2007/05/24

Guidelines for ideal language learning activities (I)

Which are the elements or characteristics that describe optimal language learning activities and environments?
Joy Egbert (2005, CALL Essentials: Principles and Practice in CALL classrooms, TESOL) identifies the following conditions for classroom language learning:

Any language lesson should support conditions for optimal classroom language learning environments regardless of the tools used. These conditions based on research from a variety of literatures, have been characterized in different ways, but a general list (Egbert & Hanson-Smith, 1999) includes the following eight items:

  1. Learners have opportunities to interact socially and negotiate meaning.
  2. Learners interact in the target language with an authentic audience.
  3. Learners are involved in authentic tasks.
  4. Learners are exposed to and encouraged to produce varied and creative language.
  5. Learners have enough time and feedback.
  6. Learners are guided to attend mindfully to the learning process.
  7. Learners work in an atmosphere with an ideal stress/anxiety level.
  8. Learner autonomy is supported.
Now let's compare these optimal environmental conditions with Chapelle (1998) hypotheses, derived from the Interactionist Theory, for developing multimedia CALL:
  1. The linguistic characteristics of the target language input need to be made salient.
  2. Learners should receive help in comprehending semantic and syntactic aspects of linguistic input.
  3. Learners need to have opportunities to produce target language output.
  4. Learners need to notice errors in their own output.
  5. Learners need to correct their linguistic output.
  6. Learners need to engage in target language interaction whose structure can be modified for negotiation of meaning.
  7. Learners should engage in L2 tasks designed to maximize opportunities for good interaction.


It seems that the focus on linguistic form (hypotheses 1 and 2) and learners error noticing and correction (hypotheses 4 and 5) are not present in Egbert's conditions (although "learners having feedback" is somehow related to "error noticing"), perhaps because these refer to environmental conditions and Chapelles's hypotheses refer to materials development. Another difference is that Egbert's emphasis on authentic tasks and audience is not present in Chapelle's list.

The characteristics of learning activities are mainly defined by the type of tasks learners are engaged in. Doughty and Long (2003) used Task-Based Language Teaching theory to derive ten methodological principles, or language teaching universals, which may guide the design of ideal tasks. ...

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safemeds said...

'I think these are excellent strategies to teaching, but also I think that something really important is the attitude of the teacher and the creative activities they can develop.

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