ƃuᴉddᴉlɟ my teaching pronunciation course

Flipped learning seems to be the buzz word these days, but more than just a word that is buzzing in the academic conversations, it is becoming an approach that more and more teachers are adopting around the world. A number of studies, including my own, have shown flipping to be positive for student learning and more so for a variety of teaching contexts.

Flipping is associated with flipped learning which is defined as

a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.
(Source: http://www.flippedlearning.org/domain/46)

I started flipping three years ago with a blended pronunciation pedagogy course I designed for a study I carried out for my Master’s degree in Education at Universidad de Los Andes. This course was designed for English teachers in Colombia and I decided to include a flipped learning approach, since I could not imagine how I would get so much information through to teachers if the face to face classes were focused on instruction instead of application.

At this point you might be thinking: “That sounds awesome! But, how can I flip a class? What is a flipped learning approach?” Well, let me break it down to you. In a traditional teaching approach, class time is dedicated to giving students input; providing instruction, explanations and mainly focusing on teaching the content of your subject. However, flipping your classroom implies providing input for students that they can access outside of the classroom. That way, the class is solely focused on student learning output. In other words, you leave the hard work of content understanding to other experts (through youtube videos, for example) if you’d like, or you can make your own instructional videos that students will watch out of class. In this way, you go from teacher-centered class to student-centered learning in a heartbeat. Like any change, it is a process and requires careful planning; but you can get there, and when you do, you can concentrate on what really matters… meaningful learning. What is more, you can focus on assessing and providing support in the little valuable class time you count on (because it never seems enough).

In light of the above, I decided to try out flipping, so my study consisted of flipping an 8-week course with a two-hour face to face session a week. The course covered all the features of pronunciation (sounds, stress, rhythm, connected speech, etc.) and a variety of strategies and activities that teachers could apply in their individual teaching contexts; this also meant that the course contained specific information regarding Spanish speakers, difficulties they have with certain features, and accent. Moreover, the participants of this course worked on improving their own pronunciation while they learned the content and applied different teaching activities in their context.

Bearing in mind that direct instruction referred to explanations, content, instructions and anything that would require the teacher to stand up in front of the class and take up student learning application time, I decided to flip all the explanations of the pronunciation features and pronunciation modelling exercises. Could you imagine explaining each of the 40+ sounds of English in classroom time or the theory of pronunciation? Thanks to flipping, I was able to cover all the content I had planned to. Consequently, I provided teachers with videos (some of my own creation and most taken from youtube), articles, explanations, practice activities, recordings and tasks through a learning management system (LMS) called Fronter.

In this way, content regarding the different features of pronunciation were accessed through the platform. Students were required to read different explanations every week, so they would become familiarized with their meaning, use, and ways to teach them; they also practiced and carried out online activities For this, I used a hybrid content production approach (Herden, n.d.) which consisted of making some content from scratch, but also using existing material. In this regard, most of the explanations were constructed based on a variety of articles, research reports and books of authors and experts in pronunciation teaching. I also uploaded recordings with my own voice, uploaded a couple of self-made videos and created online quizzes and forums with the LMS tools available. Like with any course, there will always exist a need to create material for specific context and student needs, so that’s what I did.

Here are some examples of the resources used and content made for this course:

Screenshot 1: Explanation of pronunciation
The various explanations presented week by week, as in the example below, were carefully thought through and written in a clear and friendly way.

pron course 1

Screenshot 2: Consonant sounds classification chart
(based on Celce-Murcia, Brinton & Goodwin [2010])

The course contained a number of charts and images that were designed to aid students’ understanding of the different topics. For instance, the chart below was adapted from Celce-Murcia et al., containing words (instead of phonemes) that students would relate to the sounds, since they were initially just introduced to the sounds.

consonant classify

Screenshot 3: Explanation of word stress
For different explanations, such as in the following examples, the use of tools went from simple Powerpoint or Microsoft word graphics to voice recording software.

word stress

Screenshot 4:  Consonant sound rule
Some explanations contained audio. For this, I recorded my own voice and subsequently embedded the recordings into the LMS in order for students to have a model of the examples provided.

bart

Screenshot 5: Contextualized examples
Some examples took into account the specific context of my students (Colombians), to make the content more meaningful and close to home.
colombia

Screenshot 6: Task using a song
Within the course, students had to carry out tasks which implied planning and implementing different activities with their own students. I provided the explanations of the tasks, rubrics and tutorials through the LMS, which avoided having to use up class time for this purpose.

song task

Screenshot 7: Session recording
Moreover, the different activities and resources shared in the face to face session were uploaded in the LMS, so students could access them in case any of them had missed class. Each session was recorded and uploaded in Youtube and then embedded in the platform. This saved having to go back and explain what had been done in the following session. However, I learned that cropping videos by themes and loading them to the platform was very time consuming. Today I believe creating a video with an explanation would take a lot less time and be more effective.

f2f video

As you can see, with the flipped learning approach, teacher talking time was reduced significantly and a wide amount of content was covered. This means that thanks to having flipped direct instruction, I focused on designing classes where student-teachers reflected on their learning, socialized activities they had carried out in their own classrooms, clarified doubts and learned to use teaching strategies through hands-on and practice activities. Face to face sessions were dynamic and active as well as student-centered. I was able to make classes as meaningful as possible and leave the understanding of the content and pronunciation practice to student-teachers in their own time. This allowed each one of them to work at their own pace.

In conclusion, if you ask me today whether I would go back to teaching pronunciation or pronunciation pedagogy in a traditional way, the answer would be: “NO WAY, JOSÉ!” Today I believe flipping was the best decision I could have ever made. There is definitely no turning back.

 

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