The session I observed was designed to prepare trainees for Assignment 3 on the CELTA course. For this assignment trainees need to conduct a needs analysis for one of their students. They also need to suggest materials for the learner based on their findings. The 750-1000 word report is divided into 4 sections:
- A brief description of the student’s age, level, experience, motivations, and participation.
- Two strengths and two areas to improve on in relation to skills and systems.
- Two specific suggestions to aid development of identified weaknesses.
- Five student errors in context from an interview and one suggested activity to correct one of the errors.
Trainees need to demonstrate awareness on how their chosen student’s background, experience, and learning style affect their learning. They also need to: identify language/skills needs; use terminology related to language systems and skills; select appropriate material; provide rationale for activities; select and reference material.
The session began with a learner styles quiz to help trainees identify their learning styles. Although there is little evidence for learning styles, it provides useful classification/belief to ensure a variety of activities in class. The three styles explored were Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic (VAK).
After discussing the need to cater for a range of learning styles, trainees brainstormed other important information about their students that might be useful in providing instruction. Here are the ideas they came up with.
At this point the trainees were divided into four groups and each given a different area to focus on: Learning background; Motivation; Problems with English; Learning Style. Each group brainstormed questions for student interviews for their area then rotated three times to share ideas.
This was a useful session to prepare for Assignment 3 and help trainees see beyond the lesson plan to the individuals they are teaching. It will be interesting to see how the trainees deal with this task and how it affects their future lessons on the course. My reaction to the use of learning styles made me think about how I might change this session. On the one hand, rules of thumb are very useful for different stages of development and I still use VAK and multiple intelligences in my stage plans/procedures. On the other hand, the ‘truth’ might be more interesting and inspiring for the trainees. First of all though, I need to reflect on what the alternatives might be… (For another post).
Here is an interesting video on the dangers of believing in learning styles by Robert Bjork (2015).
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