LEARNERS' REFLECTIONS ON CLASS ACTIVITIES
Galina Kavaliauskiene has been teaching English for Specific Purposes at Law University of Lithuania (now Mykolas Romeris University) since 1997. Her research includes learner self-assessment, quality of teaching & learning, ICT for ESP learners, portfolios, correction and self-correction ( a short article on self-correction was printed in HLT some time ago), Task-Based Teaching, usefulness of various class activities, issues of homework, and teaching / learning ESP vocabulary.
Lately alternative assessment has become important part of learning and teaching foreign languages. Methods of alternative assessment are based on learners' evaluation of their own learning and allow students to reflect on their linguistic development. In-course reflections are unbiased due to being anonymous. Post-course reflections are irrelevant to evaluation of learner performance (mark) and can have a positive context in the lifelong learning.
Here are some excerpts from learners' reflection pages on perception of usefulness of various class activities to learning English. The language has not been corrected for the sake of authenticity, and the real names of students have been changed in order to preserve anonymity. The respondents are mainly females due to their majority in my English classes, and gender is indicated after the name in brackets.
Alina K. (f). 'Portfolios were very useful to me. I have improved my writing & reading skills, built up vocabulary; writing definitions and vocabulary tests helped me to remember new terminology. I learned to use different dictionaries, on paper and online. Computer tasks were the most interesting, entertaining and exciting. They helped me to improve my speaking & listening skills'.
Inga G. (f).'PowerPoint Presentation & creative computer tasks are the most interesting. Discussions helped to avoid boredom and made English classes exciting'.
Juozas A. (m).'The most boring and complicated was summary writing. I am not satisfied with my tests' results either, and I can only blame myself for this. I enjoyed learning something new - how to make a PowerPoint Presentation (PPP), search for information online effectively. I improved my listening skills by having listened to authentic recorded speech in English classes. Activities are interesting and useful'.
Giedre S. (f).'Discussions are one of the most important and interesting tasks in English classes. It is the only way I can improve my speaking skills, express my own opinion & ideas about the object of discussion, and find a solution. Creation of presentations has a lot of advantages. I can use visual aids to say what I want, and it is very exciting'.
Donata S. (f). 'Vocabulary definitions were the most useful for improving my English skills. I don't like summaries - they are difficult to write, and it takes a lot of time. I enjoyed listening activities and computer tasks most'.
Rasa Z. (f). 'All activities in our English classes were good and very useful. I have improved my speaking, listening and writing skills. I am very pleased with my performance. Now I know how I learn best'.
Rasa S. (f).'I do not like making PPPs because it is not interesting. For me, it is a very difficult task. And I am afraid to talk in front of the audience. I did not like writing summaries, it was a new task, and I have never done it before. I improve my grammar and writing skills as a result of this training'.
Fausta T. (f). 'Making PPPs was very beneficial to me. I learned not to have a fear of talking in front of the audience. I've just got rid of this feeling. I disliked writing all the summaries because I never knew what the main idea was. It is worth saying that there are lots of good points in writing summaries, e.g. improves one's vocabulary. My translation is getting better and better, I use more new words and interesting expressions, so my English doesn't sound poor. We also learned to work in a team or in pairs. Maybe we do not appreciate the importance of working together at the moment, but I believe it will be of great value in the future'.
Jurgita Z. (f). 'PPP is a very pleasant task for those who are not delivering it. Preparation of PPP takes a lot of time. I have learned how to make a good presentation. It will be useful in the future. Learning definitions of vocabulary was the easiest task for me. I found them in the internet or dictionaries, and learning was enjoyable'.
Milda G. (f). 'I am happy about English course because it was not boring. Different creative tasks helped to avoid routine and made our classes exciting. PPPs were the greatest tasks. It takes a lot of time to prepare, but it is a very nice feeling to see the outcome and get an excellent mark. Portfolio was a new thing for me. It was useful - I have improved my vocabulary by preparing various tasks. I think selecting items for portfolios was a demanding task, which sometimes took a lot of time, and I had to follow the criteria in order to do it properly'.
Loreta B. (f). 'Listening to authentic speech is still the most difficult thing for me, but I've bettered my listening skills and learned the strategies of listening. The main reason for my difficulty is that I translate while listening and miss further information'.
Lora B. (f). 'Computer tasks have been interesting. I like impromptu PPPs because they are creative, and it makes you concentrate and choose the right words. Testing gave the biggest benefit: I have expanded my knowledge of ESP vocabulary, and I will be able to use it in my job.'
Egle G. (f). 'Grammar and listening were my weak spots. Now I feel I've improved them. I succeeded because I liked what and how we were learning. I think that writing essays was good for me. I was able to express my own viewpoints on subjects of interest in my own way. That is why I succeeded in doing such tasks'.
Aiste D. (f). 'Finding definitions for portfolios was very useful. I also made definitions myself when I couldn't find the suitable ones. Sometimes it was a bit hard, but also fun at the same time . Moreover, I like computer activities because we can produce something unusual, different from what we've done before and make our day special. Power Point Presentations help to present information in an interesting way and attract attention of other students, so I enjoy making PPPs and I have improved my skills of presenting, which will be of great benefit in my professional life'.
Inga P. (f). 'Summarizing helped me to improve accuracy in expressing ideas, use appropriate professional vocabulary, and think about style and sentence structures'.
Vitalijus T. (m). 'Listening activities are the hardest tasks for me. I want an absolute silence in class while listening, classmates' remarks distract me and I find it difficult to do my best. In speaking activities, I have some ideas, but need time to phrase them. Somebody else speaks out before me - it is frustrating'.
Donatas S. (m). 'Learning vocabulary has been very useful. I enjoy memorizing new words and using them. However it was sometimes difficult to find out the meanings of professional terms.'
Edvinas S. (m). 'Creative tasks for me are unclear and sometimes strange. Even if I can find some information, it is hard to say what the key meaning is. Moreover, I want to say something interesting, but fail to do it.'
Roberta G. (f). 'Portfolios are very good ways of learning a language and being able to choose what to contribute gives me a feeling of satisfaction with my learning. Computer tasks and tests helped me to consolidate what I was learning'.
A noteworthy finding for teachers from learner reflections is that likes and dislikes of various activities are affected by student success or failure in performance. In-course reflections on usefulness of various tasks and quality of students' performance in different activities help teachers develop ways of dealing with learners' difficulties.
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