- 21st Century Skills
- Blended Learning and the Rotation Model: Teaching a Foreign Language to Adults
Blended Learning and the Rotation Model: Teaching a Foreign Language to Adults
Antonio Henrique Coutelo de Moraes holds a PhD and a Master’s degree in Language Science. He is an Assistant Professor at Universidade Católica de Pernambuco, Brazil. E-mail: email@example.com
Laura Manuela Gallindo Lins is a student-researcher in Languages and Literature at Universidade Católica de Pernambuco, Brazil. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Madson Góis Diniz holds a PhD degree in Linguistics and a Master’s degree in Literature. He is a Professor at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil. E-mail: email@example.com
This article arises from and was prompted by discussions and research conducted by the authors. It seeks to build a bridge between concepts and practices in blended learning, especially the station rotation model, and the teaching of English to adults.
The evolution and the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) modify forms of social coexistence and learning, and their use in several teaching spaces has been aiding language teaching in the last two decades. Since the 1990s, computers have been used more frequently and more intensively and systematically by teachers, students and members of society in general (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011).
Reading and writing, the ways human beings interact in real and cybernetic space, have been undergoing changes. Therefore, it is important to recognize that technological advances, associated to the frequent production of educational software, are increasingly contributing to an approximation of the areas of education, linguistics and information technology. In this sense, Lopes (2011) affirms that common sense, reflection and clarity regarding the use of these new technologies is necessary.
Technology should not be exploited in a way which leads to forgetting the human component, which seems to be a conditio sine qua non for a more effective use of ICT in communication. Therefore, computers and other technologies cannot promote communication by themselves. First of all, they must be seen as another resource with the functionality of facilitator of the construction of knowledge and human relations.
According to researchers (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011; Lopes, 2011), as well as other areas of education, language teachers have also benefited from education technologies.
In this area, we see a marked intensification in the use of new technologies, and believe that it is not possible to see, in the near future, learning environments disconnected from the virtual world, made possible by the Internet, through computers and devices (Moraes & Cavalcanti, 2015).
From the above statement, we call attention to one of the great innovations resulting from the introduction of ICT: electronic media are, according to Levy (1999), the main instruments of access to knowledge. Thus, some skills are necessary for humans to succeed in their careers. Among them, we can highlight the field of information technology with the technical capacity of reading and interpreting data, since, at present, information is accessible to all, not only in books, magazines, newspapers and periodicals, but also in the virtual environment.
The computer and other digital devices, through the Internet, play a role in the construction of human identity, favoring relations of interactivity, reading and writing that are established between individuals interconnected by technologies.
We know, however, that unlike young digital natives, many digital immigrant adults may view technology in teaching a foreign language as a complicating element. This leads, therefore, to our interest in knowing the reports of adult students of the English language on the dynamics of English language classes taught using the station rotation model.
Rotation model in the language classroom
Recently, foreign language teaching and learning has been using a variety of technological resources that help both learners and teachers to acquire and transmit a target language, such as English. Foreign language courses have faced changes in their teaching didactic and inserted digital resources as additional supports in the transmission of content to their students.
A change in teaching patterns is noticeable; the book and the notebook share space with computers, tablets, smartphones. The so-called interactive whiteboards are increasingly present in classrooms, helping the teacher to make classes more dynamic and participatory.
In order for these new teaching standards to be effective - by using the internet as a means of integrating traditional education with new models - schools need to take into account certain matters, such as the number of students per class, the diversity of technologies available, the time spent in class, the number of classes and the incentive for students to participate in so-called collaborative learning, which is nothing more than mutual aid between the students and the teacher.
The central figure of the teacher, who was the main protagonist in the dissemination of information, has been less and less isolated in the classroom, since the participation, interaction and collaboration of students in the exchange of information has been increasingly frequent.
These changes in the relationship between masters and apprentices were only possible due to the increasing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). ICTs are technological resources that allow users to interact with each other using digital channels as their channel. When this type of tool emerges as pedagogical support in the educational sphere, it is important to break paradigms regarding the teaching methodology, because resources such as ICTs arise to facilitate and streamline the classes, providing greater flow of information, collaboration and interaction between student-teacher and student-student.
According to Luna (2016), the use of technologies in the teaching-learning process has brought about several changes in the relationship between teachers and students and even in the learning spaces, in addition to the teacher's encouragement for the student to explore, investigate and collaborate with the processes of knowledge acquisition, resulting in greater student autonomy within the classroom.
