Monday, November 16, 2009
Being a participant of the Master in English Language Teaching – Autonomous Learning Environments has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life. During these two years, I actually learned how to carry out a research project and how to be a better language teacher. For this reason I want to show my gratitude to my action Research professors Luz Dary Arias, Liubava Sichko, Valeriya Lytvychenko, to my fellow students and to the participants of this study without their support and guidance it may not be possible to finish this research work. Moreover, having a tutor like Liliana Cuesta, a great friend, person and professional who contributed directly in making this research project a reality. Finally, thanks to the Sabana University for giving me the possibility to continue growing personal and professionally.
Sharing the action research project done during the last two years with our peers and tutors of the Master program was stressful but a very rewarding experience since it let me be aware of the importance of becoming a researcher in the classroom. I know that there are many aspects I have to continue polishing in order to carry out other studies in the future. I know that they will very useful not just for me but also for my students, other language students, and other language teachers and researchers to improve the teaching and learning processes of English as a second language here in Colombia and why not, all around the world.
Teaching and learning are alive processes in which there are many aspects that must be improved, and many innovations that can be done in order to make a better job in the classrooms. We have to take in mind that our students belong to a new generation "Net geners" so technology is part of their lives. The use of computers requires a complete change of teacher’s and school’s philosophy. As Piccardo (2009) notes, the use of technology is very important in foreign language classes but the misuse of technological devices could cause that they follow the same path as the first language laboratories. Students cannot be supposed to learn the language just by being exposed to the computers and the Internet. The new technologies are multi-purpose and offer a variety of resources to be exploited by creative teachers with a clear instructional perspective.
Based on the main findings of this study I can conclude that students showed a progressive improvement in their short story writing process evidenced in the evaluation done to each one of the instruments filed in their e-portfolios.
1. It is interesting to highlight that not all of the students participated in the same way within their groups.The role dominance of a student in each group was clearly evidenced due to the fact that the teacher-researcher did not assign specific roles to each student.
2. Students’ role transcends to a more active learning dimension. They evolved from a passive to a self-directed role which enabled them to become planners, builders and reviewers of their own short story writing process. These roles helped them to reflect upon their own learning process and become better decision makers and critical thinkers.
3.In spite of the problems caused by the lack of technological resources in the school, the three roles above mentioned were evidenced during the improvement of their short story writing process throughout the different writing stages, and throughout the use of the E-portfolio dossier. This tool allowed them to be aware of their progress over a period of time.
4.The two assessed instruments involved lots of planning and effort. The use of rubrics and the correction symbol chart was functional because students could find support to review their drafts, reflect upon their mistakes and self-correct them before writing the final version of their stories.
5.It was evidenced that the Langauge resource Center has to be optimized in order to develop better teaching and learning processes in the English class.The school needs a place where students can develop their learning process in a self-directed form and can take advantage of the technological advances.
Further research studies need to investigate the effect of collaborative work in the writing process in order to provide students with the cooperative learning fundaments. It will enable that all the integrants of a group achieve the goals at the same extent and help them to become successful learners. Moreover, students’ different learning styles must be taken into account when developing similar studies. Learning strategies and technology training need to be leveled according to each individual case in order to meet the outcomes traced in the study/course.
Unfortunately, the school was closed by sanitary problems for three days so two sessions were not developed in the scheduled days. Additionally, not all face to face (F2F) tutorial sessions could be carried out since the computers room was not available in some of the opportunities required it. For these reasons, students had to work by themselves at home following instructions and tutorials sent via e-mail. Moreover, students took more time than the estimated for creating, editing and proofreading their drafts. Nevertheless all the elements of the approach selected were applied in the way they are described in this document. Finally, the process was not accomplished by all the students (100%) as it was expected.
1. While I was going through the data analysis stage, I discovered that a new stage(in-writing) in the writing process( different from pre, while, and post writing stages) was born. This stage let students see the writing process as a whole entity, in which apart from creating individual drafts, students do understand that the final product implies a systematic process of writing development and enables them to conceive the importance of following specific steps to achieve the creation of a effective product. I decided to name this stage as in-writing stage. This stage was mainly studied through the e-portfolio creation taking into account the following aspects: organization, students’overall effort, creativity and usefulness.
