Saturday, April 26, 2008

Carol Everhard's take on 2 sessions in the LASIG Programme

Carol Everhard’s take on two presentations in the LASIG Programme

Andy Barfield’s Presentation

I had really been looking forward to Andy’s presentation as I am a particular fan of collocations. I have always encouraged students at an advanced level to take note of collocations as I believe that words in isolation are of no use to anybody. I confess that I was really curious to find out how Andy would link their study and use to autonomy in language learning.
While Andy had some pretty enlightening facts to reveal from his study and research of his students in Japan and their reactions to collocations, this was something that the audience had to discover and uncover for themselves as Andy chose to use a workshop format for his presentation. The tasks we had to complete involved reading various sets of student’s notes and then exchanging and comparing information with members of the group to which we had assigned ourselves.
Essentially, what we discovered from the colourful handouts that Andy distributed amongst us was the very worthwhile strategies which his students adopted in dealing with collocations, as well as their very positive attitude towards collocations and their progress with them. This information had been gathered in four different formats, namely, 1) retrospective mindmaps; 2) interview logs; 3) notes and extended reflections and 4) interview extracts.
We all found the data very interesting and some very interesting interaction and discussion developed within our groups. Indeed, if we had a medal to award for the most popular speaker of the LASIG Programme Day, then it would go to Andy, who drew an audience of close on 60 people, who were all most appreciative!
Congratulations are in order, but I would temper this with the comment that IATEFL designates 60-minute slots to workshops in the conference programme and this subject definitely deserved an hour of conference time! Well done Andy!

Mitsuko Matsuo’s Presentation

It so happened that I had the pleasure of meeting Mitsuko a few days before her presentation. This meeting and the time we spent together at the Antiques Fair down by the Quayside in Exeter and the purchases I had seen Mitsuko ponder over there had aroused my curiosity. We had not spoken much about our personal lives, so when I saw her enthusiastically buying little toy figurines and witnessed her admiration of some very fine old children’s picturebooks, I had imagined that they might be destined for some young appreciative English-speaking relatives. But I might have guessed….. Once a teacher, always a teacher! Do we ever really totally switch off from our roles of Teacher and as Facilitators of Learning?
The reasons behind Mitsuko’s purchases were revealed as Mitsuko’s presentation unfolded. The students that Mitsuko deals with at Showa Women’s University in Tokyo, Japan are students of Early Childhood Education. Mitsuko outlined for us the broad subject areas from which students select their project topics. Mitsuko had obviously done a lot of background research and had not just chosen Project Work because students enjoyed it or learned something from it. She discussed the role of the teacher in Project Work to be that of 1) facilitating, 2) monitoring, 3) clarifying and 4) providing information. The arguments in favour of Project Work apart from it being fun and an opportunity to practice English were, according to Wicks “a chance to do something meaningful with the language” and were thus motivating, while Tomel et al claim that it “offers many solutions to the problems faced in the university classroom, including increasing the amount of input students receive, making the content more applicable to the students, and encouraging them to be creative and imaginative.”
Mitsuko had brought some examples of her students’ handiwork with her all the way from Japan – colourful posters, illustrated stories, beautifully-made hand-puppets and much more. She also had some interesting data and statistics to show us concerning the reactions of her students to this way of working and this together with the examples of work clearly illustrated Kagan’s 4 Basic Principles of Cooperative Learning:-
1) positive interdependence
2) individual accountability
3) equal participation
4) simultaneous interaction
What came across from this whole presentation was the clear symbiotic relationship that exists between Mitsuko and her students. They are inspired by her everlasting youthful enthusiasm and the same quality in her students is what seems to inspire Mitsuko. Of course, there will always be students who see Project Work just as a task to be done, but it does seem to enable others to make quantum leaps and is therefore well worth pursuing. Thankyou Mitsuko!

No comments: