Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week 4: Team Exploration Presentations

I can't believe its the last week of the Osaka Science program. It seems like they just got here. However, after seeing all of the effort, learning, homework, and general elbow grease that has gone into the class by the students and teachers, I feel that we can all be happy with the way things turned out.

At the beginning of my class, my students were very shy and exhibited low amounts of WTC even though their motivation levels might have been high. By carefully controlling the sequence of the tasks, group activities, and monitoring the students WTC level, my personal observation is that students' anxiety decreased and their WTC increased as well as their perceived competence, which was a result from some successful encounters with native speakers and classroom work.

This week, we want to know if the survey work from the previous week left our students more poised to communicate, or if it had made them more anxious or scarred. We became concerned with actually decreasing students' WTC after the survey class last Thursday. Also that night I received the following email from one of my students lamenting is inability to conduct the full survey.

Subject: I have to apologize to you...

"Sorry, I tried to ask questions to someone but then suddenly I felt badly nervous and I couldn't ask anyone...
So I will ask someone in this weekend, or at least next Monday, and I can't post reflection to class blog until I can ask someone.
But I promise that I make presentation by due.
Would it be OK?
Please forgive this incompetent man!"

In order to see what our students thought about their survey experience, we asked them to reflect about it in their week 3 reflection blog. Most students reported being nervous, but overall, students reported success and happiness in being able to conduct their survey.

One student writes:

1) I felt a little nervous when I approached people, because they looked like busy. It was more difficult to talk to people on the street than I had expected. But they were very kind, and answered our questions politely. And I should have more knowledge. When I was asked “What is California Condor?”, I couldn't explain well. I felt the necessity for the preparation before the survey.

2) I asked 4 people. Through the survey, I thought that most of the people don't know much about California Condors. Some people don't like birds, but all of the people strongly agreed or agreed with the protection of the wild animals.

As you can see there may be a discrepancy between the teachers' perception that the students' WTC increased and what the students really feel. In our qualitative analysis of the student journals, we will have to closely examine what the students wrote and compare it to their behaviors in and out of the class.

We would also like to know how the students' opinions on their own success and how the tasks that we created helped raise their WTC. So instead of the final team exploration reflection assignment, we placed a final assessment of their reflections of their experience as a whole. This information will be used to triangulate our data on raising our WTC.


As noted above, Thursday's class was devoted to creating and completing a public survey related to the students' final team exploration presentation. Students were asked to survey at least 4 people with 6 to 10 questions. Some students needed extra time to revise their survey during class and then spent the second half of the class outside class surveying native and non-native speakers near the Fisherman's Wharf area. Students who had trouble creating a cohesive and coherant survey used the class to finish the survey and were asked to complete the survey as homework. Over the weekend, the students also worked on completing their team exploration presentation, which they created in PowerPoint. Students visited places like the aquarium, museums, local shops, and other places around town.

In this class, students will complete some scaffolding tasks that will allow them to share their ideas about their presentations and then have some time to work on the presentation. We will also, finally, get to the scientific experiment activity that I had planned to do in the second week. Both the students and I are looking forward to it.


Warm-up Writing and Speaking (10 minutes)

I began the class by telling the students that they will have some extra time today to prepare their presentations. Also, I told them they will have a choice later on as to whether they would like to work on their presentations in class or try the Myth Busters' experiment. I then passed out a worksheet that asked the students to write down three facts that they will include in their presentation on Thursday. After the students wrote down their facts, I asked them to share their information with a random partner for a two minute timed conversation.

Pre-task Writing and Speaking (10 minutes)

Next, I asked the students to look at the other side of the handout and together with their team exploration partner, fill in information on six slides that they have made or plan to make. When the students finished this activity, I asked them to share the information with another random partner. I then explained that its important to take this opportunity to learn from the people they talked to and see what ideas they could incorporate into their presentation.

Main-task Writing (20 minutes)

Using the information form their worksheet, I asked students to begin working on their presentations. I encouraged them to use the ideas they learned form their classmates and to check the grading rubric handed out in a previous class.

Post-task Speaking (10 minutes)

After the time allocated for the main task was over, I asked students to pick a random partner and to explain how they build their presentation, what the roles of the speakers will be, and to review an certain strengths and weaknesses.

Myth-Busters Experiment (1 hour)

After a short break, we began the students chose to try the Myth Busters experiment. I asked the students to take out the worksheets that I gave to them in week four. Then I divided the class into two teams by counting off from one to two. We then divided the teams into two groups. The first group in each team would be the builders and would need to read the instructions and build the air powered balloon rocket. The other team would think of a research question, hypothesis, and identify the independent variables and the dependent variables. Finally, I assigned captains to the team and told them that the first team to complete the experiment and turn in their handout would win. It might be important to note that the students were engaged in this task 20 minutes after the class had officially ended.


First, I'd like to say that the Myth Buster's experiment was a big success. The students were highly motivated to complete the project. They worked well as a team, and they used English most of the time. The only time they began speaking Japanese was when the task became more difficult and frustrating for them. However, they engaged me in questions and listened to my suggestion in English, and at this time, I think all thoughts of anxiety were out the door. The relevance and fun of the task seemed to highly motivate my student and allowed them to communicate on the meaning of their communication rather than on whether they could communicate.

Second, time was very limited during this class. Students had a lot of homework to complete in our class and in other classes, so there was a lot of anxiety, but not enough anxiety placed on themselves. I think this is a big difference for Japanese students who tend to place the focus of their anxiety on whether they can communicate on themselves and do not allow themselves to shift their focus to actual communication.

I was impressed with my students' willingness to help each other and to stay in English even between tasks. The close community that had developed in and out of class allowed the students to trust and work with each other closely.

In all, I think a lot of the worries that we had about our students becoming more discouraged by the survey were found to be incorrect, but only because we were attentive to their needs and their WTC and anxiety levels were in the forefront of our mind. The student who had written the despairing email to me from above, was able to finish his survey and complete his presentation. Similarly, were successful in completing their presentations and fulfilling the requirements of the project. Plus, they used the presentation experience in this class to help prepare for their symposium presentations on Friday in which they gave a larger more technical presentation on a topic of their choice. These presentations will be given again in Osaka, and we're thankful that they could practice them here in front of native and non-native English speakers.

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