Teacher & Copyeditor
(Based on the pedagogical research of H. Douglas Brown and Heekyeong Lee, 2015)
There are various methods teachers can use to facilitate stronger interaction in their classrooms. First, we must define what interaction means in a learning context. Brown and Lee define interaction as “the heart of communication.” It involves collaboration, or shared labor, in given tasks and the exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Interaction implies high degrees of mutuality and rapport. Interaction also involves negotiating meaning when obstacles are encountered.
There are some key aspects of interaction that a teacher should take note of and facilitate during his or her lessons. The teacher should heed automaticity, or attention to meaning during communication. Agency is a reward of independence, and is a step toward intrinsically-motivated self-reward. Higher agency leads to greater empowerment. Self-regulated strategies, or the knowledge of how to produce, interpret, and modify language, are required for a student to successfully navigate classroom tasks. Investment is also required by the student to express their identity. Interlocutors also need to have a thorough understanding of the cultural nuances at play in the classroom – a concept called languaculture – especially as a foreigner instructing a classroom of Korean students. There are many strategies a teacher can use to encourage the development of these traits, such as giving clear commands, using organizational language, reacting to students in a genuine way, encouraging self- regulating and autonomous behaviors, responding to student-initiated questions, and following any short lectures or monologues with related tasks.
While interacting with students, a teacher should be aware of the various roles they have in the classroom. The teacher should act as controller, providing structure, but also encouraging spontaneity. The teacher is also a director, keeping things flowing smoothly, and a manager, planning the class segments and the progress towards planned goals. The teacher is also facilitator, helping the students navigate their own way around obstacles. The least “directive” role of a teacher is resource, meaning the teacher is available for advice and counsel if the student initiates it.
Brown and Lee state from their research that successfully interactive students take initiative, seek information, ask questions, clarify misunderstandings, and are able to summarize what they’ve learned. In order to create an environment conducive to interaction, the authors focus on two main processes: asking questions, and group work.
Successful teacher questions give students the catalyst for producing output without having the stress of bearing initiative. There are two main types of questions: display questions (questions the teacher already knows the answers to) and referential questions, which are more meaningful, comprehension- and opinion-driven questions. Interestingly, asking more referential questions in the classroom has been shown to boost grammar complexity in student output. Some types of questions, however, should be avoided. Too many display questions are not beneficial, because they lack real-world relatability. Questions that are overly obvious or easy could be considered pointless or insulting. Questions that are vague, oddly worded, too long, or too complex should be avoided because they are difficult to answer. Rhetorical questions can be confusing. Off-topic questions that disrupt the flow of the students’ logic should also be avoided.
Brown and Lee’s next important process they address is the administration of group work. Group work has plentiful benefits. It generates interactive language, gives students the secure feeling of a smaller space, promotes responsibility and independence, and is a step towards meeting students’ individual needs and abilities. Pair work is similar to group work, but consists of collaboration between only two students and is usually used for less involved tasks.
There are several types of activities teachers can use group work to complete: games, roleplays, dramas (more involved and elaborate roleplays), jigsaw (where each member of the group has a specific task or role to fill), problem solving and decision-making activities, and opinion exchange collaborations.
- Have you implemented group work in your classrooms? How has it affected students’ participation, and how did the students’ different abilities seem to contribute to the group dynamic?
- What are some ways your deal with students of different levels when you interact with students in class?
- Have you found certain types of group activities to be better suited to certain levels? If so, which?
- Which teacher role do you find yourself taking on the most in the classroom?
My name is Hannah Jones, and I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English, with a specialization in Professional Writing, magna cum laude. I am currently completing a Master’s of Applied Linguistics with a specialization in TEFL from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. I have been teaching English for four years at an academy, and I also work as a content writer and copyeditor for the MCAT test prep website, Gold Standard. I am always striving to become a better teacher, collaborate with other teachers, and keep up-to-date on TEFL and SLA research.
I have a natural interest and passion for pedagogy and second language acquisition, and I hope to use my knowledge of research and the concepts I’ve learned in my graduate studies to spark interesting discussions with likeminded teachers.