Северный (Арктический) федеральный университет им. М.В. Ломоносова

Номер: 4-2
Год: 2015
Страницы: 101-104
Журнал: Актуальные проблемы гуманитарных и естественных наук

Ключевые слова

автономное обучение, метакогнитивные умения, английский язык для специальных целей, веб-квест, autonomous learning, metacognitive skills, English for Specific Purposes, web-quest

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Аннотация к статье

The goal of this paper is to study theoretical basis of using webquest format to design activities through which ESP students can engage in autonomous language learning.

Текст научной статьи

The need to promote autonomous learning and the focus on content-based instruction as one of the most effective methods to learn and acquire knowledge in ESP context have resulted in the development of activities to integrate the Internet into the classroom. Webquest is an activity designed for this purpose that takes full advantage of the resources on the Internet. The term webquest first coined by B. Dodge and T. March at San Diego State University in 1995 is an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet [1].Webquests have been rapidly integrated into the teaching and learning process due to many compelling reasons: - They are an easy way to begin to incorporate Web-resources into the classroom, on both a short-term and long-term basis. - They are mostly group activities and tend to develop learners’ communicative and cooperative skills. - They can be used in an interdisciplinary context, allowing for crossover into other departments and subject areas. - They encourage critical thinking skills: comparing, classifying, inducing, deducing, analysing errors, constructing support, abstraction, analysing perspectives, etc. - They tend to have a motivating effect on learners [2]. According to B. Dodge, webquests have the following components: - An introduction that sets the stage and provides some background information. - A feasible and interesting task that is a formal description of what students will have accomplished by the end of the WebQuest. - A set of information sources needed to complete the task. - A description of the process the learners should follow to complete the task. - Evaluation, usually in the form of the rubric that sets the assessment criteria for the students. - A conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds the learners about what they've learned, and perhaps encourages them to extend the experience into other domains [1]. Although originally webquests were not intended for foreign or second language acquisition, their potential for this purpose has been explored by several researchers (Koenraad T., Luzon M.J., Richards C., Sysoyev P., Yevstigneyev M.). The LanguageQuest Project done by Koenraad T. has resulted in developing the following criteria for optimising webquest concept for language learning: - the task should promote use of the target language; - the sources should be authentic; - the task should be flexible (giving learners options) and provide opportunities for differentiation; - the task should provide opportunities for reflection on the process and the product [5]. Having applied webquests in a TESL area the researchers have explored the potential of webquests in designing ESP courses [4], [7]. As a result it has been concluded that webquest format meets all the requirements of ESP courses: - empower students with the linguistic knowledge and skills that enable them to communicate effectively with professionals of a specific discourse community; - prepare students for lifelong and autonomous learning, so that they can cope in a world where communicative situations are constantly changing; - help students become multiliterate, and train them in the active and strategic processes of meaning construction that they need in order to understand and produce the high variety of texts of society today (including electronic texts) [6]. We will focus on the issue regarding lifelong and autonomous learning in greater detail. The promotion of autonomy and Life Long Learning is considered to be of growing importance in ESP due to limited time devoted to the courses and current workplace context, characterized by increasing mobility and changing situations. Researchers agree that using the Internet for learning languages can promote autonomy and help students develop learning skills (e.g. Benson P., Frizler K, Lenoch S., Warschauer M.,) According to M.Warschauer, using hypermedia allows “students have great control over their learning, since they can not only go at their own pace but even on their own individual path, going forward and backwards to different parts of the program, honing in on particular aspects and skipping other aspects altogether” [7]. Webquests have been proved to help develop learners’ metacognitive skills, which play a very important role in learners’ autonomy. According to Healey D., a set of learners’ metacognitive skills includes: - knowing their own learning styles, - understanding paths through the material to be learned, and - having a way to see and assess progress toward learning goals [3]. - M.J. Luzon’s list of students’ metacognitive skills is broader and includes abilities - to set learning goals, - to reflect on what they already know and the knowledge they can use to achieve the goals, - reflect on what they need / want to know to complete the task, - to plan how to develop the task and assign roles, - to select the resources in accordance with their objectives and assigned roles, - to choose between alternative learning paths, - to reflect on whether they are following the right path and accessing the right resources while doing the activity, - to evaluate both the learning process and the outcome of the activity and assess what they have learnt [7]. The development of such strategic skills is facilitated by scaffolded learning, where students are given support, which is gradually reduced, until they can apply new skills and strategies on their own. To promote autonomous development and scaffolding information-communication technologies have been integrated into the language teaching and learning, since they multiply the types and forms of interaction, offer new forms of mediation and advice and increase the types of support [7]. In this respect, T. March defines webquest as “a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of an open-ended question, development of individual expertise, and participation in a group process that transforms newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding. The best WebQuests… contribute to the real world of learning, and reflect on students’ metacognitive processes” [8]. However, it should be noted that all the above mentioned opportunities that webquest format provides might be missed if the tasks are not appropriately designed, if supportive environment isn’t constructed and the specific learning and communicative needs of ESP learners aren’t thought carefully by teachers. Having considered all the possible failures in using webquest format, researchers have developed the following criteria to meet all the requirements for ESP courses. Webquests might be expected: - to be authentic, purposeful and related to the students’ discipline; - to develop students’ genre awareness and get students in touch with genres used in the discipline; - to be adapted to the students needs and individual learning goals and lend students control over their learning; - to include the necessary support to assist students in understanding and transforming information and in producing output; - to promote higher-order thinking skills; - to offer interactive, multimodal, hypertextual resources, and to prompt students to perform tasks involving online communication and interaction with, manipulation and construction of online texts; - to encourage students to reflect on the strategies they use to navigate the Internet and interact with online texts, and to train them to use these strategies flexibly, since new forms of literacy are required as technologies change; - to motivate students to self-assess their learning process and the learning output [7]. If the criteria are fulfilled webquests are very likely to become effective learning tools in ESP courses. All things considered, webquests, on one hand, are especially suitable to promote learner autonomy in ESP as they meet all the requirements for courses of this kind, but one the other hand, if they are not designed adequately the use of this technology does not guarantee by itself that learners should become more autonomous. In this respect the role of teachers who facilitate language learning and help students apply webquest format to developing their autonomous learning strategies is of great importance.

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