being an EFL teacher. It may not be exclusive to EFL teachers, but is nevertheless a useful tool for content-based lecturers to possess in English-medium instruction.
In this course, there was a requirement to adopt a more autonomous mode of learning. Students needed to think critically about various sociolinguistic themes and were informed that they were to be evaluated on their active participation in class. This was outlined to the students at the start of the course as being important since student input in terms of experience and beliefs could be shared with others, providing a valuable contrastive and student-centred element to teacher-led input. This moved the lesson content from what Biggs (1993, p.104) terms as “surface to deep learning”, in that it became more relevant to the students’ own, local context. Miller (2002) argues that such a local contextualization of lesson content is essential in aiding comprehension in second language lectures.
On a note of caution, though, passing responsibility over to students to provide their own lesson input in a lecture, as well as assisting other students in comprehension, may be perceived as imposing a western approach of “learner autonomy” on to Japanese and Chinese learners (Sinclair, 1997). Perhaps, for some students, attending a sociolinguistics class is assumed as carrying the responsibility of listening individually to a transmission of knowledge, taking notes (or not), and being assessed on one end of term test or essay. This expectation was quickly challenged, and even slightly resisted at first, when collaboration was required.
In response to the potential criticism of imposing a western mode of learning on to the class, however, collaboration in what Senior (1997, p.3) calls “bonded” groups and Miller (2002, p. 149) as “communities of learners” can be seen as an effective way to check and enhance comprehension. This is like a new study skill which encourages cognitive flexibility (Mohammed, 1997), a change from the expected mode of learning in lectures. The process of working in pairs and groups in a lecture was quite new for most students, although for those who had experienced EFL classes with foreign instructors, the shock may have been lessened. Perhaps the encouragement of the strategy of “social mediation” (O’Malley et al, 1985; Oxford, 1990) to achieve comprehension and relevant student-centred input was associated more with the lecturer than the lecture itself.