Communication in teaching English
Theory of the communicative language teaching. Principles and features of the communicative approach. Methodological aspects of teaching communication. Typology of communicative language activities. Approbation of technology teaching communication.
|Рубрика||Иностранные языки и языкознание|
- 1. Theoretical basis of the communicative language teaching
- 1.1 Background of the communicative language teaching
- 1.2 Principles and features of the communicative approach
- 1.3 Communicative competence as a goal of the FLT
- 1.4 Methodological aspects of teaching communication
- 2. Typology of communicative language activities
- 2.1 Types of communicative activities and their arrangement
- 2.2 Techniques of communicative teaching
- 3. Approbation of technology in teaching communication
- Appendix A
- Appendix B
Nowadays the English language has got status of a global language due to globalization and general computerization. Modern English language teaching aims to lingual and social adaptation of pupils to contemporary life. A modern experience professional should possess skills of expression of the thoughts in English, i. e. he should possess communicative competence which includes speech, language and cultural levels. Language learning, in turn, requires motivation. Getting motivation is possible only due to transformation of each pupil from the passive contemplator into the active and creative participant of learning process, i. e. pupils should be involved into communication.
This aspect is reflected in the State Program of Educational Development in 2011-2020: there is a task of formation of intellectual, physically and spiritually mature citizen who would be able to integrate in competitive environment [1; 3].
The pedagogical science is developing and leading to increase new teaching methods and technologies. One of them is teaching through communication, i. e. collaborative teaching, or teaching in intercourse, or communicative teaching.
It will help to engage pupils to "social communication in conditions of multilingual environment" [2; 9].
During the communicative teaching pupils possess the active life position, creative abilities, language skills, their own opinion, responsibility, the logic communications promoting understanding of laws and world outlook ideas, etc.
There is no doubt, that in learning a second language it is necessary for students to acquire, in addition to phonological and vocabulary-grammatical knowledge, ways to communicate with others using their target language.
Practical teaching of a foreign language possesses a number of communication techniques which provide self-determination and self-realization of the pupil as the language person in the course of learning and developing language skills.
communication teaching english language
The educational system of Kazakhstan has changed dramatically within a few last years. Especially the modifications are related to the content and functions of foreign language teaching and learning caused by changes in policy, economy and society. The growth of professional requirements to foreign language knowledge has been observed under the conditions of the fast developing intercultural integration and international policy held by Kazakhstan. All these conditions led to the modernization and intensification of of motivation of three languages policy as a new direction in the state policy of education .
In the "Conception of Foreign Language Education till 2015” it is stated that the necessity of Foreign language teaching and learning has been realized together with its development and intensification within the system of educational organizations .
The novelty of our diploma work is defined by necessity of transition to the modern model of formation communicative pupils' skills and high potential of the teaching.
The problem is in fact that teaching communication has its difficulties in successful teaching and should be thoroughly prepared and designed.
The object of investigation: the process of the English language teaching and learning.
The subject is the methodological process of teaching communication in English.
The hypothesis: if we teach communication and develop communicative competence it will contribute to rising teaching effectiveness.
The goal of the diploma work: to consider effective ways in formation of communicative competence in the process of English teaching and learning.
The following objectives are established:
- to study the theoretical basis of communicative language teaching;
- to research principles, aims and features of communicative teaching;
- to reveal main techniques of involving of pupils in communication activity;
- to develop lesson plans with using of communicative teaching techniques.
In our diploma work we use methods of research:
· studying and analyzing scientific literature;
· observation of the process of teaching and learning foreign languages at school;
· descriptive method
· contextual method
· transformative method
· generalization of teachers' experience;
· lesson modeling;
Scientific basis: this diploma work mainly based upon studies of the following scientists and methodologists: R. Gower, D. Philips, S. Walters, N. Chomsky, H. D. Brown, D. Nunan, P. Nation, G. V. Rogova, P. Ur and others.
Structurally research consists of:
· Theoretical basis of the communicative language teaching
· Typology of teaching activities
In the introduction we set such points as the relevance of the topic, subject and object, advanced the hypothesis, the main goal and the objectives, indicated research methods, which we used in our investigation, scientific bases and practical value of our research.
In the first chapter we consider communicative competence as a main goal of FLT, background of teaching communication, principles and features of the communicative approach.
