Category Archives: EFL

TEFLhybrid@JLU: Learning to Teach English in the Digital Age

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

TEFLhybrid@JLU (TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language; JLU = Justus Liebig University) is a newly developed course initiative which seeks to explore the potential of hybrid learning within the pre-service teacher education program at Giessen University. Broadly speaking, a hybrid format of course delivery combines face-to-face instruction with collaborative, increasingly self-regulated, online learning in virtual space to transform and enhance students’ learning experience (cf. Zibelius 2015). More specifically, hybrid learning refers to “a mixture of instructional modalities (i.e. onsite, web-based and self-paced learning), delivery media (e.g. the Internet, classroom sessions, web-based courses, CD-ROMs, video, books, or PowerPoint slides), instructional methods (i.e. face-to-face or technology-based sessions), and web-based technologies, both synchronous and asynchronous (e.g. chat rooms, wikis, virtual classrooms, conferencing tools, blogs, textbooks or online courses). The choice of a blend is usually determined by several factors: the nature of the course content and learning goals, student characteristics and learning preferences, teacher’s experience and teaching style, or online resources” (Klimova & Kacetl 2014: 478). At Giessen University, hybrid learning courses focus on the following nine dimensions of hybridity in learning and instruction:

In accordance with current research on technology-enhanced pre-service teacher education (cf. Benitt, Schmidt & Legutke (2019: 9), TEFLhybrid@JLU aims to reflect “the complex and multifaceted relationship between students, teachers, subject matter, and teaching and learning methods and technologies. It emphasizes the importance of the complexities of interactions between technological (e.g., using a computer program to teach pronunciation), content (English phonetics), and pedagogical knowledge (approaches and methods to teach pronunciation) in relation to specific teaching contexts (e.g., elementary school EFL learners in their first year learning the language).”

In short, TEFLhybrid courses @JLU seek to “not only build bridges between theory and practice but also, simultaneously, promote the growth of technological pedagogical content knowledge as an integrated dimension of language teacher education, taking into consideration dimensions of language, culture, and teacher self” (Benitt, Schmidt & Legutke 2019: 20). This graphic summarizes the underlying pedagogical concept (click to enlarge):

Developing language teachers’ digital competencies (Benitt, Schmidt & Legutke 2019) © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Typically, a TEFLhybrid course @JLU comprises four to six introductory classroom sessions (face-to-face), followed by six to seven weeks of student-regulated online learning (increasingly autonomous project work in small groups), and three to four final in-class sessions to give all participants the opportunity to present their project work. Throughout a hybrid course, specially trained student learning advisors (TEFLhybrid learning advisors) offer assistance both in technological and language pedagogical matters (weekly online as well as face-to-face office hours). Within this format, all interaction takes place in the English language (English Medium of Instruction Context).

“Current research in foreign language teacher education clearly indicates that keeping a learning log has a lot of potential for personal and professional development – for learners, teachers and researchers. […] The use of learning logs as reflective narratives has become an important instrument in teacher development research […] as they provide valuable insights into areas of interest that are very difficult to access otherwise” (Benitt 2015: 109). Thus, all students participating in a TEFLhybrid course are requested to keep weekly learning logs. The logs are usually peer reviewed; more complex questions arising in this process are discussed in depth with the course instructor.

In general, the TEFLhybrid team (see image above) typically starts planning courses six months before they are offered, employing pen and paper as well as digital materials, resources, and tools (here, in particular, the ILIAS learning management system). The next two slides are intended to illustrate the complexity (and hybridity) of the planning process (click to enlarge):

In April 2019, we launched the pilot course (“Designing an EFL Textbook Unit”), followed by two TEFLhybrid courses in Oktober 2019 (“Promoting Vocabulary Learning in Theme-based EFL Sequences”; “Fostering Oral Communication Skills through Task-supported Language Learning”). In April 2020, we are going to offer a total of four hybrid learning TEFL courses (“Developing Multisensory Material for Primary School”; “Mentoring Learners in Writing Activities”; “Fostering Language and Culture Education in the EFL Classroom”; “Evaluating and Producing EFL Textbook Units”).

Our research interest centers around the project’s possibilities and limitations as perceived by all stakeholders. A mixed-methods approach is taken by juxtaposing data emerging from questionnaires as well as from the data generated on the online platform (students’ learning logs). For further information, please visit our brand-new TEFLhybrid-Website @JLU.

Stay tuned for a first analysis of student evaluations of the pilot course …

References

Benitt, Nora (2015). Becoming a (better) language teacher. Classroom action research and teacher learning. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto (Giessener Beiträge zur Fremdsprachendidaktik / Giessen Contributions to Foreign Language Pedagogy).

