Cainntear wrote:Cavesa wrote:But it might be nice to see their "natural learning" excuse deconstructed
It has been, many times. The problem is a generational one. People are trained once, and most are never exposed to anything other than the fads their trainers bought into. Most teachers are trained by trainer teachers who were also only trained once. That can mean that it takes decades for any given fashion to die.
You are right. It's like a new treatement in medicine. It gets invented, tested (all that is already a lengthy and difficult process), it is even available in a few advanced hospitals, but it takes time before it spreads, and before it gets into the guidelines and to the ears (and into the habits) of every individual doctor worldwide. And it still doesn't reach and convince everyone. Unfortunately, the teachers are far less pressured to keep their education up to date, to look up new recommendations and methods. If the teaching method sucks, it is still the learner, who is blamed.
Fortunately, the learners still demand their grammar books and such stuff, unless they trust a bad teacher too much. And that's where the market partially fixes the problem. The individual learner may know nothing about the theories and terminology, but they find it weird that stuff doesn't get explained, and they don't want to settle for speaking and writing like a neanderthal. In some cases, the teachers fight against this and try to explain that all that is wrong (as they feel threatened by the books). Especially the children and teenagers are victims of this (as they are automatically considered to be be stupid and ignorant), so the more curious and ambitious ones waste years of their time.
...I would love to see more research on the independent learners (the serious learners and learning, not a marketing research on the players of Duolingo), but we simply seem not to exist. ...iguanamon wrote:These SLA studies are cited a lot on the forum by various members. I really struggle what to make of them. Thy are all geared to classroom learners in a classroom setting, thus providing little relevance to what we do here.
There's two reasons for that: 1) most researchers are teachers so have access to classes and 2) the classroom setting is a controlled environment and repeatable -- if you teach 20 people at once, they've all received the same treatment (more or less; the ones at the back might not have heard as well as the ones at the front, and things like that) whereas if you send them home to study alone, you've got no guarantee they've all engaged with the material the same way, reducing the reliability and usefulness of your results.
Both my masters theses were built around self-study materials, and in the first, and equivalence was something I had to address explicitly -- my supervisor was pushing me to make the test conditions equal in time as that's standard practice in SLA research, but I successfully argued that time was out of my control, so I made my conditions equal in number of activities instead, but I had to write that up as a justification, and I had to note it as a possible reason for the results.
Yes, that is absolutely true. It is much easier to control a classroom. But it wouldn't be an unsurmountable problem. However, if the researchers value this aspect of classrooms this much, how comes the papers I've seen were done on laughable samples (if you can teach 20 the same way, you can teach 500 and the results will be much more reliable). Independent learners are harder to localise and gather for a research, sure. But if there was no motivation to cheat, it would definitely be possible to measure stuff like time spent on those activities (some people on this forum make wonderful spreadsheets, perhaps the guinea pigs would love to fill out something like this), the results, etc.
A totally wasted research opportunity are the international language exams. It would be an ideal sample to compare methods, time necessary to reach the levels, the conditions of the learners, weaknesses and strengths of various approaches. The sample would be huge and would include both classroom and individual learners, all you need to do is to devise a solid standardised questionary. Yet, nothing like this gets done, not even the number of test takers and average results get shared with the larger public.
This is so true. The reason why these studies are not done may be that we independent learners are not deemed by researchers to be important enough in language-learning to be studied.
No, it's just that we're difficult to evaluate objectively.
Are we? We have tons of CEFR exams, and other similar tools that can evaluate the results. We are no less reliable, when it comes to self reporting, than patients in many medical studies. Yes, there are limits, but the studies still get done.
And even the classrooms are not that easy to evaluate objectively. I may have read relatively few such articles, but I can't remember any taking into account stuff like independent work in the free time, intelligence, and other such stuff that affects the results dramatically.
I'd say the problem is a bit different. We are not that profitable. Governments and other grant giving institutions are interested mainly in improving their system. Private companies are interested in the most profitable stuff, and classes are the most expensive way to learn a language available.
We don't generate enough of a presence in language-learning.
A.K.A. statistical outliers. There are surveys of successful learners from time to time, and these are influential in directing future research. If there's an observed pattern in successful learners, research does shift to trying to encourage all learners to do the same thing.
But this doesn't always work. Consider: "successful learners consume native media". Fair statement, right? How do you implement that? Well, they tried introducing more native media into the classroom. Result? Less achievement, because they were replacing study time with something that only worked as a supplementary activity for the successful learners. Less successful learners didn't have the base level to engage with the content, so it was a waste of time.
How do you get school kids to engage with native media outside of class? You don't. Unless you're an English teacher. If you are an opt-in language school and you're dealing with adults, you can attempt it, but it's a hard sell. Either way, pragmatics interfere with the perfect solution.
You are totally right. I see this even in the online communities. Ten years ago, it was difficult to convince people that "yes, you should take the leap of faith at your C1 level and finally use the language to read a real book". Nowadays, we see people like "I've been learning for two months, watching tons of tv and trying to read a novel, and I still cannot understand at all, what is wrong with me?"
I remember teachers even discouraging me from native media outside the class. Either openly, like "what you find fun is too hard for you", or indirectly and not intentionally by totally bad recommendations, like "perhaps you could try some radio". The teachers seem to be totally disconnected from the real world, from the kinds of native media are appropriate and also fun.
It is not that hard to get school kids to engage with native media even if you teach a different language. You just need to introduce them to something they find interesting. As long as the coursebooks present total clichés or just classical literature or very old movies as the highlight of the culture produced in the target language, the kids won't be interested. That's the problem.
Most teenagers won't be captivated by Edith Piaf, that's what their grandma loves, but they might be interested in Maitre Gims. They aren't interested in movies with Louis de Funès, but they might love Kaamelott. Most do not want to read yet another classical novel in their free time, they have enough of the obligatory ones. But they might appreciate Autre-Monde and discover that the books they like are not being written just in the anglophone countries. They are not lazy or uninterested in the target culture. They are just not willing to spend their free time on stuff they'd find boring even in their native language, which is understandable.
The adults in the private classes will be harder. They are very often there because they want a higher salary, that's it. And they expect the teacher to do the learning for them, that's why they paid, even a direct and straight to the point homework (like a grammar exercise) is already a problem. They don't want to spend their free time on this, they don't want to spend in on activities that do not seem to lead very directly to their goal (which is using the language at work and being paid more). It is also normal to become a bit more rigid in one's cultural tastes. People listen to the music of their youth, have less time to discover new books, and so on. The kids are still curious and easier to reach, if only you don't mess it up by presenting the target language's culture as totally irrelevant to them. No idea why the publishers and teachers don't seem to get this.