I recently saw Michael Griffin's blog post/collection of short stories on lesson aims on the board and thought it would be great inspiration to restart blogging again this year.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You look at the page in the coursebook that is on the timetable to teach, you think about it a bit and see the grammar point. You try to pull out the function that this grammar point is providing here. After you’ve seen that you check out the last listed task and consider if this really does provide full practice of the desired function in a free setting that will allow the students to draw upon their full knowledge bank and is achievable at the end of the lesson. Then you write up your lesson aim using a great template for the lesson aim. “By the end of the Lesson Students will be able to…etc etc”
Now this is far better than “By the end of the lesson we will have finished page 8 of the coursebook and the teacher won’t have killed little Pepe for talking back during the class.” but is it really student centred?
What Exactly makes something Student Centred?
To answer this it’s worth agreeing what “student centred” is. The idea of student centred lessons emerged with the “humanist” movement in Language teaching and learning where the student is viewed as a complete being and as the most important unit in the classroom. It isn’t about the passing of knowledge from one source (the superior teacher) to another nor should the student have to study what some outside source decides is the best for the student to learn as and when.
At it’s most extreme it states that the teacher is at the whim of the students and follows their lead. The teacher is there as a facilitator and is there to follow the students lead and requests. It’s an incredible popular idea in education at the moment and with TED talks by sunda pichi about the hole in the wall where child learnt different knowledge items simply because they had a computer with learning material/an internet connection on it.
Or how about the growth of popularity in the flipped classroom and project learning. Basically, Student centred learning is pretty fashionable right now. But is a change of wording really enough to turn our previously teacher driven and teacher directed lesson plan into a student centred lesson?
I hope you’ll agree this is quite obviously part of the “question to which the answer is no” series. And yet a framework such as the one above really can really help make lessons more student centred and lead to teachers taking a more student driven approach.
The Benefits Of A Student Centred Lesson Objective Framework
“By the end of the lesson Students will be able to…[Insert language function]… in a …[a communicative task]….using …[a language item that the students need to complete the task]… so that in the final task they can…[a communicative goal]”
The first stage is to make sure that there is a real language function for the student. Teaching language items are great but especially when the first item we should clarify is the meaning of the items providing a clear context is very important. So we start with a function not a language items.
The communicative task comes next because it’s important to think of a real situation where students would use this language item, If you create an artificial task where no one would really use the language item then guess what…they won’t use the language item.
The language item should always facilitate the functions and not the reverse. If the language item doesn’t then it’s worth considering different language items that will enable students to complete the task and functions better.
The final part is the motivation for all that has gone before. This is perhaps the easiest part to forget and yet it is really important. Ultimately if all your tasks are “do this because I say so” then it won’t contribute to a motivating classroom or students appreciating the need for the language item. When there is a communicative goal it helps students to understand why the language is useful. [Examples include: compare opinions/experiences. learn about another culture, etc]
What is missing?
The truth is that no matter how great the formula used to create the lesson plan, as long as the material is chosen first by some outside authority it isn’t really student centred. It could be decided by a syllabus set from a school authority or by the teacher in advance, or even during the lesson but the more an outside source sets sets the lesson objects the less students centred it is.
This is not to say that all lessons should be student centred or that being student centred should be the top priority at the expenses of all else but taking the perspective of the student for the lesson is a valuable thing to do.
Do you use a framework for lesson objectives?