Empowering Students in the EFL Classroom

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There is a growing trend towards giving more power in our classrooms to our students. Gone are the days of the teacher dictating everything that happens in the classroom. More and more, educators are realising that it is more beneficial to allow the students not only to decide what to learn but also how to learn. This has resulted in more learner-centred English as a Foreign Language classrooms. It might seem like a scary thought but there are two simple ways you can empower your students in the EFL classroom to create a more balanced learning environment.

Flipping the classroom

The first way is to flip the classroom. Flipped learning means taking learning from the shared group space and putting it in the individual space. In other words, instruction doesn’t take place in the classroom. Learning takes place outside the classroom – usually at the student’s home after class – and the application of this learning is done inside the classroom.

Flipped learning makes use of YouTube videos, online articles, podcasts, books, newspapers to help learners familiarise themselves with educational concepts. Teachers make them aware of appropriate resources but the learners are ultimately responsible for making the time and doing the work. In the classroom, time is spent working in groups on problems which require that particular knowledge to solve. This could be worksheets or projects or problem solving. This time is also an opportunity for students to ask any questions they may have.

Co-operative learning

Co-operative learning is the second way. Co-operative learning may sound simply like working in groups but it is much more than that. Students work in groups to complete tasks. These tasks are structured so that the learners are dependent on each other to be successful. In other words, the students will have access to different information which they will need to share to finish the task.

In co-operative learning the students are not told how to accomplish a task. They are put into groups, given a task and given the space and time they need to complete it. They need to take responsibility for the task and work together.

How do flipped learning and co-operative learning empower students?

As you can imagine, making use of flipped learning and co-operative learning totally changes the role of the teacher. The teacher is no longer the giver of information. Instead the teacher is a facilitator and guide. The students can work at their own pace and in whatever style suits them. They need to make sure they ask questions to facilitate understanding or own up to confusion and ask for help. They need to rely on themselves or on their peers.

As a result, students naturally become more independent and autonomous. They learn to work on their own and in pairs and they realise they are in charge of their learning journey. All in all, a great result for students and teachers alike.

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