How Is Metacognitive Inculturization Accomplished


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Part II: of Intercultural Dimensions of Task-based Learning for Authentic Communication Follow-up paper to one presented at ACE 2009 (Asian Conference on Education) in Osaka, Japan October 24-25, 2009 by David L. Brooks, Associate Professor, English (Foreign Language Dept), Kitasato University, Sagamihara, Japan

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How Is Metacognitive Inculturization Accomplished

  1. 1. Part II of Intercultural Dimensions of Task-based Learning for Authentic Communication Presented at ACE 2009 Osaka Oct 24-25 (not submitted for Proceeding – 5000 word limit) How is Metacognitive Inculturization Accomplished? There are five stages in the process of metacognitive inculturization: 1) contextual reframing, 2) incorporating old and establishing new patterns of social interaction, 3) building trust and areas of comfort and challenge, 4) teaching both communicative instructional tasks and the communication and learning strategies that enhance their mastery, and 5) evaluating reflectively the learning of both the communicative and the metacognitive content. Each of these will be explained in more detail below. In the practical reality of the classroom, neither are the five stages given equal emphasis nor are they accomplished with equal success because the success depends on the will, expertise, and management of the teacher. Important to understand is the fact that these stages are not at all sequential; in fact, two or more of the stages may be operating simultaneously. A classroom lesson plan may incorporate goals to address several of these stages at once. Furthermore, it should be recognized that because the goals of this process result, to a large extent, in a significant paradigm shift for the students, the process is neither quick, simple or without some measure of stress for both the learners and the teacher. The process actually takes months to accomplish as classes at most Japanese universities and colleges meet only once a week over two semesters from April to July and then again from September to January for a total of about 28 ninety-minute lessons. More immediate success might be possible if the inculturization process could be undertaken in an intensive course or during more frequent class meetings, but these are administrative and curricular decisions over which most teachers have little control. Contextual Reframing of the Learning Enviroment Foremost in the process is consideration of the context in which the learning takes place. Because of the nature of their previous experience with classroom learning of English as was described earlier, it is paramount that reframing the context of the learning environment be a significant purpose of metacognitive inculturization. The
  2. 2. primary method of reframing the traditional context for classroom learning is re-defining the nature of the classroom through identifying new purposes for the classroom as a language-learning environment. The second way is to alter the physical arrangement, movement of people, and range of activities that take place so that the students can accept their inculturization within a new learning environment. In reality, the re- defining and the altering of the classroom environment are accomplished using the same actions. However, it is essential that students be asked to reflect on their new understandings or changes in concepts about the nature of teaching and learning in a classroom. Initially, the instructor may actually perform for students – reciting a poem, acting a scene from a play, or singing a song. The purpose is to re-define the idea of the communicative language classroom beyond the students’ traditional view of the kyoshitsu to include new images as an area for performance: theatre or concert hall (gekijo). Later in the course, the students themselves are asked to perform as actors in a communicative situation or to create original dialogues in the target language. An in- depth look at one of the typical re-framing activities should help to make the intent and technique clear. Often on the first day of the course, a simple information gap technique that encourages students to inquire and to collaborate is employed to change their concept of the what activities and interactions take place in this new classroom differently from their previous ones. Especially at the beginning, the students are very curious about the instructor, who may very well be the first foreign person whom they have ever spoken to. Learning that a brief “life story” by the instructor will be half-full of lies, the students must cooperate to confirm what they have understood and then plan questions to ferret out the truth from fiction during a whole class press conference where the interviewee must tell on the truth. Such an activity puts their standard perception of the nature of classroom learning on its head. It’s interesting, entertaining, and interactive. It requires thought, communication with peers, posing questions in English in front of a group, and its rewards are the satisfaction that is received from understanding and communicating about real meaning in a foreign language. Other techniques that are employed both at the beginning and throughout the course are the use of music, rhythm and group improvisation, a variation of seating arrangements, changes of classroom venues, use body movement and total physical response activities, and the use of games or manipulative objects.
