Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Learning styles

Teaching others how to be accent trainers provides me with a great opportunity to reflect on each client I have worked with. The experience that I have gained is of great value. Each client has displayed their own unique characteristics making each class interesting. There are different learning styles and each approach needs to be tweaked in order to best reach the client.

I think most can fit into three major categories.

1. Passive learners

These clients generally feel that the instructors job is to pass on the information and their job is absorb the information. This is fantastic for instructional times, as when I am teaching a new concept and the features of that concept. They absorb the lesson and really hear what I am saying.

The downside of course is in application of the concept taught. It is the goal of each of my classes to make sure that the client understands the concept AND can apply it to their speech. This is application step is of great importance, as I will want them to practice during the week between classes and I want to be sure they are practicing correctly.

It is important to help this client feel comfortable speaking up in the session. I give highly structured practice so they will feel "safe" answering each question. I use mock-up schedules, situational paragraphs followed by questions. They are asked to answer the questions using the new concept they have learned. I save any critical feedback until the end of their speaking turn, making sure to give enough positive feedback to let them know that I do hear their improvements as well as their errors.

2. Free-wheeling

These clients are enthusiastic. They like to talk and know exactly what they would like to work on. The advantage to this client is that you never have to worry about material or providing motivation. The challenge is to get them to sit through a full lesson or helping them create a good foundation of discourse skills.

I use mainly their materials that are related to their everyday conversational situation. I also explain why they need to complete each step that leads up to the conversational level. Knowing why they are working on different areas other then the one they have identified as their challenge can be very helpful. For example if they are concerned about leaving of word endings, I will work on word and sentence stress to help them adjust their timing, reducing the need to drop word endings to save time in a sentence. When they are able to make this connection between the two goals their focus increases.

3. I don't want to be here!

Some clients don't want to be in class. They have a lot going on in their lives, or their company simply forced them into a class. For these clients motivation is the name of the game. Helping them add value to speaking standard American speech is the first order of business. Plenty of non-critical feedback and opportunities for them to recognize their own improvement can keep these clients on track.

I schedule much time in for them to practice during class time, because chances are they will not have the time outside of class. It does mean that less concepts or sounds will be covered in one course but it reduces both their frustration and mine when I don't assign work that they can't or won't get to before the next class.

There are many things that need to be assessed before a course can begin, but learning style needs to be taken into consideration if you want to see success. That is why there is no set curriculum for a course load. You must assess the individual their goal (to be more intelligible or to be linguistically invisible) what their objectives are ( linking, word stress, phonemes?) and how best to approach the instruction to be delivered.

No comments: