Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer, manager and consultant

Posts tagged ‘theory’

CrowdScience – learning as you get older

BBC World Service’s CrowdScience is one of my favourite podcasts, as the listener questions are fascinating and it features experts from all over the world.

BBC World Service CrowdScience logo

One recent CrowdScience episode was particularly relevant:

Why is learning stuff harder as you get older?

Have you taken classes to learn a new sport or musical instrument or a language? It’s hard work! Why is it that as children we effortlessly absorb new skills and we don’t as adults?

That’s what 50-something listener Gary Grief wondered about playing guitar. Do you need to play more frequently as an adult to attain the same level of expertise? Does the 10,000-hours theory still apply?

Presenter and budding tabla-player Anand Jagatia embarks on a musical journey to discover what neuroscience can tell us about muscle memory and learning. Do musicians and sportsmen share the same challenges? By understanding what’s happening in the brain, can we learn how to learn better?

With tabla-teacher Satvinder Sehmbey, neuroscientist Dr Jessica Grahn, viola-player Dr Molly Gebrian and sports scientist Prof Yannis Pitsiladis.

CrowdScience episode page, retrieved 15/5/2021

The whole 30-minute episode was fascinating, and I’d recommend all teachers listen to it. My favourite part was the metaphor about learning being like creating tracks in a very deep snow field, that you have to keep going over the ‘correct’ route again and again for it to stand out and become easy to follow, and that when you first start learning something it’s hard to work out which of the single sets of footprints is the ‘correct’ or most efficient one to follow.

CrowdScience is also a good podcast for learners to listen to because there is a wide range of different accents, and because it’s for the World Service the speech is generally a little slower and clearer than programmes intended for home service stations. There’s also normally clearer signposting of topics in the programmes.

Using taxonomies to order workshop activities

We looked at two different taxonomies you could use when planning workshops, in a session on the NILE Trainer Development course today.

The first was proposed by Rod Ellis in a 1986 ELT Journal article called Activities and procedures for teacher training. It lists 10 different kinds of task for teachers on training courses, arranged loosely from less to more cognitively/linguistically demanding:

  1. Listing
  2. Rearranging
  3. Comparing
  4. Ranking
  5. Selecting
  6. Adding/Completing
  7. Adapting
  8. Preparing
  9. Evaluating
  10. Improving

We also looked at Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl), again from ‘easier’ to ‘more difficult’:

  • Remembering
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analysing
  • Evaluating
  • Creating

With a coursebook page as a prompt, we used these taxonomies to come up with 6 teacher training tasks laddered from easier to harder, with the caveat that the taxonomies are guidelines, not straitjackets.

The aim my partner and I chose for our imagined group of middle school teachers was ‘to learn how to adapt coursebooks to increase student engagement’. The 6 tasks we came up with were:

  1. List ways you already know to engage students with a coursebook page. (Listing/Remembering)
  2. Categories those methods in some way, e.g. heads up/down, stirrers/settlers, individual/pair/group activities. (Rearranging)
  3. Read this blogpost – what else can you add to your categories? [On reflection, that should probably be something like ‘Choose one thing to add to each category.’ as otherwise it could be overwhelming!] (Adding)
  4. Which of the activities on your list would/wouldn’t work with your students? What would you change? (Analysing/Evaluating)
  5. In pairs, plan your own lesson based on the coursebook page. (Preparing/Creating)
  6. Look at another pair’s lesson plan. Decide what works and what you could improve. (Evaluating/Improving)

Feel free to try out this session with your teachers. I’d be interested to know how it goes 🙂

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