Teach English in Yuejia Zhen - Bazhong Shi

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Given the fact that the student spends most of his or her time outside of the formal learning situation (e.g. with a teacher), most of the potential for learning is when the teacher is not around. So if we postulate that the greatest potential for learning is outside of the classroom (away from the teacher), then part of the role of the teacher should be to help the student help himself (or herself) better during this time. In other words, providing the student with the tools, material, motivation, ideas etc. so that the student can effectively learn the language independently. In fact, I think it is important to encourage independence in the student. My hypothesis is that the independent learner is more effective and motivated then the dependent learner. The reasoning for this is as follows. I call this the “toolbox view of language learning”. In this view, the teacher is viewed as a tool. More specifically, as a tool among other tools in a toolbox. The dependent learner is limited to relying on (more or less) one tool for all challenges (the teacher). The dependent learner is thus less flexible and less able to adapt to the actual challenges and complexities of learning the language. The premiss here is that just as in a toolbox, certain tools are better used for certain tasks or challenges. A tool can also be more or less effective for different things. Essentially, time with a teacher should be more useful in some ways and less useful in other ways. In other words, the limitations of “time with a teacher” should be better covered by other tools. So, in practice, the independent learner is the learner who analises in what ways “time with a teacher” is effective. He (or she) also looks at the limitations of different tools (e.g. a teacher). The independent learner maximizes the role of the teacher (by focusing on what the teacher is good for) and uses other tools to compensate for the inherent limitations of “time with a teacher”. One such limitation could be for example that: Listening with a tutor is inefficient and not scalable. If the learner is dependent on the teacher for listening then the learners input quantity (potential) will be severely limited. It is simply easier to listen (more or less passively) for 2 hours a day (using a set of headphones) then to listen to a tutor speaking for 2 hours. Independent listening is more scalable, flexible, efficient and economical for the student. In my view, the strengths of the teacher are primarily (1) production practice (e.g. conversation practice), (2) explicit knowledge of the language (e.g. grammar) and (3) metalearning advice. Production practice is the most constant variable since most teachers can help the student practice conversation. The teachers ability to teach grammar (explicit knowledge) will also vary. Finally, the ability to teach metalearning advice (learning how to learn languages) is the most variable (possible) strength of a teacher. If the teacher has not actually learnt foreign languages him or herself then generally this will not be a strength of the teacher. The more languages the teacher has learnt (to an intermediate to advanced level) the more likely it is that their metalearning advice will be solid. Since if the teacher has learnt languages him or herself then they will likely be more equipped to deal with the actual complexities of learning different languages. Essentially, they might have more perspective on what methods and tools are more or less effective. Though, having learnt many languages is no guarantee of great metalearning advice. It might just be that the methods that they have used or developed are not very generalizable for several reasons. But the idea is that the metalearning knowledge of the teacher can be more or less nuanced and this nuance depends on several factors. So this variable essentially depends on how nuanced the teacher is when it comes to the topic of how to learn languages. The better the teacher is at metalearning, the greater role this should take in teaching. In extension, I view the role of the tutor to also be about continuing to educate oneself and become increasingly nuanced on the topic of language learning and metalearning. Essentially, the teacher should optimally shape him or herself to become and increasingly effective tool (in the toolbox of the student) over time.