martes, 15 de diciembre de 2015

Bringing Metacognition into the classroom

By Carmen Hurtado

What is Metacognition?

Considered as the key to success for EFL learners, it refers to the mental process described as “thinking about thinking”. That is, what makes learners master their knowledge and learning process. It is also understood as a regulatory system that helps learners understand their cognitive performance by allowing them take charge of their own learning. It involves awareness of how they learn, an evaluation of their learning needs, generating strategies to meet these needs and then implementing the strategies. (Hacker, 2009).

There are two main components in the metacognition process: knowledge and regulation. The first consist of knowledge about oneself as a learner and the factors that might influence the learners’ performance. In other words, knowledge about strategies: when and why to use them, appropriately. The second one refers to the monitoring of the learner’s cognition. It includes planning activities, awareness of comprehension and task performance, and evaluation of the efficacy of monitoring processes and strategies (Cross & Paris, 1988; Flavell, 1979, Paris & Winograd, 1990; Schraw & Moshman, 1995; Schraw et al, 2006; Whitebread et al., 1990).

Metacognition in the classroom

It has been a bit confusing for some colleagues identify how this process is being developed in the classroom. As a mental process, there are two important roles to be highlighted: the teacher’s role as well as the student’s one. Teachers’ role consists of guiding the activities by applying the most appropriate strategies and techniques so students go along the complete metacognitive process while developing the given tasks. During this process, learners will ‘think aloud’ and perform the self-regulated learning process which describes an academically effective form of learning that includes metacognition, indeed.

Metacognitive strategies

Researchers have done their contributions to illustrate how these strategies influence language learning and teaching. Learners who can effectively use metacognitive strategies are aware of their own thinking as they perform a task and can use this awareness to control what they are doing. Thus, in the classroom teachers may apply the following strategies at their convenience: evaluating the way of thinking and acting, identifying the difficulty, paraphrasing, elaborating and reflecting learner’s ideas, clarifying learner’s terminology, problem-solving activities, thinking aloud, journal-keeping, cooperative learning, modeling, etc.
It is also important to point out that metacognition is not a linear process; it demands the use of several strategies to promote second language learning. To provide opportunities for students to think how they integrate strategies raises the assertiveness in terms of strategy use.

Summing up

In the field of autonomy, learners develop confidence and motivation toward their process of learning. They are able to face future unfamiliar and challenging tasks in different contexts inside and outside the classroom. So if having learners respond questions like “(1) What am I going to accomplish? (2) What strategies am I going to use? (3) How well am I using them? (4) What is the outcome? (5) What else could I do? will allow them reflect on the processes of their learning. The third question corresponds to monitoring strategy use, while the fourth and fifth relate to the evaluation of one’s own learning.

Now let’s share some views. How is metacognition promoted in ´your’ classroom? Do you have some strategies that work best for you and your students? We would like to get your comments and stay tune for the coming articles.

Metacognition: A Key to Success for EFL Learners

A metacognitive perspective on the growth of self-regulated EFL student writers

Metacognition: Nurturing Self-Awareness in the Classroom

Image credits:


Carmen Hurtado, graduated in the Educational Field; holds a Bachelor’s degree in Science of Education, and the title of Licenciada en Educación by ‘Universidad Nacional de Educación’. She has also finished her master’s studies in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Universidad de Piura, and taken some specializations in the EFL and Spanish field. She has worked teaching English and Spanish at prestigious schools, institutes and universities for over 20 years. She currently works teaching online and blended courses at university. Her expertise, dedication and interest to research in the educational field have taken her to participate as a lecturer in the late six Annual Congresses at CIDUP. She works as a pedagogical specialist and a member of the Research Area at Universidad del Pacifico Language Center.

miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2015

Current Issues in ELT at Peruvian Universities

By Mayra Yaranga

Nowadays, a great deal of attention is paid to English tuition at schools. On one hand, schools offering intensive English training; on the other, schools which still need great improvements; however, what happens at university has been little explored. This article will give us an insight into the aspects needing to be addressed.

Lack of fixed standards
Universities have only now begun to pay attention to their students’ foreign language skills. As we know, there is no single law stipulating what level of proficiency students should reach by the end of their degree; in some cases just a certificate of studies will do, though how much they have learnt is highly questionable. Besides, the reality of universities is that they receive highly heterogeneous students in terms of language proficiency, basically due to the situation explained above. Universities deal with this in two ways: by establishing levels at a certain point during the 5-year course, or by simply handing over the responsibility to the students themselves.