Benitt N., Schmidt Torben, Legutke Michael K. (2019). “Teacher Learning and Technology-Enhanced Teacher Education”. In: Gao X. (ed.). Second Handbook of English Language Teaching. Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-58542-0_58-1.

Klimova, Blanka Frydrychova; Kacetl, Jaroslav (2015). “Hybrid Learning and its current role in the teaching of foreign languages”. In: Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 182, 477–481.

Zibelius, Marja (2015). Cooperative learning in virtual space. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto (Giessener Beiträge zur Fremdsprachendidaktik).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Tomlinson: Materials Development in TESOL – Trends and Issues (TESOLacademic.org)

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

TESOLacademic.org is a knowledge dissemination site which links the work of TESOL scholars to teachers, teacher-trainers, teacher-trainees, decision-makers and other researchers. Edited by Huw Jarvis, it provides a global forum for people to talk about how their published research, or an aspect of it, impacts on language pedagogy. TESOLacademic.org only posts talks about research which have gone through the peer review process and this ‘guarantees’ the quality of the submissions.

In the following video webcast, Brian Tomlinson gives an interview about current trends and issues in TESOL materials development  (click on image to view):

Compare with my nine-part series of posts on the role of the textbook in the EFL classroom if you like (please use search function in the upper right corner of my blog and type ‘role of the textbook’).

Developing Video Game Literacy in the EFL Classroom: A Qualitative Analysis of 10th Grade Classroom Game Discourse

posted by Roger Dale Jones, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany

The following presents a brief summary of my dissertation project (Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany) which focuses on the intersection of popular video games and the EFL classroom. Popular video games, the communities of gamers and even their forms of online communication (like fan-fiction, Let’s Play videos, game maps, etc.) present sources of English contact, as well as digital multi-literacies, for many young learners of English in Germany. Connecting to this contact and informal learning in the classroom can show the relevance of the EFL classroom to the everyday lives of young learners, provide them with skills and strategies for further English learning in digital gaming contexts, and introduce multiliteracies relevant for learning and communication in the 21st century. In order to support this connection, my study first defines video game literacy for connecting games and game-learning into the EFL classroom. Next, the project collects and analyzes empirical data on three 10th grade English classes in which game-topics, experiences and media were introduced to examine the affordances and problems of video game literacy in the EFL classroom. Finally, the study presents suggestions for educators, teaching materials designers, and future researchers.

Research Interest
This qualitative-exploratory research project aims at developing a model of video game literacy (VGL) to support learner participation in the English language cultural discourse on digital games. This approach recognizes digital games as a substantial source of English language contact and that digital games, as highly complex, interactive ‘texts,’ not only embed, but also are embedded in a complex network of cultural discourses. Until recently, the acceptance of other media, like literature and film, into EFL classrooms has been slow; nevertheless, initial attempts to define respective literacy models have already been undertaken. Digital games appear to have been ignored, as no model of VGL currently exists for the EFL classroom. This study addresses this gap by proposing a discourse model of VGL and by exploring the potentials and problems of EFL classroom game discourse.

Central Research Questions
The research questions address both the theoretical development of a discourse model and the empirical description of classroom game discourse. The first question addresses the theoretical, conceptual and empirical modeling of VGL including defining features and categories (and their interrelationships) of cultural game discourse. The second question explores EFL classroom game discourse to identify challenges and opportunities and investigates the potential of the cultural discourse model of VGL developed in the theoretical section as an analytical tool for understanding (and supporting) classroom game discourse.

Data Collection
Data collection focused on three EFL classroom case studies from various schools and school forms. Over a period of two weeks per case study, data was collected via videography, non-participatory observation, classroom documents and, when necessary, photographic documentation. In-class data collection preceded retrospective, semi-structured teacher and student (group) interviews. Multiple data collection tools and methods were utilized to enable data triangulation in the analysis phase.

Data Analysis
The first step of data analysis included identifying critical incidents in classroom game discourse based on observer field notes and videography, then identifying and reviewing further related data. Relevant videography and classroom products were transcribed, analyzed and coded using thematic and qualitative content analysis á Mayring that involved both a top-down process (applying the discourse model of VGL as an analytical tool) and bottom-up processes (inductive analysis of unforeseen events and patterns.) The analysis of individual data sources then underwent a process of triangulation in order to establish causal relations and increase intersubjective validation of results and findings.

