Part 1: how this should be conducted
Learning process is like a tango performed by two: teacher and learner. And the music they pick up dictates all the vibes and success of the dance. In the learning process, the role of music plays the teaching method.
So, choosing the perfect music for each dance, erm… I mean, the perfect teaching method will affect your student’s motivation, interest, and hence her performance and progress.
You, as a teacher, should lead your learner’s dance. Let’s see what you need for that and how to start.
First question you need to address is how a language learner absorbs new information. Secondly, you should look for ways to make this journey most efficient. For this, you should consider your student’s personality type, learning style and goal. All this together reveals which teaching method should be applied.
Here is the formula:
personality type + learning style + goal = teaching method
So, how to define your learner’s personality type? In understanding your learner’s individual differences, there is no need to have a degree in psychology. You should observe your student from linguistics’ perspective. What dominates for her when perceiving something new: sensation, intuition, thinking or feeling? There are various ways to explore this.
Personality tests are one option to do this, your own observations are another one, performing different kinds of role-playing games and in-class surveys come to add the two former ones. The first step is done. Assumingly, you have found out that for the targeted student feelings are most powerful indicators.
As next, let’s see how this trait reflects on your student’s learning style. By this term the scientific world refers to the way in which the student absorbs, processes, comprehends and retains information. According to the most accepted model, VARK, there are four main learning preferences: visual, auditory, reading and kinaesthetic. I will not go through each of them in this article.
Keeping in mind our “feeling” student, let’s reveal the most relevant learning style for her. Again, you can identify this either by learning style test, or by your own observation or by in-class activity (or think your own way of doing this). Voilà, and the other variable is in your pocket! Your student who is caught to be an auditory learner. This means, she needs to listen and talk to better understand the study material.
The endpoint in our pre-investigation is learning goal. This seems quite an easy job to handle: just couple of questions are enough. Let’s assume our imaginary student informs that he’s planning to apply to Humboldt university in Berlin next year.
So, here are our puzzle pieces: your learner
processes information emotionally
prefers auditory learning style
wants to study in Germany
Building up the hypothetical portrait
Let’s see what to do with our treasure trove. Our “feeling” student is probably going to look for sensual connectivity with the text rather than analytical structure and logical patterns. This means, you should adjust and reconstruct the study material with these expectations. On the other hand, you should keep in mind that she is an auditory learner who is inclined to talking and listening in order to better reflect new information. Here comes the third variable: learning goal. Remember that your student has academic goals she wants to reach by learning a new language? Summing up our findings, we state: the study material should not just arouse your student’s sensual feelings, contain more audio content, but also be enough academic. Not an easy task to fulfil!
Tailoring the best teaching method
In contemporary linguistics, scientists differentiate between ten teaching approaches. As a teacher, I am sure, you are familiar with all of them. That’s why I will pass the description part here. I just want to mention the most commonly used ones: grammar-translation, direct, audio-lingual, communicative and task-based learning. Having the pre-conditions in mind, let’s pick up the most suitable teaching method for our hypothetical student.
From the first sight, it might seem that the audio-lingual teaching method is the most matching one because of your learner’s propensity to auditory learning style. But taking into account that he acts by his emotions and feelings you switch into communicative approach. You think this method opens doors to more questions. Communication means listening and talking so your student would feel emotionally more confident and in the meantime this would go in line with his preference to auditory learning style. You already start digging into communicative method more deeply and suddenly realise that you’ve missed out one important thing: Your student has a one year to get the university entrance language test. Oops! This means, he needs more than a training method which triggers his impulses and propensities. That’s why you single out grammar-translation method with proper grammar, logically structured rules and not less logically explained exceptions. Finally! You worked your fingers to the bone but you did it.
So you take the excavated method and hurry to the learner to tell him the exciting news! Together you’ll start your journey to the cherished university test.
Days pass by, but the results are not satisfying. Your student is still not sure where which verb tense to use, how to pronounce this or that word and the listening skills leave much to be desired. You ask yourself: how come? You examined your student so thoroughly and worked so hard to find the perfect language teaching method and ease your student’s life.
Do you have to go the same path back to see where you stumbled? And this time not for one student but for the whole class?
No worries. We’ll do that together!
Next time let’s see how the language teaching in class is happening in reality.