A WebQuest for English Language Learners to find out more about alternative energy sources, complete with detailed teacher's notes and a rationale. Submitted as part of an MA in Applied Linguistics and ELT from Kings' College London.
Richard S Pinner MA ELT & Applied LinguisticsMaterials Development Assignment 8 09 Jul. 10Energy Sources WebQuest Justificationand RationaleAimsThe aims of this lesson5 are to prepare students on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses toembark on a research task and to prepare a ten to fifteen minute presentation and 1,500 word essayon a topic requiring quite specific knowledge and vocabulary, yet also relevant and present incurrent affairs discussions. The students work in groups and at times individually. The project isdesigned to be similar to what would be expected of them on many university degree programs.A WebQuest is described as “an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the informationthat learners work with comes from the web.” (Dodge, 1995) By doing a WebQuest it is hoped thatthe students would have greater freedom and autonomy when conducting the research thus helpingthem to improve their digital literacy while simultaneously allowing them to develop other skills(such as researching, presenting and essay writing) which they will need in the future as theycontinue their studies.An additional aim of this lesson is to improve the students’ awareness of the issues surroundingsustainable and renewable energy sources. Not only is this an important theme in many debatessurrounding current affairs, but also an ethical issue which I believe is important for people to knowabout. It is also my intention that due to the subject being important to current affairs it would bemore engaging for students and also broad enough for the whole class to find relevant andinteresting. The project begins with reasonably easy tasks such as vocabulary matching andbrainstorming, before building up to more cognitively demanding tasks such as presenting and essaywriting. This is intended to increase retention and is based on findings which support theInvolvement Load Hypothesis (Laufer & Hulstijn, 2001; Hulstijn& Laufer, 2001)Another reason behind choosing a project based lesson in the form of a WebQuest is that it allowsfor greater autonomy because the students are working more independently with the teachermerely operating as a facilitator, which Tomlinson (2003) lists amongst one of the positive trends inmaterials development.A major factor in the choice of the lesson format is that by doing a WebQuest, students will beexposed to authentic language in context, which again has been linked to increased motivation andautonomy. WebQuests are understood to expose students to authentic material (Barahona Durán2006). Siekmann states that “WebQuests are sources of linguistically and culturally authenticmaterials” (2008:144). Peacock (1997) found that authentic materials are more motivating forstudents, and thus it is hoped that the students would be more engaged in the lesson. Dörnyei(2001) lists autonomy as an important factor in motivation, and again the lesson is designed to fosterautonomy with the students by allowing them to manage the project and choose much of thecontent from within a clear framework provided by the lesson aims.ContextThis lesson was designed to be taught as part of an EAP course taking place in a school in Britain,although this project could be adapted or used as it is in a broader range of contexts. I have5 I have chosen to refer to this WebQuest project as one lesson even though it spans three days ofclasses. The reason for this is that I believe, since the aims are the same throughout the project, theterm lesson is appropriate. Page 16
Richard S Pinner MA ELT & Applied LinguisticsMaterials Development Assignment 8 09 Jul. 10attempted in the teachers’ notes to account for varying class sizes in particular, as this can have a biginfluence on lessons where a number of groups are presenting, both in this context and widercontexts.The course for which this lesson was designed runs for a ten week term period, and students arecontinually assessed as part of the course. All of the final marks are from summative assessment,and as such, due to the short length of the course and large number of assessments, motivation andtask engagement are perceived as problematic by many of the teachers on the course. This issomething I found in my own experience when teaching on the course. It is very hard to fit in longerprojects which are not directly related to the assessments as there is a syllabus which covers pagesfrom course books that need to be completed each session. However, when teaching on the course Ifound that working purely through the syllabus was not engaging for the students and as such meantthat students were often not satisfactorily prepared for their assessments, especially as they havevery little time to practice for their assessments in an authentic way. For this reason I began ‘cherrypicking’ the most important features of the course and designing tasks and projects which I feltwould better enable the students the opportunity to learn and practise the skills needed for theirassessments and, more importantly, their future studies at university. Although I have neverformally quantified this, I strongly believe these projects to be of great benefit to the students. Incontexts where the syllabus is more rigid, this may not always be possible however.Another feature of this context is the availability of computer labs and projectors for in-class use.There are a lot of technical requirements for such a project, so again this lesson would need to beadapted for use in a wider context. Another issue here would be the teachers’ own efficacy whenusing web or computer based applications for teaching, not to mention the students’ level of digitalliteracy. For this reason I have tried to keep the focus on the tasks themselves and not on thetechnology used to facilitate them.The classes consist of roughly fifteen students of mixed nationality and sex, between the ages of 17 –35. They are expected to have a good level of English already (Upper-Intermediate to Advanced,Council of Europe (2001) B2-C2) and to be already quite familiar with the use of computers. Inaddition, from