The appropriate use of instructional media can enhance the learning process.
I explore how a presentation and a webquest
can augment a lesson about cultural notions of beauty.
Check out the reflection (TLDR) based on this assignment.
Beauty Lesson Outline
I conducted a series of lessons about Beauty to briefly introduce my students to different cultural beauty practices and to discuss an extremely common beauty practice in their society: plastic surgery.
South Korea has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery per capita in the world. It is also one of the most culturally and ethnically homogenous places in the world, so students are quite often extremely sheltered and ignorant about cultural difference.
The introduction included a presentation, which was composed of a series of pictures about different practices to alter appearance. It also included videos about using make-up, Photoshop, and plastic surgery to change how people look. Students were guided by selected discussion questions to reflect on the presentation.
During the second activity, students participated in a WebQuest in which they answered a selection of questions about plastic surgery in Asia and shared their responses with each other. Students were directed to this website and chose questions from a list I developed.
The third activity focused on grammar and vocabulary related to the topic. Students completed an online drill and practice verb tense review. The activity can be found at this website.
The fourth activity began with a discussion in which students answered various questions about plastic surgery. Initially, students answered the questions individually to prepare for later discussions in pairs and small groups. Students also debated about whether plastic surgery is a good or bad thing.
Finally, students were given an opportunity to assess the knowledge they had gained, apply it to different contexts, and create artefacts to exhibit their learning journey. Students could draw a poster, vote on a poll, share an opinion, or share their debate points.
Sample Student Posters
When designing lessons, it is essential to use instructional media to involve multiple senses of learners. I will reflect on the media and technology I employed in a lesson about Beauty to illustrate how technology enhances the learning process. In addition to this I will reflect on the learning theories and teaching methods that frame the lesson. The basic structure involved an introductory presentation with associated discussion questions, a reading comprehension in the form of a WebQuest, discussion questions, the designing of a poster, and the writing of a reflective report. The primary technology used was the computer. Students accessed the PowerPoint presentation, the videos, and the internet sources using their computers. The material for the posters and written reflection was provided. The lessons were learner centred, which required high levels of facilitation, planning, and development. The presentation involved a great deal of planning to ensure that the implementation process was smooth and effective. In addition to this, the reading comprehension required careful planning to ensure that the questions were scaffolded appropriately.
Background and Theoretical Framework
One of the primary learning theory governing the design of this lesson is cognitive learning, which not only recognises the importance of individual difference, but also tries to implement learning strategies that accommodate these differences. While working as an English Second Language teacher in South Korea, I created lesson material for classes of 40 to 50 students of mixed proficiency. This proved to be challenging at times, since the students’ level ranged from beginner all the way up to advanced. One way I deal with varying student levels in the same class is to create graded activities. There are assignments that every student has to complete: it might be too easy for some, too difficult for others, and suitable for the average student. Then, there are some tasks geared toward low-level, intermediate, and advanced students. The students complete the task that is appropriate for their own level. This allows advanced students to attempt more challenging activities and the lower-level students to complete work at their stage of language acquisition. This can be aimed at individuals, or pairs and groups of students of an equal proficiency. The use of technology is essential in this process, as I will illustrate with a series of lessons I developed about Beauty. The primary focus is about plastic surgery, which is an extremely topical theme for South Korean students since there are an extremely high percentage of elective plastic surgeries performed in their country.
In addition to cognitive learning theory, theories of transformational learning provided a solid foundation to the design of this lesson. According to Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007), in transformational learning, critical thinking begins with a trigger event, which results in discomfort. Of course, the learning experience doesn’t end with this feeling of discomfort. It is necessary to appraise the situation and examine new and different ways of explaining the experience that led to discomfort. Next, alternative perspectives need to be developed and integrated. The intention of this lesson was to allow the students to reflect on societal constructions of beauty.
Thirdly, the theory of experiential learning provided a continuous learning pathway throughout each activity. According to Kolb (1984), there are two aspects of the learning experience: perceiving and processing. Perceiving includes concrete experiences and well as reflective observations. Processing involves learners understanding what has been experienced. At each stage of the lesson, learners reflected on what they had learned or experienced by completing mind maps to outline their learning journey or by engaging in discussions and debates to integrate what they had learned into a more coherent whole.
I began with an introduction presentation as a means of stimulating student interest and encouraging students to reflect about the theme of the lesson. I created a specific narrative that explained the theme and structure, and adapted media from various places to the needs of my lesson. I used a combination of target words, pictures, and videos about the topic and produced a presentation using PowerPoint. The students access the PowerPoint presentation on their computers, and progress through the images, videos, and discussion points. In order to assist the students in developing self-direction, they can go through the presentation at their own pace. As the students go through the presentation, they view pictures and videos, and answer a series of questions in which they reflect on what they are learning. They each create a mind map of this process. Experiential learning theory underpins this aspect of the activity. Students need to reflect on their learning experience in order to create their mind maps. They share their mind maps and discuss the questions with each other. Collaborative and cooperative learning is an essential principle underpinning this sharing of knowledge.
