Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Do students really want what they say they want?

By Katy Miller

When I found students returning surveys which were almost word for word identical, I tried turning these issues into discussion topics to find out exactly what they meant by (for instance) "correct every mistake immediately) and why they thought that would be a useful approach, and found that the students didn't really know why they saw these things as important, and couldn't sustain discussion about them.

Yet every time a did a survey, back they came: correct every mistake immediately, more opportunities to speak, and how to learn English. It was interesting that once the discussion on this was over, the same problems I was experiencing as a teacher kept arising: many students were not making use of the opportunities to speak English that I was providing, most students did not easily learn from a correction of a mistake, and some seemed never to take my advice on how to learn English!!

I just wonder how much of the time students give the "cover story" response to these sorts of questions on my surveys - gave the answer that everybody knows is good to give, but hadn't really thought about them. I'm back in NZ now but I'm coming back to China in September for at least another semester (China and teaching is addictive! Just one more...)

When I get back I think I might spend a little more time explicitly discussing these things in the classroom. I think doing a contract might be a really good way of making sure the students understand the value of these ideas as learning mechanisms, rather than just spouting them off as the expected answer to a question, and might lead them to using them in their learning more effectively.

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