I have just attended another fabulous conference, this time, on the teaching and learning of Phonetics at University College London. I was also blessed with the opportunity of presenting my own paper! PTLC takes place every two years, and as with other conferences the papers submitted are subjected to blind review by the academic commitee (hopefully the proceedings will be published soon!). In the meantime, you can read about the conference and check previous proceedings here.
In this post, I will be talking about some of the presentations I would like to comment on (as usual, any misinterpretations are my own). If you want to get a deferred "feel" of what the conference was like, you may want to see the Storify collection of live- tweets that Jane Setter put together (scroll to the very bottom of this post - and yes, there was some hectic tweeeting!)
This first post is on Day 1.
Day 1: August 5th
The conference kicked off with University of Reading's Jane Setter's presentation of her "flipped learning" experience in her Phonetics courses at graduate and undergraduate levels. This methodology basically consists in making the most of class-time for practical and problem-solving tasks while assigning videotaped lectures and practical tasks with key as homework. There were some interesting references to the well-known Bloom's taxonomy, and also to Dale's 1969Cone of Experience, a thought-provoking approach to types of learning tasks that may contribute to the increase of retention types. Jane discussed the results of her assessment tasks with the flipped and "unflipped" (?) classes, with a marked improvement for students in the former, except for the dictation tasks. (Dictations and decoding tasks are always a problem, if you ask me! This does deserve a whole new post!)
Shawn Nissen from Brigham Young University also reported on a blended learning experience with large Phonetics classes (for Speech Therapy trainees, if I remember correctly) consisting of, among other things, lots of self-paced theoretical and practical tasks with key, leading to online assessment tasks (of which an 80% success grade should be achieved). I found it particularly interesting, and challenging as well, that many of the materials for decoding included audio files containing noise levels, and also disordered speech. There were also some true and realistic remarks worth recalling, such as the fact that Phonetics teaching needs to be orderly and it needs a "unique learning environment"and set of techniques we may not find when teaching other subjects.
Alice Yin Wa Chan introduced some of her own ideas to bring variety into the Phonetics classroom, including the use of water bottles as an analogy to draw students' awareness of the cavities, shapes, amplification in the vocal tract. She also found ways of connecting students' cultural practices (like the use of acronyms to describe their relationship status) to minimal pairs, and a reference to Peter Roach's comparison of allophones to different styles in handwriting.
Gwen Brekelmans discussed the results of her study on a group of Dutch learners of English at University and compared the effects of lack of explicit pronunciation instruction in two groups, one group of learners who had taken their "year abroad" experience, and others who had instruction for two years but were not trained during their third year. Once instruction had stopped for the second group of learners, subjects showed a clear deterioration of their foreign accent, especially in vowels. Those students spending a year abroad did show a bit more improvement. In all cases it was found that pronunciation of English as an L2 did not remain fully stable after instruction (which is exactly what happens with many of my teacher trainees once they graduate, sadly. Lots of pondering to do in this respect. It is definitely something worth giving a thought...)
Eva Estebas made a truly interesting presentation (fitting timely and perfectly with my current personal interests!) on an adaptation of ToBI and the School of London's nuclear configurations to teach intonation and help learners work autonomously at a graduate distance programme (big challenge, if you ask me!). Eva called this special concoction "TL_ToBI" (Tone and Break Indices for Teaching and Learning), and I would say she collected the best of both approaches, focusing on the connections between metrical and tonal structure, and the notation and visual aids for ToBI, and the tune description and nuclear configurations of the British School. Estebas reported an improvement in students' perception and production of English Intonation after employing this new approach.
Here ends my Day 1 report on PTLC. More on this great conference coming up soon!
In the meantime, take a peek at this wonderful collection of tweets!