After learning translation theories and techniques, I had the opportunity to spend a year in a regional organization where I practiced translation. It was the opportunity to put into actual practice the knowledge and skills acquired in the class. My mentor gave me real life tasks such as attending donors’ round-table where I had to take notes, interpret and translate reports. It was practical learning experience: learning by doing. This learning style also builds on constructivism, i.e., learning based on implementing authentic tasks.
As a result, when I started teaching French as a foreign language, I privileged practice through the use communicative or task-based activities. Thus, I will create various practice or simulations on issues such as how to open a bank account, sending a mail or discussion on transportation and carpooling for my students. These types of activities are part of their training, and also a practice used for the formative assessment of my students. By so doing, I am able to observe the use of vocabulary and expressions covered in a class through independent practice in the form of role play or simulations. This builds on constructivism (construction of skills or knowledge), andragogy (building on the learner's experience by activating prior knowledge) and cognitivism ( triggering thought process to solve real life problems by providing learners with the appropriate cognitive tools).
The audience and objectives of the tasks: these kinds of tasks are often meant for intermediate students enrolled in my French class. For example, the objective is to enhance their French in transportation sector to attend a vocational training school on transportation and logistics. Students are often motivated because the tasks they're asked to accomplish often relate to their personal goals as they want to be able to function in real life situations. The task shows the relationship between what learners do and the real world, in other words learners can function in the real world with the linguistic input acquired. They are using their knowledge to solve, analyze situations or even to create solutions. It is cognitivism and constructivism in action.
Let's consider the following example of task, among many others, which I often ask my students to do. For example, after reading an article on transportation issues in the city, I ask the students to split into groups (3 students). I called the activity: Reading to debate.
Instructions: “As a new candidate for the position of mayor of your city, you are facing an opponent who embraces carpooling strategies to improve city transportation system outline in the text. However, you disagree with his/her views. Two other students will be the journalists who will manage the debate for the audience represented by the rest of your classmates. Their role is to take notes, also asked some questions and to vote for the winner of the debate at the end. Each student will be invited to explain briefly why they had voted and which issue influenced their voting decision.
Students will be assessed based on their abilities to recall, identify and use what they learned. They will be assessed based on their abilities to use the expressions and vocabulary to communicate. They will also be assessed based on their ability to ask for clarification or use circumlocution to achieve their goals in the communicative event. I will be able to objectively assess this situation by checking whether or not students are able to achieve accuracy (correct or incorrect). Based on this, I will be able to determine if students need more help in specific items or areas.