Many teachers and ITE tutors who attended our workshops in the summer have been working hard to use some or even all of the principles in their teaching this term. Some have told us that they would like to turn their work into an action research project and others simply want to see if the principles have had an impact on their students’ attainment. If you would like to have a go, here are some suggestions to get you started!
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- Oral interaction
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In order to evaluate what impact implementing the Principles has had on your teaching, you need to firstly identify one particular aspect of students’ learning on which to focus.
Here are some examples of Action Research possibilities (there are of course many others and you may just have focused on one very small aspect of a Principle):
What impact does implementing Principle 4 have on the length of spoken phrases learners produce in pair work? (P4: Students need to be given opportunities to develop oral fluency but also taught how to use communication strategies when faced with communication difficulties). For example do they appear to use more gestures, fillers, and paraphrases in order to put across meaning when in difficulty? Does repeating a task with (for example) a week’s interval lead them to be more confident and fluent in speaking?
What impact does implementing Principle 3 have on the number of different verbs learners use in whole-class question and answer work? (P3: Although not all oral interaction can be ‘communicative’ (some will be practice and/or form focused), it has to demonstrate nevertheless ‘quality’ (among other things, student length of turn; adequate wait time; cognitive challenge [e.g. by requiring a verb phrase or subordinate clause]; appropriate teacher feedback; nomination rather than elicitation). For example, are learners more likely to use a verb in their answers; do they attempt longer and more complex answers?
What impact does implementing Principle 2 have on learners’ stated enjoyment of MFL lessons? (P2: Learners need to be encouraged to speak and to say things that they are not sure are correct). For example, do they make comments? Do they occasionally start ‘a new idea of their own’?
How successful is using two of the ‘ tick sheet’ materials presented at the workshops (e.g. a tick sheet where students record when they have asked a ‘classroom language-type’ question; a tick sheet where they record having answered a question in their heads which was actually aimed at other students)? Do the sheets lead to better participation, more pupil target language use, etc?
Listening and Reading
What impact does teaching comprehension strategies have on learners’ level of confidence/self-efficacy for reading / listening?
What impact does teaching some grapheme-phoneme (sound-spelling) rules have on learners’ ability to understand reading passages?
Does teaching a range of comprehension strategies for listening/reading lead learners to use a wider range of such strategies?
Does asking learners to write at the very start of a topic rather than at the end lead them to use previously learnt language in new contexts? Does it lead to use of a wider range of vocabulary? How successful is the four stage approach to writing that was presented at the workshops?
Feedback and reflection on strategy use
Does learner recording of strategies use on a task, and teacher feedback on that strategy use, lead to greater levels of confidence/self-efficacy on the part of learners?
Methods of Evaluation
How ‘scientific’ and ‘rigorous’ your evaluation is will depend on how much time you have available, whether you planned the evaluation before you started implementing the principle, whether you have access to a similar, parallel class that has not been exposed to the Principles, etc. However, some things you could try are as follows:
If you haven’t planned the evaluation before starting implementing the Principles:
You or a colleague observe the ‘Principle’ class for some or all of the following things, after you have been implementing the Principle for a while:
-number of instances of a pupil asking a question in the TL in whole class or small group work
-number of instances of a pupil initiating a conversation (either in a small group or in whole class work)
-see if you can record a small group activity (a short one). Analyse it for the number of different verbs used, number of attempts to use a communication strategy, etc., depending on what you have been aiming to develop); time how long the average ‘run of speech’ is for each student in the small group. You might also be able to do the latter for whole class work.
Then do the above for a similar class (in terms of age, attainment level) which hasn’t had the treatment, and compare.
If you haven’t yet started implementing the Principles, it’s best to plan the evaluation at the start, and observe the two parallel classes both before and after the Principles have been implemented with one of the classes. This will give you a better sense of what changes have occurred in the ‘Principles’ class. Also, if a parallel class isn’t available, you could just observe the ‘Principles’ class before and after the implementation.
Listening and Reading
The same structure could be used for the other skills. For example, before teaching any listening strategies, ask learners to listen to fairly short but reasonably challenging passage. Ask them to write down in English everything they understood. Analyse these responses for how many ‘correct’ ideas they contain. Then teach the class one or two strategies – for example, predicting the themes/language (phrases, verbs) that might come up in a passage using a prediction grid followed by careful verification (using paired discussion) of what was actually heard. Then ask learners to listen again to the passage you gave them before teaching the listening strategies and to write down in English everything they understood. Analyse as before and compare the ‘before’ and ‘after’ scores. The same procedure could be used for reading.
For writing, you could compare what learners write over two topics – one, with writing only happening at the end of the topic; the other with writing occurring at the very start of the topic, and then again at the end, following the cycle outlined in the Writing Principle. You might analyse the written work for number of different verb forms used, range of vocabulary, etc.
Self-efficacy, self confidence
The above methods for listening, reading and writing could be combined with an assessment of how confident learners feel before and after you have implemented the Principle in question. You could give learners, say, the initial listening passage, then after the task give them a simple questionnaire or something similar. After implementing the Principles you could do the same thing again. You could look at if, and how, individuals’ self-efficacy score changes, and also calculate the average score for the class, before and after.
Good luck, and let us know how you get on!