Devereux Education

English Language Consultancy

Risk-Taking with Language in Virtual Learning Environments, (VLE`s)

Let`s imagine a learning situation in a face-to-face, (F2F), classroom. The students/clients have begun an English Language writing task and the teacher, wanting to maximise assessment opportunities, is walking around the room helping the class when and where appropriate.

This is a memory which I have from school and it is a memory which makes me feel uncomfortable. There was a sense that `in the old days`, the teacher was `breathing down your neck`, ready to pounce on each and every mistake. Mercifully, the modern education system in the UK is no longer like this. Language classes are more interactive and communicative, with a major focus on the setting of differentiated tasks for mixed-ability students.
However, it would be fair and true to say that in my long experience of teaching and studying English, I have come across clients and colleagues who have come from countries where the educational culture is still as it was in post-war Britain; the result being that these students are simply terrified of making mistakes and therefore are very reluctant to experiment or take risks in their use of English.

Personally, I think that it is very important for the teacher to give enough confidence to his or her clients so that they can take risks when using English or any other language as a Non-Native Speaker. What do I mean exactly? Well, in my experience of both speaking, and teaching speaking skills in, English, French or Russian, for example, there is a point at which you have to forget about the use of `perfect grammar` and simply `go for it` in terms of having a conversation or discussion.

This experience and belief have led me to think more and, in fact conduct research, about the particular benefits of using VLE`s with regard to promoting risk-taking in language learning. The `psychology of VLE learning` and how learning differs in VLE`s as opposed to F2F classes, really is an important and fascinating subject.

When using VLE`s confidently and correctly, there is a sense that one is there in the room with one`s clients or students, using facial gestures and emotional encouragement to develop their confidence. Yet, with clicks of the webcam and microphone `on/off` buttons, they are left in their own world, to get on with the set task.

A lot has been written about the benefits of using computer and mobile-phone technology in education; for example, learning in the relaxed atmosphere of one`s home, being able to study at the most convenient time in one`s working week, being able to postpone or cancel tuition sessions without wasting the travel time of either the teacher or client. In many ways, these benefits are obvious. However, the developing of risk-taking or student/client autonomy in learning is more much controversial and complex.

So, if you are either a language teacher or learner and want to add to the discussion, then please respond to the blog or do not hesitate to contact me at Devereux Education via…

00447985293791, www.devereuxeducation.co.uk or info@devereuxeducation.co.uk.

Enjoy your risk-taking,
Chris Devereux.

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