Artigo: CLASS OR NO CLASS?

Tempo de leitura: menos de 1 minuto

O Carnaval chega ao fim e o ano começa na quarta-feira de cinzas (ASH WEDNESDAY) no Brasil. É agora que costuma dar aquele comichão, a vontade louca de se matricular em uma escola de inglês. A famosa frase passa pela cabeça de todo mundo: “Ah, esse ano preciso aprender inglês”. A volta às aulas e o bombardeio das campanhas publicitárias também colaboram, e muito, para esse tipo de desejo coletivo.

back_to_school_2.JPGPor esse motivo, é sempre nessa época que me perguntam: “Qual é a melhor escola de inglês?”. Outra pergunta freqüente é: “É melhor estudar em escola ou com professor particular?”. Infelizmente, minha resposta é quase sempre evasiva porque desconheço as características de cada consulente: nível de proficiência, idade, perfil sócio-econômico, motivos pelos quais quer aprender inglês etc. Muitas vezes, os pedidos chegam por e-mail e a pessoa nem diz em que cidade mora. Além disso, não podemos deixar de considerar outra alternativa: o autodidatismo. As muitas variáveis fazem com que aluno fique mesmo perdido. Qual é a solução então?

Reproduzo abaixo – com a devida autorização do autor, é claro – o brilhante texto de Ron Martinez: “CLASS OR NO CLASS?” que nos ajuda a esclarecer a questão. Ele será seguido por um teste (“THE IDEAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT QUIZ”) que poderá lhe ajudar a identificar qual é o seu perfil de aluno, ou seja, em que ambiente você terá maior probabilidade de se dar bem no aprendizado da língua inglesa. Leia o texto com atenção, faça o teste e bons estudos! Ah, faltou dizer que freqüentar o blog com regularidade também ajuda bastante!

Abraços a todos

CLASS OR NO CLASS?

by Ron Martinez

Many students of English ask me if they think it’s best to have group classes or private classes. The best answer to that question varies from student to student, but I think I can offer some general guidance.

THE GROUP CLASS

Let’s start by describing the perfect candidate for a group class. I think of my brother-in-law, Marcio, as the typical student who benefits the most from being in a classroom with other students. Here’s why:

  • He’s a social person. – He’s one of these guys who is quick to enturmar. He would feel much more stimulated with a group of other students than being locked up in a one-on-one situation with just the teacher. In Multiple Intelligence theory, it could be said that he has Interpersonal intelligence.
  • He doesn’t have any specific learning objectives. – He often says that he just wants to become “more fluent” in general.
  • He’s a “sequential” learner. – He’s a mechanical engineer by education, and always excelled at mathematics. He likes to master one concept or idea before moving onto the next, and likes to know there is a logical progression to things.
  • He’s an “analytic” learner. – He likes and pays attention to detail. He likes figuring out rules and systems. In Multiple Intelligence theory, it would be said that he possesses Logical-Mathematical intelligence.

So a group classroom situation is ideal for him because of those characteristics.

  • The fact that he’s a social person will mean that he’ll form bonds with his classmates, and will feel a certain “responsibility” to them, to keep coming to class – and this will ultimately have a positive effect on his progress.
  • The fact that he doesn’t have any specific learning objectives means that he’s less likely to lose motivation or feel disappointed when the course doesn’t fulfill specific needs or expectations.
  • The fact that he’s a sequential learner fits in perfectly with the typical lock-step syllabus and teaching most schools offer: first the present simple, then the present continuous, then regular past simple, etc.
  • The fact that he’s an analytic learner will go great with the strong emphasis on rules (i.e. grammar) that most schools, teachers and books put.