Faced with the changes in paradigms referring to pedagogical practices, in which the school is no longer the exclusive provider of information and knowledge, new teaching-learning formats emerge parallel to these changes.
One of these new formats, inserted in the educational processes recently, is blended learning. This “new” perspective of teaching happens when the classroom modality is mixed with the online learning. However, it is worth mentioning that hybrid education goes much further than mixing the traditional with the virtual, using technological tools to support learning promotion.
As Horn and Staker (2015) put it, hybrid education is fundamentally different from the much broader tendency to equip classrooms with devices and computer programs, but it is easily confused with it. Saparas and Oliveira (2016) also clarify that the contents to be used in the disciplines that apply the methodology of hybrid teaching, should not be rescued from the internet, but especially elaborated for that classroom format.
In order to suppress some misconceptions about what blended learning really means, Horn and Staker (2015) define and list some characteristics that differentiate it from educational practices that make use of technology as learning support:
- Hybrid education is any formal educational program in which a student learns, at least in part, through online teaching, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and / or rhythm. The technology used for online teaching should pass control of content and teaching to the student, at least in some way, so that it can be qualified as hybrid teaching from the student's point of view, rather than just the use of digital tools from the teacher's point of view.
- The student learns, at least in part, at a supervised physical location away from home.
- The modalities, along each student's learning path in a course or subject area, are connected to provide an integrated learning experience (Horn & Staker, 2015, p. 34-35).
In addition to conceptualizing and specifying what differentiates hybrid teaching from technology-enriched teaching, Horn and Staker (2015) also describe four main hybrid teaching models: Rotation, Flex, a la carte and Virtual Enriched.
In the Rotation model, for example, students intersperse learning activities in which one of the established tasks is online. The activities proposed by the teacher are timed, and, at the end of the agreed time, the students change the learning stations. Within the Rotation model, there are four subcategories, the station rotation model interests us particularly.
In the Flex model, online teaching is the key piece of learning, and can guide students to face-to-face activities. Although this type of modality is mainly based on online teaching, the presence of the teacher is expected to provide support and improve the study.
In the case of the à la carte category, the student can, at the same time, be attending a face-to-face course and in parallel take an online course as a complement of new or acquired knowledge.
In the Virtual Enriched model, students have the opportunity to study part of the content face-to-face, with the support of a teacher, and complete the rest of the activities online, leaving the student in charge of the place chosen for that purpose.
The station rotation model, the main focus of this work, is a teaching modality that mixes several activities within a single classroom. This methodology consists of the creation of several nuclei - at least one of them using the internet as a research tool - whose objective is to allow students to have access to all the activities worked on learning a foreign language.
Studies developed in the field of psychology affirm that the human being has several levels of intelligence, that is, each individual has a more efficient way of apprehending the studied content, either by bodily, kinesthetic, linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligence (Gardner, 1994). Therefore, the use of several learning stations in the same classroom provides a better performance in the assimilation of the contents proposed.
The purpose of the station rotation model is not to disfigure the protagonist image that the teacher has inside the classroom, but to make him/her an active collaborator in transferring knowledge to students. In the traditional model of teaching, most of the time, students are mere spectators. In the rotation model, they will be co-authors, actively participating in and interacting with the classes, and may even collaborate with the teacher by helping a colleague who has more difficulty in certain activities. In suggesting a method for the formation of work groups by stations, the method studied encourages students to work in groups, as well as make them participate actively in the classes, leaving aside the characteristic of passive students, to be protagonists of the learning.
When the teaching-learning issue refers to adult learners, studies supported by virtual resources are taken as more attractive and dynamic sources of information. However, much of what is taught to adults today is based on didactics taken from Elementary and Middle schools. Building knowledge using techniques that are not part of the reality of adult learners is considered as an outdated action by more recent educational studies.
In order for a student to succeed in learning, it is necessary to take into consideration some aspects regarding the construction of knowledge. Generally, learning is focused on the contents, not taking into account the experiences and realities in which the student is inserted. From the moment the learner does not add values or experiences to what he or she learns in school life, learning becomes impersonal, since the actions of the daily life to which the adult is accustomed will not be related and thus learning will not be fruitful.
As Rigo (2008 apud Luna, 2016) states, in order for adult education to be effective, a convergence of factors is required, such as the prescription of specific methods and theories, and the guidance of specialized teachers. However, it is important to point out that, for this age group of students, teachers' choices and the education system should be specially adapted, leaving aside the teaching of Elementary and Middle School. The reality of the adult student is different and requires another kind of literacy, whether analog or virtual.
