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June 13, 2008

Hello again,

The real proof of effective learning lies in the student’s ability to use the new material creatively: Bloom’s highest order thinking. In traditional terms, this is

... the free-stage of a lesson, when the learners are not given tramlines within which to operate but can give free reign to their creativity.

Perhaps the ultimate test of creativity is when the learner needs to use the language outside the classroom in real situations. When this happens and the safety of the classroom is left behind, the learning process continues. I vividly remember one student who refused to use contracted forms when speaking, believing them to be sloppy. It was quite interesting to note that after a trip to the UK he had changed his mind. He confessed that people got impatient with his slow and deliberate delivery of English and even that they found it harder to understand him. Thus the student’s creativity needs to be exposed to authentic situations for it to have real value.

A key part of creativity in language is being able to put it all together appropriately. This is not the same as merely being correct. Getting the register and tone right is also important. Imagine the surprise of a newsagent when he was instructed by a student: “bung us a coke, mate.” The student had picked up some slang from his peers but it was totally inappropriate to use it when shopping. The student explained this incident to us in class and we certainly found it amusing. I think it shows how using the language creatively requires learners to experiment, take risks and test for themselves the effectiveness of their language.

So how can we help this creativity in the classroom? I think the communicative approach gives us the answers here. Communication-gap activities, role plays, simulations all help prepare the students for the real world.

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