Action Research @ The Language Centre
Submitted by aadorni on 28 November 2011 - 2:37pm
Learner journal entry
Journal entry during London project
London project 2007
Learner journals 2008
Presessional @ LCC 2008 London project crits
London project 2008
London project 2008
West Kensington project
Clapham Junction project
Action Research at the Language Centre
‘A felt need on the part of practitioners to initiate change, to innovate, is a necessary pre-condition of action research. It is a feeling that some aspect(s) of a practice need to be changed if its aims and values are to be more fully realized, which activates this form of inquiry and reflection.’
Elliott (1991, p. 53)
The Language Centre works with overseas students, who are developing their English language skills, often while they are
already studying on a UAL main course or in preparation for joining UAL. In 2007/8 I received a bursary to carry out research in teaching and learning for CLIP CETL. See the list of projects 2007/8 for a brief summary of my work.
The courses for students who are preparing to join UAL have two main learning outcomes; to increase language ability and to develop relevant academic skills (general and UAL specific). The teaching and learning activities (TLAs) for students are aligned to these main LOs and to the sub-learning outcomes of their particular course. The development of aligned TLAs is essential to the students’ success on the Language Centre course and following that, at UAL.
I wanted to design a TLA for the language class room that would do the following:
· integrate all language skills practice/use into an authentic task, which will increase motivation
· foster learner independence by helping students generate their own language needs and practice
· create an academic task that is relevant to UAL, and so better preparing students for university study
· encourage deep learning verbs by engaging all skills in an integrated challenging/motivating TLA
· encourage students to become familiar with their environment and increase personal well being
I researched the use of project work in language learning and HE learning theory. I analysed studio briefs from across all the
colleges to see what the students would need to be able to do at UAL. Apart from the design format and layout, there is a distinct process that is followed and I wanted to practise this in the language class room. I designed a TLA called My London. This is a project that involves the students researching the area they live in and making an artefact that combines text and visuals to present this research. The process involves brainstorming ideas, peer-support, self-directed learning, crits, research, synthesising and organising information, making an artefact, taking part in/organizing a final exhibition, keeping a learner journal and self-assessment.
The TLA I developed has been used with over 600 students to date. It is used on the LC presessional programme as part of the summative assessment. It is also used in the commercial English programme that the
Language Centre offers at High Holborn. It has been modified repeatedly as part of the ongoing action research cycle. I have also developed other project TLAs, which are on the Language Centre s/: drive and can be used by all the tutors at the Language Centre. I have also given workshops and presentations to my peers about using project work in the classroom. I have made a teachers ‘project work tool kit’ to help with the setting up and running of a project. I feel that my teaching has been enriched by the experience of action research and so has my working environment.
Here is the link to the International Centre blog and Language Centre Flickr site where you can see more examples of My London students’ work.
The action research report I wrote follows here in an abridged version without the supporting document links.
Project work in UAL English class: enhancing international students’ learning experience
Action Research Report – Project Work for International Students
The Language Centre at UAL provides academic/language support for international students. The course that was used for this research is ‘Academic English’ (20 hours a week, max 12 students). The main learning outcomes of this course as stated on the UAL website are to improve (English) language skills for academic purposes and to improve IELTS scores. The brochure also states that the course ‘allows students to familiarise themselves with British life and culture whilst learning the skills necessary for successful study in English’.
The teaching hours are divided into 12 hours topic-based skills (me) and 8 hours IELTS practice (colleague). The course I designed uses art and design topic based material/TLAs to practise academic language skills. Most of the TLAs and situations are generated by me the teacher, and taught in a ‘traditional’ teacher-fronted style (but not teacher-centred) and the skills are mainly taught discretely.
I categorized this style of learning in the Academic English class as passive, which means I could not be sure the students were being fully encouraged to use deeper learning cognition and become independent learners. Knowledge of this created a gap between my ‘espoused theory’ of learning and my ‘theory in use’ (Brockbank & McGill, 1998, p. 28), which is what Whitehead (1989) identifies as seeing oneself as a ‘living contradiction’. This conflict arose because I support the view of learning as being a social activity, which embodies communicative and active learning, yet the classes were ‘passive’. Being a ‘reflective practitioner’ (Brockbank & McGill, 1998) I asked the question; can my classes improve language and academic study skills through a more active and holistic approach, whilst helping students become more familiar with British life?
Can project work enhance (international) student learning in an academic English class?
In the class I wanted to promote active learning and help the students practise their acquired language skills in a more ‘realistic’ situation. At HE level students engage in self-directed learning, so I designed and set a two week project to discover if this would support a less surface approach to learning. Project work is said to develop ‘higher cognitive skills of organizing, synthesizing, analyzing and evaluating’ (Henry, 1994, p. 49) and it treats language skills in combination rather than isolation, which is a more holistic approach to language learning.
In addition, I hoped a sense of ownership and personal engagement with the learning would create higher levels of motivation as this comes ‘from within, not without’ (Fried-Booth, 1986, p. 5). Project work in a language class room is stated as being highly motivational because the students have the chance to practise the language skills they have learnt through ‘format’ or traditional language teaching and use it in a ‘situation which is new, challenging and real’ (Fried-Booth, 1986 p. 8).
