Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Are you an "intelligent" pronunciation teacher?

A Fluid-, Kinaesthetic- and Haptic-intelligent practitioner, that is!

Putting together a light-hearted battery of adapted tests to run on my students this summer, something of a "(haptic) pronunciation teaching aptitude" test. It has four subtests:

1. Fluid intelligence - The geometric task described is always very revealing--and predictive. (from Wartenburger, et al., 2010) - Full citation below. Excerpt from the abstract:
" . . . perform very efficiently in problem solving tasks and analogical reasoning tasks presumably because they are able to select the task-relevant information very quickly and focus on a limited set of task-relevant cognitive operations. Moreover, individuals with high fluid intelligence produce more representational hand and arm gestures when describing a geometric analogy task than individuals with average fluid intelligence."

2. Kinaesthetic intelligence (There are many informal tests that work fine) and this from Turkmen, et al. (2013) - Full citation below. Excerpt from the abstract:
" . . . a significant positive relationship between bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence and internal motivation sub-scales and significant, weak negative relationship between bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence and a motivation."

  3. Haptic intelligence (original test, not available) or something like this one.
A few subtests from the test for the adult blind description: (Done blind folded)
  • assembling puzzle parts such as cubes
  • analyzing dot patterns
  • examining and reproducing peg board patterns
  • identification of the missing part of an object, for example, a comb with a missing tooth
  • blocks with different sides of varying textures are rearranged to resemble patterns on plates

4. Salad dressing preference test (One of my favourites, invented by a colleague some time ago. Just ask teacher trainees to write down their salad dressing preference and why in exactly 150 words. Generally accomplishes the same thing as 1, 2 and 3 combined!)

If you haven't got time to do the first three, at least try the 4th, yourself. Keep in touch.

Full citations: 

Turkmen, B., Bozkus, T., Ocalan, M., Kul, M. (2013) A Case Study on the Relationship Between Sport Motivation Orientations and Bodily/kinaesthetic Intelligence Levels of University Students
World Journal of Sport Sciences 8 (1): 28-32, 2013. DOI: 10.5829/idosi.wjss.2013.8.1.1186

Wartenburger, I.,  Kuhn, E.,  Sassenberg, U., Foth, M., Franz, E., van der Meer, E. (2010). On the Relationship between Fluid Intelligence, Gesture Production, and Brain Structure.  Intelligence, v38 n1 p193-201 Jan-Feb 2010.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

ADHD and good pronunciation teaching: Move it or lose it?

Have had this "intuition" for decades that most (if not all) great conversation and pronunciation teachers are basically ADHD or close to it. Conversely, great reading and writing instructors (and all tenured researchers in the field) tend to go in the opposite direction.

During my decade in Japan I was fascinated by one of the tenets of the Aikido school of martial arts: Do not block the thrust of your opponent but redirect the energy and movement for your purposes. That is also a first principle of early elementary education, especially in dealing with boys . . .

Now comes a study by Shaver and colleagues at Central Florida University, summarized by Science Daily - full citation below) demonstrating how leaners with ADHD function and learn. In effect, they learn better on cognitive tasks when they "squirm" as they do, to quote the researchers. Apparently what is happening is that the movement is activating areas of the brain controlling executive/control functions to maintain alertness. But here is the more interesting finding:

"By contrast, the children in the study without ADHD also moved more during the cognitive tests, but it had the opposite effect: They performed worse."

That must apply to adult learners as well. The delicate balance between the  facilitative role of movement and gesture in pronunciation teaching and the potentially disruptive effects is key. Pronunciation teaching is, of course, somewhat unique in that regard, some aspects are more motor-training-centered; others are more cognitive in nature, such as rules and explanations. 

This study helps in understanding more about how movement affects or interferes with some kinds of  cognitive processing--and the obvious aversion to kinaesthetic work by some on the other end of the ADHD scale.  We know that most cannot learn better pronunciation just by talking or thinking about it--or by simple, mindless repetition. It does suggest what an optimal instructional model may look like, however . . .

A modest example: Haptic pronunciation work is based on the idea of managing extraneous, random movement so common in unsystematic (but enthusiastic) use of gesture in the classroom, while at the same time still keeping both mind and body engaged. Try it or something like it. (It is impossible to sit still while you do!)

Full citation:
University of Central Florida. (2015, April 17). Kids with ADHD must squirm to learn, study says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150417190003.htm

Monday, April 13, 2015

Prosody practice, pragmatics and attending skills training

At the upcoming, Annual BCTEAL conference in Vancouver next month, Angelina VanDyke and I will be doing a new workshop, one based on an excellent presentation that she did last year, entitled: Pragmatic Attending Skills Training for Oral Skills Classes

Here's the program summary: 

Clip art: Clker.com
"Being able to better facilitate development of pragmatic competencies with ELLs is a priority of most programs.  This workshop gives participants experience in combining attending skills training with prosodic pronunciation teaching techniques to enhance use of conversational strategies and responses appropriate to a variety of socio-cultural contexts."

