Issues in EFL in Japan (Not currently being updated)

My name in James Hall and I teach an English Teaching Methodologies class for aspiring English teachers and advising 5 senior students (one is in the USA). This blog is will be used as a forum to discuss issued in EFL in Japan. This blog will also serve as a portal to the learners' blogs as I will periodically summarize the hot topics appearing in the learners' blogs. Please come join us!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Students Analyze their Language Learning Experiences and Reveal the Shocking Truth!

Thanks to the hard work of Olive and Montitti, we were able to add the results of the questionnaire that learners in ETM3 answered. The results can be viewed here, and the original questionnaire can be viewed here. What surprised me most was that learners of ETM3 marked almost every langauge learning activity listed on the questionnaire as valuable. Even such unpopluar activities as translating were considered valuable. For example, 7 out of 17 students said they disliked translation but all 17 said it was valuable.
As written in my previous post, members of ETM3 were asked to analyze their English learning experience by completing 6 statements after they filled out the questionnaire. They completed the statements in their blogs and wrote reasons for their answers. In this post, I have categorized the responses and written the number of responses in each category. The questions and results are below. Some reponses fell in more than one category. To learn more about these responses, please read the students' blogs.
Statement 1. My most enjoyable language learning experience has been…
9 conversation
3 music
1 Teaching English at an elementary school
1 poetry
1 watching tv
1 Teaching English in Thailand
1 The Spanish lesson with JH
1 structured speaking
1 repetition
1 memorization
1 reading aloud
1 translating
1 writing sentences
1 homestay in the US
1 class with an excellent teacher

Statement 2: My least enjoyable language learning activity has been …
5 university entrance exam study
3 memorization
2 reading silently
2 dictation
2 language lab
2 structured speaking
2 grammar
1 repetition
1 tests

Statement 3: My most valuable language learning activity has been …
4 Conversation
2 reading aloud
2 repetition
2 Nakano
2 reading
2 memorization
2 grammar
1 1st and 2nd grade high school class
1 High School English Club
1 new words
1 UN Seminar
1 Fun

Statement 4: My least valuable language learning activity has been ....
4 nothing
3 reading silently
2 translation
1 Reading aloud
1 jr. high school english home study
1 poetry

Statement 5: In general my language learning experience has been ....
4 memorization, grammar, and reading
2 not enough
1 speaking, listening and reading
1 experiential
1 paper work
1 wide
1 poor
1 confusion to realization
1 speaking and listening
1 reading and writing
1 watching TV

Although the questionnaire did not reveal much difference in the ETM 3 members' philosophy of language learning, the analysis did.
On-chan, wrote that her language learning experience "has been starting from confusion to realization" and she has been positive about most of her language learning activities especially repetition, memorization and reading aloud. Eringo, on the other hand, wrote that she prefers reading silently to reading aloud and that reading aloud was not helpful to her.
John Wang wrote that for him listening and speaking has been most important in his English development while RIP claims that for him learning the rules of grammar has been most valuable.
Everyone is very convincing in their reasoning, but I wonder if we can find a middle ground.


  • At 7:15 pm, Blogger Marco Polo said…

    You wrote: I wonder if we can find a middle ground. Do you need to? I do similar feedback surveys at the end of each semester, and get the usual wide spread of results, which I use to justify an autonomous approach: "some like reading, some hate it, some want to speak, some couldn't care less. With these kinds of results, how can I justify a "one-size-fits-all" approach? You must choose the materials and the approach that suits you."

  • At 10:22 pm, Blogger JH said…

    I agree that learners should use whatever approach works best for them. However, I think that teachers have to understand a wide range of approaches to accomodate the learning styles of their students. Since ETM 3 students are aspiring elementary school and jr. high school teachers, I hoped that we could at least understand that other learning styles besides our own are valid. That is what I meant by "I wonder if we can find a middle ground."

  • At 8:49 pm, Blogger Marco Polo said…

    In this (PDF) article on why minimally guided instruction does not work, the authors cite a study by Clark: Even more distressing is the evidence Clark (1982) presents that when learners are asked to select between a more or a less unguided version of the same course, less able learners who choose less guided approaches tend to like the xperience even though they learn less from them. Higher aptitude students who chose highly structured approaches tended to like them but achieve at a lower level than with
    less structured versions but did not suffer by knowing less after than before instruction.
    Clark hypothesized that the most effective components of treatments help less experienced learners by providing task-specific learning strategies embedded in instructional presentations. These strategies require explicit, attention driven, effort on the part of learners and so tend not to be liked, even though they are helpful to learning.


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