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EFL, Teens, Motivation & Out of Classroom Learning: IATEFL Poland 2011
 

EFL, Teens, Motivation & Out of Classroom Learning: IATEFL Poland 2011

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Teens are a particular challenge for EFL and ESL teachers. Motivating them is key. To do that, we need to re-think our materials, our approaches, our evaluation of progress, and we need to get ...

Teens are a particular challenge for EFL and ESL teachers. Motivating them is key. To do that, we need to re-think our materials, our approaches, our evaluation of progress, and we need to get creative about using out-of-the-classroom learning alongside classroom strategies appropriate for this age group. This talk looks at the building blocks of a more evolved approach to teaching EFL/ESL to teens, using examples including the new online English language learning service specifically designed for teens, English Attack!

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  • Hello everyone, my name is Lorenz Van der Stam, I’m standing in for Paul Maglione of English Attack! who was not able to be with us today at the last minute. I am the CEO of TMM Publishing, the local partner for English Attack! here in Poland, and I will share my details with you at the end of this presentation, which as you can see is on the subject of Motivating Teens with Out-of-Classroom learning.
  • What are the main issues here? Well, first of all, it’s well-known in the entire teaching profession – not just in teaching English – that teens are very hard to motivate in the classroom. Sometimes they sleep, sometimes they chat, sometimes they just stare off into space. But they are rarely very productive in a classroom setting. That’s a problem for all of you, and for them.
  • Secondly, it’s not so easy to make up for lost time in the classroom with extra work at home. Teens hate homework, and often they simply don’t do it. So, again, that’s a problem for you, and limits the learning potential for the kids.
  • What this means is that a critical phase of young people’s physical and mental growth, and at a time when they could really be doing so much more to develop their English language skills, there is a gap between what should theoretically be learned and the effectiveness of our teaching tools and approaches. Teens have the capacity to be fantastic language learners, but we are failing to capitalize on this opportunity.
  • So we know we have to change something, or several things. But what? Well, first, we need to take a closer look at our learners. What do we know about teens?
  • Well, we know that they are going through a very challenging time in life, a time of great stresses and changes. They are changing physically and mentally. They are switching from the family to their friends and to pop culture as their primary sources of influence. They are programmed to rebel against authority. And, at the same time, they are having to think about adulthood but in the meantime remain immature, too old to be children and too young to be fully responsible adults. It’s not an easy time for them.
  • During this time, teens’ brains are undergoing very significant changes. We expect a lot of them academically, but physiologically they cannot reason like adults until the age of 25. Teens’ brains are responsive to improving on the things they do most often. If they use Facebook every day, they get very good at using Facebook. If they are only exposed to English once a week, they do not develop their English. Yet, at the same time, their capacity for learning, in terms of pure brain power, is as high as it will ever be in their lives.
  • So, if the raw capacity is there, we need to look for how to trigger that capacity. This means we need to look at MOTIVATION.
  • Motivation has been called the “neglected heart” of our understanding of how to design instruction. This is especially true of teens because of their hypersensitivity to boredom; their fragile physical state because of hormonal change and sleep deprivation; and -- last but not least -- PEER PRESSURE which may ENCOURAGE learning in some cases and DISCOURAGE it in others.
  • Yet teens can be VERY motivated: to use social networks, to listen to new music, to seek out new friends, and to experience new things, not all of them good. In all of these examples, they pursue GOALS. So what can we say about the educational goals that we are setting for these young people? Are we giving them a role in setting the goals? Do the goals seem relevant to them and what they think they need in life? Are the goals OK, but the way to achieve them just too boring? Are we giving them a bit of freedom and autonomy to explore how to best achieve these goals?
  • We all know about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For some teen learners, especially in some very traditional families and cultures, extrinsic factors like family expectations or the need to pass a standardized test produce enough effort in the learner to achieve the goal. But, let’s face it, that is not the case with the majority of teens in our Western societies today.
  • So we need to consider the potential INTRINSIC motivations, and see whether we can make them work for us. We know, generally, what these motivations are for a teen. So we can get ahead of the game, in teaching teens English, if we can figure out to USE these intrinsic motivations to our advantage in designing learning strategies and tactics for them, both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Strategies for classroom are beyond the scope of this talk, but let’s look for a moment at the issue of HOMEWORK and how we can design it so that it becomes less of an abstract imposition and more of a true opportunity for motivated out-of-classroom learning.