Results
The central results of the study can be summarized in the following points:

Discourse Model of Game Literacy: The discourse model of VGL can serve as an analytical and categorical tool to identify and address the challenges and opportunities of classroom game discourse. Furthermore, it can also illuminate the complexity of classroom game discourse. The following points reflect the findings of this study and are organized according to the discourse model of VGL.

The Game: Game complexity and stark differences in background knowledge of students and teachers pose serious challenges for classroom game discourse. These challenges emerge in student difficulties conceptualizing and articulating game experiences and relating them to others, and in teacher difficulties developing suitable tasks and materials and in evaluating student contributions. The fictional world of games offers points of connecting classroom game analysis to existing teacher competences and classroom processes, while systemic aspects of games are largely ignored.

The Player: The topic of games is personal for both students and teachers. Video games play a substantial role in the identities of students, as digital gaming is bound up in their lives (present and past) and is a significant part of their social and familial networks (and memories). Though teachers are interested in the lives and gameplay experiences of their students, they are also concerned about the dangers of games and wish to initiate critical reflection. Questions concerning cultural, social and cognitive functions of digital games and play are largely ignored.

The World: Students and teachers have limited access to game discourse. This is in part due to the complexity of games and game experiences, to difficulties articulating game knowledge and experiences (especially on an abstract level), to differing background experiences, and possibly to the questioned value of games in a school context. As a practical application of real-life game discourse, gamification offers access to game discourse and initiates reflection on games and real-life institutions. The impact of gaming on the constitution of cultural worldviews is largely ignored.

Classroom Game Discourse: Teachers and students have discourse goals which only partially overlap. This is in part due to differing beliefs, values and intentions. Both teachers and students are interested in learning more about games and each other, but teachers are more interested in initiating reflection and articulation – focusing on negative topics of games – while students are interested in sharing their knowledge about and experiences with games. ‘Switching’ roles – or students taking on ‘teaching’ functions and vice versa – presents opportunities but also serious challenges.

Conclusion and Outlook
The discourse model of VGL reveals interrelated dimensions inextricably tied up in cultural experience, communication and discourse.  Empirical classroom research reveals complex interactions that constitute classroom game discourse and the differing goals, intentions and perspectives of teachers and students and, additionally, it reveals the challenges and opportunities facing the development of VGL in the EFL classroom. Perhaps equally important, however, this study identifies areas of further research and development. 1) Future research should focus on the model, its conceptual development and its operationalization into teaching methods and learning materials. 2) Future research should focus on teacher training, determining what skills teachers require to support VGL in the classroom. 3) Future research should focus on learners to uncover more about their (vastly heterogeneous) game experiences, articulation abilities and contact to the English language. 4) Finally, future research should focus more on the curricular integration of VGL to deal with the multiliteracies complexity of digital games and their embeddedness in superordinate networks of cultural discourse.

 

Creativity for Change in Language Education: The C Group

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

This is just to let you know about the C Group, an independent and informal grouping of EFL professionals from around the world. The group aims collaboratively to share information, promote reflection and inquiry, and enrourage action through more creative and open teaching practices.

I joined the C Group two years ago, because I share the group’s conviction that creativity needs to be reinforced in ELT, especially in the age of standards-based instruction and assessment. To find out more, please click here.

My personal creativity focus is on improvisation in structured EFL learning environments, as documented on this blog. In these three publications I explain in more detail how creativity and improvisation (performative creativity) can contribute to promoting learners’ oral proficiency in EFL classrooms:

Kurtz, Jürgen (2011): “Breaking through the Communicative Cocoon: Improvisation in Secondary School EFL Classrooms”. In: Sawyer, R. Keith (ed.) (2011): Structure and Improvisation in Creative Teaching. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 131-160. For a preview of the book, click here.

Kurtz, Jürgen (2014): “Promoting oral proficiency in the foreign language class: Improvisation in structured learning environments.” In: Chenoll, Antonio, Sieberg, Bernd, Franco, Mario & Lindemann, Verena (eds.) (2015): Falar: A Competência Oral no Ensino de uma Língua Estrangeira; Speaking: Teaching Oral Communication Skills in Foreign Languages. Lisboa: Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Cultura, 18-53.” For the online version, click here.

Kurtz, Jürgen (2015): “Fostering and Building upon Oral Creativity in the EFL Classroom.” In: Maley, Alan & Peachey, Nik (eds.). Creativity in the English Language Classroom. London: British Council, 73-83. A free online version is avaliable here.

