Teaching Communication Skills to Large Classes


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This is Session 2 of the 2nd series of Video-Conferencing (VC) ELT (English Language Teaching) Lectures to Al-Quds Open University trainee teachers in Palestinian Territories. The 2ns series is delivered by Mark Krzanowski (LSHTM, University of London), Will McCurry (freelance), Prithvi Narayan Shrestha (the Open University, UK) and Jane McDonnell (Essex University), who are also part of an independent academic group MKUKED (www.mkuked.co.uk)

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Teaching Communication Skills to Large Classes

  1. 1. Teaching Communication Skills to Large Classes – Part 1 <ul><li>Mark Krzanowski </li></ul><ul><li>EAP Adviser: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London </li></ul><ul><li>Freelance ELT Consultant & MKUKED Director </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>University of London London School of Hygiene & Tropical
  2. 2. Organisation of the Lecture <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive Discussion of Questions from Pre-Lecture Task </li></ul><ul><li>Break </li></ul><ul><li>Comments on Communicative Activity </li></ul><ul><li>Review of selected commercial materials </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion of how to create self-made mats & tap into authentic resources </li></ul><ul><li>Homework: Communicative Writing Task </li></ul><ul><li>Confirmation of date and time of next session </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1. Concept of large class <ul><li>Relative concept with cultural variations </li></ul><ul><li>UK teacher training definition: more than 10 students </li></ul><ul><li>ELT class at UK university: max. 20 students </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection of educational infrastructure and financial resources of a given country </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-continental examples: </li></ul><ul><li>Nigeria </li></ul><ul><li>India </li></ul><ul><li>China </li></ul><ul><li>Bangladesh </li></ul><ul><li>Palestinian Territories - ? </li></ul>
  4. 4. 2. What are the challenges of a large class numerically when it comes to students’ learning ability? <ul><li>Teacher / lecturer / tutor: expected to cater for different learner types, e.g.: </li></ul><ul><li>visual </li></ul><ul><li>Auditory </li></ul><ul><li>Tactile </li></ul><ul><li>Kinesthetic </li></ul><ul><li>E-learner. </li></ul><ul><li>Necessity of arranging and facilitating an individual learner profile </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty in monitoring progress of all individual members </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural differences in multilingual classes made up of international students </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed ability of learners and ‘ spiky profiles ’ </li></ul>
  5. 5. 3 (a) ADVANTAGES of teaching large classes <ul><li>Likely to ‘gel’ more easily than smaller groups </li></ul><ul><li>Tend to have better dynamics </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The more, the merrier’: humour is very important </li></ul><ul><li>Positive synergy model of a large group: 2 + 2 = 5 </li></ul><ul><li>Enhanced opportunity for peer learning and, where appropriate, peer correction </li></ul><ul><li>Simulation of real life situation(s) (e.g. studying at university or functioning in the modern workplace) </li></ul><ul><li>Less pressure on the teacher </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul>
  6. 6. 3 (b) DISADVANTAGES of teaching large classes <ul><li>Difficulty in getting to know each and every student very well </li></ul><ul><li>Discipline may be an issue or a problem </li></ul><ul><li>Some learners: disappointed with inadequate attention </li></ul><ul><li>Syllabus: necessity to ‘tweak’ it where appropriate halfway through the term or semester </li></ul><ul><li>‘ hygiene factors’ limitation in the physical classroom (e.g. number of desks and chairs, space, visibility, acoustics, resources [photocopying, books, PCs]) </li></ul><ul><li>Regular attendance: chasing absentees more difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Pastoral care implications: time demands </li></ul>
  7. 7. 4. Your own definition of communication skills <ul><li>Communication skills are the skills of oral and written communication which enable people to convey meaning to others, either explicitly via a verbal or written message or implicitly (via a non-verbal communicator, e.g. a specific type of body language). They are culture-universal in most aspects, but also contain a culture-specific element as well. Being able to write and speak is not sufficient to communicate well: one needs to learn them to use them judiciously, often by trial and error. Having good communication skills in L1 may well be a transferable skill in L2 – mutatis mutandis . </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Krzanowski, January 2007 </li></ul>( National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities, 1992, p. 2): http://www.unm.edu/~devalenz/handouts/defcomm.html Communication: &quot; Any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person's needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non-linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes .&quot; rrtcpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/rrtcpbsweb/glossary.htm “ The set of skills that enables a person to convey information so that it is received and understood. Communication skills refer to the repertoire of behaviors that serve to convey information for the student.”