Opportunities gone to waste
However, there are now a large number of opportunities for university students and lecturers thanks to International Relations Offices: international mobility programmes, international exchanges, scholarships and so on. In many cases, the universities involved are from English-speaking countries. What is happening? These opportunities are wasted– because most of the times, applicants need to demonstrate a sound competence in the foreign language, usually at B2 or C1 levels, which is far from what they have attained. An example: when the 2013 Presidente de la República Scholarships were awarded, the first three countries in the number of scholarships were Spain, Argentina and Chile. English-speaking countries pale in comparison. The point is, why are such brilliant opportunities missed? Would it not be desirable for students to experience life and academic standards abroad to complement their education?

General vs Academic English
In addition, we should ask ourselves: What kind of English do university students need to learn? It is true that the foundation is given by general English, but in reality, it is EAP (English for Academic Purposes) which should be taught at some point. Naturally, this involves a transition which needs to happen when the students are comfortable enough with general English. The problem is, as explained above, that university students are a highly heterogeneous group, and so it cannot be guaranteed that after, say, two years of English tuition, everybody will be prepared to undertake Academic English. This has to do, on one hand, with the type of courses offered. Many universities offer courses of “specialised” English (ESP) which mostly focus on professional terminology, but which fail to develop all-round language competence. On the other hand, lecturers in charge of English courses may need further training so that they raise their students’ awareness of the use of English in academic and professional contexts, and taking advantage of their skills, gradually go from a receptive to a more productive stage in order to better prepare them for any later opportunities.
We can conclude by saying that the task of improving ELT at Peruvian universities is still in its infancy, but it is good to see that some institutions are already taking steps to help their students access different opportunities abroad.

Asamblea Nacional de Rectores e Instituto de Estadística e Informática (2010). II Censo Nacional Universitario. Lima, Perú: Dirección Nacional de Censos y Encuestas.
Hyland, K. (2006). English for Academic Purposes. Oxon, England: Routledge.
Kuder, M; Lemmens, N & Obst, D. (2014). Global Perspectives on International Joint and Double Degree Programs. German Academic Exchange Service & Institute of International Education.
Jenkins, J. (2014). English as a Lingua Franca in the International University. Oxon, England: Routledge.
Programa Nacional de Becas y Crédito Educativo.(2013). Memoria Anual 2013.  Lima, Perú: Autor. Retrieved from:


Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as a pedagogical specialist and member of the research area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She also coordinates the ESP courses and is Member of the Executive Commission on Cooperation and International Relations at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2015

Teaching pronunciation,
why is it so difficult?

By Maria De La Lama

Teaching pronunciation is still the “ugly duckling” in our English courses. To begin with, instructors seem to be fond of grammatical rules, but unfortunately those are the only rules that our students are exposed to. But what about phonological rules?  As a matter of fact, when I have asked a teacher to explain just one phonological rule as a vowel reduction, they have looked puzzled wondering where they could have learnt about such thing. It’s is not surprising then that usually teachers skip pronunciation explanations and drills without realizing that teaching that would enhance their students’ listening comprehension skills.

Frequently, educators avoid teaching pronunciation for the following three reasons:

1. It seems to be a difficult subject for teachers to learn.

2. Only English native speakers can teach it.

3. Students may find it boring.

The issue is, how valid are these reasons? Let’s summarily analyse each of them:

1. Pronunciation seems to be a difficult subject for teachers to learn.

Pronunciation is not really a strenuous matter. Unfortunately, it is rather a topic which instruction does not go on well done. Very frequently student-teachers are overwhelmed with phonetic transcriptions without even understanding the difference between a phoneme and an allophone. Pronunciation courses should  start  with  an understanding of the main  phonological differences between English and Spanish or with very important topics  such as  rhythm and intonation , stress placement or sound assimilation, to mention only a few. How can student-teachers be asked to transcribe a language without first being trained in sound assimilation or on the rules for fast speech? 

2. Only teachers who are English native speakers can teach pronunciation.

It should be considered that when teaching students which are older than 15 years of age, teachers need to provide students with easy to follow instructions for pronouncing a given sound. Without having a sound knowledge of the English phonological system and its main differences with the Spanish one, English instructors will not succeed at teaching pronunciation irrespective of being native or non-native language trainers.

3. Students may find pronunciation boring.

On the contrary.  I have found that students consider the learning of pronunciation as something “new” and quite interesting and challenging. Indeed, my best classes have been the ones in which my students learnt “vowel reduction” or compared the English intonation pattern vs. the Spanish one. I believe that we must describe and explain in class, in very simple terms, the main characteristics of the English phonological system. Not only our   students will have a better knowledge of the target language (the language being studied) but their oral production will be more accurate and clear, which will in turn have a positive impact on their self-esteem and motivation to continue mastering this tongue.


DE LA LAMA, MARIA  Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California;  MBA  Universidad del Pacífico.  Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico.