Experimental language teaching and learning

This journal was started in March, 1999 after arriving in Taiwan from Korea at the end of February


Trying to remember the abstract I wrote for the KOTESOL conference.

The only subject which could make research worth doing: The learner as researcher studied by the teacher as researcher.

And I said I would give an account of what I would do at Chinmin

Biggest shock is level of students, lower than accustomed to in Korea. Reminds me of accounts of lack of motivation of Japanese college students. But then I had the same problems in freshman listening labs in Korea.

Then I could blame the book, pass the buck onto the book. So I didn’t have to try. It was only a filler, subordinate to the real language institute classes and writing classes in the English Department.

I remember thinking problems in Japanese colleges was only due to lack of good activities by teachers there, and that I wouldn’t have a problem because of knowledge of activities.

I should’ve started before, when I got here. Problem was Yoko, perhaps.

I’ve already kind of set up an experimental and control group for the grammar/writing classes A and B. For the first week I did them equally. I have to find out from Yuru what she said about the two groups being formed on the basis of ability or something.

In the second week, I talked about experimental approach with A, after talking about it in grading their papers. By mistake I graded the B class papers first, and got to think about experimentation during the grading process.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have done that if it had been the other way round. That was during Yoko’s deciding to go back to Japan. I thought there was value for me in efforts to thinking about writing by doing a lot of writing on the students’ books. Brought some things home to me. Confirmed for me some ideas or writing as bricklayer. Or rather thinking things through by writing about them.

I wrote some things down in another [exercise] book about writing: The language selves. The (have to look at it; transcribe it?)

The idea of getting theory and data into bed together is like the problem of writers getting their ideas and language skills to procreate. Writing fast is something I need to encourage, advocate.


Just found this, my journal among the multicultural essays I was looking at. Flipping through from the back, I thought this one hasn’t written anything. Got a surprise. It was mine.

But I was feeling good about the essays. Of course, not all. But a lot got the feeling of multiculturalism.

I need to move on to the idea of them experimenting and perhaps a way to do it would be to tell them I am reacting as according to whether they understood multiculturalism and my ideas of what I wanted them to be, not be, do.

Perhaps I could offer to instead give them feedback on what they wanted to do in the essay. That is everyone gets graded on what they were wanting to do in the essay (rather than what they actually did do? I don’t understand).

Instead make them think about what they wanted to do. Some seemed to do great at rethinking their organization in the two drafts I required them to do in the two hours.

Will have to do a Dead Poets Society performance. We’ve got the stuff that will bust the world’s brains out, but we are unrecognized. We don’t get credit for the great ideas in our heads.

Will have to exult about the worth of their essays. Organization and ideas. Perhpas the first few were the best and have created a mood that the not-so-good others cannot destroy.

Will have to think about how to set up this invitation to experiment.

Students who failed to get the idea of multiculturalism but who did great at rethinking reorganizing between drafts one and two.


Bringing the tape recorder into the room to record the lesson and the invitation to experiment with their writing.

Is the invitation to experiment with their learning or with their writing?

I will need to be very crystal clear and very convincing with what the invitation is because if I am going to be providing feedback, this feedback will be most likely what is being recorded as their grade in the course.

They will feel uncertainty that they are taking a big risk if their grade is going to be determined by whether an experiment is successful or not. Perhaps they will prefer safety, the status quo.

It will be difficult for me to answer the questions they may ask. I may not be satisfied with the questions they want to ask. We will have to negotiate the questions.


The students are doing some quick writing. I will do some thinking about experimentation. These are the control group. I didn’t talk about experimentation. I asked them to write some comments about their writing. Writing about writing.

I need this partly because I have put this in the midterm exam. The midterm is made up of 50 percent grammar, 50 percent of mindmap, essay, comments on the essay.

I can ask them to comment without asking them to make this a focus, without putting them in the driver’s seat, suggesting they are in the driver’s seat. Some may put them in the seat. But that’s to be expected, if experimentation is the right way to learn.

I then did Exercise 4 of Chapter 8, page 110: Concepts usable to discuss housing.

I got them first however to read with a partner and then read with a different partner, but add the things they didn’t write in the 10-minute quick writing.

I’m now getting them to write an essay again, a different essay, as a watercolor painter.

What does this have to do with the experiment? I think I need to give an account of what I was doing.

How are the two groups different?

I said five minutes before the end, ‘Stop. Draw a line, and write a very short comment about your essay. And I will reply.’

↑ ‘A dialogue about your essay’, I wrote on the board.

I can’t say anything I wrote.


The Writing Song

Gotta, gotta
   Try to succeed
Maybe if we think hard
   We will succeed

Let’s experiment
   Try things out and see
Let’s talk about it
   Ask questions and find out

Bad habits

A bad habit I have
A bad habit I tried to break but couldn’t
A habit I am ashamed of
A good habit I have
A good habit I will try out

What is the progress of the experiment?