  8. 8. 5. What is interesting or unusual about teaching communication skills in L2 (a second or foreign language) in monolingual classes as opposed to multilingual classes? <ul><li>Potential problems in communicating in L2 due to presence of L1 speakers on the same language (e.g. the Chinese Learner in China and in the UK : 1999-2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Tendency to use a lingua franca more effectively in contexts where speakers do not share a language (e.g. multilingualism in Nigeria or India) </li></ul><ul><li>Absence of truly international students </li></ul><ul><li>Immediate learning environment: English-speaking country or not? </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to practise out of class: conducive study environment </li></ul>
  9. 9. 6. Do you feel that the overall aim of communication skills classes is to promote fluency or accuracy? Or both? Or perhaps something else as well? <ul><li>ELT classroom: emphasis first and foremost on fluency </li></ul><ul><li>Accuracy: can be dealt with better in accuracy-oriented structure or specific skills-oriented classes </li></ul><ul><li>Accuracy: much more important in WRITTEN communication skills classes </li></ul><ul><li>Fluent communication: prerequisite for acquisition of ‘communicative competence’ </li></ul><ul><li>Boundary between fluency & accuracy: can be fluid; learner’s journey on a classic continuum </li></ul><ul><li>Natural oral international communication: lapses in accuracy excused if no communication breakdown present </li></ul>
  10. 10. 7. There seem to be 2 types of language used in oral communication. One is fairly teach-able, the other is more difficult to teach. Can you identify these 2 types, and say why one of them may be more difficult to teach. <ul><li>Formulaic language (Type 1): relatively easy to teach; involves memorisation; can be found in dictionaries, other reference materials or sourcebooks (e.g. the language of greetings, making apologies, buying a railway ticket); poses fewer demands on EFL (or ESL) teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Spontaneous language (Type 2): involves extemporisation & creation of novel utterances; may require knowledge of particular culture; more demands on EFL (or ESL) teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Type 1: possibly more teach-able than Type 2 </li></ul>
  11. 11. 8. In ELT, how would you define a communication breakdown? Are there any pedagogical approaches that can be used to resolve such crises? 9. In the context of Palestinian territories, is it easier to teach oral or written communication skills? Why? <ul><li>8: Communication breakdown: </li></ul><ul><li>Despite attempts to this end, a communication process does not take place. There may be many reasons for this, e.g.: </li></ul><ul><li>Inadequate English pronunciation of one or two or more speakers </li></ul><ul><li>Low level of competence in English </li></ul><ul><li>Insufficient effort made by one of the interlocutors </li></ul><ul><li>Too many exophoric references not shared by participants. </li></ul><ul><li>Possible pedagogical strategies: </li></ul><ul><li>Reformulation (by teacher) </li></ul><ul><li>Peer or co-speaker intervention (if skilled, experienced or ‘tolerant’) </li></ul><ul><li>Error analysis in classroom for awareness raising & remedial work (real examples from classroom & from real life or commercially produced materials) </li></ul><ul><li>9. Over to you: </li></ul><ul><li>……………………………………………………………………………… . </li></ul>
  12. 12. 10. Which elements are crucial for WRITTEN communication to be effective? <ul><li>Awareness of the target reader and their background and possible expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Selection of an appropriate genre and register </li></ul><ul><li>Attention to accuracy of expression </li></ul><ul><li>Clarity, lucidity, purpose and style </li></ul><ul><li>Personal, group or cultural sensitivity </li></ul><ul><li>Where appropriate, ‘When I write, “I” write s ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Intuitive & semi-rational knowledge of how to appeal to or please or persuade or inform the reader/the recipient </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetic value (e.g. appearance, layout or production/execution) of message </li></ul>
  13. 13. 11. Which elements are crucial for ORAL communication to be effective? <ul><li>Ability to express oneself impromptu (either face-to-face or over the phone or via distance communication) or in advance (e.g. oral presentations) </li></ul><ul><li>Self-confidence and readiness to produce language while ‘thinking on one’s feet’ </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity to manipulate language as a response to an interlocutor’s reaction and / or questions </li></ul><ul><li>Practical application ok knowledge of differences between Spoken and Written Language </li></ul><ul><li>Personal, group or cultural sensitivity </li></ul><ul><li>Where appropriate, ‘When I speak, “I” speak s ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to use body language / non-verbal communication naturally </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to engage audience or interlocutor </li></ul><ul><li>Where appropriate, observing norms of intercultural communication (e.g. proxemics). </li></ul>
  14. 14. 12. There is a sub-type of communication that normally accompanies ORAL communication. What is it? Is it easy to teach? <ul><li>12: Non-verbal communication </li></ul><ul><li>Reasonably easy to teach via exposure and awareness raising </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on what is culture-universal and culture-specific </li></ul><ul><li>Additionally, clarification of other minutiae, e.g. difference between gestures and gesticulations </li></ul>