THE PRIVATE CLASS

On the other hand, Marcio’s girlfriend, Catarina, would be much better off in a private class situation:

  • Her motivation to learn is “instrumental”. – She wants to improve her English in order to qualify for a better position at the Prefeitura, where she works.
  • She’s anxious to learn. – She’s what I call a “hare”: always racing to cross the finish line. She’s extremely motivated.
  • She’s a “holistic” learner. – As opposed to Marcio, Catarina doesn’t mind if there doesn’t appear to be a sequence or pre-set course she must follow.
  • She’s a “verbal” learner. – She is the kind of person who likes to “talk things out”. By speaking and conversation, she reaches understanding. You know, the student who keeps asking incessant questions in class and won’t stop talking.

So for Catarina, a one-to-one situation might work out best.

  • The fact that her motivation is instrumental means that she essentially has more specific learning objectives, objectives which are work-related. In a course of General English, designed to meet a wide array of non-specific goals, a person like Catarina could feel her needs aren’t being met.
  • The fact that her motivation is extrinsic (i.e. coming from outside forces) means that she feels a certain pressure to learn. She is therefore in a bit of a “hurry” to get somewhere fast, and in a classroom situation, as many of us know, it can be a long time sometimes until we feel we’ve gotten anywhere. In other words, Catarina is more likely to lose motivation in a group environment.
  • The fact that she’s a holistic learner means that the teacher can do a needs analysis and teach specifically to those needs without worrying too much about following a pre-set syllabus or the language items prescribed in the traditional fashion.
  • The fact that she’s a verbal learner is ideal for a private class situation since she will benefit from simple explanations from the teacher. In a group classroom situation, the method is usually inductive (e.g. “guided discovery”), in which students often try to work things out for themselves, often through group work. In such situations, straight explanations from the teacher are usually frowned upon, but in a one-to-one learning environment, the verbal student can benefit from this possibility.

NO CLASS

But a group classroom situation and a private class situation aren’t the only learning possibilities. There’s a third: the no-class situation. Some people can actually feel crippled in either group or private class environments. My wife, Tatiana, is a good example of such a student:

  • She has “Intrapersonal” intelligence. – She’s the student in your class who doesn’t really want to work with other students. She wants to work on her own and at her own pace.
  • She’s an intuitive learner. – She can figure things out on her own, and prefers to do it that way. She enjoys forming her own hypotheses about things and then trying those hypotheses out.
  • She’s a reflective learner. – She likes to listen and read a lot, and think about the personal relevance of that input. She can abstract from this input (also called “field independence”) and extrapolate who she may use it in her day-to-day life.

And like Catarina, she is a holistic (or “global”) learner, in that she hates “rules” and sequence. She doesn’t mind “chaotic” learning – in fact, she can thrive on it. People like my wife can feel extremely limited in both the group environment and one-to-one teaching because of the following:

  • The fact that she has intrapersonal intelligence means that in a group situation she’ll feel constrained by the others. Whereas a person like Marcio will use the other people in his classroom as “sounding boards” and see them as good for practice, Tatiana will see them as moving too fast or too slowly for her taste. She’ll listen to a audio passage a teacher plays, for example, and will want to play it for herself again and again. Not only that, she’ll need to do so without the intervention of a teacher (and much less other students), who will only be a nuisance and a disruption to her thinking processes.
  • The fact that she is an intuitive learner means that she can make the world her classroom. That also means that inside any type of classroom – private or otherwise – she’ll feel like a fish taken out of the great big ocean and stuck in a little round fishbowl. She knows that she can simply look at a billboard in English and learn more from it than she probably would in an hour-and-a-half worth of formal class.
  • The fact that she’s a reflective learner means that in most classrooms she won’t be given enough time with material to satisfy her thirst for knowledge and understanding. While the rest of the class is wholly satisfied that by answering the “comprehension” questions they’ve understood a text, Tatiana will want to dive in more and might even focus on one particular word or collocation. Then she’ll look it up in the dictionary and will remember that she’s heard it somewhere else, perhaps in a song. Then she’ll think about the equivalent in Portuguese and how useful the word is, and might even imagine using it in a dialogue, maybe even plan to use it later on that day with a friend over the Internet.

