Monday, February 14, 2011

TBL Approach

  • one thing the video/article confirms about this approach being useful for business English

This tbl video demonstrates that the tasks-based approach can provide flexible and negotiable objectives to provide opportunities to set themes and linguistic content to suit the business English learner.

  • one thing you learnt about this approach and how it can assist business English learners further

I learned that the instructor may set the tasks to mimic the real world needs of the language learner which allows for problem solving and coping skills to be practiced. However the focus of TBL is to use the language and focus on meaning or understanding and being understood.

  • one thing you consider a weakness of this approach for business English learners

Without an extensive grammar or lexical focus the task-based approach may not best address highly technical new language expressions or vocabulary for a particular business English scope of focus. For example, a range of business tasks practice may not be enough to address the wide vocabulary perhaps necessary for financial reports reading and discussing among native English speakers or other task based needs of the learner.

  • one thing you’d like to try from this approach with a group of business English learners

I think I would like to generate more student moderated final reports set on an online forum. I think my students are capable of collaborating more online and outside of class time and it might add the reading and writing real communication element that I find difficult to include in setting class based task activities when my focus is generating listening and speaking practice there. So that would be my learning goal: to assist students to generate more collaborative reading and writing tasks online outside of class time.

Benchmark Preliminary Scan

Lesson Types: Ana's lesson appears discovery based with discussions about grammar. Dietmar's lesson appears lexical with a vocabulary focus. Young hee was given a task-based email lesson.

Benchmark Preliminary Scan: The topic of this discovery lesson is twofold. First discussion is based on selecting preferred management feedback methods and the second is in identifying self-directed learning or needs for work related motivation. I like this kind of lesson because opinions-based activities assist students in having a reason to discuss target language, expressions or concepts without the stress upon grammar or vocabulary however their application is in the reading and expression of opinions.

For example, the first task compares students' own preferences to a limited and targeted range of responses which is much like reviewing survey results which limit responses in similar ways. This is exploratory.

The second task explores key concept "take aways" prior to beginning reading activity. I like when students know what they need to do and have the means to answer the questions set before them in this manner. The reading scan is ten progressive with purpose.

The next stage requires learners to identify the matching summary statement with each written advertisement for learning programs. This is followed by small training request forms completion and vocabulary round up. The grammar and vocabulary learning are somewhat embedded in the discovery activity.

Advantages: Real dialogues and opinions based speaking activities. Brief readings and short vocab gap fill. Self-analysis activities.

Disadvantages: Pair-based limits large group interactivity and frequent new speaking partners as in Linda's collocation activities. Limited number of possible responses and quite directed selections of choices to form opinions.

I would finish this lesson with a summary question/answer dialogue with a few minutes prep which allows to be unscripted. For example, "What did you learn in this lesson?" can be an interesting question to pose especially if you tell students to listen to each others responses to ensure no one gives me the same answer.


Alternatively I use a Business Communications Games book (OUP, Lloyd and Preier, 1996) with outside class speaking groups practice which is fully photocopiable and extends self-direction and discovery to group sessions. I like the idea that I am simply providing the materials and/or their location and students are on there own with it. In this way what they may learn is often completely unknown to me and somewhat random and free compared to classroom activities.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Blended Learner and Teacher?

I will address as a student and and as a teacher. As a student I have taken blended learning courses in international business while attending Wollongong on campus and full-time through 2003 and 2004 with eight courses requiring at least three hours of lectures a week with full course notes and slides support on blackboard, assignments and presentations collaboration through email and cellphones and face to face meetings. The Wollongong library also provided plenty of CD Rom accessible online research journals fully wired apple computer study stations and group study rooms for face to face meetings.

Since 2007 I have taken nearly consecutive and at times concurrent online studies which blended various technologies without face to face meetings. For example my first course at eCornell was taken on the recommendation of one of my semipro golfer bosses to “take some course from some famous university.” So I took their certificate of leadership which investigates different forms of strategic decision management through online video, listening, web-boards all operated on the gomez learning platform. Notre Dame online is integrated in the University Alliance which delivers “new ivy” type schools online learning platforms. In 2007 I also completed their certificate of negotiation which integrates CD Rom videos, eluminate web chats and direct telephone simulations with classmates and reassured my bosses that I was ready to offer a small case-based class in global negotiation. These two courses certainly influenced my decision making and helped define my classroom orientation to web based ohp support especially for my international trade correspondance esp class as well as USB homework assignments. It had spill-over effect into my conversation class as well influencing web-based articles and presentations topic search.

