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Why small-group classes help language learning 小班上课益处多 | Inspire人

The belief in group learning for language skills improvement is backed by authoritative studies and opinion, and is in line with Inspiren's core principles

小班上课的好处很多,并且有研究的理论支持,同时符合我们Inspire人的办学宗旨

https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/group-work/implementing-group-work-classroom

We might not be able to say the same for Science or Maths classes (which we believe also applies), but for language learning itself, group learning has a lot of benefits over the 1-1 teacher-student class format.

Teaching English, a language-learning sharing platform co-run by the British Council and the BBC, has a blog post on this. Entitled, Learning English in a group is much more effective than on a one-to-one basis, the writer gave 3 main reasons why parents should favour group over 1-1 learning.

Benefits of learning in a group

First, the writer points out the nature of our modern textbooks as opposed to olden era ones. Learning materials nowadays come with interactive and group-collaborative activities and exercises that learners can participate in and compare with their peers to learn from one another in a positive and constructive way. 1-1 lessons would subject the child, in the language learning context, to 'reading alone, writing alone, listening alone and (worse,) speaking alone, though (the) one-hour lesson (involves) entirely his and his teacher’s attention..'

Second, learning in a group encourages creativity. We all know different students think differently and have different ideas and perspectives on topics and issues. By opening up and listening to these different ideas, students get to participate in a kind of brainstorming and exchange of interesting ideas that they would contribute to better and more creative pieces of writing and other work. Of course, some parents might feel that the teacher can give these ideas. But the teacher is at least 10-15 years older than the child, is exposed to realities and situations of a different age group, and he/she would most likely be bombarding the child with what he/she knows about life and the world, which might not be what the child can relate to. Peers of a similar age group, on the other hand, can provide relevant ideas and share useful experiences in a relatable way.

Finally, students who learn in a group setting, learn how to 'support each other, monitor and facilitate.' Peer collaboration also helps them to get over shyness they may have, and develop leadership qualities in themselves, something essential in the 21st century workplace. The writer shared how he has seen 'positive changes in my students’ behaviour after having worked in a group, some of them became more open, others more helpful, third ones more confident.' His happiest moments are when he sees the 'eagerness to express his ideas' in his students' eyes, and the confidence that that child can become 'a monitor, a supporter, a facilitator and a leader.' He calls upon parents who are eager for their child to learn the language well, be able to speak it fluently, and at the same time be original and reflective, to favour group learning over 1-1.

Additionally, another English-learning centre, Myovient, also believes that: Learning in a group can take the pressure off your child. While 1-1 lessons can be 'personalized and reflect exactly what you want or need', it seems more needed only when you 'work on sensitive work-related material that you don’t want to share with a class.' Other than that, 'interacting with your classmates is highly effective for your (child's) language development.'

How our centre supports this

We at Inspiren teach Chinese, and just like English, a lot of interaction and peer support and motivation is essential and helpful in getting the student to learn the language well.

In order that attention can still be given to each individual child, the centre's policy is to keep classes within the range of 3-8 pupils.

No worries about differing needs or disruptive students

We know what you must be thinking now. What about the different learning levels/abilities of students in the class - is the teacher able to cater to all the differing needs of students? What if there are disruptive students who drag or spoil the lesson?

Myovient, an English-language learning centre, posits that:

"Mixed-level classes can help everyone learn more. The lower-level learners will be pushed more than if they were alone, and the higher-level learners can solidify their knowledge by helping others."

Finland and Norway, which have the most highly-ranked education systems in the world, do not practise streaming and as one can assume, the classrooms consist of mixed-ability students. But they perform anyway. Perhaps because the 'weaker' ones do not lose confidence, and the 'stronger' ones also learn from the 'weaker' ones, and everyone gets stronger and better.

As to the problem of disruptive students, we at Inspiren believe every child can learn, in his own, right way. Understanding the child would help teachers to be able to cater to the child's learning abilities and needs. Of course, discipline would also be met out for excessively errant behaviour.

Our core beliefs

We at Inspiren believe that centre/group tuition or enrichment lessons help the child develop certain skills and aptitude in a way that 1-1 tuition cannot.

1. Interactive component 互动元素:

We all know textbooks today are so different from those of yester-years. Today's education landscape also emphasises a lot on collaborative learning and peer sharing. Your child will most likely land in a job that requires him to work with many stakeholders and colleagues, and present in front of a large audience, rather than a solo work project. Groupwork skills and interactive engagement are essential skills that not only help learning, but also help in their future careers.

2. Creativity 创意元素:

What makes a child gain more knowledge and experience in the world? Hearing from peers and learning from others. While the teacher can do all the talking and cite all the examples, hearing it from someone of the same age group helps give the child a sense of relation and is something he can easily link and associate with. The brainstorming of ideas in the group sessions help spark creative juices and new ideas in their work of writing and even speaking.

3. Less stress on the student 零压力:

Would you rather your child feel 'pressurised to perform' or 'prove himself' during every 1-1 tuition lesson, or would you rather him go and 'enjoy a lesson in a group and have fun while learning'? All qualified educators would recommend the latter as a more effective and holistic approach to educating and acquiring knowledge and wisdom. Imagine yourself attending a Korean or Arabic lesson on your own, versus having a whole class to chat and mix and share learning insights with - the answer should be obvious!

4. Leadership 塑造领导性格:

21st century workplaces are all about leadership. So many corporate relationships turn sour due to lack of leadership effectiveness; and so many companies fail as a result of poor corporate management. A child who can learn to facilitate, support and lead, is way ahead of others in terms of personal and corporate qualities. And these can only be honed through the frequent exercise of such qualities in none other than the classroom.

5. Attentiveness 集中注意力:

We all know home is a place for shelter and rest - and alas, it is also a place for leisure and play! Sometimes, the home can just be a little too 'comfortable' to get children into the 'mood' for learning. An external envrionment that is conducive facilitates the learning process by setting the child's mind and soul right, and he has less 'lackadaisical' tendency.

6: Peer learning and support 互相学习:

This is by far the most important and relevant reason why group lessons are better than individual 1-1 lessons. Studies have shown that learning in a group, especially one with varying learning levels and abilities, helps all children in the class learn better: "Mixed-level classes can help everyone learn more. The lower-level learners will be pushed more than if they were alone, and the higher-level learners can solidify their knowledge by helping others."

7: Quality guarantee and zero agency fees 品牌保证•价格合理:

Most tuition agencies engage 1-1 tutors because it is easier to facilitate and they get to earn a lucrative 50% off the first month of a tutor's tuition fees. That is a substantial sum of money, and in fact gives the agency an incentive to help parents find more 1-1 tutors, even if it means parents keep changing tutors. Also as a result, tutors' quality is hard to control and monitor as agencies work on a one-off basis with these tutors. Whereas, for centre/group lessons, the teaching staff would need to guard his teaching and the centre is entirely responsible and accountable of teaching quality. Group lessons are also generally priced lower than 1-1.

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(C) Inspiren Education. Image credit: Waterloo University website. Research information credit: Teaching English, Myovient.

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