Finally I wanted to integrate the LO of ‘familiarizing students to British life and culture’ into the project work. Many LC students are new to London, they come to Bond Street everyday for class and spend all their free-time in Zone 1, therefore have no experience of the area they live in. If the topic of the project was the students’ local areas they would physically have to be part of British life (suburban London) to do the project. This seemed like a worthwhile aim and would give the task the essential ingredients of ‘interest and value’ (Blumenfeld et al. 1991, p. 375).
Project-based learning is traced back to Dewey’s work from as early as 1916. Henry (1994, p. 41) calls him ‘project approach’s earliest champion.’ Dewey advocated an enquiry process in learning and was against the passive transmission form of teaching. He proposed learning by doing and nearly a century later Biggs (2006) reminds us the most important factor in teaching and learning is ‘what the students do.’ The value of project work as a process in itself is clearly linked to constructivist theories of learning and the aspects of learning as a social process. Being a member of an academic community means learning to communicate as a member of that community and project work can help (language) students practise the construction of knowledge which is defined through and by language. As Postholm (2005, p. 521) says, ‘meaning is not created by the individual, but in interplay among those who speak’ and ‘genuine understanding is dialogical in its nature’ (p. 522).
Biggs (2006) lists four factors that influence whether ‘educative conceptual change’ can take place (deep learning). The objectives need to be clear, and students must feel the need to achieve them, they should be free to focus on the task and work in dialogue with peers and teachers. I believe project work can fulfil all these requirements if the project is well designed. Firstly, students are allowed more control of the learning process and ‘it is this sense of personal involvement that gives the impetus to project work’ (Fried-Booth, 1986 p. 5) and ‘more freedom breeds greater satisfaction’ (Henry, 1994, p. 145).
Additionally, working in this way with the teacher and their peers strengthens these relationships. Fried-Booth (1986, p. 12) cites a ‘deepening of personal relationships’ as a benefit of project work and the students ‘co-operate not only with each other but also with the teacher’ (Fried-Booth, 1986, p. 9). Project work can create a sense of ‘team work’ in a class, which helps build students’ self-confidence and this is crucial for success in a second language. Also students ‘appreciate the confidence placed in them by the teacher and their self-esteem is enhanced’ (Fried-Booth, 1986, p. 14).
However, project work challenges both teacher and student view of the whole learning process and everyone’s roles. The teacher’s purpose is clearly defined in the literature on project-based learning; ‘the teacher takes on a different role, becoming more of a facilitator and advisor than pedagogue and expert’ (Henry, 1994, p. 11). The teacher is not transmitting knowledge they are creating learning environments (Blumenfeld et al. 1991). As the project moves through its three stages, the classroom, out into the real world and back into the classroom the teacher ‘will be working with the students, not directing them but acting as a counsellor and consultant’ (Fried-Booth, 1986, p. 6).
Despite knowing the value of project work and its prevalence at UAL, students’ language learning roles are also challenged. The act of doing a project in a second language and doing it in a ‘language class’ can push students to the ‘edge of their knowledge’ (Brockbank & McGill, 1998). When the feeling of stability students have in their language class is removed, this can create ‘chaos’ for them. If well directed this can be used to fuel ‘double loop learning’ (Brockbank and McGill, 1998); learning that involves changing a person’s reality and questions their existing paradigms of learning. The teacher needs to be aware of the strong emotions that can arise from this process and provide some ‘containing or holding’ of the emotions through dialogue, so that the students can cope with the temporary chaos during this deep learning phase. Or more simply stated, ‘people need reassurance and encouragement to tackle what is new and strange’ (Fried-Booth, 1986, p. 36).
The class I used for my AR consisted of 11 international students, 6 females and 4 males, aged from 20 to 27. The female students were from Hong Kong (Jovy), Japan (Maki), Korea (Sunny), Taiwan (Nico) and China (Shoran and Michele). The males were from China (Johnny and Yang), France (Albin) and Thailand (Ong). The students were an ‘intermediate’ level class, or IELTS score 5.5.
The importance of adequate preparation is crucial to the AR’s success. Following Elliott’s (1991, pp. 86-7) design I first clarified the general idea and then gathered information to help form a plan for the actual AR implementation. J 1 is my syllabus plan to decide where to insert the project in the 12 week course and J 2 shows the preparation times, which I found to be realistic and useful.
Intervention (project work) design
Initially I had to decide on the actual style of the project ‘brief’, I wanted to write a brief that would be similar in format to ones found on a UAL course. I gathered sample UAL briefs and used them to design my final layout. The following points are important considerations when designing a project:
If the class is more used to teacher-centred work then a ‘bridging’ project can be done (Fried-Booth, 1986). This is a way of gradually introducing students to project work and independent learning, and I decided to use ‘making a poster’ as my bridging project. After watching a video about Carnaby Street and making notes, the students formed two groups for the task of taking any aspect of the video, researching it further and then making a poster to display the information.
•Structured/Unstructured (Henry, 1994, p. 16)
Henry classifies projects as being ‘real world’ and ‘unstructured’, where the student decides the topic and locates the material, or ‘structured’ when the teacher provides the topic and the material. The project I designed was mostly unstructured, I only decided on the topic to fulfill the course learning outcome; ‘familiarise students with culture/life in UK’. However, I did not provide any material, or specify the final product, except that it had to include a mix of visual and textual information.
