V4 Bow


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V4 Bow

  1. 1. DISTANCE SUPPORT FORLANGUAGE LEARNERS ON LOCATION – A NEW APPROACH Cathy BowAdvising for Language Learner Autonomy Kanda University of International Studies, JapanIATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group (LASIG) November 12th 2011 Virtual presentation V4
  2. 2. BACKGROUND Research on autonomy in language learning usually focuses on structured programs  Language classrooms  Distance programs  Self-access centres Many language learners live in intensive cultural immersion situations  Learners living on location where target language spoken but not engaged in formal programs are among most autonomous language learners of all  Yet outside the domain of much SLA research
  3. 3. LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘IN THE WILD’ Autonomous learners outside formal programs are required to develop and maintain their own language program  Often with minimal support  Struggle to move beyond intermediate levels  Lack of assessment opportunities Harder to research these learners  Different needs  Less homogeneity
  4. 4. LANGUAGE LEARNERS ‘IN THE WILD’ Variety of different living, working and learning contexts Distinct demands on time Various opportunities and needs for learning and using the language  Professional  Functional  Social life
  5. 5. CONTEXT OF STUDY Christian missionaries working in a range of cross-cultural contexts Estimate 5000 Australians in active missionary service  Activities include medical work, community development, education, social justice, business, training, translation, teaching, IT, etc  Also more traditional areas such as evangelism, church planting, theological training
  6. 6. RESEARCH FOCUS Australian Christian missionary agency An evangelical, voluntary, lay, church society affiliated with one of the larger mainstream Protestant denominations Nearly 200 missionaries serving in over 35 countries Mostly tertiary-educated, many with young families, going for 6-10 years 6
  8. 8. LANGUAGE SUPPORT PROGRAM Mission agency established program of distance support to in-field staff learning lgs  First 3 year term of service Includes pre-field preparation for language learning  Practical language learning experience  Encourage self-directed lg learning 8  Basic phonetics & linguistic principles
  9. 9. ONGOING SUPPORT PROGRAM Face to face contact just before departure Contact at specific points throughout term  Year 1: from departure date  6 weeks, 3, 6, 9, 12 months  Years 2 & 3: every 8 months  20, 28, 36 months – end 3 year term Follow-up on return to Australia  Optional additional support as required 9
  10. 10. ONLINE SUPPORT Moodle learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE)  Free web application for educators to create effective online learning sites Used here for  Uploading resources  Self-assessment & other questionnaires 10  Annual discussion forum
  11. 11. MOODLE SITE 11
  12. 12. CURRENT STATUS OF PROGRAM 72 people currently being tracked  5 cohorts currently on field (46 people)  First cohort just returned (6) – following up  2 cohorts yet to depart (20) Regular email contact with around 50% Minimal interaction on Moodle Skype calls more popular with individuals Some constrained by internet limitations Facebook posts provide some insight 12
  13. 13. ADVISING FROM A DISTANCE Services offered by distance advisor  Discuss language issues  Offer encouragement and advice  Identify areas of concern  Troubleshoot solutions  Invite learners to reflect on experience and process of language learning  Provide feedback on issues raised  Suggest useful resources 13
  14. 14. BENEFITS  Involves intentional relationship with learners  Opportunities to reflect on and discuss LL issues  Regular contact with learners on field  Encourage progress  Identify areas of concern  Give advice as appropriate  Provide additional resources  Promote elf-evaluation and accountability  Importance of cohort – peer support
  15. 15. CHALLENGES Learners engage at different levels  Lack of response to invitations to engage  Time, family, work constraints  Goals/expectations of learners differ according to context Advisor is neither teacher nor speaker of target language/s Lack of face-to-face connection post- departure 15 Current lack of structured mechanism for
  16. 16. EXPANSION POTENTIAL  Expand data collection to include  Language learning plan (pre-departure)  Emails & skype interaction  Forum posts  Facebook posts, newsletters to supporters  Portfolios  Learner narratives  Ethical issues in data collection
  17. 17. POTENTIAL SIGNIFICANCE  Opportunity to provide rich source of data from under-researched language learners  Can shed light on needs, practices and achievements of language learners in unstructured learning situations  Potential to extend the range of ‘advising’ to incorporate those outside the usual domains of SLA research
  18. 18. FOLLOW-UP  For opportunity to discuss this program further, please contact Cathy Bow cbow@unimelb.edu.au
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