The second chapter is devoted to working out technology of the teaching communication, i. e. methodical aspects of teaching communication, types of group work, techniques of communicative teaching
The approbation describes the implication of the research materials to the process of English teaching and learning, it's analyses and interpretation of the results.
In the conclusion we summarize results of our investigation and give proof of the theoretical and practical value of the work and make conclusion.
Appendices contain the additional material to the theoretical and practical parts.
The spheres of approbation are the school lessons and extracurricular activities; teachers' professional development seminars.
The practical value: the materials can be used in language teaching methodology.
1. Theoretical basis of the communicative language teaching
1.1 Background of the communicative language teaching
Communicative language teaching (CLT) is an approach to the teaching of second and foreign languages that emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. It is also referred to as "communicative approach to the teaching of foreign languages”, "communication-oriented teaching” or simply the "communicative approach”.
"Communicative" is a word which has dominated discussions of teaching methodology for many years. Although in a monolingual English language classroom, real communication in English is impossible, in communicative methodology we try to be more communicative. That is to say, even though it may be impossible to achieve real communication, we should attempt to get closer to real communication in classrooms [5; 46].
Communicative approach to language teaching first appeared in print in the field of the English Language Teaching (ELT) some decades ago.
Communicative language teaching began in Britain in the 1960s as a replacement to the earlier structural method, called "Situational Language Teaching”. This was partly in response to N. Chomsky's  criticisms of structural theories of language and partly based on the theories of British functional linguists, such as D. Hymes  and the writings of D. H. Ecroyd  on speech acts.
Its origins are many, in so far as one teaching methodology tends to influence the next. The communicative approach could be said to be the product of educators and linguists who had grown dissatisfied with the audiolingual and grammar-translation methods of foreign language instruction. They felt that students were not learning enough realistic, whole language. They did not know how to communicate using appropriate social language, gestures, or expressions; in brief, they were at a loss to communicate in the culture of the language studied.
Interest in and development of communicative-style teaching mushroomed in the 1970s; authentic language use and classroom exchanges where students engaged in real communication with one another became quite popular.
In the intervening years, the communicative approach has been adapted to the elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary levels, and the underlying philosophy has spawned different teaching methods known under a variety of names, including notional-functional, teaching for proficiency, proficiency-based instruction, and communicative language teaching.
Influenced by S. Krashen , communicative approach was further developed during the 1980s and 1990s and was concentrated on the communicative functions of language. Classrooms were characterized by attempts to ensure authenticity of materials and meaningful tasks.
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) emerged as the norm in second language and immersion teaching. As a broadly-based approach, there are any number of definitions and interpretations, but the following interconnected characteristics offered by D. H. Brown provide a useful overview:
1. Classroom goals are focused on all of the components (grammatical, discourse, functional, sociolinguistic, and strategic) of communicative competence. Goals therefore must intertwine the organizational aspects of language with the pragmatic.
2. Language techniques are designed to engage learners in the pragmatic, authentic, functional use of language for meaningful purposes.organizational language forms are not the central focus, but rather aspects of language that enable the learner to accomplish those purposes.
3. Fluency and accuracy are seen as complementary principles underlying communicative techniques. At times fluency may have to take on more importance than accuracy in order to keep learners meaningfully engaged in language use.
4. Students in a communicative class ultimately have to use the language, productively and receptively, in unrehearsed contexts outside the classroom. Classroom tasks must therefore equip students with the skills necessary for communication in those contexts.
5. Students are given opportunities to focus on their own learning process through an understanding of their own styles of learning and through the development of appropriate strategies for autonomous learning.
6. The role of the teacher is that of facilitator and guide, not an all-knowing bestower of knowledge. Students are therefore encouraged to construct meaning through genuine linguistic interaction with others [10; 43].
The communicative approach was developed mainly in the context of English Second Language (ESL) teaching. The question must be asked, however, how universal can its application be? A. Malamah-Thomas points out that "one can relatively easily reach a fair level of communication in English, which has a relatively simple morphology (e. g. simple plurals with `s', no adjectival agreement, no gender markers, etc). Neither is mastery of the highly irregular orthography of English a priority in an oral communication approach” [11; 76]. French, for example, requires mastery of an enormously greater number of elements to reach a similar first year communicative level (different articles in front of nouns, gender, adjectival agreement, numerous verbal forms etc.). It is fatal for the progression and motivation of the learner to ignore this complexity.
1.2 Principles and features of the communicative approach
CLT is usually characterized as a broad approach to teaching, rather than as a teaching method with a clearly defined set of classroom practices. As such, it is most often defined as a list of general principles or features. One of the most recognized of these lists is David Nunan's five features of CLT:
1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language.
2. The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.
3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the Learning Management process.
4. An enhancement of the learner's own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning.
5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom [12; 98].
These five features are claimed by practitioners of CLT to show that they are very interested in the needs and desires of their learners as well as the connection between the language as it is taught in their class and as it used outside the classroom. Under this broad umbrella definition, any teaching practice that helps students develop their communicative competence in an authentic context is deemed an acceptable and beneficial form of instruction.
In the classroom CLT often takes the form of pair and group work requiring negotiation and cooperation between learners, fluency-based activities that encourage learners to develop their confidence, role-plays in which students practice and develop language functions, as well as judicious use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities [13; 54].
As such the aim of the communicative approach to language teaching is to focus on real conversations about real subjects so that communication is the engine of learning. This communication may lead to explanation, but that this in turn will lead to further communication.
Communicative approach is based on ten principles.
1. Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
2. Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves
3. Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed
4. Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills
5. Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the `acquisition' of language.
6. Affordances: the teacher's role is to optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
7. Voice: the learner's voice is given recognition along with the learner's beliefs and knowledge.
8. Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
9. Relevance: materials (e. g. texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners.
10. Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases [14; 83]
Today, we see our primary aim as teaching the practical use of English for communication with native speakers and others.
Conversation is seen as central to language learning within the communicative approach framework, because it is the fundamental and universal form of language and so is considered to be language at work. Since real life conversation is more interactional than it is transactional, this approach places more value on communication that promotes social interaction.communicative approach also places more emphasis on a discourse-level (rather than sentence-level) approach to language, as it is considered to better prepare learners for real-life communication, where the entire conversation is more relevant than the analysis of specific utterances [15; 91].
Communicative approach considers that the learning of a skill is co-constructed within the interaction between the learner and the teacher. In this sense, teaching is a conversation between the two parties.
1.3 Communicative competence as a goal of the FLT
Communicative competence is a main objective in communicative teaching.
Communicative competence is a term in linguistics which refers to a language user's grammatical knowledge of syntax, morphology, phonology and the like, as well as social knowledge about how and when to use utterances appropriately.
The term was coined by Dell Hymes  in 1966, reacting against the perceived inadequacy of Noam Chomsky's  distinction between competence and performance.
To address N. Chomsky's abstract notion of competence, D. Hymes undertook ethnographic exploration of communicative competence that included "communicative form and function in integral relation to each other”. The approach pioneered by D. Hymes is now known as the ethnography of communication.
Debate has occurred regarding linguistic competence and communicative competence in the second and foreign language teaching literature, and scholars have found communicative competence as a superior model of language following D. Hymes' opposition to N. Chomsky's linguistic competence. This opposition has been adopted by those who seek new directions toward a communicative era by taking for granted the basic motives and the appropriateness of this opposition behind the development of communicative competence.
Language teaching in the United States is based on the idea that the goal of language acquisition is communicative competence: the ability to use the language correctly and appropriately to accomplish communication goals [17; 74]. The desired outcome of the language learning process is the ability to communicate competently, not the ability to use the language exactly as a native speaker does.
In the early stages of language learning, instructors and students may want to keep in mind the goal of communicative efficiency: learners should be able to make themselves understood, using their current proficiency to the fullest. They should try to avoid confusion in the message (due to faulty pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary); to avoid offending communication partners (due to socially inappropriate style); and to use strategies for recognizing and managing communication breakdowns.
Through the influence of communicative language teaching, it has become widely accepted that communicative competence should be the goal of language education, central to good classroom practice. This is in contrast to previous views in which grammatical competence was commonly given top priority.
Communicative competence is made up of four competence areas: linguistic, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic. (see Appendix A)
· Linguistic competence is knowing how to use the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of a language. Linguistic competence asks: What words do I use? How do I put them into phrases and sentences?
· Sociolinguistic competence is knowing how to use and respond to language appropriately, given the setting, the topic, and the relationships among the people communicating. Sociolinguistic competence asks: Which words and phrases fit this setting and this topic? How can I express a specific attitude (courtesy, authority, friendliness, respect) when I need to? How do I know what attitude another person is expressing?