Recent technological developments in the educational field have allowed significant changes in the teaching and learning of a foreign language. The need for adaptation and insertion in the acquisition of these new technologies - from the educational centers, the students and the teachers - has given rise to new pedagogical modalities in favor of a more dynamic and effective teaching and learning (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011; Lopes, 2011). The popularization of information and communication technology (ICT) meant that access, speed and reach to information by the population facilitated the interactivity and socialization of knowledge.
In an extremely connected society, those who do not adapt to the standards governed by technological innovations run the risk of becoming old-fashioned in the face of the new reality demanded. For the education professional, there is an increasing need to update according to the emergence of new technology, as the new generation of students, the so-called digital natives, are increasingly set to handle these tools, leaving the teacher often outdated by not mastering the techniques of the digital world.
The research was conducted in a language school in the city of Recife, Brazil, that makes use of technology as the main didactic resource. The study population consisted of ten (10) subjects, students, of both sexes.
This is a qualitative, descriptive study. We chose this type of research to better describe, understand and explain the characteristics of the English classroom dynamics, according to Triviños (2010).
Data collection was performed through the application of a semistructured interview with adult students of the researched institution. The data were recorded from the transcript of interviews, without leaving aside issues related to the economic, social and cultural context in which the subjects are inserted.
In the interview, we initially sought answers to the following questions: 1) How old are you? 2) How often do you use the internet and for what purposes? 3) How long have you studied English?; 4) In English classes, do you use technologies?; 5) For what purpose is the technology used in the classroom?; 6) What type(s) of application(s) are used?; 7) What is a class using technologies like? What is different? What changes?; 8) Do you find the use of technology in the classroom important? Why?; 9) In the rotation model, students are co-authors, actively participating in and interacting with classes, and can collaborate with the teacher by helping a classmate who has more difficulty in a particular activity. How do you rate this model?
Data analysis was performed according to guidelines of Triviños (2010) and Bardin (1977; 2015). The results of the interviews were transcribed literally and then a floating reading was performed for the selection of the corpus. So, we did an analytical description guided by the questions of research and the theoretical foundation. Finally, in the phase of referential interpretation, we raised reflections on the manifest and latent content.
All data were analyzed based on the theoretical basis adopted, highlighting the participation of technology in various moments of English language teaching for adult students.
The study is linked to the Research Project “Communication and technology: some questions of reading and writing in first language, second language and foreign language by the deaf and hearing”, No 502900-LET-003-2016/1, approved by the Research Ethics Committee on 28/10/2016 under the number CAAE 59313816.8.0000.5206. All subjects signed the Free and Informed Consent Form.
Discussion and analysis
The initial phase of the research was the choice of the teaching institution which uses the station rotation model. After defining the institution, which is located in the city of Recife, the next step was the elaboration of a questionnaire containing 8 guiding questions involving inquiries regarding the teaching-learning processes of the target language, as well as questions of a personal nature. We also created a Free and Informed Consent Form regarding the participation in the interview, which the subjects were invited to sign. After the form was signed, the interviews with the students took place. Of the 16 interviews, a pre-evaluation of the collected material was made to choose those that would be effectively analyzed more sharply, since this research would be composed of only 10 interviews.
In face of the selected documents, a table was drawn up in which we inserted 8 categories formed a posteriori, that is, from the answers to the questions of the questionnaire applied (see Table 1).
Table 1 – Subjects’ reports on the station rotation model
The categories involve age range, feelings, purpose, resources, description, importance, evaluation and the need for the book. To better understand the results of the research, the interpretation of the data collected was based on the techniques of content analysis proposed by Bardin (2011).
The French researcher conceptualizes the content analysis process as: a set of techniques of analysis of the communications aiming to obtain, by systematic procedures and objectives of description of the content of the messages, indicators that allow the inference of knowledge regarding the conditions of production/reception of these messages (Bardin, 2011).
When we used the research techniques of the messages proposed by Bardin (2011), generated from the application of semi-structured interviews, we sought, in this way, to understand in more depth the functioning of the classes taught from the model of rotation by stations, and not only; we also intend to analyze the acceptance of this model by the subjects involved in the learning process in the technological classroom.
The first point analyzed is related to the ages of the respondents. When we looked at the age groups present in the questionnaires, we noticed a greater adherence of subjects below the age of 25 years. Not surprisingly, the largest participation of this age group in a course aimed at learning a foreign language taught in a fully technological environment.