2. My theory of action spent nearly half of class time (45%) on while-writing stage.It means a higher time that the one I had anticipated in the production and correction of students’ short stories. Less than a fifth (13%) of class time was spent on pre-writing stage and on tutorials about how to create and optimize the use of the e-portfolio. The time intended for socialization was not used in the actual time since there were some external issues which affected the normal development of the project such as state school strikes, facilities’problems, etc.
3. During the seven weeks there was a series of activities that learners had to perform in groups as a strategy to support each other’s work , but in fact, the role dominance of a student in each one of the groups was clearly evidenced.
4. Another recurrent pattern was the compromise and interest shown by most of the participants for implementing the use of the e-portfolio dossier as a learning tool. Despite the fact that the students did not have enough access to computers and the Internet service in the school, they developed most of the activities successfuly and participated actively in the improvement of their short story writing process by doing the online and digital work at home or in a café internet .
5. I also found that students moved from a pasive role in class to a more active status in which they become student-writers. It means, they were planners, builders, reviewers of their own short story writing process.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The Action Research : identifying common problematic situation in the classroom, and taking actions to solve them.
Everyday in our work as teachers, we face different teaching and learning problems which demand us to think about new strategies for helping our students to improve their learning process and look for innovations to do better classes. Although, it implies to consult some professional literature and establish some parameters to follow on, it can not be considered a research. A research involves problem-posing not just problem-solving; it is motivated by a quest to improve and it is concerned with changing situations, not jut interpreting them. Moreover, it must be a systematic process which involves collecting evidence to be analyzed.
For the reasons before mentioned and taking into account the definition offered by Sagor (2000) that indicates that an action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by a person or people empowered to take an action, and that the primary reason for engaging in action research is improving refining their future actions, I consider myself as an action researcher who is in the process of examining my own educational practice, using techniques to identify problems, developing research question bases on my curiosity about teaching and learning in the classroom, and systematically collecting data from and with my students to be analyzed and finally shared the findings with students, colleagues, and members of the educational community.
After a period of observation, analysis of students' works and direct conversation with my students I decided studying an aspect related to the writing process. For this reason, I am interested on knowing if the short story writing in EFL classes can be improved by using an e-portfolio dossier through the implementation of the process and genre approaches in students of eleventh grade of a public school in Bogota. This research study is going to be carried out to analyze the reason why the students of the INEM Santiago Perez, do not take pride in their written work and do not care about the way their written works are developed and presented.
I am aware that students are not concerned about how to write and what aspects must be taken into account to present them appropriately. They do not know that writing is a process which needs a period of training, and requires the use of different strategies to develop competence. According to Tribble (1996), they have to understand that writing is a social activity in which a writer and a reader are involved. They must be aware about the fact that if the reader does not understand the purpose of a text, communication will not be successful and the process will not be accomplished.
Moreover, students have to learn how to take advantage of technology on writing, what resources are available on line to practice and improve learning skills, and why the e-portfolio dossier can be a very important tool for the assessment and improvement of their writing ability.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The placement test has two parts: grammar and vocabulary and writing. The first one was adapted by me from a MM placement test designed by H.Q. Mitchell and J. Scott (2004). The aim was to evaluate students English proficiency level, and the second one was a free practice to identify what previous knowledge students have about short story writing.
The participants were in the classroom and they were briefly introduced to the research project. Then they received and developed the placement test knowing that the available time was 45 minutes. The whole group attended to the class.
The students began solving the test and no questions were answered by the teacher. Although the test was designed for 45 minutes the first student delivered the test after 25 minutes. Seven students took the 45 minutes and the rest of the students spent from 30 to 40 minutes.
After finishing the test student did peer-correction with the teacher’s guidance. Every question was analyzed in group and they had to check each other answers. The written part was checked by me using the rubrics that are going to be used to correct the stories during the project.
