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Introduction In the past few weeks, Dan, Matt and I worked together on our group project—Social approaches to SLA. The Purpose of our group project is not only allow us--- the instructors as well as the learners to investigate SLA in social situation but also try to help our classmates put “SLA in the head” aside and look through SLA from social prospective. When we three were conducting our project, the questions of how to organize our sessions, how to relate our topic to the previous groups and lead out the next groups, and how to make our presentation as successful as the prior groups are always our top concerns. What I have gained from my participation? When I first got the terms and scholars list of our group, I felt very unfamiliar with them since I have little background knowledge about this field of research. Then I kept asking myself how to teach others what I am not familiar with. The only answer is reading papers and discussing with my group members. Reading can help me have an overall understanding of the terms, and discussion can exchange our thoughts thus to expand our knowledge. After reading and discussing, my previous understanding of those terms has been overturned. For example, in the past I considered Communicative Competence as simply a person’s innate ability to communicate. But in fact, when we look through it in social context, we have to investigate its history—how does it come from? What are the different perspectives of the scholars?
How did it developed during history? What are the related fields we need to talk about? Are the components of communicative competence comprehensive? During the project I found the value of group work---collaborative work could multiple the effectiveness of the project. Also, I learnt that when looking through various scholars’ papers, I should no longer just accept their views but think critically. The difficulties we’ve met In this group project we have investigated in many related scholars’ papers, but I always felt that it is very difficult to pick up the readings for our classmates. How to find appropriate papers which could help the classmates to have an overview of the main concepts we are going to talk about is not an easy task. For example, before the first session, we went through many papers about communicative competence; however, some of them are too focused on language teaching, some of them just discuss it from a narrow perspective. We tried to find papers of the main scholars’ and kept in mind they should not deviate from our topic---social approaches to SLA. We exchanged our thoughts on each paper; we also asked Dr. Hall’s opinion on the papers we have selected and she provided great help in picking up the class reading material. Activity design is anther challenge for us. Since activity is a great aid in teaching, we attached high importance on it. We tried to come up with appropriate activities which are not only interesting but also incorporate the abstract conceptions. However, when we discussed about activities, we found it is really hard to design activities which connect to the class content. We looked for the examples of the scholars’ explanation to the terms and make them as class activities; we also set up given scenarios for the
classmates to understand the concepts in real situation. We really appreciate Dr. Hall’s helpful suggestions on designing activities. As the project is a group project instead of an individual project, it emphasized more on group work rather than individual work. We need to make compromises when we confronted with differences—different cultures, different schedules and different perspectives on a particular question. We sent emails and met each others during the preparing time. We exchanged our views on our understanding of the study and collaboratively came up with our approaches to do the research and techniques to implement in our presentations. Thanks to Dan and Matt, they helped me a lot in the project and I learnt a lot from them. Self-reflection I am very lucky to cooperate with Dan and Matt in our group project, they are great companions who always refreshed my mind and enlightened my creativity during our group work. As we have three people in our group, we came up with the idea that two of us collaboratively teach one session-I am mainly taking charge on the first session with Dan (Communicative Competence and Ethnography of Communication) and the last session with Matt (Intercultural Communicative Competence). I have prepared a lot for our presentations, but during the presentations, I went through the content quickly and sometimes lack of explanation. The posture and speech speed were not appropriate. In the future I should pay much attention to the voice speed, posture, gesture, and interaction with the listeners. I will try to overcome my nervousness and be more confident and interactive in the presentation.
Project reflection I think our group effectively drew the connections and comparisons of “social approaches to SLA” with “SLA in the head” and “instructed SLA”. And I feel that by our presentation and class activities, we helped our classmates understand the terms and the field of research. But we are still on our way to become good teachers and researchers. What I gained from this group project is not only expertise on the topic, but also methods of teaching and researching. The project contains many tasks---reading paper, selecting reading materials, designing classroom content, making power point, and in class presentation. All of these tasks were challenging but beneficial for me. I think this project is just a start in my academic life. It gives me a great opportunity to prepare to be a good curriculum designer and language teacher.