  3. 3. Another re-definition of the what has their typical education experience, which is often stressed to students during the metacognitive inculturization process is the concept of the ‘learning space,’ i.e. redefining the idea of what a classroom is. The ‘other’ conception of the classroom that is reframed during this phase of metacognitive inculturization is the re-definition of the classroom as a gymnasium, as running track or fitness training room (undojo or taikukan), where actual physical skills are learned, rehearsed and practiced. To learn to speak a foreign language effectively and fluently, one must actually speak it orally. Speaking English in a normal spoken voice appears to be quite a ‘foreign’ behavior for many language students in Japan, this physical act of speaking must therefore be reinforced by actual practice. Still another conceptual view is to redefine the classroom as a laboratory (jikkenshitsu), where language experiments are carried out, in which reflecting and thinking are valued, and where there is the risk of failing to achieve perfection on the first try. Incorporating Old And Establishing New Patterns Of Social Interaction In the next phase of the process using social structures and common ways of organizing behavior from Japan’s group-oriented society, it is possible to assist the students in working cooperatively to overcome the barriers that impede oral communication. Many social constructs use for classroom collaborative instruction can be taken from Japanese society. These instructional methods are drawn from the students’ own experiences, and then explicitly adapted for use in whole class, small group and pair activities for achieving communication in English. For those educators familiar with the research literature on cooperative learning, it might be too easy to try to draw parallels between its tenets and with what is being described here. However, a significant difference is that cooperative learning is built on a Western paradigm of group-building and consensual management, which does not take into account the unique characteristics of Japanese social behavior. These social constructs are employed to help inculturate the students into the new values and new expected behaviors for the intercultural communicative classroom’s metaculture. One common institution in Japanese society where these social constructs can be observed and one in which many students have direct experience is the high school club or university circle, normally called bukatsu. The contextual and metacognitive cross- cultural training being employed is an explicit, mutually-actualized, teacher-mediated
  4. 4. process for intuitively, and in part counter-intuitively, inculturating the students and the teacher into the new classroom culture (or instructional meta-culture). One could not be successful in this attempt if the students’ own sociolinguistic background is completely ignored. Instead, a concerted and carefully planned effort is made to build up a set of adaptive, communicative cross-cultural learning behaviors based on some of the forms of social communication that already exist. Commonly found in almost all aspects of Japanese group-oriented social behavior, some of the most useful constructs include kyoroku (cooperation), kunren (training), sekinensha (responsible person), daihyo (representative speaker), kenkyusei (researcher), jikken or kento (experiment, trial), happyo (presentation), renshu (practice), junbi (preparation), chikara-awase (pooling strengths), kakunin (confirm), hone-tatemae (private self, public self) among others. The key to successfully building a set of intercultural adaptive and communicative learning behaviors lies in forming and maintaining functional groups within the classroom. Freshmen students rarely know each other and from a third to a half of all university instructors have students sit in assigned seats by student identification number. Consequently, an initial communication activity, such as the one in which the students interview the teacher, may provide an excellent opportunity to establish the first functional groups for the classroom, based on camaraderie. At times, various other temporary grouping arrangements are employed depending on the purpose of the activity; however, the students are generally kept together with the “home” group for stability and ensuring a level of comfort with the group behaviors they will be asked to learn. Asking groups to work together (kyoroku suru or cooperate) in completing their attendance taking, or doing a learning task as a group, for getting a different representative (daihyo) from the group to act as spokesperson, or to be responsible for reporting (sekinensha) what the group has reflected upon, or in assisting and monitoring each other’s practice (kunren) are ways to build group cohesiveness and to make use of the prevalent constructs of social behavior already existing in their culture to enhance communication in the foreign language classroom. Building Trust And Areas Of Comfort And Challenge Learning does not occur in an affective vacuum. People need to trust each other, and enjoy the experience of success in learning, including experiencing the challenges, and overcoming difficulty. Students, and certainly their teachers who are committed to
  5. 5. helping them learn, want to enjoy learning and look forward to their achievements in the acquisition of a foreign language. When reaching into unfamiliar territory and trying out new behaviors, learners have to be supported with an environment of trust, respect for trying something new and the risk it entails, and a sense of accomplishment. Clearly the home groups are able, with teacher guidance and modeling, to provide a good deal of this support; and as time goes by, they voluntarily take one more responsibility in this area. The teacher, on the other hand, must wear two hats (at least these two roles): one is that of the encourager and supporter, while the other hat or role is that of the challenger and judge (i.e, giving grades is a judgment). It makes the teacher’s role more complex, but also more rewarding for both students and the instructor. In a large sense, the teacher behaves more like a coach for a team of learners than as a lecturer. Sometimes praise and encouragement are the most important words at the moment; while at other times, some comments that challenge or exhort the learners to greater effort are demanded. If these words are amply measured out with generosity, genuineness, humor, kindness, and