Saturday, December 5, 2015

2015 December 5 | Andy Boon | Two Fabulous Presentations (and a Bonenkai!)

"Teaching is all about
making the teacher redundant,"
Boon, 2015 December 5
Chapter Meeting Presentation

Investigating the world outside: Students as researchers

Project work can be a powerful means of empowering students to take their learning beyond the borders of the classroom, to examine the world outside, to seek answers, and suggest change. This workshop will examine the process of engaging students in semester-long projects from equipping them with the necessary research tools to having them deliver the end-product via various media in the final class. It will also describe students’ reactions to the overall learning experience

Investigating the world inside: Teachers as researchers

Our teaching context is the pedagogic world we inhabit and seek to understand. However, in the hectic activity of teaching, opportunities to gain valuable insights into our practice can be lost. Action research offers us a “self-reflective, systematic” approach to exploring our teaching in order to bring about positive change (Burns, 2010). This workshop provides an overview of the presenter’s AR projects to date and encourages participants to plan their own classroom investigations.

Exploring the world outside: Students as researchers

Background: Andy has over 18 years experience in Japan and of those years, 12 of them are at university. Just received his Ph.D in October.

Andy talking about his experiences with PBL.
One of Andy's goals as a researcher and facilitator of English learning is the hope to see students using English in their natural settings and not just in the classroom. As a result, he decided to introduce students to project work to get them using English outside of the classroom. Research shows the positive sides of using projects outside the classroom for language development.

The main points being:
  • Product important, but the process is equally important. 
  • Completing the project is motivating. 
Here is the overall setup of the project-based learning Andy gives to his students.
  • Andy's classes: Academic Learning for Professional Skills (ALPS), News Media, British culture
  • Introduces the project somewhere in lesson 1~8.
  • Explains the assessment criteria in the lessons.
  • Essay and poster presentation (ALPS)
  • Poster presentation (British culture)
  • Essay or article (news media)
  • Students complete a research proposal or choose from a list of topics / themes,
  • Decide on a research topic and then develop a research question
  • Pass the "So What?" test (Stevens) - explain why is this research topic important to peers.
  • The focus being to learn something more about something that is already out there.
The so-what test:
  • Make pairs, present the topic, and then in pairs "so what?" until one member "crumbles"
The next phase:
  • Develop a research plan
Andy then proceeded to show us some of the topics that students had chosen. Although the list is not included here, some of the topics students have chosen are pretty forward-thinking and interesting. For example; teen pregnancy, legalization, and mental health issues.

During the semester, implement some sort of progress monitoring
  • Reports (students work in pairs and report their progress)
  • Facebook groups (Boon & Beck, 2013) - students have private research groups.
Andy at the venue
Collecting data
  • Primary data collection
  • Questionnaires, interviews, observation
  • Andy shares on Facebook at times to help his students (when appropriate)
  • Facebook as a means of data collection (Boon & Beck, 2013)
  • Teaches about plagiarism, proper citation, etc. (difficult when nothing is being taught)
Sharing research findings
  • Written assignments
  • Poster sessions - round-robin (kaiten-zushi) audiences
  • Repetitions = confidence
  • Unique classroom dynamic and exciting finale to the semester or course (Boon & Stevens, 2010)
In addition to the end-of-semester presentations, Andy has also been allocated a 1-hour slot in the 4th year ALPS presentation period where students can showcase their work in English. It is the first of its kind for his university.

What did students think?

After the project, Andy collected data on what students liked.
  • Choosing their own topic was something they liked.
  • Chance to use English outside the classroom.
  • Enjoyed reading about the topic (since they chose it).
  • Can improve their speaking and writing skills.
  • Can share useful information with one another.
  • Designing the poster was enjoyable.

One quote made during the presentation which expresses Andy's philosophy and is quite poignant: 

"Teaching is all about making the teacher redundant." [Boon, 2015 Nagasaki JALT  December Chapter Meeting]

He also collected data on what the students found to be difficult.
  • Choosing the theme was difficult / chosen theme was boring.
  • Not enough time to research. (depends on when the project was assigned)
  • Not enough responses on the student questionnaire was a problem students faced.
  • Andy did not provide poster paper.
  • Speaking in front of people was something they didn't like.
  • Writing the assignment
  • Risky topic took a lot of courage.
  • Was absent from poster day so did not see other presentations
As a note, Andy asked absent students to make a video and post it to the private Facebook group to manage cases where the students had been absent.

Did students use English during the research process? 
  • Yes - reading, with classmates & friends; in the English lounge
  • Kind of - 50/50; 70/30; 80/20
  • No - All in Japanese
As discussed in the presentation, a "no" answer is not ideal, but there is still some learning and value in this exercise according to Andy. The final paper and presentations would be in English so that transfer must take place at some point.

Here the first presentation ended and a short break ensued.

2nd Presentation: Teachers as researchers

Worlds inside (the classroom)

Andy's second presentation was aimed more at the teachers as an encouragement to do research on our own. He began explaining about action research.

What is Action Research? - "A self-reflective critical and systematic approach to exploring your own teaching context." (Burns, 2010)

  • Identify a puzzle in the class (why is this happening)
  • Intervene (if I try something different, what happens)
  • Bring about a change
  • Evaluate the change
  • Share results

The cycle for Action Research generally follows the cycle below.

plan --> action --> observe --> reflect --> revised plan --> action --> observe --> reflect

Next, Andy gave us a number of examples of where he used Action Research to study and improve his classroom experiences. These outlines cover the basics of those projects each of which culminated in a research publication.

Procedural Instructions. -  This first paper covered a course on giving instructions.

  • PLAN - "It's a box!"
  • ACT - record classes; do teacher and student questionnaires; determine alternative methods
  • OBSERVE - put alternatives methods into action; record classes
  • REFLECT - was it successful?
  • SHARE - Make a paper

Tell me what you want! - This second paper covered using a student-directed syllabus.

  • PLAN - "We want to study English?"
  • ACT - Read literature, modify existing needs analysis methods, pick and choose sheet
  • OBSERVE - put new methods into action; interview students, find out what classes they wanted
  • REFLECT - Was it successful?
  • SHARE - write another paper

Mission: Possible! - This third paper focused on motivating de-motivated students using a goal wall.

  • PLAN - "We don't want to study English?"
  • ACT - Read literature on goal-setting; introduce "goal-wall"
  • OBSERVE - put new methods into action; observe effects on class; take field notes
  • REFLECT - Was it successful? (yes from observations)
  • SHARE - write another paper

In the end, the experiences Andy shared with us will hopefully motivate us to conduct our own Action Research plans and follow them through with a paper.

After the meeting, we moved on to our year-end dinner.

Our annual Bonenkai (End-of-year) Dinner Party!

  • When: Saturday December 5, 18:00 [After the meeting 14:00~16:00]
  • Where: Nagasaki Eki-mae Lao Lee restaurant
  • Menu:
  • There's a 100 yen parking lot next to the restaurant for those who are driving.
  • Course menu is 3000 yen, nomihodai 1,500 yen
  • RSVP on Facebook
Speaker: Andy Boon, Toyo Gakuen University
Date and Time: Saturday, 5 December 2015 - 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Dejima Koryu Kaikan, 2-11 Dejimamachi, Nagasaki
Fee for JALT members: Free
Fee for one-day members: ¥1000
Contact or Queries: Email contact form

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