· Discourse competence is knowing how to interpret the larger context and how to construct longer stretches of language so that the parts make up a coherent whole. Discourse competence asks: How are words, phrases and sentences put together to create conversations, speeches, email messages, newspaper articles?
· Strategic competence is knowing how to recognize and repair communication breakdowns, how to work around gaps in one's knowledge of the language, and how to learn more about the language and in the context. Strategic competence asks: How do I know when I've misunderstood or when someone has misunderstood me? What do I say then? How can I express my ideas if I don't know the name of something or the right verb form to use? [18; 103]
Thus, we can see that the modules in this section identify eight aspects of communicative competence. They are grouped together in two groups of four:
Ш Linguistic aspects:
- Phonology and orthography
- Discourse (textual)
Ш Pragmatic aspects:
- Functional aspect
- Sociolinguistic aspect)
- Interactional skills
- Cultural framework 
The linguistics aspects of communicative competence are those that have to do with achieving an internalized functional knowledge of the elements and structures of the language.
Phonological competence is the ability to recognize and produce the distinctive meaningful sounds of a language, including:
· tone patterns
· intonation patterns
· rhythm patterns
· stress patterns
· any other suprasegental features that carry meaning .
Grammatical competence is the ability to recognize and produce the distinctive grammatical structures of a language and to use them effectively in communication.
Grammatical competence as defined by Noam Chomsky would include phonological competence.
Learners of French need to learn to understand the different time references of sets of words such as je partais, je parte, je parterai, and to be able to make appropriate time reference when speaking or writing.
Lexical competence is the ability to recognize and use words in a language in the way that speakers of the language use them. Lexical competence includes understanding the different relationships among families of words and the common collocations of words.
Learners learning English need to be able to recognize the concept of chair and what makes it different from a stool, a sofa, or a bench. They also need to know that a chair is a piece of furniture, and that there are various kinds of chairs, including easy chairs, deck chairs, office chairs, rocking chairs and so on. They also need to understand how chair is now used in an extended sense for what used to be termed a chairman, especially when referring to a woman, as in Julie Wright is the chair of the committee .
Discourse competence is used to refer to two related, but distinct abilities. Textual discourse competence refers to the ability to understand and construct monologues or written texts of different genres, such as narratives, procedural texts, expository texts, persuasive (hortatory) texts, descriptions and others. These discourse genres have different characteristics, but in each genre there are some elements that help make the text coherent, and other elements which are used to make important points distinctive or prominent.
Learning a language involves learning how to relate these different types of discourse in such a way that hearers or readers can understand what is going on and see what is important. Likewise it involves being able to relate information in a way that is coherent to the readers and hearers.
Consider the following short discourse in English:
Once upon a time there was an old woman named Mother Hubbard, who had a dearly-loved dog named Bowser. Mother Hubbard was very poor and didn't _racti have enough food for herself and her pet.
One day Bowser came running up and barked hopefully to show his mistress how hungry he was. Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor doggie a bone, because she felt sorry for him. But when she got to the cupboard it was bare, and so poor Bowser went hungry.
This story starts with the phrase Once upon a time, which tells us that it is a fairy tale. The first paragraph goes on to introduce the two characters: Mother Hubbard and Bowser. It also tells us the background information we need to know about Mother Hubbard. Even though this is such a short story we need to keep track of the two participants and the props: the cupboard and the bone. Note the words used to refer to Mother Hubbard: an old woman, herself, his mistress, she and those used to refer to Bowser: a dearly-loved dog, her pet, her poor doggie, him, poor Bowser.
The second paragraph starts with the words One day, which introduce an event we expect to be important. (In fact, it is the only episode in our story!) This episode has three main events:
· Bowser ran up and barked hopefully
· Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
· The cupboard was bare
There is also some further information in subordinate clauses, which are linked to the main clauses by words that show the relationship between them:
· to show his mistress how hungry he was tells us the purpose for which Bowser barked.
· because she felt sorry for him tells us the reason why Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard.
· to get her poor doggie a bone tells us the purpose of going to the cupboard.
· and so poor Bowser went hungry tells us the result of the cupboard being bare.
The words But when she got there introduce the climax of the story: She expected the bone to be there, but it wasn't so poor Bowser went hungry.