enthusiasm, the students will understand the real message, despite intercultural barriers to real communication. By doing so, the teacher is saying: “What we’re learning is important, and how well you are learning it is important to me and to you, too.” Similarly, providing classroom activities that challenge learners to move beyond their current level of competence (Hadley, 1993, p.269) is also part of the role of teacher as coach. Teaching Communicative Instructional Tasks By skillful reliance on the patterns of behavior prevalent among Japanese groups and the new social patterns and definitions that have been introduced, the teacher can undertake management of the many instructional variables in order to show students how to adapt these to form a “new” metaculture in the classroom to promote their progress in language competence. Since the core purpose being the building of communicative competence in a foreign language, one should examine the nature of this competence. Legutke and Thomas (1991, p. 265) have expanded Canale’s (1983, p.5) explanation of communicative competence by adding a fifth component: 1) linguistic competence, 2) sociolinguistic competence, 3) discourse competence, 4) strategic competence and lastly, 5) intercultural competence. John Corbett (2003) makes an elegant argument in his book for the restructuring of emphasis in foreign language
  6. 6. teaching to bring cross-cultural knowledge and intercultural communicative competency to the center stage of the instructional process. Consequently, the communicative instructional tasks in metacognitive inculturization classroom may take various forms, have different but related purposes, and involve differing levels of teacher direction or guidance and with various levels of student dependence or autonomy in addressing the various competencies of communication in English as a foreign language. Instructional management decisions also play a key function in setting up the requisite expectations for their success. Some of these teacher decisions include: the choice of language of instruction, the push and pull of teacher direction in combination with increased requirement for autonomy by learner groups, the use of physical and language games, information gap activities, humor, sign language, e-mail, simulations, role-plays, culturally enlightening videos and other media, artifacts or realia, masks, puppets, pantomime, costumes, music, and drama. The cross-cultural training prescribed by the actual implementation of these communicative learning activities then forms the basis for classroom expectations and interactions as the students then proceed to acquire more specific language competencies and to master particular forms of discourse required for effective communication in English. New Modalities and A New View of Language Not only are the ways that students and teachers interact varied form culture to culture, but so are the ways that students interact with each other. Students in a monolingual EFL classroom have to be taught how to initiate and learn new models of interaction with their peers in the “new” culture of the language-learning classroom. One of the important ways to do so is to validate their own forms of culturally-normed communicative interaction. While at other times, it assists the goals to bring into the language classroom forms of interaction that do not typically occur in their own culture under this classroom context, or with these individuals. As has been pointed out, a good model is the Japanese university and high school club activity group ( bukatsu). Additionally, by commandeering one or more modes of communication from the broadcast and telecommunication media as “new” communicative contexts, the teacher can help
  7. 7. students structure and learn new forms of interaction in the target language. Examples of such new communicative contexts and modalities include mobile phone conversations, e-mail and Twitter messages, chat rooms, game shows, news programs and radio talk shows, as possible examples. Providing instructional experiences with these types of communicative contexts gives students a broader repertoire of interaction in the target language. Helping the cross-cultural differences in how these various modes (or forms) of communication and their usage differ from one culture to another is also enlightening and builds intercultural competence. It is quite important to get students to see the true nature of language by careful observation of native speakers first in their own language, then in the target foreign language. Corbett (2003, p.105) describes in much detail how this concept of the foreign language learner as ethnographer can be employed to develop an entire ICC curriculum. Most students are under the misconception that utterances are single, linear threads of talk, whereas, in reality, “getting utterances attended to and identified is just as much a joint action as getting them understood” (Clark, 1996, p.253). In actuality, what people say when they speak in normal conversation is mostly non-linear, often rather random, with stops and asides, often changing midstream, and conversations often occur on more than one track simultaneously. EFL students form monolingual societies often have to be retrained (and reminded) in order to keep them from expecting themselves and their interlocutors to speak the foreign language like actors speaking in a Hollywood film – simply imitating a perfect native speaker. It is not natural and forces them to compare themselves with a false standard, which can be debilitating and self-discouraging. Another understanding that sheds important insight on how real people use real language for communicating meaning comes from the field of discourse analysis. By helping students to see how ‘language form follows language function’, the teacher provides them with an additional framework for building spoken texts beyond the sentence-level and for structuring talk which follows regular patterns depending on the situation and purpose (McCarthy, 1991, p.1). The discovery that the norms of discourse differ according to situation and intent of the message, but still are consistent and predictable within the same purpose and context is an enlightening cross-cultural realization for many second language learners. It may very well be so for even the language instructors themselves. Additionally, learners are pleasantly surprised to find
