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Learning ― Second Progress Report

1. Topic

Learning, especially foreign language learning in adults.

2. Changes from the Original Statement

We are following the plan set up in the previous progress report.

3. Progress

3.1 Relationship between informal and formal learning (Leng)

Further delving into the relationship of Formal vs. Informal learning in a grade school setting, I tried to find more specific research that would address these two methodologies of teaching and learning. Relating these two terms into a focus on youth education creates an easier outline and distinction between the two forms of learning. The third idea, Non-Formal learning really doesn't take place in grade school education. Not very many children are in a position to be an apprentice or take on mentoring from a dedicated individual, although this may possibly occur. Here, I decided to focus on what Formal education and Informal education can be and how the two impact children differently or in compound.

It is important to note that for children in grade school, much of what comprises the classroom learning is considered Formal education, which is normally provided by educated and certified teachers. Informal education can be described as what happens outside of the classroom, more specifically, in afterschool programs and in community oriented environments. While most of Kindergarten through High school education can be classified as formal learning, pre-grade school education such as preschools and grade school prep programs can be a mix of either of the two forms of education. Here are some clear distinctions and differences between the two forms of education and learning:

  • Classrooms have the same kids and teachers day in and day out while informal environments like special programs and care centers vary with participants.
  • Classroom programs or learning units can last several days, whereas most informal programs are shortlived, ranging only from day to day.
  • Teachers in an educational system are expected to have a certain level of training and certification, as opposed to program providers who range in experience and knowledge.
  • Curriculum taught in schools restrict teachers in the material and depth of what they can cover whereas programs are usually less restricted.

Focusing on some of these key facts and data my portion of research will then become directed on how children learn lanuage skills, such as the English language in a grade school environment. Primarily I will focus on how each differing environment affects the learning of children and how much variance can possibly exist for each child. Some areas to look at might include the benefits of one learning environment over the other or any drawbacks and possibly the combined worth of both environments complimenting one another. Striving to find an idea how both can be used to increase or enhance the pre-existing methods for teaching language acquisition skills to children in a grade school environment can ultimately be the goal or one possible outcome for my specific research.

Some articles and links to documentation that I have used in research:

3.2 Relationship between "learning about" and "learning to be" (Kei)

Preliminary study based on my experience of talking with students who have experience of studying English abroad showed that there seem to exist a couple of conditions for the language learning abroad to be successful. These may include
  • prior basic ability of English as a seed
  • strong motivation to continue speaking to overcome possible breakdown caused by making a mistake

An informal talk with a former English teacher suggested that teachers should focus on having students speak, instead of unidirectionaly speaking by him/herself and making stutdents passive. This poses an important question to ask – how much opportunity do studnets have when "learning to be" compared with in situation of "learning about"? What are the issues that prevent students "learning to be" from speaking more?

I will further survey these issues by performing a bit more structured interview of students who have studied English abroad. The interview should cover following items:
  • English proficiency before coming to the study place
  • Benefits/deficits of learning English abroad compared with their home country
  • What encourages/discourages them to speak more abroad

Together with the interview, I will also survey relevant articles to get more insight in this topic.

3.3 Exploration of different aspect of learning (John)

The papers I have been reading clearly state that the higher the motivation of an adult to learn a language, they will learn a language more quickly, and with greater comprehension than somebody else who is not as motivated. These findings co-incide with some of Kei's findings, and he is correct in saying that this motivation is one of the driving factors in perseverance. There are many setbacks in learning anything, but in particular, language learning can be especially discouraging at times.

Another paper I have found discusses methods used to help teach younger people new languages. It claims that it can create motivation through fun by using music, games, etc. to teach the language. It seems to be quite effective, even though it is not seen as "traditional" by many teachers. They claim that children should sit down and pay attention while learning. The question is: can this same methodology be used and applied to language learning in adults? It would be interesting to see a class that perhaps used more adult-oriented songs, perhaps and Italian love song, to help teach the language. Would this provide some kind of motivation for the adult language learner? This is a question I would like to find more research on.

Another great motivator for adults to want to learn a foreign language is sociality. This is particularly interesting in Europe where several different languages are spoken in a relatively small area. In order for a person to communicate with their country's neighbors, they may be much more motivated to learn that foreign language than say an American stranded in the Mid-west. Perhaps there is also some way to lasso this ideology and bring it into the classroom as well.

Here are the papers I am focused on dissecting and analyzing right now:

3.4 Tools for learning versus tools for living (Gary)

My research has been focused more on the tools that are currently available in the categories of “tools for learning” and “tools for living.” I think the two concepts are fairly simple to understand. Tools for learning are designed to help one gain the ability to do something in the future with out the tool. Where as tools for living are designed under the idea that the person will always be using the task specific tool to aid them in the task every time.

Examples given in the paper above include training wheels for children learning to ride a bike as a tool for learning and an adult tricycle for those people who will not be learning to ride a 2 wheel bike but still want to enjoy riding.

Aside from the software tool I’ve found that fall into the two categories I have come across some analysis of the use of computers to teach language. The link below discusses the improvements that have been made and still need to be made for an effective computer aided language learning software.

This may be very loosely related to our topic but the Center for Spoken Language at CU is working on a project to teach deaf children how to speak. This software has a large focus on the facial movements of the animated tutor.

I think I need to discuss the focus of my section with either the team or Gerhard to discuss if I should focus on the software aspect of what is available or discuss the categories of living vs learning tools. I know a lecture will cover this topic soon, perhaps that will spawn some new ideas.

4. Reference

To be added.

learning group
learning project

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