So, even in a short story such as this, we can identify cohesive and prominence elements in an English narrative text. Children learn intuitively as they are learning English, but adult learners may be helped by conscious attention to such elements.
The pragmatic aspects of communicative competence are those that have to do with how language is used in communication situations to achieve the speaker's purposes.
Functional aspect of communicative competence refers to the ability to accomplish communication purposes in a language. Language fulfils the interactional function. It serves to ensure social maintenance, referring to the communicative contact between and among human beings that simply allows them to establish social contact and to keep channels of communication open. Successful interactional communication requires knowledge of slang, jargon, jokes, folklore, cultural mores, politeness and formality expectations and other keys to social exchange [22; 142]. There are a number of different kinds of purposes for which people commonly use language, e. g. g
reeting people is one purpose for which we use language. What we actually say in English could be Good morning, Hi, How ya doin, or Yo, depending on who we are and who we are talking to.
Sociolinguistic aspect of the communicative competence is the ability to interpret the social meaning of the choice of linguistic varieties and to use language with the appropriate social meaning for the communication situation, e. g. when greeting someone in a very formal situation an American might say, Hello, how are you? Or Nice to see you again, but if he were meeting a friend in an informal situation it would be much more appropriate to say Hi, or Hey, whatcha been doing?
Interactional competence involves knowing and using the mostly-unwritten rules for interaction in various communication situations within a given speech community and culture. It includes, among other things, knowing how to initiate and manage conversations and negotiate meaning with other people. It also includes knowing what sorts of body language, eye contact, and proximity to other people are appropriate, and acting accordingly, e. g.
a conversation with a checker at the check-out line in a grocery store in the US or England shouldn't be very personal or protracted, as the purpose of the conversation is mainly a business transaction and it would be considered inappropriate to make the people further back in the queue wait while a customer and the checker have a social conversation. Other cultures have different rules of interaction in a market transaction.
Cultural competence is the ability to understand behavior from the standpoint of the members of a culture and to behave in a way that would be understood by the members of the culture in the intended way. Cultural competence therefore involves understanding all aspects of a culture, but particularly the social structure, the values and beliefs of the people, and the way things are assumed to be done, e. g. it is impossible to speak Korean or Japanese correctly without understanding the social structure of the respective societies, because that structure is reflected in the endings of words and the terms of address and reference that must be used when speaking to or about other people.
1.4 Methodological aspects of teaching communication
The technology of communicative language teaching is based on using of various methodical techniques of _ractice situations of real interaction and the organization of pupils group activity (in steams, in small groups) for the purpose of the joint decision of communicative problems.
In its purest form, a communicative activity is an activity in which there is:
· a desire to communicate
· a communicative purpose
· a focus on language content not language forms
· a variety of language used
· no teacher intervention
· no control or simplification of the material [23; 95].
Let's examine each characteristic in turn.
1. A desire to communicate. In a communicative activity there must be a reason to communicate. When someone asks a question, the person must wish to get some information or some other form of result. There must be either an `information gap' or an `opinion gap' or some other reason to communicate.
2. A communicative purpose. When we ask students to describe their bedroom furniture to their partners, we are creating an artificial `communicative purpose' and making the activity more artificial by asking them to do it in English. We also create artificial `information gaps' by giving different information to pairs of students so that they can have a reason to exchange information.
3. A focus on language content not language forms. In real life, we do not ask about our friend's family in order to _ractice `have got' forms. We ask the question because we are interested in the information. That is to say, we are interested in the language content and not in the language forms.
4. A variety of language is used. In normal communication, we do not repeatedly use the same language forms. In fact, we usually try to avoid repetition. In many classroom activities we often try to create situations in which students will repeatedly use a limited number of language patterns. This is also artificial.
5. No teacher intervention. When you are buying a ticket for The Lion King at the theatre, your teacher is not usually beside you to `help' or `correct' your English. Teacher intervention in classroom communicative activities adds to the artificiality.
6. No control or simplification of the material. In the classroom, we often use graded or simplified materials as prompts for communicative activities. These will not be available in the real world.
The main activity form in which communication is realized presents in the group work.
The goals of group work. The following description of the goals of group work focuses on the spoken use of language. There are several reasons for this focus. Firstly, group work is most commonly used to get learners talking to each other. Secondly, much research on group work in language learning has studied spoken activity, partly because this is the most easily observed and recorded. Thirdly, most teachers use speaking activities in unprincipled ways.