In 2008 I took two more web-based certificates one in export management from "Never Say Die" John R. Jagoe's Export Institute USA (Affiliated with NAM and NASBITE both well regarded American export manufacturing associations) and the Canadian international trade certificate through Canada’s export trade learning delivery leader Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) and e Concordia in Montreal. These were far less interactive than the Notre Dame and Cornell courses however and the FITT course was text heavy and interactive light with all tests and quizzes online seemingly poorly aligned with textual materials. At times these were almost solitary student reading and quizzing courses with very little group-based collaboration and quite flat web-board moderation.

Benefits to my students of my blended studies included reaching for learning material in our shared subject area that is at the certificate and diploma level rather than graduate altitude. While examining the nuts and bolts of my discipline I get a good look at their career paths. This perpetuated a further certificate in research commercialisation with QUT which is basically training for research managers in planning and project management slightly outside my teaching focus but integral to learning more about the sphere of contracts-based research as I am fairly opportunistic. There is not so much I would change so far about my progressive learning online. For me it appears cumulative and has had an impact on the level of technology integration I have begun using with my students. The advantages are I get to communicate with people who are usually fluent in English about areas of intellectual shared interests and a satisfied teacher should communicate into satisfied students? I have tried blogs in the past but with my class sizes it is difficult to manage. I use email and ppt. slides, usb and online access to suggested wepages, hyperlinks and some videos where possible.

The drawbacks are few however I do not want to get away from a classroom focus on conversational English for international business. Yes, I want the students to interact with the technology while they are away but in the classroom I would like to hear and see them speak English. From Daniel

Business Meetings

Business Meetings

My initial reaction was that perhaps Begeman meant to illustrate the difference between xenophobic and/or emotional decisions and more inclusive logic or rational decision-making. We can learn from the Dances with Wolves segment that the brash and reactive decisions sought by young braves are not always the same as wiser and older Chiefs. The video could also be used to explore the variety of possible responses to a newcomer (or new idea) displayed by an entrenched group or popular status quo:

  • Repel or harm out of fear and uncertainty?
  • Leave alone or act nonchalant? Do nothing?
  • Or engage and learn to seek mutual interests?

Well we both agree that a good meeting should take place in a comfortable environment. The teepee is a familiar and comfortable place for a meeting. I am astounded by how many uncomfortable office chairs I have had to sit in during meetings. However I felt 20-30 members is a little large. While we both identified genuine disagreements need to be acknowledged I felt some of the young brave’s posturing was for the benefit of displaying a power position in front of the group and perhaps revealing some of their own fearful desires as well. The Chief represented the moderator and final arbitrator and judge of good behaviour among all meeting members. We both seem to agree the Dances with Wolves discussion is a meeting for action.

However that decisive action first goes undecided and deferred by experience and moderation (The Chief) while innocence sought a quick and bloody resolution (The Young Brave) appears to be the learning point for me. Most meetings I have attended are usually brief at all of five to ten minutes to resolve small issues, problems or complaints that arise fairly infrequently in my work. I rarely meet with my bosses in fact about twice a semester for one formal and one more informal dinner at the beginning and end of terms. As a result they are remarkably likeable bosses. It is a form of reaffirmation that we are all on the same team and they are very light on my reins. Student meetings are more frequent during office hours one at a time or in small groups possibly about ten to twenty a week. At times these are just pleasure visits for tea or coffee or to discuss homework responses and/or some other trifle.

