Welcome to the RM Blog. The purpose of this blog is to create a forum for an active conversation among graduate students, educators, researchers and anyone else involved in language, literacy and technology education. It is hoped that individuals who have an interest in these subjects will engage with each other to further contribute to these areas of discussion and offer personal and professional insights.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Persistence and Retention: Keeping ESL Students in Classes. What Strategies do you Use to Encourage Students to Complete Classes and to Continue?

Persistence is defined as an internal attribute in which students stay in a class and engage in self-directed study for as long as the demands of their lives allow. Retention is the percentage of students who stay in school for a minimum of a semester or year and intend to continue their studies for an extended period of time. These are some of the challenges teachers of college-level ESL students often face. Barriers to persistence include non-academic factors such as motivation, self-confidence and self-concept, social involvement, financial strife, family or childcare issues, etc, while academic factors include college preparedness, academic success, GPA, level of English, etc. What strategies do you use to encourage your students to stay and continue with their education?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To Correct or Not to Correct?– The Big Grammar Question

A group of us were recently having a discussion about the benefit of grammar corrections, often a topic of continued interest to ESL writing instructors. We deal with this everyday in the classroom (not to mention outside of the classroom as many of us spend countless hours on this task). Common questions that always come up are: What kind of feedback should I give? How much feedback is necessary and how often? I question the extent to which this type of correction does help my students. As writing teachers, many of us do point out errors using some type of number or coding system, and many of also provide margin and end comments to get students to focus on meaning and content. I think if many of us did not do this, we would feel as though we are not doing our jobs and that our students are not learning. However, some of the research in this area shows that grammar correction is not highly beneficial and more emphasis should be on improving content and meaning which in turn results in improved grammar. Other studies that show grammar feedback improves the accuracy of student writing are inconclusive. If you have thoughts on this issue, let us know. Can we make better use of those hours in the upper-level writing classes? How do we get students at that level to improve their grammar? And what is the best kind of feedback?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Should technology training be mandatory for teachers?

Most teachers believe that computers are beneficial in the classroom in terms of improving academic performance, motivation, and interest. Many also see the value in training. Surveys have consistently shown that there is a strong correlation between the number of hours of computer training teachers have had and their views on the benefits of computers. Our institution provides numerous opportunities to participate in various training sessions. However, should such training be mandatory? What should such training involve? Personally, I think as teachers we should be required to have a minimum set of skills and then be required to participate in additional workshops at least once or twice a year. My main reason for saying that is because while some of us do implement technology to teach skills or strengthen the presentation of a lesson, I question if we are using it to its full potential. I would like to know how to use it effectively when teaching a specific type of skill or lesson – not just in the form of a standard web page, PowerPoint presentation, word processing, or the available interactive exercises on the web. Don’t get me wrong. There is great value in the above. Some very good quality materials are available or are created by innovative teachers. However, I strongly support mandatory training in this area as part of our professional development. I’m all for training but the right kind of training. If you’ve participated in helpful workshops or have ideas for incorporating technology beyond these means for facilitating language development or literacy, let us know.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What is effective teaching?

I teach reading and writing courses in a community college and love what I do. Recently though I have been wondering if others feel the same way. Some of my colleagues appear to be very passionate about what they teach. How do I know? Well, students talk with each other in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and in classes. I hear great things about some classes and teachers. At other times, students seem less than complimentary. I would also say that I’m not excluded from this. I’m sure there are lessons I could have taught differently at times or lessons that did not work as well as I had hoped. Even so, I feel I go into every class prepared to give it my all. So this brings a question to mind. What is effective teaching? Can we all claim to be effective teachers? What do students expect from us? We would really like to hear what you have to say so please chime in.