The project needs a timetable and a clear deadline, so the students can see how long they have to complete it and how much work will be done in class. For my class the project was spread over two weeks to avoid new students joining the class mid project. My 12 hours a week were divided into 25% project work and 75% course work, which meant project work was only 20% of the whole 20 hours a week. The class would still have 8 hours of IELTS practice a week with the second teacher on Thursday and Friday.
During the project students should be able to use all their language skills in a ‘real and natural’ way without teacher intervention. However, the teacher has to be aware of what the language needs are, Fried-Booth says the teacher should be ‘a figure in the background evaluating and monitoring the language being used.’ (1989, p. 38). My strategy was to listen to and transcribe the recordings, analyze the written feedback and then note language/grammar work that could be done with the class after the project finished. I also wanted to find useful language/academic skills to practise in class, but which avoided sending messages to the students about what language they should use during the project.
This is a complex consideration, yet there was no question in my mind that the students should work on individual projects. The topic of ‘my local area’ did not lend itself to pair/group work, which would defeat the object of familiarizing students with their own local area. In addition to this, group work has a whole dynamic that needs to be thoroughly addressed so that group projects can be successful, as well as issues around assessment, final product, and non-attendance and so on. Fried-Booth (1986, p. 34) says, ‘on the whole pair-work is more successful than small group work.’ Blumenfeld et al. (1991, p. 376) also state that, ‘group work can diminish thoughtfulness by encouraging reliance on others as resources thereby decreasing personal responsibility and independent thinking.’ They also point out that although most students claim to enjoy and want to take part in group work, many of them do not have the skills that are needed to truly benefit from working in collaboration in this way. As the aims of my AR were to increase deep learning and promote student independence I wanted to avoid the problems that a group project could cause.
Blumenfeld et al. (1991, p. 376) state; ‘tasks that have closure and that entail the production of authentic artifacts are more likely to sustain interest (…) the importance of the artifact cannot be overstated.’ The teacher can decide what it should be (report, presentation, etc), and in art and design it can reflect the students discipline (photography, sculptures, painting etc). My project brief said: The work you produce should show the reader/viewer a snapshot of the area you live in. The project can be presented in any form you like, preferably something that others can look at and read, i.e. in a form suitable to be exhibited to other students and include a mix of visual and text.
The students worked in learning pairs and groups and so received much peer-feedback and support, some state that without the help of their classmates they could not have completed the project. The teacher should try to give as much one-to-one feedback as necessary, in the initial stages I met each student and discussed their ideas and issues. Later on I found it useful to be ‘on call’, to be there if anyone needed me, which also reflected their increasing independence. The final artifact was part of the LO of the project, so I designed a self evaluation worksheet and an assessment sheet that we could fill in together in the final tutorial. The assessment was based on all the learning outcomes and formative.
Methods for Collecting Data/Analysing the AR
Using Elliott (1991) and Kember (2000), who list methods of collecting data, I decided on the following forms (as well as keeping a reflective journal):
Form of Analysis/Documentation Measure/Purpose
Bridging Project Increase student confidence in new learning style
Focus groups – recorded and transcribed Collect student feedback for analysis of project work as a TLA
Teacher Observations (Analytical Notes) Gather data for the AR, analyse, relate and plan
Students Journals/Diaries Increase academic/language skills and foster reflective practice
Students Skills Analysis Form/Comments Reflective process, used for tutorials, gather data
One to One tutorials Feedback, advice and encouragement, gather data
Students’ written comments/feedback Gather facts for AR analysis, language skills
Final Product/Artefact LO and ‘task’, closure of project
Students Final Self-Assessment Form Reflective process and used for tutorials, assessment, gather data
Videos and Pictures Visual records of events and artefacts
Podcasts Internet document iTunes podcasts: Amanda’s class project
SPQ s – Student Process Questionnaires To measure students’ study approaches (Biggs, 2006)
The implementation of the two week project followed precise stages. The timetable shows my projected schedule and the actual one, there are discrepancies, because as issues arose I had to be flexible and responsive to student needs. The course of a project will never be smooth and Fried-Booth (1986, p. 39) says, ‘you should not panic or imagine that the problems are insurmountable.’ A full account of what happened during this process can be found in the analytical notes, and below is a summary of the main points.
In week 3 and 4 students prepared and gave presentations to the class as part of their first LC formative assessment. This laid the way for the project, with regard to researching, synthesising and presenting information but the presentations caused a lot of anxiety and one student burst into tears. I set the project in week 6 so we had enough time to ‘bond’ more before we entered into a new learning relationship.
The class did the SPQs in pairs/groups and it generated ‘lively’ discussion about their learning, which is good reflective practice. So the actual questionnaires were a useful ‘noticing’ TLA; the students had time to think about their learning approaches. The first ones were filled in for ‘general language class’ learning. The second ones were filled in after the project and showed conclusively that surface learning had been reduced.