  • To do this, we need to first understand WHY traditional homework doesn’t work with teen learners of English. First all all we have the static, linear nature of work assigned from textbooks and workbooks. Often based on situations and dialogues that the learners know to be artificial, teens see this content as old-fashioned and, worse, irrelevant to their lives and aspirations. Traditional homework simply cannot compete with the many interactive, connected, and current distractions available to teens nowadays.
  • Secondly, homework that simply extends classroom work into the private, personal domain is resisted by teens. It is seen as unfair, top-down, and stressful. What they seek in their own time are activities that they choose, that they are free to abandon or continue as they see fit, and which are fun.
  • Third, traditional homework is anything but motivating. It is one of the most solitary things you can do after school; it is seen as abstract and thus of no immediate benefit, and learners know that they are exposing themselves to a judgment because of it, most probably some sort of grade. Can we imagine instead homework that is social, that is about teens’ lives and what’s going on in the world today, and which replaces stressful grades with a motivational challenge?
  • Let’s recap for a moment on the issue of out-of-classroom learning, it starts to become very clear that we need tailor the way we teach English to the very specific needs of teenage learners; we need to differentiate between classroom learning and out-of-classroom learning and adopt new strategies in the classroom as well; and we need to fundamentally re-think homework materials or, rather, think about a whole new PLATFORM for homework that feeds into teens’ sources of intrinsic motivation.
  • Paul at English Attack! delivered a talk at last year’s conference in Bydgoszczon the first item. It goes into the details of how changes in the teenage brain require specific teaching approaches; and you can find it simply by Googling “Unlocking Learner Motivation”. For classroom strategies, I would recommend Jeremy Harmer’s excellent talk on “Motivating The Unmotivated,” which again you can find by Googling that title alongside Jeremy’s name. Lastly, on the issue of Teens and Out-of-Home learning… keep listening!
  • How can we make homework less boring? Let’s start with content. Today’s teens are growing up in a world where the printed word is gradually disappearing. So we need to find homework ideas that are INTERACTIVE and ENTERTAINING. Focus language work on what’s happening in the world TODAY, even if it’s just a new movie coming out or a topical news item. And, most importantly, RESPECT teens’ need for choice and autonomy… this is the best way to get them actively involved in their learning.
  • We also need to tackle the problem of homework seen as an unwanted intrusion into personal time. The only way to get over this barrier is to make homework more like activities that teens enjoy doing anyway: playing, communicating, connecting, and consuming media, preferably online. And we need to adapt homework to short attention spans. But that’s OK, because the teen brain learns primarily via frequency, not as a result of the volume of knowledge imparted.
  • Finally, we need to make out-of-classroom learning less SOLITARY. What’s the first thing students do after class? Hang around with their friends, of course. Thanks to the internet, those friendships can become global, and can feed into the educational journey. The best way to learn a language is to use it, and for a teen the most compelling use of language is to communicate and to make and share with new friends. We also have a lot to learn from videogames in terms of design parameters which replace stress-inducing grades with motivational systems that reward effort rather than recognize proficiency, or punish an evaluated lack of it.
  • Other useful sites for designing more engaging homework include LiveMocha, which is a social language-learning exchange;XtraNormal, which allows learners to script their own mini-movies which is a lot of fun; Glogster which some of you already use to create posters; Voicethread with is great for speaking practice; and Fotobabble which is also great for practicing vocal output. There are many more, but start with these ones to get an idea of how we can start to revolutionize our approach to out-of-classroom learning for teens.
  • Before we wrap up, I have one final point about teens and language.
  • Language is more than a human brain function. It’s also part of our IDENTITY, both individual and collective. So always think about how you can get teen learners toUSE ENGLISH to allow them to better explore and project their developing personalities, their IDENTITIES.
  • The teenage years are years of massive external input. Because of globalization, much of that input is in the English language. So learning English really becomes a lifestyle choice, and an attractive one at that. To embrace the learning of English is to embrace a global mindset. It is to be different to one’s parents, to the previous generation. And it represents freedom.
  • Our most powerful weapon, at the end of the day, is CURIOSITY. Teens want to explore, they want to travel, they want to build and live a new life for themselves. So we need to MARKET English language learning for them by POSITIONING it as the key to this big new world out there. By doing so, we trigger all the intrinsic motivations we talked about, and turbo-charge their drive towards proficiency. The end-game is to transform homework from a chore into a learning and discovery challenge, one that is perfectly aligned with who teens are and where they want to go.
  • Thanks very much for your attention. The slides to this talk are already online and can be found on the English Attack! Slideshare page; to get in touch with us you can use any of addresses and links shown, and we would be delighted to have you trial English Attack! with your learners and put into practice what we’ve been talking about today. Thanks again.

