Sep 09

Defining aims & objectives (1)

- introduce the notion and procedures of self-study that are going to be used during the first school semester;
- develop skills to formulate learning problems, aims and objectives: make students think about their own problems in EN, aims and objectives;

Time: 20 min.

In the beginning of the lesson I gave students back their tests with their results. It served as an introduction to why we need to do self-study: a) results are poor we have only two years to make them better b) Time in the classroom is not enough to improve the results to an acceptable and good levels; c) Students’ level is so much different that it’s impossible to work on their specific problems during the lesson.

In order to start doing self-study I suggested students to define their wishes, identify their problems, and formulate their aims and objectives. The following questions were put on the blackboard.
1. What do you want to be able to do in Eng?
    a. I want to be able to…
2. Difficulties you find in trying to do the things above.
    a. I cannot…
3. Define the goal you would like to reach by Dec 30
    a. What needs to be improved;
    b. How the result will be measured;
    c. How realistic the aim is.
4. Define the objectives for the goal above.
    a. I will be able to…

I read every question and in one group gave an example of what might be written under each point e.g. wish – watch EN movies without subtitles;
I cannot – distinguish words in a fluent speech used in movies
Goal – improve …
Objective - distinguish every single word when watching a movie ‘title’

Students were given 5-7 min. to write down their replies.
I asked them to be more specific when they write their wishes, goals and objectives.

Then I asked some students (one by one) to present his wishes, problems, aim and objectives. I put replies under every question.
One of the replies was:

  • I wish to go to England and be able to speak and understand native speakers.
  • I cannot understand native speakers & I cannot speak fluently.
  • I want to improve my speaking skills.
  • I will be able to speak correctly and understand native speakers.

When students gave me their answers I could only make general comments asking ‘is it specific’? You say you want to ‘improve your speaking’. How should I check it after 4 months if you improved it or not? When you say ‘I want to understand native speakers’, what are the topics you want to talk to them about/what should their conversations be about that you would like to understand. If in Dec I’ll give you topic ‘theory of relativity’ and will ask you to talk about it, would you be able to do it? Will you be able to understand everything in 4 months, is it realistic? etc. I think the main problem is that my comments were not systematic. I suppose they made students think that their replies are too general. But they did not give clear directions on how to improve them.

Students’ reaction

  • Do not break their problem into sub-problems (e.g. I want to improve my speaking in general);
  • Do not distinguish between different problems, put every problem in one (e.g. Wish – to improve my speaking. Objective – I will be able to understand texts better when I read them).
  • Are not specific in their objectives (e.g. I will be able to speak correctly and understand what native speakers say).
  • De-motivated reply – I want to go to England and I will learn English there. I just want to finish school and I do not care about my mark.

My problems

  • I did not think of exact procedure of how to process students’ replies - did not pre-thought their replies and thought of the ways to direct them.
  • I did not prepare good examples of wishes/problems/aims and objectives. This might be very useful.
  • I did not think of good analogies (connected with other topics than language). For example, in my life I want to be able to travel to different countries every month…etc.
  • Why is it difficult to prepare an example with analogy? I guess it’s because I still need to make a clearer distinction for myself between wishes/problems/aims/objectives.
  • Probably, I was talking too much myself without inviting students to evaluate their peers aims. I should have offered a better alternative to the presented aim/objective and ask which one sound more specific and realistic. In order to be able to do it on the spot I have to be more prepared at home, listing typical answers and pre-preparing possible alternatives.

General reflections
Forms 10 seemed to take self-study more seriously, at least their formulations were more elaborated, i.e. still too general but the wish to identify real problems was evident;
Form 11 (one group) is too difficult for me to control (more impatient and disturbing) so I need to be more systemic in my replies and find the ways of keeping them all busy.


# Alexander Sokol 2011-12-03 18:23
Renata, one typical solution for the problems like this is to collect students' suggestions (in writing) and then give them back to them to evaluate. If you do it by small bits (not the whole plan at once but just aim / objectives formulation as step 1), it might work. For example, with a little scaffolding they should be able to see that problems are too general. The advantage of getting them to feel the problem is that the chances are much higher that they accept it. Which, in turn, creates motivation for further learning.
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