Reflection on C2.1 EFL course
Below I will outline a course that I have taught several times over the last few years. I will look into the structure, content and approach that I took during the course and what role technology could play. I have tried to tag on or squeeze in some of the approaches to course design into this reflection.
Level 8 C2.1 General English
No. of students: 14
Age: 18 to 60
Nationality: Monolingual, Italian
Needs: This is not an exam focussed course.
Book: Cambridge Objective Proficiency level C2.2 (the learners are at C2.1 level)
As the entire system in my specific context is based around Cambridge exams there is obviously a heavy influence from the set outcomes of CPE, which imposes a kind of backward design (Richards, J, C. 2013, p.5) on the course. On the one hand this is a restriction, but on the other it can be overcome by the assumption that students intending to take the exam the following year will need to be able to deal with almost any authentic content. I therefore see this level as an opportunity to develop real interests in authentic L2 content. The goal is not necessarily the CPE exam certificate but the wider goal that CPE exams test, native-like proficiency. This might imply that the learners are in a kind of liminal space (Cousin, G. 2006 pp.4-5) between an L1 and L2 identity. In order to cross this threshold (Land, R. et al. 2005, p.53), I try to encourage extensive reading of books and websites and extensive listening with films and YouTube videos. What is perhaps lacking is extensive content and identity creation in L2.
Some of the topics in the book and CPE exam are quite adult in nature and this can be difficult for younger adults with limited life experience. I therefore try to delve deeply into the various perspectives and conduct role plays around a particular topic to develop critical thinking skills and empathy. For this reason, it could be argued that there is an element of a Socially Critical Approach (Burbules, Nc Berk, Rupert 1999 p.1) built into my lessons. Here we might also observe that the processes of Accommodation and Assimilation (Kolb, 1993 p.141) are being facilitated as the students are required to reflect on opposing views and take on different roles. This means that I am effectively trying to teach the whole person inline with an Experiential Approach (Kolb, 1993 p.138). Due to the relatively small class sizes, it is easy to set up a variety of communicative tasks based around these topics. Peer correction/feedback and collaboration are an integral part of all lessons but less so outside class. This means that there is an element of Constructivism (Rovai, A. p80) in class as the students are constructing meaning through interaction with each other and the limited classroom environment.
Would technology support/enhance your approach?
Using a Wiki or Blogs would effectively enrich the environment from which students could construct meaning and create an online identity. The only issue would be motivating the students to do this in their free time. This could be achieved by getting the students to reflect on the online element of their learning at regular intervals. Ideally students will come to their own understanding of how they personally learn effectively given the flexibility to do so with a variety of web 2.0 tools. Wikis and blogs would also give the students a space to collaborate online and even influence the content of the face to face lessons. This could help me move towards a more Central Design or Natural Approach(Richards, J, C. 2013, p.16), using the wiki as a facilitating framework.
Image source: https://www.jfny.org/images/_root/lang/lang_course_all.jpg