31 SES 14 B, (ROOM CHANGE) English as Additional and Foreign Language
Tandem learning is a model for language learning originally developed in a German-French youth-exchange programme in the 1960s, i.e., in a non-formal learning context. The model entails two native speakers with different first languages forming a tandem dyad to learn each other’s languages (e.g., Karjalainen 2011). Although originally developed in non-formal contexts, tandem learning has evolved and has been implemented in formal educational contexts at different levels. One example is classroom tandem, a model of language learning and teaching within the second national language instruction in Finland’s upper secondary school context. Finland is a bilingual country with two official national languages, Finnish and Swedish, and education is organised separately for both language groups in parallel monolingual schools. (e.g., Boyd and Palviainen 2015).
The main principles of all tandem learning are reciprocity and learner autonomy (e.g., Brammerts and Calvert 2003; Holstein & Oomen-Welke 2006; Karjalainen 2011). Reciprocity denotes that learning occurs in cooperation with both participants in an equally beneficial position, whereas learner autonomy implies that the learners take responsibility for their own learning process. In addition to these, authenticity is a third characteristic of tandem learning, mentioned in research. Authentic learning in tandem entail second language learners having the opportunity to use and learn the second language with a native speaker and denotes that the participants share thoughts and meanings of subjective relevance in real-life situations, instead of simply practicing the second language (e.g., Laurén 2006; Karjalainen 2011; Pörn & Hansell 2017).
The principles of tandem learning originally were defined in a non-formal context and have been assumed to apply to formalised tandem learning as well. However, the assumption that the principles remain unaffected by a transition from a non-formal to a formal context is not necessarily correct. The challenges associated with this transition have been pointed out previously, e.g., regarding learner autonomy (Pörn & Hansell 2017; Schmelter 2004). As with learner autonomy, it can be assumed that the authenticity of the learning activities could suffer from the transition from a self-directed non-formal context to substantially more teacher-led and task-based formal language instruction.
This paper aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the implementation of authenticity in classroom tandem contexts by analysing the authenticity of language learning tasks in a handbook for classroom tandem. The handbook is developed for classroom tandem in formal education in Finland (Löf et al. 2016). In the analysis of the tasks, we use a developed meta-analytical framework based on the characteristics for authentic learning conceptualised by Rule (2006).
Authentic learning refers to learning activities, tasks and challenges that connect to, are aligned with or revolve around real world situations and problems beyond the classroom context (Macht & Ball 2016; Rule 2006). Rule (2006) summarises the core of authentic learning into four characteristics:
The first “involves real-world problems that mimic the work of professionals in the discipline with a presentation of findings to audiences beyond the classroom”. The second characteristic occurs when “open-ended inquiry, thinking skills and metacognition are addressed”. Third, authentic learning occurs when “students engage in discourse and social learning in a community of learners”. Finally, the fourth characteristic says “students are empowered through choice to direct their own learning in relevant project work”. (Rule 2006.) These core characteristics were further developed in our study to suit a language learning context.
The paper is of international relevance as it problematizes the transition of a language learning model used across Europe from a non-formal to a formal context. The insights developed in the study have general implications for this phenomenon, not restricted to the specific case under study.
The empirical study in this paper focuses on analysing the tasks in a handbook (Löf et al. 2016), developed for classroom tandem in formal language education, to determine to what extent students’ tasks can be regarded as authentic. Analysis of teaching materials and tasks can be carried out at several levels. We have developed a structured schedule for analysis that builds on the schedules presented by Littlejohn (2011). The schedule is based on Rule’s (2006) authentic-learning characteristics. When analysing teaching materials, Littlejohn (2011) identifies three levels of analysis: First, what is the content? Second, what is required of users? Third, what is implied? As our aim is to assess the level of authenticity, our focus is on level two and three. Individual tasks can be analysed as tasks-as-workplans, tasks-in-process or tasks-as-outcomes (Dooly 2011; Littlejohn 2011; Seedhouse 2005; Seedhouse & Almutairi 2009). Focusing on tasks-as-workplans involves viewing a task as proposing certain courses of action, while making others less likely. Analysing a task-in-process involves exploring what actually happens when a task-as-workplan is transformed into action through the input of the teacher, students and surrounding context. Analysing tasks-as-outcomes focuses on exploring the actual outcomes of tasks-in-process (Seedhouse & Almutairi 2009). Our analysis explores to what extent tasks-as-workplans coincide with Rule’s (2006) four characteristics for authentic learning. By focusing on tasks-as-workplans, we are not making claims on what actually happens in the classroom when the tasks-as-workplans are transformed into tasks-in-process, as the differences can be substantial. The object of analysis are the tasks in a classroom tandem handbook, developed in a three-year research and development project for classroom tandem as a model of language learning of the second national language. Based on tandem pedagogy, traditional language tasks were developed in a collaboration between teachers and researchers. The handbook has three chapters: The first is a theoretical description of classroom tandem as a model of language learning. The second guides the reader on how classroom tandem can be implemented. The third chapter consists of tasks and activities for classroom tandem. The tasks and activities are divided into four categories: 1. Oral tasks, 2. Words and structure, 3. Written tasks and 4. Other tasks (referring to tasks outside the classroom). Our choice of tasks for analysis is based on the recommendations by Littlejohn (2011), consisting of 25% of the total of 40 tasks. Tasks from all categories were analysed.