And this excerpt from the proposal:

"This workshop uses a combination of attending skills training (Ivey, 1965; Acton & Cope, 1999) and select procedures derived from prosodic pronunciation teaching to create a framework that facilitates systematic attention to pragmatic strategies and appropriateness, with learners of a wide range of general communicative competence. [It] begins with a general overview of the use of pragmatics applied to conversational interaction teaching, followed by training modules in attending and haptic pronunciation teaching techniques."

The key to the integration of prosody and pragmatics in this case, as we have seen in research in haptics in general, is systematic use of movement and touch to "embody" prosody and expressiveness. Instruction and "uptake" of the pragmatic dimension of the interchanges take place in short dyadic conversations that provides context and opportunity for on-the-spot informal conversational analysis and anchoring of key expressions and speaker intention.

(Pragmatically speaking!), even if you are new to haptic pronunciation teaching, this one should be more than worth attending! (Check out this previous post on an attending skills workshop done at BCTEAL in 2012.) 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Love your English Consonants Repair Workshop!!!

Clip art: 
This is big. I love English consonants, most all of them. I didn't always. My relationship with them changed when I was introduced to Lessac's Use and Training of the Human Voice. In Lessac's system each consonant is identified with a musical instrument of the (classical, Western) orchestra. To "do" the consonant, then, the student "impersonates" the instrument, perhaps even by acting out the
movement associated with it. (My favourite, by the way is the N-trombone.)

Our haptic approach takes Lessac as a point of departure and adds touch and conscious attention to movement in various ways. Of course, most good consonant work entails some degree of tactile and kinaesthetic awareness. (Speech therapists have an advantage on us in being licensed to actually touch their patients! We use coffee stirs instead!)

May 23rd, 2015 at the BCTEAL Annual Conference at UBC in Vancouver, BC we'll be doing the FIRST Consonant Repair Workshop EVER! We have been trying to get this proposal accepted at a conference for several years now with no success. (I do not give up easily!) The basic comments from reviewers have often been something to the effect of: "Who cares?" "Segmental issues (vowels and consonants) are not that important." "Not a high priority!"

That attitude is changing, as research points out how for some learners from diverse L1's (such as Vietnamese) certain consonant issues can be exceedingly disruptive to intelligibility and need to be addressed early in instruction.

Join us!

Here is the abstract:

This workshop presents haptic-based (movement plus touch) techniques for improving pronunciation of select English consonants. Depending on participant preference, included are: th/th, f/v, l/n, r, s/z, sh/zh, y, w, voiced final consonants and initial consonant aspiration. It is appropriate for relatively inexperienced instructors of middle-school age learners and older.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Executive indecision: pronunciation teaching overthink and attention management

An essential problem in contemporary pronunciation teaching with adults (as opposed to children) is that it entails both highly "physical" and "cognitive" engagement. I think it is safe to say that most methods, as evident either explicitly or implicitly in available textbooks, leave the question unresolved by presenting both type of exercises and explanations--and letting the instructor and learner figure out how much of what to do when. 

Intuitively, we understand that too much analysis, explanation--or worry--probably does not help all that much in being able to learn how to pronounce or remember a sound or word. I have often poked fun at what I term the "hyper-cogs" in the field who overemphasize meta-cognitive side of instruction, that is insight, planning and explanation at the cost of sufficient attention to the physical side of the process. 

Now comes a fascinating study by Grafton of UC Santa Barbara and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University (summarized by ScienceDaily.com--see full citation below) that identifies the culprit: excessive activity in the frontal and the anterior cingulate cortices of the brain.

In essence what the study demonstrated was that those subjects who learned a task involving identifying patterns and responding by pushing a button FASTEST had significantly less "activity" in those areas of the brain responsible for executive functions, managing thought and critical functions. (Recall that Asher's initial interest in Total Physical Response teaching of language was based on the concept that faster learning was generally more successful as well.) 

There could, of course, be a number of reasons for that finding which probably involves overall mental functioning, but the implication for instruction is interesting: More efficient teaching and learning of skills that involve physical patterning, such as pronunciation, should consider carefully the balance of attention to executive functions (conscious analysis and explanation) and embodied training (kinaesthetic, somatic and tactile involvement). 

Probably the answer for us lies in understanding better the changing qualities of attention (awareness) in the sequential tasks of ongoing, moment-by-moment pronunciation instruction.  From our perspective, haptic work involves almost continuous attention to and monitoring of what bodies are doing during the lesson. Think of that as the baseline that explanation and reflection are then "added on to" and you'll be on the right track. 

Record one of your classes or segments of one and review it from that perspective. And, of course, keep in touch. 

University of California - Santa Barbara. (2015, April 6). The brain game: How decreased neural activity may help you learn faster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 8, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150406121348.htm

Monday, April 6, 2015

Power Posing as (but) feelings of confidence?

There was a well-publicized study and TED talk in 2010 by Cuddy of Harvard School of Business that demonstrated that "power posing" (striking and briefly holding a confident pose) actually made you feel more confident and showed up in changed action and blood chemistry. Those findings certainly resonated with our consistent observations as to the impact of embodied, haptic pronunciation teaching.

