Introduction

The course of Secondary ELT Methods II: Developing Literacy Skills aims to develop practical skills in student teachers for English language teaching in the areas of reading and writing for the secondary school classrooms in Hong Kong.  Students are to micro-teach to try out strategies learnt.

The task of reflective journal writing was specifically designed to encourage student teachers to consciously reflect on learning and teaching issues.  Student teachers were asked to complete a reflective journal record towards the end of each lesson (for about 5-7 minutes). The reflective journal form was semi-structured with prompts such as “what I have done”, “what I have learnt”, and “comments on whether the lesson helps you enjoy learning”.

The purpose of incorporating the reflective journal writing task was to promote autonomy in the student teachers.  As Sinclair (1999) suggests, if autonomy is a construct of capacity, the development of metacognition is crucial.  Ellis (1999) points out that there is a close link between good classroom management and lesson planning and the development of metacognitive awareness.  To develop metacognitive awareness, Ellis (1999:112) notes that students need activities which incorporate: reflection, thinking about what they are going to do and why; experimentation, doing a task and manipulating the language to achieve a goal; and further reflection, reviewing what they have done, how they did it and how well they did it.

In order to do this, teachers will need to expand their role (Wenden, 1985) by taking on a guiding, questioning role which will involve informing students about language learning and what they are doing and how they are going to do it.  Ellis (1999:114) acknowledges that getting students to focus on the process of what they do will be a new experience for most.  At first, their replies to questions will be vague and they will need to be pushed to think and justify their responses.  Such an approach needs to be built up gradually over a period of time but, little by little, students become more aware of foreign language learning process and of themselves as language learners, more efficient at thinking for themselves and much more actively and personally involved in their own learning.

References:

Ellis, G. (1999). ‘Developing children’s metacognitive awareness’. In C. Kennedy

(Ed.) Innovation and Best Practice. Harlow: Longman.

Kennedy, C. (Ed.) (1999). Innovation and Best Practice. Harlow: Longman.

Sinclair, B. (1999). ‘More than an act of faith? Evaluating learner autonomy’. In

C. Kennedy (Ed.) Innovation and Best Practice. Harlow: Longman.

Wenden, A. L. (1985). ‘Facilitating learning competence: perspectives on an

expanded role for second-language teachers’. Canadian Modern Language Review, 41 (6): 981-90.


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