Learning from other contexts
Harry Kuchah from the University of Bath gave a very interesting talk at Iatefl in 2015 entitled ELT in difficult circumstances in which he touched on learner agency. He describes the over-flowing classrooms and lack of resources in sub-Saharan Africa and the way he dealt with these difficulties. His approach was take the students out of the classroom and put them in small groups under trees. Each group would have a designated teacher who would find material and design tasks around them. Harry’s job was to monitor the students and make sure that the material was appropriate for the syllabus. His solutions taught him the following, amongst others; ‘learners are partners’, ‘learners have a variety of talents’, ‘learners are resources and resource providers’. (Kuchah, H. Iatefl 2015).
Harry’s approach not only struck me as being highly effective in any context, but also as a metaphor for the online classroom or digital classroom. In the classroom the trees would be workstations with computers and groups working on different tasks while in the online world the trees could be groups working on a Wiki page. Unfortunately, outside many classrooms and lecture halls there is no space, or trees for that matter, but most classrooms in the developed world can take advantage of the affordances of computers/devices and a Wi-Fi connection to foster learner agency.
Harry Kuchah, ELT in difficult circumstances. (Presented at Iatefl in Manchester 2015)