Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2445/35019
Title: The structuring of language-learning tasks
Author: Tragant Mestres, Elsa
Director: Ribé i Queralt, Ramon
Keywords: Estratègies didàctiques
Ensenyament d'idiomes
Anglès
Issue Date: 14-Oct-1994
Publisher: Universitat de Barcelona
Abstract: One of the roles who teachers have is that of organizer of activity and in subject matters that are rather practical by nature, like the teaching of a foreign language is, this role as elicitor of activity is even more relevant. This study, then, focuses on how three language teachers structure classroom activity, that is to say, how they set the stage for subsequent activity and how they bring activity to an end. In the study the terms "preparatory" and "wrap-up" segments are used to describe this anticipatory and retrospective talk and the term "structuring" is used as a superordinate of the two segments. The study distinguishes four main themes in the teachers' talk: procedural, linguistic, topic and psychological structuring. Under the section of procedural structuring, the clarity and detail of the teachers' instructions are described as well as the references to reviews and previews and the chances for student decision making. Under linguistic structuring, the talk about the formal properties of the L2 (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation) is examined as well as its length, its participation mode and its location at the preparatory or wrap up segments. The section on topic structuring examines the teachers' references to the topic of the task, that is, what a task has been or is going to be about. Finally under psychological structuring, the teachers' verbal attempts to influence the students' attention or predisposition towards a lesson or task are described. The use of humour during structuring is also dealt with. This study differs and complements others in the literature in that: (a) It not only analyzes the preparatory but also the wrap-up segment, because the two are similar and complementary; (b) it seeks to find individual teaching styles; (c) it not only focuses on the teacher but also examines how students participate during structuring both in public and side-talk; and finally (d) it combines numerical information with thick description. The data was collected from the classrooms of three experienced English teachers, Bob. Sharon and Mark, and their intermediate level students at a language school at a University in Spain. The size of the classes ranged between eighteen and twenty-three. The primary data of the study consists of eighteen audio recorded lessons from the three teachers (six each) and the secondary data consists of field notes, a questionnaire and an interview with each teacher. The teachers were not asked to do anything special during the observations. The data have been analyzed through inductive means by looking mainly at the content of classroom interactions and the final report includes both description and interpretation of the data. There is also quite a detailed account of the history of the research elaborated from the investigator's journal. The analysis of the data is presented in two chapters, one centred on the three teachers and the other on their students. As regards the teachers, the results show (a) common characteristics among teachers (b) individual teaching styles and (c) a number of variables in the nature of tasks affecting the structuring provided. As regards (a), Bob, Mark and Sharon sometimes introduced and brought tasks to an end in very similar ways. The three teachers tended to draw attention to grammar after the performance of a task instead of at its introduction. 'They all gave specific instructions with little frequency, and they tended to give no information about medium range learning objectives. Probably the most pervading commonality was that the three teachers tended to keep the preparatory segment quite short with little or swift interaction. As to (b), the teachers showed stable individual styles in how they provided structuring. Bob stood out for the connections he made with immediately previous and future lessons and for the efficient linguistic structuring he provided. He presented tasks as challenging and pressed on students the idea that groups were places for exploratory talk in the L2. Sharon stood out for her quick -paced, smooth, contextualized and humorous segments and she also fostered group interaction. On a few occasions, however, she left students to induce much of the connections between tasks and lessons. Mark differentiated himself from both Bob and Sharon substantially in that he showed to be a less effective communicator of procedural and linguistic structuring and he sometimes showed to have a narrower repertoire of devices to provide structuring. In sharp contrast with Bob and Sharon, Mark seemed to underrated students' capabilities, something that permeated in the preparatory and wrap-up segments. Regarding (c), the variables, it became dear that tasks with different characteristics tended to be structured differently. A relevant number of traits in tasks were identified as potential determiners of the nature of structuring. Whether a task was skill-oriented or form-oriented, how difficult it was, whether it was a planned or an improvised task, among others, seemed to have an effect on structuring at times. In the chapter on the students, both the public and side-talk during the preparatory and wrap-up segments are analyzed. In the public plane, students tended not to use the preparatory segment to ask questions of the teacher but preferred to ask them later on either to the teacher or a peer. They also tended to signal understanding of the task when sometimes there were doubts in students. In the private plane, the analysis revealed that students could use this side-talk for academically productive purposes. The section on the students also includes an analysis of the mismatches between the teacher's expectations and the actual carrying out of the tasks by students. Four types of students' modifications were identified: simplification, adaptation and overworking. In simplification, students carried out a task in a less demanding way than expected. In adaptation, students were observed to, on their own initiative, slightly change an aspect of the task from how the teacher had explained it during procedural structuring. In overworking students performed a task in a manner that was unnecessarily too time-consuming. The thesis also includes practical ideas on structuring in the appendices like the one on alternative ways to provide structuring and a list of questions for reflection in teacher training.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2445/35019
ISBN: 9788469354926
Appears in Collections:Tesis Doctorals - Departament - Filologia Anglesa i Alemanya

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