Home > Learners, My thoughts on ELT > What about the ‘who’?

What about the ‘who’?

I’ve recently noticed that lots and lots of people around me seem to be worried about how to reach others, or what they should do to make sure others pay attention and focus. This is true not only in a classroom environment, but, needless to say, that will be my focus on this (quick) post.

I understand few people conduct studies about the effects of A, B, or C on learning, but many tend to just go with the flow. “Why do you do this?” you ask. “Because that’s how everybody does it,” is the usual answer. Instead of trying to come up with new technologies and how to integrate them into learning, why not worry a bit, just a bit, about the people in the classroom who are there to do he learning? Some learners learn better by the use of different tools, and what is true to you won’t be true to all. Maybe learner A loves using the computer for his learning, but what if learners B and C benefit more from slips of paper?

It all comes down to listening to your learners and understanding what works for them – not what you believe should work for everybody and simply impose it on learners. There have been many thoughts about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, but what about the ‘who’? Simply saying that we always bear our learners’ best interest at heart is not the same thing as actually doing that. We ought to give them choice, we ought to listen to them and respond to their needs accordingly. And if they choose to use something other than the Internet, computers, and IWBs, we’ve got to be prepared to give that to them. Our ultimate goal is their learning, not their use of what we think they should be using.

  1. January 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Absolutely – and we have to give them the chance to try some different things out – technologies included – and to allow them to experiment. It’s like some kids who hate sitting at a desk – would much rather sit on the floor to work or stand or sit in a bean bag – why confine them to a desk because it’s the “norm”?

  2. January 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    The idea of the ‘norm’ comes from tradition, I guess. Parents are sometimes even more afraid of changes than teachers. They may even say that they believe things should be done differently, but when it comes to their children’s education, they fear that the out-of-the-ordinary might actually work against children’s development. It’s the old “if it worked for me, it’ll work for you” way of thinking.
    Hopefully, more and more people will realise we can now cater for children’s individuality and foster creativity rather then pushing them into conformity.

  3. Reggie
    January 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Right – you should definitely, and at all times, right on through high school graduation, cater to the students’ preferences because that is how it works in the real world. I know with my job, my boss just lets me do the work I am assigned any old way I want to – all that matters is me and what I prefer. It doesn’t matter what my boss wants. He just adapts to my “working style.” I mean, students really should be prepared for what they will face once they get out of school and what better way than to let them know that the whole world revolves around them and what they want and what they like. Rules only apply to other people and there is no such thing as accountability. Bravo.

    • January 21, 2010 at 10:39 am

      Hi Reggie,

      Hmm… I don’t know if I got it right, but I suppose that’s one of the problems with written discourse – part of the message is always amiss.🙂

      Anyway, I think maybe I wasn’t exactly clear in my (really quick) post on the matter. It’s not that I believe there should be no discipline and kids should run the show. I believe students don’t want their teachers to be their friends – they’ve got much cooler people to be their friends and who are just about their age and really share the same interests. However, IMO teachers should try their best to educate learners and, yes, try as best as they can to prepare them for real life. Changes are afoot in the work environment and it seems that productivity increases when leaders / bosses allow for creativity in the workplace. The bottom line is: I need you to have this done by the end of the day. I can even show you how it’s usually done, but, hey, if you find a faster and more effective way to do it, be my guest.

      I’m not in favour of letting learners think that the world revolves around them either. What I do believe in is that it’s the teacher’s role, as an educator, to empower his or her learner. To really talk to them. I’m not very fond of the figure of the lecturer. Nevertheless, there should most definitely be rules, discipline and classroom management. The teacher is truly in control when he or she can choose when to hand control over to students and get it back whenever needed.

      I wrote the post bearing in mind teachers who are all enthusiasm about using what they believe that works without truly gauging their students learning. “I did all I could do, but that kid just won’t learn,” is heard more often than it should, in my opinion.

      And yes, there is such a thing as accountability, and learners should learn to be responsible for what they do. Again, rules must be present in a learning environment. It’s just like raising your own kids. If don’t set the limits, what kind of people will they become?

      I hope I made myself clearer now to you.🙂

  4. January 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I do see your point, but to be fair (to those teachers who push for change and new methods or tools in their classrooms), if I only listened to what my learners claimed they wanted in the classroom and learning approach, it would often become either very bleak or an exercise in disappointment for them!

    I see it as a two-way street, myself, in terms of forging and building on a mutual relationship with the students. I’ll try some of your ideas in my teaching (in terms of materials and tools), if you’re willing to try some of mine.

    • January 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      Granted! Sometimes (or is it most of the times?) learners, just like anyone in any area, don’t really know that something might be more effective than what they’re used to doing. Teachers should encourage the use of new learning strategies and tools. Teachers shouldn’t, however, insist on using such tools if learners don’t respond well to them.

      For instance, with the crossculturalelt-teachers.wikispaces.com, I’m really hopeful learners will buy the idea of using technology in a way to foster authentic communication. They’ll have to experiment with all sorts of tech tools online as they can think of. Some learners might not feel very into the idea of using the Internet for that for myriad reasons, and the teachers who take part in the project have to be prepared for that. By the way, all help is more than welcome. This is going to be the first semester of the project.

      I see it as a two-way street also. And I’m more than willing to try some of your ideas!🙂
      Let’s keep the ball rolling!

  5. Maressa de Oliveira
    January 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I believe we all have goals when teaching. The learner must be able to do something different or in a better way than before. The post makes me think a lot about how to improve my teaching by listening to the learners’ needs in order to give an effective direction to what is done in the classroom and why.

    • January 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      Hi Maressa,

      I think that’s the core of what I tried to put into words. It’s not about us and our ideas only. There are two main characters in the classroom, and learners ought to have a voice as well. Let me know how it’s working for you.

      Cheers!

  1. January 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

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