In Elizabeth St. Germain’s article “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design,” design pitfall #5 stood out to me for my ALS 161 Listening/Speaking class: Don’t ignore the ways students learn from each other. A vital part of learning a second language comes from using that language and making mistakes in that language. If students are always looking to the teacher to guide them in “perfect English” (which doesn’t exist, by the way), they will dramatically decrease their chances for authentic communication. After all, most speakers of English aren’t native anyways.
Additionally, English teachers talk a lot about the potential benefits and drawbacks of peer editing. ESL students hate it because they feel unequipped to correct other students’ English. So I’m always trying to boost students’ confidence in their own abilities, so they have more self-assuredness to critique their classmates’ work.
In the hybrid course, because there will be less face time with the teacher, building trust among students to learn from each other will be crucial. One way I plan to address this is by modeling regular, positive feedback online and in person and including activities that establish personal commonalities between students. Another way I plan to encourage group feedback and collaboration is by providing students multiple methods for interaction, including formal and informal ones. For instance, my students will sometimes need the scaffolding of a formal critique checklist of what to look for and comment on when it comes to assessing one another. They need basic examples of what to say and encouragement to do so.
For many reasons, I’m looking forward to a hybrid classroom because of its potential to allow students the time and space to contemplate their responses instead of always being asked for their ideas on the spot. And by setting the expectation early that students should provide feedback and comments on each other’s work – whether it’s a video, audio, blog, discussion board, wiki, etc. – will increase their own self-reliance and collaboration.