TEFL Power-up Your ESA

The Engage, Study & Activate framework (ESA) (Course Materials, unit 3) is an organizational framework that will create lesson plans that ensures students will “be motivated, be exposed to the language, and have the opportunity to use it.” The elements of the framework are: Engage: arouse the students’ interest and get them involved in the lesson.  Study: focus on the language (or information) and how it is constructed.  Activate: Students are encouraged to use any/all of the language they know (prior and new knowledge) focusing on fluency more than accuracy.   The Information Processing System model (IPS) of human learning (storing and retrieving information) developed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (Abbott, 2007) is one of the most widely used models for illustrating and understanding human learning processes. It is composed of 3 stages: Sensory Memory: Our 5 senses are constantly feeding us information, but only information that gets our attention is attended to and sent on to the working memory.  Working Memory: This is where we consciously think and work with information. Information that gets here can be deemed unimportant and dropped out (forgotten), stored automatically without effort, or worked with and deliberately stored. Working Memory is considered our Achilles Heel because it has a very limited capacity able to hold 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time.  Long Term Memory: This is where we store information relatively permanently for later retrieval and use. It is believed that information stored here is organized according to meaning and is associatively linked therefore retrieval can be enhanced when information is stored with meaning (not just memorization). Frequent use also enhances retrieval by creating “well worn” paths to and from the information.   How can you, as a teacher, use the IPS to create more robust lessons using the ESA framework? When you consider the procedures you will use in your lessons you should also consider how students learn in making your choices.    When planning the Engage stage where you want to make sure the students become involved and interested with stimulating and “fun” activities which will reduce their inhibitions and lead to a more conducive language learning environment (course materials, unit 3), you need to keep in mind the Sensory Memory and that there are 5 senses you can use (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) but that students can pay attention to only one or two forms of input at a time. In your eagerness to get their attention and to have fun, remember not to over stimulate (use too much media/materials at a time), present a stimulus/activity that has some value or importance so that they attend to it rather than irrelevant  stimulus present in the classroom (students shuffling papers, air conditioner rumbling, people passing the windows, etc.),   When planning the Study stage where you want to make sure students will focus on the language (or information) and how it is constructed (course materials, unit 3), you need to keep in mind the Working Memory and its limited capacity of 5 – 9 chunks of information at a time, (Miller, 1956) and that you should present only a few new concepts in any one lesson. You must also consider what activities best fit the new information: practice, drills and repetitious work (rehearsal) for skills and actions (procedural knowledge), creating outlines, tables, hierarchies, sequences, etc (organization) and using mnemonics, memory games, associations, etc. (elaboration) activities for concepts, facts, and basic knowledge (declarative knowledge) to help the students “learn” the information.  When planning the Activate stage where you want to encourage the students to use any and all of the language they know freely and communicatively with the focus on fluency and no restrictions on language (course materials-unit 3), you need to keep in mind the Long Term Memory and that retrieval (later use) of what the students learn is dependant on its meaning, its amount of use, and its connections to other meaningful information. In providing opportunities for the students to use the new language knowledge and skills along with their already known language it helps them make these meaningful connections and create “well worn” paths.   By using the Engage, Study, Activate framework in conjunction with the Information Processing System you can create lessons that are more effective and more meaningful to students than if you used either one alone.  Resources: Abbott, Bruce: Human Memory: Atkinson-Shiffrin Model;  Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne  viewed May 4, 2007:  Harmer, Jeremy in ITTT 003 © International TEFL Teacher Training (course materials). Hedge, Alan; 2006; The Human Information Processing System; viewed May 4, 2007:  Miller, George A. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. The Psychological Review, 1956, vol. 63, pp. 81-97 (this is old but a classic still used today).  

Author: William and Nancy St

Date of post: 2007-05-08