In today’s world of ever-increasing technology, we must acknowledge that more and more students are learning in new ways, and that students at universities are not all cut from the same cloth. When it comes to language learning students learn at different paces, many come from differing language backgrounds, and have a variety of goals for their language skills: some are heritage speakers, some are learning the language for professional purposes, and some would like their language learning at a schedule that is adapted specifically for their busy schedules.
Acknowledging this difference has given rise to the concept of individualized instruction. Individualized instruction being the learning of a language in a format designed for an individual that follows their strengths and needs, and supports those language learning differences. In contrast to classroom learning, individualized instruction in East Asian languages, provides one-on-one time with the instructor, and allows the student to focus-in on their own language-learning skills. This is addressed in the latest volume in the Pathways to Advanced Skills on East Asian pedagogy, developed by the National East Asian Languages Resource Center at the Ohio State University. Individualized Instruction in East Asian Languages, volume 14 of the Pathways to Adavanced Skills series, is a collection of case studies and methodologies for the individualized instruction of East Asian languages which not only provides key strategies in teaching through individualized instruction, but also address the benefits of this methodology for Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese learners.
This volume, edited by Etsuyo Yuasa, Associate Professor and East Asian Studies Center Director at OSU, hopes to teach teachers of East Asian languages how to make the transition from classroom-based learning to individualized instruction and the kinds of materials that can be developed and used to individualize instruction.
One of the essential methodologies outlined in the text is the performed culture approach. In this approach, students engage with the language in cultural context, and are instructed on how to engage the social or textual situations in context. For individualized instruction, this translates to a need for cultural contexts to be explicitly stated, and for functioning pieces to be accurately explained in terms of their usage by native speakers.
“The explanations range in their topics from the specific phonological unit or suprasegmental feature in a given context to grammar structure, and from the pragmatics of encounters to information about the society that is commonly shared by speakers of the target language and therefore is not explicitly mentioned but is crucially important.” – Individualized Instruction in East Asian Languages, Mari Noda, editor Etsuyo Yuasa, p.138.
The methods laid out and explored in this text have turned into real experiences and hard numbers here at the Ohio State University. Students at OSU are able to take Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Korean, and Russian through the Individualized Instruction Learning Center. At the IILC, students meet with an instructor one on one, and work through individualized content for the language they choose. Pictured right, Etsuyo Yuasa editor.
Fig.1 Chart Describing students enrolled, withdrawn, failed, and passed in each respective IILC course for the semester of Fall 2018. OSU Individualized Instruction Learning Center.
In figure one (above), we see that the number of students who have passed their courses far exceeds those who withdrew or failed the courses. 83% of the 93 students enrolled in Chinese passed, 87% of the 87 students enrolled in Japanese passed, and 100% of the 16 students enrolled in Korean passed. We can clearly see then that the methods put forth by the text Individualized Instruction in East Asian Languages that are being used in the IILC are producing real results.
The text is useful to current college lecturers as well as the graduate student, providing important insight into concepts for the individualization of foreign language education. Individualized Instruction in East Asian Languages is published through and can be purchased from the Ohio State University’s Foreign Language Publications Office.