But now comes a new study by Ranehill and colleagues at the University of Zurich, calling into question the early research, (summarized by Science Daily.com -- see full citation below) that comes to this conclusion:
"This indicates that the main influence of power poses is the fact that subjects realize that the [sic] feel more self-confident. We find no proof, however, that this has any effect on their behavior or their physiology." (Emphasis, mine!) Feelings of confidence but no observable other effects? Really?

On the face of it, the new study does seem a fair replication, except possibly for this: subjects in the first study were students in the Harvard School of Business; subjects in the second: " . . . 102 men and 98 women, most of them students from Zurich . . . " (Emphasis, mine.)

Need I pose the question?

Probably not!

Full citation:
University of Zurich. (2015, April 1). Poses of power are less powerful than we thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150401084325.htm

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Haptic Highlights at TESOL 2015 - 3 (Hand to hand combat!)

Random notes from TESOL 2015 
Clipart: Clker.com
  • Hot topic: Identity
  • Hot topic: Teacher cognition
  • Waning topic: Action research (being replaced by more “empirical” quantitative studies before long that teachers don’t have time to do) 
  • Applied linguists were polled (at AAAL) and found to be not too concerned about application of their research to teaching or whatever
  • Shrinking number of exhibits and sellers of books, souvenirs and ethnic stuff – Some of that, of course, has to do with online shopping; some with bringing goods into Canada from US, etc. 
  • Twitter impact – The number of people not walking around with an iPhone- like device was negligible . . . 
  • Weather was generally windchill -5 to -15c but there was a tunnel that we discovered last day back to the hotel, 30 minutes away. 
  • 8 a.m. Plenary, in massive room, plus streaming – Unintended consequence: people were watching it from their hotel rooms and Starbucks
  • Small rooms for popular talks – Could not get in to 5 or 6 of them.
  • (Really) Cheap bags with no goodies in them – serious issue!
  • Expensive taxi from the airport ($60) or $3, 2-hour journey/adventure on public transportation
  • Recognition because of haptic videos on the web – Had several stop me and ask if I am me . . .
  • Expansion and development of education technology - probably the most significant “change” evident in the event. 
  • Conference attendance – classified, but apparently down substantially. (Some US visa issues, etc.) 
  • Ribbons saying what you are doing at the conference or what you did earlier – you could stick on as many as you wanted to. Started out w/8 but felt guilty and backed off to just one, deserved. 
  • Opening plenary – Inauspicious – 3 “veterans” began last gasp attempt to salvage the Communicative Competence model, outlining initially a 5-point framework by Richards which they never referred to again . . . 
  • Interest section quotas of presentations – The Speech Pronunciation Listening Interest section (SPLIS)--mine--like all others got a number of presentations on the program based on the number of proposals submitted. This year proposals were down; so were the number of presentations, from about 35 to 23
  • Haptic adherent – One conference attendee identified herself that way, as doing haptic pronunciation teaching. Great haptic metaphor, eh!
  • Staying awake during presentations – Had rough time with one talk but ran into colleague who loved it and recapped it for me immediately--before running into the presenter! 
  • Bathroom icons issue – the pic of the boy looked much too much like the girl . . . 
  • Bad food in exhibition area; spoiled veggie wrap was days beyond edible.
  • Cost for beer at President’s reception: $11 domestic and bad food as well: uncooked chicken and bacon, spoiled tabouli-like filling of pastry; rock hard, dried mini French bread slices
  • The Haptic Pronunciation teaching workshop could not have gone better!

Haptic Highlights at TESOL 2015 - 2 (Macdonald on Pronunciation and Identity)

Probably the highlight of the conference for me, personally, at least theoretically, was a presentation by Macdonald of Victoria University/Melbourne, based on his 2015 paper, “The tutor never asked me questions”: Pronunciation and student positioning at university, (See full citation below.)

Quoting from the abstract: " . . . puts forward a model for understanding pronunciation and its role in speaker identity formulation. Theory underpinning this model is based on sociolinguistic work on speaker identities as formulated through spoken interactions (Bucholtz and Hall, 2005)".

What Macdonald's framework provides is an intriguing approach to bringing together constructs from a number of fields of study related to pronunciation, including drama, music, voice training, sociolinguistics, paralanguage--and, of course, embodiment. The key is to begin from the perspective
Clipart: Clker.com
of learner identity as a point of departure, focusing on three of the five components of Bucholtz and Hall (2005): Positionality,
 partialness (the other two being, emergence, and indexicality).

Macdonald's striking conclusion in his TESOL 2015 paper, Pronunciation and Speaker Identity, cuts both ways. First, pronunciation, itself, probably does not contribute as much variance to L2 identity as is currently believed. Second, that a wide range of variables related to speaking production and social context must be taken into account to understand L2 identity formation and the relative role of pronunciation or accent in the process.  

And finally, the real impact of L2 pronunciation development at any point in time can ONLY be understood in the context of the identity of the individual learner, not in relative isolation. Will unpack the implications of Macdonald's perspective for haptic pronunciation work in subsequent posts.

Full Citations:
Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5), 585-614.
Macdonald, S. (2015). "The tutor never asked me questions”: Pronunciation and student positioning at university, Journal of Academic Language Learning 9(2), 31-41.