What is interesting regarding what the research shows is the paradigm rupture with respect to the presence of the more mature age groups in the school environments frequented by a younger audience and immersed in the use of technological resources. The presence of subjects between the ages of 36 and 50 is observed, that is, the technology is no longer used, and even explored, exclusively by the younger ones, and becomes part of the life of those individuals who naturally have a greater aversion to the constant use of such resources, whether in the study or work environment.
The paradigm break often refers to the changes imposed by the labor market. That is, if the individual does not adapt to the new patterns of social and economic development, it turns out to be a specter before the society. It is noticeable that the increasingly rapid advances of technological innovations impose an almost compulsory learning regarding the handling of digital resources, either by the apprentice or by the teacher, which stands in agreement with the beliefs of researchers (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011; Lopes, 2011; Almeida, 2014; Moraes & Cavalcanti, 2015).
Almeida (2014) explains that technology and market competitiveness promote profound changes in people's daily lives and require rapid and varied adaptations. For this reason, the search for training and instruction regarding what is new causes more prominent age groups to leave their comfort zone and embark on paths never before explored.
Asked about the feelings provoked by English classes taught using tablets, computers, cell phones and SmartTVs, respondents were not congruent in their answers. Of the 10 subjects, 4 said they loved classes supported by digital resources. On the other hand, most of them, 6, said they only like the model used. It is evident - from the foregoing - that although technology emerges as an enabling artifact in the life of the human being, the acceptance of the transition from traditional forms of teaching to more modern methods is not yet unanimous, although it has come a long way. There is a resistance on the part of schools and students to take ownership of what is new.
Moran, Masetto, and Behrens (2013) explain that students have always been accustomed to attending classlessly and quietly, with the teacher having a mastery position within the classroom. Still, according to Moran, Masetto and Behrens (2013), this practice is a reflection of a formal education embedded and supported by old-fashioned, monotonous and unattractive methods, and although studies are emerging that show us more current ways, conservatism and bureaucratization continue to be the guiding option.
With regard to the purpose for which the technology is used in the classroom, according to the interviewees' response, when used in a school environment, the objectives to be achieved through the use of digital resources are the most varied. Most of the answers consider independence in the learning process as the primary purpose of technology-mediated classes, promoting a greater autonomy on the part of the students in the moment of apprehension of the contents. In the new models of teaching-learning, the student stops being a mere spectator and becomes a collaborator not only of his learning, but in the learning process of his colleagues.
Moran, Masetto and Behrens (2013) reiterate the importance of the search for autonomous learning. The production of knowledge with autonomy, with creativity, with criticality and investigative spirit provokes the interpretation of knowledge and not only its acceptance. Therefore, in pedagogical practice, the teacher must propose projects that lead to a systematic study, a guided research, to overcome the vision that the student is a product and an object, and make him the subject and producer of knowledge itself. (Moran, Masetto & Behrens, 2013, p. 93).
In the category entitled resources, students were asked about the technological devices used during English classes. The answers were coincident in the options regarding the use of tablets for the purpose of conducting research on applications, explanations of the teacher on the digital board, watching small videos on SmartTV, activities on computers, exercises in the student portal, use of smartphones to access applications, shoot or record dialogs and perform searches. All of the features listed above - anchored by the internet - provide students with a different and more seductive way of learning.
According to Moran, Masetto and Behrens (2013), the internet is a medium that facilitates students' motivation, novelty, and the inexhaustible possibilities for research it offers. In a technological classroom, students are exposed to a greater variety of resources that will be harnessed more efficiently according to the preferences of each individual. Learning is enhanced when we are able to add interests, motivation and pleasure to what we study.
Regarding the description of a technology-immersed class, students were invited to explain, through the choice of alternatives - excellent, good or not comfortable - the differences that a class based on digital resources provides students with. Of the 10 subjects interviewed, 7 stated that the classes taught in this proposal were excellent, while only three said they were good. The justifications for the answers were the most varied. Some agreed that “the class becomes more dynamic,” another admitted the acquisition of “larger volumes of knowledge,” another student cited the issue of autonomy in learning; another, “the speed in solving doubts”.
The first response demonstrates the multifunctionality that the world-wide network of computers promotes to an environment equipped with digital technologies. For Moran, Masetto and Behrens (2013), in a technology-packed classroom, spaces multiply, even if we do not get out of the place. In making a more accurate analysis of the answers, it was noticed that none of the interviewees presented a response regarding collaborative learning.
The model of rotation by stations allows the students a greater interaction between them, because in this model the student can dialogue with his peers, learning and teaching at the same time. According to Prudente (2016), the model of rotation by stations amplifies the communications between the subjects, a reality that would not be possible in a traditional classroom.
