Theoretical Framework

This coherently organized task-based thematic unit (Roessingh, 2014) attempts to showcase “a teacher generated theory of practice” (Kumaravadivelu, 2001, p.541),and unfolds the “encoded curriculum ideologies concerning what language use is and how learning is to happen” (Littlejohn, 2011, p.180). While designing this blended thematic unit, the focus has been on achieving and maintaining the balance between pedagogy, content and technology(Mishra, 2009) in order to maximize learning outcome.
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Firstly, this module adheres to the pedagogical underpinnings of task based learning and as suggested in LINC Curriculum Guidelines (2007) the language tasks also relate to specific CLB competencies. In other words, tasks in this module are practical applications and demonstrations of language abilities in the context of communication situations (CCLB, 2013).

Learners acquire language skills and apply those skills by performing tasks that reflect authentic, everyday communication tasks. These skill-using activities are communicative, requiring language skills and strategies to convey and interpret meaning.

Moreover, CLB competencies are repeated through spiraling approach in different contexts within this thematic module and across the curriculum.

There is also increasing levels of complexity as the lessons progress. This increasing level of difficulty is also reflected in the use of technology as learners progress through the lessons and modules.

The content in this module is context specific learning tasks that will enable learners to notice both functions and forms in particular contexts (Mellow, 2002). Learners acquire language proficiency by performing tasks that reflect authentic, relevant, everyday communication tasks (Richards, 2005). The content for this module is instructor selected authentic materials that align with the CLB model communicative competency as explained by Palmer (2010) so that learners can achieve:
  • Linguistic competence (ability to construct accurate sentences or utterances and includes knowledge of vocabulary, syntax, phonology and graphology)
  • Textual competence (ability to maintain cohesion between segments of discourse)
  • Functional competence (ability to map sentences, utterances or text onto underlying intentions and vice versa)
  • Strategic competence (ability to repair communication breakdown and work around gaps in his or her knowledge of the target language)
  • Sociolinguistic competence (ability to use language appropriately in various social contexts
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Finally, technology is integrated intentionally with due pedagogical and content considerations (Kimmons, 2011) to substitute, augment, modify or redefine learning outcomes (Puentedura, 2013).The tools are employed to bridge “online and real life” (Harrison & Thomas, 2009, p.118) learning, and the focus is on changing the way language is accessed, constructed and exchanged (Kessler, 2013) so that language learning becomes personalized, situated and connected (Romrell, Kidder & Wood, 2014). In particular, Social Networking Sites such as Facebook and Skype are incorporated to “explore new relationships rather than maintain existing ones” (Harrison & Thomas, 2009 p. 109). When using the social media learners are likely to surround themselves “with those who resemble [them] socio-culturally or philosophically” (Kessler, 2013, p.627), and so this tool provides the potential for breaking this comfort zone and using the social networks to engage in meaningful conversation through negotiation. As Harrison andThomas (2009) recommends, Social Networking Sites are used to “explore new relationships rather than maintain existing ones” (p. 109).

An important feature in this blended thematic unit is the attempt to facilitate and enhance learner autonomy through the use of technology-mediated materials. In this learner-centered approach to language instruction, immigrant learners’ needs and interests are the focus of this module. Most of the learners are looking forward to settling down in their choice of career in the near future. Learners have diverse reasons for wanting to enhance their language skills in diverse settings and so the tasks in this module have been woven together to develop language proficiency suitable for individual learner’s choice of workplace so that task based language leaning becomes positively associated with self-efficacy (Ooyoung, 2013). Technology tools (online polls, discussion boards, emails, chat etc.) have been incorporated to pool together learners’ preferences and choices and thereby help the instructor to conduct needs assessment for each of the lesson.

Most of the technology-mediated authentic materials (audio, video and texts etc.) in this module are available online, but some of them have been adapted to suit CLB 7 learners. As learners progress through this module that cater to autonomous learning (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011), they remain engaged responding to a range of rich, authentic media and text types (Tomlinson, 2011) in a familiar but informing cohesive theme about Canadian workplace. The skill-using activities are “cooperative than individualistic” (Richards, 2006, p.4). Group work and projects are also incorporated to encourage meaningful interaction in the target language (Schutz, 2007), and the development of life-long learning skills.

Quizzlet is used in every lesson to introduce and recycle vocabulary (Roessingh & Johnson, 2004) through a variety of activities including games to effectively tap into the primary learner desires for status and achievement through meaningful gamification. Concept of digital game mechanics and game design techniques have been carefully integrated into language learning appropriate for adult immigrant learners. The focus is on fully integrating the activity into module structure rather than crediting an isolated game (Godwin-Jones, 2014). The objective is to facilitate “goal-directed behaviour” (Cornillie et al., 2012) resulting in autonomous learning (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011). Learners can remain engaged in authentic media and text types as they follow the rules and progress through self-directed games because these games have the potential to maximize “motivation and sense of self-efficacy” (Cornillie, Thorne & Desmet, 2012, p.250) for “problem solving, collaboration, and social interaction” (p.252).

Furthermore, this blended thematic module emphasizes strategy training for LINC learners. As proposed in LINC 5-7 Curriculum Guidelines (2007) the LINC class should be viewed as part of a learner’s pathway leading towards achieving his/her goals and learning objectives. Chun and Xiaolin’ (2012) study on strategy training found that learner training program could be effective in changing learners’ perceptions about their own language learning, promoting greater learning outcomes and enhancing and/or maintaining good task performance over time. Chun and Xiaolin (2012) suggest that “the pre-task phase should also target learners’ metacognitive readiness for task performance” (p.32).This thematic module attempts to help learners to identify their strengths and weakness in language learning process as well as language proficiencies. In order to prepare learners for the task, task prompts are posted on class website. Besides learners have the opportunity to rewrite or role-play the tasks online outside class hours. In this blended mode of instruction, thematic organization of tasks also allows the instructor to pay attention to variables such as individual difference, cognitive abilities, motivational levels, teacher interventions and quality of interaction that facilitate second language acquisition in TBLT(Peter, 2011).

Having considered the target learners and their skills in using technology, extreme caution has been exercised to avoid ornamental use (Van, 2008) of technology that might overwhelm learners. New tools in this module are introduced only as an optional activity or group activity so that learners become comfortable using the tool as the module is in progress. Once learners become confident in using the new tools they will be able to focus on language.

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