Action Research Template
The following template may be used for your action research:
Context of the Problem and Rationale
I have students of different levels of English in the same group. So, how to teach an ESP course to a mixed group with students of different levels of English? This research is going to help me to find out how to create or design viable and meaningful activities for all type of students taking class in the same course. The research questions that I have formulated are how to create a dynamic to motivate or encourage from the strongest to the weakest student to participate in class? and how to create a dynamic by using differentiation in order for students to take advantage of the content taught? The study will be conducted with a small group of advanced learners of English, which are currently taking the "passages" course of Cambridge in a school of languages called "Kiosk". It is a small group which consists of four members, a couple of them have very high level of English with a very accurate pronunciation and use of the structures and vocabulary, however, the rest present troubles while using different structures, and their lack of vocabulary makes them struggle in their attempt to establish communication.
Today is possible to get advantage of students’ abilities while teaching a second language by using a common-sense approach named “differentiated instruction”. What do we need to understand by differentiated instruction? Well, basically differentiated instruction means “shaking up what goes on in the classroom so that the students have multiple options for taking information, making sense of ideas and expressing what they mean” (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 1). Learners differ a lot among each other that is what make them unique individuals. To make also a differentiation in terms of teaching and learning really matters. When one is aware of these aspects as a teacher, the activities can be focused more appropriately and accurately so students get advantage of the knowledge provided by facilitators, teachers, or guides. Differentiated instructions responds to a very concrete concept that in today educational contexts is quite mentioned; students’ needs.
In today's classrooms we find different type of students. Some of them are good maybe at writing, others at speaking, etc. The case is that, today's reality for an ELT teacher is a mixed-ability group that he or she has to deal with. “The students have different needs, abilities and motivations”, (Ainslie, 1994,p.6). ELT teachers should be aware on how to keep students interested in the topics, what activities would be appropriate for each student and what would be a good incentive to arise motivation when they attend an English class. Ainsle (1994) claims that there are several aspects that a teacher must differentiate in a student when talking about mixed abilities. These aspects are age, time available to study, confidence, motivation, health, study skills, learning style, interest, previous language learning, experience, memory, linguistic awareness, study skills, starting level in the language, needs, learning aptitude, aspirations, goals and external pressures, p.8. All this aspects define by themselves what the mixed ability concept is.
Now, having that in mind, it arises the question that really matters for this investigation, how to apply differentiated instruction in a mixed ability group? As teachers we face this reality of students with the features above mentioned. So, we as teachers must adjust each element in order for our students to fit in their own learning style, and also by paying attention on what the learner is really able to do, what is his/her motivation, his/her preferred learning style, etc. That is how differentiation may be applied. What do we offer in exchange? the opportunity of learning growing by meeting individual needs and developing all their abilities and capacities in terms of learning a language. Citation? Differentiation instruction seems to be a viable alternative for developing students’ potential when learning a second language. Tomlinson (2004) defines differentiated instruction as “a match between content which is what the student learns, process, the way that is learned, and product which is how language is demonstrated”. As Powers (2008) says it "learning matches the student's needs and such a match maximizes challenge and growth, heightens motivation and increases movement toward autonomy and learning success"(p.58). Differentiated instruction becomes a really convenient strategy to cover all the students’ needs by taking into account the way students learn, in their preferred learning style and in fact their interests not as learners of a second language but as human beings. Anderson (2007), mentions that all teachers that differentiate do it due to the belief that every learner is unique, with differing learning styles and preferences, (p.49). So, the differentiation done in our classrooms is not only to realize that students are different but to make something that can really help them in their development.
Teachers ought to differentiate based on learners’ willingness to do things by changing a bit the levels of difficulty of the material used and covered in class. A good way of doing this might be by matching students’ abilities and materials with their affinities, in other words what it really matters to them. E.g sports, music, movies, history and also taking into consideration their intelligence and learning style. All this aspects would allow students to have options of how to work certain activity, by themselves, in small groups or with a classmate. Try to include at least one citation in each of your paragraphs that discuss your theoretical framework.
A key aspect of differentiated instruction is precisely the flexibility in its application. Students are allowed to work on what is really interesting, fun and attractive for them. We have three paths to make a differentiated instruction: content, process and product. According to Levy (2008), “content is what we teach, process has to do with how we teach and the way students learn , and product is the way students demonstrate what they know”, what they have learnt, (p.162). In addition, “content is what we want students to learn” (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 72). Although taking into account the curricula is indispensable, the content may vary or may be adapted to the students’ needs. For instance, if I have in my group a students who is really good at speaking, why limit him only to what the curricula says if he can learn more things during the curse? That is how we can apply differentiated instruction by adapting curriculum or content to what students really need.