After setting the project brief (with timetable) I asked for initial feedback. Many students stated they wanted to work in groups, after discussion they decided to work in pairs or ‘learning partners’ but on their individual projects. Also in class time they would be in groups and pairs, so they would have ample opportunities to work with others. Finally, all students read my AR information and had time to discuss it with each other and me, and then they read and signed the consent forms. I also gave the students the LOs for the project and the final assessment forms, which they also discussed in groups and with me.
This was when most of the data for my research was gathered. In week 1 of the project some students stated feeling enthusiastic about the project, but most were still unsure about the final format. Some students voiced a lack of confidence in the ability to do the work, which is when I decided to do a bridging project. The language/skills work I implemented was born out of tutorials I had with individual students and comments from the first focus group. I found they needed help with using the internet for research and how to ask polite questions and I used a ‘crit’ format to talk about their work.
The bridging project was set at the end of week 1 and achieved its learning outcome to be a step towards the final project. All student comments were positive, they claimed to enjoy that style of learning and working in groups, and were insightful about the process as well as being able to assess the final artefact. Even though, the ‘crisis’ occurred after this activity I still think it was a valuable TLA.
In week 2 some students became distressed, I called this the mid -project crisis. They complained that I was not teaching them, they did not want to do project work and they wanted to learn ‘real English’. I managed the situation through discussion and then with a ‘lets move forward’ approach. I also highlighted that project work was only 20% of total class time. I concluded they were in part generally distressed by independent learning in a language class as for some students it was their first time. We had a two-day break from project work and by the end of this final week the class was at their most animated. As the deadline approached they started to become totally involved in the work and it seemed like the mid-crisis had served to strengthen the validity of their projects.
The exhibition morning was an excellent form of closure to the project. It generated a high level of interest from the whole school (K). The students had the chance to produce and hold a showing of their work to their peers and this created a real sense of achievement for them. The artefacts (K) were creative, interesting and of a high standard. The feedback they received from their audience was a positive affirmation of their effort, and again validated my theory of the social construct of learning.
Immediately after the exhibition morning the students made short videos where they each presented and summarised their project, which I later made into podcasts. They filled in a final self assessment sheet and submitted it to me before their one-to-one tutorial, where we filled in the final LC assessment form together. In the tutorials all the students were ‘ecstatic’ about project work and the whole experience; they felt they had really ‘learnt’ a lot. We filled in the SPQs to compare ‘pre/post project’ scores and to summarise their work we used the Museum of London website Postcodes Project. The students wrote and submitted an online account of their project, with information about their local area; constituting another ‘real’ task that concluded the work.
Overall, the students were convinced of the validity of the project, and they experienced a dramatic rise in self-esteem and confidence. They all felt they had practised their language/academic skills in a challenging situation, they had learned a lot about the area they live in and were much closer to the rest of the group. Everyone cited the final exhibition as a ‘real’ experience. All the feedback from the students was positive and insightful about all aspects of the project, even the mid- crisis was seen as part of the learning process. The table below shows the analysis of the date I collected.
Form of Data Results/Analysis
The act of writing detailed notes, recording all data, analysis, and thoughts in one place is essential for the AR project. It helped during this writing up process and for the on-going process of the AR to have detailed information of exactly what I did, and what happened, as well as my thoughts and analysis.
This increased students’ confidence in the ability to execute a project to a deadline and produce an artefact. The comments showed they enjoyed working in a ‘team’ and this ‘learning style’. It helped them to think about the process of learning: ‘It is not only for gaining knowledge but also to build the relationship between us, that’s how the learn works.’ (Ong)
The results showed the deep score to range from 31 to 41 out of 50. The surface learning approach ranged from 21 to 30. It seemed a realistic goal to decrease the surface as much as possible and slightly increase the deep (40 is already a high DA score).
The results showed a significant decrease in surface approach for most students, the highest score was 24 and lowest was 16. There was a slight increase in DA; the lowest was now 35 and the highest 43.
•Individual student – everyone’s DA increased, ranging from 1 to 7 points. This is a good result. SA had a bigger range; it decreased from 0 to 15 points.
•I concluded that the SPQs helped students to think about their approaches and it can be used on an individual basis to raise awareness about attitudes to learning. It mainly showed that surface learning had decreased, and this is a valid and positive outcome.
Focus group 1st focus session (18/2/08) & 2nd focus group/post-project (3/3/08)
These first comments had limited use for analysing the AR objectives. Most people just factually recounted what they were doing for their project, rather than saying how they felt about the learning. It was not set up properly with correct focus questions. However, it did show the need for input on how to do internet research and that this beginning period in the project is a time for reflection and research, the focus group should come more ‘mid’ project and be more ‘focused’.
Analysis of the comments is divided into main themes:
•Local area – students stated increased knowledge of local area and services and confidence in living there. (I didn’t realise that there’s so many beautiful architectures in my area)
•Process of the project – the importance of carrying out the task for future university study, how ideas developed and their satisfaction with the final products.
•Group work –they enjoyed working together, sharing their skills and relationships were strengthened.
•The Exhibition – said to be confidence building, an exciting opportunity to meet other students, ‘real’ speaking practice, and it was an interesting experience for the whole ‘LC’.
Thee comments show that the project had produced the learning outcomes I had predicted
Group/Individual interviews & One-to-one tutorials
All transcripts were useful for language analysis and future lesson planning, and for monitoring progress. No comments stand out; there were general questions about how to access resources and what to research.