Think I’ll have to do a chant with the B class.

What is the experimental treatment?

I was thinking before/during the lesson that I am changing it to dialogue about process. A conversation, they ask questions.

This is because of the difficulty of getting them to respond, or make a commitment.

Which reminds me of college psychology experiment where it was impossible to realize the experimental conditions.

Is this a reference to my college graduation thesis? I wasn’t sure if subjects got the answer to the puzzle I set.

I was able to get some to express what they want. I was at first upset that they didn’t understand. They asked me to teach them things: ‘How to write a paragraph,’ or they said things like, ‘You’re a good teacher,’ rather than asked YN questions. ‘How do you say this in English?’ would have been a good question?

Some students asked for evaluations of their grammar and I thought this was good.

Do I need to start thinking about having someone else grade papers with midterm coming up.


Tell them I want to keep the books.


Louis wants to talk to me.


Strange how I am so eager to read my email and so slow to look at my students’ essays.


I’m going to tell my class about the experiment. Why? Because I’m worried about being unable to realize the experimental conditions–having the students try things out and see. Or because B class did better on the 2-way written roleplay conversation (of Rinvolucri) between the pro-lifer and pro-choicer?

In any case I open up the Pandora’s box of self-fulfilling prophecy (=Hawthorne effect, etc) Interestingly other classes social psychology book had stuff on self-fulfilling prophecy in Chinese (saw it proctoring their exams).


No space for dialogue in book. Did it here with JoJo.

Dr Bean: Do you think the fetus has life?

Jojo:    No. Because I have to spend much money.
         Why do you want to the bady has life

Dr Bean: No! Do you think the fetus is alive?
         Are you taking a pro-choice position JoJo? If
         you are, I'll take a pro-life one.

JoJo:    I am taking a pro-choice position.
         Because I think that the way is right for the

Dr Bean: I don't think you should let the baby die.
         Everyone has the right to life. Even mothers
         can't take that away from their children.

JoJo:    Of course. I think that I can sad. But I
         don't know how the future if the child to

I wonder if they even understood what experimenting would mean.

I have been thinking about how would I teach action research. Will email ARLIST, other lists.

“I am interested in thoughts, references on teaching (encouraging/ ) action research by students. I teach English in Taiwan to junior college students and I am”


Well the experiment is over. At least, the two classes have finished and are about to do the final.

Thus ends the _______. Not with a bang but a whimper. I was intending on 5/12~9 to record the invitation to experiment with

"If we put watchdogs in the street, there would be less thievery,"

ie, second conditional.

But although I did 5/13 B class, I forgot to record 5/19 A class.

In the both classes, there was very little uptake of the second conditional in the first essay and probably the second essay (which I didn’t check as I wanted to give the books to the studens so they could look at them prior to the finals. I didn’t think it inappropriate that they only got feedback on their first attempts, because this was going to be the topic of the final exam. It was more of their own work than if I had commented on a final draft. Though I don’t know if these comments would have had much effect anyway.)

Anyway the second conditional:

I remember suggesting to the experimental A class they experiment with the second conditional.

Most appropriate with problem-solution rhetorical patterns. But the textbook didn’t use it, suggesting it as something to look out for and I didn’t either, writing comments in exercise books. I changed it so it did.

Real/Unreal. But is it a pragmatic, interpersonal thing? What is the meaning?

No date

Problem-solution essay continuation

Problem: How to learn English
Solution: . . . .

New chapter New experiment


The teacher as language learner

My example is Tim Newfield’s pointing the finger to left-hand side of the board or right-hand side of the board to answer as class.

I have been thinking about it since the ETA-ROC conference 11/11-13.

Tried it on 11/25 with 4C and they wouldn’t do it, answering questions about:

1 2 3 4 5
dislike like

things in the teaching situation, like roll call, lectures, films

Then tried it on 12/2 with 3C for A and B on page 51 of Expressways knockout quiz. One person representing each group.

But changed it when it was difficult to get them to reflect rest of group’s opinions by getting them to come to the board physically. Then I had to cut stragglers off.


I tried it with 3D, same actitivity, different class and it worked!!

Selected 1/4 as group’s representatives and got them to stand up and gave them 2-choice multiple-choice questions. People were wrong had to sit down. No-one was really wrong, but I made some people who were slow or something site down.

I had about 8 questions in book and I made another five. (Listen Expressways p51).

How does this show teacher is language learner? By incorporation into repertoire? By making of mistakes before getting right?


But then on 12/10 with 3D, a different actitivity, Listen p68, it didn’t work. I think I made everyone stand up, not just representatives.


I think I have found the question I want to present on: How to get students to speak in class.

And I thought a lot more about it after waking up early this morning, but it doesn’t come to me now.