The results show large variation in the level of classroom tandem tasks’ authenticity. When analysing the individual tasks, some of them had several of the characteristics of authentic learning, while others had only minor similarities. When looking at the individual characteristics for authentic learning, some aspects were present in all of the analysed tasks, while others were present in none. The results were therefore very varied both from the perspective of individual tasks as from the perspective of individual characteristics for authentic learning. The results therefore show that authentic learning was not a characterising aspect of all of the classroom tandem tasks, indicating that the transition of tandem learning from a non-formal to a formal context has affected authenticity levels in a negative way. It is presumably the most visible when ‘traditional’ language learning tasks simply have been transferred to a tandem setting without careful consideration of the suitability of the task developed for tandem learning in a classroom context. Thus, our results provide more knowledge about the challenges associated with transferring tandem learning from a non-formal to a formal classroom tandem context. The principles of tandem learning cannot be realised simply by matching two native speakers with different first languages, but the language learning tasks themselves also must be in line with the tandem pedagogy. Our results also raise questions about the concept of authentic learning or tasks themselves. Authentic learning has been criticised for being a vague and poorly defined concept, and although our analysis rests on the meta-analytical framework by Rule (2006), in describing the core characteristics of authentic learning, it still appears as if ‘putting the finger on’ authentic learning is a challenge.
Boyd, S., & Palviainen, A. (2015). Building walls or bridges? A language ideological debate about bilingual schools in Finland. In Halonen et al. (Eds.), Language Policies in Finland and Sweden: Interdisciplinary and Multi-Sited Comparisons (pp. 57-89). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Brammerts, H., & Calvert, C. (2003). Att lära genom kommunikation i tandem. In B. Johnsson (Ed.), Självstyrd språkinlärning i tandem. En handbok (pp. 31-43). Rapport nr 13. Härnösand: Department of Humanities, Mid Sweden University. Dooly, M. (2011). Divergent Perceptions of Telecollaborative Language Learning Tasks: Task-as-Workplan vs. Task-as-Process, Language Learning & Technology, 15(2), pp. 69-91. http://llt.msu.edu/issues/june2011/dooly.pdf Holstein, S., and Oomen-Welke, I. (2006). Sprachen-Tandem für Paare, Kurse, Schulklassen: Ein Leitfaden für Kursleiter, Lehrpersonen, Migrantenbetreuer und autonome Tandem-Partner. Freiburg im Breisgau: Fillibach Verlag. Karjalainen, K. (2011). Interaktion som mål och medel i FinTandem: Strategier och orientering vid problem i språkproduktion. Acta Wasaensia nr 244, Språkvetenskap 43. Vaasa: University of Vaasa. Laurén, C. (2006). Tidig inlärning av flera språk: teori och praktik. Vaasan yliopiston julkaisuja. Tutkimuksia 274. Språkvetenskap 45. Vaasa: University of Vaasa. Littlejohn, A. (2011). The analysis of language teaching materials: inside the Trojan Horse. In. B. Tomlinson (Ed.) Materials Development in Language Teaching (2nd ed.) (pp. 179-211). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Löf, Å., Koskinen, H., Pörn, M., Hansell, K., Korhonen, A. & Engberg, C. (2016). Klasstandem: en resa över språkgränsen. Luokkatandem: Matka yli kielirajan. Dokumentation från Fakulteten för pedagogik och välfärdsstudier 7. Vaasa: Fakulteten för pedagogik och välfärdsstudier, Åbo Akademi. Macht, S.A., & Ball, S. (2016). ‘Authentic Alignment’ – a new framework of entrepreneurship education. Education + Training, 58(9), pp. 926-944. DOI 10.1108/ET-07-2015-0063 Pörn, M. & Hansell, K. (2017). The teacher’s role in supporting two-way language learning in classroom tandem. In: International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2017.1379946 Rule, A.C. (2006). Editorial: The Components of Authentic Learning. Journal of Authentic Learning, 3(1), pp. 1-10. https://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/bitstream/handle/1951/35263/editorial_rule.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y Schmelter, L. (2004). Selbstgesteuertes oder potenziell expansives Fremdsprachenlernen im Tandem. Giessener Beiträge zur Fremdsprachendidaktik. Tübingen: Narr. Seedhouse, P. (2005). ‘Task’ as Research Construct. Language Learning, 55(3), pp. 533-570. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0023-8333.2005.00314.x/epdf Seedhouse, P., & Almutairi, S. (2009). A holistic approach to task-based interaction. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), pp. 311-338. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1473-4192.2009.00243.x/epdf
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