Method and Materials
The participants are four students of English in a course called passages 1 which is advanced. The students' ages range from 17 to 30 years. They are from “La Chona" Jalisco, Mexico and their social status is high. The students were asked to develop a product which is linked with some of the topics seen in class. These products can be since the recording of a commercial where some product is advertised, or the making up of a pamphlet in which touristic information is displayed or the explanation of a process of certain field. The students were free to choose and to do what they really feel interested in. The teacher gave them some of the initial ideas but finally the students decided on what to do. In order to collect all the data I used a ten open questions questionnaire and also personal interviews that I recorded for further analysis.
The students were explained about the project and the products they had to hand in, on October 1st, so the students could have enough time to fulfill the task. The teacher gave the students some options as stated earlier but finally the students proposed their own ideas. The students worked on their products during three weeks. The teacher assisted the students during the process, helping them with the use of English they would use in their presentations. For this research, the process was in three phases, the research phase, then the creation of the product phase and finally the presentation of the products. In the research phase the students gathered information related to the topic they were going to talk to create the product. The second phase was the creation of the product, during this phase the students asked the teacher to check the information they got for the product or even for the presentation, since some of them are working on making videos which they explain the process carried out in a factory. The teacher helped them with the language. Finally, in the presentation of the products the students presented what they created in front of the class. The presentation lasted from three to five minutes.
The method used for collecting the data was qualitative since an interview was done to each one of the students in order to complement a questionnaire of ten questions. During the first three weeks of October students were working on their products and they presented them in October 22nd and October 29th. In addition to the research questions another thing that was attempted to find by conducting this action research was basically to know what made students to choose what product to do, and also the implications of doing it. This question emerged once the students were working on their products.
Results and Data Analysis
Throughout the process the students asked some questions related to the language they were going to use either in their products or in their presentations. I provided them assistance by giving them some tips. Yesenia created not only one product but several. She gave a presentation explaining the process of making cheese in a factory. To support her presentation she made a video explaining not only the process but also the tools used in the elaboration of cheese. She made a brochure which supported her presentation and also she showed the class the photos she had taken when doing her research. To close her presentation she played a video which she had done promoting the cheese. She wrote the dialogue for the commercial. The second learner presenting her product was Elizabeth. She made a “tomatillo jam”. She explained about the preparation of the jam.. Diego talked about his favorite rock band “evanescence”. He presented like the biography of the band and also he made some sort of picture using photos and letters with many ornaments. His product was really creative. Diana made a magazine; it was a very colorful magazine which advertised futurist items. She presented the item and explained what was it for and gave a brief description of it as well. I noticed a very enthusiastic mood on her when she was presenting her product.
When I analyzed the questions of the questionnaire I discovered that all the students enjoyed the experience of doing a product in an assignment like this one since they use their imagination, according to the answers they gave. One student (Yesi) said that she enjoyed doing the assignment because it was the first time she had something like this, and besides she learned a lot by using technology. The rest of the students said they had had prior experience doing similar projects to this one, in other subjects so that experience helped them when developing this assignment. Additionally, all the students claimed they enjoyed doing it because they created something they were really interested in.
The students also said that they had felt excited when they were doing the product, although it caused them nervousness when they presented in front of the class. All the students answered that they would do another project like this again because it helped them to improve their English by using it in something real for them, and in something they liked. The students stated that what like them the most about the assignment was that they choose what to do, rather than being assigned by the teacher. Learners commented that for them was easier to work on something that they were really into.
Moreover, Elizabeth and Yesenia mentioned that choosing what to do by themselves allowed them to work more enthusiastically and at the same time to have fun. Elizabeth also mentioned that an advantage of doing projects like this is that you have to do research by your own in order to explain or present your project. Yesenia said that it involved the use of technology from which she learned new things. Diego stated that it helped to use his creativity, and Diana mentioned that the project helped her since it implied designing. They all, felt good with the final results, because they did something real using English, because it meant a challenge and because they felt proud when presenting the product to their classmates.
Discussion Once analyzed the data, I observed that all students seem to feel motivated by doing their products. From this idea I assume that a viable way to differentiate process is according to students’ interest as Tomlinson (2001) states. By conducting this action research I found out that we as teachers have to let students build their own knowledge as it happened with my students. Another outstanting point about this analysis is that all the participants were really willing make the products without hesitation. Although they were assigned to the project, since the very beginning they participated by proposing their own ideas and planning how to do it. Students can participate voluntarly when teachers give students the opportunity to express their ideas, feelings and experiences (Copur, 2005).
As stated earlier the students had the freedom of doing what they wanted to do as long as they stuck to the use of the English language, so it was found that they really enjoyed the experience and all that was reflected with the final product in the exhibition day. With the information gathered through the questionnaire, the interviews and also my perception, I may assume that students work in a better way, expressing what they really want when they have freedom. What they did in this assignment was relevant for them in their learning process. All the products they exhibited are important for them so are for me as a teacher because they represent the best expression of their interest for mastering English. Different ways of expressing learning among other classroom elements are tools that can be used in a variatey of ways to promote individual and whole-class success (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000.p5).
Letting students to express their learning really worked on my students who came into class with enthusiasm and confidence. At the same time they learned and they succed. Learning-style preferences played an important role for this assignment. Differentianting instruction implies that the students get their own information, adapting it to their own learning style or way of learning. My students reflected their own way learning on their products. As stated in Tomlinson’s (2001) work “Students need to organize their thinking so they can make sense of ideas, communicate clearly and retain and retrieve information” (p.64). In this assignment, overall in the presentations day, I observed that students organized by themselves not only the information they had to present but also the one contained in their products. They followed an order,a set of steps. Although they never were told about their preferred learning style because that is not the nature of this investigation, it was clear that somehow they managed it by their own to present the information with order and sequence. For example, when Yesi presented about the process of making chesse, she started talking about the factory and the tools used to make it, then she presented her videos, then she provided us with a brochure in which she displayed information related to her topic, she had to use her preferred learning style which is visual I may say. Nevertheless, Diana worked more with his hands to do her product, the magazine she haded in was written by herself with her own hand-writing, she cut paper, she paste it pictures, she added information. Eli made something similar with her “tomatillo jam”. Finally, Diego used music when presenting his product, and in fact he made us to listen to a song of the band he was talking about. I would say that in his particular case he is more auditory and he learns best by listening of course.
I presenced the nervousness of my students but also their excitement and motivation to do it. I realized from the very beginning when they were told about the project about their interest. When notified them about the presentation day I perceived much more interest in show the class what the had been working on. So this really matches with the idea stated by Tomlinson and Allen (2000) “Psichologyst suggest that interest is a doorway to learning”p18. The products became a priority for the students, and they attend them. All this lead us to motivation. They said in the questionnaries and also in the interviews that they had felt motivated. I evidenced it, I do not really know whether they felt motivation because of me (because of the way I told them about the task, bdesides of being aware of the process) or because the implications and challenge of conducting such assignment. What matters is that they brought to class good products and reflected their English skills on them. So they mentioned that having free will allowed them to work enthusiastically and at the same time to have fun. I guess this is part of motivation. According to Fox & Hoffman (2011), “motivating students is an essential part of differentiating because differentiated instruction is about finding ways for all students to be successful and master the material” p.39.
There are some implications for the future. First, differentiated instruction is a feasible alternative for approaching knowledge to all sort of students as long as the elemenets above mentioned are taken into account. (students’ needs, motivation, interests, etc). Additionally, differentiated instruction allows opportunities to motivate and observe students’ development through the learning process. What students experience with differentiated instruction is, motivation, knowledge, the fact of working on something they are really into. For example, by doing this assignment my students succeded in their mastery of their language skills. Novices also demonstrated what they are capable of, or able to do. With this method, students use their creativity and explore other aspects of the learning process, like the application of what they are learning in their English course in something real. Second, differentiated instruction is an opportunity for teachers who are interested on students who realize of the learners’ needs, abilities, learnig styles, to take them to mature or grow their potential. For the students, when a teacher implements differentiated instruction, they get a fine opportunity to challenge themselves and at the same time to work in such a way which is not common nor conventional but that it works in a better way. And finally what is still better, by the differentiation instruction the students get the freedom to guide their own learning, at their own rhythm or pace.
Adhere to APA.
- Remember that your action research paper must be emailed to me as a Word document. To convert your wiki text to Word refer to this video. If you email me your finished document by Thursday (Dec. 9, 2011), I'll check your work, making comments in the Word document, and send it back to you for final revisions. --Bnleez 21:50, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
- Try to include a citation in each of your paragraphs that addresses your theorectical framework.
- Avoid subheadings in your Context of the Problem section but do include subheadings in your Method section. Also, begin adding more information to your Method section and include references as you go along. --Bnleez 14:24, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Note: For those taking Applied Linguistics for credit, please do the following:
- Copy and paste the template above as a subpage to your user page.
- Adhere to the following approximate word count per section...
- Context of the problem should be 800 words
- Method and Materials should be 500 words
- Results and Data Analysis should be 500 words
- Discussion should be 1,000 words that includes a 250-word conclusion.