I have to write about what happened in 3D on 12/10 when I tried to get them to speak English.

12/23 What happened?

The day before 12/10 I had been unhappy about how an attempt to give my 3D students pictures cut from a Carrefour catalog had been getting them to do p66 of Expressways II had been disappointing.

I gave each 2 or 3 people in a group 3 of 4 different cards as I remember. The dialogue involved comparing shopping items, one being bigger/quieter/better, etc but also being more expensive.

They didn’t do anything with the pictures, even thought there was perhaps a comparison involved. I collected the cards (which had been intended originally with matches to find matches).

Then with 3D I just gave out the cards and asked people to find someone in the room with the match, after I had done the dialogue (listen, repeat and erase).

And they found their partners. Some came up to the front and asked me what to do with them. It was as if they wanted to practice using English. I said they could do the dialogue with their items. And they did them for me, one pair at a time.

Not every pair came up to me. Many were just standing up at the back of the room, just talking.

Why was I excited by this incident

I guess because more than I expected happened. They came up to me and asked me what to do next. They were motivated.

Why did it work?

Perhaps because they met new people, got up to walk around, didn’t know what was happening.

What didn’t work?

Not everyone was asking or wanted to do the dialogue.

What will I do as a result?


This is about finger pointing on 12/23, 12/24.

It worked! I used the tape, of the dimes, in the book. I read questions, checked off the right answers in the textbook, I was well prepared. I gave Xmas prize.

Perhaps the listening questions about dimes, nickels, quarters in Expressways II was the right level.

Next semester


I have stopped getting them to point (or respond as class). Why? Was it too difficult to get them to respond?

Following year, 2000?


On February 23,24 I gave 3C, 3D for homework. Write 3 lines about ‘how I can get (make) you to speak English’.

This is what they wrote:

3C 8605

Amy 305 1. watch video 2. play funny games 3. listen to tape Fanny 323 1. in class interesting 2. play game 3. sing the song 桃 354 1. You can have test in every class 2. practicing conversation 3. practicing speaking English Tammy 317 1. Please teacher speak more clean 2. Speak slow please 3. don’t change seat in class, please Winniw 329 1. Give me present please 2. Sing English song 3. See English movie Sherry 348 1. please speak English slowly 2. please speak some Cheasesnes (Chinese?) 3. say some story Victoria 316 1. Don’t change our seat every time 2. Speaking cleaner 3. Speaking interest Stacy 352 1. choose seat by ourself 2. good friend make a group 3. You try hard already Rosa 324 1. It is interesting in class 2. 3. Aline 321 1. sing a song 2. interesting 3. no boring Lina 331 1. You can speak Chinese and English in class 2. You can speak slowly with us. 3.

Muriel 311
  1. Singing the songs
  2. playing the games
  3. listening tape
Bobo 303
  1. playing games
  2. singing songs
  3. listening tape
  4. watching TV
Ruby 313
  1. play funny game
  2. listening tape
  3. watch video
Jill 345
  1. Don’t play games
  2. listening tape
  3. watch video
Linda 306
  1. Don’t play games
Warren 304
  1. Speak cleaner and loudly
  2. One seat (please don’t change the seat in one conversation class. It’s boring)
  3. Write the words what you say on the board, please.
楊 310
  1. Speak easy
  2. Don’t change seat. Use one on class
  3. Speak loudly
  4. Speak slowly
Annie 320
  1. Sir please speak slowly
  2. Please teach more easy word
  3. Please don’t change seat
Carolyn 309
  1. Don’t change the seats again and again
  2. Speak clear
  3. Be more interesting
Rachel 314
  1. Sir you can sing with us
  2. watching video
  3. play game
Rebecca 315
  1. Don’t much team activity
  2. You can teach much pop music
Lora 326
  1. Listen to tape
  2. Talk with classmate. Use English
  3. Write English letter
Sarah 302
  1. Speak conversation with paner (partner)
  2. Looking for a story than read and speak that
  3. Read the conversation book
Coral 308
  1. Play English game
  2. Watch English movies
  3. Listen to English music.

2012 Note: more will add if time + 3D There are 3 more pages.

Practitioners just do it;
Reflective practitioners think about what they do
Theorist-practitioners talk about what they do
Practicing theorists just talk about what they haven’t done

Journal for 3/8,9 done 3/14

I did the same thing as before. A story about Momoko from a picture book. I have to try to remember what happened or write sooner.

Before 3/8, I realized I had to give roles to everyone (see the message I sent to TESL-L), so I did this in class with 3C. I think I talked to the end of the first hour about roles using OHP (This is new thing I am using in most many classes)


Journal 9 for 5/10,11 started written 5/16

This is late. I finished Journal 8 on 5/14!! But I do have better recordings. This can be used to crosscheck later.

Started recording at start

3C 5/10 Started with part of song,

Gotta gotta try to succeed
Maybe if we try hard we will succeed
Let’s talk about it, Help each other
Ask questions and find out

People were absent and drifting in because of Red Cross blood donations. Whether they sang along or not is debatable. I was satisfied however. I enjoyed it. This was more teaching music than teaching English so I’ll leave it at that.

Then I started talking about how language learning can be rewarding and discouraging. This led into question 1 for a class survey:

Do you find learning English rewarding (mostly)?

(I’ve forgotten exact wording.) And question 2:

Do you find learning Japanese rewarding (mostly)?

I think I tried to elicit a third, but couldn’t (Can you think of a question, Lora, that you’d like to ask all of the class/know the answer for?).

So third question was:

Will you contine to learn Japanese and English after you graduate?

I think I then divided class into cooperative learning group seating arrangement and asked them to find how many out of four in their groups. This was about end of first hour.

During break, I drew up a class survey answer grid. In second hour I explained grid. Each of three groups in an area had responsibility to find out how many in the area for one question of three.

They did it better than last time. I was able to note some groups (eg in area D) were not doing work and “urge” them to find out and write up. I don’t think I took gave participation points. Third groups divided their answers up into English and Japanese.

Then on to p134, Whose things are these. Did some direct method stuff with three people’s textbooks. Then into dialogue and book’s sock, sneakers. Walfman? became things I sought out in class and tried to incorporate, but not successfully (as usual).

I did this me & them, A & B, and then got them to do it in pairs, but I’ve forgotten if I gave them participation points. I think I did. I did in 3D.

I told them this would be the homework, six lines rather than four. Same rubric 3,2. I didn’t talk about grammar, though probably will use it to grade.

I’ve forgotten the end. Did I give quiz or not? I don’t think so. How did I end?

Remembered after doing 3D journal. I did charing? They had to sign circular and send around the area. Did it twice.

3D 5/11 written 5/16

Turned tape on, started with same song written on the board. Seemed more people there. Mostly quiet, but some singing I think. I think it was shorter than 3C

Then went on to like-language quiz (survey?). I think I changed from ‘find rewarding’ to ‘liked.’ I couldn’t get any other questions, so went with same questions as 3C. I stressed number out of four in group and urged them to do it, but didn’t give participation points, I think.

Did we finish this by end of first hour? I don’t think so, but am not sure. Did I call break 1-2 minutes early? Things are getting hazy. I can’t remember anything much about getting students to survey other groups in area. The more I think, the more comes back. I wrote things grid on board. I had to get down and mix to get them to ask other members groups. I think I did a participation point thing (or at least I should have). Actually this would have been difficult in middle of activity (fairness considering), so perhaps I just did it for dialogue.

[I think my mind must have been on automatic pilot for this lesson. I forgot where I put my pens. At the end I forgot to give homework. I couldn’t write down participation points at end for appropriate groups. I did it wrote points after another class. The end of the hour crept up on me and I can remember having trouble getting all my stuff together and getting out to the next class.]

I forgot to turn the tape recorder on in second hour too. Turned it on ____ minutes into the hour.

After writing down class survey results I was surprised how few liked English and little more Japanese. I talked about this with them. More in 3C liked English. What did they say? I checked that groups in fact didn’t like English.

I guess we then started up p134 dialogue. I didn’t do direct method with textbook first, but tried to incorporate things in classroom into dialog illustration. (Not successfully. One student didn’t want me to use their sneakers.)

Substitution drills in pairs with participation points starting at back right hand corner.

Then That’s right. I forgot I did Action Chains from Jim Wingate’s Getting Beginners to Talk (Prentice Hall) (an object passed around the room with a connected spoken statement). I don’t think they understood why. Once nothing written on paper. Not all returned.

Then I did quiz similar to matchlines on p135 but got answers wrong.

Questions were like:

Is this yours?            No, his is over there.
Is this his coat?         Yes. It isn't mine.
I think that's our dog    No. It's not.
over there.
Are these her children?

I got at least one wrong but collected answers in groups by individuals. (Or did I send people to front?) I was confused at end.

Results for Liking English, Japanese

Questions were:

1. Do you like learning English?

2. Do you like learning Japanese?

3. Will you contine to learn English and Japanese after you graduate?
Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 (E and J)
Area 1 (12 students) 8 8 5 and 3
Area 2 (11 students) 7 9 8 and 3
Area 3 (11 students) 9 11 10 and 1
Area 4 (11 students) 4 8 9 and 2
Total (45 students) 28 36 32 and 9
Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 (E and J)
Area 1 (10 students) 2 4 2 and 2
Area 2 (12 students) 3 4 5 and 3
Area 3 (11 students) 5 6 6 and 2
Area 4 (11 students) 3 ? 0 and 2
Total (45 students) 13 18 10 and 15

The 3D totals for Questions 2,3 seem wrong