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Language Awareness Methodology in ELT Learning and learning styles Teaching Business English Teaching General English  

Language Teaching Methodology

In ELT there are a lot of methods and approaches. Which method or approach to choose to make learning most effective? This is a question every teacher should seek answers for. To me the best way to teach is trying out combinations of methods and approaches. It is rather interesting to investigate your own teaching and see what can be improved. Here is my analysis and view of which methods and approaches I use in my teaching and where there is place for improvement.

1. Introduction

Since the beginning of my teaching carrier I have been teaching only adults but starting from September 2008 I began to teach students of different age i.e. young learners, teenagers and grown-ups. Thus I have great opportunities to investigate how things work for different categories of learners. In my investigation I decided to concentrate only on one age group because I consider teaching adults as my strength and would like to develop even more in this direction. I would like to investigate the following points:

  • How I start and finish my lessons

  • The range of interaction patterns I use in my classes

  • The roles of teacher and learner in my lessons

  • I chose the above points because I think the beginning of the lesson is the time of setting goals for the learners and the end of the lesson is the time of evaluating, assessing and looking at the extent to which the goals were met. Looking at the range of interaction patterns in my lessons will provide me with more understanding of how to make my lessons more diverse and access every learner. The role of teacher and learner is something I have never really considered as somewhat important whereas the roles of teacher and learner are very varied and changing roles is what makes learning process multifarious.

    2. How I start and finish lessons                                                                       

    Looking at how I start lessons I can say that not always I am able to set a clear picture of what will be going on in the classroom today and what the goals are for the learners, although I think I am quite good at engaging students into the topic and establishing rapport.  When preparing a lesson a teacher must answer the question “How can I challenge them? - Every learner, whatever their age or level needs to be challenged. If there's no challenge then there's no learning. If there's no learning, there's no motivation.” (Jo Bertrand http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/primary-tips/lesson-plans).

    I started one of my lessons with the activity of reconstructing the text. Thus I wanted to begin my lesson with something students can cope with easily. The text to be reconstructed belonged to the topic “Interview” that we have been studying during a series of lessons. The topic of the new lesson was “Making Presentations”. So, it would have been better to connect the first task with the topic of the lesson. This could be the engaging stage for the subsequent task. On the other hand, that was a rehearsal for the students of how to prepare for the interview. Besides, this activity was aimed at receptive skills rather than productive and then developed into production (speaking) which was challenging as the students had to memorize a paragraph.

    I started my other lesson with a different group from the request to brainstorm what kind of finance there can be, but it seemed to be rather unexpected and puzzling for students. There was some period of silence and I could see puzzled faces. I was sure that my students knew what kind of finance there can be and thus I did not bother to prepare a clearer lead-in activity. When planning a lesson it is a good idea to anticipate possible problems that might occur. I should have given my students more scaffolding, maybe I should have asked prompting questions. I presume that silence was the result of students being either unsure of what the teacher wants to hear from them or being very unconfident in their knowledge of the subject. Jerome Bruner “stressed the importance of encouraging guesswork and intuitive thinking in learners. This will only occur if learners feel self confident to take risks…..in order to encourage this process Bruner recognizes that teachers need to be able to ask the right kind of questions” (Williams and Burden, 1997:26).  So, I should have prepared a number of questions to lead my students to the answers rather than just put the answers on the board. This situation was not the only one in my teaching, so I have to work out the procedures to avoid it. Sometimes I do manage to engage my students and get them into “English speaking” frame of mind as well as involve them into the topic.

    The end of the lesson should be logical and summative. To my mind the students should have a clear picture of what knowledge they got today or during the series of lessons. They should be able to reflect on what their goals were and if the goals were achieved i.e. “monitoring their own progress against their goals” (Williams and Burden, 1997: 206).

    Judging from my classroom research data I can say that I am not always successful at finishing lessons. In one of the lessons I looked at,  my timing was poor and the activity did not reach the aim. I think students might have had a feeling of the job done in vain. On the contrary in some of the lessons I have a great activity to do e.g. the checklist of new vocabulary students have learnt in this lesson. Everyone had a chance to check if he/she remembered all the words. Thus all the students had a clear picture of what they have learnt through the lesson and could see their own progress.        