•12/2- project work was cited as being ‘fun’, useful for future careers and an interesting way to learn. Skills analysis focused mainly on the importance of speaking and ‘communication’.
•13/2- students did not want to work alone, so to maximize interaction they chose ‘learning partners’. Some expressed anxiety about working in their local area and their ability to do a project.
•18/2- most students still had no idea about the final product, online chatting and working closely with the learning partner was cited as useful and motivational.
•25/2- critical incident-discussions with individuals and whole class. Teachers must be vigilant for unease and be encouraging and taking a ‘break’ from the project can be helpful here.
Students Skills Analysis
•Listening and speaking were cited as the two skills that improved the most. They were practised by working with the other students and especially during the final exhibition. Doing the project was said to be better than the ‘traditional’ way of learning English.
•A 28 shows that all the skills were used in an integrated way and the range of tasks within each skill (reading, writing, listening, speaking) were impressive. The students’ own feedback showed conclusively that project work really improved students’ confidence in all the four skills and used them in a holistic, student-centred approach.
Final Product/ Artefact
Students felt proud of everyone’s final artefact and it was evident a lot of work had gone into them. They had worked together to help each other make the products by delegating tasks to the students with the appropriate skills, this is good studentship. Free choice of artefact created a greater learning challenge, making the students use the higher learning verbs.
Student Final Self-Assessment
•The comments were positive about the improvement of academic and language skills. They stated working in a group as being an excellent experience. The comments on the evaluation of the project were quite poor and this showed again that students needed more help to be reflective (see first focus group).
•Minority View – this was expressed by one person in written form, they said; ‘I spent a lot of time doing the project alone, and would like to do the project with others at all times.’(Johnny) He had expressed disinterest in the project at the start. Fried-Booth (1986) says, there is always someone who genuinely dislikes project work and Ts should find ways to involve them. In fact, Johnny was given the job of project coordinator (A 11). I will design project to be done in pairs as his comment was valid.
The Exhibition Morning
The final showing was a good way to conclude the work as it gave the project added meaning. The project was used as formative assessment and so having peers viewing and commenting on the work was a valid and important tool for self/peer assessment. It generated massive interest in the whole LC and all the LC students had the opportunity to meet each other and look at work. This experience was invaluable for all concerned.
The videos and pictures are a visual record of the exhibition morning; the pictures of each artefact show the quality of the work.
Alex Paton and Pete Hillier made the videos of each student presenting their project into a podcast which can be viewed and downloaded from the internet. It is important to use technology for project documentation.
www.itunes.co.uk – Amanda’s class project
Did the AR intervention produce the learning outcomes of enhancing (international) learning in an academic language class? I believe it promoted a more active style of learning. The level of motivation was high for most of the project; and the learning crisis was cited as being beneficial to learning, ‘it is partly the challenge of overcoming difficulties for themselves that students respond to, which leads them to value the experience highly’ (Henry, 1994, p. 144). All the students felt that their academic and language skills had been stretched to the limit and therefore improved. They were active in their local areas and so become more familiar with life outside Zone 1, so the project did help the students practise their acquired language skills in a more ‘realistic’ situation. The project successfully pulled together my three main learning concepts into one TLA. It gave the students the chance to practise their language in a real communicative activity; it focused on the students’ doing, and therefore made the students use the deep level learning verbs.
The implications for me, the teacher were also positive. The student-teacher relationship was strengthened due to the trust that we placed in each other; this is level 3 teaching (Biggs, 2006). It was easy to become a facilitator as I was no longer physically at the front of the class and this was a beneficial experience, especially as my classes are often more teacher-fronted. Even though the journey was not easy and it took a lot of work, planning and patience, the benefits were so great and varied that it was worth the extra work. Additionally, by the fact that my AR project was to implement project work for my students I created symmetry in teaching and learning, which made it easier to be reflective and empathetic.
I can now use both the bridging project and the main project as models for designing further projects for different classes at the LC. This summer on ELUPP I will be able to use a project for the non-assessed students on a 6 week course. It will help sustain motivation for these students, increase their language/academic skills confidence and familiarise them with London. In the LC at the moment am teaching on a General English course and I have designed a one-week project for that class, which will be done in pairs and whole class to increase student interaction. I feel more confident about using projects in class now; from this AR process I have another important and valid TLA as part of my teaching portfolio. Finally, I would urge all HE language teachers to include project-based learning in their class; it creates an outstanding learning environment conducive to deep language learning.
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Appendix - All Transcripts
12th February 2008
Pre-Project student comments about project work and language skills
Transcripts of the videos:
*How do you think about project work?
I think it is very important, because after you study, when you get into the company and you have to work like this, so I think the project work is very important.
*How do you think about doing project work?
I think project work is very funny (fun), with the classmates you do the same thing. And we have many different ideas in the project, so it is very interesting, very important. Thank you.
*So what do you think about doing project work?
I think its funny (fun) and its more interesting way learn English than in classroom.
*How do you think about project work?
I like do the project work, some project work, because that is my subject.
*Ok what do you think, what is your strength for example like writing, speaking or reading?
*I think that my strength er my strength ness is er reading skill because I think that I have a lot of vocabulary and that is important to read about, to read essay. I would like to talk about that the skill that is the most improve a lot when I arrive in England. I think my listening skill is the most improve, when I say in Thailand I can’t understand what the foreign people, what the people say.
*I think that the skill that I improve the most is speaking because the first time I came to London I cant speak anything, I try to talk but I can’t explain anything. Now I think I can speaking more because I talking with my classmates, and I listen when teacher teaching me, her sound is like in my mind all the time. Make me can speak more confident
*What about my weakness? I think my weakness is the speaking coz I am not so confident to speak really. And er most of the time I am looking for my words coz in French most of the time I am still with the good words, er a good vocabulary in French. And in English I am like a poor. My reading is the best thing I think in English I am used to reading some kinds of magazines in fashion, which are always, wrote in English. Yes I think I am good in reading and I am a big weakness with my speaking.
18th February 2008 First Focus Group
Most comments were just a recounting of exactly what the students had done so far for the project, these are the best and are transcribe from the tape.
Useful focus group comments:
I am not interesting in my area, but when I researched on the internet, I found some information about my area. My area has old wood near my house, old wood is 800 years old, I am interested in the oak garden and I took some pictures, and now I am so exciting about doing my project.
I went to Brick Lane, there is so many markets, I been there so many times. That’s why I feel little bored when I heard about this project at first time. But I think it is time to review about my ideas we learn. I think it is still interesting for me but I don’t have a really clear idea to do this project yet.
First just I say thank you for this project to my partners, they help me to get bit more information about my area. This is first time I find some shops, which is useful, like organic shop or somewhere good for leisure time to go.
At the beginning of this project I was wondering in what way I have to work and what kind of think I have to search. First time I was sure of talking about the history of the place and now by my research in the internet I think I have to talk about the green places, the park but also the transportation, it’s a big place in terms of transport for Londoners. (Vauxhall)
At the beginning I do some research out my area, and I found a film called ‘Clapham Junction. I want to follow the film structure to do this project. But when I saw the film yesterday, it is so sexual, too much about sex (laughter and comments from the class). So I changed my idea because I want to show how I go to school everyday.
Post Exhibition/Project Focus Groups – 3rd March 2008
Groups One/Two transcribed and grouped under general headings
When I do this project I know more about my area. I didn’t realise that there’s so many beautiful architectures in my area, and I walk around and looking at them and thinking about how fantastic it is. I think this a very good chance to learn something new about your area, and somethings I didn’t know before.
At first I have no idea how can I do research about my area but now I feel its so nice chance to research about my area, because it was a nice chance for my host mother to research for know about her area. I could tell her about old oak tree and nature park or something like that.
Process of the project
The first time it’s really difficult how to make my form, the more I'm thinking about my project the more I change my mind. Finally I know my form, but its really good thinking how to do my process. Yes it is good to think how to make the idea, to connect together, how to make the one thing.
I think it was there the big change of this project, discovering our area and finding the way to explain. We was all on the same level everyone was losing this project - what can I do? What will I say? I don’t know my area. I’m like a tourist I’m always in central London and it’s quite interesting to see the result. Everybody said this way the story of his area. Every project was quite interesting. Remember last time were disgusting (laughing) discussing, nobody had any idea (peer agreement and laughter) we all make a poster.
At the beginning we think it maybe very easy do the project. Then we beginning and maybe we think a waste of time and then maybe in last week we have a conclusion that this project is worth doing and we made it. Now we must see everyone’s project is perfect.
Thank you MaKi for your ....nature (class laughs) and Nico because they helped me a lot and Photoshop kind of things. At the beginning I was unsure thinking about my project. I don’t know what it looks like or what I have to research for the project. Everything just like mess in my mind. I don't have confidence continue, but after talk everything and after get picture information, I start to do the design. Then I can see the structure, make in my mind, its give me the confidence to continue. I look backward I see all the effort I have make this experience. So I really appreciate all my class are so great.
Everyone knows good time and difficulties in his project but at the end everybody is stronger, so it’s good. Maybe it’s not easy to do some stuff. We used to do project in our country; we know where to buy the materials, in London I don’t know the material, we are not easy to get. So we take some time to find buy the materials and also some print problems (peer laughter, agreement)
Its good we know find the material, these ways good for our future study. And everyone in our class so creative, including me. I didn’t realise I so creative, now I know how I will do in the future. I kind of know what to do my portfolio, how to make it better, unique, that’s very good.
I think it’s pretty interesting and maybe first time I feel bored, but after is quite interesting keep do it. I totally changed a lot of different ideas and finally I make a statue. Next thing I learned about myself is I think it’s the first time use English to make an art project. Before I just made like write essay or practice like a really traditional way. But it’s the first time to use English to research information and make art project so it’s interesting and good experience.
Yes even though this was personal project but everybody we help each other. And also feel very excited (about exhibition) everyone asked lots of questions. I feel they are really interested. They all asked how long you do the project, how long you prepare, I very enjoy answer their questions.