 

 

 

53rd RELC International Conference 2018

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 53rd RELC international conference will be held at the SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, Singapore, March 12 to 14. The conference theme is “50 Years of English Language Teaching and Assessment – Reflections, Insights and Possibilities“. I really look forward to attending this conference because it seeks to provide opportunities for academics and practitioners to critically reflect upon and evaluate existing pedagogical principles and practices, and to envision a future that allows language educators to meet the needs of learners in an increasingly diverse world.

Main topic areas
– Exploring and responding to current and/or latest trends in ELTA
– Looking at or beyond intercultural competence
– Brain-based learning in second language acquisition
– Impact of globalization on language teaching and learning
– Research methodology in ELTA or Applied Linguistics
– Materials/curriculum development, selection, adaptation, and evaluation
– (Critical) Language testing/assessment
– Translanguaging and translingual practices
– Beyond native and non-native: 21st century teachers’ identities
– Role of technology in language education, change, and maintenance
– 21st century language teacher education

The list of invited keynote speakers is impressive. Check it out.

13th BAAL SIG LLT Conference 2017

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 13th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching SIG will come together again at the University of Central Lancashire (Preston, UK) from Thursday 6th July to Friday 7th July 2017. The conference theme will be: ‘Celebrating the diversity of language teaching’.

Language learning and teaching takes place in diverse settings around the world. The variety of contexts and acronyms such as MFL, EFL, EAL and ESOL can sometimes serve to highlight the differences within this diversity rather than the commonalities. Yet despite the apparent differences such as class size, language(s) learned, age of learners and reasons for language learning, there are many shared concerns. These relate, for example, to target language use, motivation, assessment, role of L1, language learning processes and teacher education.

This conference will encourage participants to consider how the realities of these different contexts throw light upon the many shared concerns that practitioners may have, and how we might all learn from one another.

  • What does research into language learning processes tell us about the impact of pedagogy in different contexts?
  • How does the learning of additional languages affect first language development?
  • What are the shared concerns of teachers of learners of different ages?
  • How do we assess language learning in different contexts?
  • What are the challenges facing teacher education?

Confirmed plenary speakers:

Professor Victoria Murphy, University of Oxford (EAL)
Dr Chris Jones, University of Liverpool (EFL/ELT)
Professor Suzanne Graham, University of Reading (MFL).

For further information, please click here. This is what I am going to talk about:

‘Employing augmented reality for adaptive learning in and beyond the EFL classroom’  

In many EFL classrooms in Germany, teachers use (and frequently overuse) textbooks and related materials and media. In consequence, classroom discourse is often textbook- and teacher-driven, with a strong focus on form and on accuracy. Taking this into consideration, this talk reports on current research into the development of a future generation of EFL textbooks and accompanying digital materials and media in Germany. The vision for the project is to create a mobile, interactive, and adaptive learning and teaching assistance system for personalized use in and beyond the EFL classroom. The talk will culminate in the presentation of the ‘Zoom-App’, a multimodal prototype software application designed to enhance self-regulated language and culture learning by overlaying supportive digital content onto the physical textbook page.

 

MIDTESOL 2016 Conference: Innovation and Improvisation

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

Midtesol 2016 Conference Kansas City

The MIDTESOL Annual Conference 2016 will be held September 30 to October 1 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown in Kansas City, MO. The conference theme is “Innovation and Improvisation“.  I have been doing qualitative research on improvisation and improvised speaking for about twenty years now, so I am very glad to say that my proposal for a paper entitled “Structure and Improvisation in the EFL Classroom” has been accepted for presentation. This is what I am planning to talk about:

Improvisation is a complex phenomenon that has attracted little attention in foreign language learning and teaching research until now. Since improvisation is not only related to cognition and competence, but to goal-directed and spontaneous behavior and performance as well, it is difficult to bring in line with the traditional view of teaching as transmission of knowledge and skills, i.e. of delivering a prescribed curriculum, attending to a particular methodology, following a specific procedure, actuating a lesson plan, and interacting in pre-arranged ways. Moreover, since it encompasses attunement to a situational context (including attunement to others, also referred to as ‘tact’ or ‘tactfulness’ in scholarly discussions), spontaneous decision-making, and problem-solving, improvisation also contrasts with current educational ideologies and trends that place extreme emphasis on standardization, outcome-orientation, and testing.

In my video supported talk, I am going to illustrate and discuss the potential of improvisation for flexible (or ‘adaptive’) instruction in the EFL classroom. I will also present an instructional framework for enhancing oral proficiency which is based on the assumption that increasing the improvisational demands on EFL learners by confronting them with progressively less predictable communicative settings and scripts can contribute substantially to the gradual transformation and expansion of their participatory repertoires in the target language English.