    3. The range of interaction patterns I use in my classroom

    All learners are different, with different needs and objectives, personality types and learning styles (Williams and Burden, 1997). Thus a teacher is at a great challenge to seek for the ways to address and cater each learner. In all my classes I use different techniques and interaction patterns to make sure the learners of all types have something to take.

    Looking at the observation notes (taken during lessons) I can see that after individual gap fill students seemed to have lost their attention and then I seemed to make it even worse reading the answers aloud. After this there was group work but it seemed to be poor as the task was puzzling and difficult. Later in the lesson I swapped the pairs and the students got really more woken up and started to work more enthusiastically. This makes me think that a teacher can make a lesson more active and effective by changing pairs, grouping and regrouping so that even a boring topic can be learnt in a livelier manner.

    In one of my lessons  students did a communicative task i.e. they had to find the best way to invest money in order to help the company stay in the market. This was an example of Task-Based Learning (TBL). The principles of TBL are:

    “-Activities that involve real communication are essential for language learning.

     -Activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning.

     -Language that is meaningful to the learner supports the learning process” (Richards and Rodgers, 1986, p. 223).

    What I could see is that everyone was fully engaged into this activity and eager to give their opinion. When a student did not know the word in English others tried to help.  The use of language was spontaneous and I was surprised to see how many clever and unexpected ideas students produced. “Teachers must encourage direct and spontaneous use of the foreign language in the classroom.” (Richards and Rodgers, 1986, p. 11)

    Very often in my lessons a group discussion transforms into talk with the teacher involved. Possibly that happens because I cannot stay aside of the discussion as I really want to have my say. I can see that learners really like what we are discussing and very often they invite me to participate. They are interested in me as a person and that is why want to know my opinion because “….in every teaching act the teacher defines herself as a person.” (Williams and Burden, 1997, p. 63) Even at a low level of language knowledge students have a lot to share and exchange with the teacher “…we have to accept that teaching is an expression of values and attitudes, not just information or knowledge” (Williams and Burdens, 1997, p. 63). As I am looking at myself as a teacher through time I can see that I actually more and more often try to stay aside from discussions and let students exchange their opinions without me being involved. I realize that by giving my opinion I might discourage some of the students who do not want to contradict with the teacher. I am in favor of making my classroom more learner-centered.  That’s why in  group-work activities  I do not interfere during the discussion.

    4. The roles of teacher and learner in my lessons

    The range of interaction patterns I use in my teaching is various. Different interaction patterns change the roles of a teacher and roles of a learner. I find myself in various roles from very authoritative when I am a model or a source of correct answers to observing and assisting my students. 

    In the lessons with higher levels of students I am more a counselor, I provide my students with a task and observe them doing it in pairs or groups. Here I can see some patterns taken from Community language teaching. In groups students exchange their ideas about different issues. Some of them are more experienced (e.g. in financial lexis), some of them are not. So the teacher here is not to interfere and explain every unknown word, other students can do it. That is an “interaction between learners and knowers” ( Richards and Rodgers, 1986, p.  91). Besides, after the check list at the end was given students could see the answers in the handout so the teacher gave feedback in an indirect way. Students could assess and evaluate their performance on their own.  This kind of check up gives students a feeling of their own responsibility for their learning. The teacher is there not to scold or praise, but to facilitate the learning process. My intention here was to let students analyze how many words they have remembered and which words they forgot i.e. assess their own progress in a stress-free atmosphere and thus increase their intrinsic motivation. In this situation the student had a role of assessor of him/herself.    

    In one of my lessons students had to make a presentation of a company, others were listening and assessing using a special check list. So that was peer assessment. Each student have a role to assess the peer.

    It is an important teacher’s role to give feedback. I am trying to change the way I give feedback to my students. I want them to find answers by themselves. I ask questions like “So what can you do to improve the situation? What can you do to help?”  I am a helper here, not the model or truth of the last resort. I want my students to get the feeling they have arrived to the answer themselves. 

    Students are not only in the role of receiving feedback, but also in the role of giving feedback to the teacher. I get a lot of feedback from students saying that they like the atmosphere in the lessons. I have some students who have been with me for four or five years and they do not want to stop studying. I was always thinking why it happens like this. I think this happens because I manage to build rapport with my students i.e. “…meeting others in their world, trying to understand their needs, their values, and their culture and communicating in ways that are congruent with those values.” (Rylatt and Loman in Richards and Rodgers, 1986, p. 128)  This has to do with Neurolinguistic Programming which is not an approach or method but a “training philosophy” (Richards and Rogers, 1986, p. 125).

    5. The methods and approaches used in the lessons

    In my teaching I choose what to teach judging by the situation and learners’ needs. “In trying to apply approaches and methods, teachers sometimes ignore what is the starting point in language program design, namely, a careful consideration of the context in which teaching and learning occurs, including the cultural context, the political context, the local institutional context, and the context constituted by the teachers and learners in their classrooms.” (Richards and Rogers, 1986, p. 248). Thus I believe that any behavior has reasons and very often the teacher makes a choice on what to do relying on his/her intuition and beliefs. 

    The approach that I used in one of my lessons was lexical approach. “….building blocks of language learning and communication are not grammar, functions, notions, or some other unit of planning and teaching but lexis, that is, words and word combinations.” (Richards and Rodgers 1986, p. 132) The ultimate aim of the lesson was not to teach students how to communicate but to teach them some words they need to apply in their professional life.  

     There is a lot of TBL (Task Based Learning) in my lessons. I set a task and let learners get away with it.

    In general terms I evaluate my teaching as English for Specific Purposes (ESP) i.e. all students need English for their job and thus we study words and functions to be used specifically in business life. “ESP…has been referred to as "applied ELT" as the content and aims of any course are determined by the needs of a specific group of learners.” (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/transform/teachers/specialist-areas/english-specific-purposes). The topic of that lesson was “Financial Lexis”. This emerged from the need of my students to know vocabulary they can use when communicating in financial sphere. “For Dudley-Evans (2001) the defining characteristic of ESP is that teaching and materials are based on the results of a needs analysis.” (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/transform/teachers/specialist-areas/english-specific-purposes).

    5. Conclusion: Reflection

    This investigation work was very useful for me as now more and more often I am finding myself in a meta position. Very often in my everyday teacher life I have no time to reflect and analyze my teaching and see further than exercises recommended by the course book. I rarely manage to stay aside and actually think about what and how I am teaching. It is good to look around, analyze and accept a lot of innovations or alternative points of view. “…Reflective analysis of one’s own teaching develops a greater understanding of the dynamics of classroom practice and leads to curriculum change that enhances learning outcomes for students”. (Burns, 1999, p. 12)

    Before starting to work on this assignment I thought that the procedures I do on my lessons cannot be attributed to any of the approaches/methods. Having done some reading I realized that I actually do use a combination of different methods. I made sure that a method chosen by a teacher largely depends on his/her personality, beliefs and assumptions. I am the kind of person who is more process-oriented than result-oriented. And I found out that there's actually such a notion as “process-oriented objectives” which a method has (Richards and Rodgers, 1986, p. 24). I have found the following correlation: personality of teacher leads to teacher’s role which leads to a method.

    The information that I learn about methods and approaches gives me more confidence about what I am doing and actually shows some other ways to look at and investigate. When I started teaching I couldn't imagine how great, vast, big and varied the world of teaching is.


    Burns, A. (1999) Collaborative Action Research for English Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press, 2003

     Bertrand, J. http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/primary-tips/lesson-plans

     Richards, J.C., Rodgers, T.S. (1986) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press, 2007

     Williams, M., Burden, R.L. (1997) Psychology for Language Teachers: Constructivist Approach. Cambridge University Press, 2007 

     Unknown author http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/transform/teachers/specialist-areas/english-specific-purposes