7 Reasons Why Troubleshooting is Essential for TEFL Teaching
The Cambridge dictionary defines troubleshooting as the process of discovering why something does not work effectively and making suggestions about how to improve it. In TEFL as in any other foreign language course, teachers are faced with lots of situations that make troubleshooting necessary.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Olivia L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
And the reason why it is an essential part of TEFL is due, in great part, to the fact that humans make up a primary part of the equation. Humans, in general, feel a profound need to forge associations with each other through social inclusion and as a result, communication has become a basic human right that facilitates social inclusion. It gives rise to friendships, relationships, independence and through it, emotions are expressed and learning is achieved (Gupta, Sanjeev Kumar 1993).
Now, considering the fact that neither the teachers of TEFL nor the students may be considered communication experts, trained to prevent or mitigate Noise—communication barriers, they will recurrently be faced with misunderstandings that give rise to the need for troubleshooting.
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1. Heterogeneity in TEFL Classes
The majority of TEFL classes today are, in some way or other, heterogeneous in nature. For instance, the students may be of the same age but of various cultural backgrounds and vice versa. The world has become a melting pot and so has the TEFL or rather foreign language classroom. Many issues arise in a heterogeneous class mostly due to the student's motivation for learning English and the fact that most organizations ignore the individual differences in classes.
In EFL, as well as, in other foreign language classes all over the world, teachers encounter students with varying motivations for learning English. One student would like to learn the language so that she may find a job across the border, where English is an essential language. Another would like to travel to the US or other English speaking country and wishes to be able to communicate with the people there. Yet another is being pressured by his parents to improve his English grades at school and then there’s the one who requires English to prevent deportation from an English speaking country.
Most of the above-mentioned students would possess a genuine desire to learn, making it relatively easy to be taught. However, the teacher, in her many roles, for instance manager and controller, organizer, assessor, prompter, participant, observer and so forth, also has to interact with students, who do not really have a desire to learn the language and part of her job is to motivate and understand them and see to it, as far as possible, that they too grasp the language.
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The following are a few issues that may arise in a TEFL classroom of motivated as well as non-motivated Students, for which troubleshooting would be needed:
In EFL classes for young learners and teens, lots of patience and troubleshooting are made necessary. The usual lack of maturity of these students often leads to indiscipline. Issues with discipline can be very disruptive, disturb lessons and the learning atmosphere. The teacher, therefore, has to stipulate from the outset what actions within the school’s policy, should be applied. Here troubleshooting also involves taking a bit of time to try to discover what the root problem could be. Patients are thus necessary as the student may have to be taken aside for a friendly conversation to get to the bottom of the issue.
A student learning a foreign language will not always comprehend the instructions given to him in class and may, therefore, remain inactive or even refuse to participate. Miscomprehension is easily mistaken for indiscipline and teachers may find themselves in a situation where students are wrongly subjected to disciplinary measures. Due to this fine line, teachers need to be sure that the instructions given are clear, precise and repeated or paraphrased until the students have comprehended in full.
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5. Excessive use of the L1
Learners, particularly, in a monolingual classroom usually fall back on their L1 to communicate, making this a general issue that necessitates troubleshooting. However, students who have no desire or very little desire to learn a language due to their reluctance, make a point of using the L1 to protest or passive-aggressively communicate said reluctance.
Unpunctuality is often really disruptive. The teacher can seldom carry on with the lesson undisturbed because the tardy student has to find a seat, in which case, someone has to stand to let her though and if she is a young learner or a teenager and or inconsiderate, she would proceed by greeting fellow students. When she is finally seated the teacher would attempt to resume the lesson, only to be stopped again because the student would like to know what she missed and if working with a coursebook, what page the class was on. Latecomers generally cannot be ignored as they won’t be able to participate in the lesson.
For the reasons set out above, troubleshooting is necessary from the outset. The teacher has to stipulate rules for unpunctuality and stick to them. It may eventually become unpleasant as the teacher and students become more familiar with each other but, it is essential in order to maintain respect to the teacher and to the fellow students. The lessons are to starts on time, therefore, students are not allowed to be late.
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Boredom is a phenomenon that is not always preventable, particularly in a heterogeneous class because teachers, in their human capacity, can’t please all their students all the time. This being the case, troubleshooting becomes necessary. The student's differences, their individual interests (as far as possible) and abilities should be the main focus, when planning lessons, in order to significantly decrease the risk of boredom.
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The above-mentioned does not, by any means, constitute an exhaustive list of issues faced in TEFL. They are however, the most commonly encountered and their prevalence makes troubleshooting an indispensable part of TEFL.
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