Дата публикации 21.05.2020
Вовлечение студентов во внеурочные мероприятия по специальности: организация, участие и итоги
Марышкина Таисия Владимировна
Магистр гуманитарных наук, старший преподаватель кафедры иностранных языков и межкультурной коммуникации, Частное учреждение «Академия «Bolashaq», Караганда, Республика Казахстан
Аннотация: В статье описывается небольшой проект, проведённый в «Академии «Bolashaq» среди студентов-будущих преподавателей иностранного языка второго и четвёртого курсов. Целью проекта было вовлечение студентов в ежедневную практику изучения английского языка. Дополнительное мероприятие называлось The Listening Challenge, и участие студентов было полностью добровольным. Проект вёлся дистанционно, длился две недели, и задача состояла в ежедневном прослушивании подкастов разного уровня сложности. После завершения «The Listening Challenge» студенты ответили на небольшой опрос о своих впечатлениях от этого мероприятия. Проект показал, что организация внеурочных мероприятий требует более тщательного изучения, определение оптимальной степени участия фасилитатора, особенности занятий, которые побуждали бы учащихся активно участвовать, а также значимость той или иной формы оценивания.
Ключевые слова: EFL, дистанционное обучение, обучение, навыки аудирования, внеклассная деятельность
Master of Arts, senior teacher of the Department of Foreign Languages and Intercultural communication, Private Institution “Bolashaq” Academy, Karaganda, Republic of Kazakhstan
Abstract: This article describes a small project conducted at the Bolashaq Academy among students-future teachers of a foreign language of the second and fourth courses. The purpose of the project was to engage students in the daily practice of the English listening skills. The additional activity was called The Listening Challenge, and student participation was completely voluntary. The project was conducted remotely, lasted two weeks and consisted in daily listening to podcasts of different difficulty levels. After completing The Listening Challenge, students completed a short survey regarding their impressions of this activity. The project showed that the organization of extracurricular activities requires a more thorough study in order to find out the optimal degree of participation of the facilitator, the features of classes that encourage students to participate actively, as well as the significance of one or another form of assessment.
Keywords: EFL, distance learning, learning, listening skills, extracurricular activities.
Марышкина Т. В. Involving students in extracurricular activities in the specialty: organization, participation and outcomes / Мир педагогики и психологии: международный научно-практический журнал. 2020. № 05 (46). Режим доступа: https://scipress.ru/pedagogy/articles/vovlechenie-studentov-vo-vneurochnye-meropriyatiya-po-spetsialnosti-organizatsiya-uchastie-i-itogi.html (Дата обращения: 21.05.2020)
Learning a foreign language requires both considerable effort, the devotion of time, and maximum daily exposure to the language. This last condition may be stated as the most important one alongside with the seven principles of systematic learning. Without a daily practice of productive and receptive skills, it is hard to anticipate a proper acquisition of the language. The process of learning a language is a life-long experience, and success depends on whether a person is able to persistently seek application and improvement of their skills.
Practice proves that in some cases students know rules of English grammar and recognize some vocabulary but are not capable of speaking fluently or distinguishing native speakers' speech. A standard curriculum encompasses systematic training, where information is given to students first on a general scale, and then deepen into more complicated aspects on the principle of "+1" and scaffolding. The language material is practised with the help of exercises, consolidated by creative and control tasks. Each lesson has its purpose and expected result. However, in most countries where English is learned as a foreign language the number of contact lessons per week is rather low, from 2 to 5 depending on the institution and specialization. Thus, it seems to be crucial to involve students into extracurricular activities that can provide everyday exposure to the English language, reception of it and communication; beyond the limits of formal learning lies a huge layer of opportunities associated with random assimilation, associations and memorization of curious and unusual facts. Moreover, the habit of searching for additional information in one’s professional sphere leads to informal, additional self-education throughout life. For students-future teachers of a foreign language, we consider this practice especially important, since they need to maintain a balance between knowledge of the methodology of teaching a foreign language and knowledge of a foreign language itself.
As a project, an attempt was made to develop in students the habit of accessing various audio materials in English, which are not language-aimed in nature, but rather informative, where language acts as a means and not the goal in itself. This project was called The Listening Challenge. The choice of the audio material source fell on podcasts. Podcasts are mostly known as a series of audio files created in the manner of radio programs, though some of podcasts exist as a stand-alone episode. We take the definition proposed by Richardson who explained podcasts as digital media files distributed through the Internet, tracked and downloaded through syndication for playback on a computer, mobile application or an MP3-player .
Podcasts have been used in education for various purposes. For example, Catherine Sutton-Brady et al. in the article “The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching” tell that majority of students who were involved in their project “believe they gained learning benefits from the podcasts and appreciated the flexibility of the medium to support their learning”[5, p. 219]. Speaking about the advantages of audio over texts, Durbridge, Lee, Chan, and McLoughlin used audio for learning and teaching long before podcasts have spread [3; 4]. Sloan S. presents the wide potential of podcasting for learning, including such possibilities as "to offer a richer learning environment”, “to facilitate self-paced learning”, and “to allow faculty to offer advanced and or highly motivated learners extra content” [2, p. 156].
Even in 2012, when podcasting was just developing, Rahimi, M., & Katal, M. successfully used podcasting for teaching English as a second language by making special lecture series for learners . Some researchers claim that podcasts are particularly useful in respect of pronunciation and speaking ability. Fernando Rosell-Aguilar holds to an opinion that language learning, as well as learning in general, received the same advantage from podcasting as the Internet had on the quality and resources of learning around the world in the past [7, p. 473]. Although there are plenty of opportunities to include podcasts in teaching, we must specify that podcasts are always a complement to the task but not the aim at itself. According to Maryam et al., podcasting allows work on various language and learning skills, alongside with different methods that can be applied [8, p. 2]. Creating our own week-long activity called The Listening Challenge, we tried to create conditions in which students would need not only to listen to the podcast episodes but also to answer a number of comprehension questions. As McKinney, Dyck & Luber noticed in their research, “podcasting can be effective in learning only if the students treat it as lecture sessions and act similarly, i.e. take notes and listen to the podcasts several times” [9, p. 622].
For the present study podcasts of short and medium-length were applied due to the fact that shorter episodes require less time and internet traffic to download and consume [10, p. 221]. Moreover, it has been noticed that some students tend to quit listening if it is too long for them. In the case of one study among computer science students, participants stopped listening to podcasts that seemed too long for them - more than 8 minutes . However, we believe that the concept of a “too long” podcast is subjective and depends on students' ability to concentrate, as well as their interest in the information conveyed in the episode. Nowadays youngsters and even members of the older generation are unused to apprehending complicated long texts or audio due to so-called "clip-thinking" or inability to analyze and, consequently, structure information incoming .
Concerning the topic matter of podcasts, preference was given to those podcasts which were not overloaded with terminology or slang but involved various spheres of everyday communication and student life. This helped to maintain the principle of variety, which, according to Vandergrift & Goh implies listening to a variety of authentic audio texts on a wide variety of topics .
The question of the organization and maintenance of the Listening Challenge was solved by implementation of Trello.com online platform. This platform is a simple but highly visual and interactive means that provides space (so-called boards) for organizing projects, businesses or personal plans. Trello has shown its prospects in the sphere of education. According to Kalizhanova, Ibrayeva & Ishmuratova (2018), Trello “made possible to regulate students’ self-work more efficiently due to the interconnection of interactive approach and such traditional forms as a teacher’s presence and teacher-student collaboration” [13, p. 51].
Unfortunately, the real proof of the pedagogical value of podcasting is limited in the literature [5, p. 222]. The last fact can be explained by the general situation of evaluation of achievements in education where teachers have to deal with an overwhelming amount of side factors and can assess only the practical representation of knowledge received, i.e. set results and not the cognitive process. In this project, our goal was to create conditions in which students would consistently devote some time to English-language content every day, and evaluate the usefulness of the activity individually according to their impression. This article describes the features of the proposed activity, materials and ways of implementation, the participation of students of the speciality of teachers of foreign languages and their feedback.
The main objective of this study was to engage students in additional English practice voluntarily and not as a course assignment. Thus, the students were informed foremost that participation in the Listening Challenge was optional and that it would not affect their rating in any way, but only to develop their habit of accessing English information daily and improve their listening skills.
The study covered students of 2nd and 4th courses in the speciality "Foreign Language: Two Foreign Languages", whose future profession is the teacher of foreign languages in educational institutions of various levels, such as schools and colleges. Regarding the level of English proficiency, these students were ranked from A2 to B2, and their listening skills varied as well.
Materials of the Listening Challenge were placed on a Trello board that had been created specifically for this purpose. The board presented the following four lists:
1) Our rules - present the main instructions of the activity, suggested mobile applications and feedback instructions.