  8. 8. that the norms of discourse differ widely from culture to culture. In other words, the way people argue, use names or do not, or answer the telephone can be starkly different across cultures or even with subgroups with a culture. Communicative Strategies Equally important to adopting new contexts and modalities for communicating is the knowledge of how to successfully manage, maintain and repair breakdowns in an actual communication in a foreign language. This knowledge can be taught and practiced through communication strategies, which gives students greater metacognitve control over their growing confidence in intercultural competency in acquiring of target language when intercultural communicative strategies are added to the repertoire. Communication strategies are those used by a language learner, in fact any speaker, to promote communication and to adapt to failure to achieve meaning (Tarone, 1981). Therefore, it is important to teach and help students to monitor such their own communication strategies. Some of the common ones are listed below: 1) opening and closing a more formalized conversation or discussion, 2) identifying and employing open and closed questions to enhance exchange of information, 3) encouraging communication by a) using a short response to show that you are actively listening (similar to Japanese conversation custom of aizuchi, e.g. “I see. Really? Is that so? ( So desu ka) b) using an auxiliary to make a question, e.g. “You did?, Didn’t he? You were?.” c) repeating a key word or phrase, e.g. “participate?, Paris?,” d) asking a follow-up information question, e.g. “”What happened? How was it? What did you do then?” e) seeking other’s opinions, e.g. “What do you think about it?”, f) encouraging other’s points of view, e.g. “I think you have a good idea.”, “It sounds like you’ve thought a lot about it.”, 4) seeking to understand by asking a metalinguistic question, e.g. “What does ‘participate’ mean?, Did you say “cross from?, What can I say when I want you show I am not very happy about that?” and 5) using non-verbal communication (gestures, facial movement, sounds) to maintain the communication.
  9. 9. Students should be taught how to use these strategies, and monitored in their use of communication without words using hands, arms, face and other nonverbal methods, such as sounds, along with vocal texture and pitch to help maintain the type of oral discourse which is needed to accomplish the communicative goals, such as a casual conversation to meet someone new, or the sharing of opinions in a more formalized conversation or a discussion in a business meeting. Recognition of and mastery of communication strategies can be very valuable to the language acquisition process and can make great contributions to the development of the learners’ strategic competence (Hadley, 1993, p. 268). This type of metacognitive knowledge also lends support to the awareness and improved intercultural communicative behaviors that result from increased emphasis given it during the process of metacognitive inculturalization advocated in this paper. Incorporating Learning Strategies for Cross-cultural growth Entire volumes have been written about models of instruction for learning strategies for foreign language acquisition. It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully describe these models and their implications for learners in a monolingual EFL classroom who are receiving contextual and metacognitive training for inculturization into the new culture of the communicative classroom. However, assignment of a classroom task offers the teacher an opportunity to also proffer a metacognitive, memory, cognitive, social, affective or metalinguistic learning strategy to assist the students in not only accomplishing the present task, but in gaining a repetoire of learning strategies to improve the process of foreign language acquisition for themselves. Ian Tudor (1996, p.197) calls this type of a language education one that serves ‘to promote learner empowerment’. For example, when a video segment is used in class as the target text of a language lesson, it also will serve as an opportune time to introduce such learning strategies as predicting, directed or selective attention (deciding in advance to attend to specific aspects of language or situational details), self-monitoring (checking or verifying one’s comprehension during the language task), summarization, questioning others for clarification, and cooperation (working together to pool information). A comprehensive
  10. 10. list and detailed explanation of learning strategies have been presented by O’Malley and Chamot (1990). Evaluating the Learning of Communicativeand Metacognitive Content The evaluation of communicative content is undertaken both progressively during the course itself and in a final ‘exit’ performance exam at the end of the course. The central question then is: Can the students communicate effectively and in an inter- culturally appropriate way in selected situations in the target language? This exit performance has often taken the form of an interview and focused conversation with an individual student and the teacher. Another common method is to ask a pair of students to improvise a conversation based on a randomly chosen situation similar to one which has been introduced and practiced during the course. With the students’ permissions, videotapes can be made of the conversations for later review and analysis. On the other hand, there has been less success in evaluating how much of the metacognitive content has been absorbed by the students in terms of formal evaluation or collection of actual data from the course participants. Much of this evaluation is anecdotal in nature and draws upon student comments and self-evaluations at the end of the course. Further strategies for obtained more accurate and useable data in area is considered a future priority. With the advent of increased international media and globalized telecommunications, especially those using the new advanced Internet tools (Web 2.0), it is becoming increasingly possible to have students communicate directly – albeit, in a digital or virtual mode, using web video chat or Skype – with actual native speakers of the target language. Assessment strategies are evolving and new forms of testing and evaluation are changing the way we can observe how well our students can communicate and to what degree they are inculcating the new behavioral and attitudinal norms at the heart of an intercultural communicative competency approach. References
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