Thursday, December 20, 2012

Situating pronunciation practice with "directed thinking?"

Clip art: Clker
So how do you get learners to regularly practice their pronunciation, either as homework or using self-directed spontaneous strategies? There are many approaches, from pleasure to pain, but the most widely tried are strategies such as "getting them to focus on the L2 identity or think about either why they should do it or what their desired outcome will be." Turns out those approaches may not be the best way to do it.

In a  2007 study of strategies for enhancing exercise engagement by sedentary college sophomores by Eyck, Gresky and Lord (summarized by Science Daily), it was found that "directed thinking" about what they could do to increase the likelihood of their being able to do their conditioning routines, that is the actions they could take to facilitate that activity--rather than why they should (desirable outcomes) or the exercises, themselves--produced significantly better results. They had been instructed to first create a list of such beneficial or enabling activities that they could do and then daily, at a regular time, mentally review the list for eight weeks. Exercise persistence and increased levels of conditioning followed.

Perhaps most importantly, the approach of Eyck et al. addresses what are often the most common impediments to practice: scheduling conflicts and manageable "temptations." (May be one reason I have worked with so few "fossilized" accountants over the years!) Having learners plan their week's practice in class is often effective, as is working with the pragmatics of "context management," i.e., how to set up people around you to practice on. From that perspective, there should be no excuse for no practice. 

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