On the other hand, asking students for their ongoing input on how things are going and advice on how you could improve use of class time in a confidential format, based on clearly stated goals and objectives for the course,  can be enormously helpful, if done right, where expectations for that kind of openness and candor are invited and well established. So what do you expect? 

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