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Teaching
Methodology with Easily Available Resources



This article explains how selections from the
FORUM were incorporated into the author's methodology classes to form a successful 30hour
semester. The pilot course, which had five groups of students studying methodology,
concluded with a questionnaire which brought over 60 responses, a vast majority of which
were enthusiastic.



The context of the project



Towards the end of the twoyear methodology
course at our teacher training college, students are required to submit a diploma project,
consisting of a collection of lesson plans and with the students' own evaluations, which
is based on a theoretical discussion of some aspect of teaching. This is a twosemester
introduction (two hours/week), to basic concepts, methods, and terminology. Typically,
each group included a group of 15 student teachers.



The 1995/96 academic year was particularly
difficult since the college accepted more students than usual and lost a methodology
teacher, which resulted in an increased teaching load for the remaining teachers. That
year the working conditions were particularly frustrating due to the following factors:



 There were only a few class sets of methodology books in the college; the majority was
available only in one copy.
 College library hours were inconvenient for the evening students.
 Students complained of the unavailability of books, the high cost of xerox copies, and
the lack of time for reading. They used these complaints as an excuse for doing little.
 The abovementioned attitude was reflected in the limited bibliographies of their
Diploma Projects. Students always referred to the same wellknown sources, making their
projects boring for the reviewers. Due to the lack of access to the library, evening
students tended to be passive during their classes.



The situation during the first semester made me
think of ways to avoid repeating the same teachercentered course. How could I make my
students partners in the methodology classes before they were really ready in terms of
their competence and performance? How could I make students responsible for the
presentation of some teaching ideas and avoid the usual discrepancy between the student
performance and the instructor's expectations relating to the choice, content, length, and
modality of a presentation? My solution was a semester's worth of work using student
presentations based on English Teaching Forum articles. In our college the Forum
is available in multiple copies, can be checked out, and is full of short articles written
in accessible language with practical ideas. Why not encourage my students to present
teaching ideas tried and described by experienced teachers and use them as stepping stones
for students' own reflection and independent research?



After the first semester of some more
theoretical and teachercentered ground work, I moved to more specifics. In this case,
they reflected the content of a practical methodology textbook explaining how to teach
particular skills and their components. I used the following procedure:



 Make a list of topics reflecting the content of your course.
 Circulate a list with topics, dates, and slots for students' names and grades for
students to complete; the dates of the course will be set, the general topics (e.g.,
vocabulary teaching) will be suggested by the teacher and the slots for grades will be
reserved for the teacher; the choice when and what to present will belong to the students.
 Announce the following rules:
a. Each student must choose three topics and prepare three fifteenminute presentations.
b. Students must cooperate with one another to avoid selecting the same article.
c. Presentations are to be practical; after a short introduction (the source is given and
some remarks are made) a student is to microteach the idea from the article.
 Show the students where and how to look in the Forum such as the index for appropriate
articles.



Obviously, not all your students will understand
the procedure. Here are some thoughts to ensure the smooth development of the project:



 Encourage students to consult with you before their presentations. Offer to copy
teaching materials for them.
 Precede and follow students' presentations with your comments, relate the material to
the textbook information, and encourage discussion.
 Give form and content feedback; give grades.
 React early and decisively to the breaking of the rules unless, for the rest of the
semester, you are prepared to put up with students' preparing the very same articles,
reading their presentations from notes, forgetting to prepare a practical illustration, or
simply breaking the time limits.



 Never overschedule; to avoid student disappointment when a class is missed, don't
reschedule student presentations for more than eighty percent of the available classes. Do
not schedule them for more than 3/4 of the available class time when a new topic is
introduced, or 4/5 of the time when a topic is continued. The remainder of the time will
be filled in by short delays such as by your comments, or by discussion.
 If students believe the course and examination will be based on the assigned textbook,
they may feel insecure when the teacher uses the Forum as a basis of study in
class. Therefore, use the textbook appropriately to give students security, particularly
if your course ends with an exam.
 Don't forget to have some time fillers handy in case there is more time than expected
towards the end of a class due to the absence of a presenter.



From the point of view of students, the format
described above had several advantages:



 It offers the audience a variety of topics, ideas, activities, voices, and stimuli.
 It gives presenters the freedom of choice and the experience of appearing before a
group.
 It gives many students ideas for diploma projects and classroom teaching practice.
 It forces students to read and become "experts" in an area and prepares them
for more serious library research.
 It increases student participation and teaches students professional terminology.
 It is much more fun than a standard class.



 It offers a good opportunity for student observation, grading, and the learning of new
ideas. (Before this, I never had a chance to see my students in action as I was not
involved in practice teaching, and my grades were based solely on students' performance on
tests.)
 It relieves the teacher of a lot of the burden of selection, preparation, and repetition
of material.
 It improves the pacing of a class (a change of activity every 15 minutes).
 It helps avoid the standard dangers with student presentations (Students don't know
where to look, how much to prepare, and how to present).
 It is generally refreshing.



Criticism obtained in a questionnaire (see Footnote 1 ) was limited and mostly
came from a group of students preparing for graduation who were busy with their diploma
projects and anxious to prepare for their exams. The students complained: "The system
did not prepare us for the final exam," "I wasn't able to make notes,"
"You did not test us." Other criticism resulted from the breaking of some of the
rules of do's and don'ts as spelled out above.



What was an experiment of an overworked and
frustrated teacher struggling with the constraints of the school and the passivity of the
students, turned out to be a successful project. The most tangible results for the
students were their improved grades and increased interest. For the teacher, it was the
discovery of student talents.



Krzysztof
Strzemeski is a coordinator and a language and methodology teacher at Nicholas
Copernicus University, Torun, Poland. 


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Footnote 1
1. The questionnaire also showed that, in preparing
for their presentations, most students had spent 12 hours looking for the appropriate
article, and had browsed through 38 articles. Thus, they read an extra 23 articles,
which I deem a great success especially considering the limitations described above. 
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