When asked about the importance of using technology in the classroom, most subjects were coincidental in their answers. The innumerable sources of information allow the students a greater opportunity of learning, generating an expansion of the knowledge, which stands in agreement with the beliefs of researchers once again (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011; Lopes, 2011; Almeida, 2014; Moraes & Cavalcanti, 2015).
The fun that the dynamics of the class provides was not forgotten by the students. Using the various digital devices in class and the plurality of possibilities in the search for knowledge makes the monotony - so present in traditional models - overcome, since even online games can be used as a way of learning in this pattern of teaching. Games are increasingly appealing features in new educational models as they provide more fun, interactive and challenging lessons. According to Lee et al (2007 apud Tori, 2017), it has already been proven that learning based on digital games can bring many benefits, such as motivation, retention, involvement and improvement in students' visual perception.
Another important point cited by the students in the research is the double learning, that is, in a course aimed at the acquisition of a foreign language, but technologically equipped, individuals have the opportunity to handle various types of devices, and thus practice the necessary skills for the use of digital tools.
With regard specifically to the station rotation model, the students were asked how they evaluate the performance of this model, since they are no longer mere spectators and become co-authors in the formation of their knowledge, no longer possessing a relation of dependence so marked with the teacher, who in this model would be a mediator. In addition, collaboration is a feature present in the model, since students who have greater difficulty in studies have the opportunity to interact with colleagues who have a more accurate understanding of the subject, thus facilitating the clarification of the doubts (Mattar, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Frei et al, 2011; Lopes, 2011; Almeida, 2014; Moraes & Cavalcanti, 2015).
Pedagogical mediation is an issue that has been much debated in the educational field. Moran, Masetto and Behrens (2013) explain that pedagogical mediation is related to the attitude of the teacher, it is more a behavioral issue, since it facilitates and encourages the student in the pursuit of his goals. Leaving aside the concepts and starting to analyze the answers, the interviewees were almost unanimous when asked about which of the indicators - excellent, good and no taste - the model of rotation by seasons fit.
Of the 10 responses, 8 affirm the model as excellent, since learning has been significant, and evolution has been abundant. The other 2 interviewees rated the model as good and argued that it might be better if there were more written activities to be solved at home and also if the class members had the same level of knowledge in the language.
In a class taught entirely with the support of technological resources, without the presence of printed didactic material, it was questioned in the research if it would make any difference if the school adopted a didactic book in the blended classes.
More than half of the respondents said they missed the book because they enjoy written activities. Only 2 respondents claimed not to insist on the presence of the book in class, and another 2 said they did not know how to evaluate the situation. Although the majority of the answers were satisfactory, the use of a textbook during class presentation and also in written activities was considered by most of the interviewees as an element that would lead to a more positive characterization in blended classrooms.
The influences of technologies in the field of education are so constant that there is no way in the near future to think of education without technology and vice versa. As an example of this premise the new teaching modalities that arise from the technological innovations brought by Information and Communication Technologies.
Education, supported by the technologies of today, is more dynamic and interesting both for teaching and for learning, because there is a possibility of communication between teachers and students outside the natural study environment, expanding the discussion regarding discipline by making it possible to exchange information at any time of the day. On the other hand, it is important to have a good sense of the use of such technologies, since it is a tool capable of inducing users to distract through the entertainment available on the web.
It is also worth remembering that the computer and the internet, by themselves, do not have the power to develop the necessary capacities for the users in the search for the contents pertinent to each area of knowledge. These tools are more like a facilitator in the information transmission and acquisition process, with the teacher as mediator.
The great majority of the students judged the modalities of face-to-face classes with the use of technological resources to be excellent and cited as some of the differences relevant to learning, the dynamism of classes, mutual collaboration between students and a greater range of possibilities at the time of practicing the content. In the same way, the answers regarding the satisfaction of learning a language equipped with digital resources were positive.
Finally, we perceive, in fact, the facilitating nature of the insertion of the technologies in the education when analyzing the answers of the interviews realized with the students, since there is a very favorable acceptance on the part of the interviewed ones regarding the use of technologies during the learning of a foreign language in a classroom environment.
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Please check the Creative Methodology for Using ICT in the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Practical uses of Technology in the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Practical uses of Mobile Technology in the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Blended Learning and the Rotation Model: Teaching a Foreign Language to Adults
Antonio Henrique Coutelo de Moraes, Brazil;Laura Manuela Gallindo Lins, Brazil;Madson Góis Diniz, Brazil