Following on from my post the other day reviewing Teach Like a Champion, I’d like to talk about expectations.
This was actually provoked by something Steve Kaufmann mentioned last week on his blog: The Linguist on Language
He was talking about how learners need to be taught how to learn a language, rather than taught the language, something I very much agree with. It ties in well with several things I have been thinking about recently, so I would like to run through them briefly here (warning: this is going to be vague and unfocused).
“Less than 20 percent of public high schools have been enforcing an English-only rule in their English conversation classes during the 2010 school year according to a survey, causing alarm at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).”
While I agree that English classes in public schools should have more opportunities for students to listen to and use the language, I think this prescription from MEXT misses the point somewhat. Forcing teachers in one class (oral communication in high schools) to use only English, while all other classes continue to be run the same way, will not make a huge difference and could even have the unwelcome side effect of further alienating students.
I believe that more teacher training (teachers at the moment get comparatively little training), better teaching materials (the New Horizon textbooks for JHS only contain a total of just over 6000 words of text, over three years!), more supplementary materials to provide students with reading and listening input, and a move away from sentence level discrete vocabulary and grammar items on entrance tests.
However, IMHO the biggest factor is expectations (which tie into motivation and all that good stuff). Japanese students, on the whole, just don’t expect to end up as competent users of English, nor do institutions or teachers have the mindset that most students will develop internationally viable skills.
The question in this post’s title is one that I was asking myself after class the other day. Unfortunately, for me, the answer was no. What I was doing in class with my students is not good enough. It’s not going to get them where they need to be and it’s not going to motivate them to go out and put in the time they need to become proficient. I’m not sure what I would have to do to get my class to an acceptable place, but I have some ideas for changes I will make next year.
How about you? Are your classes good enough?