Monday, June 11, 2012

How have I grown as a teacher..

  So our final presentation is approaching in which I'll have to give a fifteen minute presentation concerning how I've grown as a teacher;  I'll be discussing the development of my practice resultant from the Methodology, Second Language Acquisition, and Intercultural Communication courses.

  When I first looked at this assignment, I sort of disregarded it in terms of difficulty.  Now, though, as I sit down to plan it out, I'm realizing how difficult it is to reflect on personal development in concrete ways.  So, I've decided to start by blogging my general feelings about how I've developed before actually looking at data (videos, transcripts, materials etc) to back it up.

  Before I started the STG courses, my ideas about what constituted effective teaching were resultant of my experiences as both a learner and an instructor.  I had an unrefined awareness of concepts like the negotiation of meaning and the zone of proximal development.  Still, I didn't have the pedagogic or methodological knowledge to be confident that I was developing or implementing effective lesson plans.

  Now that I've had the opportunity to analyze elements of ESL instruction in minute detail, I've become much more knowledgeable about providing input in a comprehensible way and creating the conditions necessary for that input to be acquired.  I have the confidence to recognize a greater range of learner difficulties before they happen and negotiate them when they arise unexpectedly.

  The example of this which came into mind as I wrote that last sentence was teaching phonetics, or the physical act of producing language.  Before these classes, I sort of thought pronunciation developed naturally over time and did not require active instruction in most cases.. active pronunciation instruction was something I shied away from because, if a student was physically unable to copy a sound I had modeled, I had a limited tool-set with which to try rectifying the problem.  I often skipped words which were slightly mispronounced or, in worse cases, was content to provide a corrective recast, sometimes not even requiring that the student reformulate his/her erroneous utterance.  I wanted to focus on conveying meaning and saw inaccurate pronunciation as more of a distraction than an element of communicative competence needing attention.

  I now have a healthier respect for and command of active pronunciation instruction.  Methodologically, I am now better able to demonstrate the physical act of producing sound in a variety of ways including drawing a quick diagram of the mouth or taking the kids through a quick activity to make the recognition of phonemes more salient and their production more easily possible.

  Pedagogically, I started to consider phonetics more seriously when we learned about interlanguage and took a more objective view of the way teachers and learners communicate in class; just because what a student has uttered makes sense to me doesn't mean that it will make sense to another in an authentic communicative exchange.  What I consider a small mistake in pronunciation could potentially disallow the conveyance of meaning with someone else.  Furthermore, the possibility of fossilization makes the need for a greater emphasis on pronunciation all the more necessary.

  So these courses have altered my approach to some elements of pedagogy, given me a holistic and systemic understanding of concepts for which I already had some rudimentary knowledge, and introduced me to concepts and practices to which I was previously ignorant.

  Now that I've written my general feelings on the matter, I feel a lot better about being able to put a quality presentation together for Saturday.  I'll start looking at transcripts and videos tonight and tomorrow morning, possibly blogging again to see how the points on which I'll focus look laid out together.

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