2) Week 1 - seven digital cards present an episode for the weekday one after another.
3) Week 2 - seven more digital cards present an episode for the weekday one after another.
4) Survey - a card provides a link to the Google Forms survey which is to help evaluate students’ impressions of the Challenge.
Such resource as Trello boards allows distant access and maintenance of the activity. All the materials can be approached via the Internet by the use of a browser or the special Trello application. Students get push-notifications, leave comments, track their progress and can reach the teacher, each other, and all the material from everywhere.
The podcast episodes were placed on the board either as web-links or as mp3-files. One of the disadvantages of podcasts is that they mostly can not be downloaded outside special applications and sites, they cannot be stored on the phone and, for example, can not be transferred to friends via a messenger. Often, the only way out is to provide a link to the website or application where the podcast episode is located.
Podcasts were distributed one episode per day. Thus, the whole Challenge consisted of fourteen episodes. The episodes were organized in the same order as the days of the week, which was colourfully indicated with the help of illustrations - so that students would not get confused.
Moreover, based on the fact that the participants in the activity had different levels of competence in both English and listening skills, the complexity of podcasts varied. The first-day podcast was the easiest, then the difficulty gradually increased, and the last day podcast was the most difficult. By complexity, we mean the duration of the episode, its theme, the clarity of the speaker's speech and its emphasis, as well as the level of vocabulary by CERF. Here is the list of the episodes which were suggested for listening:
1) Win a prize! - Find out why Di enters so many competitions each year.
2) Lori wants a naked cat - A heated discussion ensues because Lori wants a naked Sphinx cat and Michael thinks they are ugly.
3) Mind games - a program about projects that shows how human’s mind can be tricked.
4) Big machines - a dialogue of two villagers helps to learn the vocabulary about construction machines and processes.
5) Humblebrag - find out what “humblebrag” means with Rob and Feifei.
6) K-pop - in this episode, Andrew and Kassy talk about the ins and outs of K-pop, and even some slang terms related to this music movement.
7) California - Suzanne talks with Andrew about her recent trip to the most populous state in the United States, California.
8) Stop being a student and start being a speaker - Gabby has noticed that there are 2 very different ways of learning: 1 for school and 1 for real life.
9) Climate change report: 'Rich must pay for poor' - Dan and Catherine teach you the language being used to discuss a news story about climate change.
10) Showing up for English learning success - We look at one the top keys to success — not just for learning English, but for ANYTHING you aspire to do.
11) Whole Vs. Entire and Does It Matter in English? - Lindsay and Michelle are friends who are talkative and fun. They chat about the peculiarities of the English language.
12) "Prince Ali" and Why We're All Music Theorists - Fans are not happy with Will Smith's update of the classic Disney song "Prince Ali" in the live-action Aladdin. Hosts dig into the properties of tempo and the key to understand why people have such a visceral reaction.
13) Money Is Valued Differently Depending on How It's Earned - Christie Nicholson reports that we tend to diminish the value of money earned through questionable means.
14) Motivation conversation with BJ Fogg - Lori talks to Dr BJ Fogg about how to make the most of the motivation that you have, no matter if it's high or low.
The board was organized in English, however, part of the instructions and rules had been translated into Russian in case some students of level A2 face difficulties with navigation in the activity.
The Listening Challenge board has a public status and is available for all internet users at https://trello.com/b/5LGbI1RG/listening-challenge.
A description was added to each podcast, as well as a checklist of questions to evaluate comprehension. Students were suggested to answer these questions to evaluate how much they understood the content of the episode. The questions were both general and more focused on details. For example:
a) What does Woody Allen do for a living?
b) What would the man who held a cup of ice-coffee for a strange say about the stranger?
The number of questions for each episode was in the range of three to four, so as not to overload the students with tasks.
Keeping in mind that some participants have never dealt with podcasts, in a separate card they were offered various services through which the podcasts could be available. It was explained that on iOS, the Podcasts program is preinstalled as Apple Podcast. On Android, students could listen to the episodes through Google Play Music or by downloading the Google Podcasts app. Also, all the episodes could be opened in any browser.
After a short briefing, the students were instructed to start the Listening Challenge activity on following Monday and listen to one podcast each day, as well as check themselves with the comprehension questions provided. All communication with the teacher was conducted through the Trello platform. This was to show the degree of students' interest and their ability to act independently. Initially, 25 people agreed to participate in the project. After finishing the activity, students completed a small online survey presented as a Google Form. The survey was conducted anonymously, which ensured the openness of the responses.