Doing this project I find quite interesting. I have my skill and we must to help each other to do the project. For this project we can talk to each other not from project but also life and your area and very nice. After the project we became more closer, I like this kind of feeling. I doing this project in two week at the beginning I don’t do any work I just think try to think about he good idea. I change 3 or 4 times about my idea. I do the main work in last 4 days but the result is quite good. I like team work because I can’t finish by myself because Johnny and make help. So the result is quite successful and I feel proud of myself thank you.
I feel it’s good to connect with other class people. Its really good test to speak its exciting to speak and also I have to make effort to explain my work to the other people.
I have learned about each time I explained my project and each time I had to learn about next time I’d explaining. Each time maybe I missed something, I had to learn (agreement) how listening. Sometimes it’s quite noisy I have to understand the meaning, the main point, answer the right question. Its not always ‘pardon me, pardon me’. It’s good for your IELTS (peer agreement), to follow the exam questions. Quite good practice, listening and speaking (peer agreement).
Today it was nice chance to speak with other class students I English and we have to describe our project its make me more thinking about my project.
The one I think I like the best is Maki's one because spring is comings it’s so wonderful the idea, because she likes all the things like oak.
At first time my feeling is very boring because I see the time schedule and the time for this project it too long. I think I like to spend a lot of time to improve my English in IELTS test but after the first week my feeling is change, I'm very interested in this project. I have opportunity to discuss about the project with my friend (classmates) and this give me to open my mind to receive knowledge about the art students and the knowledge about my friend area. In Thailand I have never to go the museum and I London I have to go to museum.
Week two of the project
25th February 2008
Poster feedback (written homework)
Working in group, more and more, is a good way for me to understand faster the idea of my colleagues in order to be in the deadline. To conclude about this subject, it is a good exercise to synthesise the note of everybody about the same document in order to remember you the most important aspects of this area.
In the group, we can learn how to communicate with my partner, which is the good way to our work, and to learn how to listen to other’s opinions. I think that’s very important to us.
It was the first time I had doing project with classmate in class. My first impression that was quite good for team’s work.
I like doing this kind of learning style. It s is not only for gaining knowledge but also to build the relationship between us, that’s how the learn works.
I learned it’s great opportunity to share your knowledge and skills with your team mates. In addition there is not best way experienced yourself in discussion that means you have to talk about the issue, of course, it’s a chance to prevent yourself and updating your knowledge too.
I hope that I will have more finesse to do this kind of project at university because I heard someone said all student must doing many different types of projects during in university. Also we could learn how should we do negotiate.
Dividing the work was easy because we know our merits each other. For example Sharon is good at drawing, yang is good at management. So we could had an appropriate job individually. While we were doing individual job, I realised that we need a person who can adjust all grip and decide final vision. That was Yang.
4th March 2008 Students written Feedback on the project
Collated and summarised comments from the skills analysis worksheet and the final self assessment worksheet (originals in file)
Final Self Assessment sheet used for tutorials (my summary of comments)
How have your language skills improved, and how did you practise them by doing the project? Include your feelings about writing in the project journal.
I spoke a lot so speaking improved – especially when we studied at the weekend.
Good speaking practice at the exhibition
I had to read a lot for the research and summarise it, so my reading has improved
I practised a lot of writing in the journal, which made me think about my project a lot
I found this was a good way to improve my English rather than just the traditional way
Because of doing project, I had to put myself in “learning situation”
It’s good to write the journal, it is a memory, and I can read it again in a few years time.
I had to communicate with my classmates, very useful experience
I learned some new words from doing the project
When I write in the diary I had strong feelings, as I did the project from the heart, which is different to writing for teachers
What was your experience of working in a group, including supporting peers and giving feedback?
Working in groups included many things, the crit, explaining ideas, helping partners; supporting peers will help my language for my future course.
It was a special experience for me; we helped each other even though we did individual projects.
We all supported each other, we became closer, and we were like a family.
We had to speak in English as were from different countries, an excellent experience.
Working in group is useful, different people are good at different things, so it made my project perfect.
The feedback made me happy and I can improve.
How do you evaluate the process of the project (including independent learning) and what you produced, and what would you do differently/same next time?
The project was a little dark; I would make it more shiny next time.
It is a worth while and treasure process doing the project.
As this is London I could not find the material I needed immediately, so next time will be better.
As I was doing the project I felt my English improved
Minority View: When I was doing this project, I felt my English improved of work with my partner or supporting my classmate. But I also spent many time to do the project by myself which the environment don’t need me speak English. I would like do the project with another people all times.