How such activities can be used and adapted to achieve goals in language-learning classes? Group work can help learning in the following ways.
1. Negotiation of input: Group work provides an opportunity for learners to get exposure to language that they can understand (negotiate comprehensible input) and which contains unknown items for them to learn. There has been considerable research on the possible sources of this input and the processes of negotiation, with the general recommendation that group work properly handled is one of the most valuable sources. [24; 79]
2. New language items: Group work gives learners exposure to a range of language items and language functions. This will often require pre-teaching of the needed language items. Group work provides more opportunities for use of the new items compared to the opportunities in teacher-led classes. Group work may also improve the quality of these opportunities in terms of individualization, motivation, depth of processing, and affective climate.
3. Fluency: Group work allows learners to develop fluency in the use of language features that they have already learned. The arguments supporting group work for learning new items also apply to developing proficiency in the use of these items.
4.communication strategies: Group work gives learners the opportunity to learn communication strategies. These strategies include negotiation strategies to control input (seeking clarification, seeking confirmation, checking comprehension, repetition), strategies to keep a conversation going, strategies to make up for a lack of language items or a lack of fluency in the use of such items, and strategies for managing long turns in speaking.
5. Content: Particularly where English is taught through the curriculum, a goal of group work may be the mastery of the content of the curriculum subject the learners are studying. For example, a communicative task based on the water cycle may have as one of its goals the learning of the processes involved in the water cycle and the development of an awareness of how the water cycle affects our lives. In addition, the teacher may expect the learners to achieve one or more of the language-learning goals [25; 69].
Thus, we can state that group work is one of the traditional ways of organizing teaching foreign language and this form is developing. It is realized according to principles of the cooperative and communicative teaching and has its main goal to teach spoken language.
Drawings on theoretical part:
1. The value of communicative teaching has been recognized throughout human history.organizing individuals to work in support of one another and putting the interests of the group ahead of one's own are abilities that have characterized some of the most successful people of our time.
2. Communicative methodology includes a number of different (and perhaps interconnecting) principles:
- the primary aim of foreign language learning is communication with users of the foreign language,
- students study the foreign language as a system of communication,
- students learn and _ractice the foreign language through `communicative activities'.
3. Cooperation of the teacher and the pupil assumes knowledge and ability of the teacher to dose out and direct the pupil's independence which finally leads to autonomous and creative cognitive activity as a basis of personal formation and development. In the course of foreign language teaching the most qualitative perception and teaching material mastering occurs as a result of interpersonal informative dialogue and interaction of all subjects.
4. Theoretical aspects of communicative competence has important implications for understanding a communicative approach to foreign language teaching.
2. Typology of communicative language activities
2.1 Types of communicative activities and their arrangement
Different scholars define some different types of communicative activities. D. Gross states, that there are three general types of communicative activities: informal learning groups, formal learning groups, and study teams [26; 483].
Informal learning groups are ad hoc temporary clusterings of students within a single class session. Informal learning groups can be initiated, for example, by asking students to turn to a neighbor and spend two minutes discussing a question you have posed. You can also form groups of three to five to solve a problem or pose a question. You can organize informal groups at any time in a class of any size to check on students' understanding of the material, to give students an opportunity to apply what they are learning, or to provide a change of pace.
Formal learning groups are teams established to complete a specific task, such as perform a lab experiment, write a report, carry out a project, or prepare a position paper. These groups may complete their work in a single class session or over several weeks. Typically, students work together until the task is finished, and their project is graded.
Study teams are long-term groups (usually existing over the course of a semester) with stable membership whose primary responsibility is to provide members with support, encouragement, and assistance in completing course requirements and assignments. Study teams also inform their members about lectures and assignments when someone has missed a session. The larger the class and the more complex the subject matter, the more valuable study teams can be.
Paul Nation have developed types of arrangement of communicative activities. He assumes that a useful way of classifying arrangement of these activities is to look at the distribution of the information needed to do the activity. In many activities learners have equal access to the same material or information and cooperate to do the task. Thus, P. Nation lists them:
- the cooperating arrangement where learners have equal access to the same material or information and cooperate to do the task,
- the superior-interior arrangement where one member of the group has information that all the others need,
- the combining arrangement where each learner has a different piece of information that all the others need,
- the individual arrangement where each learner has access to the same information but must perform or deal with a different part of it [27; 167].
