June 12, 2007

"They just want to be taught"

In a previous, long-winded post, I blathered rather incoherently about teacher-led classes versus student-led or some form of negotiated curriculum.

I have one language class where for part of the time, students work in pairs or threes, each group with their own CD player, textbook and text CDs. They practise a combination of listen-and-repeat exercises, listening only, and speaking only exericses. We started in April, but it is only recently that I have felt students are ready for the responsibility of working on their own. I was recently telling another teacher about this class, and how students seem slow to adjust to the idea that learning English is largely a matter of practice. She said, "Yeah, they just want to be taught."

Taken out of context, this sounds like praise, not censure. "They just want to be taught." Great! Wonderful! What's wrong with that??!? "I'll swap them for my kids any day! Go ahead and teach them, then!"

I can do that, no problem. But at some stage, they need to go away and practice, then come back and show me what they can do. That's the part they won't really do. They are happy being passive, but balk when it's their turn to actually produce. And to be fair, in what other of their classes are they required to produce anything? Again and again, students ask "How many times have I been absent?" Clearly, the frequency of attendance, not some product or performance, is, in their minds, the criterion for passing the course.

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