A Summary of My Observations
Context and Focus
This documentation includes two parts of my observation. The first one is observing class and its students while taking their Speaking Class. I paid attention on the behavior and how the students responded during the discussion of their assignments in the class. The second part of this documentation is to look at the other side of the fence, that is, from the perspective of the teacher. I observed how the teacher conducted her class, what her approaches are and how the students responded to her methods. Based from this, I will draw up possible research questions and tentative interpretations that will assist me as a researcher to understand the behavior of International Students and their difficulties in learning the English language.
First Observation: Students, 01 October 2014, Speaking Class, Level 5
My first observation took place inside a Speaking class that lasted for 1 hour and 20 minutes. In this instance, the subject of my observation is the students. The teacher greeted her class composed of 11 students, 4 girls and 7 boys. There are 4 rows of chairs and tables, world maps on the walls, TV and a projector. Despite having many students, everyone seems happy and the atmosphere was nice and comfortable for everyone. She started talking and reminded every student about their upcoming examination next Friday. She told them the details and coverage of the exam and to prepare and study hard for it.
The teacher eventually asked the students to bring out their assignments and instruct them to move around and share their notes with their fellow students. This Speaking Class includes students from different nationality such as Middle East, Latin America and Asia. They all attend this class to learn the English language and prepare to join the State Universities. Each student moved around and shared their notes about the movie that they previously watched during their class. This movie was about the WWII. Each of them spoke with other student of different nationality and got to express their thoughts about the movie in English. During her class, the teacher initiates this type of exercise among her students to encourage them to speak and communicate their thoughts through English. By doing so, the teacher believes that this exercise will help them become comfortable in speaking, pronouncing and listening to words and sentences in English. As much as possible, she discourages everyone to use their native language and instead try to talk and explain in English. While the exercise is on-going, the teacher moves around, listens and observes on how the conversation and exchange happens. If there are questions, the students approach and ask their students about it. After the individual task of sharing notes with each of their classmates, the teacher asked them to arrange their seats in circular shape. This time, as a group, they discussed their thoughts and notes about the movies. They took their turn and tried to explain how they find the movie and what sort of understanding they learn about it. At some point in time, everyone was speaking simultaneously and it became chaotic. The teacher intervened and told them to give the others a chance to speak one at a time. She instructed them to raise their hands if they want to speak. Most of the students complain about the different words and vocabularies that they heard from the movie. Apparently, the teacher gave them new sets of words to look at the dictionary to get them ready for the movie. While the discussion was happening, the back row students were not listening and participating in the discussion. Most of them are drawing or looking at their smart phones. This group exercise lasted for about 10 minutes. Throughout their exchange of thoughts, the teacher was merely observing and listening to the students. Finally, when the class concluded, the teacher reiterated that they need to prepare for the next session and that they should study their lesson. After this, everyone started leaving and appeared contented with what they went through their class.
Second Observation: Teacher, 02 October 2014, Speaking Class, Level 5
My second observation activity took place inside a Speaking class that lasted for 1 hour and 20 minutes. In this instance, the subject of my observation is the teacher. Before the class started, the teacher divided the students into 3 groups. The teacher will call each group one at a time to discuss their assignments. There is 1 girl and 3 boys in the first group. They are all from the Middle East. The teacher instructed them to arrange and seat themselves into circular shape to openly talk about their task. The teacher included me in the group with the understanding that I will not participate but only listen and observe while the discussion is on-going. The assignment of the students was to read an article about Zombies. Each of the students was listening and participative. Individually, they shared their thoughts and notes about the article. Some of the students used body language and gestures to ensure clarity of their ideas, thoughts and personal perspective. From time to time, the teacher threw questions about the article and the students responded. Also, as group, I saw that they agreed with each other, and it turned out as a smooth discussion. Throughout the dialogue, the teacher maintained eye contact with the students whenever they responded to her questions. She smiled and nodded while listening to each of them and as a group. Once done, the first group left the room, and the teacher called the second group. I had the chance of chatting with her in between, and she told me that arranging the learning process in small group is beneficial to everyone. The students were participating and everyone had their chance of speaking and throwing their ideas.
The students from the second group were from Asia and Middle East. I introduced myself to them and explained why I am attending their class as I did with the first group. Similarly, the students shared their opinion and ideas about the article and what it meant to them. They were given the chance to speak individually and, at the same time, agreed with each other on some perspective. Throughout the time, the teacher listened intently, smiled, nodded while she continuously monitored and raised question throughout their discussion. I also felt that everyone was very accommodating of me, and it appeared that the students got excited to have a guest in the class. Once done, the second group left the room, and the teacher called upon the 3rd group. The interaction with the third group was also similar with the first and the second group. Everyone showed interest while their teacher asked questions based on the article.
Research Question based on Observations
Based on these observations, I was able to formulate the following question:
- What motivates a student to learn a new language?
- What are the common characteristics of an International Students (who is learning new language)?
- How will the teacher ensure that every student in her class participates and learn their lessons about English language?
- What are the activities that the teacher need to conduct to practice speaking, understanding and writing in English?
- What are the competencies that the teacher should acquire when teaching International Students who are learning the English Language?
Tentative Interpretation based on Observations
Based from my observation, the students have the willingness to learn new language if they see that their fellow students are like them, meaning they speak the same native language, and they are from the same country. It appears that being the same specie gives them the comfort of trying new things because they see that there is someone like them learning the same thing . Also as part of my investigation, I saw that International Students who are learning the English language are typically shy. They will only respond if they ask, and they are not assertive enough to express their ideas. It appeared to me that this non-assertiveness is due to the fact that they need to express whatever they are thinking in a language that they are not familiar with, that is why they tend to just keep quiet and choose not to talk. On the other hand, the teachers must maintain a focused group discussion with small number of students so that everyone gets to participate in the discussion. There is huge possibility that someone will be left out if the discussion of new learning involves many young students. Besides discussion and learning new vocabularies, it will also be helpful to assign movies and short films, listening to English music or short interviews to practice the students throughout their learning of the English language. Also, based from this study, it is critical that the skill of a teacher matched with the needs of the International Students who are learning a new language .
Lesson Learned based on Observations
Overall, this observation activity was a great experience and productive from me. Right before my eyes, I saw how International Students were inside their class while learning the English language. While learning, it is essential for them to incorporate body language and gestures to thoroughly express their ideas and perspective if they could not find the right word. Personally, I think this is a good start in any learning. I saw what possible approaches that is effective and fruitful for students when learning the language. Equally, I saw how critical the participation and responses of the teacher is to facilitate the learning process of the student. I believe that the ‘one size fits all’ concept will not fit in terms of teaching students to learn new language. It is important that teachers are competent and efficient enough to explore various methods to ensure that everyone in her class participates and learn the language.
Interview Questions: International Students and their difficulties speaking English in the class
- Tell me about yourself.
- What brings you here in X university?
- Tell me about a time when you find yourself enjoying what you are studying.
- Can you tell me at least two situations where you had a hard time speaking in English?
- Can you tell me at least two situations where you find yourself comfortable speaking in English?
- Do you have an English class back in your country?
- How is an English class conducted back in your country?
- How does your teacher teaches English back in your country?
- What are the study tips that you can recommend to International Students studying English?
- Behavioral Event
- Please discuss an important assignment that you need to complete. How was the experience?
- What is your typical way of dealing and coping with difficulty in learning the English language?
- What does learning means to you?
- What is your perception of reading and creating blogs?
- Compare your effort and study method with your classmates in learning English.
- What kind of feedback do you get when you speak or write in English?
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Razavi, L. (2014, March 19). The case of Language Learning. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/19/language-learning-motivation-brain-teaching
Richards, J. (2011). Competence and Performance in Language Teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.