Developing discussion skills in the esl classroom

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Developing Discussion Skills in the ESL classroom

Thesis: discussion skills work can contribute to an important educational initiative, that is, the efficient, independent, self-directed learnercompetent in organizing his or her own learning long after programs of formal instruction have ceased.

I. Developing Learner Autonomy
Haswell (1993, p. 90) describes how self-evaluation, inparticular, helps students to “learn in their own voice”, both peer and self-evaluation raise students’ awareness of the links between learning objectives, processes and outcomes, by requiring them toreflect directly on their own and others’ performances rather than relying on formal prestructured modes of formal evaluation.
II. Selection of topics for discussion
Learners choosing their owntopics and expressing their views in a nonstandard or localized form of the target language – at least initially – may help to bolster the cultural solidarity of the class, and lower the affectivebarriers against the use of the target language in peer interaction in the classroom.
III. A Heuristic Approach
A learned centered approach, with carefully chosen groupings, may be usedeffectively with most levels learners and for any type of course.
IV. Implementing a Classroom Discussion
There are three stages:
A. Pre-Discussion: viable discussion and associated partner groupsare formed, each group draws up a list of possible discussion topics, deriving principally from their current professional, academic or developmental concerns.
1. Forming the groups
* Groupsthen should be as homogeneous as possible in terms of both linguistic ability and personality type.
* The reason for having groups of observe-evaluators is to ensure that students have reasonablyopportunities not just to participate in discussion, but also to observe, describe and evaluate the process.
2. Identifying and organizing the topic
* It is far more desirable for the teacher...
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