The survey consisted of eight of the following questions (table 1):
Table 1. The survey questions
At the start of the challenge, the total number of students submitting to the Trello board was 25 people. However, the activity of many of them was not reflected on the board. In the survey, at the end of the Challenge, only ten people took part. Thus, we assume that out of the initial number of volunteers, less than half, namely ten people, actually participated in the project from beginning to end.
Most students followed the rules of the activity. There were, however, students who had not started on Monday, so they caught up with the group by listening to two podcasts per day. They listened to one podcast every day and for self-control they answered the proposed questions and post their answers in the commentary. It should be noted that they were not required to give answers in the comments. The teacher suggested that they give their opinion in the comments about the content of the podcast and its complexity. We understand this behaviour as the students' need to demonstrate their successes and show the degree of progress in the Challenge.
Most students listened to podcasts in a browser or applications. However, some of them had difficulties, and the students themselves took the initiative by adding links to alternative sources. For example, the YouTube channel of a podcast, as is the case with the release of "Stop being a student and start being a speaker".
Regarding the complexity of podcasts, students rated them differently. According to the comments on the Trello board, the first podcasts were all recognized as easy, but further students did not consider all podcasts to be too complicated; those that were at the end of the second week were considered more difficult. Basically, participants’ opinion was based on the speed of speech of the podcast’s host and the complexity of the vocabulary used.
The role of the teacher was reduced to the facilitator of the Listening Challenge. He commented on students' responses, encouraged them to continue listening or listen to an episode of a podcast one more time if they had encountered some difficulties. The teacher read absolutely all the comments on the board, gave feedback and also confirmed the correctness of the answers to the comprehension questions.
The degree of students' activity increased as they progressed in the challenge. It was obvious that they were not accustomed to participate in the activity where they had little control from the part of the facilitator and where they did not receive any assessment other than approval and a sense of work done.
The survey at the end of the challenge gave a rather interesting perspective on the results of the activity and impressions of students.
Of the ten participants, almost all rated their initial listening skills completely differently. No one rated their listening skills as 100%, where 100% is a very good level of listening proficiency. Two people rated themselves at 50%, 60% and 65%, respectively. All the rest chose a percentage of 30 to 90. After completing the Challenge, half of the participants rated their English listening skills by 80%. The minimum rating was 60%.
Five out of ten participants had not dealt with podcasts before. 70% of the participants reported that they would continue to listen to podcasts as a part of their daily life, and 30% answered "maybe”; no one gave a clear negative answer.
Six students replied that they liked participating in the activity, three rated participation as “overall, good,” and one participant did not like the activity.
The answers to the question about what students liked in the challenge converged on the following points: interesting and relevant topics of episodes for listening; organization of the process; recognizable vocabulary in podcasts.
Among the drawbacks of the Challenge, students noted the inconvenience of mobile applications, which can be attributed to their low level as users, since half encountered podcasts for the first time. Some participants lacked a script to better understand the complex moments of audio. One student also replied that he/she lacked control from the teacher.
When asked “Do you think you have learned a lot during these two weeks of participating in the Listening Challenge?” 60% of students answered “yes rather than no”, and 40% chose a clear “yes”.
The project was held in a small private university among students-future teachers of foreign languages. The total number of students at the university does not exceed two and a half thousand people who are also students of other specialities. This justifies the small number of participants in the activity. It is likely that if the project was conducted in a larger university, the scope of the study would increase, and the survey numbers would show results of different quality. However, we believe that the data obtained allow us to draw some general conclusions.
Firstly, when organizing additional activity, it is necessary to include elements of control and evaluation for students so that they see their own results, they can compare them and receive dopamine in the course of their work. Students with less motivation or a degree of responsibility tend to not participate in anything outside the curriculum.
In addition, the role of the facilitator should be more active; however, we consider it necessary to clarify exactly what actions the facilitator should take by another survey among students.
Students notice the benefits of extra activity and tend to follow instructions to get results. Almost half of the participants decided to continue listening to podcasts not only because of the practice of English but also due to the interesting facts that they learned from the episodes. This emphasizes that the goal of the project was achieved.
In conclusion, based on the knowledge gained, we are going to continue projects with the organization of additional activity among students in order to increase their number of high-quality English practices and the application of various skills. We see a clear need to find out what students consider to be an attractive extracurricular activity.
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