Lesson plan: Cultures of Learning Profile

  • Level: EAP / Intermediate +
  • Skills: Speaking
  • Topic area: personal information, learning styles
  • Number of students: 4 + (note: this lesson is more effective with students from mixed cultural backgrounds)

Exploring learning (flickr.com/photos/superkimbo)

This can be a good lesson to do early on with a new class. It is particularly relevant for a mixed-cultural background class. In the lesson students reflect on the different ways in which they and their classmates have learnt English throughout their life and how effective each of these methods was, thereby sharing new ideas for learning English. Through this reflection on second language acquisition, students also gain an insight into the concept of cultures of learning.

Cortazzi and Jin (1996, p. 169), define ‘cultures of learning’ as “taken-for-granted frameworks of expectations, attitudes, values and beliefs about what constitutes good learning, about how to teach or learn.” These beliefs are developed through socialisation during early schooling. This activity is designed to try to bring some of these attitudes to the surface. The way you develop your culture of learning involves much more than second-language acquisition, but studying English is something that these students have in common and can be a window into their culture of learning. No culture of learning is ‘better’ than another.

The aim of this activity is for students to examine their own culture of learning and discover how it diverges and intersects with other members of the class and with their teacher. In this way, students may be able to take new ideas from different cultures and adapt them to their learning. This may also help students (and teachers) to see ‘culture’ more generally as fluid and evolving, rather than static and nation-based and help develop what Holliday (2010) calls a “critical cosmopolitan” approach to culture.

Cortazzi, M., & Jin, L. (1996). Cultures of learning: Language classrooms in China. In H. Coleman (Ed.), Society and the language classroom (pp. 169-206). Cambridge: CUP.
Holliday, A. (2010). Cultural descriptions as political cultural acts: An exploration. Language and Intercultural Communication, 10 (3), 259-272.

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