I teach an intermediate global negotiation class (15 to 20 students) and this kind of video coupled with the article which could be given as a form of case study pre-reading with comprehension questions (four or five) would be good followed by class discussion particularly in exploring negotiators toolkit approaches to agenda setting, exploring positions versus interests, reciprocity, equitable sharing of rewards, etc. There are several short and easy to read tips in the article which my students could probably handle as a homework reading assignment for large group and small group discussion or presentation in class. Topics could be: three most useful points, best point, a general points list, points we most agree with, points we disagree with, etc. I think to follow up I would ask students to attempt to find video clips examples from famous Chinese or Korean movies that display a similar meetings and consensus-based decisions process most commonly employed by Asian coworkers. Alternatively I could provide the students with the Australia Network’s video from 4.3 and ask them to compare/contrast the meeting process reviewed there and that of either Dances with Wolves or some of the recommendations made by Begeman. In the past I have used short video clips of Gunsmoke or similar to illustrate the differences in power positions and their influence on bargaining as well as concessions or difficulty of anchoring positions.

Question to the class: What similar short video resources can you recommend for teaching a basic negotiation class? I have a collection of short warm up activities on hand but find relevant video challenging to find.

The worst meeting I ever attended...

The worst meeting I ever attended was completely unscheduled in advance and as one of many civilian military employees I was herded into a small lecture hall which barely had enough chairs and air conditioning to hold a breathing mass of irritated Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Canadians and Americans. Our boss was an incompletely educated Emirati Major who enjoyed peppering his discourse with references to his time at Cambridge repeatedly referencing Cambridge this or that for repeated conversations. The meeting in question we waited forty-five minutes for him to arrive at the meeting he called to have a forty-five minute lecture on the wisdom of implementing a board-marker allowance. This is a distinct first for my list of "most hated meetings."Second place goes to the same boss who kept me heeled like a pet monkey in his office while he argued with a waiter over the time it takes to order and/or boil an egg following an order while I sat there forced to listen to one more reference to Cambridge. Our Major had attended a private language school in the City of Cambridge.

Benchmark Unit 11 Learner: Young Hee

Benchmark Unit 11 Learner: Young Hee

The linguistic areas of this lesson include: gerund + -ing verb or direct object and adverbs of frequency.

Communicative skills include: making, accepting and giving invitations, talking about hobbies, information and likes and dislikes. These skills are useful for the learner as all of the grammar points are routinely challenging for my Korean learners as there are few comparable linguistic forms in Korean and is perhaps the case with Young Hee, business socializing and sharing information in the business environment is also a necessary core of aims and outcomes of Young Hee’s studies.

  • For example in the first exercise preferences are selected and expressed with regard to necessary attributes of a business hotel. Few pre-experienced Koreans would have knowledge of these variations especially with limited travel experiences.
  • Business vocabulary is explored and applied in a cloze categorical context exercise using The Lotus Hotel in Cairo (probably quite barren or burnt out at the moment).
  • A pre-reading task highlights new meetings context vocabulary. This would be interesting for those with few meetings experiences.
  • Four short texts are matched to a list of seven summarizing sentences regarding hotel facilities.
  • Adjective and noun collocations are matched.
  • A writing simulation (fax or email) is completed to make enquiries into hotel facilities.
  • Tag questions and statements are matched with their suitable responses.
  • Context based listening tests knowledge of setting and appropriateness of certain dialogues for situations.
Cultural information includes: reinforcement listening to polite requests to determine the difference between polite versus rude requests. This is useful for a Korean learner because they are often taught that as Korean language has more definable levels of polite speech and deference to authority polite speech that English is somewhat devoid of such distinctions and therefore of a perhaps inferior quality where any/all Koreans may use impolite speech with impunity in English. In addition Korean students often only ever interact with very few foreigners usually their English teachers where imperative command statements make up a majority of classroom requests and or instructions.

  • A role play practices the art of negotiating room rates where polite speech can often go much farther in getting a reasonable rate than orders and demands.
  • The task tips regarding information included in the capsule hotel reading defining the differences between incorrect information or unclear details seems accurate and challenges the Korean student to clarify written information which is often disregarded in Korean society due to the high concentration of public posted signage and where marketing messages and even warnings are often completely disregarded highlighting possible advertising over-saturation in “The Hermit Kingdom."
Of the exemplified resources I am reminded of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Business English Pod could be useful for Young Hee as it appears plentiful and geared to pre- to intermediate students but without transcripts. ESL Galaxy Survival English for Travelers would be easy review but perhaps too easy? The Hotel and Restaurant material just does not appear similarly robust and would not make for much material for practice.