EFL, Teens, Motivation & Out of Classroom Learning: IATEFL Poland 2011 EFL, Teens, Motivation & Out of Classroom Learning: IATEFL Poland 2011 Presentation Transcript

  • Enhancing Teens’ MotivationwithOut-of-Classroom Learning
    Lorenz Van der Stam
    IATEFL POLAND
    10 September 2011
  • Issue #1
    Teens are notoriously hard to motivatein classrooms
  • Issue #2
    Teens hate homework
  • IPSO FACTO:
    Currently, we fail to optimize teens’ capacity for language learning.
  • Finding A Solution
    Teens are notoriously hard to motivatein classrooms
    Let’s look closer at the issue of
    TEENS
  • Who Are Teens?
    • What’s going on with their lives?
    • hormones / sexual development
    • independence / autonomy
    • questioning of authority / rebellion
    • social hyperactivity / peer pressure
    • What’s going on with their future?
    • pressure over education, career prospects, type of friends, values
    • What are their cultural references?
    • What is their relationship with education?
    • English: how do they see it as relevant to them?
  • Teen brains are not mini-adult brains
    Higher-task functions like reasoning, organizing, abstract thought not mature until age 25
    Brain focuses on what is seen or done often. Frequency more important than duration.
    Huge increase in brain information-processing abilities
  • Finding A Solution
    Teens are notoriously hard to motivatein classrooms
    Let’s look closer at the issue of
    MOTIVATION
  • Understanding Learner Motivation
    The “neglected heart” of our understanding of how to design instruction.
    Particularly an issue for teens, due to:
    ZZZZZZZ
  • What is the average teen learner’s
    “goal orientedness”?
    Does the goal seem to have been set by outsiders?
    Are the activities seen to be relevant to teens’ interests or aspirations?
    Are the tasks felt to be boring?
    What is the scope for free choice and autonomy in the assigned tasks?
  • Motivation
    Extrinsic
    Intrinsic
    Depends on LIFE STAGE. For Teens:
    Family expectations (especially in Asia)
    School grades
    External examinations (Gao Kao; TOEIC)
    Applies to a relatively small subset
    of the Teen learner population
  • Motivation
    Extrinsic
    Intrinsic
    Depends on LIFE STAGE. For Teens:
    Pleasure-seeking
    Is it new?
    Is it fun?
    Identity
    Can this help me establish one?
    Physical / Sex
    Could this be useful to meet girls / boys?
    Social
    Will this make me popular?
    Will “sharing” this make me look cool?
    Universal to all Teen learners
  • Finding A Solution
    2. Teens hate homework
    Let’s look closer at the issue of
    HOMEWORK
  • Problem: Traditional HomeworkCan’t Match The At-Home Competition
    vs.
    interactive
    static
    linear
    impulse
    irrelevant
    current
  • Problem: Traditional HomeworkSeen As An Intrusion Into “My Time”
    vs.
    personal time
    school / authority
    imposed by teacher
    voluntary action by teen
    stress
    fun
  • Problem: Traditional Homework DoesNot Feed Into Teens’ Intrinsic Motivation
    vs.
    social
    solitary
    abstract, future benefit
    my life, today
    grades
    challenge
  • To Recap:
    Teens are different to both
    children and adults
    Design materials; structure lessons taking into account teens’ brain development,
    interests and motivations
    Teens are difficult to motivate in class
    Adopt teen-friendly classroom strategies and bolster classroom learning with out-of-classroom learning.
    Teens hate homework
    We need to radically re-think the way we design, assign and motivate out-of-classroom learning
  • To Recap:
    Teens are different to both
    children and adults
    Specific learning profiles of teens:
    Google “Paul Maglione - Unlocking
    Learner Motivation”
    Teens are difficult to motivate in class
    Classroom strategies:
    Google “Jeremy Harmer - Motivating
    The Unmotivated”
    Teens hate homework
    Keep listening!
  • EFL Out-of-Classroom Learning for Teens: Towards A More Intelligent Design (I)
    “Homework is boring”
    Make homework as interactive and entertaining as possible
    Use current items of interest to teens: news reports, movie clips, music videos
    Allow autonomy; give them a choice of content
  • EFL Out-of-Classroom Learning for Teens: Towards A More Intelligent Design (II)
    “I don’t have time”
    Assigned work should be of use or interest to them beyond the educational objective.
    Ensure single unit of assigned work can be done in no more than 15 or 20 minutes.
    Favor frequency over duration or volume.
  • EFL Out-of-Classroom Learning for Teens: Towards A More Intelligent Design (III)
    “I can’t see the point”
    Find ways to make out-of- classroom learning social.
    Make sure tasks integrate plenty of functional communication of immediate benefit.
    Adopt a game-like points system to reward effort, not proficiency.
  • Designed for teens & young adults
    Online, multimedia, non-linear, vast choice of content, game-like points; levels; and badges
    Worldwide social network of learners of English
    Free content refreshed daily
    Option of site interface in Polish for beginners
    Schools platform launching next month
  • Other innovative online platforms suitable for teen EFL out-of-home learning
    Social language-learning exchange
    Create movies with talking avatars
    Online poster-making tool
    Show-and-tell using photos, video
    Post a photo; provide audio comment
  • Some final points about teens and EFL
  • Language is part of one’s identity and is used to convey this identity to others.
  • Teens’ identity is in full-swing evolution, but overall it is a time of discovery as to what lies beyond home, family, and school.
  • Discovery of the OUTSIDE WORLD is a powerful teen impulse.
    Positioning English as useful for this discovery, and adapting our materials and approaches to this notion, is the key to motivating teens.
    Chore  Learning and personal growth challenge in perfect tune with teens’ stage of life evolution.
    *Thanasoulas, 2007
  • Enhancing Teens’ Motivation With Out-Of-Classroom Learning
    Slideshare: www.slideshare.net/EnglishAttack
    Twitter: @paulmaglione
    @englishattack
    Web: www.english-attack.com
    Blog: http://blog.english-attack.com
    E-mail: poland@english-attack.com
    Facebook: English Attack! Polska
    LinkedIn: English Attack!