Demand High for learning to take place
The ELT world has gone through many changes: from trying different approaches, using numerous ways of making our teaching more efficient, creative and dynamic to introducing new technologies in the classroom with seemingly the same goal: to achieve successful teaching and learning.
Every attempt to raise awareness of the need for challenge in teaching and learning is more than welcome, and, the way I see Demand High is understanding how much has been achieved, how much more learners can do, and showing teachers the best ways to do it.
Learning is, in the end, an individual process. It is facilitated by different teaching approaches and techniques, media used and by the effect of learning in a group, or from a group. But, learning a foreign language is a very demanding situation: learners have to deliver, produce, interact on the spot most of the time. What they produce, or show they are able to do, does not always show the real level of learning and their learning potential. Sometimes, we witness the horror of ‘I cannot say it, do it’ , or ‘everyone else is doing it better than me.. ‘So many things are happening at the moment when a response is expected from a learner, whether in individual production or group/pair interaction.
So, before we offer challenge, or ask for more, we, teachers must ensure learning takes place and understand why there are problems. And then, intervene, in order to open the channels for learning. I would say that teaching is generally a 1-2-1 situation: we need to know whether learners are really learning, why our students are not learning generally and at that particular moment, what could be the reason and how to ease the problem on the spot, during a real teaching situation.
Therefore, I found Adrian’s 1-2-1 teaching in front of the group as giving teachers the freedom to help the student(s) immediately and in the way they need it. With this 1-2-1 approach, we can offer our students more, or challenge them and make it possible for them to learn more. I do not see the challenge as designing more complex tasks only, and the way I understood both Jim and Adrian was to do with actually thinking about task design more deeply. If we, teachers only resort to more difficult tasks, we would risk that students would just be more blocked. How many times we teachers realise that part of the group did not quite learn something we wanted to teach and the students went home feeling they are not sure they can use what they were supposed to learn that day?
Indeed, if we help teachers in designing well staged tasks and checking if learning takes place, it will be quite possible to achieve challenge and use learning potential more. By this more stimulating exposure to learning, students can surely learn not only more about a foreign language and its use but also about their own learning style and learning capacities.
DoS, Teacher trainer & ELT materials writer