The languages classroom: place of comfort or obstacle course?

Nicolson, M. and Adams, H. (2010). The languages classroom: place of comfort or obstacle course? Language Learning Journal, 38(1) pp. 37–49.



This article problematises certain aspects of methodology used for speaking practice and commonly applied in contemporary language teaching classrooms. It examines these particularly with relevance to diversity in adult learning groups. The aspects under scrutiny include the use of personal information in tasks, pair and group work, target language as classroom language, physical movement, communication of task expectation and rationale, and student opportunity to opt out of or adapt tasks. It discusses how student reaction to these methodological aspects can affect their integration into the interactive group situation, their engagement in and management of tasks set by the teacher, and, as a consequence, their success in the development of speaking skills. Results from a survey of beginner language learners at the Open University give an insight into student reaction to these areas of methodology and help the authors to reach conclusions about facilitative and inhibiting factors which make the classroom either a place of comfort or an obstacle course. As a result of survey data and comments, the authors exhort teachers to be sensitive and flexible when designing tasks and to be alert to how they manage them. They also need to be attentive to how students respond when carrying them out in the classroom context so that successful integration is guaranteed for as many students as possible.

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