Skip to main content

From Passive to Active Learning

Almost all of my workshops and seminars promote active learning in the EFL classroom. And the feedback I get is usually positive. Some of the bolder participants will tell me that, even though they enjoyed my seminars, they believe that it won't work in their classes. The bottom line of this belief is that their students are "too passive."

This posting is about what I tell the skeptics of active language learning. Not only does active learning require more work from the students, but it also requires more work from the teacher. The first thing the teacher must do is desire an active class. Once that desire is in place, then the teacher must transform that desire into action.

CAUTION: It is difficult to change a passive classroom into an active classroom in the middle of a course or program. Students have already been "programmed" into passive learning. From my observations and experience, the passive students will resist changing into an active class.

If one wants an active learning environment, the instructor must establish the guidelines and expectations on the first day. The instructor must make it clear to each and every student that they will be evaluated on their active participation in the classroom everyday. The instructor must also provide reasoning behind this evaluation.

Reasons to evaluate students based on their active participation in a language class:
  • Communication is a primary goal of learning a language.
  • Using the language correctly is more important than knowing the language well.
  • Interacting with classmates in English demonstrates one's language ability.
Instructors must ask students why they are in the class. If they want to use the language in real life, then they must practice in class. If they want to pass a test, remind them that many tests score one's ability to express himself or herself in writing and speaking.

The instructor should make it clear to the learners that he or she wants them to be able to communicate and interact very well in the classroom so that they will be able to communicate and interact well in real English-speaking environments and on tests. Most students should agree to that.

Once these objectives and expectations are set on the first day, the instructor and the students must be prepared for lots of communicative activities. Refer to my website for various examples of communicative approaches and activities with many including the theories behind them.

If there are still doubts, many of my Korean and Russian teachers-in-training have successfully transformed their passive learning students into active learning students. It works.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What Is So Great About Extensive Reading?

I'm collaborating on a research and development project for integrating extensive reading into intensive English programs. After the initial review of the most recent literature, I was quite surprised at the overwhelming positive effects of extensive reading on reading proficiency, comprehension, and motivation. Although I'm still skeptical, I'd like to share the findings with you.

I looked at 17 articles published since 2012. Although this may not seem like much, 3 of these articles were meta-analyses, which investigated a much larger quantity of studies on extensive reading. Only one was not relevant to intensive English programs, bringing it down to 16 articles. Many of these articles came from the 2015 discussion forums in Reading in a Foreign Language. The majority of those discussion forum articles were not empirical studies, but they went in depth answering "What constitutes extensive reading?" After summarizing these answers, this blog post covers the res…

Are you an Open Educator?

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/18162314289 What is an Open Educator? According to a recently published article from the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL):

An Open Educator chooses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. He/she works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.

Does this sound attractive for English language teachers? It seems to some who offer courses through or with YouTube. But what does it mean "to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning?" Working for free? Not necessarily. If you read the article, it seems you'd be working on a sliding scale depending on the socioeconomic status of the learners, but this sliding scale is a sliding slope. How can poor le…

The Tao of Praxis

Last week, I started reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff to my daughter as part of her bedtime regimen. I bought this book years ago after a colleague recommended it to me when he learned I was interested in Taoism. Since then I have embraced much of its philosophy, but I stop short of calling myself a Taoist. I didn't realize until now that Taoism has deeply affected my attitudes and beliefs towards English language teaching and scholarship, especially concerning the concept of praxis. Below are some examples.


The passage above comes from Chapter 3: Spelling Tuesday, page 26. It's not a subtle attack on academics, specifically those whose goals are to get published to be accepted among an elite circle of scholars. This is particularly striking to me because, at this point in my life, I would like to gain acceptance among this elite circle, which I perhaps naively equate to tenured professors. However, I strive to make my life's work beneficial to English language te…