Pedagogical Tasks and Learner participation in the

Pedagogical Tasks and Learner
Participation in the English
Classrooms of Undergraduate
Khamseng Baruah
Department of English Language Teaching, Gauhati University
• Engineering has become one of the most preferred
career choices
• In the last 10 years as many as 8 new colleges have
been established
• However, the concept of ESP is at a very nascent stage
• Syllabuses, barring a few, are largely literature based
• In some colleges administrators have felt the need to
include additional courses on language proficiency
• Learners are largely unaware of their needs
• A general negative attitude towards English exists
In the classroom…
• The communication situation in a language
classroom mainly revolves around two sets of
participants: the teacher and the learners.
• The teacher intends to transmit a message, a
pedagogic one, to the learners and expects a
response from the learners.
• The teacher may use some pedagogical tasks to
effectively convey the teaching point to the learners
• Learning takes place only when learners actively
participate in the teaching-learning process
• Though the learning that takes place may not be
immediately observable, the amount of interaction
that takes place between the teacher and the
learners can indicate the effectiveness of a particular
The challenges in an English classroom of
undergraduate engineers
The learners:
• May not consider it to be as important as other core
• May not be interested in doing the task
• May not find the task relevant for them
• May find it difficult to accept the methodology as
they are used to a different method of teaching
The study aims to investigate:
• whether a clear explanation of the purpose of an
activity encourages active learner participation
• what kind of reaction can be observed in the class
when the learners do not understand the teaching
• does a failure to correctly understand the purpose of
a teaching point by the learners affect their
motivation in the English class
Classroom observation 1
Target group: AEI, 4th semester
Number of students: 60
Teaching point: Group Discussion
Objective: to make them aware of group discussion
to enable them to participate in group discussions
Divides the class into 2 groups: Fruits and Colours
Further divides the 2 groups into smaller groups of 6 or 7 students
All the groups in fruits will take part in a GD
All the groups in colours will become observers
Gives the topic to groups in Fruits
Asks them to think about it for 5 minutes individually
Gives a checklist to the groups in colours
Asks them to go through it
One group from Fruits participates in the GD and the other group
from Colours observes them
• They do not participate in the GD very seriously
• The observers too do not really observe
• Some comments from the students:
 We need to learn ABOUT GD, we don’t need to take part in
a GD.
 We are being observed by our friends, that’s silly.
 We should be doing serious work, we are being made to
discuss issues which are not academic.
Classroom Observation 2
Target group: ETE , 4th semester
Number of students: 64
Teaching point: Group Discussion
Objectives: to make them aware of group discussion
to enable them to participate in group discussions
Teacher announces the topic
Tells them to work in pairs and brainstorm on GD
Announces the objectives
Asks them to brainstorm on some personality traits that are
looked for in a participant through a group discussion
Asks them about the importance of GD in their curriculum.
She asks them when they need it.
• More learners participate
• They are clear about the objective of the
activity, so they do it more seriously
• Encouraging learners to participate in an activity
needs a lot of effort
• Explaining the objectives of an activity may
promote learner participation
• Learners may turn hostile and may not cooperate
when they do not understand the relevance of an
• Over a period of time learners do get used to a
particular method of teaching, but it may be
helpful to explicitly explain the objectives of an

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