The presentation about Beauty included various ways people can alter their appearance, such as make up, clothing, Photoshop, and plastic surgery. In addition to this, I briefly introduced the students to different cultural notions of beauty. As well as teaching English, my job description included educating students about different cultures. South Korea is one of the least culturally diverse places in the world, and many of students are quite sheltered and ignorant about people outside of their culture. Transformational learning provides a framework for this aspect of the lesson. The presentation also consists of three videos: the first video is girl demonstrating her makeup regime. The second video is a Dove advertising campaign showing how prevalent Photoshop is in advertising. The third video is a homemade video, which a South Korean girl created to show her transformation after surgery. The intention of these videos and images is to enable students to reflect on social and cultural constructions of beauty, and it is hoped that a transformation in how the students view appearance might occur.
Employing a slide show of pictures and a selection of videos is the most effective way to demonstrate how people alter their appearance, particularly considering the visual nature of the topic. Merely telling students or providing them with a reading about the different methods has much less impact than a visual demonstration. The students are extremely shocked to see how different cultures change their appearance. Plastic surgery is extremely common in South Korea, and many students consider the practice quite normal. I wanted them to contemplate how it may not be as universal as they may believe. The video of a South Korean girl’s plastic surgery procedure encourages them to realise how painful and dangerous the procedure could be. The Photoshop and makeup videos are particularly effective in indicating how much these techniques can manipulate how somebody looks. The use of these pictures and videos is incredibly successful since it stimulates a great deal of discussion about the theme.
After the students have finished the presentation at their own pace, the class has a discussion about what they have learned. The mind maps the students create forms a foundation for this discussion. The students respond well to the use of videos and pictures, since it is such a visually stimulating method of encouraging them to reflect on the theme. It enables students to consider different aspects of the topic, as can be demonstrated by the reflective mind maps the students create to answer the questions embedded within the presentation.
The second stage involves a reading comprehension in which students engage in a WebQuest: an “inquiry-oriented activit[y] in which some or all of the information used by students is drawn from resources on the Web” (Newby et al., 2011:194).
On their computers, students need to navigate to a website, in order to research about various aspects of plastic surgery in Asia. Students are provided with a list of questions of varying levels of difficulty. The comprehension consist of a list of multiple options divided into sections, and students only have to answer a certain number of questions to complete the task. In order to assist students in becoming self-directed learners, they have freedom of choice between which questions they have to answer. This system fosters an environment in which students can engage in evaluating their own learning needs and structure learning that meets those needs. Some of the questions are necessarily simple so that the elementary and pre-intermediate students are not overwhelmed. Some of the questions are more challenging to ensure that the higher-level students can address questions that are more appropriate for their level. The simpler questions were based on students seeking out specific answers to questions such as “How many people have surgery in South Korea each year”. The more challenging questions were open-ended in nature, and required students to reflect deeply on the information they read in order to support their opinions. An example of this type of question is, “How many people have surgery in South Korea each year? Why do you think these people choose to have this surgery?”.
Cognitive learning and self-directed learning theories provide a foundation for this aspect of the lesson, since it enables students of different levels to engage with answering questions most suited to their level of English acquisition. This way of conducting a comprehension is effective since it is an interactive way for students to search for information. Although the students are guided by the questions, their search for answers is not linear which enables each student to have a relatively unique journey of discovery. In addition, the open-ended nature of some of the questions allows students to create their own opinions and forge their own knowledge. The students share their answers with each other. Where possible, they are given the correct answers; however, the open-ended opinion-based questions do not have a definitive answer. This comprehension forms the foundation for students to answer a selection of discussion questions later in the lesson. It is an effective means for ensuring students have the necessary background information to hold a productive discussion.
The third stage involved students, divided into groups, discussing a series of questions about plastic surgery. Students drew on knowledge gained from the presentation and WebQuest to complete this task. Next, in their groups, students design a poster depicting their overall view of plastic surgery and writing a short reflective paragraph defending their argument. In order to prepare for the paragraph, students complete a worksheet in which they list the pros and cons of plastic surgery. Each group shared their poster and reflective paragraphs on boards, which were placed around the classroom.
Technology greatly enhances the effectiveness of the lesson. The use of slide show and videos is extremely stimulating, and a compelling way to introduce students to the theme. The class is composed of students of mixed-proficiency, which has unique challenges when developing lesson material. Technology allows for a lesson that is flexible and more easily structured around the wide-ranging level of students. The various activities conducted in the lesson are augmented by the use of technology. The use of technology allows students to have a more interactive experience and to be more in control of the learning process. They can complete activities at their own pace, within the time constraints of the lesson, and choose aspects that will be suitable for their own level.
Asian plastic surgery. (n.d) Available from: http://www.asianplasticsurgeryguide.com/. (Accessed 27 May 2015).
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Available from: http://academic.regis.edu/ed205/kolb.pdf. (Accessed 1 November 2015).
Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: a comprehensive guide. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Newby, T.J., Stephic, D.A., Lehman, J.D., Russell, J.D. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., (2011). Educational technology for teaching and learning. Boston: Pearson. Fourth Edition.
Nieman, M.M. & Potgieter, C. (2008). Study guide: Instructional techniques and multimedia in adult education. Muckleneuk: University of South Africa.
South Korea. (n.d.) Asian plastic surgery. Available from: http://www.asianplasticsurgeryguide.com/news10-2/081003_south-korea-highest.html. (Accessed 27 May 2015).