Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Empir(esists and Millenials) strike back: Micro-learning in pronunciation teaching and elsewhere!
Talk about a flash from the past . . . If there are any survivors from the Behaviorist/Audio-lingual teaching era still with us, this report may just make their day.

Micro training/teaching/learning is back, but in some ways new and improved, I think. We've known for sometime now that the optimal attention span length for today's "video-media-phytes" is shrinking, down to somewhere around 3 or 4 minutes. Our overall attention span as a culture has been shrinking rapidly in the last 3 decades, in fact. But if that is the case, what do we do with the other 47 minutes of the 50 minute class? Micro-learning, or the shift from courses to resources, to the rescue.

Here is a nice definition and suggestions for using micro-learning from Steve Penfield at

"Microlearning is sometimes defined as simply providing learners with tiny bites of learning material, rather than longer-form modules or courses. These tiny bites could be interactive videos, podcasts, quizzes, and more. But it’s their length that is key. We’re talking two to three minutes max. And learners should have some choice about what they use and when." 

 He then provides 5 tips to keep in mind when micro-ing it:
  • Start with challenges
  • Create a scale
  • Use sources and rules to personalize the learning curve
  • Reward learners for their progress
  • Include milestones to highlight progress
And 3 key questions:
  • How can we create pathways that are personalized for our learners?
  • In what ways can we work in spaced practice?
  • In what ways can we use live data to motivate and encourage learners, while making the learning experience more social for them?
Several important notions there, other than your basic behaviorist recipe: (a) milestones of progress, (b) spaced (systematic) practice, (c) more engaging social learning and practice experience, and (d) use of "live" data. Any of those will add substantially to the effectiveness of your teaching, in general, but they are especially relevant to pronunciation work. Please let us know how you utilize any of those effectively in your method. Subsequent blog posts will focus especially on (b) and (c).

1 comment:

  1. The 5 tips and 3 questions are valuable -- whether or not the underlying premise is valid. Is there any evidence that real learning can or does take place in 3-4 minute snippets? Or has our technology rendered people conditioned by it incapable of learning anything that takes sustained attention and practice?