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Online task 1

Before setting the first online task the tutor should set up a discussion forum for discussing classroom-related issues. Course participants should be informed about the existence of the forum. The first online task can be assigned right after the first face-to-face session, for example:

Read the three studies below. You will also be asked to post two comments in connection with the studies: one comment in which you reflect on what you read (what you liked, what you agree or disagree with) and one comment in which you respond to someone else's opinion from the group. Please read the studies and make your comments by ...(When giving the precise date, make sure you leave sufficient time for students to read and process the meaning of the studies you indicate for home reading. You can also encourage your students to make comments by which they link the readings to their lives and personal experiences.)

What kind of studies should you choose?

Select studies to be read at home which are thought provoking and even provocative, so that students feel engaged and tempted to share their views. They should have the feeling that their contribution to the discussion makes a difference. In the Narratives in TEFL course, Bruno Bettelheim's Introduction to The Uses of Enchantment is a text which creates original reader response. While discussing it, students can reflect on how this text relates to their own experiences with the uses of fairy tales. Below is a short extract from the text:

Given this fact, I became deeply dissatisfied with much of the literature intended to develop the children's mind and personality because it fails to stimulate and nurture those resources he needs most in order to cope with his difficult inner problems. The preprimers and primers from which he is taught to read in school are designed to teach the necessary skills, irrespective of meaning. The overwhelming bulk of the rest of so-called „children's literature" attempts to entertain or to inform, or both. But most of these books are so shallow in substance that little of significance can be gained from them. The acquisition of skills, including the ability to read, becomes devalued when what one has learned to reads adds nothing of importance to his life. (p. 7)

...the message that fairy tales get across to the child ... [is] that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence - but that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious." (p. 8, my emphasis)

(extracts from Bruno Bettelheim (1991, first published in 1975). The Uses of Enchantment, London: Penguin Books.)

How to deal with students' comments?

Tutors read students' comments and reflects in writing (on the discussion forum) on the main issues that emerged. These issues can then serve as further discussion points on subsequent face-to-face sessions.

Due to the fact that for the participants of the course English is a foreign language and students' proficiency may be of varying levels, it is important to pay attention not only to the subject matter knowledge and original insights students may express in connection with their readings, but also to the quality of their language. Should their comments contain language mistakes, it is crucial that they are give the opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and correct them. The following online task is meant to provide this very opportunity and support participants' language awareness and development. At the same time, it provides them with techniques for dealing with errors in their own teaching context: