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


Learning and learning styles

“…as a part of the process of education, teachers themselves should maintain a continuous process of personal reflection, within which they become aware of the personal and cultural values and beliefs that underpin their own and other people’s actions” (Williams and Burden, p. 2, 1997).    

Here’s my attempt to reflect on learning styles and how I address them.


Learners bring to the classroom different characteristics and different background (age, gender, personality, motivation, life experience etc.). These factors are very important for learning process.  According to Williams and Burden there are four key sets of factors that influence the learning process. They are teachers, learners, tasks and contexts. “They all interact as part of a dynamic, ongoing process”.  (Williams and Burden, 1997, p 43).

The group I teach is a Business English pre-intermediate group. The teaching of Business English brings together these areas: knowledge of the language and understanding of the role of communication in professional situations.

The “three-cornered contest” of ESP includes: accuracy, fluency and effectiveness. The latter is learner’s total performance (linguistic and non-linguistic) which determines the success or failure of communication. Fluency does not necessarily lead to effectiveness in communication therefore fluency does not equal effectiveness. So, a teacher must concentrate on teaching three different (yet related) elements or skills: accuracy, fluency and effectiveness. ( adapted from Brieger, p 4-5, 1997).

Language knowledge reflects the formal aspects of grammar, vocabulary and the sound system. In communication we activate this knowledge to transmit messages through different channels (presentations, meetings, telephoning or in written documents (correspondence, reports)).

So as a trainer I have to design and deliver courses which aim to increase language knowledge and develop communication skills. The language to be introduced and practiced in Business English classroom reflects the professional background of the learners. The channels of communication to be developed and practiced reflect the professional world of presentations, meetings and telephoning rather than general communication in discussion.

 Profile of a class that I teach regularly

I teach a group of four adults aged from 19 to 40 years old. This is not a mixed-ability group, all students are almost at the same level of language knowledge and skills. All students are speakers of Russian as a native language. The course they are taking is rather long - eight months.

Learner 1 is a post-service (in-work) learner with quite frequent use of English in every-day work. Learner 2  is a post-service as well with daily use of English. Learner 3 is another post-service learner with the job that does not involve English currently. Learner 4 is a pre-service learner, a student at the University, she would like to connect her future job to include English.

Needs analysis

At the beginning of the course each student had a placement test and had to fill in the Course registration form. According to the data that I received from this form all the students wanted to develop general language knowledge, specialist language knowledge, general communication knowledge, professional communication skills i.e. everything that the form suggested, however nobody added anything. I think that everybody chose all points in this part of the form because they might estimate themselves as incompetent or not enough competence in those areas. It would be interesting to ask students fill this form in again at the middle of the course,  that will show how much they think they have learnt.

The important points to cover in speaking for everyone were presenting at meeting or conferences, using the telephone. Participating in meeting was of high importance for post-service learners and of medium importance for a pre-service student and the learner whose job does not involve English. I think this shows that the post-service learner really need these skills for their job. Everybody chose to be able to understand discussions at meetings. Listening to conference speeches and  lectures did not seem of high importance to anybody. Writing and reading e-mails was important to everybody.

Based on the data of the Course Registration Form I designed a course that consisted of topics typical for business area e.g. “Great ideas for business”, “Mergers and takeovers”, “Selling on-line” and many others. Within these topics students are able to get such skills as making presentations, participating in meetings, making a business appointment by the phone. Thus by the end of the course the students are supposed to be able to develop most of the skill a business person must have to be able to communicate in English.

The course content reflects the diverse needs of varied learner groups – from pre-service students to in-service professionals.

As the course was going I was having individual interviews with every student asking if she/he is satisfied with the course or would like to change something. The answers revealed that in general terms everyone was satisfied but each of the students had some comments to make, such as: “I think you need to give us more home task”, or “I would like to learn more words that I can use in law field”, or “I would like to get more grammar input”. These things were actually very interesting to have found out because I thought I made my inputs in a very balanced way and absolutely everyone was satisfied with everything. What I did first thing - was grammar. I took a grammar book and we started doing grammar exercises. It was interesting to see that only one person was enjoying it – the one who asked for more grammar input. Doing grammar activities in the classroom was a rather difficult decision for me to make. I do not usually teach grammar as it, I prefer teaching functions. After doing grammar tasks I asked for a feedback. The opinions that came out were interesting. One person said that she really needs to do more exercises on grammar as for her this is the guarantee of inaccuracy in speech and this is what she did in different courses before she became my student. Another student said that due to her previous experience in a different language school she could not start speaking for a long time because of too much grammar input and being afraid of making mistakes and that what she likes about my classes is that we actually do a lot of speaking activities. That was a lot of food for thought for me. All of my students are fluent but not very accurate. I had to think of the ways of how to cope with it. Since all of them have different learning experience they all now have different views on the ways a lesson should be held and what exercises must be used. “…each individual constructs his or her own reality and therefore learns different things in very different ways even when provided with what seem to be very similar learning experiences”.  (Williams and Burden, p. 2, 1997).    

Learning needs (cognitive and affective) –knowledge and language skills in a range of business contexts  through communicative activities. Communication training which develops the effectiveness of the total communication process by looking at the message in terms of its form and delivery. 

Many learners will see their reasons for attending a training course in terms of improving communication skills. “Some learners see improvement in terms of better control and fewer mistakes, i.e. accuracy; others see it in terms of greater spontaneity and more flow, i.e. fluency; and a third group see it in terms of impact on listeners, i.e. effectiveness.”

“Regular feedback sessions are a method for the trainer to involve the trainees in the program and its direction. This is particularly important on extensive courses where priorities can change as trainees better understand their own strengths and weaknesses.  

Learning styles

“Cognitive styles can hence be thought of as predispositions  to particular ways  of approaching learning  and are intimately related to personal types”. (Richards and Lockhart, 1996, p. 59)

Each trainee will approach the task with their own preferred learning style. Knowing the trainee’s learning style will help the trainer match up the lesson stages against learner types.

In the book called “Manual of Learning Styles” (1992) Honey and Mumford identify four learning styles:

1.      The activist learns by doing the task (they enjoy using the language and experimenting with communication).

2.      The theorist learns by understanding the underlining theory (they what to know why a particular language form is used in a specific situation).

3.        The pragmatist learns by practicing in a controlled environment (they enjoy the security of controlled practice exercises, it gives them confidence to use language forms in communication accurately).

4.      The reflector learns by watching others doing the task (they might feel insecure about their ability to perform in the language, however in a secure environment they become willing to participate in communicative tasks). (Adopted from Brieger  p 108)

Preferred learning strategies

Motivation for studying English in this particular group comes from wish to get better carrier opportunities as well as to be modern. The thing is that in Russia it is considered that a modern person needs to be able to speak English. None of them, however, has a regular access (exposure) to language, i.e. they do not use English for communication outside the classroom on regular basis. That is why I have to tell them where and how to find access to target language. I tell them some Internet sites, we watch films in English, listen to songs. Having no exposure to language is a strong demotivating factor. During the lesson I do try to motivate my students through finding engaging activities, but I think I need to consider the ways for a person who lives isolated to find access to target language and even target culture….I can only think of the Internet and films here, but I am sure there’s much more to think of.

The students need to be able to make monologue speech (e.g. make a presentation of their company) as well as be able to communicate in a dialogue. They enjoy working in groups. They sometimes even request for more these kinds of activities. I think this is connected with the need of an individual to be a part of a team to solve a problem co-operatively. “….social interactionism ….encompasses the key elements of learning and education” (Williams and Burden, p.3, 1997)


Since my students are very much oriented for using English in their work, the first thing we did was making a CV. I delivered a series of lesson teaching how to write a CV. We also studied how to make presentations in English, how to write e-mails to business partners, we did a lot of case-studies where students had to make a group decision.

During the course students needed to remember a lot of new words. At first students found it really difficult, so I had to show them some ways of remembering vocabulary.  That was “learner training i.e. explicit teaching of strategies” (Williams and Burden, p.160, 1997). So we were making spidergrams. I instructed them on how to do homework i.e. I told them not to do the whole task at once, but to distribute it into portions and do a little every day. I do not know if it worked equally for everybody  because different learners react differently. I did not take a very profound approach to teaching learning strategies. I now realize that what I did was just instructing my students of what to do. The much better way would be: “….first helping students to identify or become aware of strategies they are already using, then presenting and explaining a new strategy with a rationale of using it”.  (Williams and Burden, p.160, 1997).

At the beginning of the course the students had problems with listening. So, I had to teach them what strategy to use when coping with listening exercises. One student was particularly poor in listening, so I recorded a CD with the listening exercises for her so in three months she was very good at listening.

Looking at the students’ faces I sometimes think they are dissatisfied and it is interesting to see from the questioner that they actually do enjoy the activities and want more of them. I found using questioners results very useful. They give a better picture of how my learners see the process of learning.

The classes are held in the evening and most of the time the students are tired after work. I really find it very pleasant when they say things like “English for mó is better than yoga, because when I am in the lesson I forget about all my troubles and problems”. Studying a language involves not only thinking but also emotions.  “When learners learn a new language, they are….actively involved n making their own sense of the language input that surrounds them as well as the tasks presented to them” (Williams and Burden, p. 23, 1997).

In the end of a series of lessons I asked my students to write down the words they have learned during this time. I was happy to see that students could recall a lot of words they have learnt and this seemed to make my students inspired and thus more motivated.


“Teachers’ own conceptions of what is meant by learning, and what affects learning will influence everything that they do in the classroom.” “….in order to make informed decisions in their day-to-day teaching, teachers need to be continuously aware of what their beliefs about learning and teaching are”. (Williams and Burden, p.2, 1997).  Working on this assignment gave me a good chance to think and crystilise some of my beliefs of learning and teaching. I haven’t crystallized all of them yet but I feel I am on the right way.


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

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 

Richards and Lockhart (1996) Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press, 1996