  15. 15. 13. What is INTERCULTURAL communication, and what are its successful elements. How can we equip our students with a good knowledge of IC? <ul><li>13. “Intercultural communication (IC) may be defined as an ability, possibly more acquired than innate, to engage in successful communicative interactions with people representing different languages, cultures, social mores and norms of behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>It implies not only mastery and judicious use of language in itself, but also skilful application of suitable social conventions with cultural sensitivity, political correctness as well as attention to ‘needs and wants’ of a given group or a particular individual. </li></ul><ul><li>One’s ability to display a high level of IC is naturally enhanced by international travel, exposure to and dealing with people from other countries and willingness to accept and embrace what is different to one’s original cultural make-up.” </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Krzanowski January 2007 </li></ul>
  16. 16. 14. Identify types of communication that can be one-sided, and possibly exclude direct or delayed involvement of the recipient. 15. From your experience of EFL learners, who is normally a better communicator: a fluent student or an accurate student? <ul><li>14: Written messages </li></ul><ul><li>Considered one-sided if no response is required or indicated </li></ul><ul><li>May be frustrating for author if no immediate or soon-to-arrive feedback given (e.g. students after submission of essay) </li></ul><ul><li>Public notices, governmental laws, general written rules & regulations issued in writing: produced in writing; not allowing for recipient’s response </li></ul><ul><li>Wording of instruction manuals </li></ul><ul><li>15. EFL Good communicator: </li></ul><ul><li>Accuracy: not necessarily a prerequisite </li></ul><ul><li>Fluency: expected; often more important than accuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to acquire communicative competence and use it skilfully </li></ul><ul><li>Fluency often precedes accuracy, and is likely to lead to accuracy eventually (if the latter is expected or required) </li></ul>
  17. 17. 16. Effective teaching techniques <ul><li>A. Writing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Correction code: inductive approach; mistakes not corrected by teacher immediately; students guided to self-correct </li></ul><ul><li>Conversion exercises: informal-to-formal with the aid of prompts </li></ul><ul><li>B. Pronunciation / phonology improvement </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘finger’ technique to show liaison/connected speech, e.g. ‘Where have you been’ in quick speech </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘blowing’ exercise to teach students how to pronounce plosives [p], [t] & [k], e.g.: Peter, it’s not a turtle, it’s a cat </li></ul><ul><li>C. Oral communication (modelling & emulation) </li></ul><ul><li>Training students in delivering effective presentation skills (e.g. teaching them how to speak effectively in public [e.g. how to open a presentation, how to move from one part to another, and how to conclude) </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching students how to extemporise a talk on a given topic (e.g. ITV’s “Your Shout” OR public debates [BBC ‘Animal Rights’ Debate’])) </li></ul><ul><li>D. Universal application for a variety of class types </li></ul><ul><li>Information gap activities </li></ul><ul><li>Opinion gap activities </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative activities (e.g. process writing or group presentations; working together to check answers to any exercises; lead-in / warm-up activities or extension/post-lesson activities) </li></ul><ul><li>Most techniques described above stimulate, initiate or generate communication DIRECTLY. In some cases, communication would be a logical and inherent accompanying “by-product”. </li></ul>
  18. 18. 17. Is the Arabic-speaking world driven more by the oral tradition or by the written tradition when it comes to communication? How does it compare with European cultures? 18. Do your students prefer oral or written communication in English? Why? <ul><li>Some societies: preference for oral communication (or historical necessity, e.g. for African tribes) </li></ul><ul><li>Alleged importance of the spoken word for speakers of Arabic </li></ul><ul><li>International oral communication: some societies more at ease than others (e.g. European, African, Arab, Latin American ‘communicators’ vs speakers from some Asian countries influenced by Confucius and his teachings) </li></ul><ul><li>Students normally prefer oral communication, but… </li></ul>
  19. 19. 1 9. In international ELT, the 21st century appears to emulate an eclectic pedagogical approach which promotes a judicious use of approved teaching methods and approaches. Which particular teaching method or approach seems most beneficial for teaching communication skills in large classes? <ul><li>The Communicative Approach </li></ul><ul><li>Possibly the leading methodology, but… </li></ul><ul><li>Realisation: past methods – valuable; proven; can be fined-tuned to be communicative (e.g. dictation – adding context and real life touches) </li></ul><ul><li>Focuses on person, people’s interactions; humanistic principles of ‘caring & sharing’ in the classroom aid communication </li></ul><ul><li>ELT practitioner of 21 st century: readiness to embrace all influences & use them judiciously </li></ul><ul><li>large classes – lend themselves naturally to good and varied examples communication; </li></ul>
  20. 20. 20. What would be the necessary conditions for the adult secondary and tertiary Palestinian ELT classroom to make the teaching of communication skills to large classes successful or effective? <ul><li>methods? </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure? </li></ul><ul><li>Resources? </li></ul><ul><li>ICT? </li></ul><ul><li>Other factors: </li></ul><ul><li>--------- </li></ul><ul><li>--------- </li></ul><ul><li>--------- </li></ul>