Unfortunately, even in a one-to-one situation, she’ll feel a little pressure to “move on” in the lesson, and the teacher him or herself won’t usually know how to offer the autonomy the reflective learner needs. Tatiana’s type of learner can often go very far indeed.

So, there you have it: classroom, private class or independent? The choice is a personal one, and often people can figure it out for themselves. I can offer some further guidance, however, in the form of a quiz:

THE IDEAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT QUIZ

1. When I go to a party, I tend to…

a) join conversations in progress.
b) start a conversation with someone I know.
c) mostly listen to other people’s conversations.
d) All of the above

2. I want to learn English because…

a) I want to be able to speak it sufficiently well in general situations such as travel and light conversation.
b) I want to be very fluent, especially in specific situations that I need for work.
c) I want to feel a part of the big “English World”, and I want to really learn the language very well.
d) All of the above

3. When I get a new product, I tend to…

a) follow the directions, step-by-step.
b) read the instructions, but skip around to get to the most important steps.
c) believe that I’m smart enough to figure it out on my own. If I see I’m messing up, I’ll go back to the directions.
d) All of the above

4. When I’m at a dance party and someone asks me to join them in a dance I’m not familiar with (e.g. salsa, tango, etc.), I usually…

a) refuse because I don’t know the steps and would like to at least know the basics before I embarrass myself in front of everyone.
b) will be inclined to try it out, but I’ll ask my partner for a lot of guidance.
c) go for it if I like the song because I’ll probably manage to at least “fake it”.
d) All of the above

5. At work (or school), I feel that…

a) my class/work mates depend on me to be there. I matter somehow.
b) I tend to do my best when I’m allowed to do things my way. My way is usually the best.
c) sometimes I’m misunderstood as a snob or conceited simply because I don’t participate as much as the others, but they don’t understand what’s going on in my head.
d) All of the above

6. When someone gives me verbal directions to a destination, and I don’t understand them…

a) I will ask for repetition, and maybe ask them to draw me a map.
b) I will repeat what I understood back to them to check for confirmation. I usually don’t need a map.
c) I will sometimes pretend that I understood them and ask someone else down the road, or even try to figure it out myself.
d) All of the above.

7. When I travel, I tend to prefer to…

a) have some kind of set itinerary.
b) negotiate an itinerary between me and my traveling partner(s) as we travel.
c) just go and discover things on my own. I don’t mind traveling on my own at all, and sometimes prefer it.
d) All of the above

8. The idea of traveling with a group on a package tour…

a) appeals to me somewhat because I would feel safe and have the sense that things were taken care of for me.
b) doesn’t appeal to me because sometimes I would probably want to do stray off on my own, away from the group.
c) is something I would consider for perhaps the first visit to a very exotic location, but then I’d want to come back on my own to re-visit my favorite parts and explore on my own.
d) All of the above

9. If I go to a restaurant where I’ve never been before…

a) I might ask for a recommendation, and consider that.
b) I usually study the menu very carefully, and often will ask the waiter specific questions about the dishes.
c) I’ll usually skim over the menu, find something that appeals to me and try it out.
d) All of the above

10. In terms of level, I would say that I’m…

a) a beginner.
b) around intermediate.
c) pretty advanced.
d) All of the above.

Answer Key

This quiz is by no means scientifically tested, but it is based on pedagogical principles. In general, if you answered mostly…

A – you are probably better off in a group classroom situation.
B – you would probably do well in a private, one-to-one learning environment.
C – you are likely to thrive by making the world your classroom and doing things independently.
D – you can probably do well in any of the learning situations, which means you may want to do a little of all of them (depending on your needs).

Again, this tip of the day and this quiz are meant as guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Regardless, I hope you or someone you know can find them useful.

by Ron Martinez

Texto extraído da comunidade “Como dizer tudo em inglês” do Orkut, do tópico “TIP OF THE DAY #24 – Class or no class?“. Reprodução autorizada! Ron Martinez é autor de, entre outros, “Como dizer tudo em inglês: Livro de Atividades” da Editora Campus/Elsevier. Leia a resenha.