Why our classrooms are failing language students
Let’s be honest.
Language classrooms don’t have a stellar track record when it comes to students achieving proficiency in the target/taught language. This despite, hard working, well trained and dedicated staff and teachers.
Why is this?
In my over 25 years as an educator and working in and with schools teaching languages – 3 very strong reasons spring to mind.
The classroom experience does not contain “agency” or purpose.
The classroom remains an isolated practice area with little relevance to students. Students become de-motivated when language isn’t the real thing, when it isn’t used for a purpose and is just words in a list or a mental exercise of memory.
This recent post by a teacher trainer, nicely illustrates the point. The teacher despite designing a stellar lesson is confronted by student apathy. The teacher planned a very creative lesson about eating food and ordering food in a restaurant in Mexico. When she asks why one student isn’t into the lessson, the student replies, ““Why the hell would someone like me be traveling in Mexico?”
The point is, students get frustrated when they don’t see the relevancy of the classroom materials and activities. “The future” is a long way away and provides little practical motivation to a student. Students need to interact with examples of real language, participate and communicate with real target language speakers. We need to make our classrooms NOT have 4 walls.
The classroom does not offer students enough time on task with the target language.
All teachers know about this pink elephant in the room – time. There just aren’t enough hours committed to language instruction for students to make adequate progress. Language learning is time intensive.
Students need more time interacting and experiencing the target language, more time the school schedule doesn’t offer. Further, the classroom is for the most part a very ineffective use of the time given. So much time gets eaten up with non-subject related “stuff”. Announcements, classroom management, entry/exit etc …. We need to design a better classroom experience for students and use this precious time better.
I began helping build EnglishCentral because I wanted a solution to these two fundamental problems plaguing language education in this day and age. I wanted EnglishCentral (and ed. tech in general) not to replace the classroom teacher but to support them and at the same time mitigate these 2 fundamental problems.
How does EnglishCentral do that?
Essentially, EnglishCentral allows schools and teachers to “flip” their classroom. Students get additional practice with real life language.
EnglishCentral provides authentic input amd takes a natural language approach. Either through the best videos on the web or through our 1-1 tutor GoLive! lessons about the video lessons. Students interact with real world language that is relevant to their interests and curiosity. We make language learning relevant and about “out there”.
EnglishCentral also provides a study platform where through mobile learning, students can more efficiently use their non-class time to get much more engagement with the English language. Students using their smartphones, dramatically increase their time interacting with the English language. EnglishCentral allows them to use our apps when waiting for a bus, when waiting on a friend, in the city, on the street, in the park. We compliment the in-class learning by providing meaningful, “comprehensible” input for the student. More time on task = more gains in student oral proficiency.