earlier in the course they would have been introduced to many academicconventions, such as referencing, avoiding plagiarism and structuring an academic essay orpresentation. However, the aim of this lesson would be to strengthen and build on this knowledge,although the lesson is not designed to present this information for the first time.Choice of materialsAs this is a lesson designed for an EAP course, it can be assumed that the teachers using it would bereasonably well experienced already, thus the procedure is not too prescriptive. Teachers who workon the EAP course for which this lesson was designed are usually required to be TEFL-Q or DELTAqualified. However, I have tried to keep the teachers’ notes as simple as possible for such a longproject and accessible to less experienced teachers.Throughout the stages of the lesson the students are engaged in Evaluations which are designed toincrease their self-assessment and autonomous thinking while also focusing them back on the task.PresentationThe students are given the lesson aims at the beginning of the lesson so that they know exactly whythey are doing this project. I believe it is important to include the students as much as possible in thedecisions behind undertaking a certain task in order to facilitate independent and autonomousthinking. It also helps the students to prepare for the lesson. By showing the students the projecttimeline diagram they are aware that more is expected of them as they have longer to work on itthan perhaps a usual stand-alone lesson.Pre-task: energy types brainstorm Page 17
Richard S Pinner MA ELT & Applied LinguisticsMaterials Development Assignment 8 09 Jul. 10The purpose of this task is to activate the students’ existing schematic knowledge and also to allowthe teacher time to gauge the students’ current level of vocabulary knowledge and competence withthe subject.Vocabulary matchingThis task is designed to enable concept checking and to ensure that the students already knowenough to begin the more in-depth research task.Project timeline:The decision to feature a project timeline comes from the fact that one of the aims of this lesson isto allow the students to experience a sense of responsibility and to understand the stages involvedin preparing a presentation and doing research. This is an integral part of EAP courses and as such Ibelieve project work such as this is very useful in preparing students and giving them practice in thisarea.WebQuest:The WebQuest section features quite structured sets of questions which the students need to findanswers to, but it also features additional and more detailed questions for more motivated orcapable students who would quickly work through the initial questions. This was an attempt atallowing the students more freedom and control over the content of their research task, while stillproviding enough structure to have coherent and achievable outcomes.Presentation task:The presentation task is supposed to happen on the 2nd day of the project, thus allowing studentsthe opportunity to use their own time to finish preparing. Again, this is what happens at universitylevel. In addition, it is hoped that this extra time would give students the opportunity to work moreautonomously.During Presentation task:The purpose of this task is to ensure that the full class is engaged in the activity and not just thosepresenting. It is also to encourage a sense of collaboration and community.Post presentation task:This is a consolidation task which could be done either as homework or part of the class.DebateThe purpose here is to begin thinking about the issues surrounding energy use and electricityproduction.EssayThis is the main EAP focus of the lesson and would hopefully involve the most cognitive effort. It isintended to be both consolidation and EAP literacy development. As this lesson is intended to betaught in the middle of an EAP course it is designed to allow students to put what they havepreviously learned about essay writing into practise.RationaleThe main reasons behind choosing to prepare a WebQuest are the opportunity to expose studentsto authentic materials, foster greater student autonomy and allow students to work together in away which is student centred and not too dependent on the teacher. It is also hoped that the lessonwould help the students to improve both their academic literacy and digital literacy. In addition, bymaking the task a project length set of goals it is hoped that the students would have moreownership and thus task engagement, thereby facilitating greater motivation and learning. Page 18
Richard S Pinner MA ELT & Applied LinguisticsMaterials Development Assignment 8 09 Jul. 101,749 wordsBibliographyBarahona Durán, M.A. (2006) ‘Why WebQuests can be useful in EFL’ proceedings from TESOL Chile2006 ‘Changing our ways: Making classroom innovation and assessment count’http://www.slideshare.net/malba08/why-webquests-can-be-useful-in-efl (accessed 7/07/2010)Council of Europe (2001) European Language Portfolio http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/portfolio/Dodge, B. (1995). ‘What is a WebQuest?’ http://webquest.org/index.php (accessed 18/04/2010)Dörnyei, Z. (2001) ‘Teaching and Researching Motivation’ Longman: PiersonHulstijn, J. H., & Laufer, B. (2001). Some empirical evidence for the Involvement-Load Hypothesis invocabulary acquisition. Language Learning, 51, 539–558. (accessed 18/04/2009)Laufer, B., & Hulstijn, J. H. (2001). Incidental vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Theconstruct of task-induced involvement. Applied Linguistics, 22, 1–26. (accessed 18/04/2009)Little, D. (1991) Learner Autonomy. 1: Definitions, Issues and Problems. Dublin: Authentik.Peacock, M. (1997) ‘The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners’ ELT Journal,5 (12)144-156: Oxford University Press (accessed 10/05/2010)Siekmann, S. (2008) ‘Peer scaffolding and orientation towards the task during collaborativeWebQuests’ in Eckerth, J. and Siekmann, S. (eds.) Task-Based Language Learning and Teaching:Theoretical, Methodological, and Pedagogical Perspectives. (143 – 172) Frankfurt: Peter LangTomlinson, B. 2003) ‘Introduction: Are materials developing?’ in Tomlinson, B. (ed.)(2003)‘Developing Materials for Language Teaching’ Continuum: London Page 19