A Reflection on my Teaching Methodology
The strongest influences in my teaching methodology thus far are the communicative and task-based approaches, although this does not mean that I shun other methodologies. When I plan a lesson, I try to include tasks that involve the four skills and prioritize function and context. It also helps me to think of tasks as a way of structuring the lesson: there is often a pre-task or brainstorming, a task with two or three steps, and the final task that involves some kind of creative or open-ended materialization (although I think it is a good idea to include some sort of guide or instructions to help prevent avoidance errors).
Over the years, I have simplified my lesson plans and I have structured them using columns and visual elements. I just need to glance at them to know what’s next. At first, my lesson planning were too descriptive but I have realized they were not efficient.
While at my current institution there is a syllabus that still highlights grammar as a main focus, it is usually integrated in broader contexts and, also, the textbook is complemented by a course packet that not only expands on grammar but also includes a wide variety of readings and resources that delve into cultural topics. I try to avoid explicit grammar lecturing for some topics. When I first heard of “inductive grammar”, my brain could not get around the idea of how this could be done, until I had to do it myself. I had to present one aspect of the feared verbs “ser” vs. “estar” (both “to be” in English) differences. It was really refreshing both for students and me to see them realizing what the rule was through tasks, rather than from my own explanations. Although the current syllabus prevents the generalization of this approach (students have to study the grammar before coming to class, hence they are given the rules beforehand), I work to have the class be as student-centered as possible. Since preparation on the part of the students is a key factor, that helps maximize class time, which is usually devoted to language use. If some clarifications are needed, instead of lecturing, I have students answer their own questions (this might be easier in an intermediate level) or I present materials that help them make the clarification themselves. Sometimes, however, there are factors that hinder this student-centered environment (such as classroom dimensions or space), yet, as a teacher, I try to look for solutions instead on focusing on problems. Hence, I believe there is plenty of room for us to develop and implement our teaching identity and methodologies regardless of some external difficulties.
A Reflection on Learning Styles
The Learning Style Survey confirmed some of the opinions I had formed about my own learning process, but it also shed light on some aspects of my learning that I was not yet aware of. I knew that I was mainly a visual/auditory learner, as well as introverted, as the results show. However, I thought of myself as more of a global learner, whereas the results show that I am overwhelmingly particular as opposed to global. I was also surprised to see that a lot of the results showed a balanced outcome for many of the categories (Random-Intuitive/Concrete-Sequential, Sharpener/Leveler, Field-Independent-Field-Dependent, Impulsive-Reflective). When I am teaching, I definitely give priority to a visual/auditory approach. Upon reflection, I realized that I for the most part omitted the kinesthetic aspect in my class. Over the years, after talking to teachers that used a more physical approach or after observing other classes, it was obvious to me that I needed to include this dimension in my own classroom. Since then, I have tried to include this aspect in my language classroom. After a lot of trial-and-error in my classroom, I realized that not everyone was as “metaphorical” as I was, hence, some of the tasks I prepared where not successful because I expected my students to use the same approach that I was using. In filling out the survey, I also became aware of some of my preconceptions regarding how learning should take place: for example, I tend to regard “doodling” while in the classroom and waiting to meet a deadline until the last moment as something negative that should be avoided, rather than as a different learning style. Thus, I might make the wrong assumption when I see some students turn in their homework at the very last minute (deducing, for example, that they are not as interested in the class as others- which might not be the case). In order to cater best to these different learning styles, I try to include a variety of activities. I have to make a conscious effort to include a task that includes drawing since I particularly did not like to be asked to make a drawing. Also, it is hard for me to include tasks in the classroom that involve “true” or “false” questions or “multiple choice” questions because my hesitant and analytic nature refuses to think that there is only one possible answer (and I particularly dislike not being able to justify my answers). In the last couple of years, however, I have realized that it is important to go out of one’s comfort zone –both as a teacher and a student – in order to improve and challenge oneself.