Carpe Diem, The English Language and Literature Society of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College in collaboration with the Forum for Teachers of English Language and Literature (FORTELL), kick started its Lecture Series with the inaugural lecture delivered byProfessor Rama Mathew, an eminent academic, former Head of Department and Dean, Central Institute of Education (CIE), University of Delhi on 4th Feb 2015. The lecture was titled “How Do I Learn to Learn?”
Prof. Mathew has previously taught at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. She has also coordinated a project on mentoring in collaboration with the Open University, UK, under the UKIERI scheme. She is presently overseeing the English Language Proficiency Course in which loose-leaf materials meant for adult learners have been developed and students take proficiency tests at three levels that assess all the skills of the language. Her current research interests include teaching English to adult learners, teacher education, and proficiency assessment including online assessment.
Several Fortell members, including the FORTELL President, Dr. Vijay K Sharma,and Principal, Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi attended the lecture. Dr. P. K. Khurana, Principal SBSEC presided over the event and Dr. Sabina Pillai, Teacher-in-charge, Department of English, SBSEC introduced Prof. Mathew. Teachers from other departments of the college also attended the lecture along with a large number of students from across disciplines.
The hour-long lecture focusedprimarily on learner autonomy andthe lecture addressed both teachers and students on how to become strategic learners and take charge of their own learning. Prof. Mathew used a lucid, comprehensible and interactive power point presentation to discuss in detail various aspects of learning. She pointed out how the current emphasis on LSRW (Listening/Speaking/Reading/Writing) the four skills fundamental to language learning acquisition placed a lot of importance on teacher support and seemed to make learners overly dependent on external factors for learning.
Prof. Mathew emphasized the need to review L1 and L2 in classroom situations and the need to reconsider as well as mobilise existing knowledge about the native language/ mother tongue to aid in L2 acquisition. She discussed smart learning strategies meant to reduce the over-dependence on teachers and to equip learners in becoming self-reliant and responsible towards their own progress and learning. A checklist titled “What sort of a language learner are you?” was distributed to the large number of students present in the audience. It had ten statements like “Do/Did you get good scores on your grammar test?”, “Do you have a good memory for new words”, “Do you dislike making mistakes”, “Do you enjoy being in a class” and so on to which the students had to respond between four options namely, “Usually/Sometimes/Almost never/Don’t Know”. Thereafter, they were given a self analysis key bearing descriptions of different kinds of learners like “Not Sure/Relaxed/A Mixture/Analytic”, and suggestions for their improvement. The activity generated a lot of interest in the students and they were keenly responsive to questions and suggestions invited thereafter. The activity was meant to lead the learner to discover for himself/herself strategies in accordance with their learner type that would suit best to use in a non-competitive setting.
Prof. Mathew concluded the enriching session by playing out a video story that emphasized individual differences of learners and the unique qualities each possess that need to be identified, nurtured and valued by all–– the parents, the teachers and most importantly, by the learners themselves. Prof. Mathew summed up the valuable takeaways from the session and underscored the importance of “noticing” for the learners, while maintaining the essential fun quality of the entire teaching-learning process. The lecture proved to be useful, constructive and full of practical tips on how to tackle the whole process of learning. It was warmly appreciated by the wide ranging audience of faculty and students.
Kalyanee Rajan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College. Her research areas include English Language Teaching, Shakespeare Studies, Translation Studies, Indian Writing in English, Classical Indian Poetics and Dalit Literature.