5th March 2008
Post-Project Skills analysis work sheet comments collated from each students form (see supporting documents for originals)
Project Work – Skills Analysis
· Newspapers and websites
· Research on the net
· Leaflets and information sheets
· Lots of words, hard to chose the right ones
· Learned to read quickly
· Found lots of new vocabulary
· Learned how to use internet for researching information
· Native speakers
· host families
· Classmates and friends
· On line websites (BBC)
· Really helpful to speak to British people
· My listening improved a lot
· Listening to partners opinions, made progress
· I must force myself to listen to others
· Project journal
· Visual diary
· Text for the project
· Notes from reading
· Improve my ability to summarise and express clearly
· Good for practising writing for yourself (not IELTS)
· I tried to make it perfect and show some real feeling in this writing
· Learning partner
· Asking questions to native speakers
· Speaking all the time to partners, we quickly progress
· It was difficult to say what I want to express, so it was good for me
· If there were different opinions we had to discuss about that and I had to persuade her
· I am more and more confident
· I speak a lot about art work and how to show your feeling
· I find many different way and words to explain my feelings that I never used before
Actual Timetable Block 2 (weeks 6-8)
30mins – preparation for project, skills/project work initial comments
30mins- SPQs – fill-in pre-projects study process questionnaires
2hrs – 20%
Wednesday 13thFebruary 2008
change order of ideas sheet and question time
30 mins – read project brief, ask questions and group discussion on initial ideas/write feedback
20 mins – students questions/class tutorial
30 mins – chose learning partners and brainstorm ideas sheet
10 mins – final questions
4 hrs – 25%
30 mins – recoding process in journals
Whole class presentations on progress and ideas before focus group to differentiate on topic
Stay in the room during focus group
Build in research class at the beginning of the week
30 mins – group/peer support feedback
15 mins – timetable for planning
30 mins – focus group
1 hr – polite language skills/grammar
Tuesday – 19/2
1 hr – tutorials/group support work/planning
10-12.30pm – 60’s fashion/Carnaby Street video and note taking
Recycle fashion vocabulary
1-1.30pm – pair work, info search on video topic/cultural references
Wednesday – 20/2
9-10.30 – internet work, research skills, peers/teacher tutorials
11-1pm – posters in groups, recycle and use information from 19/2 class
1-1.20pm – poster feedback and formative assessment
Monday – 25/2
9-10.30am – ‘crits’/language/topics related to students field/devised questions for talking about project work
Do skills analysis worksheet at the beginning of week 2 to help students in mid-project
11-12.20pm – group ‘crit’/presentations of project work/exhibition coordination work
12.30-1.30pm – critical incident group discussion
Tuesday – 26/2
NO PROJECT WORK
Topic: fashion, creating a customer profile, adjectives for personality
Listening for concept descriptions, note taking and writing up notes
-for homework; skills analysis worksheet
Wednesday – 27/2
9-11.30 – finish work from yesterday, check homework, rewrite notes in groups, using visuals to practise concepts
11.30-1.30 – final preparations for projects in the computer room, making flyers, wall plans, planning the room layout, making feedback box, students doing different tasks
4hrs – 25%
Monday – 3/3 School exhibition morning – 413 coffee, feedback
8.30am -10 – preparation of room 413 for the exhibition and individual feedback with me and peers
10 -12pm – whole school exhibition, students and teachers visit the exhibition and talk to students and write feedback
12-1.30pm – individual interviews for pod-casts, photos and feedback and taking down of room 413, focus group
Tuesday – 4/3
-self assessment forms discussed in individual tutorials – block 2 review
-SPQs – post-project questionnaires
-Postcodes website activity
During the project the students wrote a project journal in addition to their visual diaries.
Language Centre ~ UAL High Holborn
Teacher’s Notes for setting and directing a class project
Project work in a language class room is a way of practising the four skills in a holistic and authentic way. The project ‘My London’ was developed for use at the Language Centre for Academic English students to increase motivation and learner independence. It was a successful activity as you can see from the photos of the exhibition morning. There was only one problem that I should mention -(it may not happen with your students though) - there was a mid-project ‘slump’ when the students became slightly overwhelmed and could not see how it would work out. This is the time for encouragement and support and I suggest not doing project work in the class for a few days so they can have a rest. The following are some points you may like to consider when doing the project and if you need any advice I will be happy to help.
· Set the project and show the pictures of kinds of things that can be made.
· Put the student into learning pairs or groups of four, even if they don’t live near they can support and help each other just the same.
· The students should keep a project journal saying what they did each day, and how they felt about it and any notes/comments.
· You should check their initial research and in class show them websites for their local councils, help them find maps and information and also where to buy cheap art supplies if they need them.
· Language work can include polite questions for conducting interviews, how to use the internet for research, and you can build a ‘crit’ session in by students presenting to groups their work so far.
· Do not do project work in the class every day, except near the end, in fact it should be not be more than 30% of a week’s class time or it can become boring.
· Help them to work to the deadline but giving them weekly timetables to fill with what they are going to do and what they need to do it etc.
· At the beginning check each person’s research and help them individually then as time goes by just be ‘on call’ if they need you.
· Once a week put the class into two groups of 10 and get them to discuss how they feel about the project and what they are doing and how it is improving their English and their academic skills.
· Ask them to write in their journals about how they are practising their reading, writing, listening and speaking – this is important for them to be reflective not just about the actual project and they artefact they are making but also about their learning.
· When you are doing the project the teacher becomes a guide, resource and facilitator and this can be difficult for students who are used to teacher-fronted classes. Be vigilant for discontent and have tutorials with those students to help them see the validity of the work they are doing.
· There will always be students who genuinely dislike project work, try to find extra jobs for them to include them (curator, exhibition space manager, sign/label designer, logo creator, group leader etc).
 University of the Arts London
 International English Language Testing System
 Teaching and Learning Activities
 Learning Outcome
 Language Centre – Davies Street, UAL
 English Language University Preparation Programme (pre-sessional summer classes for international students at LCC)
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