These four different types of communicative activities achieve different learning goals, they are best suited to different kinds of tasks, require different kinds of seating arrangement, and draw on or encourage different kinds of social relationships. In order for group work to be successful, each type of group work must have its most suitable choice of other factors.
Let us now look at each type in turn to see how the principle of communicative work applies and arranged.
The combining arrangement is the ideal arrangement for communicative work because it ensures interest and participation. It may be noticed that ways of making other arrangements more effective often involve adding an element of combining. The essential feature of a combining arrangement is that each learner has unique, essential information. This means that each learner has a piece of information that the others do not have, and each piece of information is needed to complete the task. Here is an example involving a group of three learners: Each learner has a map of an island. However, on one learner's map only some of the towns are named and only some of the roads are indicated. On the second learner's map some of the other towns are named, the railway system is given, and the airport is shown. On the third learner's map the remaining roads and-towns are shown, the central mountain is named, and the forest is indicated. Each learner's map is therefore incomplete, and each learner has information that the other two do not have. By combining this information each learner can make a complete map. They do this by keeping their map hidden from the others and by describing what is on their map for the others to draw on theirs.
The best seating arrangement of the members of the group during this activity supports the essential features of the arrangement. Each learner needs to have equal access to the others to get the essential information while preserving the uniqueness of their own information. This means that when working in pairs the learners should face each other, because that allows good communication while hiding their written or pictorial information. When working in a group, it is best if the learners sit in a circle, so that each learner is an equal distance from any other learner. Equal access to each other is the most important element in the seating arrangement of combining-arrangement groups.
The social relationship amongst the members of a combining group needs to be one of equality. For this reason it is usually unwise for the teacher to become a member of a group unless the learners are prepared to treat the teacher as an equal and the teacher is willing to take a non-dominant role. Some teachers find this difficult to do. In addition, various status relationships among learners may upset the activity. Research by Philips with the Warm Springs Indians found that the way in which the local community's group activities were organized had a strong effect on learners' participation in classroom activities [28; 370]. Just as social relationships can affect the group activity, participation in the group activity can have effects on the social relationships of learners. Aronson et al. found that working in combining arrangements increased the liking that members of the group had for each other, and resulted in a relationship of equality [29; 43].
Research on the combining arrangement as a means of achieving learning goals has focused on acquiring language through negotiating comprehensible input and mastering content. Long and Porter call combining-arrangement activities "two-way tasks" to distinguish them from superior-inferior activities ("one-way tasks”). This research indicates a superiority for combining arrangement activities over teacher-fronted activities and "one-way tasks" [30; 208].
The most suitable tasks for combining-arrangement group work include:
1.completion, e. g., completing a picture by exchanging information, completing a story by pooling ideas;
2. providing directions, e. g., describing a picture for someone to draw, telling someone how to make something;
3. matching, classifying, distinguishing, e. g., deciding if your partner's drawing is the same as yours, arranging pictures in the same order as your partner's unseen pictures;
4. ordering, e. g., putting the sentences or pictures of a story in order.
Combining-arrangement activities do not usually present problems for the teacher. Group size is not a restricting factor. Strip-story exercises involving the ordering of pictures or sentences can be done with groups of 15 or more as long as learners can sit in a large circle or move about to have easy access to each other. One difficulty that may occur is maintaining the uniqueness of each learner's information. This can be done by getting learners to memorize their information at the beginning of the task, or, in pair work, setting up a physical barrier between learners. This physical barrier may be a cardboard screen about 30 centimeters high.
Should combining groups be made up of learners with mixed proficiency or with roughly similar proficiency? In assessing the spread of participation in the activity, P. Nation found that learners in a homogeneous, low-proficiency group had more equal spoken participation than learners in mixed groups [27; 89]. Johnson, D. W. found that most negotiation of meaning occurred when learners were of different language backgrounds and of different proficiency levels. Clearly, different goals will require different group membership [31; 49].
The cooperating arrangement is the most common kind of group work. Its essential feature is that all learners have equal access to the same information and have equal access to each other's view of it. This is because the purpose of a cooperating activity is for learners to share their understanding of the solutions to the task or of the material involved. Here is an example:
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