Scheme of Work

You may be surprised to know that the word "scheme" in American and Canadian English has in some way been elided to its most negative connotations. Those of us on the western border of the Atlantic generally go with the word "plan." Otherwise, "Scheme of Work" brings to mind visions of Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner.

I generally need to submit a similar schema although much more limited to my university's online syllabus or study plan provided to the students in advance of lessons. For reference in class I always generate at least a one page syllabus plan to provide them at introductory lessons and encourage them to paste it inside their book's front cover.

Market Leader Pre-Intermediate provides a general lesson plan ideal for those of us who do not carry our books across borders.

This provided work scheme is fairly true to my most recent completed semester however I have used 2008 schedule available on my USB carried along here to Phnom Penh. In addition I am guilty of failing to adequately updating homework links lately for I have begun to encourage students to simply search google for similar possible sources of answers to homework and discussion questions where my ancient links may have failed. Some understand this while others seek constant guidance to "the single answer"where I would prefer a multiple number of possible responses.

I have used the format for scheme of work available here.

Syllabus Categories

1. Which categories do all the syllabi mention (e.g. skills, vocabulary, grammar...)?

Most of these texts cover similar skills, vocabulary and grammar such as:

The Business appears most basic of the bunch with grammar, speaking and writing. Double dealing covers business vocabulary and language as broad topic areas. English 365 explores listening, grammar, pronunciation, speaking and reading as general topics consistently through each chapter. International Express includes language focus, skills focus and functions. Intelligent Business categorizes reading, language and vocabulary. But just as we see no absolute overlaps between student needs and ready made coursebook materials there are only broad overlaps in these various course-book "menus."

2. Are there any categories that only one of them mention? If so, what is the category? How useful a category is this do you think?

Double dealing’s "cross-cultural focus" is its unique identifier and this could be interesting in a very multicultural classroom however perhaps limiting in a mono-cultural group of learners as there can often be fairly similar viewpoints. The Business covers "case studies" on its own which is useful in engaging small groups of students and encouraging stimulating presentations based discussion groups. English 365 uniquely highlights "social phrases" and "communicating at work" as broad categories which would be useful for developing specific and narrow topics related to in office skills and functions practice. International Express describes vocabulary as “word power” and this reminds me of “Reader’s Digest” which if you are unfamiliar is a globally popular elementary level reading monthly magazine with short vocabulary sections so this text appears to appeal to reading and writing development. Intelligent Business is alone in its focus on "career skills "and "dilemma and decision topics” which could be interesting as morals and ethics of global business are quite under-developed even in straight business courses. These last two topics are areas I would love to develop with my students.

3. In total, do you think one of the course books has an ideal syllabus in terms of blending the various elements? Remember we are not analyzing the course books as such, but thinking about syllabus design in general.

The last one Intelligent Business appeals the most to me because it provides a little more material than I am used to seeing with lots of functional grammar skills sections. A few extra chapters appear in this text compared with the others with loads of extra focus materials. This book would provide me and my students with a few extra options for tailoring and or group-based choices for syllabus selections. The options to omit or skip less interesting or relevant chapter topics or whole sections appeals to me and my students would probably appreciate having more choices in terms of selecting syllabus focus areas. A little student-selection might go a long way in activating greater learner self-motivation.

I also realized giving the students Clive Miller's list to assist in evaluating their peers presentations would also be a teaching and learning moment.

I've never really consulted my students about new textbooks to tell you the truth. It might be again a case of avoiding possibly culturally constrained "teacher doesn't know what he's doing" moments. But I am realizing that different classes might prefer different chapters be included in work schema.

The textbook ordering process is convoluted enough I suppose with sometimes a week lag between beginning of term and arrival and I suppose I could also think of a thousand other reasons not to try this. Even getting Market Leader in is a special international order and I have to handle grumbles from my "fan club" over prices on occasion. The only free copies the publishing houses here try to foist on me are usually tripe IMHO.