Students understood the questions and they answered them without any problem. The stories were written following the instructions and most of the students were allowed to write words in Spanish when they did not know or remember the correspondent word in English.. The objective was not centered on English knowledge but in short story writing competence. Obviously, this production is going to be very useful to identify students’ language strengths and weaknesses.
April 15, 2009
The class aim was to identify the parts of a story and its mains characteristics in a written version of the King Arthur's story by using the short story writing rubrics designed for the project. The lesson was was planned for a period of 90 minutes. They perfomed a brainstorming to activate schemata by completing a T chart on the board. Then some key words were taught by a relay race. students also used the pictures to predict what the text was about and finally read the story, did the exercises and evaluate it taking into account the short story writng rubrics designed for the project.
The class was developed in normal conditions. All the activities planned were developed.
Students enjoyed the relay race done at the beginning of the class and it was really helful to provide them with the key words used in the reading. They understood the story and could evaluate it following the rubrics.
This lesson was successful since the aim was achieved. The reading was appropriate for the students, they could develop the activities. Now, they are aware of the story elements and also know the instrument and the aspects that are going to be taken into account to assess the stories during the process.
The class was devoted to identify written text and short story genres. Students analyze a fairy tale based on the short story elements. Finally, they chose the type of story they would like to create.
The class was developed in normal conditions, the lesson was carried out following the plan and students could work without any problems.
Ss. had some problems during the warming up to categorize the written text during the warm up. It was necessary to help them with an extra explanation. Students could identify easily the short story elements in the Three little pig story.
Ss. enjoyed listening the audio clips and identifying the different short story genres .
The final product could be collected with the general information about students’ stories.
The genre- based approach allowed students to learn about different written patterns and specifically they reviewed the elements of short stories and began to think about the story they are going to write. The whole class was devoted to give a general idea of the complete process and students started to travel around their thoughts.
April 23 and 24
There was not class in the school.
DescriptionToday the class was planned to be developed in the computer room since students had to create their e-portfolios In their own web page.
The class couldn’t be taught as it was planned since the computer room was in maintenance so I had to take the students to another computer room where only a computer had internet connection. They received the tutorial in small groups and jut one student per group had the possibility to create their portfolios. They also received a handout with the directions to create the web page to do it at home.
Some students were worried because they are not sure they can create the e-portfolios by themselves but some others were exciting about having their own web page and they expressed their desire of continuing with the project in spite of the technical issues. They also compromised to help each other to have all the web pages ready for next class.
The AR was thought to be developed in the LRC taking into account this project was approved last year and it was promised that the center will be ready for April, 2009. Unfortunately, it has not been possible due to administrative issues so I have had to look for other computer rooms in the school to carry out my research but it has not been easy due to not all of them have internet connection or are available.
Class today was not taught as I planned it since technical issues are very common to happen in my school. The computer room that I had booked was not available today because it was in maintenance and nobody told me in advance. I had to apply Plan B but the class could not be developed as I planned and the final product could not be collected. Students received a general tutorial in a computer and the directions to create the web page and upload the e-portfolio sections were sent by e-mail. They had to do the activity at home and e-mail me back.
The class began 10 minutes later, students spent more time doing the activities so the final activity could not be done. The class was developed in normal conditions, four students were absent.
At the beginning of the class, student, in general, did not know too many words to describe people so the workshop provided them with the necessary vocabulary to describe their characters. The time was not enough to develop all the planned activities. It was not possible to assess their paragraphs so it is going to be the first activity next class.
The activities following the writing stages were useful to prepare them to write. They had the opportunity to deal with different pre-writing strategies such as brainstorming and clustering ideas (physical characteristics, personality, likes/dislikes), word mapping, drawing pictures. Then the information and the models given were used to write the first draft of their main character’s description. They produced their text without paying attention for the correctness. The results are going to be assessed next class.
Intially, I used the trend analysis approach (Sagor, 2005, p.110), since it is a useful strategy for tracing all the changes in performance occurred during the process to answer the research question. The collected data was filtered, ranked, and examined to get a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation, and to produce a grounded theory regarding what might be done to improve the situation ( Sagor, 2000, p. 6.
This stage of the research process was very meanigful since I found the concurrences that constructed the categories that emerged from this study.